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Emergency! Calling On All Train Lovers

BLOG #19, SERIES #8

WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE

EMERGENCY! CALLING ON ALL TRAIN LOVERS

May 10, 2017

In the Sunday, May 7, Denver Post was this alarming article by Forrest Whitman. It begins with these jolting words: “If you see a train, better get on it. The California Zephyr, the Coast Starlight, the Empire Builder, the Southwest Chief, may soon be heading west for one last ride. . . . Of course, it is all about money. The budget Donald Trump submitted to Congress looks like it was written by the Heritage Foundation, a group that thinks the government has no business subsidizing anything, except for the military. Amtrak may cover 94 percent of its budget almost entirely from ticket sales, but still, that’s not enough for those purists.

“What a loss to the West these iconic trains will be. They are not only part of our Western history, but they are also symbols that somebody still cares about the rural West. Trains say you can still get out of town even when a blizzard is moving in. Trains say to the handicapped person that she can have mobility. Trains say to a senior that he doesn’t have to beg a ride from family or a friend but can get down to the station and make his own way. It’s the train that stops downtown that says to a little Western community: ‘You have value beyond what any Harvard Business School teacher would assign.’”

Whitman also points out that “many people living across America’s vast heartland voted for Trump, believing his promise that a trillion dollars would be poured into infrastructure. Now those trillion dollars have evaporated.”

Whitman also notes how ironic it would be for Colorado to have poured millions of dollars into the reconstruction of Denver’s Union Station, then lose its trains! Because of its congestion, the Northeast trains don’t need to be subsidized. But of the 31 million Amtrak riders last year, 19 million never set foot in the Northeast. . . . “The sad fact is that this new budget leaves 144.6 million Americans with no train.”

For a further irony, note that 600 billion dollars have been poured into highways since 1947—141 billion just since 2008!

Whitman concludes with these somber words: “Losing our trains cuts the heart out of the West. I hope we’ll call, write letters, and let Congress know what it means to us if our Western trains are forced to catch the last westbound.”

* * * * *

I am personally enraged by this Federal shortsightedness. Mark my words: For reasons akin to this, rarely do the American people entrust all three branches of government to one party. Whenever an exception occurs, arrogance and over-reach invariably takes place, regardless of which party takes control. I’m personally all but certain that unless the GOP lives up to its promises to all those who believed its promises to the millions who don’t live in Northeast cities—that the Republican Party will lose control of at least the Senate, and most likely the House as well in the 2018 elections. And, if so, it will have only itself to blame.

* * *

But for right now, we have no time to lose. Let’s each respond to Whitman’s call to action: Bombard the White House, Senate, and House with missiles of outrage. Do it today!

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Dr. Joe's Book of the Month Club #33 – Lois Lowry's "The Giver"

BLOG #35, SERIES #5
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
DR. JOE’S BOOK OF THE MONTH CLUB #33
LOIS LOWRY’S THE GIVER
THE BOOK AND THE MOVIE
August 27, 2014

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In the case of this book, I put the cart before the horse. Connie and I were invited to see an exclusive advanced screening of the upcoming movie, The Giver at the Carefree Cinema in Colorado Springs on the evening of July 31, 2014.

Neither of us had read the book. All we knew was that the book was first published in 1993, and became a Newberry Award winner in 1994. The book has been required reading in a host of schools–especially middle schools–across the country for many years now. Colleges too.

We went into the movie blind since it had not yet been released; not even movie reviews were available yet. We did know, however, that the movie had a stellar cast, including Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Taylor Swift, Katie Holmes, Brenton Thwaites, Odeya Rush, and Alexander Skarsgard.

We did know it would be a futuristic movie.

Our hostess was the genial Jane Terry, who explained why each of us had been forbidden to bring any recording devices into the theater. Nor were we to divulge the contents of the film to anyone prior to the movie’s release, or review it before the release date.

Then, the movie rolled. In somber black and white. It took us some time to understand just what it was that we were watching. And what might be significant about the upcoming twelfth birthdays of a group of good friends. At which time, each would be assigned a life profession, hopefully compatible with each individual’s primary interests.

The first jar had to do with the age: they most certainly didn’t look like twelve-year-olds, but rather eighteen-year-old high school graduates! What gives here? But the story-line was so mesmerizing that most of us did willing-suspension-of-disbelief and watched the story-line unroll.

It didn’t take me long to discover we were watching a dystopia, a subject area I was already very familiar with, having written my masters in English thesis at Sacramento State University on utopian and dystopian books. My wife, not having been herself immersed in the genre earlier on, was forced to fly blind into the movie.

Nor did it take me long to realize how eerily prophetic the story line was: too much appeared to either be already reality in contemporary society or be approaching it. Then the story grew darker. But it was still a long time before either the young protagonists or the audience were aware that something awful was happening.

In the movie discussion afterwards, it was noted that the author, back in 1993, had predicted it might become reality in fifty years from then. I declared that it might very well become reality in twenty from now.

But later, I purchased a copy of the book and read it through. I was fascinated. When the movie was released I eagerly read the reviews to see what their take on the movie might be.

REVIEWS

Raymond Flynn (August 15 Wall Street Journal) titled his review “‘The Giver’ and the ‘Totalitarian Instinct.’” Included in his insightful commentary are passages such as this: “As the lights came up after the screening…, my thoughts were on Poland and communism, but soon turned to the broader subject of totalitarian regimes robbing individuals of their God-given rights. So often, one of the first jobs of the totalitarian is to declare that God is dead and that government is the final authority on truth and justice–we see it now in North Korea…. In the movie, we are in a world where all human misery has been eliminated. There is no rage, no war, no wealth and no poverty. But at a cost. There is also no music, no art, no literature, no beauty. And no memory. Just to be safe, all memories are the possession of a lone individual.”

In the August 16-17 Wall Street Journal, Alexandra Wolfe’s review of Jeff Bridges’ role quotes Bridges as saying, “I think it’s an impulse for human beings to want to suffer less, and we’re kind of addicted to comfort at all costs–at least I am. And of course comfort has a price. So the film is asking…what’s the true cost of our comfort, and what are we willing to pay?”

Lisa Kennedy, in the August 15 Denver Post labels the film “a gentle, chilling dystopian primer,” and notes that both recent films Divergent and The Hunger Games owe much to Lois Lowry’s earlier book. The movie “is a class act, the kind of respectable rendering of a literary source we’ve come to expect from Philip Anschutz’s Walden Media, the indie force behind ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ ‘Holes,’ and other engaging family fare.”

MY OWN TAKE

My mind is still at sea with Lois Lowry’s unique approach to the utopian and dystopian genres. George Orwell paints his Stalinist world in bleak gray. Both Freedom and Family are dirty words. Love is an obscenity. Aldous Huxley’s world is closer to ours: Give the world all the sex, sensations, and pleasure it wants–and few will even care that World Controllers make all the really significant decisions, what’s left is meaningless, which is whatever sensation, pleasure, high, or pill one wishes to turn to. Free sex is so ubiquitous it no longer has any meaning, nor do any of the standard building blocks to a great society: God, Love, Marriage, Fidelity, Commitment, Honor, Patriotism, Empathy, Faith, Integrity, Courage, Dependability, Longing, etc.

Lowry’s world is also gray, and is just as totalitarian as Orwell’s and Huxley’s, even though it appears to be benign. All the highs and lows of life have been eliminated. Sex does not even exist, no small thanks to injections and pills. The power of making individual choices is not even an option, not even in careers. Marriage is a travesty, as is “family,” but is instead a mockery of the real thing: catbird egg children (not your own), and celibate “parents” who are not permitted to really love anyone. Puberty is not even permitted to happen. Children happen somewhere off-stage via women who somehow churn out babies from no one is permitted to know where or how. The only learning is standardized meaningless pap. Big Brother–or in Meryl Streep’s case, Big Sister, is omnipresent. Even thought-crime is punishable by death. Unwanted babies disappear. Same with unwanted retirees. All is placid–yet terrifying. All human knowledge is housed in one room, guarded by one person only. No one else must have any access to it–ever.

Nevertheless, I personally predict that society is drifting into Lowry’s orbit: In America, spiritual faith–unless it is of the East or mystical–is routinely ridiculed and disparaged. Marriage (commitment for life) is being reduced to live-in relationships, one-night stands, and meaningless “hook-ups.” Children all too often are merely frisbees tossed between one household to another, with no real home to call their own. Porn of all kind (a la Huxley) is so addictive that real marital commitment cannot even compete. Virtual reality is replacing real reality. The very concept of faithfulness is mocked. The gay lifestyle is all too often replacing the heterosexual; result: androgynous individuals without clearly defined sexual differences. Why spend years studying and learning when you can escape into substance abuse and virtual reality? Boys especially, lacking traditional fatherhood role-models, are bailing out of education at an ever earlier age. College and university degrees are becoming worthless: substituting amorphous masses of meaningless observations for the traditional building blocks of western culture: history, biography, geography; great art, great music, great literature. More and more, one can earn doctorates in areas such as history without taking any history classes. Patriotism is continually ridiculed and downgraded, and is no longer taught in most of our schools. Our democratic way of life is being rapidly subverted by corporations and big money determining election results rather than people-driven elections. Since people are discouraged from reading, elections are now being decided by vicious below-the-belt attack ads that result in more and more cynicism, most terrifying–even in children and teenagers. Big Government is taking over more and more of the decisions parents used to make. Big Governments the world over are discouraging all rural life in favor of megacities that can be more easily manipulated and coerced.

When you add all this up, who is to stop totalitarian systems such as Lowry’s from obliterating what is left of freedom in our world?

That is why everyone–young or old–ought to read Lowry’s book and see the movie…so that course-corrections can be implemented before it is too late. Especially should tweens and teens read the book and see the movie.

The book can be found everywhere. The movie version was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2014; the original (1993) was published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children. Find a copy and read it.

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WHY SHOULD WE TAKE VACATIONS?

BLOG #34, SERIES #5
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
WHY SHOULD WE TAKE VACATIONS?
August 20, 2014

Why indeed?

This was the question Washington Post columnist Brigid Schulte tackled in her August 10 column in The Denver Post.

Schulte notes that “We Americans work hard. Weekends are more like workends. We sleep with our smart phones. And we think vacations are for wimps. So we don’t take them. Or take work along with us if we do.”

We are indeed a nation of workaholics. Indeed we are the only advanced economy with no national vacation policy. One in four workers, typically in low-wage jobs, have no paid vacation at all. Those who do, get, on the average, only ten to fourteen days a year. Europeans enjoy twenty to thirty days of paid vacation every year.

Terry Hartig, an environmental psychologist at Uppsala University in Sweden, maintains that “when people go on a relaxing vacation, they tend to return happier and more relaxed. . . . And those mellow, good vibes spread like “a contagion’ to everyone you come in contact with. . . . Send everyone away on vacation at the same time [as is true in Europe], and that contagion takes off through the population like a viral happiness pandemic.”

Hartig and his colleagues conducted a major study based on the incidence of anti-depressant prescriptions in Sweden during the years 1993 through 2005. They discovered that the more people took vacations at the same time, the more prescriptions dropped exponentially. True for men, women, workers, and retirees. Since 1977, Swedish law has mandated that every worker must be given five weeks of paid vacation each year (and they may take four of them during summer months. “The benefits,” maintains Hartig, “are huge. Not only is the society measurably happier, but workers are more rested and productive, relationships are closer and people are healthier. And depression is a very costly disease.”

Depression alone costs the U.S. economy an estimated $23 billion a year in lost productivity.

* * * * *

We were not created to run non-stop, but rather to take time off from work at least once a week. Scripture mandates Sabbaths during which we may regenerate. Longer Sabbaths were also mandated periodically. Multiple studies have confirmed one universal truth: Those who work non-stop soon reach the point of diminishing returns. The more hours they put in on the job the less effective they are, the staler their ideas are. So employers who work their employees to death end up losing even more than their employees do.

Furthermore, unless you frequently get out of your workplace squirrel cage, you never gain fresh ideas at all, but merely recycle increasingly outdated concepts and methods.

So back to Hartig who notes that, in Sweden, “It’s like there’s this national agreement that it’s vacation time, and work will be left aside. So instead of working and being distracted and busy, people get outside. They do things they like and enjoy. They see friends, visit their aging parents, or finally have time for that cup of tea with a friend who has been blue.”

* * * * *

America continues to pay a terrible price for our workaholocism. The current epidemic of depression and suicides ought to be a wake-up call for us.

We must take time to live!

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THE THOUSAND-YEAR-STORM

BLOG #38, SERIES 4
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
THE THOUSAND-YEAR-STORM
September 18, 2013

Yes, that’s what Russ Schumaker, a Colorado State University researcher, is calling this storm of biblical proportions. Here is what happened: most of Colorado has been in a prolonged multi-year drought. The Colorado summer monsoons usually end by August. Early September was hotter than usual–a sweltering 97̊. But then monsoon rains blew east into the Front Range. The high pressure system that had brought the heat, shifted northeast, allowing the low pressure system to move in just as the rain arrived. The collision produced a giant stalled wet weather system, the energy from the cold front and the humidity from the monsoon created that rarity–the Perfect Storm.

Another reason for labeling it a thousand-year-storm is that a 150-mile-wide stretch of the Front Range [the Colorado foothills that divide the high country of the Rockies from the Great Plains to the east] producing this much torrential rain (most in 48 hours) statistically wouldn’t happen again in a thousand years.

Let me give you a bird’s-eye view of what it was like to experience it. We were lucky: perched at 9700 feet in elevation near the top of Conifer Mountain, we weren’t likely to be troubled by rising floodwaters.

The rain began last Tuesday–and it just kept raining, eventually totaling over six inches at our house, but that was nothing compared to how much fell elsewhere. A number of areas were flooded by ten to fifteen inches of rain in six days (as much as their normal yearly total). Boulder, at last count, received 18.55 inches (most of it in 48 hours)! Almost every river and creek from Pueblo to the Wyoming border flooded and creeks swelled to river-size: Fountain Creek, Rock Creek, South Platte and North Platte rivers, Bear Creek, Coal Creek, Boulder Creek, St. Vrain River, Big Thompson River, and Pouder River–they all went into demolition mode.

In Lyons, water rose in the black of night, around 2 a.m. sirens blared, people pounded on doors, as citizens were warned to flee the rampaging St. Vrain. High up in the mountains, at 2:27 a.m., in Jamestown, townspeople awoke as water and boulders roared down a usually mild-mannered creek. Both towns were soon all but cut off from the world. Same for the resort community of Estes Park. Not since the terrible Big Thompson flood of 1976 when 144 people had perished by a tidal wave of water thundering through the canyon had anyone seen the like. It didn’t take much time before the torrent washed out roads and bridges along a seventeen-mile stretch, scraping off everything on the riverbed down to bare rock. Since Estes Park was cut off from the world, with no cell coverage, the only way out was to escape over the 12,000 foot high Trail Ridge Road down into the Frazer Valley, and then find a crossing into Wyoming. Both Loveland and Longmont were cut in two by raging streams.

The City of Boulder got far more than its share of the cataclysm. Residents were both mesmerized and terrorized by epic rainfall and engorged creeks that tore away roads and ripped homes off their foundations. According to the Denver Post, “Boulder Creek turned into a roiling, coffee-colored beast, smelling of sewage, carrying tree branches and swamping parks.”

Bear Creek in Evergreen was flowing at such a pace that people down below in Bear Creek Canyon feared for their lives should the dam give way below Evergreen Lake, which would have also inundated the City of Evergreen. All traffic through the town ceased.

Boulder Creek usually flows at a rate somewhere between 100 and 300 cubic feet per second; at its flood peak it was moving at a mind-boggling 4,500 cubic feet per second! The City of Boulder, including the University of Colorado, spreads out over 25 square miles. By Friday, it was awash in 4.5 billion gallons of water. At one point, 280,800 pounds [140 tons] of water a second were roaring through, at a velocity equal to a class IV rapid. To get that force in perspective, in flash floods, it only takes two feet of water to wash away a car; car engines can flood when the water is half way up its tires, much less than that if the car is moving, because the water then surges up. Just six inches of flood-strength water can knock a full-grown man off his feet.

The news has been full of stories of thousands of people stranded, trailer-houses floating away with pets in them, livestock caught in rising waters; because of contaminated water, people being unable to drink water, use their toilets, take baths, etc.; marooned children in youth camps have had to be either bussed out of Estes Park over the Divide or helicoptered out of Jamestown. Thousands of people have been rescued by helicopters since hundreds of roads are now closed, washed away, or bridges washed out.

The Big Thompson hits flood-stage at six feet; it now reached 10.55 feet, higher than the 9.3 feet in 1976.

No one yet knows how many people have died. So many other towns and cities remain flooded, it is going to take a very long time for Colorado to recover!

But, in times like these, the human spirit shows its resilience, and people realize that things are but things; as long as they still have each other, health, sweet life, and God, everything else is expendable.

SOURCES: The Denver Post, Sept. 13, 14, 15, 16, 2013

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THE THOUSAND-YEAR-STORM

BLOG #38, SERIES 4
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
THE THOUSAND-YEAR-STORM
September 18, 2013

Yes, that’s what Russ Schumaker, a Colorado State University researcher, is calling this storm of biblical proportions. Here is what happened: most of Colorado has been in a prolonged multi-year drought. The Colorado summer monsoons usually end by August. Early September was hotter than usual–a sweltering 97̊. But then monsoon rains blew east into the Front Range. The high pressure system that had brought the heat, shifted northeast, allowing the low pressure system to move in just as the rain arrived. The collision produced a giant stalled wet weather system, the energy from the cold front and the humidity from the monsoon created that rarity–the Perfect Storm.

Another reason for labeling it a thousand-year-storm is that a 150-mile-wide stretch of the Front Range [the Colorado foothills that divide the high country of the Rockies from the Great Plains to the east] producing this much torrential rain (most in 48 hours) statistically wouldn’t happen again in a thousand years.

Let me give you a bird’s-eye view of what it was like to experience it. We were lucky: perched at 9700 feet in elevation near the top of Conifer Mountain, we weren’t likely to be troubled by rising floodwaters.

The rain began last Tuesday–and it just kept raining, eventually totaling over six inches at our house, but that was nothing compared to how much fell elsewhere. A number of areas were flooded by ten to fifteen inches of rain in six days (as much as their normal yearly total). Boulder, at last count, received 18.55 inches (most of it in 48 hours)! Almost every river and creek from Pueblo to the Wyoming border flooded and creeks swelled to river-size: Fountain Creek, Rock Creek, South Platte and North Platte rivers, Bear Creek, Coal Creek, Boulder Creek, St. Vrain River, Big Thompson River, and Pouder River–they all went into demolition mode.

In Lyons, water rose in the black of night, around 2 a.m. sirens blared, people pounded on doors, as citizens were warned to flee the rampaging St. Vrain. High up in the mountains, at 2:27 a.m., in Jamestown, townspeople awoke as water and boulders roared down a usually mild-mannered creek. Both towns were soon all but cut off from the world. Same for the resort community of Estes Park. Not since the terrible Big Thompson flood of 1976 when 144 people had perished by a tidal wave of water thundering through the canyon had anyone seen the like. It didn’t take much time before the torrent washed out roads and bridges along a seventeen-mile stretch, scraping off everything on the riverbed down to bare rock. Since Estes Park was cut off from the world, with no cell coverage, the only way out was to escape over the 12,000 foot high Trail Ridge Road down into the Frazer Valley, and then find a crossing into Wyoming. Both Loveland and Longmont were cut in two by raging streams.

The City of Boulder got far more than its share of the cataclysm. Residents were both mesmerized and terrorized by epic rainfall and engorged creeks that tore away roads and ripped homes off their foundations. According to the Denver Post, “Boulder Creek turned into a roiling, coffee-colored beast, smelling of sewage, carrying tree branches and swamping parks.”

Bear Creek in Evergreen was flowing at such a pace that people down below in Bear Creek Canyon feared for their lives should the dam give way below Evergreen Lake, which would have also inundated the City of Evergreen. All traffic through the town ceased.

Boulder Creek usually flows at a rate somewhere between 100 and 300 cubic feet per second; at its flood peak it was moving at a mind-boggling 4,500 cubic feet per second! The City of Boulder, including the University of Colorado, spreads out over 25 square miles. By Friday, it was awash in 4.5 billion gallons of water. At one point, 280,800 pounds [140 tons] of water a second were roaring through, at a velocity equal to a class IV rapid. To get that force in perspective, in flash floods, it only takes two feet of water to wash away a car; car engines can flood when the water is half way up its tires, much less than that if the car is moving, because the water then surges up. Just six inches of flood-strength water can knock a full-grown man off his feet.

The news has been full of stories of thousands of people stranded, trailer-houses floating away with pets in them, livestock caught in rising waters; because of contaminated water, people being unable to drink water, use their toilets, take baths, etc.; marooned children in youth camps have had to be either bussed out of Estes Park over the Divide or helicoptered out of Jamestown. Thousands of people have been rescued by helicopters since hundreds of roads are now closed, washed away, or bridges washed out.

The Big Thompson hits flood-stage at six feet; it now reached 10.55 feet, higher than the 9.3 feet in 1976.

No one yet knows how many people have died. So many other towns and cities remain flooded, it is going to take a very long time for Colorado to recover!

But, in times like these, the human spirit shows its resilience, and people realize that things are but things; as long as they still have each other, health, sweet life, and God, everything else is expendable.

SOURCES: The Denver Post, Sept. 13, 14, 15, 16, 2013

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WSJ – Best Kept Secret in America?

BLOG #22, SERIES #4
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
WSJ – BEST KEPT SECRET IN AMERICA?
May 29, 2013

It certainly was a secret where I was concerned, for all those years I just considered the Wall Street Journal to be merely the best-known of all financial newspapers, and what tycoons and wannabe tycoons subscribed to. Was I ever wrong!

Perhaps up until recently I just wasn’t ready to find out, lulled as I was by the assumption that, after half a millennium years of cultural dominance by print and paper, nothing significant was likely to alter that state of affairs.

But then came the long societal earthquake which triggered a seemingly endless succession of toppling dominoes. Small-town newspapers were first; then large dailies such as Rocky Mountain News in Colorado. At first I managed to console myself that the demise of that beloved old paper might not be all bad if the surviving paper, The Denver Post, would thereby become twice as strong, twice as rich, twice as interesting – but that didn’t happen. Then I began to hear of the demise of other well-known newspapers. And the ones that managed to survive seemed to be but pale shadows of what they once were, kept alive only by advertising; and when that too began to go elsewhere, massive staff layoffs became the norm.

Magazines were next. Actually, this equally sad development was anything but new, for magazines had been in steady retreat ever since the Great Depression hit in the 1930’s. Indeed magazines had ruled supreme over all other media in the 1910’s,1920’s and 1930’s, magazine editors paying writers more than book publishers or movie studio producers. Even though my wife and I had subscribed to both Time and Newsweek over the years, we’d always preferred Newsweek. Then I began to hear rumors I first considered to be all but impossible: my favorite news magazine, after a century of vibrant life, might not make it. And, not long before its last print issue; same for another news magazine I’d often read or consulted: U.S. News and World Report.

And then came what I first assumed would be merely a fad: e-books. Not in my wildest dreams did I envision electronic books ever challenging the supremacy of printed books! But like Dickens’ immortal supplanter, Uriah Heep, in David Copperfield, e-books seemingly were determined to supplant traditional ink and paper.

Just when I’d almost given up on print, one day at an airport, I idly picked up a copy of WSJ. Huh? Couldn’t be! After all, USA Today had a monopoly on national newspaper readership. Or did it?

I kept buying WSJ, then subscribed to it. An eye-opening series of daily newspaper thefts (always the WSJ, never The Denver Post), jolted me. Was the WSJ so good that people would break the law to steal copies that didn’t belong to them? Evidently so.

Gradually I became aware that a phoenix was arising from the graveyards of print. A newspaper that was a print window to the world. In depth, well-written, fascinating articles, columns, reviews, etc., that kept me informed on events, not just local, not just national, but global. And not just financial, not just political, but something I as a historian of ideas had only seen in Smithsonian’s incredible monthly magazines – art, music, books, fashion, religion, history, anthropology, geology, biography, cinema, television, burning cultural issues, sports . . . on and on. And Friday and Saturday’s expanded issues were so fascinating it would sometimes take half a day to fully digest them. I no longer missed Newsweek.

Having said all this, in many respects the same conclusions could be drawn for newspapers such as the New York Times, that also deliver well-drawn windows to the world. Indeed, a case could be made for reading both newspapers in order to arrive at a balanced synthesis of opposing political viewpoints.

Nor am I maintaining that faithfully reading newspapers such as WSJ or NYT each day may alone result in Renaissance men or Renaissance women, for today we are bombarded by such incessant streams of knowledge and information (mostly electronically) that the big problem may have to do with the distillation of it: making sense of it all.

We ought to be concerned about the demise of journalism, evidenced by the killing off of elementary and secondary newspapers, for the result will be a further diminution of adult journalistic minds. For make no mistake about it: electronic sound-bytes, thirty-second attack ads, electronic infomercials, and half-hour news broadcasts that include no more news substance than would fill one-half-page of newspapers such as the WSJ or NYT, are no substitute for thoughtful in-depth reading; for simplistic pre-digested information, not offset by broad in-depth reading, inevitably will result in adults crippled by myopic views of life and current issues.

Which brings me back to the reason I walk out each morning to the mailbox: to pick up The Denver Post (that fills me in on local/regional news) and the Wall Street Journal (that broadens my horizon so that I can see the broad global picture – the Zeitgeist).

What a pity that so few Americans today realize what they are missing by their disregard of newspapers, magazines and books.