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                                                          BLOG #8, SERIES #8
                                           WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
                                                          February 22, 2017

I’m confident that Amy Dickinson’s nationally syndicated column of February 9, 2017, has caused a lot of Americans to think seriously about the temptations our young people are facing.

Here is how the Denver Post column begins:

    “Dear Amy:
“My wife and I worry about our daughter. She’s a sophomore at a top university…. Since she started college, she’s been cited twice for under-age drinking (minor in possession) and broken her wrist in a fall that we all but know was alcohol-related…. In my gut, I feel we are heading for disaster. How can we intervene before something even worse happens? She has a car on campus and we worry most about her driving drunk.
—Worried Parents”

Dickinson responded with the following sobering observations:

Dear Worried:
“According to a recent government study, 39 percent of college students binge drank within the last month. If your daughter is drinking, it makes her vulnerable to legal consequences (getting caught), physical injury (this has already happened), unwanted sexual contact, fractured relationships, hurting or injuring others by driving drunk, and the possibility of graduating from college with a  serious drinking problem.”

* * * * *

It is highly unlikely that American parents have ever faced a more frightening environment in which their children grow up, attend college and university, and not only survive our current hook-up temptations (sex within minutes of meeting one another), the easy availability of drugs of all kinds, and out-of-control liquor-related socializing—but hopefully somehow emerge from it unbroken.

Thanks to binge-drinking, coeds open themselves up to date-rape, and lifelong remorse for things they do while under the influence.

It’s frightening to see how often one form of substance abuse segues into something worse, and more deadly. Furthermore, the ever-present reality is that no one can possibly know in advance which of us luck out and learn to control our use of liquor and which of us turns into a lifelong alcoholic—by the time you find out which category you end up in, it’s too late! And once you discover you are an alcoholic, there is no full recovery: the price of holding it at bay is weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meetings for the rest of your life.

And we haven’t even discussed the epidemic of alcohol-related violence that we see all around us.

It is anything but easy for a young person to resist the siren call of alcohol.

Amy Dickinson is certainly right there.

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My Favorite Hymn

    BLOG #7, SERIES #8
    February 15, 2017

I just received this query from two of our blog readers, Peter and Jill Grenfell of Oamaru, New Zealand:

“Thank you for forwarding your articles to us each week. They always contain items of interest and things to ponder on. In many cases we send them on to family and friends. Here is an idea for you. Over this last Christmas period our New Zealand concert radio programme asked listeners to send in their favourite hymn and the reason for the choice.”

“Would this be something you could suggest to your readers, that they send their selection and reasons for choice to you? We would be interested in your favourite hymn and Connie’s also.”

God Bless,
Peter and Jill”

So, I’m taking this opportunity to follow through on this request.

All each of you would need to do is email to us the name of your personal favorite hymn along with reason(s) why the hymn is so meaningful to you. We’ll give you 14 days to get your response in to us. Then, we’ll let you know which readers responded and which hymns they chose—and why.

Please respond this week to me at Look forward to hearing back from you. If we get enough responses we may occasionally try other survey questions.

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Generations—Trying to Get Them Straight

February 8, 2017

For years now, I’ve heard generation labels tossed about electronically, on paper, and in conversations, but rarely does anyone try to define them. As a historian of ideas, finally I’d had enough of this murkiness, and decided to do some sleuthing myself.

One of the first things I discovered was that there is sometimes little consensus in terms of what to call a given generation, or even when a certain generation begins and when it ends. It’s sort of like epiphanies: rarely are you aware that you are experiencing one—only in retrospect can you look back at certain days and conclude: “You know, if that day had never been, how different my life would have been!” The same is true of generations: you can only define them in retrospect, when the dust settles and you can see the time period clearly.

My wife Connie and I discovered two sources: Philip Bump’s article, “Here Is When Each Generation Begins and Ends, According to Facts,” in the March 25, 2014 issue of The Atlantic; and “Why Advertisers Ignore You,” in the December 2016/January 2017 issue of AARP, the Magazine.

According to Philip Bump, the Census Department does not generally even attempt to label a time period. And it took a running battle between The New York Times and Slate to sort out the Millennials.

Let’s see what we’ve found out:


It was so labeled by Tom Brokaw, and the name stuck—but not how to define it. These are the people who fought and died in World War II. Bump postulates that the generation’s dates should be 1926-1946, ending when the war ended. AARP muddies the water considerably by splitting the period in two:

The Greatest Generation: 1907 – 1927
The Silent Generation: 1027 – 1946

I believe that here Bump has the edge in terms of consensus: the Greatest Generation time period ought to conclude with the end of World War II.


The Census Department does define this period date-wise: 1946-1964. It gets its name from the return to civilian life of millions of soldiers after the war’s end in 1945. The servicemen and servicewomen married, went to college on the G.I. Bill and had babies. My personal preference would have been to call this time period The Norman Rockwell Generation. Reason being, it was the last time period we’ve had that was mostly peaceful. It was also the last period characterized by a general acceptance of marriage, Judeo-Christian religion, and patriotism as the prevailing societal building blocks. Famed artist Norman Rockwell chronicled this peaceful time period in his 322 Saturday Evening Post covers (though Rockwell covers began earlier in the Twentieth Century, the real flowering impact-wise came in the 1950’s). Also, during this period, the U.S. was undeniably the strongest power in the world (morally, economically, politically, and militarily). It represents in history the high tide of Pax Americana—and its centerpiece was the Eisenhower administration.


This time period has never yet been clearly defined, but its time-frame is generally agreed upon as 1964-1983. I would submit that the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas on November 22, 1963, slammed the door on the Rockwell Era. All hell broke loose after that terrible date: the assassinations of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy, the March to Montgomery, the Watts riots, the March on the Pentagon, Watergate and Nixon’s resignation, the Vietnam War, Ford surviving two assassination attempts—and family-wise,, divorce soaring 69% in but ten years, marriages now becoming an endangered species . . . lasting only 6.6 years. It also includes the Hippy Era, with its explosion of substance abuse and indiscriminate sex. It makes sense that no one has yet been able to successfully label this time period. Some try to insert a Generation Y into this time period, but really can’t seem to figure out how.


Generally, the time frame for this generation haws been pegged at 1984 – 2004. As time passes, this generation may be relabeled in terms of the rise of nano-technology, the social media, cyber warfare, etc. This time period also fascinates me because historians of ideas are well aware that all century-turning of the zeros are turbulent. During the last decade (fin-de-siecle) of each one, it seems as if all the mores by which that society lives by are thrown into the sky in one cosmic Hail Mary pass—and no one knows what will come down on the other side. 500-year-turns are even more seismic. And millennial turns even more so. The last thousand-year turn was followed by the Crusades and the so-called Dark Ages or Age of Faith. The last 500-year-turn was preceded by the Renaissance and followed by the Reformation.


No one knows yet what this 2005-2025 period will be called. But we do know that it began with an ideological shift left away from Christianity and, in 2016-2017, a wrenching polarizing shift back towards the right which is bound to result in turmoil. And America, in withdrawing its Pax America umbrella of stabilization from the rest of the world and retreating into a narcissistic It’s All About Me mindset—no one has any idea as to where all this will end up. No one yet knows where and when the dust will settle on the ideological Hail Mary Pass….but whatever happens, historians of ideas will have a field day trying to figure out its trajectory. Ominously, AARP editors tentatively label this Generation Z. So what will follow Z? Some are already calling this the Hook-up Generation because there appears to be no commitment tying in to the sexual act for millions of young people. Or the Suicide Generation—for suicides have reached epidemic levels. Or even the Opiod Generation or Social Media Generation.

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Slavomir Rawicz’s “The Long Walk”

February 1, 2017

Rawicz Scan

For our 61st book, I decided I’d search for a book unlike any of those featured in the first 60. Preferably, it would be a true narrative that was close to unputdownable. A book that—once read—would be impossible to forget. I found it!

Here are some reviews:

An escape story that combines the best elements of a suspense novel and a travelogue through purgatory. —Newsweek

More than one hundred adventure books are published every year, yet I doubt if any is as gripping and filled with suspense as The Long Walk. A journey of 4,000 miles, with neither map nor compass, equipped with only an axehead, a homemade knife and insuperable determination to live—that is the essence of this book.

Slavomir Rawicz [a Polish officer] and six companions broke out of a Soviet slave labor camp and walked south into the endless crushing spaces of Siberia headed for Tibet. That Rawicz survived to tell his story is a miracle of human endurance. Through nights so cold that sleep meant certain death, through scorching days when heat drove men to the brink of insanity, Rawicz moved on.

The suspense of the book builds to a climax when the threads of life all but unravel a few miles short of the goal. Once you have begun The Long Walk, you cannot willingly lay it down.  —San Francisco Examiner

It is one of the most amazing, heroic stories of this or any other time. —Chicago Tribune

An adventure classic worthy to rank alongside Captain Bligh’s Long Journey and Thor Heyerdahl’s trans-Pacific raft trip. —Minneapolis Tribune

* * *

Constable and Company Ltd
Constable and Company Ltd

The story begins on the eve of World War I, in 1939, and concludes in late winter of 1942. Even before the 4,000-mile ordeal took place, Slavomir Rewicz was tortured for months by fiendish Soviets in Moscow, then sentenced to 25 years in a Siberian prison camp; the hellish ride across Siberia staggers the mind, as does the thousand mile trek on foot (in chains), in the dead of a Siberian winter, to a prison labor camp—all this before the long walk even begins!

Constable and Company Ltd
Constable and Company Ltd

The book was first published in London in 1956 by Constable and Company, then it was picked up by Harpers and other publishing houses around the world. I first read it early in the 1960’s—and have never been able to forget it.

Be sure and purchase an unabridged copy for your library

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Rudyard Kipling’s “If–“

January 25, 2017

There are very few poems that successfully capture the essence of a viable philosophy of life in just a few stanzas. Of those few, I seriously doubt that any of them even come close to Rudyard Kipling’s If—. How he must have wrestled with it—and who knows how many months or years he brooded over it before he permitted it to be published.

As far as I am concerned—and certainly I am joined in this by my cherished friend, Robert A. Earp—it is his life’s signature poem. A poem that every young person ought to internalize and post on the bedroom wall.

I couldn’t help thinking about it during the presidential inauguration of our 45th president, Donald Trump, when almost 70 of the Democratic congressmen (like so many lemmings) decided to boycott the ceremony. Yet all the Democratic senators were there, and all the former presidents except for George H. W. Bush, who was in the hospital. But the attendee I admired most for her courage was Hillary Clinton, who had received around 3,000,000 more votes than Trump but had lost out in the Electoral College, who had been so certain she was going to win that she’d already ordered her inaugural gown. The longest-held dream of her life gone up in smoke—yet here she was, with Bill by her side. And you couldn’t help but see the anguish in her eyes and body language.

When I have shared this poem with college students, young women have come to me in tears: reason being, they felt betrayed and excluded by Kipling’s last lines:

“Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!”

Because I so empathized with these co-eds, I took the liberty of re-writing the ending [which I’ll italicize] so that they too could buy into the poem as their personal philosophy of life.

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,.
Or walk with kings—nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run—
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—will He not say,
“Well done, My daughter!”
“Well done, My son!”
—Rudyard Kipling

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January 18, 2017

Scan Kreisler

Two days ago, as I was scrolling my way into the past, searching for true stories for my next book, suddenly a familiar name appeared–that of Fritz Kreisler, the world-famous Austrian violinist, most likely the most beloved violinist in the world during the first half of the twentieth century. And memories flooded in:

During my growing-up years in Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and the Dominican Republic, I grew up listening to records: first, 78 RPM; then 45, and later 33 1/3. Since my parents were missionaries, money was in short supply. Music-wise, no problem: there was always an American library where I could check out books and records. And, as the oldest of three children, I was designated curator of our record-player.

Naturally, I had my favorite artists. One of them, even back in the 78 RPM years, was Fritz Kreisler. Most likely because his recordings featured not only classical music but also folk, popular, and what we called back then, “Easy Listening Music.” An eclectic mix that appealed to our entire family.

What a joy it was when 33 1/3 long-playing records came out, for then I was no longer a prisoner of the record player. With long-playing records, I could not only get almost half an hour’s music on one side of a record, but I could put on a big stack of records on our new record player and listen to several hours of uninterrupted music. And so it came into my life in 1950: the new LP (long-playing) RCA recording titled “Fritz Kreisler: A Treasury of Immortal Performances.” It included Stephen Foster’s “Old Folks at Home,” Tchaikovsky’s “Andante Cantabile,” Dvorak’s “Humoresque,” Grainger’s “Londonerry Air,” Nevin’s “The Rosary,” and Massanet’s “Meditation” from Thais, on one side; and Kreisler’s own compositions on the flip-side: “Caprice Viennois,” “Tambourin Chinois,” “Liebesleid,” “Liebesfreud,” Schön Rosmarin,” and “La Gitana.”

It is no hyperbole to say that in playing this record to death, these pieces of music became part of the very core of my being–especially Massanet’s “Meditation” and Kreisler’s “Liebesfreud” and “Liebesleid.”

Fritz Kreisler, born in 1875 in Austria, was a child prodigy, shocking the music world by winning the Gold Medal at the Vienna Conservatory when he was only ten; and two years later at the Paris Conservatory, he won not only the Gold Medal but the Prix de Rome as well.

All artists have their favorite instruments: the ones that most effectively capture the very soul of their music in public performances. In this article, I first heard the story of Kreisler’s favorite violin:

“The famous violinist, Fritz Kreisler, has a number of violins, but there is one in his collection which he values more than all the others. One day he was looking over some old and beautiful things in an antique shop. Suddenly he heard someone playing a violin in a rear room. Mr. Kreisler was charmed with the pure, liquid, penetrating tone of the instrument, and asked whether he could buy it. The dealer told him it was not for sale.

“Mr. Kreisler then requested permission to see it, and when he held it in his hands he knew its value to him; so, like the merchant in Jesus’ parable who found the pearl of great price, the famous player said, ‘I must have this violin; I will give you all that I have for it.’ Then the dealer told him that he had already sold it to an Englishman who had a passion for collecting old violins.

“‘What will this collector do with this violin?’ the great artist asked.

“‘Oh,’ said the dealer, ‘I suppose he will put it in a glass case and keep it for people to look at.’

“‘What a pity,’ said Mr. Kreisler, ‘to think that all the lovely music that violin can make cannot be given to the world; what a pity that its beautiful voice should be doomed to silence under the glass case of a collector.’

“Mr. Kreisler was still eager to have the violin for his own. ‘I was determined,’ he said, ‘that I would endow it with life.’

“He learned the whereabouts of the Englishman who had bought it and went to see him. Kreisler found the man to be a cultured gentleman who sympathized with his desire to own the instrument, but he refused to sell it. Week after week he went again and again to the man’s home and pleaded with him. Then one day the man permitted the great violinist to take it out of the case and play it.

“‘I played that violin,’ said Mr. Kreisler, ‘as one condemned to death would have played to obtain his ransom.’

“When he had finished playing, the Englishman was so moved that he said to Mr. Kreisler, ‘I have no right to keep it; it belongs to you. Take it out into the world and let it be heard!’

“Mr. Kreisler took it ‘with tears in his eyes, and a lump in his throat,’ determined to use it to bring blessing and inspiration to those who were to listen to his concerts in the future.”

–“The Whole of Life,” by Ernest Lloyd (The Youth’s Instructor, January 4, 1949)