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Typewriters and the New World Information Order.

silk screen by anne duncan IMG-1333.jpg

Yesterday, Martha Mills asked a question about using a manual typewriter on Facebook. It prompted the following. 

Oh, the stories those key-bangers told! One of my favorites involved research for a report to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee about dramatic changes in international communications. I was in Belgrade.  It was the late 1970s. 

At that time, except for its news about Yugoslavia, Tanjug, the government news agency, was considered by Americans to be producing a pretty solid fact-based product, particularly its reporting on what was happening in China.

The head of the news agency wanted to have his two-cents in the report. He invited me to what I thought would be his office. It turned out to be a dreary, dark, brick walled room that felt like it’s original purpose was a holding pen for anti-government protestors. 

We were alone with one table, two chairs, our notepads, pens, pencils, and portable typewriters. In the middle of the table were two glasses and two full bottles of slivovitz, a wicked high-octane regional drink that dissolves the enamel of human teeth and sterilizes a drinker’s plumbing system.

The journalist was a very big man. After a few drinks he seemed to be six-foot-36. Within a half hour we were best-buddies, laughing at who-knows-what because his English was raw and my knowledge of Slavic languages hadn’t surfaced. Still hasn’t. 

My new friend’s volume (vocal and physical) grew exponentially over the next hour-and-a-half. My mind was sliding into a slippery sea of slush. My questions were getting longer, dimmer and slurrier, matching his English. 

But his hands, especially his fingers, had grown up to the “gigantic” mark on a digital size-o-mometer. At that point, all I could concentrate on was one question, “How could this guy report using his standard gauge portable typewriter?” Each of his fingers would hit at least two keys. 

Can’t remember if I asked it.

I probably heard a lot that was relevant to The New World Information Order. At the time the elites in First, Second, Third, and Fourth Worlds (Rich countries, Commies, Poor countries and the Dirt Poor) were hot-and-bothered about the issue. Inasmuch as my notes were indecipherable and my hangover was indescribable, that meeting never made it to the report, which became as controversial worldwide as I had hoped. Although I didn’t like the zingers from Africa, a couple of them really hurt.

This story may be relevant today when we are beset with dire reports about the information missing from the summary of Mr. Trump’s infamous call with his fellow TV comic, the current president of Ukraine. 

If my experience is relevant (and it is not) the code word for the White House back story could be SLIVOVITZ!

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My blog and Facebook posts include many items like this. Most are much shorter. Some include names I can remember. Among them are Phyllis Diller, Judy Garland, and John W. Bubbles in Chicago, John Wayne in Panama, and FDR aboard ship with the Saudi King. The title is “poor georgie’s almanack.” Just Google it.

Silk screen of Underwood by Anne Duncan

poor georgie’s almanack

Update: 42 is not the meaning of life, the universe and everything. Pi is closer. The true implausible answer, however, must be Pizza Pie. Here is why.

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poor georgie’s almanack:

One minute read … less if you are a quick reader with a sense of humor and science.

In The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams revealed that “42” is the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything.   

“IF YOU ARE HUNGRY FOR A BETTER ANSWER TRY PIZZA” (please read on) 

The somewhat flat disc starts out as a small ball of matter. 


It is tossed around and flattens or smooths out.  


Eventually it looks a lot like our very own universe. 

And our galaxy, The Milky Way, which like most other galaxies is a spiral round.

To us, The Milky Way looks like this because we are in the galaxy’s suburbs and see it’s side.  It’s the same angle as a the picnic ant crawling up to a pizza slice. 

The small atoms that hold all of this together are teeny-tiny pizzas with cheese and sauce in the middle only.  Based on this photo they are a Blue Plate Special. 


Thus, I have concluded, PIZZA is the meaning of life. 

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NEW WORLD POLITICS

poor georgie’s almanack.                       June 10, 2018 

  • FOREIGN POLICY DRAMA GRIPPED THE AMERICAS
  • HEAD-OF-STATE PROMOTED RESORTS  
  • RONALD REAGAN AND HIS HOLLYWOOD BUDDY WERE IN THE POLITICAL SPOTLIGHT 
  • IN 1978, “THE DUKE” EXPLAINED AMERICA’S FOREIGN AFFAIRS IN 2018

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January 15, 1978 at a Florida Air Force Base:  A few US Senators who had been in Minnesota earlier in the day for the burial of Hubert Humphrey.  They joined up with the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and some staff who had arrived from Washington, DC a few minutes earlier.

Together the “delegation” flew to Panama, where in the next two days they would take a helicopter ride over the entire Panama Canal, be feted by the President of Panama, and meet with Omar Torrijos, Panama’s dictator and the actual head-of-state.  

A public relations event with Torrijos was planned for the Contadora Island Resort.  This was a prelude to marathon Committee hearings on Capitol Hill regarding the most pressing political issue of the decade … the potential transfer to Panama, of the Canal and a huge swath of surrounding land that was controlled by the USA.  That territory housed major American military installations.   But, for the most part, native Panamanians ran the day-to-day work of the Canal.   

The area controlled by the “Colossus of The North” cut Panama in half, from its Pacific coast on the west to the  Caribbean Sea beaches on its eastern shore.  Many of the Senators skeptical constituents were saying: “We built it.  We are helping the Panama economy.  It is vital to our national and economic security.  It is ours to keep.”

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The first hurdle for the pro-Treaty side was to get enough votes in the Foreign Relations Committee to send the agreement to the Senate floor.  

Jump to 2018, forty years later, US President Donald Trump is taking a page out of the Torrijos playbook.  The Panamanian had seen an opportunity to publicize his country’s upscale resorts to bring them more business.  That’s why Contadora Island Resort, a short plane hop from Panama City, was the agreed-upon meeting spot.  

I wasn’t the Committee’s PR guy, each Senator had his own.  The chief of staff remembered I had headed the Washington Post’s PR dept. during Watergate.  So my secretary and I were assigned to carry briefcases and to handle press liaison with a group of reporters who saw the trip as we did … an opportunity to get some mid-winter sun, eat well, and produce what was expected with little effort.

That explains our being fully slathered with suntan lotion, lounging on a beach about 400 feet from Contadora’s expansive and expensively manicured golf course.  Several reporters were clustered near my very demure secretary who, surprisingly, wore a swimsuit designed to raise testosterone levels.  Ever the outlier, I was sweating like mad in my suit and tie.  Viewing the reporters’ actions, I did ponder the different definitions of the word liaison. 

 As the Senators and Omar Torrijos, were chatting in the resort’s clubhouse about a block away, literally out of the blue, a small plane landed nearby.  Out stepped THE DUKE, John Wayne in flesh and blood.   He walked over to our gaggle of oglers, shook our hands, and quickly headed to the clubhouse because it was time for lunch.

The mysterious choreographer of that dance had done a great job.  

We followed Wayne into a restaurant with tourists in their beachwear, seated at their usual tables.  Unusually, however, there was a long head table.  Behind it were all the dignitaries, dominated, by the big guy from the movies.  Along with his longtime buddy Ronald Reagan, who was back in The States campaigning for the presidency, Wayne was the reigning personification of Hollywood’s political cult.

He was a staunch Republican, but unlike others, including Reagan, Wayne strongly supported the proposed Panama agreement.  Coincidentally, The Duke owned property in Panama.  Hmmm. 

The Wayne-Reagan policy disagreement was tabloid paper material.  

After the lunch plates were cleared, from behind the head table came the usual twice-thrice-four-times-told-tales our seasoned politicos had used as mantras for months.  

Fortunately, someone asked if any of the assembled throng had questions.  As I recall it, a tourist responded thusly: Mr. Wayne, how is it that you, such a good friend of Mr. Reagan, could be so far apart on this issue? 

Wayne’s unexpected answer was a classic.

Big John said that he was one “of those who convinced Ronnie” to move politically from the very far left to the right.  

“But, the momentum got away from us.”

Epilogue: I still chuckle at his honesty and now cluck about what that momentum has meant to the world order that, until recently, the USA led.  The days-long hearings after the delegation returned to DC proved that the Senators really did know their stuff.  The agreement eventually squeaked through the Senate and was implemented.       

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An outlier’s view of New World

Medes, Media, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Maybe it wasn't a joke

poor georgie’s almanack

Iran, Persia, the Medes and Media at lunch, mid-1970s. 

It seemed funny then.  Yesterday, not so.

Thousands of years ago, there was the empire of the Medes who ruled over a land named Media. (Sort of where today’s Kurdistan lies.)

Their neighbors and relatives were the Persians who’s eventually created Iran.  The Media people were surrounded by fierce tribes who over the millennia reinforced their folk stories of power and glory, food, mead (the drink) and dreams.  They never forgot that their ancestors were empire builders.

Fast forward to the 1970s.  I was the Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff member assigned to memorialize a private luncheon discussion between the Shah (Emperor) of Iran and several senior Senators. 

They were far from strangers.  For years they had held similar sessions.  

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi sat on his throne because of American and UK backing that included a CIA plot.  Anti-Americanism that burbled up, in part from lingering memories of Persian glories, certainly were afloat in Iran.  They led to the Shah’s demise and the rise of today’s strict Shia religious regime.  These vibes, as I recall, were the background noise of the discussion after the plates were cleared.

The first question came from the committee’s chairman, John Sparkman. 

It was not clear to me what was behind the Senator’s opening question, other than a passing thought.  The Shah’s response evoked hearty laughter, probably because the answer was so unexpected.

Sparkman:  “I remember hearing time and again about the Medes and the Persians, the Persians and the Medes.”

“What ever happened to the Medes?”

After about a four second pause.

Shah:  “We ate them.”

His timing was as immaculate a conception as any nightclub comedian’s.

Yesterday, however, I thought of an alternative interpretation.  Maybe it wasn’t a joke.  The Shah said “ate.”  In his mind, ate might have been the Farsi word for “absorbed,” or something similar, like assimilate.

Using the best, the biggest, and the most brutal tactics of their day, ancient empires like the Persians “absorbed” their religious or boisterous adversaries with the efficiency of WWII Allies carpet bombing of Tokyo and Dresden.  They were experts at spreading the news about their brutality to scare into submission and assimilate any surviving or future enemies.

Every nation’s narrative is distilled into attitudes that are the menu for its collective memories which tend to dwell on victories.  Unfortunately, innocent civilians make up the soups and salads featured on the bills-of-fare that make history so enticing.  

I hope someone will protect you and me from becoming just another side dish.  

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The Twenties. My Hope and my Fear.

poor georgie’s almanack:  

America once was thought to be a “Melting Pot,” a blending of people from all over the world.  Then America morphed into a rich stew of distinct ethnicities, like Irish-American.  

Now the country is more of a laboratory filled with petri dishes growing new cultures as a drop of one is mixed with drops of the others.

I live in such a lab.

There are 20 apartments on my floor midway up a high-rise.  Behind each identical door are different worlds, created by different cultures. 

Those of us on the 9th-floor are African-American, South Asian, East Asian and Southeast Asian.  We also are native-born Americans from the East Coast, Midwest and California.  Some of us are very old and some very young.

People on other floors are from everywhere else that humans exist. 

Way below us, the nearly 600 cars in our three-story garage are the brands owned by the poor to rich.  There is a Bentley, for instance.  It is owned by someone from Central Asia.

Amongst us are people who celebrate Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, and secular celebrations, along with those who honor holidays from the Asian subcontinent like Diwali, and festivals or rituals such as, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, Korean Seollal, Tet, and a myriad of others associated with the lunar new year.  

As far as I can tell, we get along with each other rather well. 

One thing that seems to be in common at this time of the year is we all burn candles.  

A candle’s flame is like a warm beckoning dream shedding comfort and light.  It is the opposite of the mean-spirited, dark depressing dreams currently spreading across countrysides and continents.

So, as we enter what might be a second “Roaring 20s.”  I Hope these new years are bright and cheery like the Hanukah menorah and the Kawanzaa kinara.

Alas, I Fear we will blow it.

A true Presidential Debate story that ends in a terrible pun

poor georgie’s almanack

Dark Materials #1.   

While flying into St. Louis in 2000 to work behind the scenes at a presidential debate I read a review that said a trilogy of books written by Philip Pullman was even better fantasy than Harry Potter.  Nineteen years later, Pullman’s trilogy is the basis for the HBO series “His Dark Materials.” 

When the first day of set-up for the TV debate finally ended I set out to buy Pullman’s “The Golden Compass, and a cigar, a bottle of red wine and a big chunk of cheese.

The team working with the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates was very comfortably housed in a Ritz-Carlton hotel.  My upper floor room featured a glass paneled door with a permanently attached gauze-like curtain inside.  The door opened to reveal  a small balcony with a small round table and a small chair.   I rearranged a couple floor lamps just inside the air-conditioned room to shed just enough light through the curtain to be able to read the book on the balcony.

Then I dug into the cheese and filled the big wine glass.  A hotel towel was my placemat.  Immediately, I was enveloped by Pullman’s writing.   

At about page three, with eyes riveted on the words, I reached for the glass and inadvertently tipped it over.  The contents spilled out onto the rim of the patio. 

Glass didn’t break.  Cleaned the table with the towel.  No harm done.  Refilled the goblet, and on to page four.

Maybe 15 minutes later, the book’s fantasy spell was abruptly broken by a very scary real-life rustling noise from behind the glass door.  A huge shadow appeared on the gauze curtain … it looked like a very big man, or maybe a Rottweiler standing on two legs, a top leg touching the door knob. 

I had nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and no way to yell or even breath because my wildly beating heart was exploding inside my narrowly constricting esophagus.

The door slowly swung open and a dapper giant of a man quietly asked, “Are you alright?”

It took but seconds for my heart to slither back into it’s assigned cavity and the reason for an unexpected visit from Hotel “Security.”   

Someone below had seen red drops dripping from my balcony and assumed it was vital fluids.

Thus explaining why, in fantasy cops and robbers tales, police officers often are called bloodhounds.

Aging

Fullmerite, the opposite of Kryptonite. 

Today Paul Fullmer’s wife Sandra informed legions of his fans that Paul is struggling with pneumonia and under hospice care.

The long time head of Selz/Seabolt, a Chicago public relations company, Paul hired me to lead the company’s Washington, DC office.

He is a gentle, firm man, an extraordinarily thoughtful strategist, writer, and editor.  Paul is the smart affable type of boss few have the good luck to work with.

Occasionally, I flew into Chicago for meetings.  If the timing was right, Paul would invite me to lunch with a few personal friends.

Not surprisingly, because Chicago is such a big-time sports-infused kind of town, even before the waiter could take our orders, there would begin a discussion of the latest rumors about the Cubs, Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls and, especially Paul’s beloved Notre Dame.

One day a new topic arose … aging.  That was the day I became a Fullmerite, a follower of Fullmer.

Kryptonite, you might remember, is an alien mineral that drains Superman of his powers.

Fullmerite is a concept that has the power of making anyone a super man.

What Paul projected was to enjoy life as much as you can, do the best you can, and most of all, be a nice person.  It can be empowering.

Paul Fullmer is a very nice man.

I love that guy.

George Kroloff

fullmer.  ca-times.brightspotcdn.com.jpegPaul and Sandra Fullmer (center) pose with Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer during an annual meeting of the American Society of Golf Course Architects.  Sandra is a world class golfer.
(Photo courtesy of Paul and Sandra Fullmer)