This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2, 491) on Friday, September 2, 2022.
All of us, no matter how many birthdays we have acquired, forget things. We forget names. We forget the items that are on our calendars. We forget where we put our keys and even, occasionally, where we park our cars.
For most of us, forgetting is simply a part of life, and we don’t worry very much about it. As the birthdays pile up, however, the worry about forgetting—not necessarily about what we forget—seems to increase. We see older people who have forgotten just about everything, and we wonder, “Will that happen to us?”
A noted neuroscientist Dr. Richard Restak has written a book titled The Complete Guide to Memory: The Science of Strengthening Your Mind. He was recently interviewed in this article that appeared in The Guardian newspaper. The whole article, which is not very long, is worth reading, but here are some tips:
Stay active. Stop drinking alcohol. Take on mentally complex tasks. (Restak and his wife say they are reading together The Count of Monte Cristo, which has a complex plot with many characters. They work at keeping track of them.) Take a nap during the day. Check your vision and your hearing on a regular basis. (Hearing, he says, is particularly important and is often neglected.)
None of these things will guarantee that you will maintain your memory, but this scientist is convinced that they will help.
Have a great and literate weekend and a very safe Labor Day.
Under the newsletter’s hood: Last week’s newsletter was sent to 2,532 subscribers and had a 37.8 percent open rate; 6 persons unsubscribed.
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Ralph Nader proved himself “unsafe” to the auto industry in the 1960s
It is difficult to think of a person who has never held elective or appointed office but who has had more influence on American society in the last 60 years than Ralph Nader.
American consumers had long complained that the cars they bought were of inferior quality. They believed that this inferiority was deliberate, a part of the auto industry’s “planned obsolescence” that would keep the consumer coming back and spending more money. What the car buyers had not realized was that not only were the cars they purchased inferior but they were also unsafe.
Nader’s book presented incontrovertible evidence of that fact.
Nader was born in 1934, the son of Lebanese immigrants, and he attended Princeton University and Harvard law school. And during his law school days, he frequently skipped classes to engage in research on Native American issues and the rights of migrant workers. After graduating from Harvard, he served in the U.S. Army as a cook.
In 1959, he was admitted to the bar and he began a law practice in Hartford, Connecticut. He traveled widely and wrote dispatches for the Christian Science Monitor and The Nation magazine.
In the early 1960s, he became interested in auto safety. He researched more than 100 lawsuits that had been brought against General Motors and its Chevrolet Corvair model, which was highly popular at the time. The results of his research became the book Unsafe at Any Speed, and it was an immediate bestseller.
General Motors attempted to discredit Nader and his book by illegally tapping his phone, which produced nothing of value for the company, and then by hiring prostitutes in an attempt to compromise his character. Nader complained to Senator Abraham Ribicoff, for whom he was working as an unpaid consultant, that he believed that he was being followed.
Ribicoff convened a Senate inquiry and called General Motors chief executive officer, James Roche, who admitted that the company had hired a private investigator to track Nader’s movements. Nader sued GM and won a $425,000 settlement.
In 1966, Congress unanimously enacted the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act. Congressional leaders gave Nader full credit for the enactment of that legislation.
Nader took the settlement that he received from General Motors and formed the activist organization the Center for the Study of Responsive Law. In 1968, he recruited seven volunteer law students—they were dubbed “Nader’s Raiders”—and together they evaluated the operation of the Federal Trade Commission, which was supposed to be a watchdog consumer protection agency. The group produced a report that criticized the FTC as ineffective and passive. The report led to an investigation of the agency by the American Bar Association, and that investigation led then President Richard Nixon to reorganize the Commission into a vigorous enforcer of consumer and antitrust laws in the 1970s.
Nader has been at the forefront of public activism on issues such as the environment, nuclear power, consumer rights, and government accountability. He has been a driving force in the enactment of legislation such as the Freedom of Information Act, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the Clean Water Act, the Consumer Product Safety Act, and the Whistleblower Protection Act. He has been a prolific writer on these and many other issues. A list of some of his publications can be found here at Bookshop.org.
Nader has run for president at least seven times, and he has never ceased to point out flaws in public officials and public policies, be they Democrat or Republican.
Nader has lived in Washington D.C. since the 1960s, and his lifestyle could easily be termed “ascetic.” His financial disclosures show that he owns more than $3 million worth of stocks and mutual shares, but he reports that he lives on $25,000 a year and gives most of his stock earnings to the nonprofit organizations that he has begun.
He has never married, and he does not own a car.
The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries. https://theprolificreader.com/mystery”
From the archives: KMOX – the power of radio, and a radio station
Note: I’m reaching deeply into the archives this week for a story about KMOX-AM and the St. Louis Cardinals. It’s that time of year. This article was originally posted in 2013.
The station is a powerful one—50,000 watts—and spreads itself throughout the country when night falls and AM stations have their maximum reach. That fact has, over the years, turned “St. Louis Cardinal Nation” into a truly national phenomenon. (And I am one of the citizens of Cardinal Nation.) You can pick up the station at 1120 on your AM dial just about everywhere from the Rockies to Manhattan.
So, this weekend, during the World Series, David Waldstein, a New York Times reporter, headed south from St. Louis about two hours before the game started with KMOX blaring away on the radio to see if he could outrun the signal before the game was over. He couldn’t. He wound up in northern Mississippi as the last out was being made, and the signal was coming in loud and clear.
Waldstein uses this motif to write about the station, the famous Cardinal play-by-play announcers (Jack Buck, Harry Caray, etc.), and what the station has meant to the spread of Cardinal baseball.
“It wasn’t just the strength of the signal,” said Bob Costas, who broadcast the Spirits of St. Louis basketball games on KMOX in the 1970s, years after he heard the signal on Long Island as a boy. “It was also the quality of the guys in the booth that drew people in. Back then, Harry was not what many people remember in Chicago after his strokes. At a time when the Cardinals were the farthest outpost in baseball, he was a craftsman bringing the game to life for people in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kentucky.”
One of those people was the Red Sox’ owner, John Henry, whose family moved from a farm in Illinois to a soybean and cotton farm in Forrest City, Arkansas, when he was young. It was there that he tuned in to KMOX to hear Caray, Garagiola, and Buck describe the games.
“I had a great Zenith radio,” Henry said. “But everyone in the area could listen even with a little transistor.”
Waldstein takes a multimedia approach to this story. He includes a series of audio clips to tell the reader what the station sounds like at various points on his journey. He also includes a map that describes what the signal was like at different points on his route.
The story is worth reading for lots of reasons.
Photo: For the Cardinal fan, Mecca is Busch Stadium on a warm summer night with the Gateway Arch rising in the background. And if you can’t get there, you can listen to the game on KMOX-AM, no matter where you are.
Group giveaways for September
And my young adult novel, Point Spread, is part of this young adult book giveaway:
Each of these giveaways includes more than 20 books of various sub-genres. You can download any or all of them in exchange for your email address. The email address will be shared among all authors participating in the giveaway. The purpose of these giveaways is to get books into the hands of readers and to increase email lists for the authors.
It helps me a great deal if you use these links to take a look at the offerings even if you don’t select any of these books. Many thanks.
Jennifer S.: Thanks for another fascinating newsletter, as always!
I wanted to provide some additional context to the piece about Salman Rushdie. Of course you are correct that there is no justification or defense for the brutal attack on him. But your remarks about “certain so-called religious sects” might be misconstrued by some readers as an indictment of Islam as a whole. Indeed, many Muslims, likely most, have no interest in Rushdie, or wish to persecute him. Many Islamic scholars and lawyers have convincingly pointed out, for years, that the fatwa declared by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini is not only inhumane but also illegal (or at least extra-legal).
For example, Abdallah al-Mushidd, who headed up Azhar’s Fatwā Council, declared in 1990 that a death sentence without a trial is murder, observing, “Islam does not accept killing as a legal instrument.” Many, many vocal Muslims have made similar arguments, almost since the inception of the fatwa. The extension of the fatwa to publishers of The Satanic Verses have been criticized even more robustly, with scholars and jurists pointing out that charges of apostasy can not be leveled at non-Muslims (as most of the publishers are). Historian and columnist Daniel Pipes explains further that under the much-maligned (and much-misunderstood) Sharia law, “transmission of blasphemy is not blasphemy.”
Many observers believe, then as now, that Khomeini’s fatwa against Rushdie was politically motivated, not religiously based. As you observe, the fatwa has never been lifted. This is because, according to the Iranian government, a fatwa can only be lifted by the religious leader who issued it. Khomeini died in 1989. The Iranian government, including Khomeini’s successor, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, continues to reaffirm the validity of the fatwa. If this particular nation-based (and politically motivated) subset of Islam is what you meant by “so-called religious sect,” then you are, alas, correct.
But, to our great cost, radicalism and extremism are rife in many religions. I assure you that most Muslims were as horrified by the attack on Rushdie as you and I were.
Vince V.: Being accustomed to a caricature style, your portrait of David McCullough was a pleasant surprise. I heard him speak on two different occasions. I kept thinking I heard Walter Cronkite in his voice.
Finally . . .
This week’s watercolor: My friend Tom
Best quote of the week:
A writer is, after all, only half his book. The other half is the reader and from the reader the writer learns. P.L. (Pamela Lyndon) Travers, author, creator of the Mary Poppins series (1899-1996)
If you are looking for a quiet, meditative, non-theological but scriptural podcast to start or close your day, try pray-as-you-go.org. The podcasts are 10-12 minutes long, and they feature beautiful music, a scripture reading, and a very short devotional. It’s a great respite from an otherwise all-too-noisy world.
If you are interested in reading scripture, either the Old Testament, the New Testament, or both, you might be interested in the videos, commentary, and podcast of the BibleProject.com. The people who work on this site have done some deep and thoughtful reading of the Bible, and the videos they have produced (generally shorter than 10 minutes) are both entertaining and enlightening. They view the Bible as a single entity with a single purpose, and their approach is both delightful and refreshing.
Helping those in need
Fires in California, freezing weather in Texas, hurricanes on the Atlantic Coast, tornados in Tennessee, and now coronavirus — disasters occur everywhere. They have spread untold misery and disruption. The people affected by them need our help.
It’s not complicated. Things happen to people, and we should be ready to do all the good we can in all of the ways we can. (Some will recognize that I am paraphrasing John Wesley here).
When is the last time you gave to your favorite charity? The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR.org) is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to this one or to yours.
Keep reading, keep writing (especially to me), and have a great weekend.
His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.
Last week’s newsletter: Marie Tharp, talkin’ Appalachian, Salman Rushdie, and a special watercolor portrait: newsletter, August 26, 2022
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