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APRIL 18, 2018

Tis all too true! When we first moved back to Colorado back in 1996, there were two fully-staffed and highly-respected newspapers serving Denver: The Denver Post (leaning Democrat) and Rocky Mountain News (leaning Republican). During those brief 22 years, the grand old Rocky Mountain News was forced to close its doors. Just a week ago, the already greatly reduced Denver Post, let yet another batch of its most valuable and badly-needed employees go—and furthermore notified subscribers that it would soon close its doors completely! Unless someone would be willing to step in and purchase it, the Centennial State would be left without a major newspaper for the first time in its history.

“No newspaper? Who cares?” So say today’s non-reading public. “We can get all the news we want electronically.” Maybe so, but an informed electorate—so crucial to a democracy—cannot continue to exist with only 15-30 second political attack ads as a basis for choosing the best qualified candidates for public office. A stable voting electorate presupposes a base of literate adults (surrounded by newspapers of stature, magazines, and books).

All of which are today at risk.

The prevailing attitude of Americans up until recent years has been: Of course America is a democracy, and is certain to remain so! In recent years, the sky has darkened, and fears of a looming dictatorship taking control of “the Land of the Free” is voiced more and more often, as public rhetoric is being characterized by vulgarities, obscenities, and loss of civility.

Considering all this, The Denver Post, flawed and reduced though it be, is a must-save! Without such a flagship, Colorado is reduced to red-neck, non-reading, non-thinking stature. Talk about red-lines! Is this a red-line we can afford to not take a decisive, principled stand on?


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Why So Many U.S. Men Die at Age 62




APRIL 11, 2018

That is the title of a landmark study of aging conducted by Maria D. Fitzpatrick of Cornell University and Timothy J. Moore of the University of Melbourne. The information came from the National Center for Health Statistics (years studied: 1979-2012).

They discovered that the increase of the probability of death for men who retire at 62 could be as high as 20%!

How strange! The lifeline we call Social Security” may be resulting in earlier death rather than extending it!

This dovetails with other studies I’ve come across during the last 25-30 years. According to virtually all of these studies, there is one constant: the average American (especially the average male) tends to die within seven years of retirement. Apparently, the very worst thing that can happen to a male retiree is for him to breathe a great sigh of relief and say, “Finally! No more committees, no more deadlines, no more projects—starting today I can just veg, and enjoy life!” When that happens, in his brain’s control tower, the commander in chief of his white armies sends out a final command: “Demobilize! You aren’t needed any more!” And you die. Clearly, often quickly—even at 62! Thus, every retiree (at any age) ought to be aware of his/her options: unless you immediately establish new priorities, develop new passions, set new goals, get involved in new hobbies, find new ways to serve and make a difference, read books widely, travel in order to learn—, yes, failure to do this is a death sentence.

All around us are men and women who refuse to let go, refuse to terminate growth (at any age!)—and they tend to remain vibrant, relative, energetic, and interesting to be around. On the other hand, those who piddle out their days with mindless TV, lackadaisical physical activity, etc—nobody wants to be around them. Because they get dumber and more uninteresting by the day.

The writers in the Good Book concur: Nowhere in the pages of Holy Writ is there any indication that God expects us to cease growing at any age. Instead, Christ’s parables are full of stories that teach us that, of no talent God has entrusted to us, will He require a stricter accounting on Judgment Day than of the Talent of Time. Nowhere in Scripture do we find a divine injunction that says, “When you get old, you’re home free: you no longer have to grow, learn, make a difference.”

Who knew that early retirement would amount to a death sentence?

Permit me to conclude with one of the greatest poems (and plays) on aging ever written:


Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,

Because their words had forked no lightning they

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright

Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the night.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,

And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight

Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,

Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas (1914-1952)

Copyright ©1945: New Directions Publishing Corporation

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Jakob and Wilhelm’s “Grimm’s Fairy Tales”





APRIL 4, 2018

We have reached the point where, each month, I search for authors and titles that the world considers to be so great that it would be a travesty to leave them out of our series. For some time now, Jacob and Wilhelm have steadily and ever louder, been knocking at my door demanding admission.

McLoughlin Brothers, n.d.

Jakob Ludwig Karl Grimm was born in Hanau in Hesse-Cassel in 1785, Wilhelm Karl Grimm a year later. After their father died, the widow, with six children, moved to Cassel. After a public school education, the brothers attended the University of Marburg in order to study law. Here they were mentored by the celebrated jurist, Friedrich Karl von Savigny, who not only immersed them in Roman law but also in antiquarian research. In their mid-fifties, the brothers were made full professors at the Berlin Academy of Science. The brothers concentrated mainly on scholarly works. More or less by accident, they stumbled into doing Children and Household Tales which was intended to be no more than a collection of folklore rather than a treasury to be picked over and polished up by compilers of fairy tales for the very young.

The brothers remained inseparable. After Wilhelm’s marriage to Dortchen Wild (a friend since childhood), Jakob moved in with them and became one of the household. During their growing-up years, both slept in the same bed, and studied at the same table; during their student years, they slept in two beds and studied at two tables in the same room. In adult life, they continued to study at the same table and they slept in adjacent bedrooms. Jakob survived his younger brother by four years. Then the brothers, as they had lived, were buried together.

The brothers spent thirteen years accumulating their folk tales from various sources, chiefly from Hesse and Hanau. In this they were greatly helped by Dortchen, who had grown up listening to many of them told by her old nurse. Eventually more than 200 stories were collected and published in two volumes, the first in 1812 and the second in 1814.

Worthington Co, 1888

About the process, the brothers, for their Preface, wrote, “We have been collecting stories from oral tradition for about thirteen years. We were especially fortunate in our conversations with a peasant woman of Niederzwehrn, who told us most of the tales in the second volume. . . . She remembered the old stories with great exactness; she related the details deliberately, confidently, and with definite self-satisfaction. She spoke slowly so that, with a little practice, we could take down the stories literally. When repeating a tale she never changed anything; she corrected an oversight as soon as she noticed it.”

“Our first care in transcribing the stories was for faithfulness and truth. We have added nothing of our own, nor have we altered the character of either the narrative or the speech.”

—Louis Untermeyer

* * * * *

I have discovered that most compilations of Grimm’s Fairy Tales are much abbreviated and cherry-picked, featuring only the most famous ones. But for your library, I urge you to seek out an unabridged copy. There are plenty to choose from—the work has never been out of print for two centuries now. I was able to snag that splendid edition, The Complete Household Tales of Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm (New York: The Heritage Press, 1962). It features 200 stories, 100 in each volume. The two hardback volumes are boxed separately. Some of the stories you may remember include “The Frog Prince,” “Iron John,” “The King of the Golden Mountain,” “The Golden Goose,” “Snow-White and Rose-Red,” “The Goose Girl,” “Cinderella,” “Rumpelstiltskin,” “The Fisherman and His Wife,” “Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs,” “The Shoes That Were Danced to Pieces,” “Rapunzel,” “Sleeping Beauty,” Hansel and Gretel,” ‘Tom Thumb,” “Bearskin,” “The Fox and the Cat,” etc.

What an imperishable treasure for your family!

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March 28, 2018

Well, it’s beginning to look that way. As an historian of ideas, I’ve been watching for signs of a post-millennial turn (also a 500-year-turn and a century-turn). It has always happened in the past (at least during the last 2,000 years).

In history, there are cycles that reoccur, because nothing ever happens in linear lines—at least not long-term. For the pendulum can only swing so far before there’s a guaranteed course correction.

Last weekend, I followed along as my quilter-wife made her yearly pilgrimage to the annual quilt show in Denver. This year, we were mobbed. Connie couldn’t remember seeing that many people before, attending a regional quilt show. Many were young.

And who’d have believed that vinyl records would ever come back? And old-timey phonographs. Yet that’s what we’re seeing. And, in the process, the young discovering melodic music, rather than the current anything-goes substitutions that we older people tune out as best we can.

Also during the last few weeks, we Kiwanians held our 16th annual reading celebration for area third-graders in our mountain community: specifically six elementary schools: Deer Creek, Elk Creek, Marshdale, Parmalee, Rocky Mountain, West Jeff, and area homeschoolers. Biggest crowd ever! (300 – 400). Standing in a long line were 110 third-graders who so valued having an author gift each of them with their personal choice from 16 of my books—personally inscribed to them. They also got to take a hay ride out to see life buffalo and elk, get their faces painted, and watch six classmates from each school (as top-readers) receive a certificate and a $50 Barnes & Noble gift-card. And, stay till the very end to see which of the third-graders would be lucky enough (in a drawing) to win all 16 of the child-favorite books of ours. Not e-books—but actual books! And such excitement! Such loud clapping!

On March 13, in The Wall Street Journal, was a most provocative article by Ellen Byron titled “The Clean-Living Generation.” Here are some excerpts:

  • 20-somethings, seeking control in uncertain times, find their comfort zone in crafts, meditation, vegetables.
  • THEY DRINK LESS alcohol, eat more vegetables, cut back on meat, meditate often, enjoy knitting and make their own pour-over coffee. Meet the ‘clean lifers,’ the young adults who revel in dodging the indulgences of their elders.
  • Many young adults, having grown up during the recession, pursue healthful living as a way to find balance amid the global uncertainty that continues today.
  • The portability of cans dovetails with their active lifestyle outside, hiking, boating or skiing—the pack-in, pack-out crushability of the can is a big factor with them.
  • They feel they can make a difference, and this influences their spending choices…. This means more saying no to alcohol, no to unhealthy habits, no to animal-based products, and, increasingly, no to unmeasured or uninformed spending…. Talking about how drunk you got the night before used to be a badge of honor, but this new generation would roll their eyes at that.
  • Certainly the most sophisticated [food-related] preferences are led by millennials.
  • Young knitters and crocheters, ages 18 to 34, are learning the craft at about twice the rate of those aged 35 to 54…. Most yarn crafters say it gives them a sense of accomplishment and helps them cope with stress.
  • Millennials and Gen Zers have a much greater sense of balance, they’re less guilty about indulgences because they’re better to their bodies every day.

* * * * *

And, who among us can possibly forget the massive crowds of young people, last weekend, who thronged the streets of our largest cities to protest society’s failure to protect them from being machine-gunned in their classrooms? The largest youth-dominated street crowds since the Vietnam War!

Yes, the times they are a changin’


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March 21, 2018


My thoughts are rambling tonight. Yesterday—finally—, snow began to fall. Just when Coloradans were beginning to panic: what if this turns out to be another terrible summer . . . with one fire after another . . . what if our well runs dry—the water table is already low. . . . Every day the news gets bleaker—even terrifying. ., . . The opioid epidemic is now killing more Americans every day than all the auto accidents put together. . . . Marijuana is altering our culture—and not for the better. . . . Civility in Washington is almost nonexistent. . . . The center is disappearing from American life. . . .

And then it hits me: Why should I fear? God is still out there. God is still in control. He is by me every step of the way—in my sleeping and in my waking, in my work and in my leisure. Even when I take my last breath: my soul goes back to the God who entrusted it to me. Even in death, I can trust Him for whatever is in escrow for me in His tomorrow.

Thank you, Lord.


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March 14, 2018

As I have been sifting through tens of thousands of magazine pages in search of strong nonfiction integrity stories, I stumbled on Philip H. Ward’s article titled “The German Inflation Stamps” in the October 1936 issue of St. Nicholas magazine. And it reminded me of one of the most horrific stories of the Twentieth century. Horrific, not because of financial reasons, but rather because of what followed in its wake.

Because post-World War I inflation was so out of control, at its worst, it would take a wheelbarrow heaped full of German money to purchase a loaf of bread. It got so bad that the desperate Germans would have elected the Devil himself if he’d promise to save them from mass starvation. Well, they didn’t elect the Devil, but they did elect the human Devil-incarnate, Adolf Hitler!

Read on to see how bad conditions were at the height of Germanic inflation.

One of the most interesting issues of stamps ever to appear were the well-known inflation stamps of Germany issued in 1922-23. The German mark worth originally around 25c, at the height of inflation took about fifty billion marks to mail a letter to the United States. Get out your pencil and paper and you will find that on the pre-inflation basis this would represent $12,500,000,000.

In accordance with the Universal Postal Union regulations the stamp for international mail should be blue. This enables the foreign mail clerk to see if proper postage has been paid irrespective of whether he knows the currency of the foreign country or not.

For many years the 20 pf. Blue paid the international postage and had a face value of 5c or 25c to the mark. By 1920 it took 30 pf. An increase of 50% so that the mark was worth about 17c. In 1921 the 1.20 mark was used, hence, the mark had depreciated to 4c. By 1922 it took 2,000 marks for a foreign letter and by the next year the mark changed so rapidly that one had to call at the Post Office to find out how many marks were required to post a letter. As a result, many stamps were surcharged with new values for the changes were so rapid that it was impossible to make new plates in time. It will, therefore, be understood why Germany had stamps in denominations of 1, 2, 4, 5, 10, 20, 30, 50, 100, 200, 500 million marks and 1, 2,m 5, 10, 20, 50 billion marks. In other words, a set of German stamps of the 1923 period based on the original value of the mark would pay the world war debt in full with interest. Would it not seem odd if our own United States had to put a $12,500,000,000 stamp on a letter to mail it to Germany? Unchecked inflation could do it.

We illustrate eight of the German inflation stamps with a face value of 39,700,800,000 marks, worth just a few cents at the time of issue.