A Nation Divided


“I am scared that if ‘he’ gets into office, we are going to see more of the Ku Klux Klan and a resurgence of the Nazi Party,” ‘she’ said in November, —-. “I’m afraid things are going to blow sky high during this next term,” a nursing student said. He’s a “nitwit,” added a Democrat. “He’s shallow, superficial and frightening,” one of that year’s historic numbers of “undecideds” insisted”.  “The problem is not a loose lip but the simple answer.” *

JUST a very few weeks into the new presidential administration and most of us are feeling beaten down by the avalanche of political talk from friends, colleagues, TV talking heads, radio personalities, your barber, rabbi and priest.  After an interminably long election cycle and the daily play-by-play of the new administration setting up shop, we’re done….can’t take any more of it.   At lunch with friends, around the water cooler, Facebook, Twitter and on and on and on, we’re tired of all the talk and political posts.  Just in the last week several Facebook ‘friends’ asked “when Facebook become a place to espouse political views”.  Actually that’s not anything new…it’s just that people are so passionate about the current political scene, Facebook and the other social media outlets make it possible to air ones views to the biggest audience with the least effort.  Saddest of all are long time friends who are now at odds with one another and risk ending those friendships.

I’VE got to agree….we’re just worn out!  All the talking heads on CNN, Fox, MSNBC, the Daily Beast, and all other media outlets ad nauseam, can’t convince the ‘other side’ what’s right and what’s wrong in our new political world.  And that’s what bothers me; the two sides.  The divide between the Trump supporters and the Trump deniers is huge.  I remember elections going back as far as Kennedy/Nixon (that one’s a bit cloudy as I was five) and I never remember the country so divided, the depth of which scares me.  I have friends, close friends, that I dare not discuss the current political landscape for fear of ruining relationships, and I don’t like that feeling.  If you can’t rationally discuss your political views with close friends or family, with whom can you discuss them?  It’s reminiscent of the era of McCarthyism when friends would turn on each other at the slightest thought one may be a communist sympathizer…that was a dark period in American life.

BUT isn’t political discourse what makes America, America?  True, we’re all worn out, but the freedom to express our views without being persecuted is what makes our society truly free; a society of free speech and ideas, no matter how intensely we may disagree.  But the pessimist in me says perhaps this divide is just what politicians, both right and left, want; perhaps all the infighting among the general population is just what they ordered.  While we’re busy fighting among ourselves the politicians go about the business of writing policy that favors the few (ie., the wealthy) and lining their own pockets with dollars and power.    As in the past few years, with Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter, politicians are betting the publics diminishing interest in protesting and marching against, or for, Trump’s policies.  But the optimist in me sees this situation differently; is there a chance that the divide is so great that there will be a political and cultural shift  similar to what occurred in the 60’s when the nation was divided by an unwinnable war, civil rights protests and a huge shift from a post wartime culture to something much less conservative?  One can only hope that in the long run this huge shift in our nation, brought about by the new administration, will produce some positive results.  It may be years before we know the outcome, but in the mean time lets try to preserve our friendships no matter how much we disagree with one another.

*The opening quote was from Coretta Scott King in 1980 when Ronald Reagan won the presidency.


Invite A Friend To Lunch

After I published my last blog post I received the following email from a friend;

“I read your blog post today and it reminded me how different our political points of view are.  That being said, I also think we share many views that are very similar. Please take a few minutes to listen to this TED talk. I’d really like to have lunch with you using the guidelines as suggested. Are you game to give it a try”?

First of all I was somewhat surprised that someone actually read my blog and had taken the time to respond.  After the shock wore off I thought it best to watch the short TED Talk to understand where this was going;  https://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_lesser_take_the_other_to_lunch

The TED Talk speaker makes the point that the culture in which we were each raised, and our experiences from that point forward, help form our view of the world on an array of topics and issues.  The road of least resistance is to discuss our individual views with those sharing similar opinions, leaving little room for argument.  And conversely we tend to avoid confrontation on certain topics with those of opposing views, leading to many assumptions about one another.  But, as my friend states in the email, ‘we share many views that are similar’.  That said we decided to put it to a test and I agreed to have lunch.

In this season of discontent on both sides of the aisle we all have strong views on the political situation, my friend and I alike.  And though we each lean in a different direction, our lunch time talk revealed that we have many of the same concerns.  I was asked what scared me so much about a Trump presidency, and as I stated in my last blog; “The one worry I do have, which should have us all concerned, is the empowerment that extremists on the alt-right feel with Trump’s win”.  My friend understood but feels the fringe is so small that their impact overall would be minimal.  I responded that even if the extremists represent 10% (or 5% or even 2%) of the population, that’s a lot of people and I don’t want to see our country going backwards concerning civil rights, reproductive rights, LGBT rights, etc…  We covered a range of other topics including the sensitive nature of discussing politics with close family members who have different views from our own and are unwilling to have a rational discussion.

Without going into detail about lunch, or our similarities and differences, I have to say it was great to sit down with someone who is rational and doesn’t base friendships on ones differences. We were both open to hearing opposing views and learning how they came to be.  My hope is that we left lunch understanding more about each other, how our views developed, how rational discussion can lead to closer relationships, whether personal, business or political.  Would politicians take a page from the TED Talk or from my friend’s initiative….doubtful.  But as citizens we should make the effort to talk to those we know we disagree politically and try to understand one another, lest we start to act like the elected officials who put their self interests first.

I was going to end this post with the paragraph above, but as the week went on and our new president made a mockery of the office and of the people who voted for him, I decided to end with an article by Adam Gopnik from The New Yorker.  He expresses much of what I think much better than I ever could…..enjoy; Read more

Movies of 2016: A Year In Review

Most Fridays Margaret and I go to a real movie theater to see recently released movies; does that constitute a hobby as suggested recently by a friend?  If so, that’s fine.  But we don’t go just to go, we’re particular about what we see (although every once in a while we’ll see something on the ‘light’ side, but it has to have entertainment value).  Horror and slasher c363cd7aac439443f0b4304fb868ae33films are definitely not our thing; sci-fi and fantasy suit me but not Margaret; animated films are good for Margaret but I can’t get around the fact that it’s a cartoon, no matter how well done.  We do like drama’s, comedy’s, dramady’s, foreign films and documentaries…give us a good story, good acting, a message that can teach us something we didn’t know and we’re good.

We’ve even found a way to offset the inflated cost of seeing feature films on the big screen; annually we make a fairly sizable monetary donation to a local charity (a very good cause) and in exchange they provide a card with your photo that entitles two people entry to most movie theaters in metro Atlanta free of charge (we need to see a lot of movies to offset the amount of the donation).  Makes us feel good and a good way to fund our hobby.

film-strip-with-icon_23-2147503484Of the movies we screened in 2016 I’m going to list my top ten favorites in no particular order.  Following that I’ll list ‘the rest’…good movies we’ve seen but not top ten worthy.  Remember, these are the movies I like….everyone has different taste.  Here goes;

  • Manchester By The Sea (heavy, disturbing story with an outstanding cast)
  • Hell Or High Water (well acted modern western with three actors at their finest)
  • La La Land (pure, unabashed entertainment….a musical you can hum along to)
  • Moonlight (raw, real, disturbing…great script, directing and acting)
  • Arrival (cerebral sci-fi….Contact for the 21st century)
  • Sing Street (from the director of ONCE…music inspired coming of age tale)
  • The Innocents (true story that proves truth is stranger than fiction…heavy, disturbing)
  • A Bigger Splash (again, great acting in a modern tale of sex, love and rock ‘n’ roll)
  • Jackie (if you were around in the early 60’s this film will bring back memories…Natalie Portman is outstanding in the lead role)
  • Hunt For The Wilderpeople (fun tale of a wayward boy and, come to think of it, a wayward adult….takes place in New Zealand so great scenery)

Following are the ‘other’ movies I feel were very good and worth the time to watch (again, movie-film_23-2147498233they are in no particular order);  Weiner, The Nice Guys, Eye In The Sky, Edge Of Seventeen, Fences, The Beatles: Eight Days A Week…The Touring Years, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Queen Of Katwe, Our Little Sister, Sully, Deepwater Horizon, Florence Foster Jenkins, Everybody Wants Some, A Man Called Ove, Deadpool, Nocturnal Animals, Sausage Party, Hidden Figures, Lion…


And here are movies that premiered in 2016 that we couldn’t fit into our schedule (or never screened in ATL) but we’re anxious to see; Twentieth Century Women, Loving, Elle, Hacksaw Ridge, Certain Women, Eat That Question: Zappa In His Own Words, Don’t Breathe, I Daniel Blake, Gleason, Green Room, The Handmaiden, Paterson, OJ: Made In America, Little Men, Don’t Think Twice, Silence, American Honey…and many many more.

So, what was your favorite(s)?  Let us know with a comment below….and here’s to a great crop of films for 2017!

That Was The Year That Was

For those of us old enough to remember, there was a short running television show in the early to mid 1960’s titled That Was The Week That Was, based on a show by the same name originating in the United Kingdom.  It was described as a “Topical political satire program that poked fun at the events of the week. A series of musical numbers, skits, and irreverent humor. It prided itself on being controversial”.   Oh boy, they would have had a field day with 2016!
2016…what a year; the interminable U.S. election; ISIS lead and ISIS inspired terrorist attacks around the world, even on our own shores; the brutal Syrian civil war and the terrible refugee crisis it has produced;  continued bombings in Iraq and regions of the Middle East and northern Africa;  the death of too many celebrities and talented musicians.  Add to these true issues the proliferation of fake news stories started by terrible individuals and believed by too many of the uninformed public (my favorite recent fake news story told by a friend; her massage therapist heard that Michelle Obama is really a man and the Obama children are adopted…she really believes this to be true!)   Good riddance to 2016….don’t let the door hit you in the butt as you make your way into the history books.
Hello 2017, you fresh faced infant of a year.  What delights do you hold for us?  More of the same?  Whether Republican or Democrat, we should all be concerned with the direction our country is headed, if nothing else because we’ve never been down this road before. Will Trump and his new administration surprise us and really take us in a direction that will be good for most Americans.  Will he really be able to deliver on his off-the-cuff freewheeling promises, and do we want him to?  So far, with confirmation hearings just starting, it doesn’t appear he’s ‘drained the swamp’.  That said, I really, really hope my gut is wrong and Trump surprises us all.  Call me naive, but I don’t see how terrible America has been and why we need to make a great place ‘great again’.  Except for the sharp increase in health insurance premiums, my life has been pretty good, and our extensive travels overseas attests to the fact that we have it pretty good here in the good ‘ol U.S. of A.  Without listing his strengths and weaknesses or his accomplishments and failures, it’s true that President Obama has not been a great president, but he has been very good.  And if nothing else he’s a great symbol of integrity and confidence, which we did not see from many of the possible presidential nominees in 2016.
The one worry I do have, which should have us all concerned, is the empowerment that extremists on the alt-right feel with Trump’s win.  We don’t want to go backwards when it comes to civil rights.  We don’t want to go backwards when it comes to antisemitism.  We don’t want to go backwards when it comes to women’s rights.  We don’t want to go backwards when it comes to the rights of the LGBT community.  We don’t want to go backwards when it comes to religious freedoms.  There’s no place for a racist ideology in this country.
I’m really a fairly optimistic person; the glass is always half full (and the first half was great!).  That said, perhaps the following three minute clip from a routine performed by George Carlin sums up how I look at politics.  It’s funny, yes, but for me realistic.  I understand that as an individual I have very little power when it comes to politics…but as a human I can strive to live the best life possible in each moment of my life.
 WARNING:  if you’re offended by the seven words you can’t say on television (another classic Carlin routine) you may not want to watch the following. But you’d really be missing out….Enjoy;  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rsL6mKxtOlQ

Looks Like Teen Spirit

For the last year and a half Margaret and I have volunteered our time to a program titled Teen Spirit which was conceived and is executed by long-time Atlanta photographer Corinne Adams.  The quick description is as follows; once a month Corinne and a couple volunteers go to Scottish Rite and Egleston hospitals to teach teen patients about portrait photography.  She then sets up a portable studio including lighting, backdrop, props and camera and the teens take turns either as photographer or subject.  After each teen has had a turn one print is made of each subject who then writes something about themselves.  After several months the printed portraits and writings are organized into a gallery show displayed in October in conjunction with Atlanta Celebrates Photography (ACP), a co-sponsor of the Teen Spirit project.  This year the photographs will be in several locations as pop-up exhibits.

Below is an excellent article written by Maura Friedman and published in Creative Loafing.  It has been an honor to work with Corinne, and it has been humbling to work with these amazing teens whose lives are put on hold while hospitalized. Below is a photo from the pop-up exhibit.  For a schedule of the pop-ups see the ACP Festival Guide.

Enjoy the article….


Looks like teen spirit

Atlanta Celebrates Photography teaches hospitalized teens the art of portraiture

BLUE STEEL: Demetrius Bolston gives some side eye in a portrait taken during a Teen Spirit workshop, made in conjunction with Atlanta Celebrates Photography.

BLUE STEEL: Demetrius Bolston gives some side eye in a portrait taken during a Teen Spirit workshop, made in conjunction with Atlanta Celebrates Photography/Teen Spirit program/Atlanta Celebrates Photography

Once a month, the kids file in. Some are in wheelchairs, some are pushed in rolling beds. Most wear patterned hospital gowns.

“Hey, do you take pictures?” Corinne Adams, a cofounder of Atlanta Celebrates Photography and a fine photography artist, asks, starting the workshop. Inevitably the attendees nod their heads. These are teens, after all — they know their selfie angles.

For five years Atlanta Celebrates Photography has run Teen Spirit, a portrait workshop for teenage aged inpatients at Scottish Rite and Egleston hospitals aimed at exploring identity. And for the fourth year, the images those teens have made will be on display in pop up galleries as part of the 18th Annual Atlanta Celebrates Photography Festival, a month-long event of galleries and talks.

Hospitals have long had activities in place for their youngest patients — face painting, clowns, magic — but there’s very little entertainment available for marooned teens, save for self-mandated scrolling through Snapchat or Instagram on their phones. Because this online world centers heavily around image consumption, teens are already presumably familiar with basic smartphone photo editing software. This program takes that knowledge base and pushes these young patients into the more artsy realm.

“It’s a medium these kids know,” Adams says.

She uses selfies as an entry point but explains portrait photography is different because it involves collaboration to create expression. And it doesn’t just have to be of your face — a portrait could be of your feet or your medical equipment.

Adams asks the kids what they want to say about themselves.

“Angry, tired, complicated, worried,” are common themes. But sometimes they use other words — “strong, fighting, goofy, lover.”

Two young people at a time step up to their makeshift studio — one backdrop and two lights arranged in a hospital office — plugging and unplugging themselves into infusion poles as they move in front of and behind the camera. Press the button when you’re feeling something, Adams tells them.

“I describe it as taking a selfie times 100,” Demetrius Bolston, a now 20-year-old cancer survivor who has been attending the photo workshops since 2014, says.

MODEL BEHAVIOR: Demetrius Bolston, an aspiring model and hospital inpatient, takes his pose into his own hands during a portrait session at a Teen Spirit workshop, put on in conjunction with Atlanta Celebrates Photography.

MODEL BEHAVIOR: Demetrius Bolston, an aspiring model and hospital inpatient, takes his pose into his own hands during a portrait session at a Teen Spirit workshop, put on in conjunction with Atlanta Celebrates Photography.Teen Spirit program/Atlanta Celebrates Photography

That “times 100″ that elevates pictures to portraits shows in the final frame. The moment a young girl’s chin turns up with her smile, hip popped like she’s at a block party. The boy staring intently into the camera over his surgical mask, hands clasped as if he’s already made his point. But many of the 2016 pictures also have a polished aesthetic quality — a girl with her hand suspended over her chest as she stares absently off camera; Demetrius gazing directly into the camera through parted fingers, his infusion tubes dangling parallel to the chain around his neck. These images embody self possession — personal agency represented visually.

“I didn’t want to look like a patient, I wanted to look like I was in a photo shoot,” Demetrius says about posing for his first Teen Spirit workshop. “I wanted to look like I was going home.”

He borrowed Adams’ jacket to cover his hospital gown that day. Other patients bring props — once a girl brought a feather boa to wrap her infusion pole. In these portraits, the teens see themselves as they want to be, which often has nothing to do with their health status.

One cancer patient in a recent workshop was particularly nervous. Her bald head made her self-conscious about modeling. Demetrius coached her gently, taking photos of her hands and the details of her socks until she relaxed to take a more traditional portrait.

It’s that personal empowerment that gives the whole project meaning to Adams.

“I’m at an age where if I have another photography show it’s not going to change the world,” Adams, a 25-year fine art photography veteran, says. “I want to do something that really takes photography into the world in a meaningful way and has impact and relationship involved in it.”

Demetrius’ favorite filter for his photos is black and white. He says the added drama fits his personality. These days he always volunteers to model first as a way to break the ice for patients new to the photo workshop. Initially, most meetings are stiff. What’s this going to be like? And how will I do?

By the time the third or fourth teen poses, Demetrius says the group tends to get rowdy and more fun. The collective exhale of inhibitions gives way to creativity (“raise your arms like this, try this angle”) and a collaborative bond (“let’s all take a group photo now”).

Demetrius has yet to see his portrait work hanging in the Teen Spirit gallery. He’s always been hospitalized during the shows, but the hospital did arrange to display some of his images on site.

When Demetrius looks at his portraits, he can see his confidence reflected back at him through his own eyes. He wants to hold onto that feeling. He says he wants to be a professional model someday. And at the next Teen Spirit workshop, he’ll ask another patient to take his headshots.

Teen Spirit pop-up gallery and related events. Free. Time and venues vary. Sat., Oct. 22. Wed., Oct. 26. festivalguide2016.acpinfo.org.

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2017 Sicily Bike Tour

Hello All…..our Sicily Cycle Tour scheduled for April 29-May 6, 2017 is filling up quickly, only a few spots remain. Airfares remain low and the forecast says they should remain more reasonable than they’ve been in over ten years. The dollar is strong against the euro….a plus for Americans traveling to Europe. Below is the info about the trip.
If interested I’ll need a firm commitment soon. Of course should you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me (pleafman@comcat.net). Feel free to pass this email along to friends but please let me know if you are going to do so.
Peter & Margaret McDaniel

Eight years ago Margaret and I organized our first bike tour traveling to the rolling hills of Tuscany (Italy). There were twenty of us on the tour and I’ve heard many times that for some it was the ‘vacation of a lifetime’. Since, we’ve been on other bike tours in the U.S. and Europe and all have been great fun. Once again we’re planning a trip; this year’s destination is Sicily, Italy. We’ve picked this as our destination for several reasons; good, low traffic roads for cycling, some of the best cuisine in the world, rich history, temperate climate….and somewhat exotic.

This tour is for cyclists; although we’ll employ a support vehicle driven by an English speaking local for luggage transfer and emergencies (or too much wine at lunch!). You’ll be expected to cycle from town to town. That’s not to say non-cycling spouses aren’t welcome; our support vehicle has room for a couple people but you’d be at the mercy of the driver who will be supporting the cyclists on the road. Another option, if there are enough non-cyclists or those who only want to ride a portion of the daily route, is to follow along in their own rental vehicle on their own schedule but enjoy all the other amenities of the tour. As you can see on the attached the daily mileage is not that high giving us time to take in the rich culture each day. That said, there a some days that more miles may be added. I know some of us are mileage junkies but my experience in Europe has always been to have time to ‘smell the roses’.

The start date of this tour is Saturday, April 29 through Saturday, May 6, 2017. My suggestion is to arrive one day in advance, but that’s not absolutely necessary. Should we have an overwhelming response, I may be able to offer the same tour an additional week. As a point of reference on pricing I was able to search out similar tours by commercial tour companies which I list below. As you will see, comparatively our tour is very reasonably priced. That said, this is not a five star TREK Travel tour; this trip is for independent cyclists and travelers as we’ll be handling our own luggage before leaving and after arriving each day, we’ll be on our own for lunch (never a problem in Italy), we’ll be staying in 3-4 star hotels, and even though we’ll have a support vehicle you need to be able to follow the map and detailed cue sheet provided. Also, unlike eight years ago the dollar is much stronger against the euro which makes our money go further.

Please email with any questions; pleafman@comcast.net

Other cycling tours in Sicily (for price comparison purposes only);
Ciclismo 9 days/8nights $5,595.00
DuVine 6days/5nights $4,595.00
Backroads 6days/5nights $4198-4598
DigNgo 6days/5nights $4,298.00
Siciclando 8days/7 nights $4,155.00
Butterfild & Robinson 7days/6 nights $6,995.00

Obviously in addition to the cost of the tour and bike rental is airfare. We use Kayak.com to check airfares and set alerts so we know when fares start coming down. There are no airlines that fly direct to the Catania–Fontanarossa airport; you need to connect through Rome (the closest) or another European city. I’ve checked and Delta does have flights non-stop to Rome and then connecting on. You could also get a round trip to another European city and then take one of the many low cost European commuter airlines to Catania–Fontanarossa. Should you want to extend your holiday there are many great areas of Italy to explore; Rome, Florence, Venice, Cinque Terra, Tuscany, and on and on. Other countries are just a flight away.
*If you’re feeling adventurous and want to save on airfare Turkish Airlines has fares under $800 round trip. The only caveat is all flights go through Istanbul with a few hours layover.

I look forward to hearing from you soon. Our other tours have been very popular….participation will be first come/first served.
If you know anyone who may be interested in this bike tour please let me know before contacting them.

This Is Not A Sales Pitch….Promise!

The following was recently written by my brother for his company newsletter.  While it is a sales pitch for his customer base I feel it’s a slice of our family life I knew very little about.  It’s fascinating to discover facts about ones own family which often shines a light on who we are…..enjoy!  (And if you do need insurance you know who to call!!!);

“I started Health Insurance Express because of my grandmother. From around 1915 to 1938 she and my grandfather owned and operated the general store in Fulda, Minnesota, a farming town of about 900 people. When they left Fulda for Chicago in 1938 to be near my dad while he attended DePaul University the whole town turned out for their sendoff. They did that because as merchants and residents of the town my grandparents treated each and every Fulda resident like family.

Many years later my grandmother, who continued working in retail until she was 86 years old would tell me, “Always do the right thing for your customers, treat them like family, and the rest will take care of itself. If you’re not sure which products to recommend just ask yourself if you would suggest the same product if this were your brother or sister, your aunt, uncle, cousin, mother, or father.” I guess that most of you had a grandparent or grandparents who greatly influenced you too. Those are lessons you never forget.

Of all the things I’ve done in my working life retail became my first career and my first love. I went from being a stock boy in high school to owning a small chain of men’s clothing stores by age 26. After several years I got tired of the seven-day, five-night a week schedule and started to seek a change. I knew that many of my retail skills and values would transfer into a career in the insurance industry and that’s what I decided to do. However, after many years I got the “itch” again and I took my traditional insurance career (stuffy office, by scheduled meeting only) and changed it into a new type of retail experience, Health Insurance Express. So far it’s working…and I think it is because I followed my grandmother’s advice.

Many people asked me how I could sell an intangible product like insurance in a retail store. But that never occurred to me because I know that our customers look to us for efficient, economical, and secure solutions to their risk management needs. Having a relaxed, informal, and accessible year round place to do that made perfect sense to me and it made the experience much easier for our customers.

Yes, we sell a lot of different products from a lot of insurance companies. Many of these products are complex and explained in lengthy contracts. But I have often said that insurance, by its most essential definition, is simply a promise to pay. Looking at insurance products as promises to pay makes them easier to understand and easier to explain. Here’s what I mean. We offer:

  • The promise of a retirement without health care financial disasters with our Medicare plans
  • The promise of quality health care with our health insurance plans
  • The promise of happy, protected, and trusting employees with our employee benefits plans
  • The promise of brighter smiles and beautiful sunsets with our dental and vision plans
  • The promise of a financially secure future for our loved ones with our life insurance plans
  • The promise of a financially smooth recovery from a sickness or trauma with our disability, critical illness, and accident insurance plans

Like most of you I always had a desire to learn more about my family’s history. As I get older I think that it helps to understand who I am if I have a better sense of where I came from. My dad never told me much about his boyhood or what it was like to grow up in a small town but I always wondered about it, especially since I only knew what it was like to grow up in Chicago, a huge urban area.

Many years after my grandparents and parents had passed away my wife and I took a drive to Fulda, Minnesota, my first time there. I had written a letter to the editor of the newspaper before we left for Fulda, asking if there were archives where I might see ads for my grandparents’ general store or information about my dad’s and uncle’s school days. I didn’t hear back from the editor but when we got into town half of the people had heard about our tour of Fulda and they met us, brought mementoes, photos, and best of all, personal stories about my grandparents, my uncle, and my father. The town’s historian put together a whole presentation of old photos and news articles for us. It was one of the best experiences of my life, really like a family reunion.

Of course one of the things that we had to do during our time in Fulda was to view the site of my family’s general store. What is it today? To my great surprise I found that it’s the town’s insurance agency! Thanks Grandma. And thanks for reading”.

Alan Leafman, President


(800) 955-0418

Two Book Reviews (Don’t Worry, Nothing Political)

In the past couple weeks I’ve read two books of non-fiction that have really stuck with me.  In fact I haven’t finished reading one of them (it’s quite long) but felt a strong need to share.  The other book is very short; could be read in a couple sittings.  And they’re totally different from one another.  Enough intro; here are the reviews.

How not to die: Discover the foods scientifically proven to prevent and reverse disease

I love this title as it’s exactly what this excellent book by Dr. Michael Greger is about.  The principle concept that Dr. Greger purports is that the most common illnesses that Americans die from can not only be prevented but reversed.  The first section of the book is divided into chapters, each of which is titled ‘How Not To Die From Heart Disease’, ‘How Not To Die From Lung Diseases’, ‘How Not To Die From Kidney Disease’, and so on.  There are fifteen of these chapters, the last of which is titled ‘How Not To Die From Iatrogenic Causes’ (look it up….quite scary).

The facts in each chapter are not anecdotal, they are based are hundreds and hundreds of studies from around the world over many years.  These studies show that most diseases can be prevented and reversed by changing our diet…simple as that.  The problem that Americans face are the drug companies who don’t want you to know it, and the processed food companies and fast food restaurants who definitely don’t want you to know it.  Study after study shows that changing to a whole food diet made up primarily of fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains and beans, plus other foods will keep us from developing diseases and may reverse a disease if implemented in the early stages.  Studies show that most drugs we take for these diseases merely mask symptoms and most don’t do a great job (in fact for many symptoms placebos are just as effective).

The second section of the book is titled Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen.  Again each chapter deals with a food group and cites extensive research into the benefits….it’s really fascinating. I could go on and on about this book (and I have yet to finish it!), but best to check it out for yourself.  Dr. Greger has an excellent website, Nutrition Facts that posts videos such as this.  I know changing ones diet is not that simple, let alone changing a culture’s diet.  Best I could hope for is to educate ourselves and start with some small changes that just may change the way we feel.

tribe, on homecoming and belonging by sebastian junger

is the second book.  Junger’s book also cites many research studies over many years, but his subject is not the physical health of the nation but the mental health.  In the four chapters comprising this slim book he looks into the psychology of the tribe, be it an actual tribe (as in Native American) or the ‘tribe’ created by a common bond such as war.

Modern technology and population growth has made us all look inward to fulfill many of our needs.  We don’t look to family and groups of friends or neighbors for support unless there’s a common cause.  Examples Junger studied include the way British citizens bonded during the German bombardment of London; kidnapped whites in the 18th and 19th century who wanted to live with the Native American tribes who did the kidnapping because of the sense of family and shared living that was missing in white society; and the strong bond soldiers establish through the shared experience of war.  All of these examples  are supported by numerous scholarly studies.

I believe we’ve all lived through some form of bonding from a shared experience.  Remember back to 9/11 when as a nation we came together with great nationalism. Or the outpouring of support for victims of natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina.  Terrible events bring people together, but at the same time so do shared living situations. One such example is the kibbutz communities in Israel where people live as a collective and each member has a job that benefits the whole.

Tribe is a short book that is packed full of concepts and ideas that will make you think about your place in the world.  It’s not dry reading; the real life people and situations Junger writes of are fascinating.  Give it a read (your local library should have it…mine did) and let me know what you think.

America Seen From Abroad: Arrogant, Nice, Tech-Savvy, Free

We live in a bubble, a big bubble that insulates us from the rest of the world.

I don’t believe living in a bubble is so unusual.  Think about tribes discovered in Papua New Guinea that have never seen the outside world; they live in a very small bubble, although they probably view their bubble as a big universe.  We live in a big bubble and feel like we’re the center of the universe. But Americans in the U.S. total less than five percent of the world population…only five percent!  Ever wonder how the outside world views us?   To many it doesn’t matter, just like the tribesmen in Papua New Guinea who don’t even know there’s an outside world.  I found this long but fascinating article on the Associated Press website this morning.  More ‘man-on-the-street’ than scientific study, I found it fascinating to hear how Americans are perceived by people from other countries.  Take a read and let me know what you think…it’s not all bad;


America seen from abroad: arrogant, nice, tech-savvy, free

Aug. 4, 2016 5:01 AM EDT

BANGKOK (AP) — The rest of the world may think Americans eat a lot of burgers, have huge shopping malls and are ruled by an arrogant government. And yet the “Ugly American,” it would seem, isn’t all bad. Americans are also seen from afar as generous tippers, friendly, uncomplicated, rich and the standard bearers of freedom, equality, creativity and technological power.

While many Americans feel their nation is divided as never before, a sampling of the rest of the world reflects a more charitable view.


EDITOR’S NOTE — This story is part of Divided America, AP’s ongoing exploration of the economic, social and political divisions in American society.

Generations in Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America have grown up under the influence of the superpower U.S. and have felt awe and envy. America permeated their lives — through comics and Coke, through Hollywood and Neil Armstrong, and via the internet, iPhone and Facebook. It has been seen as the land of plenty, freedom and equality where Indian migrants could head behemoths like Google, Microsoft and Pepsi, and a South African could capture the imagination with an electric car. And after 9/11, the world grieved with America. Read more

Summer Mini-Movie Reviews by MM

It has been a busy summer and my blog posts have suffered.  So here are some of Margaret’s Mini-Movie reviews to help you wade through the choices at your local Mega-Movie-Plex! Scroll to the bottom for a list of other movies we’ve seen this summer including my short review/impression….

Mini Movie Review: Ghostbusters – Pretty much what you’d expect. Retread w/women. Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon are standouts. How can a movie with 4 very talented “funny ladies” be so…..not funny? Melissa McCarthy tries too hard to make us laugh (I DO like her!). If you want to see a true comedy, see my other recent review: Finding Dory. Yes, I know I’ll get pushback for my comments on this movie. We all have our likes/dislikes when it comes to entertainment.   Grade = C    Peter Says: Totally agree…kind of a yawn…

Mini Movie Review: Finding Dory – No plot description needed. This is one of the most entertaining and funny movies I have seen in ages. Yes, it’s animated, but by golly, you get so caught up in the fun, laughs and sweetness, that doesn’t factor into it at all. You do NOT need to take a kid with you – just go and be thoroughly entertained. I did and as you can tell…..I loved it. Kudos to Ellen Degeneres and Ed O’Neil – two standouts in the cast of hundreds.  Grade = A    Peter didn’t see this one

There is a sweet little short (movie) before the feature – “Piper” – it “looks” real but is Pixar. How do they do that?? It also gets a Grade A.

For those of you who know how much I LOVE movies and see many…..today was a milestone. Saw THE WORST MOVIE I’VE EVER SEEN!!!!!! The Lobster. It was beyond awful.
Inane, gross, bizarre, violent, disturbing, bleak,cringe inducing….. No, it’s not a horror movie – it’s just…..I don’t know how to explain. Do not put this on your list to see. This movie fits what I call “critics’ pretension”. In that critics want you to think they are smarter than most of us and know something we don’t, so they give it good reviews. OK, maybe I missed something deep in it. So, go ahead, see it – waste your time and money! ; )  Peter says: could not wait for the torture to end!

The Others

Captain Fantastic with Viggo Mortensen and some excellent kid/teenage actors….I liked this movie a lot as did Margaret.  Not all is totally believable which doesn’t diminish from the strong message.  (Note; lots of strong language).  Grade B+

Hunt For The Wilderpeople is a quirky movie from New Zealand.  Excellent cast including Sam Neill.  A coming of age story with wonderful scenery. Grade B

The Innocents.  Polish film based on a true story that took place in Poland near the end of WWII.  Very heavy subject matter that pulls no punches.  Not a ‘feel good’ movie but a movie that will stay with you.  Grade A

Love & Friendship.  A period film based on a story by Jane Austen.  Critics really liked this movie but I was a disappointed. Good acting but a so-so script.  Maybe worth viewing when it comes to cable if you don’t have to pay for it.  Grade C

The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble.  Wow!!!  A documentary about Yo-Yo Ma and an international cast of musicians using music as therapy for the many atrocities these people have experienced. Excellent…see it!  Grade A

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