Cari and I had fun on Saturday; we drove out to Highland County, Virginia, to attend the Maple Festival. The county - called "Virginia's Switzerland" by the local Chamber of Commerce - has a maple syrup industry. (Virginia is a neat state: not only does it have a wine industry like California, it has a maple syrup industry like New Hampshire!)
Well, that is, it would seem like Switzerland if the Swiss were in the habit of wearing cammo clothing and hats with hunting slogans instead of lederhosen...
Not boring 6:40 minute video here.
We took off late Friday afternoon and drove up the Shenandoah Valley. (The river flows from south to north, so when you proceed south you are moving up the river. That always confused me in Civil War books.) We spent the night at the Comfort Inn in Staunton. Among the amenities was an active train line which we could see (and hear) from our window. A train went by as we were in our car after getting our stuff, and against my better judgement we stayed and asked the clerk at the desk, "Are we going to hear that?" He assured me we wouldn't. We did at various times through the night. At about 5 AM I thought, "This sucks. I'm asking for a refund." Which I got.
As I'm fond of asking, So, what did we learn? I now have a new protocol as I check into a motel: I'll ask if a train is anywhere nearby.
(Note to my son who encourages me to use online guides: The Yelp one listed six reviews for this hotel. Incredibly, none of them mentioned the deal-breaker train.)
What motel chain builds a multi-million dollar building next to an active train track?!?
We got breakfast pancakes (with Highland Co. maple syrup, of course) at a place built in 1811 where Stonewall Jackson and wife once stayed. And at the sugar maple orchard in a line for a porta-potty, I talked to a guy who does Civil War reenacting. Old times in Highland County are not forgotten...
We visited a Virginia Civil War battlefield I haven't yet seen, a highway turnoff which represented McDowell. (Part of Stonewall's Spring 1862 Valley Campaign.) A few photos here. You don't see these much anymore. And I saw the biggest piles of cordwood I have ever seen.
All in all, it was a great Saturday!
Just so you know, the History Channel is crap. For some time now, among history buffs, it has become known as “the Hitler Channel” due to the extreme over-emphasis upon the events of 1939 to 1945. Documented human history extends back over about 5,000 years – why focus on six of them? But whereas they used to address what could be covered under the general heading of history, they have recently run far astray from the subject. The other day - against my better judgment - I started watching a production with the familiar Roman capital “H” on a DVD: Lost Book of Nostradamus (2007). What complete rubbish! I quit after about twenty minutes.
The production concerns a manuscript in the Italian National Library, supposedly hidden away in the Vatican for centuries (conspiracy!), which features fanciful illustrations and a rather poorly substantiated attribution to Nostradamus. In this, luminaries like the president of the “Nostradamus Society of America” gas on about the so-called prophet’s continued relevance into the 21st Century, and others make absurd assertions like, “9/11 was the most important event in world history.” What? More significant than the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand which led to World War I, or the rise of militant German National Socialism and Japanese imperialism which led to World War II? Or the mutation of the H1N1 influenza virus which accounted for the global pandemic of 1918? Or the development of the microchip? Etc. etc. etc.
Over the years I have noticed an interesting phenomena about Nostradamus. Prior to 9/11 his most celebrated quatrains (cryptic verse in patterns of four lines) were interpreted as having to do with things like Hitler, the Soviet Union and the assassination of John F. Kennedy. But there’s no more Soviet Union and that whole apocalyptic/nuclear Eagle and the Bear thing turned out to be a non-starter. Will the real candidate situation for World War III please rise? And please tell me how JFK’s murder is relevant to global history? It wasn’t. (Unless you get your history lessons from the likes of Oliver Stone, in which case it’s why the war in Vietnam was escalated and why the industrial-military complex runs things in the United States.) But then you have to explain how the Vietnamese conflict is relevant to global history.
So what has happened recently in the popular mind that has the same gloomy impact that JFK’s assassination had after 1963? You guessed it, 9/11, and the Global War on Terror. But hold. How many have died as a result of this conflict? Comparatively speaking, not many. Has it an impact as profound as World Wars I or II? No way – at least, not yet. And I’m guessing that it won’t.
It doesn’t matter. Nostradamus’ proponents would point out that his prophecies concern the great and the small scale. The forecasts are safely couched in language of such variability and indeterminacy that literally any interpretation is possible. The Great Bear falls. Russia is represented by a bear… this could mean the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union. Or wait! Berlin, Germany is represented heraldically by a bear… it could mean that the city is invaded by the Allies in 1945. Or the Bear refers to Ursa Major, and, by extension, could mean the North. Oh, wait! The North won American Civil War… it must mean something else. How about the political decline of the Northeastern states with the population move to the Sunbelt in postwar American politics? You get the point.
Really, is this worthwhile? Why am I wasting valuable ASCII characters making fun of the likes of these History Channel telecasts about Nostradamus? As some real prophet used to say, “Argue long enough with an idiot and people will fail to discern the difference.”
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