BlogCast: Billboard Chart Topper Mood / Moon Music

 

Full disclosure, I still am a diehard NASA geek. My fascination gets backdated to their Projects Mercury, Gemini and Apollo. So… yes… once again… this blog will rehash Apollo 11’s Golden Anniversary. But, try not to yawn and/or nod off… by blog’s end there’ll be an unanticipated, sonically / visually enhanced twist. That said, let’s blast this BlogCast off the launchpad…

This past Saturday evening, my primary mission became recreating 07/20/1969… inclusive of synchronizing my main timepiece to that half century old NASA timeline. And that countdown clock readout was telling me T-Minus 59:00 (OK… it was actually a red LED, forward moving digital alarm clock… so sue me!). Anyway, that meant I could fit in the playback of a mood enhancing compilation CD (featuring… what else… 1969’s pop songs). Yep, there was plenty of time before Neil Armstrong’s 10:56 p.m. EDT EVA, where he’d be taking his first “small step” onto the lunar surface.

By disc’s end it had suddenly dawned on me that I had heard two futuristically themed tracks, which had actually rocketed to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart during lunar missions… the 5th Dimension’s Aquarius / Let the Sunshine In syncing to the May flight of Apollo 10 AND Zagar & Evans’ In the Year 2525 matching up to the Apollo 11 odyssey.

However… it’s the two contrasting, lyrical story-lines that are even more compelling… namely… Aquarius’ conjecture re humankind’s better days ahead versus 2525’s prophecy of a stark dystopian society… inclusive of humanity’s end.

That got me wondering… was a group hug for humanity in order? After all, an astounding half-century had somehow managed to elapse sans some itchy trigger fingered, foolhardy prez insanely spiking nuclear WMDs planet-wide… to be followed by that dunce’s “victory dance” in the irradiated end zone. Apparently… we had successfully averted morphing the 5th Dimension’s Aquarian dawn into a premature Zager & Evans, In the Year 10K dusk.

Of course… the day is still young! Lest we forget, the current nuclear saber rattler / little boy does want to play with his nuclear toys. He’s also so drunk on fake patriotism that, in all likelihood, he can hardly wait to see the “rockets’ red glare” and nuclear “bombs bursting in air”.

Well before Mister Ballistic gets a chance to dust off the cover of the nuclear launch code book, we had better launch this BlogCast’s two song set.

All you need do is “push the button” on each of these vids. I’d recommend first experiencing Aquarius’ elation before taking the plunge into the deep end of 2525’s despair.

5th Dimension ~ Aquarius / Let the Sunshine In

Zager and Evans ~ In the Year 2525

 

Hmm… now that we’ve tracked through both songs, maybe we should track down 7+ billion lead-lined Hazmat suits? Might the manufacturer cut us a sweet deal if we buy in bulk? Hey, it can’t hurt to ask, right?

 

 

 

 

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One Giant Leap

 

9:32 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time. That’s this day’s official blog posting time. This also precisely synchronizes with that 50 yester-years ago moment in time when the Apollo 11 Saturn-V, 1st stage, 5 Rocketdyne F-1 engines (literally) roared to life to send astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins soaring upward and into the annals of human history… their ultimate date with destiny… The Moon / Sunday, July 20, 1969.

At that meticulously mapped and scheduled space / time, Armstrong would become the first (known) human to ever set foot on the surface of another world… which had been an apogee moment / a dream fulfilled… the dream of the bold, think big, visionary: President John F. Kennedy.

Armstrong’s Tranquility Base moonwalk would begin by precisely aligning his words and deeds to take his “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Regrettably, a scant three years later, small-minded and tightfisted naysayers deemed space exploration a monumental waste of time and assets… money better spent on solving our earthly problems.

Such hastily fired off, retrorocket rationale does beg the question on this auspicious day in human history…

Just what did we actually gain from the NIxonian decision to pull the plug on NASA’s manned space program? Has not that same small mindedness and tightfistedness severely crippled virtually every attempt at working towards the betterment of our society / world?

True, the Space Shuttle program did usher in a new era of human space exploration… but… that was in low Earth orbit. Our astronauts were restricted to literally running around in circles.

The same can be said about earthbound problem solvers who lack that “one giant leap” type of thinking. Seeing how our worldly woes have yet to be effectively dealt with, would you not agree this has been a half century long waste of time and money?

 

 

 

Snow Days (Chapter 3)

 

A few houses up Carl and Cathy’s street resided their school’s head custodian, Phil Anders, who was also home on this snow day. His philosophy of life could best be summed up as “Make love AND war!”

As for the “love” element to that phrase, according to the neighborhood grapevine, he and his live-in gal pal were “friends with benefits” decades before that phrase would become popularized. There was even some clever wordplay, which had morphed his name to the nickname, “Philanderer Phil”.

As for the “war” element, this guy harbored “I’m as mad as hell” anger management issues that, a decade later, could’ve easily inspired actor Peter Finch’s portrayal of TV anchorman, Howard Beale in the big screen flick, “Network.”

Indeed, he could’ve spun a sphygmomanometer into perpetual motion and blown his top skyward with such a force, his shiny cranial bone fragments could’ve easily reached escape velocity to create safety issues for 60s era NASA astronauts orbiting the Earth in their Gemini space capsules.

Physically, Phil was a cross between Arnold Schwarzenegger (minus the accent) and the Incredible Hulk (minus the green). Were it not for his receding hairline, under dim lighting conditions he could’ve even triggered a few bogus Sasquatch sightings, too. As for battling the winter elements, with such a burly physique, he was a natural.

He was always loaded for bear (loaded on beer, too) and ready to engage any DPW’s snowplow driver who had the gall to “home deliver”… from the roadways to his lower driveway… the mega-tonnage of oft thigh-deep snow and icy sludge.

When in his full-blown wild-man mode, he was not only the maestro of middle digit sign language, but he also had a knack for providing the neighborhood youngsters a liberal education… expanding their vocabulary with words never heard in the Bible… well, at least not his choice, four letter synonyms. His protégés even developed an appreciation for poetry once they heard how well he could form crude couplets involving the words truck, trucking, trucker… well… you get the idea.

On this particular snow day, he even introduced his captive audience to his precision snow shovel hurl event… targeting… you guessed it… the moving DPW truck! With a bit more training, a bit less beer and proper self-promotion, he could’ve created a whole new Winter Olympics event.

Carl could already smell that approaching plow truck’s diesel, hear the telltale Doppler shift effect of its roaring engine and the scraping sounds of blade applied to asphalt when… reverie broken… he returned to the here and now snowstorm… just in time to hear the sounds and catch a whiff of the actual thing.

Gazing up the street through the whiteout conditions, he was just in time to spot the DPW snowplow rounding the bend. Carl could only imagine how Phil would’ve reacted for that madman had passed on decades ago.

Mere moments later, the driver had blocked his driveway with a ton of hefty, heavy, slushy, snow “boulders”. Though sufficiently PO’d to morph into Phil’s persona, he suppressed the urge to reintroduce his snow shovel hurl. He was forced to concede that this was the one and only efficient and cost effective snow removal method available.

So there Carl stood… momentarily leaning on his shovel… figuratively and literally snowed under by the new task at hand. Armed with only his muscles and shovel, for the second time that day, he was again slaving away to clear his lower driveway.

He did chuckle a bit as he caught himself muttering some of the very same profane couplets ol’ Phil had taught him in his younger days.

After a half hour had passed, it was mission accomplished. Even better, the snowfall had eased up a bit, too. Carl was finally heading back for the warmth of his home. Turning the key in the lock, just prior to turning the doorknob, he did linger a moment to take one last look up the street… set his gaze upon the house once occupied by his unforgettable neighbor.

Through the upward wafting frozen clouds of Carl’s exhaled, condensing breath, he offered his thanks to Phil for all those fun, fond memories. And just in case that wild man had, instead, wound up taking the “down escalator” ride, Carl sent those same thanks hellward, too.

 

47 Years Ago This Night…

On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, had fulfilled President John F. Kennedy’s May 25, 1961 commitment to land men on the Moon by decade’s end. Armstrong, descending the Lunar Excursion Module’s ladder, had become the first human being to ever set foot and walk upon an alien world.

Over the decades, since, there have been naysayers, who’ve always been quick to remind us that the tax dollars could’ve and should’ve been spent more wisely. But, I’d also be quick to remind everyone that this bold adventure did unite humanity. And the value of that is as vast as the immensity of the universe, itself.

Nearly four years ago, Armstrong’s mortality caught up with him. While his spirit did merge with the universe, in the lunar vacuum his footprints will endure until our Sun dies billions of years from now.

Not a bad way for anyone to leave one’s mark upon our world… upon two worlds.

Tonight’s Moon will be in a nearly full phase… so, weather permitting, I urge you to set aside your worldly concerns… to step outside to take an upward glance… to think about Neil and Buzz’s uplifting accomplishment and try to recapture that spirit of unity.

A Tale of Two Timelines (Part I)

“It was the best of times”… 34,220,984 voters (303 electors) had elected the ingenious John F. Kennedy… a man possessing a lucid, 20/20 vision for a moving forward America… “It was the worst of times”… 5 archconservative, U.S. Supreme Court judicial hacks had (s)elected incurious George W. Bush… a stick-figure man possessing a lurid, myopic vision for a falling backward America.

These are the ex-Presidents akin to temporal bookends to the more recently written chapters of American History. Respectively…

The sturdy one on the left had stood upright… tried his very best to usher in the dawn of a better America… a land built upon a strong foundation… its cornerstone to be composed of sweet liberty, racial harmony, equal opportunity and economic stability for all… a land where our innovative, can-do spirit would rule supreme and flourish. Indeed… it was the “age of wisdom”… “epoch of belief”… “season of Light”… “spring of hope”… “we had everything before us”.

The tipsy one on the far right had skulked off in the murky shadows of avarice, treachery and deceit… tried his damnedest to topple our nation / fan the destructive socially and politically polarizing flames… condemn all aspects of our once great nation… forcing the U.S. into becoming an unbecoming (figurative and literal) ground zero conflagration… its ruins and rubble still smoldering today. Indeed, it was the “age of foolishness”… “epoch of incredulity”… “season of Darkness”… “winter of despair”… “we had nothing before us”.

Whew… now that’s one hell of a wordplay workout… huh? While we all pause to catch our collective breath… I’ll tend to a few preliminaries…

Firstly… yes, my blog intro got a Dickensian assist… those quoted words from Charles Dickens’ 1859 novel, A Tale of Two Cities… his very book title serving as a tidy literary device to portray the bottomless pit of socioeconomic disparity between the 18th century’s aristocracy and peasants. I have little doubt that if ol’ Chuck were alive and writing his “Tale” today (perhaps on a laptop?) his social / political commentary would be taking some literary swipes at 21st century America’s Trumps vs. the Trampled.

Secondly… I must acknowledge that viewing anyone as a martyr (e.g. JFK) can be akin to looking through a pair of objectivity clouding, thick lensed distorting, rose-colored glasses… that this can cause History to overlook and blur such a person’s shortcomings and perhaps even magnify his/her accomplishments.

Thirdly… speculation re the events of a rosy timeline (which never was) is fraught with so many variables that exactly how a two term Kennedy presidency could’ve positively impacted American / World History will forever remain in the realm of nearly impossible to prove. Of course… would this not also be nearly impossible to disprove?

And since we, as a society, had been denied such a presidential admin… that does grant us the right to ponder the possibilities… and I will shamelessly do so in this blog.

Lastly… just in case my JFK’s “best of times” / GWB’s “worst of times”, blue ink saturated, lead paragraphs have left any doubt… I am a Leftie. My Democratic Party roots run deep. Hell… I even voted for JFK when I was ONLY six-years-old!

Well… uh… sort of. Here’s what had actually happened…

After Mom had closed the voting booth curtains, hoisted me up to adult eye level and demonstrated how everything worked, she actually let me shift JFK’s lever down! My having done something so grown-up on Election Day 1960 had been a feel good, defining moment in my young life.

As I grew physically, so did my understanding of (and respect for) the immense leverage, which each of those tiny levers can exert in shaping our nation and world. Tragically, not everyone opts in to such a civilized, orderly process. Such was the case on…

November 22, 1963 ~ It had been a gray, overcast, rainy Friday. There had been no school for Sis and me (due to parent / teacher conferences). I was just finishing lunch when my sibling came rushing into the dining room. Still clutching her pocket-sized transistor radio, she blurted out…

“Somebody Shot President Kennedy!” Mom, Sis and I quickly adjourned to the living room. Even before our Zenith TV’s B&W picture tube had fully warmed up, we could already hear one of CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite’s earliest bulletins.

As time came grinding down to a dead halt we felt ourselves rapidly descending into the depths of our nation’s communal shock. There was little else we could do… save for waiting and hoping that our worst fears would not be confirmed. But…

The bad news just kept on spilling forth from our nation’s TV screens while Kennedy’s dream for the betterment of our national / global society, was hemorrhaging forth from his head wounds… dying along with this great man. Eventually, Cronkite had to choke back his own overwhelming sorrow as he reported…

 

“From Dallas, Texas… the flash apparently official… President Kennedy died a 1 p.m., Central Standard Time… 2 o’clock Eastern Standard Time… some thirty-eight minutes ago.”

 

My above-described televised events can be viewed in this archival footage.

And that’s the way it was… the feel rotten, defining moment in my young life. The President I had “voted” for three short Novembers earlier had been blown away. Bullets… not ballots… had removed John Fitzgerald Kennedy from office and shot to hell my childhood innocence.

 JFK had been a visionary… keenly aware that the sky (quite literally) is not the limit. A mere, thirty months earlier, on May 25, 1961, he had boldly challenged Congress, indeed, folks all across America, to think big. Said he:

 

“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space.”

 

Size Matters ~ Now, lest anyone accuse me of being starry-eyed… I do fully realize that… in the beginning… the space race was little more than the sabre rattling of Nikita Khrushchev, which left Kennedy little choice but to get sucked into this war of the words.

Basically, they had become two little boys territorially hosing down the vacuum of outer space with ideological, rhetorical urine. This was tantamount to Khrushchev and Kennedy comparing the size of their phallic symbol rockets… to their cockily strutting and crowing about possessing an ability to blast off these missiles and target their destinations with pinpoint precision… be their payloads utilitarian, orbital  communication / weather satellites, top flight lunar bound astronauts or apocalyptic surface to air to surface nuclear warheads.

Fortunately, such immature posturing was doomed… perhaps even destined… to fade into oblivion… courtesy of astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders. NASA had scheduled an extra special, Christmas Eve 1968 telecast… beamed live from the Moon to the citizens of planet Earth. With their TV camera focused upon the cratered lunar surface passing a mere 60 miles below, all three astronauts took turns reading from the Book of Genesis.

Their unifying message had proven infinitely more powerful than the Saturn 5 rocket that had propelled them on their journey… inestimably more influential / inspirational than any scripture ever uttered by any earthbound preacher.

 

 

“Earthrise” (The Big Picture) ~ Anders had also snapped a still photo, which further and forever solidified what all three had said and read from their space capsule “pulpit”.

One would have to be stonehearted / rock-headed to be unable to compare and contrast that foreboding, dead as a doornail, rocky, pockmarked lunar terrain to our breathing, burgeoning with life globe… one enshrouded by a blanket of life-sustaining air, interlaced with high floating, white clouds passing over azure oceans… one where not one, single, solitary politically drawn, national demarcation line could be seen.

This had been a jaw dropping, unifying wake-up call to humanity. We, aboard “Spaceship” Earth, are all in this together… hurling through the inky black void of outer space… AND… most importantly… we had better not FUBAR our fragile world… the only known planet in the entire universe capable of sustaining human life.

Other Safe Harbors for Humanity? The closest, recently discovered, “Goldilocks Zone” / Earthlike, extrasolar planets are approximately 13 to 20 light-years away. Even IF we could construct close to speed of light velocity spacecraft, it would still take decades to traverse even those, “small” (on an astronomical scale) distances. And to get real here, upon our arrival, we could very well discover far from ideal conditions. Just to toss out a couple of worst-case scenario variables…

There might be insufficient breathable oxygen or, worse yet, if there is ample oxygen, it might be getting inhaled by billions of xenophobic, hostile aliens. For our interstellar astronauts to survive a close encounter of the disastrous kind, that would likely require superhero skills… the type only found, heretofore, in big and small screen Sci-Fi screenplays (e.g., the logical diplomacy of Ambassador Spock and/or the lock and load militancy of Ellen Ripley).

Radical Republicans: Ill Will Ambassadors ~ Perhaps it’s just as well that our current tax-dollar and technically challenged space vehicles (trapped in low Earth orbit / going around in circles / going nowhere fast) preclude our becoming interstellar spacefarers / our making first contact with alien civilizations.

Considering how today’s far from evolved, rabidly xenophobic, GOP radicals suffer from an overwhelming, wholesale loathing of any and all non-WASP terrestrial “aliens” (e.g. Muslims, Hebrews, Hispanics, Afro-Americans, etc.) it would not be hard to imagine how horrifically they’d react towards the extraterrestrial variety.

It’s pretty safe to say that outer space aliens (in possession of vastly superior spacecraft and weaponry) would never tolerate the likes of… oh… say… the totally reprehensible, bigoted Donald Trump and his best bud, David Duke. Hell, most PO’d ET’s would likely pay Earth a visit and promptly blast our world to smithereens.

One Democrat’s Good Will Ambassador ~ On July 20, 1969, when first man on the moon, Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong, had spoken of that “one giant leap for mankind”, he had not only been referring to his ability to jump higher in the (one-sixth of Earth’s) lunar gravity. In effect JFK had been speaking through him to present yet another challenge to humanity… elementary, elegant and enlightening … namely…

Even non-astronauts possess all the right stuff to leap / aim high in life. If we follow our hearts and heads to work together for the common good… we can complete any task we set our minds on (be our accomplishments majestic, mundane or something in the middle). To soar as one and sustain such an ascent could even “launch” a national / international renaissance.

However… with the passage of time, these now decades old sentiments have faded into oblivion… especially forgotten by the do anything to feather their own nests… anything for a buck… right wing extremist Republicans.

Today’s GOP has a budgetary axe to grind ~ I could’ve accepted humankind’s one giant leap backward… our demotion from spacefarers to stay-at-homes if these “saved” tax dollars had been utilized towards down to earth projects which were still consistent to JFK’s dream… i.e., had been inclusive of We, the common folk. BUT… more to the point… it’s only once in a blue moon (if even then) when the well-to-do ever step aside to permit those not-so-well-off to get ahead in life.

But it’s the S.O.P. of Uncle Sam to nearly always favor the obscenely rich. No questions asked, he’ll bestow untold, unlimited, welfare unto the wealthy. Hell, I could’ve even accepted THAT, if the high and mighty chose to spend at least a portion of this ill-gotten largess… oh… say… a bit more altruistically.

For the record… I have no problem with folks becoming successful / wealthy. But, I simply cannot fathom why those who’ve accumulated more wealth than they could spend if they lived to be 1000 years old still want more? In other words… why does anyone need more money when one already has too much?

Any chance for a JFK-like latter-day renaissance? Long story short… all one need do is draw out a horizontal line to strike out this paragraph’s headline.

But we can still imagine that societal rebirth… i.e., where Kennedy’s dream had not been deep-sixed along with him at Arlington Cemetery… so long ago…

By now… the end to fossil fuel consumption would’ve cleansed and breathed new life into our biosphere (our energy needs being supplied by a worldwide, solar paneled grid)… lifesaving / prolonging medicines would’ve cured Cancer, AIDS, mental disorders, etc.… the end to human starvation (be that metabolically, intellectually and spiritually) would’ve become akin to a birthright…

By now… our global society would’ve felt appalled by the hoggish, upward redistribution of wealth and, with no Have / Have not schism to contend with, the incidents of violent street crimes, deadly terrorist acts and no-win, endless wars would’ve become rare to non-existent… there would’ve been a globalized expansion of the American Dream thereby allowing each and every industrious Earthling to enjoy the fruits of her/his labors… AND, upon securing life fortunes, we’d have felt sufficient contentment and graciousness to step aside to allow others the same opportunity…

OK… but… would that really have been JFK’s path? Well, as I said at the outset, re alternate timelines, I can offer little evidence to either prove or disprove. But I do feel it’s safe to say that, had we been allowed to enjoy two full terms worth of JFK, at the very least, the American people would’ve been sufficiently impressed… to the point where they’d never have tolerated a timeline featuring the POTUS rogues gallery we did wind up with.

To name names… that was Watergate crook Tricky Dicky Nixon and his handpicked, suck up successor, Gerald Ford… union buster / Robin Hood in reverse Ronald Reagan… Nazi George H.W. Bush (who some claim had actually been seen skulking off in the 11/22/1963, Dealey Plaza shadows) and his ventriloquist dummy / puppet, war criminal, torture loving sonny boy W.

And, to be fair here… while what follows does not necessarily qualify as a rogues gallery… I must also address the deficiencies of DINO Lyndon B. Johnson (who likely would’ve never parked his butt in the Oval Office chair were it not for JFK’s coattails and the Constitutionally stipulated presidential line of succession)… Jimmy Carter who had suffered an absence of cojones AND Bill Clinton who had suffered from an overabundance.

As for President Barack Obama? There is a time and place for being a perfect gentleman… but… considering all that arch-conservative, vicious, avaricious, parasitic, opportunistic Republican opposition… now is not that time.

In short… had there been eight years of JFK… We the People would have never voted anyone into power  (either Democrat or Republican) who had exuded even the slightest whiff of malodorous immaturity, incompetency, mediocrity, timidity, obstinacy, rapacity and/or criminality… all of which (upon first striking timidity from that list) provides the perfect lead-in for the discussion of…

GWB’s path ~ We, who can still think critically, have been forced to hold our noses against the stench of W’s Orwellian NSA and MSM, banana republic elections, corporate citizenship, too big to fail coddled big biz failures, an upward redistribution of wealth, a “no child left behind” spiritless “teach to the test”, backward public school system, misogyny, theocracy, homophobia, xenophobia, environmental rape, foreign oil dependence, clucking / crowing chickenhawks, warmongering / war profiteering, needless, endless no-win wars, terrorist attacks, zero gun controls and warzone municipalities where even elementary school kids get shot to death.

A Tale of Two Timelines (Part I) Parting Words ~ In Quantum Mechanics… as the theory goes… nearly everything scientifically possible goes.

For instance… say you’ve just turned the key in the ignition, put your car into gear and are pulling out of the parking lot… headed for home. There are two possible routes to choose from. The path you do take results in your getting involved in a fatal traffic accident. But… as Quantum Theory suggests… there’s also that “other reality” where you took the other path and reached your destination safe and sound… to live out your entire lifespan.

Well… applying that same premise to November 22, 1963… I sure as hell wish I could find the alternate reality where JFK had opted out from his Texas trip, gotten re-elected and lived on to a ripe old age (he might’ve even made it to 99 years of age this May 29th).

Even upon my facing down the vast unknowns associated with an alternate Kennedy timeline… if given the opportunity to go there… I’d sure as hell take my chances… in a heartbeat. Nearly anything else pitted against our present-day woes… our still suffering from the blowback from GWB’s corrupt, contemptible admin… would be infinitely preferable to me.

To that end… is there anybody out there? Does anyone on the WWW know how I might find that “JFK survived” timeline? If so… please… Please… PLEASE… outline the procedure in the comment box below… or… if you’d rather not publicly reveal that secret… maybe we can arrange a place and time to meet on the QT?

But… getting back to our here and now reality… my short term goal is to post A Tale of Two Timelines (Part II)HOWEVER

If that fails to happen in a timely manner… this just might mean that someone has shared her/his knowhow with me… that I’ve taken that Quantum Leap… gone off to enjoy that “best of times” timeline where JFK had lived long… and… as a result… America / the world has flourished. And by that I mean prospered in ways not merely measured in dollars and cents.

Of course, such a risky venture might have a high price tag attached… i.e., in the process of leaping about through alternate realities I just could wind up paying for it with my very life. Oh well… as Patrick Henry once said… “Give me liberty or give me death.”

And… if it involves the latter eventuality… well… I’ll yield my blogger’s podium… once more… allow Mr. Dickens to speak on my behalf…

“It is a far, far better thing that I do than I have ever done… it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”