Windham Life and Times – October 16. 2020

/The Social Dilemma

The Kendall Mill was located on the Windham-Londonderry line and was operated as a grist, saw and cider mill. In the fall, farmers would bring their apples which were then pressed to make cider. Making cider was a social event for the community where friends and neighbors would meet and discuss the latest gossip and politics, face to face.

   OK, so I apologize; I was way too political in my last column. Just blame it on my social media feedback loop! My son was visiting for my birthday and we watched the eye-opening documentary on Netflix titled “/The Social Dilemma.” Everybody needs to see this documentary because it goes a long way toward explaining why we are so divided as a nation. The opening credits quote Sophocles which says, “Nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse.” So here is the “Cliff Notes” summary: The social media monopolies, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, SnapChat, and the rest mine your searching data so they can sell to you. They track what you like, and they even track how long you look at a photograph so they can determine every intimate detail of who you are and what you believe. So you are saying to yourself that you are well aware of that. Here’s the thing; since the social media companies exist to make money, by selling your data and selling to you, they have a vested interest in only presenting to you in your feeds, the things that you have indicated that you like or believe. Why would they do this? They do this because they want you to spend as much time on their platform as possible, and they keep you glued to your feed by presenting you things that make you happy…the things that cause a dopamine rush into the body. This would be all fine and well if it was just about making tons of money which it is for the internet media giants. The problem is, because we only see what the media companies algorithms perceive that we want to see, everyone in America is stuck in a echo chamber and continuous feedback loop endorsing and magnifying their own ideas and beliefs. We are never presented with opposing viewpoints because that might upset us and cause us to spend less time on the social media platform. As individuals, we begin to think that everybody thinks the same way we do, because we are being given what we want to see in our feeds. Everything we see is individually tailored to us and no two people have the same feed. One of the most dramatic moments is when all of these social media founders and high level managers say that they do not allow their own children to access the very social media platforms they operate, because it is much to dangerous for them. One way to escape is to turn off your feed and notifications.  We need to find a way to interact with other people, especially with people who don’t agree with us. Just listen to their point of view. You don’t have to agree with what they believe, you just have to respect their right to believe it. Remember this point, “If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.”

    So these tech elites do offer a solution which is actually much scarier than the problem itself. They seem to say that society needs “one truth,” so that we can unite and move forward to solve the difficult problems we face. Climate Change is one issue they address in the documentary. In other words, they want the government to censor “fake news” and present us with “the truth” we need. This is a totalitarian dream, to be able to drop “the truth” and only the “state’s truth” into peoples feeds. The internet was founded as a free-wheeling place of diverse views. They seem to be advocating the establishment of a “Ministry of Truth,” straight out of George Orwell’s 1984. And once “the truth” comes from a Ministry of Truth can a Social Credit Score System be far behind? Maybe the for profit “Attention Extraction Model” isn’t so bad after all?

Windham Life and Times October 9, 2020

The Whistle-Stop Tour

Teddy Roosevelt Campaigns at Windham Depot

So, are you as sick of presidential politics as I am? President Teddy Roosevelt was a flamboyant, larger than life character. He was a Republican, but more than any other president he was responsible for saving capitalism in America. “President Theodore Roosevelt was a leader of the Progressive movement, and he championed his ‘Square Deal’ domestic policies, promising the average citizen fairness, breaking of trusts, regulation of railroads, and pure food and drugs.”  Roosevelt became president after President William McKinley was shot by an anarchist, Leon Czolgosz, who said he had pulled the trigger out of a desire to contribute to the anarchist cause. “I don’t believe in the Republican form of government, and I don’t believe we should have any rulers,” he said in his confession. “It is right to kill them.”  There was a very strong anarchist-communist threat during McKinley’s presidency because the lack of fairness in America was a real issue. And the real issue of fairness is why we have a very similar threat today. Roosevelt said, “There is a widespread conviction in the minds of the American people that the great corporations known as trusts are in certain of their features and tendencies hurtful to the general welfare,” Roosevelt wrote in his first message as president, following McKinley’s assassination. He became known for the term “Square Deal” which reflected legislation and acts connected with his presidency, especially those which seemed to be undergirded by this sense of fair play and egalitarianism. The Northern Securities case, the break-up of Standard Oil, the Elkins and Hepburn Acts, the creation of the Bureau of Corporations, and his administration’s other actions connected with trust busting, for example, speak to Roosevelt’s desire to equalize the power imbalance between corporations and common people.”  Roosevelt and many other politicians of the time recognized that the concentration of power in the hands of monopolist corporations was bad for America, bad for Americans, and bad for business. The concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few was very similar to today. Today, American capitalism is again in need of reform. The treasonous off-shoring of jobs and industries has to stop. The financialization of the entire economy to benefit the top 1% at the expense of the rest has to be stopped. Bailing out giant banks has to stop. The bribes to politician’s family members from banks, multi-national corporations and foreign governments has to stop. Monopoly capitalism has to be broken up. Capitalism, regulated, brought about the biggest income gains for common people in all recorded history, in twentieth century America. So the question of 2020, which is staring us right in the face is this; what is to be done when both the Republicans and the Democrats have sold out the common man?

Windham Life and Times – October 2, 2020

The Political Philosophy of Dr. Seuss

The Sneetches and Yertle the Turtle | 2020

So Jon Carpenter and myself have been having some laughs over Dr. Suess. It seems that a few rhyming lines in an email can do that to people. Who can forget, “I do not like green eggs and ham, I do not like them Sam I am…I do not like them with a fox, I do not like them in a box…”…and on and on it goes. There are however, two stories by Theodor Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Suess that provide a keen observation of political philosophy and human nature. You should understand that Suess considered himself a progressive yet he also believed strongly in individual freedom. The two stories would of course be The Sneetches and Yertle the Turtle.

   In the story of The Sneetches, it seems that Star Belly Sneetches saw themselves as superior to Sneetches without “Stars upon thars.” And the Sneetches without “stars upon thars,” felt inferior which lead them to covet the very things they hated.

“Now the Star-bellied Sneetches had bellies with stars.
The Plain-bellied Sneetches had none upon thars.
The stars weren’t so big; they were really quite small.
You would think such a thing wouldn’t matter at all.
But because they had stars, all the Star-bellied Sneetches
would brag, ‘We’re the best kind of Sneetch on the beaches.’ ”

     Off course both groups fell for the huckster, demagogue, “Sylvester McMonkey McBean, who uses their differences against both groups, for the sole purpose of self-empowerment and profit. Hmmm, sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

“‘My friends,’ he announced in a voice clear and keen,
‘My name is Sylvester McMonkey McBean.
I’ve heard of your troubles; I’ve heard you’re unhappy.
But I can fix that; I’m the fix-it-up chappie.
I’ve come here to help you; I have what you need.
My prices are low, and I work with great speed,
and my work is one hundred per cent guaranteed.’ ”

    As the story unfolds the Sneetches come to realize they have been conned by Sylvster McMonkey McBean. That he only cared about their differences in order to exploit them in his scheme to gain power and make money. In the end the Sneetches see, after they all have been scammed by the flim, flam man, that there are no real differences between Sneetches, and what counts is what is below the feathered exterior of their physical bodies. Sadly for the Sneetches, they learn this lesson long after they haver been duped out of all their money.

“Then, when every last cent of their money was spent,
the Fix-It-Up-Chappie packed up and he went.
And he laughed as he drove in his car up the beach,
They never will learn; no, you can’t teach a Sneetch!”

“But McBean was quite wrong, I’m quite happy to say,
the Sneetches got quite a bit smarter that day.
That day, they decided that Sneetches are Sneetches,
and no kind of Sneetch is the BEST on the beaches.
That day, all the Sneetches forgot about stars,
and whether they had one or not upon thars.”

     So who do you think is hustler McBean in on our very own 2020 Sneetches Beach?

     Yertle the Turtle is even darker than The Sneetches, if that is possible. Yertle is the would be dictator, a king of the his turtle pond and he makes all of his fellow turtles climb on each other’s backs until he can see beyond the pond and to the wide world around him which he immediately declares is his. Everything he sees is what he covets and he doesn’t care who he has to climb on top of to get it. This story was actually written by Suess as a metaphor for a Hitler type dictator, but the same theme works for communists and tyrants of all stripes, and even those who have steered America’s disastrous foreign policy for several decades. Its all about concentrated power, and bullying tactics, all overwhelming individual freedom. Doesn’t anybody in the country remember the political philosophy of Thomas Jefferson or Andrew Jackson, or even the beloved Dr. Suess? Is the enlightenment dead; is man not born free? Are we to become cogs or cattle, to be chipped, or phone zombies all controlled from above? That’s odd…I’m actually feeling the weight of little turtle feet on my back as I’m writing this!

Both of the animated versions of these books can be found on YouTube. Why not check them out before you vote! Links at windhamnhhistory.org

You can watch the Sneetches on YouTube at: https://youtu.be/PdLPe7XjdKc

You can watch Yertle the Turtle on YouTube. https://youtu.be/kLgdDPoaz-I

Windham Life and Times – September 11, 2020

The End of Summer

Charlie Donahue and His 1954 Chris-Craft Sportsman

I know the calendar says that summer continues on until September 22nd, but come on, once Labor Day hits, the lush, warm, and brightly lit interlude to New England’s chilly, dark attitude comes quickly to an end. This summer was especially sweet, given the derepressing presence of Covid-19, the violence and looting in America’s cities, and the endless churn of political nonsense.

    So as you know, I have been a little obsessed with boats this summer. One of the boats I wrote about was a beautiful mahogany Chris Craft that appeared about mid-season. The boat’s owner was kind enough to write to me and tell me a little about the boat and his family. On Labor Day, I had the pleasure of taking a ride in the boat on a glorious summer day that had just a hint of Autumn in the wind. What a  classic American boat, riding just above the waterline and crafted out of mahogany. The Chrysler inboard engine was marketed under the Chris-Craft brand name and the sound it makes on the water is just the best!

    The owner of the boat is Charlie Donahue and he is a twenty year old student who is on his way to a freshman year at Dartmouth. His family has been coming to Cobbett’s Pond for over 50 years. The first family member to enjoy Cobbett’s shores was his mother’s uncle John “Binky” Walsh who rented a cottage next to the former Duncan’s beach in the late 1960’s. “Later he purchased a place on Fish Road—my grandparents Charles and Mary McGongagle then followed suit— and today 42 of our extended family members now summer across six different cottages. I am about to turn 20, and Cobbetts has been a wonderful place to grow up. Earlier this summer I fulfilled a dream of many years and purchased a 1954 mahogany Chris Craft. I have been enjoying it almost every evening on the pond…”

    Charlie explained to me that the Chris Craft Sportsman was the company’s entry into more of the mass market after World War II, when America was full of optimism and the expectation was that every returning veteran would have a home, a car and a boat as well as the possibility of a cottage on a lake.   

Charlie also educated me about wooden boats and the fact that a Chris-Craft like his gains many hundreds of pounds of weight when put into the water.

     As I took that Labor Day spin, in that incredibly beautiful boat, in the company of Charlie and my own son Matt, all my apprehensions about what the future holds for America, finally faded away. My children’s generation has what it takes; I see it in their friends, I see it in them, I see it in Charlie, and they will meet the challenges to come, just as the generations that came before them did.

Windham Life and Times – August 21, 2020

Over the past few weeks I’ve discovered a lot about classic boats. There have been more beautiful boats turning up on the pond including a gorgeous mahogany inboard, an interesting “Lumie” with a Bimini, and a nice hydroplane boat with a mid-century modern Evinrude. It might be a Minimost. I remember several of these being on the lake back in the day.  One of the most incredible discoveries I made was about the history of the AristoCraft boat and the Atlanta Boat Company. In my opinion, they made one of the most distinctive, mid-century modern, wooden boats ever built. I think there was one of these boats on Cobbett’s when I was a kid, but I couldn’t track down who might of owned it. What I remember was a white mercury engine on the back and the distinctive green windshield. If you know who owned it or have a photo please let me know.

    According to the AristoCraft website, “Atlanta Boat Works began manufacturing AristoCraft boats in 1946 following Claude Turner’s return from service in World War II. Production began with five employees at a downtown Atlanta location. These early days saw the production of an open fishing-type boat which was replaced in 1947 with the models that AristoCraft is known for. The Typhoon, a 12′ 2-seater runabout, was introduced, followed by a 13′ Torpedo that had a barrel stern. In the late 1940’s, AristoCraft even produced racing boats that included a bullet-nosed boat called the racing smoo. With the arrival of the 1950’s, AristoCraft engineered numerous changes. A cabin cruiser was marketed for a short while, introducing to the market a transom-mounted outboard motor bracket. In 1953, AristoCraft was being marketed through Western Auto and Montgomery Ward as the Wizard and the Sea King. Although hundreds were sold, this was phased out by 1954 to be sold through dealers only.” Here is the most incredible part of the story. They are still manufacturing these classic boats today. AristoCraft says, “New remanufactured boats are crafted by hand just like their predecessors of the 1950’s. Following the original design, the same screws, glues, jigs, machinery, and equipment to include band saws, planers, and polishers are used. Additionally, boats incorporate Z-Spar Varnish, and have Coast Guard regulated flotation, steering, and lighting.” These boats retail for not that much more than a Whaler of the same dimensions.

The classic 12 foot Torpedo shown above being built and which is available to be purchased from the Atlanta Boat Company for $12,500. A 14 foot Torpedo is $14,500. The 16 foot Torpedo has a price new of $16,500. You then have to add the cost of an outboard  motor, but quite an incredible boat for the price. AristoCraft is still a family business in Georgia and they will also customize details and colors and offer a customized trailer that compliment the boats.

Check out all of the AristoCraft boats currently in production and the company’s history of turning out beautiful boats at https://aristocraftboats.com/