From the Publisher’s Desk – Life’s big screen offers thrilling moments

By Keith Whitson

Canadian counselor Lucy MacDonald said “The initial bond is the shared experience.”

I think great experiences are made even better when shared with friends. Have you ever been out by yourself and seen something that you would have loved to share with another? It doesn’t do it justice to try and describe the event to someone later.

Shared experiences are ones you can reflect back on for years and relive with those you experienced the moment with. I recently got to be part of a great shared moment along with 11 others from the area.

Jan Hendren Bradley and her sister Luann Hendren have been friends of mine for years. I can reflect on shared moments which have been made even more special by experiencing them with those two.

Their late father, Joe Hendren, was an influential figure with Erwin’s business and development, just as his father before him. His daughters have carried on that tradition. One such effort is keeping the local  Capitol Cinema I & ll alive and thriving.

How fortunate we are to have such an entertainment venue in the middle of our town. It provides an experience unique to the area with a  large screen,state-of-the-art equipment and the most reasonable prices around.

Recently I was invited to a brunch at the theater, followed by a showing of “Beauty and the Beast.” It doesn’t get any better than that, especially when shared with friends. We gathered at 10 a.m. for a spread of sausage balls, country ham biscuits, pinwheels, shrimp, cheeses, pickles, fruit and several dessert treats.

I already knew most of the other 11 who showed up but soon made friends with those I didn’t know. We mingled and ate and ate some more. We were then given a bag of popcorn and found our seat in the theater for our private showing.

Even previews are fun when watched with friends and in an environment where we can loudly express “Oh that looks good” and “We should see that.”

I never saw the 1991 animated version of “Beauty and the Beast,” so I had no idea of the storyline. Disney always gives us a unique experience and it was no exception with this film, which we saw in 3-D.

Set in France, a young woman, Belle, is imprisoned in an enchanted castle by the fearsome Beast. The Beast is actually a prince who was cursed by a sorceress for his callousness. She is also pursued by Gaston, who wants her hand in marriage, leading to a confrontation with the Beast.

The movie was a great lesson on not judging people too quickly or based upon their outer appearance. Take time to get to know them inside and who they really are. We can all benefit from that example and often don’t know what friendships we are missing out on because we make unwarranted assumptions.

As I watch the chances for Belle and the Beast become more hopeless, I start to worry that this could be a sad ending. Would Disney do this to me? I became more concerned when I heard Jan behind me, calling out “Kiss him, kiss him.” The kiss was to be a saving moment for the Beast. If Jan had doubt and was trying to encourage the outcome of the film, maybe we were in for sadness. I, too, wanted to start yelling out “Kiss him, kiss him.”

I will not give away the ending for those who, like me, had no clue of the storyline. I do encourage you to see the movie. “Beauty and the Beast” still has a few more showings in Erwin.

After the movie we all gathered in the lobby to talk about the film, our favorite parts and the fun we had shared. I appreciate great friends and good times.

We are blessed to have a close-knit community.  Wherever you go in Unicoi County you need to allow extra time. Whether it is the grocery store or out to eat, chances are you will run into some friends or neighbors. You don’t get that experience in bigger cities. Take time to appreciate those moments. They are what bonds us as a community.

Just as in the movies, we get previews in life but watching the plot of our lives develop can be both scary and exciting. I wish everyone many beautiful scenes, adventures and a happy ending. Remember those 3-D glasses will often make situations seem like they are coming right at us. They usually don’t reach us in reality.

A Denney for Your Thoughts – She’s back home, willing to serve

By Connie Denney

A Unicoi County High School graduate, Rachelle Hyder-Shurtz is back on campus as Culinary Arts instructor.  But that’s not all she’s got cooking.

With travels and experiences galore, the Unicoi County native wants to give back to the community she has always considered “one of the most beautiful places.”  Having been appointed in January to fill the unexpired term of the late Sue Jean Wilson on the Erwin Board of Aldermen, she has a means of doing just that!

Filling in the details a bit, Rachelle recalls taking dancing lessons from Range School of Dance for over 10 years and playing softball and basketball, on the Y, Little League and high school teams, along with a couple of years of golf in high school.  A full softball scholarship at Tennessee Wesleyan College (now University) led to a degree in business administration.

Her formal education also includes Culinary School at Sullivan University, Louisville, Kentucky, where she earned associate degrees in baking and pastry and professional catering. “Cooking, specifically baking and pastry, has always been what I wanted to do,” Rachelle explains. “I used to sit on my Mamaw’s kitchen counter and pat out fried pies, bake pies and help her make biscuits for my Papaw.”

Her parents, Ricky and Robin Hyder, were “incredibly supportive” as they allowed her to travel during her college years, when she went to Italy for a month’s international business internship.  During culinary school she had the opportunity to go to the 2008 Beijing Olympics to bake for the USA House and High Performance Center.

After school it was on to Vail, Colorado, and some cool assignments.  She became the pastry chef at The Arrabelle at Vail Square, with more travel taking her to the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.  While working for Four Seasons Vail, she went to Costa Rica for a month.

“More importantly,” she says, “while working at the Four Seasons, I fell in love with my husband, Jay Shurtz.”  They were married here in her parents’ backyard, then went back to Vail. The teaching opportunity here came upon the previous teacher’s retirement.  Rachelle had visited the class and “loved helping the students.”

“It has definitely been an adventure getting back to Erwin!”  Rachelle explains that while they were moving she found out she was pregnant with Willa Rose Grace.  While they love hiking, biking, fishing and being outdoors, there’s not been a lot of time for that since they’ve been back.

She has become involved with RISE (Rejuvenate, Invest, Support and Energize), a local group that shares her passion for getting more involved in the community. The upcoming Outdoor Festival, an example of events they support, “brings attention to the beautiful area that we live in. We have hike in, hike out availability to the Appalachian Trail, mountain biking, rafting and fishing.  We need to promote those things!”

An added thought about Unicoi County:  “I have lived and visited many places, but have never experienced a community of people that support each other the way ours does….”

From her Grandmother’s kitchen counter to teaching others, from a love of community to having a vote on the town’s governing board, there’s reason to anticipate good things to come.  It will be interesting to see what Rachelle brings to the table!

Library Happenings – Patterson considers ‘The Black Book’ his best

By Angie Georgeff

Anyone who regularly visits the library has surely concluded that James Patterson is a popular and prolific author of books for adults and children. I certainly know it. When I visit the website of the company from which we buy most of our books, I find fifty-four pages of entries listed under the name “Patterson, James.” More than 1,100 of those products are by the James Patterson that most of you have in mind.

At first, most of his novels generate hardcover, audiobook and Playaway editions. Those are followed by trade paperback and eventually mass market paperback editions, but still that is a lot of novels. These days the vast majority are written with the help of co-authors.

I catalog at least one book by James Patterson every month of the year. I have added as many as four during a single calendar month. Consequently, I seldom pay much attention to them.  I connect our standing order copy to the bibliographic record in the OWL (Organization of Watauga Libraries) catalog and pass it on to Kristy for processing. Last week, however, I picked up Patterson’s latest novel, “The Black Book,” which he co-wrote with David Ellis, and a blurb on the back cover caught my eye.

It was a brief quote from the author. He started by listing the four books that top the roll of his favorite literary children. “With each,” he said, “I had a good feeling when the writing was finished.” He then went on to say he considers “The Black Book” to be the best work he has done in twenty years. James Patterson has produced a lot of books in the past twenty years, so that is saying something!

Spotlight Book

The title refers to a “little black book” belonging to the madam of a top drawer Chicago brothel.  When police raid the establishment, they embarrass – and arrest – some of the most powerful men in the city. Even the mayor, who recently tried to cut police pensions but suddenly is willing to negotiate, is taken into custody. You can just imagine the scandal.

There is no shortage of evidence, but the madam does not use a computer to keep records and her black book is nowhere to be found. With so much on the line, police, politicians and everyone whose name is in the book are scrambling to claim the prize. And someone is willing to kill for it.

I don’t read thrillers, so I would make a very poor judge, but I am curious. Is “The Black Book” really as good as Patterson thinks it is? More importantly, do we need to order an extra copy?  The reviews I have read so far are quite good, but please let me know what you think!

Movie Night – ‘Masterminds’ neither great nor terrible

By Bradley Griffith

The comedy genre has been in decline for many years.  A truly great comedy only comes along every five to ten years.  “Masterminds” is now available for rental but, while it’s not a bad movie, it doesn’t even approach greatness.

Back in 1997 David Ghantt (Zach Galifianakis) drove an armored car for Loomis Fargo.  His partner was Kelly Campbell (Kristen Wiig).  Even though David was engaged to be married, he was secretly in love with Kelly.  David’s unrevealed passion took a major blow when Kelly quit her job at Loomis Fargo and started working at Hardees. David continued with his life of boredom and monotony.

In the meantime, Kelly’s friend Steve Chambers (Owen Wilson) concocted a harebrained scheme to rob Loomis Fargo.  For his plan to work he needed not only an inside man, but a fall guy too.  Steve talks Kelly into manipulating David into being part of the robbery.  The plan is simple in its absurdity, David will stay after hours at work on Friday night, unlock the vault, pile all of the money in a van, and drive away.

While the robbery doesn’t go exactly as planned, due in large part to David locking himself in the back of the van, he still leaves Loomis Fargo with over $17 million in cash. Only a total idiot would have agreed to David’s part in the escape plan.  David dons a disguise, shoves around $20,000 in his underwear, and boards a plane to Mexico.  The plan called for Kelly to join him in Mexico after the heat died down with their share of the money.

While David was hiding out in Mexico under an assumed name with fake identification, Steve was living in the lap of luxury leaving a trail that any law enforcement official could follow.  He bought an enormous house with a swimming pool, new cars, news clothes, and even new braces for his teeth.  How long would it be before David realized he had been dou“Masterminds” is completely ridiculous and absurd, and that’s exactly what makes it funny.  The bumbling adventures of Zach Galifianakis and company provide for good entertainment and a few scenes that make you laugh until you cry.  You’ll find yourself wondering how such an inept bunch of criminals ever managed to steal so much money.

The movie went completely off the rails somewhere around the time that David is evading the Mexican Federales and a hit man played by Jason Sudeikis at the same time.  The movie had hit a good stride and the story was working well with the actors, and then it crashed and burned. The pace of the movie slowed down and the story reached levels of absurdity that were no longer funny.  The rest of the movie was passable, but nothing special.

The most interesting thing about “Masterminds” is that it is based on a true story.  A real man named David Ghantt who was an employee of Loomis Fargo robbed the company of over $17 million with the help of a real woman named Kelly Campbell and a real man named Steve Chambers.  How much of the movie was an accurate portrayal is not known, but it’s amazing that they were able to pull off the heist if even half of the movie is accurate.  Even more amazing is that almost $2 million was never found.

A comedy needs certain minimum requirements.  It must have great acting, a great script, great comedic timing, and great chemistry between the actors.  “Masterminds” certainly had very good actors in Zach Galifiankis, Kristen Wiig, and Owen Wilson and decent chemistry between Galifianakis and Wiig.   The script was good until it derailed in the second half of the movie.  It was neither great nor terrible, but was only okay.

Grade: B-

Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, some language, and violence.

Library Happenings – Arrival of new materials now being cataloged

By Angie Georgeff

Good news!  We have new materials arriving just in time for the spring pollen, so if you are stuck indoors, you can at least be entertained.  We recently received another book order, which is being cataloged and processed, and placed an order for DVDs, which should arrive soon. Along with new novels by the usual suspects, we have chosen books by authors with whom you may not be so familiar.

George Saunders’s historical fiction/ghost story “Lincoln in the Bardo” sent me to Google to find the definition of bardo. In Tibetan Buddhism, it is a transitional state of existence between death and rebirth.  For Westerners, it suggests a kind of limbo where spirits may linger after death until they decide to move on.  The novel is set in 1862, on the night when President Abraham Lincoln visits the Washington, DC cemetery where his eleven-year-old son Willie has just that day been interred.

While the cemetery appears to be deserted, it is filled with spirits that are reluctant to move on.  Disturbed by his father’s visit, Willie Lincoln’s spirit is among them, and the others seek to persuade him to complete his journey to the Other Side.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Kathleen Rooney’s “Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk” celebrates life.  Inspired by the life of Macy’s advertising executive and poet Margaret Fishback, Rooney takes Lillian on a walk through her beloved New York City. It is New Year’s Eve 1984 but style-conscious octogenarian Lillian is warm in the mink coat she bought herself in 1942.  She intends to dine at Delmonico’s as she does every New Year’s Eve and then walk through the city to attend a party hosted by a young photographer whom she met in the park.  Along the way, she encounters a motley succession of her fellow New Yorkers and recounts the story of her artistic life and remarkable career.

“A Piece of the World,” by Christina Baker Kline, the bestselling author of “Orphan Train,” considers the circumscribed life of Christina Olson.  Despite–or perhaps because of–the limitations imposed on her by a debilitating disease and the demands of her family, Olson inspired Andrew Wyeth’s iconic painting “Christina’s World.”  In the foreground, a woman wearing a pink dress has been crawling through an amber meadow toward an isolated farmhouse situated at the top of a gentle slope.  Her head is raised and she is gazing toward the weathered house.  We do not see her face and therefore cannot read her thoughts.  And so we speculate.

In 1939, Wyeth was introduced to the middle-aged Christina Olson by his future wife while he was summering near the Olson farm in Cushing, Maine.  In later years, Wyeth set up his studio in the house Christina shared with her younger brother, and in 1948, Wyeth painted “Christina’s World.”  Kline’s book imagines what that world was really like and how the renown of the painting affected Christina.

Movie Night – ‘Hidden Figures’ example of right person for job

By Bradley Griffith

The 1960s were perhaps the most exciting time in the history of space exploration.  The race to best the Soviet Union in every category, including the race to space, was paramount in the minds of nearly every American.  “Hidden Figures” is about the unknown story of a few black women who were integral in helping the United States achieve space flight.

The year is 1961 and the movie begins with three friends and coworkers with a flat tire in the middle of nowhere on their way to work.  Katherine Goble (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) are on their way to Langley Research Center in Virginia where they work for NASA.  A police officer approaches them with an attitude typical for the time until he discovers that they work for NASA.  He’s so concerned about the Soviet threat to our country that he gives the ladies a police escort to work.

Katherine, Dorothy, and Mary are part of a group of black women who work in a segregated area known as West Area Computers.  They have separate bathrooms, water fountains, and a room where only black women work.  Dorothy is the acting supervisor and hands out assignments to the women on a daily basis.  Katherine is a mathematician.  She’s not just an average, run-of-the-mill mathematician, but a genius in her field.  Mary has the intellect and desire, but not the education, to be an engineer.

Things begin to change for Katherine when she is assigned to the Space Task Force on a permanent basis.  Katherine is to work as a computer for Al Harrison (Kevin Costner), the head of the Space Task Force.  Katherine is hampered in her job because, among other things, the only bathroom in the entire research center that she can use is over two miles away at the West Computing Group.

Katherine is also prohibited from meetings and not privy to certain information that is necessary to her job.  She’s kept out of these meetings because she is a black woman.  In fact, all of the women from the West Computing Group are constantly discriminated against and underestimated because of the color of their skin and their gender.  Fortunately, Al Harrison comes to realize that they will only be able to launch a man into space and bring him back with Katherine’s help.

The first thing that jumps out at you from “Hidden Figures” is that this was an embarrassing time in our history.  These women were treated as second class citizens because they were women and because they were black.  The best line in the movie belongs to Katherine when she is told there is no protocol for a woman attending a meeting with officials from the Department of Defense.  She replies that there’s no protocol for sending a man into space, but they are doing it anyway.

The mathematical calculations that are necessary for space travel are amazingly complex.  If you thought you just point a rocket at the sky and shoot, think again.  Everything must be 100 percent perfect to effect space travel.  Even more complex are the calculations necessary to return a capsule to Earth after orbit.  The movie excels at illustrating the difficulties of space travel without bombarding you with numbers and formulas.

The movie takes place during the height of the Cold War.  The American and Soviets were doing everything in their power to outdo the other.  The race to space was one of many Cold War battlefronts.  It’s interesting to see the competition with the Soviet Union and the paranoia that gripped many Americans during this period of history.

“Hidden Figures” is a movie about discrimination and segregation.  It’s a shameful time in our history. But it’s also a movie whose true purpose is to bring everyone together, to unite the country.  “Hidden Figures” is the ultimate example of getting the right person for the job regardless of race or gender, and it’s an important lesson needs to be learned even today.

Grade: A-

Rated PG for thematic elements and some language.

From the Publisher’s Desk – Don’t venture beyond the pretty facade

By Keith Whitson

I love travel, but unfortunately I haven’t done as much in the last few years. Cruises are top on my list because once I get checked in and on board, I don’t have to worry about a thing except which activity I would like to do next and which food to gorge myself on next.

I have often gone on cruises alone and enjoy the time to myself or to even reach out and make new friends. I have also repeated some of the cruise destinations. In doing that, I don’t try to rush off at every port and see all there is to see. I just go to the places at each stop that I know I enjoy the most.

When getting off the ship at a destination port, tourists are generally faced with shop after shop of gifts to meet the needs of bringing back something to everyone back  home.  These shops are not a good representation of the location and many gifts may have not even been made there. Beyond this “Hollywood production set” of a misleading facade is where the true culture lies.

I like to go off the beaten paths, wander the back streets, find interesting people to talk to and see the true inner heartbeat of how people work and live there. I have even had invitations to relax by the pool at some tropical spots.

For some reason I never see danger. Maybe I am much too naive. However, all of that changed when I visited one particular country. The area beyond the tourist section was run down. The streets were filthy with trash stacked up in alleyways.  It was certainly not the image they wanted tourists to see.

Advertisements painted on facades held a glimpse of what was once a vibrant area. The extreme heat and the lack of upkeep had taken its toll on the signs. I could still barely make out the images through the curled and peeling paint shreds of sun bleached hues.

Desperate mothers were on the streets trying to sell eggs to make some money.  Tired, elderly men were sitting on door stoops making the best of another day identical to the hundreds prior. Dirty children were kicking a can down the sidewalk.

One back street led me to an elderly man who was waving a basket. He sat on a bucket, which was turned upside down, outside a dark doorway. It was apparent he had to work outside for better lighting. Still, his weary eyes squinted to focus on his handiwork. The man’s weathered face and hands were an open book to the harsh reality of his daily existence.

I stopped to ask if I could make his photo. He nodded in agreement. I positioned my viewfinder for the best angle to accent his character and pushed the shutter. Instantly he stopped his work, held out his hand and in broken English said “One dollar.” I was a bit stunned but still knew that $1 to him was probably like $100 or more to me. I gave him the money, smiled and walked on to the end of the street.

As I turned the corner, I glanced back once more to keep the visual image of the old man fresh in my mind. It was a mistake and something that to this day I regret.

We often take things for granted here and are so blessed that we don’t realize the harshness of other countries. I wasn’t aware that anyone was watching when I gave him the money but obviously they were.

I looked back to see several young boys rushing up to the old man, demanding the money. He tried to refuse but they roughed him up and I saw him begin to bleed. After useless pleading, he finally handed the dollar over. They took the basket of his skilled handiwork, which he had spent many hours making, and stomped it flat with their feet, completely destroying it.

I saw the boys look my way and I immediately proceeded along. My heart was racing with fear for me and grief for him.

As I walked on I was saddened by the poverty of the country. Maybe I would have been better off to have stayed within the picture perfect tourist area, only viewed what was presented to me and come away with a happy misconception. Yet, I had allowed myself the opportunity to see the reality.

It was pointless to try and see anymore of the back streets for fear of encountering more violence or witnessing more grief. Plus, it was getting close time for me to get back to the ship.

I thought if only I could help that elderly man. It was then as if a miracle happened. I passed a small shop where the owner was standing outside. He noticed my camera and offered to buy it at the equivalent of $1,500 U.S. dollars. It was far more than I had in it and I had been wanting to get a new one anyway. I could give the elderly man a portion. I agreed, but then he replied “April Fools,” which I, in turn, say to readers of this column.

This story is true up through where I gave the man a dollar. After that it is all false. I hope I fooled a few of you this year.

Hood’s Winks – ‘Govmint’ changes are often hardest

By Ralph Hood

As the great Will Rogers used to say—“Well, all I know is what I read in the papers.”

In the last week I read a newspaper story that just amazed me—or would have amazed me if I hadn’t seen our govmint in action heretofore. It seems that a law was enacted last year that prohibited Erwin’s NFS from using force to protect the company from evil folk. Hey, folks, we’re not talking about a coffee shop here; we’re talking about NFS, the company that provides nuclear fuel to our govmint. Surely NFS should have a right to protect that product from the bad guys.

Then, lo and behold, after they enacted that rule, they discovered the blunder. NFS was supposed to have the right to use such force. Somebody goofed!

Now remember, this was last year. I don’t know exactly when last year, but sometime last year. That’s a long time to ignore such a critical error.

Well, I thought, I bet they jumped on that goof up and changed it quickly!

Wrong! At the time I read the story last week, our esteemed govmint still hadn’t corrected the mistake!

Can you believe it? I can, because this is not the first such error. How many of you remember the public fussing loudly about the income tax “marriage penalty”? As I remember it, two married people paid more income tax than two single people who had the same income. We were thus penalizing married people and rewarding people who don’t marry.

People fussed and moaned and the govmint dithered and dawdled. I guess they finally fixed that problem, but I don’t remember when. Seems to me that we fussed about it for years.

OTOH, the govmint sometimes passes a law, then leaves it in force too long. For one example, in the U.S.A. we started using catalytic converters, by mandate, in 1975. We’re still using them today to lower the danger from exhaust systems.

Even if it was a good law in 1975, we have to wonder if that mandate is still the best way to clean up exhausts after all these years.

Maybe. Maybe not.

Just imagine that a brilliant auto engineer discovers a way to replace the catalytic converter with a new gadget that is cheaper and more efficient. Would his boss remind him that the law mandates the catalytic converter? Or would his boss decide to fight the legal battle for years, at great expense, in order to replace the catalytic converter with the new device?

The same story is true whenever we mandate a solution, instead of mandating results and leaving the solutions up to the competitive marketplace. The same is true when the govmint mandates anything that allows only one way to—as we used to say—skin a cat.

From the Publisher’s Desk – Some ‘punny’ things to make you laugh

By Keith Whitson

I love some good double entendre or better known as puns. The English language is pretty twisted as it is and one of the more difficult languages to learn for foreigners. I recently came across some puns and other humorous thoughts that I hope you enjoy as much as I did.

I tried to catch some fog. I mist.

When chemists die, they barium.

Jokes about German sausage are the wurst.

I need to stop drinking so much milk. It’s an udder disgrace.

I know a guy who’s addicted to brake fluid. He says he can stop anytime.

How does Moses make his tea? Hebrews it.

I stayed up all night to see where the sun went. Then it dawned on me.

I’m reading a book about anti-gravity. I can’t put it down.

I did a theatrical performance about puns. It was a play on words.

They told me I had a type A blood, but it was a Type O.

A dyslexic man walks into a bra.

Why is the man who invests all your money called a broker?

Why were the Indians here first? They had reservations.

Class trip to the Coca-Cola factory. I hope there’s no pop quiz.

Engergizer Bunny arrested: Charged with battery.

I didn’t like my beard at first. Then it grew on me.

What do you call a dinosaur with a extensive vocabulary? A thesaurus.

When you get a bladder infection, urine trouble.

What does a clock do when it’s hungry? It goes back four seconds.

I wondered why the baseball was getting bigger. Then it hit me.

Broken pencils are pointless.

She was only a whiskey maker, but he loved her still.

A rubber band pistol was confiscated from algebra class because it was a weapon of math disruption.

No matter how much you push the envelope, it will still be stationery.

A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited for littering.

Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie.

A hole has been found in the nudist camp wall. The police are looking into it.

Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

Atheism is a non-prophet organization.

Two hats were hanging on a hat rack in the hallway. One hat said to the other: “You stay here; I’ll go on a head.”

A sign on the lawn at a drug rehab center said “Keep off the grass.”

When cannibals ate a missionary, they got a taste of religion.

What’s the difference between a poorly dressed man on a bicycle and a nicely dressed man on a tricycle? A tire.

A vulture boards an airplane carrying two dead raccoons. The stewardess looks at him and says, “I’m sorry, sir, only one carrion allowed per passenger.”

Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in the craft. Unsurprisingly it sank, proving once again that you can’t have your kayak and heat it too.

Two hydrogen atoms meet. One says, “I’ve lost my electron.” The other says “Are you sure?” The first replies, “Yes, I’m positive.”

Did you hear about the Buddhist who refused Novocain during a root canal? His goal: transcend dental medication.

Don’t spell part backwards. It’s a trap.

I can’t believe I got fired from the calendar factory. All I did was take a day off.

I relish the fact that you’ve mustard the strength to ketchup to me.

How did I escape Iraq? Iran.

I wasn’t originally going to get a brain transplant, but then I changed my mind.

I’d tell you a chemistry joke but I know I would get a reaction.

Why was Cinderella thrown off the basketball team? She ran away from the ball.

What do you call the security outside of a Samsung store? Guardians of the Galaxy.

eBay is so useless. I tried to look up lighters and all they had was 13,749 matches.

I’m glad I know sign language. It’s pretty handy.

When I get naked in the bathroom, the shower usually gets turned on.

Why did the scientist install a knocker on his door? He wanted to win the no bell prize.

My first job was working in an orange juice factory, but I got canned: couldn’t concentrate.

A book just fell on my head. I’ve only got my shelf to blame.

What do prisoners use to call each other? Cell phones.

Did you hear about the Italian chef with a terminal illness? He pasta way.

Having sex in an elevator is wrong on so many levels.

Why did the bee get married? Because he found his honey.

What do you call Watson when Sherlock isn’t around? Homeless.

And, I put the “fun” in dysfunctional.

I hope you got a laugh out of these and found them “punny.”

A Refreshing Knapp – Weather keeps gardeners guessing

By Ray Knapp

According to the calendar the spring equinox arrived in Erwin, Tennessee a couple of days ago at 6:29 EDT. Fortunately we have people around who waste their time figuring out trivia like that as Mother Nature had people guessing all winter if spring was here, or not. My neighbor mowed his yard during the middle of February and he wasn’t the only one. I saw other people around town mowing as well. Some of my flowers were tricked too, and bloomed like Easter had arrived two months early.

Calendar –wise, spring is here already and I’ve got to take the rotor-tiller and lawn mower down to the shop for a tune up. There’s a garden to plant and a yard that I’m just itching to mow – once it warms up a bit.

I recall when I lived around Flag Pond, farmers generally planted potatoes on the 14th of March, but this year winter decided to come back on that day and the temperature didn’t get above freezing. I don’t know when they will plant now with the weather acting so crazy. People that don’t like to chance replanting their gardens play it safe and wait until after the 10th of May.

However, it’s so tempting to get those seeds in the ground when flowers are blooming, trees leafing out and everything looking so fresh and renewed that you just can’t keep from planting a few tomato plants and onion sets, then before you can stop, you have the whole garden planted; often having to cover the young plants with paper bags on frosty, late spring nights.

There are a few fruit trees around the yard – which if the cold weather doesn’t kill the fruit in the bud, I intend to spray this year. The trees had fruit last year, but worms ate most of the apples and pears. As much as I hate to, I guess spraying is the only way to have any fruit. But lately I’ve been hearing so much about pesticides killing off bees and people saying it causes cancer I’m almost afraid to use commercial insect repellents. We’re likely not to get pollination if we kill off all the bees and the fruit may be dangerous to eat with all the cancer causing ingredients in commercial insect spray.

If I recall right, my Dad made a homemade remedy for aphids, mites and scales He would mix a teaspoon of vegetable oil and a teaspoon of dishwashing soap for each cup of water; take a gallon or so of this and spray the fruit tree leaves; washing the soap away after a few hours, as he claimed it would burn the leaves up if you left it on. Seems I recall me and my brothers also picking Japanese beetles, and other pests, off the plants by hand.

My best bet would be to go back to high school and relearn how to grow a garden and take care of fruit trees. Here in Unicoi County the high school has such a program. (Not for people my age – but for high school students.) Most local people have heard about it and it will be soon be known across the state as a local student is on the cover of the spring edition of Tennessee Home & Farm Magazine watering flowers right down there at the school’s greenhouse, and there’s also a wonderful story in the magazine telling what these students have accomplished. Those flowers I mentioned, along with other plants are sold to keep the program solvent.

Lucas Anders, the teacher for the FFA class even has plans to harvest some of the vegetables they grow to
supplement the food served in the school’s lunch room.

I bought some tomato plants and flowers from the FFA class last year, and they did quite well – which is a wonder, considering my usual poor luck in growing stuff. Or, as my wife says, “You certainly weren’t born with a “green thumb.”

But, green thumb, or not, there is nothing like having your own garden. There’s nothing at the supermarket that tastes better, and there’s a certain pride in saying, “Why yes, I did grow those vegetables myself.”

Movie Night – ‘Skull Island’ brings new technology to Kong

By Bradley Griffith

Kong is once again king, of the box office.  The latest version of the gargantuan ape hit theaters with a bang, bringing in almost double industry forecasts.  While it exceeded box-office expectations, this is a movie that gives you exactly what you expect from a Kong movie.

In 1973 the Vietnam War is essentially over with military personnel withdrawing from the battlefield and returning home.  Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) doesn’t want to go home.  He is the commander of a helicopter squadron with orders to return home, before he gladly receives one final mission.

Packard’s squadron is to transport a team of scientists led by Bill Randa (John Goodman) onto a previously uncharted speck in the ocean known as Skull Island.  The island is surrounded by a perpetual lightning storm, meaning that no one had actually seen the island until a satellite picture showed Skull Island to be as peaceful as the eye of a hurricane.

Also on the expedition is former British Special Air Service Captain James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) as the expedition’s tracker and Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), who calls herself an anti-war photographer.  Conrad has become a mercenary who joins the expedition only for a hefty sum of money.  Mason believes she is going to reveal a massive government operation with her camera.

When the helicopter squadron makes it through the storm surrounding the island they think the hard part is over.  Until they see Kong, an ape over 100 feet tall and filled with rage.  The choppers are trespassing on his turf.  Kong easily destroys all the helicopters and the survivors are spread across the island.

Conrad leads one group toward the north end of the island to meet the helicopters that are to serve as their exfiltration plan in three days while Packard wants revenge against Kong for killing his men.  But Kong is not the only danger that lurks around every corner on Skull Island.

“Skull Island” closely follows its predecessors in that it’s big, bold, and loud.  It’s an adventure movie with action in almost every scene.  Many types of giant creatures are on the island, and just about all of them want to kill the expedition team.  From enormous spiders to giant water buffaloes, everything about the Skull Island ecosystem is huge.  The best scenes of the film involve giant creatures battling each other.

It’s very reminiscent of 2005’s “King Kong” starring Naomi Watts and Jack Black.  In that movie a group of people travel to a remote island that many say doesn’t exist to find a giant ape, but when they get there they find many more giant problems.  Maybe Kong needs other giants as his adversary to make it interesting, but the plot of “Skull Island” has been done before.

Samuel L. Jackson overacts the part of Colonel Packard.  Every Kong film has a human nemesis, but attempting to stare down a giant gorilla with nothing to fight back with but a stern look on your face seems a bit ridiculous.  On the other hand, Corey Hawkins is very good in his supporting role as a young scientist along for the ride and John C. Reilly provides much-needed comic relief as a pilot who was trapped on the island since World War II.

Anyone who has seen any of the Kong films knows that a recurring theme is that Kong is not the villain.  He’s just misunderstood. That is also the case in “Skull Island.”  In fact, there’s not a lot of originality in the movie.

What the movie does contain is great special effects with ample amounts of explosions, adventure, and giant beasts battling to the death. It’s Kong updated with new technology, with better special effects and great action scenes, which is what makes “Skull Island” worth seeing.  If you enjoy this type of movie, it’s worth seeing on the big screen.

Grade: B+

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for brief strong language.

Library Happenings – Story’s third anniversary celebration planned

By Angie Georgeff

I recently took Story, our beloved library cat, for her annual checkup and vaccinations. She has been greeting visitors to the library for three years now, and is arguably the most popular member of our staff. She also is an excellent “ambassador” for the Unicoi County Animal Shelter, since that is where she lived before she came here. I feel sure that Story would want me to share this information with you, since she is one of the cats who has benefitted from their compassionate care.

In partnership with the Unicoi County Humane Society and the Margaret Mitchell Low Cost Spay Neuter Clinic, the shelter is offering special prices on feline spay/neuters during the month of March. The first 25 cats registered for the clinic on March 30 will receive a special price of $25, which includes the surgery and rabies vaccinations.

This program is only available to Unicoi County residents, and cats must be registered by Monday, March 27 in order to take advantage of the special low price. The shelter advises registration at your earliest convenience. It is located at 185 North Industrial Drive in Erwin, and is open Monday through Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m.  You may contact the shelter at 743-3071 with any questions you have.

We will be marking the third anniversary of Story’s adoption with a special Gotcha Day celebration which will be held at the library on March 22 from 3 to 5 p.m. Please join us for a sweet treat in honor of a very sweet kitty. Story is always happy to see her friends, and so are we.

Spotlight Book

I don’t know how many of you have heard of Fredrik Backman, but if you haven’t yet, you soon will. He is the Swedish author of “A Man Called Ove” and several other books. And Ove is the name that launched a thousand pronunciations. It seems that if you say “oova” and put the emphasis on the first syllable, then you won’t be far wrong, but probably not quite right. Since I have never studied Swedish, I tried a German pronunciation the first time I saw it, and I was completely wrong.

However you may pronounce his name, Ove is a curmudgeon who plagues his neighbors with his set ways and his quick temper. His routine is radically upset when a young couple with two daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten his mailbox with their U-Haul. Our staff and patrons who have read “A Man Called Ove” have adored it, so we recently ordered more books by Fredrik Backman, including his latest “Britt-Marie Was Here.” Look for them soon or call the library at 743-6533 to be put on the hold list.

From the Publisher’s Desk – March on to the madness of spring

By Keith Whitson

I changed the date at the top of this page to correspond with the Roman calendar marking this the halfway point of the month. The Ides of March is a phrase derived from the Latin idus.

It was Shakespeare who brought us the phrase “Beware the Ides of March.” “The Tragedy of Julius Caesar” immortalized this dark moment, written by William Shakespeare around 1599.

Supposedly, in 44 BC, a seer told Julius Caesar that his downfall would come no later than the Ides of March. Caesar ignored him, and when the fated day rolled around he joked with the seer, “The Ides of March have come.” The seer replied, “aye, Caesar; but not gone.”

Caesar continued on to a senate meeting at the Theatre of Pompey, and was murdered by as many as 60 conspirators. Ironically, the spot where Caesar was assassinated is protected in today’s Rome as a no-kill cat sanctuary.

March also brings us a wide array of interesting quirkiness. For one, there is the saying “In like a lion, out like a lamb.” If it is opposite coming in the saying then goes “In like a lamb, out like a lion. I hate to say, but I have found this saying typically true. However, I think the lion and lamb aren’t sure which one is in charge this year with all of the unusual weather.

March also brings us St. Patrick, who was actually born in Roman Britain at the end of the 4th century AD and taken to Ireland by slavers when he was a teenager.

The exact place of his birth is debatable as some say Scotland and some say Wales but, either way, he’s Irish now.

Patrick is said to have banished the snakes from Ireland but in fact, Ireland never had any snakes as the weather was too miserable for the cold-blooded reptiles.

Saint Patrick’s Crozier was honored with devotion for centuries in Dublin’s Christ Church only to be publicly burned in 1538 under the orders of the archbishop, George Browne.

Maybe that sadness is why the day is known for the large consumption of beer. The global corporate-relations director of Guinness says 5.5 million pints of Guinness are sold on any given day, but this figure rises to 13 million on St. Patrick’s Day.

As a side note, if you are looking for some good local St. Patrick’s Day fun, check out the Choo Choo Cafe. The historic landmark will be open this Friday from 5 to 8 p.m. with special appetizers, Irish food and beer sampling.

The second floor of the business will feature tables and lounge areas. You can also take to the large dance space as you tap your feet to the music of the Spivey Mountain Boys. The Choo Choo Cafe is located at 111 South Main.

Another date associated with March is Daylight Saving Time. I am not a fan of this totally life confusing method. President Trump, “Make America great again” and end this time tampering measure.

Daylight saving time in the US started as an energy conservation trick during World War I, and became a national standard in the 1960s. The idea is to shift the number of daylight hours we get into the evening. So if the sun sets at 8 pm instead of 7 pm, we would presumably spend less time with the lights on in our homes at night, saving on electricity.

It’s like the whole country has been given one hour of jet lag. One hour of lost sleep sounds like a small change, but we humans are fragile, sensitive creatures. Small disruptions in our sleep have been shown to alter basic indicators of our health and dull our mental edge. Being an hour off schedule means our bodies are not prepared for the actions we partake in at any time of the day.

On March 20th, spring begins or possibly summer, winter or fall here in East Tennessee. Apparently it is easier to lose our seasons than it is to lose daylight saving time. I spent last summer watering everything in my yard to keep it alive. I am now grabbing up every cardboard box I can find to cover things and protect them. School snow days have now turned into heavy frost days.

For some, the month brings March Madness. The NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament features teams from the Division I level of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), to determine the national championship. The tournament was created in 1939 by the National Association of Basketball Coaches, and was the idea of Ohio State University coach Harold Olsen.

March 21st will also mark the 11th anniversary of Twitter and the preferred method of communication for our newest President Donald Trump. .

Not only is March Women’s History Month, but it’s also American Red Cross Month and Fire Prevention Month. Another popular holiday is Read Across America on March 2, which is Dr. Seuss’ birthday.

In the words of Dr. Seuss “Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.”

I will end with another Seuss saying. “Time marches on and so does this month. It will be summer soon and that is enough.”

Adam’s Apples – Country’s not just country anymore

By James Mack Adams

It is time to confess.  I plead no contest and throw myself on the mercy of the court of public opinion.  I am a life-long fan of country music but I must admit I no longer watch the televised annual Academy of Country Music Awards show.  Four years ago, I watched about an hour of the production before switching channels.  I haven’t made it through an entire show since.

Country music?  Really?  I challenge whether some of what is called country music today deserves the label.  That opinion comes from an octogenarian (me) who grew up a few miles from the “Birthplace of Country Music” (Bristol) and who once lived within a short drive of “Music City” (Nashville).

Before I get into more trouble with some readers let me say there are some modern country entertainers whose music I enjoy.  Others not so much.  Not everyone who puts on a cowboy hat, straps on a guitar and screams some unintelligible lyrics into a microphone qualifies for the title of “country artist.”  Again, that’s one person’s opinion…mine.

When it comes to music and art I suppose some could accuse me of being a purist.  “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”  Sometimes the original, using art and music as examples, is better than any attempt to improve on it.      

I accept that personal tastes in music are often generational.  Has any parent ever understood the music to which his or her child listens?  Probably not.  My parents lived through the big band era of the 1930s and 1940s.  They had trouble understanding my fascination with 1950s “classic” rock and roll.  It was their opinions that Elvis and The Beatles were just passing fads and would not make it far in the music business.

Mountain, country, hillbilly, roots music, whatever you choose to call it, is an integral part of the fabric and history of Appalachia.  Early settlers came to these mountains with instruments that were often homemade. They also brought with them music traditions that have evolved over the years but have in large part remained true to their origins.  Traditional Appalachian music is said to be based on Anglo-Celtic folk ballads and dance tunes.

I was glad to read in this newspaper that the First Annual Upper East Tennessee Fiddler’s Convention is scheduled for April 29 at the old Flag Pond School.  The event will celebrate Unicoi County’s and Northeast Tennessee’s rich musical heritage.  It is written that East Tennessee’s own David Crockett was known for his fiddle playing.  Let’s hope the event is a huge success.

It was not unusual for those early mountain musicians not to read music.  The same was often true for later performers.  Appearing on a late-night television talk show many years ago, country singer Jimmy Dean was asked if any of the musicians in Nashville could read music.  “A little but not enough to hurt their playing any” was his reply.     

I might insert a footnote here.  Some may know Jimmy Dean more for his sausage than his singing.

In 1927, Ralph Peer, a record executive with the Victor Talking Machine Co. came to Bristol, set up a temporary recording studio in a building on State Street, and invited local musicians to come and  record for him.  He recorded 76 songs by 19 different acts.  Among performers who accepted the invitation were The Carter

Family and Jimmie Rodgers.  The commercial success of the recordings would many years later lead to Bristol being named the “Birthplace of Country Music.”

One of my favorite country singers was a Bristol native.  His name was Ernest Jennings Ford, better known as Tennessee Ernie Ford.  Some of my uncles were Southwest Virginia coal miners.  Ernie’s song, “Sixteen Tons,” was special to me.  As a child, I witnessed how my uncles toiled underground with pick and shovel to earn meager livings for their families.  Yes, I do remember the company store to which many a coal miner owed his soul.

Someone once described country music as three guitar chords and the truth.  The songs tell stories of everyday struggles and sometimes of overcoming personal demons.  Over the years, favorite lyric subjects have been such things as home, family, faith, trains, trucks, drinking, honkytonks, divorce, prison, etc.

I grew up in Appalachia bombarded from all sides by country (hillbilly) music.  I have always liked country, but at times during my life I hesitated to admit it for fear of being called a hillbilly hick.  As country entertainer Barbara Mandrel sings in one of her signature songs, “I was country when country wasn’t cool.”

Library Happenings – Surname brings search into Irish heritage

By Angie Georgeff

When I was little, I thought that because my surname was O’Dell my family was Irish. We celebrated St. Patrick’s Day by wearing green, but we never ate corned beef and cabbage or recounted any Irish folk tales. I now know why:  the Odells are English. There certainly were clues.

My grandfather George Alfred bore the names of the patron saint of England and the only English king called “Great.” He wrote his surname as his ancestors had, with no apostrophe or capital “D.” That is, until he joined the U.S. Army during the Philippine-American War. That was when his commanding officer, Captain O’Dell, informed George that he was Irish and that he wasn’t writing his name correctly. I doubt that George had ever thought much about it, so he accepted his commander’s pronouncement, tweaked his name and claimed to be “Irish.”

As it turned out, quite a few of my forbears had made their home on the Emerald Isle—just not the Odells. During my genealogical research, I learned that the greatest percentage of my ancestors were Scots-Irish, Protestants who were represented by the orange band on the tricolor Irish flag rather than the green of the native Catholic population. They had left the Scottish Lowlands during a time of English oppression, and settled in the Irish province of Ulster. They eventually acquired the color and name of Orangemen for their support of the British King William III of Orange. While William was popular with my Presbyterian forefathers, his successors were not.

When English persecution of religious dissenters followed them to Ireland, many of them left for America. Most of my Scots-Irish ancestors entered the colonies at Philadelphia, settling for a while in the backwoods of Pennsylvania. They then followed the Great Appalachian Valley south into Augusta County, Virginia and eventually came on into Tennessee. According to the “Washington Post,” Irish heritage is claimed by more Americans than any other ancestry except German. Even so, the 88.9 percent of us who are not Irish can still wear green and claim to be Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. It worked for my grandfather George.

Board Meeting

The Board of Trustees of the Unicoi County Public Library will meet in the library lobby at 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 16. The public is welcome to attend. If you should need any special accommodations, please call the library at 743-6533.

Easter Forecast

The April forecast calls for fun. Planning is underway for our upcoming Easter celebration for kids. If you would like to help, donations of plastic eggs and wrapped candy would be very much appreciated. Thank you!

Movie Night – ‘Arrival’ latest movie about aliens on Earth

By Bradley Griffith

The latest movie about aliens arriving on Earth is now available for rental in your home.  But, don’t expect an alien invasion movie.  Starring Amy Adams, “Arrival” is more a mystery and a study of the relationships between humans than any threat of aliens.

Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is a linguist and a professor at an unnamed university.  In what appear to be flashbacks throughout the movie Louise relives her life with her daughter until her daughter’s diagnosis and resulting death from cancer.  Louise is haunted by these visions.

In the midst of her despair a global emergency arises when twelve extra-terrestrial spaceships appear across the planet.  The spaceships seemingly do nothing other than hover a short distance above the ground.  Louise maintains her everyday routine, even though students stop attending classes because of the alien spacecraft.

A few days later Louise is approached by U.S. Army Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker).  Weber wants Louise to use her extensive knowledge of languages to help communicate with the aliens inside the ships.  Louise is quickly whisked away to a waiting helicopter where she meets Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner).  Ian is a physicist from Los Alamos National Laboratory.  Louise and Ian are a team and must work together to communicate with the aliens.

The team arrives in Montana to work with the UFO hovering above the isolated landscape.  Louise and Ian are dressed in hazmat suits and raised up into the spaceship.  Louise is amazed to see extremely unusual aliens on the other side of a glass barrier attempting to communicate with them in a very complex language.

Though teams are working at all twelve of the sites across the world, it’s Louise and Ian who make the most progress.  The issue is whether they will be able to decipher the language before the powers that be decide to respond to the alien crafts with hostility.

The plot of “Arrival” incorrectly sounds like an alien invasion movie.  Instead, the film is a mystery.  The mystery is why the aliens came, what they want from us, and what are they trying to tell us in their intricate written language.  Louise and Ian spend countless hours poring over these questions to avoid a military response to the vessels.

The movie is filmed with an overabundance of ominous tones and sounds that are intended to heighten the dark mood of the movie and accompany the revelations as the movie unfolds.  They help create a sense of foreboding at first, but then quickly start to irritate as the overpowering sounds are played on an almost constant basis during nearly every scene, which causes them to lose any effect they may have once held.

“Arrival” also illuminates how quickly people can turn against members of their own team in the face of adversity.  When people across the globe decide that they can’t understand the intentions of the aliens they turn against not only the aliens, but their own people.  In its own way, the movie reveals more about humans than any fictitious aliens.

“Arrival” was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture and has been widely lauded as one of the best movies of 2016.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t live up to the hype.  In many places during the movie the story drags and becomes almost boring.  It’s not a terrible movie, but it’s a strange one and the final revelation is somewhat anti-climactic.  It certainly doesn’t qualify as the “best” anything.

Grade: B

Rated PG-13 for brief strong language.

From the Publisher’s Desk – Norman Rockwell has left town

By Keith Whitson

On Wednesday mornings we hold our breath at The Erwin Record. It doesn’t take long before we know if it is going to be a good day or a bad one. It is all determined by telephone calls. If it is quiet, things went smoothly. If the three incoming lines are ringing off the hook, we know one or more have failed.

I am talking about newspaper carriers and the delivery of The Erwin Record. Since we are part of a larger newspaper group, with the Johnson City Press being one, our newspaper is delivered by the same carriers. They pick up the newspapers around midnight on Tuesday and hopefully have the paper in your box by the time you wake up.

Sometimes there are new carriers that aren’t so familiar with their route, some carriers are very dependable and do their best, and then there are those who seemingly don’t care. Do we complain? Yes. Does it do any good? No.

We take getting your newspaper to you seriously. We put a lot of effort into it and we appreciate every newspaper subscription and every newspaper purchased.

We continually update subscriptions in the system. We print out lists of names and addresses for the carriers. We have bundles for every route already counted and sorted. Still, new subscriptions often get missed because they just don’t read the list.

Please, if you don’t get your newspaper in your box, let us know as soon as you can. We put notes in the system for the carriers. We can’t try to correct the problem if we don’t know there is one. A replacement newspaper will be brought out to you the next day. I wish it could be the same day, but costs will not allow it. However, if you happen to be in town, you can stop by the office and pick up a copy of your missed paper.

Kathy Carmichael is over circulation for us at the newspaper. Many of you have been greeted by her when you walk in the office here at 218 Gay St. Others have talked with Kathy on the phone. Kathy takes selling newspaper subscriptions serious.

In her free moments here, she makes call after call telling of our special rates. Yet, week after week we have subscribers call in and say they have had enough. They have been missed again and far too many times, so they will just pick one up at the rack.

Last week I had one subscriber bring in his copy of the newspaper to show me what condition it was in. He has requested that the newspaper be put in his box underneath his post office box, which makes sense.

His carrier continues to throw it in the yard, sometimes with a rubber band around it and other times just lose for the wind to carry it wherever. His newspaper also takes all the elements of weather because the carrier doesn’t put it in a plastic bag which is provided. Last week’s rain completely soaked his newspaper into one heavy, stuck together mess, which has happened before. He is giving us one more chance.

We have handicapped customers who request the newspaper be put on their porch. We try to arrange that but not always with luck.

We also have carriers tell us they ran out of newspapers and didn’t have enough. We know how many newspapers are needed for their route and we know how many we left, along with some extras. Why does this happen? They don’t read the list, but rather go by habit. If your subscription ran out you may still get a newspaper, leaving them short somewhere along the way.

We had one lady call in to say she didn’t get her newspaper. When we looked in the system, here subscription ran out almost a year ago but she had been getting the newspaper uninterrupted due to habit out of the carrier.

Some of you get both The Erwin Record and the Johnson City Press. We have customers call that they got one but not the other when it was the same carrier who should have left both.

Last week we had one customer say they dropped the Johnson City Press but were still subscribed to the Record. However, since they dropped the Press they haven’t gotten the Record. The carrier said it was five miles out of his way and he wasn’t going to take it. Google maps claims it to be less than one half mile.

To all those who have occasional trouble, I deeply apologize.

This isn’t how Norman Rockwell depicted a hometown. Maybe I need some kids on bicycles.

To all the carriers who are reading this and take pride in your work, thank you.

It’s an interesting life working in the newspaper field. Every week we could use the expression “That’s news to me.”

A Denney for Your Thoughts – Mad as it may be, time marches on

By Connie Denney

What do a planet, a sacred season for Christians, historic words of warning, an indicator of the current political atmosphere, a well-known Irish saint, a special kind of madness, seasonal changes and time, itself, have in common?

The month of March!  Named, as is the planet Mars, for the Roman god of war, the month is chock-full of observances.

Today, Wednesday, March 1, is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, 46 days before Easter, which falls on Sunday, April 16, this year.  A time of spiritual preparation for Easter, Lent ends Thursday, April 13. (From year-to-year, Ash Wednesday may come as early as February 4 or as late as March 10.)

Easter carries with it thoughts of renewal, as we anticipate spring.  With the unusual temperatures recently, we dare not count on certain weather on a given date.  But, the calendar recognizes Monday, March 20, as the beginning of spring.  The Spring Equinox is to occur at 6:29 a.m. EDT, to be exact.

Speaking of time, Daylight Saving Time begins Sunday, March 12.  In Tennessee that is to start at 2:00 a.m., to be exact.  It ends Sunday, November 5.

These “timely” announcements remind me of the analogy of the blanket, cutting off one end and sewing it to the other.  The point—I think—is that it makes no difference to the length of the blanket.  Well, maybe, it’s just one more thing to confuse and confound us!

One holiday folks may attach importance to for a variety of reasons is Saint Patrick’s Day.  Whether it calls up thoughts of the foremost patron saint of Ireland, reminds you of your Irish heritage or, mainly, of green beer—the holiday falls on March 17.

Wearing green on the 17th is important, according to my reading, to avoid having a leprechaun sneak up and pinch you.  Wearing green, you see, makes you invisible to the little guys.

Ides of March does not show up as a holiday on the square for the 15th on my calendar.  But, as the soothsayer warned Julius Caesar in William Shakespeare’s play named for the Roman dictator, “Beware the Ides of March.” Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC, March 15, to be exact, at a senate meeting.

As I looked on the Internet to refresh my Ides-of-March memory, “Ides of Trump” popped up.  Seriously!  I had to read on.  It seems there are protesters encouraging folks to use “Ides of Trump” on postcards they send on March 15 to the White House, expressing what they think on issues that matter to them. They were careful to point out they were not encouraging violence, however.

Although it may not be in bold letters on your calendar, March Madness needs no explanation for basketball fans.  Even for everyone else, no doubt, the term will come up as media attention turns to NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) tournament play.  It should be an interesting diversion from the Senate.

Religion, politics, sports, history, seasonal changes, madness, Mars and Roman gods–oh, my! Time marches on, daylight or not.

Movie Night – ‘John Wick 2’ brings action

By Bradley Griffith

He once killed three men in a bar.  With a pencil.  Keanu Reeves returns as the deadly assassin John Wick, who wants nothing more than to return to his peaceful life of retirement in the countryside.  “John Wick 2” is now in theaters.

“John Wick 2” picks up where the first movie ended.  All John (Keanu Reeves) wants to do is get his car back from those who stole it and go home.  Shortly after the events of the first movie John returns to the seedy underworld of organized crime in New York to take back what is his. The attempt at stealing his 1969 Mustang from Russian mobsters makes for a memorable opening sequence.

John finally makes it home.  After only a brief respite the doorbell rings.  Reluctantly, John opens the door to find Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) on his doorstep.  Santino is an Italian crime lord from the city.  His father recently passed away and his sister, Gianna D’Antonio (Claudia Gerini), has inherited the throne to the ill-gotten empire.  John doesn’t even want to invite Santino into his home, but he has no choice.

Santino asks John for a favor.  John refuses the request without even asking the nature of the favor.   John’s retired, he claims.  Santino produces a marker.  A marker is a medallion with John’s fingerprint in blood inside.  His fingerprint represents a blood oath he made to Santino.  Essentially, the marker means John pledged to perform any task requested by Santino.  It was the only way John could get out of a life of crime.  Still, John refuses the marker.

Not surprisingly, Santino does not take this denial of the marker well.  He destroys John’s home.  After seeking advice from an old friend, Winston (Ian McShane), John decides to play along and perform Santino’s request.  Before he turns his considerable talents on Santino.

“John Wick 2” is the mother of all action movies.  It’s the unquestioned king of shoot-em-up movies.  John is an unstoppable force of nature, a pure killing machine.  They call him the Boogeyman with good reason.  He leaves a veritable river of dead bodies in his wake.  The body count seems endless.  The entire movie feels like one long gun battle, with a few scenes of hand-to-hand combat.

The gunfights and fist fights are incredible.  The choreography of the fights scenes required the actors to perform with almost perfect timing and incredible physical abilities.  The running, jumping, flipping, falling, shooting, and fighting was almost non-stop and was simply amazing.  It’s obvious that Keanu Reeves had significant training with weapons and hand-to-hand combat to perform the physical requirements of the role.

Rapper Common makes a memorable return as Cassian, a steely-eyed assassin who is nearly as adept at his trade as John Wick.  Of all of the considerable amount of men and women who are dispatched to dispatch John, Cassian stands alone as the one person who might be up to the task.  John and Cassian engage in more than one memorable round of combat.

Action, action, action.  That’s what you expect with “John Wick 2.” You want guns blazing, fists flying, and cars roaring, and that is exactly what you get.  It’s refreshing, and unusual, to get from a movie exactly what you were wanting and expecting. Fans of the series will be happy to know that the movie’s ending sets up a third installment of the series.

Grade: A-

Rated R for strong violence throughout, some language, and brief nudity.

Library Happenings – Census, court records, newspapers available

By Angie Georgeff

If you love genealogy and local history as much as I do–and I know I’m not alone—you know how thrilling it is to find the census record, deed, will or obituary that has the information you’ve been seeking. You can’t wait to copy it and add it to your collection. If you’re not able to copy or print the document, it can be a major disappointment.  Or a major pain, if you have to transcribe it! If you’re a genuine optimist, you may consider it experiencing life as your ancestors lived it.

Our library is blessed with a large collection of court records and local newspapers on microfilm.Local history buffs and a significant number of visitors from other states come here to view our microfilm. They scan the film for minutes or hours or even for days following a trail of crumbs they hope will lead to the information that lured them here. They are thrilled when they stumble across it, but unfortunately, they cannot print out or email the precious documents they have found. Sometimes they are able to photograph the article with their smartphones, but that seldom results in a good quality image. The best I can offer is the email address of athe Tennessee State Library and Archives. They can make a copy from their microfilm and email it to the patron, but that involves time and expense.

If microfilm reader/printers were inexpensive, we’d already have one. They aren’t, but a generous gift has given us a substantial start on a fund toward the purchase of one.  Those who use them are well aware of their value, but even those who don’t have to admit they are necessary equipment for any library in an area that welcomes genealogy tourism.  People are more than willing to travel in search of their roots.  And when they travel, they stay at hotels, eat at restaurants, buy gasoline, visit local attractions and patronize local stores. For the benefit of our patrons and the good of our community, we intend to do all we can to raise the remainder of the cost and get a reader/printer for the library.  If you would like to help, we would welcome a donation in any amount.  Thank you!

New Books

Happy news!  State funds for library materials have been released, and we already have placed the first order. This purchase includes many of the books you have requested, so we will notify you when those books have been received, cataloged and processed. Now is the time to let us know which books you want to read! These funds have to be spent on in-stock titles by the middle of April, or they will disappear like Cinderella’s coach. Of course, we would never let that happen, but if you wait too long, your opportunity to suggest books for this round of funding will expire. The clock is ticking, so let us know what is on your wish list.