William H. Benson
An interesting column appeared in the New York Times on Nov. 6, 2016, the Sunday before the presidential election. Its author, Nikolai Tolstoy, an Englishman of Russian ancestry and a distant cousin of the novelist Leo Tolstoy, argued that the United States needs a king. Tolstoy looked across the Atlantic Ocean and saw the messy campaign then raging in America, and of the two candidates, he said, "neither appears to be a Washington or a Lincoln." He then wondered if "the founding fathers' republican system of government is leading them toward that promised 'more perfect union.'"
"Mountain dew" is a slang word for moonshine. The extensive marketing for the soft drink of the same name first appeared fifty years ago, in the mid-1960's. The cartoon advertisement featured a hillbilly who wore a floppy hat, sported an unkempt beard, smiled a toothless grin, had shaggy hair, and wore ragged shirt and pants. No shoes. On occasion he would lift a brown jug to his lips and drink deep of his "mountain dew, and just as often, he would aim his shot gun and shoot at anyone who dared to offend him. His catch phrase, "Yahoo! It's Mountain Dew.
On July 10, 1973, kidnappers in Rome, Italy seized J. Paul Getty III, the sixteen-year-old grandson of the oil baron and the reported wealthiest man in the world. The kidnappers sent a ransom note that demanded $17,000,000, but the grand Senior Getty refused to pay. He said, "I have fourteen grandchildren. If I pay one penny now, I'll have fourteen kidnapped grandchildren."
Billy Graham was born Nov. 7, 1918, just four days before Armistice Day that ended World War I's carnage. Three weeks ago Billy marked his 98th birthday, alive but not so well. Clive Staples Lewis was born Nov. 29, 1898, and died on Nov. 22, 1963, the same day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. It is also coincidental that both C. S. Lewis and John F. Kennedy had the same nickname, Jack. Billy Graham and C. S. Lewis were the two most popular Christian authors of the twentieth century.
SIDNEY, NEB.—Human beings see opposites. They divide the world, its citizens and its ideas into just two camps. Instead of pointing to a series of gradations between two extremes, they tend to see only the extremes.
SIDNEY, Neb.—In James Michener's book, "The Source," he created a fictional character who made a pest of himself among both friends and enemies by walking around ancient Israel and repeating a series of shop-worn proverbs that he had stockpiled over the years. For example, when he would meet a person with a problem, he would quote a more or less fitting proverb. Not everyone appreciated his tactic.
SIDNEY, Neb. Vacation this summer took me to southeast Alaska, where I met the zoologist Brent Nixon. Each of his high-energy, hour-long lectures on Alaska's wildlife packed the theater and thrilled his audiences. Those who attended learned a host of details on the great humpback whales, the North American black and brown bears, seals, sea lions, orca or the killer whales, and coastal bald eagles. His lectures prompted me to think about our wildlife here on the Great Plains, in the center of North America, how it pales in comparison to Alaska's, and how it has changed.
SIDNEY, Neb. -- Beau Biden, the vice president’s son, passed away on Saturday, May 30, 2015, of brain cancer. He was 46. In January of this year, in his final State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama announced that he was naming his vice president, Joseph Biden, to spearhead his “moonshot effort to cure cancer,” part of the president’s $202 million Precision Medicine Initiative. Two weeks ago, The New York Times Magazine ran a special series of articles entitled, “The New Anatomy of Cancer,” and a journalist named Sam Apple wrote a most interesting article.
In 1890, a young Danish immigrant named Jacob Riis published his book, “How the Other Half Lives: Studies Among the Tenements of New York.” He began his introduction, “Long ago it was said that ‘One half of the world does not know how the other half lives.’ That was true then. It did not know because it did not care.” Riis went where few other investigative reporters would dare to go.
SIDNEY, Neb. -- The adventure writer Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote some 80 novels based upon two characters: Tarzan and John Carter. Tarzan lived among the apes in Africa and John Carter transported himself from Earth to Mars, where he fought and conquered the Martians. In my younger years, I read several of Burroughs’s books, as did thousands of other American kids of the 20th century.