Thursday, February 22, 2018

Caught in Serial Podcasts

It’s been over 10 months since I discussed podcasts in a post. I'm still listening to them, many have been recommended by others. Unlike some of the podcasts I've posted about earlier, those listed in this post are serial podcasts that ended after the last episode.

CAUTION: If  you choose to listen, be advised that Dirty John and S-Town contain obscenities and strong language that many people will find offensive including myself. However, as those speaking the words were central characters in the stories, I put aside my sensibilities to listen to the podcast in its entirety. You may not feel the same.

S-Town hosted by This American Life producer Brian Reed, is short for S***t Town. It tells a story of John Brooks McLemore who despises his hometown of Woodstock, Alabama. In 2012, Reed started reporting the story when This American Life got an email titled: John B McLemore lives in Shittown AlabamaMcLemore wanted someone to investigate an alleged murder in Woodstock, a place he claimed to despise in subsequent interviews. After a year of email exchanges and months of phone conversations, Reed went to check out the story.

Reed investigate and finds that no murder took place. McLemore, regarded as one of the world’s pre-eminent horologists (horology is the scientific study of time, specifically measuring time and making clocks) was outspoken with very strongly held opinions. Reed records conversations with him and others in Woodstock. In June 2015, while the podcast was in production, McLemore unexpectedly committed suicide by taking potassium cyanide. This happens in the second episode; remaining ones explore McElmore’s life through interviews with those who knew him.

Many of those interviewed considered him a genius who planted an elaborate hedge maze complete with locks and who claimed to know the only correct exit.The podcast reveals that he was also lonely, troubled, obsessed with climate change, pierced and extensively inked (despite avowing that he despised tattoos).

The seven chapters of the S-Town podcast were released on March 28, 2017 and within 4 days, it was downloaded a record-breaking 10 million times.

The true crime podcast Dirty John starts with the reading of an autopsy report describing stab wounds from a homicide in the summer of 2016 with no details given on the victim or assailant. 

The podcast then backtracks two years to 2014 and centers on the relationship between a successful 59-year old Newport Beach, CA interior designer and businesswoman, Debra Newell, and handsome 55-year old John Meehan, who she meets on an online dating site. He tells her he’s an anesthesiologist, who owns multiple houses and spent time in Iraq with Doctors Without Borders. Meehan’s rugged good looks capture Newell who is (too) soon charmed by the attention and compliments he gives her.

Newell's yearning for romantic companionship is her downfall. The podcast reveals she’s been married and divorced multiple times and is looking for love. After a 2-month courtship, the couple secretly marries in Las Vegas. This is no happy romance. Newell’s family begins to suspect there’s more to Meehan’s background than she know and it's all very bad. Family members try to intervene with often disastrous results.

The podcast is narrated by Los Angeles Times journalist Christopher Goffard, who spent seven months reporting the story for a print feature, then another three months writing and recording the podcast. Told in chronological order, the podcast leads to a dramatic end in the seventh and final episode. 

The Heavens Gate podcast is presented by Glynn Washington host of the popular Snap Judgment podcast. This 10-episode series shares the story behind the cult whose 39 members took their own lives in March 1997. Washington talks to family members and former group members. The same question surfaces over and over: Why?

Heaven's Gate was an American UFO religious cult based in San Diego, CA. It was founded in 1974 and led by Marshall Applewhite (1931–1997) and Bonnie Nettles (1927–1985) until their deaths. Those who participated in the mass suicide hoped to reach what they believed was an extraterrestrial spacecraft following the Comet Hale–Bopp.

The group started in the spring of 1975 in Los Angeles, CA. Nettles learned to make astrological charts and participated in séances to make contact with the dead. She met Applegarth in 1972 and the pair believed they had a spiritual connection. Within a year, she divorced and left her family to travel with Applegarth. They believed they were figures mentioned in the Book of Revelation who were on a divine mission and that spaceships would carry away their spirits. 

Applegarth and Nettles went by the nicknames Bo and Peep, Do and Ti, or just "the Two," and convinced followers to abstain from sex, alcohol and tobacco and to leave their families behind, which they did. The podcast explains that many who joined Heaven’s Gate included "ordinary" people consumed by a desire for spiritual enlightenment.

Whether or not you decide to listen to any of these podcasts is your choice. All deal with strong subject matter and perhaps more disturbing is that ALL are based on true stories. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

24-Hour Weather

There's a quote attributed to American humorist and writer Mark Twain (1835–1910)
If you don't like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes.

That was true in Nashua, NH, but it took at least a day. After a 4-5 inch weekend snowfall, warmer temps and rain followed Monday afternoon. 

This early Tuesday a.m. view showed the snow-clearing weather results. And there's NO snow forecast the rest of this week — maybe spring will be a bit earlier than expected?

Meanwhile,  6+ year-old granddaughter Ellie helped plow snow in RI and 1 year-old granddaughter Lilliana played in the weekend snow in Pennsylvania.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Snow & President's Day

Words in this post title have nothing in common, except that one happened here overnight this weekend and today is a U.S. holiday. 

PresidentsDay is solely an American holiday celebrated on the third Monday in February and now viewed as the day to celebrate all U.S. presidents, past and present. Originally established in 1885 in recognition of President George Washington, it's officially called Washington's Birthday by the federal government. 

Some states have separate days to celebrate the birthdays of Washington (Feb 22), Abraham Lincoln (Feb 12) and others. President's Day was created and moved as part of the 1971 Uniform Monday Holiday Act that created more 3-day weekends for federal U.S. workers — it's a holiday for the U.S. postal system, banks, stock markets, courts, division of motor vehicles and public schools and all are closedIt's not a holiday for most businesses and grocery and retail store employees, but it's become a major U.S. sales weekend.

Snow arrived in Nashua, NH overnight on Saturday and lasted into early Sunday morning. Total accumulation was less than 5 inches of a wet snow. It melted quickly on walkways and roads thanks to above freezing temperatures. It was a pretty early morning view.

These special effects (focal zoom and posterize) were created from a couple of snow scenics (just for fun).

Hope your weekend was a good one. Most of the snow here was off the trees by late afternoon. Daytime temperatures are forecast to reach near 60 degrees by midweek so a lot more snow melt will occur. Enjoy the day off if it's a holiday for you. 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Friday Funnies

A walk downtown last week showed some high-rise dwellers  . . .

Enjoy your weekend, Everyone.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The "Mother" of Valentines

Did you know that . . .
Esther Howland

The "Mother of American Valentines" was a pioneering New England businesswoman who, while she helped many others profess their romantic feelings, was never married. 

Esther Howland (1828–1904) popularized Valentine’s Day greeting cards in America. Valentines had been available in the U.S. for 50 years, but she was the first to commercialize them (cards in this post are "Internet copies" of her creations). But, this was the only online image available of Ms. Howland. She was described as having "an abundance of glossy chestnut hair, vibrant eyes, a high complexion, and exquisite dress." This photograph was taken in 1865 when she was 37. 

After graduating from Mount Holyoke Women's Seminary in 1847 she worked in her father’s business, S.A. Howland & Sons, the largest book and stationery store, in Worcester, MA. A vendor sent her an English valentine which included lace and cut-out flower decorations. It was much more impressive than American cards. Howland was sure that she could make a better card, and knew that the key was fancy paper. She asked her stationer father to import embossed and perforated lacy paper. In 1849, she made 12 sample valentines that her brother added to the inventory on his next sales trip. She hoped to get $200 in orders, and was overwhelmed when he returned with $5,000 in fancy valentine orders.

Determined to meet the demand, Howland recruited a group of all-female friends to work as "assemblers” and set up an assembly line of card makers in a third floor bedroom at her parents’ home (pre-dating Henry Ford’s assembly line by 50 years). She also distributed boxes of supplies with one finished sample as a guide to women who preferred to assemble valentines in their own homes, thus setting up an early cottage industry.

Early cards contained short four-line verses pasted inside similar to earlier English valentines. This set-up would eventually become standard for the valentine market.

In 1870, she incorporated as the New England Valentine Company and continued the home-based business until 1879 when it was moved to a rented building in downtown Worcester MAHowland cards had an ‘H’ on the back in red ink with the price and letters "N.E.V. Co"  to distinguish them from rivals. 

Many of her innovations are still in use, such as the "lift-up" valentine which consists of several paper-lace motifs built upon one another in layers. Howland also introduced the layering of lace, thin-colored paper, 3-dimensional accordion effects, a bouquet in which flowers move to reveal a verse when pulled by a string, and the built-up shadow box that became popular in the latter part of her career.

Anticipating that customers might want to personalize cards they bought, she provided vendors with a 31-page book of different verses that could be inserted in most cards. Customers could choose from 131 verses printed in red, green, blue, and gold ink in three different sizes. The selected verse could be pasted over the original card verse.

Cards were offered for various budgets. A simple card sold for five cents. A card trimmed with ribbons or featuring intricate illustrations was much more, upwards of $50 (equal to the cost of a horse drawn buggy then). Very elaborate cards were highly decorated and had inner envelopes for insertion of a secret love message, lock of hair or even a ring. 

Howland cards were shipped countrywide and the business grossed over $100,000 per year, considerable for the time. She sold the business in 1881 to care for her ailing father.

The popularity of Valentine’s Day cards owes much to Esther Howland who popularized the lace valentine and made it into a major industry. Her creations of fantasy and romance have set a trend for more than 30 years. In 2001, the Greeting Card Association established the Esther Howland Award  given annually to a “greeting card visionary.”

According to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated 1 billion cards are sent annually making Feb. 14 the second largest card-sending holiday of the year after Christmas when an estimated 2.6 billion cards are sent. Over 50 percent of all Valentine's Day cards are purchased in the six days prior to the holiday. Woman purchase about 85 percent of all valentines. Teachers receive the most valentines, then children, mothers, wives, sweethearts and pets.

My personal opinion is that a Valentine's Day card 💌 should be held to be most appreciated (an e-valentine doesn't do it for me). That's why Grenville and I will be exchanging several many cards today and a couple of sweet treats and watching our first-date film, French Kiss (1995)How about your plans?

Happy ❤️ Hearts Day to Everyone

Friday, February 9, 2018

Friday Funnies

Blades Up . . .

Looks like these were waving blades, but most cars parked in the mill apt outdoor parking lot looked this way.  Wednesday's snowfall was only about 3-4 inches and clear weather is forecast for the weekend here in Nashua, NH. Hope yours is good as well.

Enjoy your weekend, Everyone.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Phil Was Right

Maybe there is something to the groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, groundhog seeing his shadow on Feb. 2 and forecasting 6 more weeks of winter. We had a mid-morning appointment yesterday and the roads were clear when we left home, but not for long.

As we were driving home, 30 minutes later, this was the very wintry scene.

Luckily, we weren't that far away from our apartment. The roadways had not yet been plowed and were getting very snow-covered. The mill is barely visible here.
The quick-moving storm appears to have ended by late afternoon. But, a wintry mix of rain and perhaps snow is forecast for the overnight hours. 
Thankfully, we have no plans to go out today and will remain indoors. We hope that you didn't get another blast of winter weather. And hope everyone keeps safe. On the brighter side, by the end of this week, there's only 5 weeks of winter left to go. (We hope.)

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

High-Flying Celebration

The truth is that it wasn't exactly a celebration in the air, but there were take-offs and landings. We celebrated my birthday breakfast at the Midfield Cafe on Saturday morning.
The Midfield Cafe is open for breakfast and lunch except Tuesdays and its located at the Nashua Airport. It's not an eatery you would easily spot see on a drive as it's tucked away on a road that leads only to the airport. Yet from what we had heard from many people, the cafe is always packed. So, it was a destination for my celebration. 

The airport is an active general aviation airport that's located just 3 miles NW of Nashua, NH and about a 10 minute drive from our apartment. It dates to 1934, when the City of Nashua bought a small existing airport, which had a grass runway and no hanger. Over the next several years, and with federal help, Nashua, paved the 2,000-ft  runway and constructed buildings. A hangar was built using bricks from a mill factory that had been destroyed in a major city fire several years earlier.

In 1943, the airport was renamed Boire Field, after Ensign Paul Boire, who was Nashua's first casualty in World War II. Nashua Airport/Boire Field encompasses 400 acres and has space for 441 aircraft on the field. The airport's control tower was added in 1972 and operational from 7:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. There's no scheduled commercial service.
The airport's Midfield Cafe is a busy place, especially on weekend mornings. While there  for breakfast we watched numerous aircraft take offs and landings. We plan to return, next time on a weekday morning when we can spend more time at the window seat.
Thanks to all the fellow bloggers for the birthday wishes, which were read and very much appreciated. As a rule, Grenville and I no longer exchange holiday or birthday gifts, although we do give surprise gifts. He surprised me with this gift — a popover baking pan. 
As you can see, it was put to good use and we enjoyed fresh-from-the-oven popovers with homemade stew on Sunday. They were delicious and so easy to make. Now, you know why Grenville gave me this gift. (He's a smart guy.)

Saturday, February 3, 2018

It's Birthday Time !

Today, I'm sharing a birthday with (among others) some well known and some infamous folks:

Amal Alamuddin Clooney, Fran Tarkenton, Nathan Lane, Samuel Butler, Melanie, Blythe Danner, Shelley Berman, Joey Bishop, Norman Rockwell, Felix Mendelssohn, Horace Greeley, Gertrude Stein, James Michener, Henning Mankell, Pretty Boy Floyd. 

All of us have been born under the sign of Aquarius (January 19 - February 18) the water bearer. It was nice that in 1969, the 5th Dimension sang The Age of Aquarius. (The song Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In is a medley of two songs written for the 1967 musical Hair.)

Checking online for personality traits of Aquarians, I read that we have active minds and can spend hours thinking about new and interesting ways to approach life. So, maybe that explains my daydreaming times?

I also read that Aquarians are nature lovers, friendly, outgoing and have a sense of fairness which causes them to treat others with integrity. All good things.

On the negative side, Aquarians need to guard against self-indulgence of any kind. Soglad that the Oreo cookies are long gone, but we still have some holiday M&Ms around.

That cake shown in this post was bought to share with our dominoes playing friends this week. (There was no letter; it was added for purposes of this post.) A few more pieces were shared with friends here at the apartments. But, two pieces were saved to enjoy after dinner on Saturday evening. After all, what's a birthday without cake, but NO candles as I don't want to set off any alarms !