Friday, February 26, 2021

Insight: Isolation growing in America courtesy of digital age

By Ed Pierce

Managing Editor

While driving home on the Maine Turnpike from covering a story for the newspaper last weekend, I happened to catch the final few minutes of an interview on NPR with the author of a new book about adult friendship and it got me to thinking about what’s been lost with the rise of social media in our lives and how the pandemic has made it even harder to connect with our friends.

The book is called “We Need To Hang Out” and was written by Billy Baker, a Boston Globe reporter. In his book, Baker says that even before the pandemic struck, Americans were leading increasingly isolated lives, communicating through email or text messages, or through Facetime, or by Instagram, Facebook or Twitter posts.

Baker says more traditional means of meeting up with friends became almost non-existent as bars, restaurants, church services, golf tournaments, school events and birthday parties were scrubbed to avoid transmission of the COVID-19 virus during the pandemic and he wonders if the closeness to our friends that we’ve all experienced may be a thing of the past. He says the excuses that we used to make to get together and hang out, like book discussion clubs, watching college basketball games at a sports bar, family nights at movie theaters, late summer fantasy football drafts, school dances and pool parties may be headed the way of fountain pens, carbon paper and 3-D glasses.

Over the years and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve probably fallen into the comfortable-at-home trap and wanting to avoid the social scene. My wife and I stopped going to watch movies in theaters a few years back and we were never regular patrons meeting at the bar with friends for a few drinks. I also noticed that as I became a regular user of Facebook, it was easier to post “Merry Christmas” to my friends there rather than mailing out elaborate Christmas cards every year.

But as I’ve become more reliant on texting, Zoom and social media to communicate with others living at a distance or to speak with family members, I do feel like I’ve lost something special. Attending a baseball game in person is more preferable to me than watching it from the comfort of my living room. And my wife and I love going twice a year to the rock n’ roll dances with people of our own age staged twice a year featuring music of the 1960s and 1970s, but the dances haven’t been held since the fall of 2019 because of COVID-19 concerns and we miss them.

I recently reconnected with a good friend of mine from high school on Facebook and seeing him post on there again was a great feeling. He’s had some health problems the past few years and used to be on Facebook all the time but stopped and deactivated his Facebook account in 2016 to avoid political divisiveness and non-stop arguing over politics.

He told me he left social media to preserve his own sanity for a while and I understand where he’s coming from. It is tiring to constantly be bombarded by messages about political viewpoints when all I really want to see on social media are new photos of our 2-year-old granddaughter in Connecticut or stories about the best local places to order takeout Chinese food.

Not so long ago, friends used to get together for Wednesday evening bowling leagues, Kentucky Derby watch parties and Saturday morning softball games. They wrote and mailed hand-written letters and sent thank-you cards for the birthday presents they received from relatives. They attended plays and musicals staged by community theater groups and camped out while waiting in line on Thanksgiving night outside Best Buy to be the first for the best deals on Black Friday.

They enjoyed family picnics in the park, took cooking classes together at Adult Education and went to church bazaars and community garage sales. They gathered at youth soccer games, 5Ks and on sledding hills on wintery weekend mornings.

To blame our increasing isolation strictly on COVID-19, texting and social media probably isn’t entirely fair. In my opinion, as a society we’ve tended to become less tribal and more individualized and that’s put us on the path to where we are today.

I do think some of the group gatherings and social events will eventually return, the big question is, will they ever regain the popularity they once knew in today’s lonely remote digital age. <


Andy Young: Battling injustice over February vacation

By Andy Young

Special to The Windham Eagle

Like many high school English teachers hoping to improve the quality of their students’ writing, I frequently require the youngsters in my classes to, well, actually write. This week they were asked to prepare a factual and/or fanciful account of something that occurred over their just-completed school vacation. Here’s one of those essays. 

I had hoped to relax over the break, but fate had other plans.

While walking past the skate park one afternoon, I saw a child of perhaps 10 or 11 years old talking to two large, bearded men in their early 20’s. I was enchanted by the heartwarming sight of a pair of husky individuals taking the time to encourage an aspiring skateboarder. But that idyllic outlook changed when the larger of the two leather-jacketed behemoths grabbed the lad by the front of his Red Sox hoodie, began shaking him, and bellowed, “Hand over your wallet, kid! NOW!

Martin Luther King famously said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” What I saw was clearly unjust, so I had to intervene. “Hey!” I shouted. “Leave him alone!”

“Butt out, punk,” the guy manhandling the child said to me, in an infuriatingly condescending tone. Staying cool, I repeated, “I said, put him down and leave him alone.” 

Sporting a sleeveless vest emblazoned with, “Savage Skulls M.C.” on the back, the mugger strode slowly in my direction. “Who’s gonna make me leave him alone?” he demanded.

Rising to my full 5 feet 5 inches, I looked up at him and heard myself quietly say, “Me, apparently.”

Guffawing loudly and rudely, the dull-witted bully said to his thuggish companion, “Hey Butch. Check out the tough guy here!”

Sauntering toward me, the first gorilla launched a roundhouse right in my direction, which I’m sure he later realized was an incredibly huge mistake. Ducking the punch, I grabbed his left wrist, and with a quick yank pulled his shoulder completely out of its socket. As he howled in agony I thrust my knee up into his groin. Suddenly he wasn’t a foot taller than I was anymore.

His 6’8”, 350-pound friend looked at his gasping sidekick, pulled out a pair of nunchucks, and menacingly growled, “You’re going to be very sorry you did that, Pee-Wee.” Ironically I already was sorry, since even in extreme situations like this one I detest having to visit physical pain upon another human being. But when the hulking goon with a swastika tattooed on his forehead came at me, I had no choice. Launching my 135-pound body into the air, I aimed the steel toe of my left work boot directly at his Adam’s apple, and connected with a sickening crunch. Landing on my feet after turning a full mid-air somersault, I thrust my clenched left fist directly into his sternum, which cracked like an egg. His shrieks of anguish were probably audible in New Hampshire. 

I’m not proud of what happened next. It wasn’t very good role modeling. With the tiny, wide-eyed elementary schooler looking on, I kicked that Nazi right in the face, then left him unconscious and bleeding on the sidewalk.

After making sure the pint-sized skateboarder was okay, I brushed off my jacket and resumed my nature walk.

For the rest of the vacation, I just chilled, played video games, and facetimed with my girlfriend. And on Tuesday my mom and me got takeout Chinese food. The Salmon Lo Mein was heavenly.

I’d really love to know if the events described in that essay actually happened. But more importantly, I’m wondering which local restaurant has Salmon Lo Mein on its takeout menu. <

Friday, February 19, 2021

Insight: Greatest five-film spans in acting history

By Ed Pierce

Managing Editor

John Ruskin, a 19th century British art critic once remarked that “When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.” He probably never envisioned it being used to describe current great actors, but it does fit when assessing the best five-film periods for some of America’s finest living movie stars.

In my opinion, three actors have had noteworthy consecutive five-film eras in which they created some of their most memorable films and characters and even if they never worked again afterward, they would surely be remembered for the movies they appeared in during those spans. Each of these five-film timeframes included Academy Awards for these performers and cemented their legacies, at least in my mind, as some of my all-time favorites.

In the late 1980s, Kevin Costner made five films in a row from 1987 to 1990 that ignited box-office profits and resulted in his taking home two Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director for his work with 1990’s “Dances with Wolves.”

In 1987, Costner held his own playing crusading U.S. Treasury Agent Elliot Ness against Robert DeNiro’s Al Capone in "The Untouchables." Later in 1987, Costner gave a brilliant performance as a Russian spy who had infiltrated The Pentagon in “No Way Out.” He followed that with a comedic role as a downtrodden minor league baseball catcher in 1988’s “Bull Durham” and then as Ray Kinsella, who hears a voice telling him to build a baseball field in the middle of an Iowa cornfield in 1989’s “Field of Dreams.” His 1990 epic western “Dances with Wolves” netted seven Academy Award nominations, including Costner himself for Best Actor, although Jeremy Irons won for “Reversal of Fortune.” It capped one of the best five-film periods any actor has enjoyed and led to a lengthy career still going strong 30 years later.

Tom Hanks also had a magical five-film run of his own, starting with 1992’s “A League of Their Own” in which he portrayed a former major league ballplayer now managing a team in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League in the 1940s. His line “There’s no crying in baseball” reverberates on to this very day from that movie. He followed that with a powerful performance as an AIDS victim in 1993’s “Philadelphia,” the title role in 1994’s blockbuster “Forrest Gump” and as U.S. astronaut Jim Lovell in 1995’s “Apollo 13.” The final film in the five-film span for Hanks was a record-company executive in “That Thing You Do” in 1996 and it also marked his debut as a film director.

For his work in both “Philadelphia” and “Forrest Gump” Hanks was honored with the Academy Award as Best Actor and he certainly could have been nominated for “Apollo 13,” but in winning back-to-back Oscars for “Philadelphia” and “Forrest Gump,” Hanks became the first male actor to pull off that feat since Hollywood legend Spencer Tracy for 1937’s “Captains Courageous” and 1938’s “Boys Town.”

Denzel Washington’s top five-film span opened with 1998’s “The Siege” where he played the head of the FBI's Counter-Terrorism Task Force in New York, and he followed that with an Oscar-nominated lead role in 1999’s “The Hurricane” as unjustly convicted boxing champion Rubin “Hurricane” Carter. In 2000, Washington inspired audiences as an African American football coach leading a high school squad in their first season as an integrated team in “Remember the Titans.”

He captured the Academy Award for Best Actor in 2001’s gritty “Training Day” as a veteran LAPD detective escorting a rookie police officer through his first day serving for an inner-city narcotics unit. The last film of Washington's top five-film span is 2002’s “Antwone Fisher” where he appears as a U.S. Navy psychiatrist working with a troubled young sailor and it also was the first feature film he ever directed.

Each of these actors used these five-film spans to showcase their versatility, their appeal with movie-goers and their ability to lead a successful motion picture and all of them continue to act, to produce and to star in prominent productions today. Costner, Hanks and Washington are naturals in their craft which genuinely comes across in these five-film spans.

Acting is certainly more than memorizing and reciting lines and the performances each of these actors gave in these five-film spans are indicative of years of intense training, hours of preparation and study. As someone who has watched these actors for years now, I’d say they are all at the top of their profession and I continue to marvel at their work. <

Andy Young: The irresistible allure of the $10 discount card

By Andy Young

Special to The Windham Eagle

As a high school teacher, I would never discourage any young person from pursuing higher education. But not every college course has actual measurable value.

I’m guessing my life would probably still be just fine had I never taken “Introduction to Calculus,” “Propaganda in Cinema” or “19th Century British Literature.” At least I earned credit for those courses; I flunked “Philosophy and Logic,” a class consisting of three stultifying one-hour lectures per week by a professor who apparently loved philosophizing. None of what he droned on about seemed logical to me, although to be fair perhaps it would have had I bothered to do any of the required readings.

The classes I appreciated most were those that imparted information with practical application to real life. An elective course called “Peer Counseling” helped me relate to other human beings in more ways than I can quantify, and “Children’s Literature” helped open my mind to the value of reading. But the most tangibly useful college course I ever took was “Personal and Family Financial Management.” Acquiring goods and services that were needs rather than wants made sense to me, as did buying locally produced products, and not shopping for groceries when I was hungry.

Being an intelligent consumer was as important then as it is today, and I needed the wealth of knowledge I gleaned from that course recently when I found myself at a large, internationally renowned retailer in Freeport, looking for some new pants. Even though I already own a perfectly good pair that’s only slightly older than my son the University of Maine freshman, I couldn’t help noticing they were starting to fray at the seams. When a “friend” innocently asked me how often I slept in them, I took it as a sign the time to update my wardrobe had arrived.

But there was another reason for the timing of my trip to the local merchant whose flagship store is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. I had bought a pricey but necessary pair of boots for the youngest of my offspring there just before Christmas, and as a reward had been given a ten-dollar gift certificate to use sometime in the future. But an examination of the fine print on the discount card specified that “the future” would only last until Feb. 16, 2021.

Armed with the horse sense acquired from that long-ago semester of learning how to best manage my fiscal affairs, I looked high and low for some slacks that would satisfy my twin needs: comfort and functionality. Simply put, I needed pants that weren’t too loose or too tight and had lots of pockets.

Ultimately I found two pairs that fit. However, I couldn’t decide which I liked better, so I uncharacteristically threw budgetary caution to the wind and bought them both. I felt more than a little proud when I handed the cashier the card entitling me to ten dollars off my purchases. But even with those savings, those two pairs of pants cost more than what I customarily spend on an entire week’s worth of groceries.

When I got home, I had a serious case of buyer’s remorse. Spending $144 in order to take advantage of a #10 gift card before it expired wasn’t something the teacher of that long-ago financial management course would have recommended. In retrospect, I’d probably have been better served taking a Marketing Strategies course than 19th Century British Literature.

Or maybe I should have just applied some of the knowledge I already had. I never should have gone shopping for pants when I was hungry. <

Friday, February 12, 2021

Andy Young: The birthday boy’s not crazy about Valentine’s Day

By Andy Young

Special to The Windham Eagle

Some holidays merit celebrating more than others do.

Two of America’s ten federally designated days off from work, Christmas and New Year’s Day, occur within a week of one another. Add New Year’s Eve, and you’ve got three great excuses for rejoicing. No wonder that eight-day period is considered the culmination of the “holiday season.”

For the rest of the year, though, respites from the daily routine are few and far between. The six Monday holidays (Martin Luther King Jr. Day, President’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day and Indigenous Peoples/Columbus Day) are always separated from one another by at least four weeks. And while Veteran’s Day (Nov. 11) and Thanksgiving (fourth Thursday in November) fall just 11 days apart every six years or so, the fact remains: celebrating back-to-back holiday weekends in the same calendar year isn’t possible.

But who decides what constitutes a holiday? What about Halloween, Flag Day, and St. Patrick’s Day? Or Earth Day, Juneteenth, and Cinco de Mayo? What right does society have to limit the opportunities of law-abiding and productive citizens to commemorate special occasions?

This coming Saturday and Sunday will comprise, at least in my house, a second successive holiday weekend.

Last Saturday was my birthday, an occasion which always provides a dandy reason to celebrate. I know something good is going to happen on the annual anniversary of my birth, which is probably why it always does. And I appreciate it more with each passing year, especially since a wise and venerable friend recently reminded me that celebrating a birthday is infinitely preferable to no longer having the option of doing so.

This year my best birthday gift wasn’t one I got; it was one I gave. To mark the occasion I got up early, went to the Red Cross at 7 a.m., and emerged three-ish hours later having donated a load of healthy platelets to someone I’ll never meet. However, knowing the recipient is going to be as genuinely happy to receive them as I am about having the ability to give them means there are a minimum of two people with reason to celebrate Feb. 6 this year.

I also heard something about there having been a football game of some significance last weekend, but since my household is television-free, I cannot verify that as fact. But since Tom Brady’s picture was in Monday’s newspaper, I’m assuming he just won another Super Bowl. I was a little confused, though, about the uniform he was wearing. When did the Patriots change their team colors?

I’m a lot less enthusiastic about this weekend’s “holiday.” Valentine’s Day doesn’t exactly sneak up on anyone, particularly since the displays featuring candy hearts and lacey doilies started going up in all the local drug stores at about 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 26. Like most men my age who don’t own stock in Hallmark or Godiva Chocolates, I’m not a big fan of St. Valentine. But for many people his day is a special one, so I will be respectful and vicariously enjoy the occasion through others while observing it in a way that will not only be pragmatic, it will accurately reflect my personal opinion of the day.

At 10 a.m. on Feb. 14, I will be meeting with a CPA to find out how much income tax I’ll be paying this year.

There are probably more appropriate ways for me to observe the shameless cash grab that lobbyists for the candy and greeting card industries pass off as a holiday.  But hospitals don’t perform colonoscopies on Sundays.

And I don’t need a root canal. <

Insight: Gone but not forgotten

By Ed Pierce

Managing Editor

Occasionally I find myself living in the past and slipping off to the grocery store without my iPhone. It’s like I’m back in 1983, unable to be reached and out of electronic communication until I return back home. In some ways it’s a rather liberating feeling knowing I am free to drive and shop and go anywhere without Verizon’s locator beacon identifying my whereabouts.

We now live in a world of instant check-ins and text messages that connect populations worldwide with family, friends and telemarketers from Indonesia. Videos, gaming, personal health monitoring and the ability to stream my favorite college basketball team are features I never imagined would have been possible as a child who was dazzled by Dick Tracy’s Two-Way Radio Wristwatch in the comics.

But in navigating this array of personalized technological devices and mobile holographics, our society has left behind the remnants of early modern civilization associated with telephone landlines such as the telephone book, the telephone operator, the telephone booth and the telephone party line. Each of them served their purpose and have now been relegated to the “Remember When” section of 20th century history books.

They are gone, but certainly not forgotten, especially by me.

Not so long ago, every American household had a huge telephone book which was delivered every year. For those unfamiliar with such a thing, the residential landline listings were printed on white pages, while the back half of the book was local advertising and business listings printed on yellow pages.

Inevitably if you were searching for the physical address or telephone number for a particular business in the yellow pages in the telephone book at a train station, airport or bus terminal, that page was missing from the book, ripped out by someone looking for the same business. You weren’t able to find it without calling a telephone operator or until the phone book was replaced by the newer version later that year.

In our family’s home, we had two phone books, one for upstairs and one for the kitchen and sometimes in the summer, my mother used the upstairs phone book as a door stopper when she opened her windows to let fresh air into her room.  

Telephone booths were everywhere back then too. They typically contained dirty smeared glass and were prone to the tricks of adolescent pranksters, who would remove the earpiece or the microphone from the handset or cut the telephone handset cord. Phone booths were deeply entrenched in popular culture too, such as serving as the “tardis,” a time and space machine, in the popular British science fiction television show “Dr. Who.” They also were a convenient place for Clark Kent to change from his office suit into his Superman costume in comic books.

Operators always fascinated me. Day or night you could dial “O” and someone would answer right away and know how to connect you to order a pizza for delivery or report that your morning newspaper had not been delivered. They also provided directory assistance and access to long distance calls. Some operators also were assigned to connect phone subscribers with those who didn’t have money available to place a call to you, commonly called collect calls. These days the majority of collect calls are placed from pay phones at the jail or correctional facilities and are automated.

Party lines were introduced in the early days of telephones as a way for communities to lower the costs of having service by sharing a phone line. They offered little to no privacy in communication and were frequently used as a source of entertainment and gossip, along with quickly alerting entire neighborhoods of emergency situations such as fires or plane crashes. With a party line, at any given time, one could pick up the telephone receiver and be privy to a conversation between people you didn’t know or one involving your neighbors.

I’m also old enough to remember how each new technological advance in telephone communication was revolutionary. When I was 10, our family upgraded our old rotary phones to new “touchtone,” or push-button Princess phones. Then in the 1980s, I can recall how calls for emergency response from public safety was greatly improved through the addition of 911 dialing. Hard to believe now, but at one time that service never existed.

I’m sure that the longer I live, the telephone will continue to evolve and gain additional relevance in our daily lives. There are times though that I like being unable to be reached anywhere electronically. <   

Friday, February 5, 2021

Bill Diamond: Supporting small businesses through the pandemic, without adding taxes

By Senator Bill Diamond

As we know all too well, this pandemic has been hard on our communities, our families and on us as individuals. We’ve had to adapt to a difficult situation none of us would have chosen, and we’ve often had to make sacrifices for the good of our community. This extends to Maine small businesses who, for almost the past year, have had to dramatically alter the way they provide service in order to keep their workers and their customers safe. Unfortunately, these changes often came at the expense of their bottom line. Small businesses account for 99.3 percent of all Maine businesses, and as of 2018 almost 285,000 Mainers were employed by a small business. Small businesses drive our local economies, power innovation and build community. They help give a town its character and they support local schools and organizations. They need and deserve our support during this difficult time.

As part of the CARES Act relief package that Congress passed in March 2020, the federal government created a new loan program called the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP. These loans were designed to provide small businesses with funds to keep their employees on payroll so that people weren’t separated from their jobs and so businesses could survive the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. To encourage businesses to use their loans for this purpose, the federal government said that if employment and compensation levels were maintained, the loan was used for eligible expenses, and if at least 60 percent of the loan went directly to payroll, the loans would be forgiven. This would essentially turn the loan into a grant, giving businesses direct aid that they wouldn’t need to pay back.

In December, the federal government decided to exempt forgiven PPP loans from federal income tax. Additionally, businesses can claim deductions for eligible business expenses paid for by the PPP loan. This is unusual, since forgiven loans are usually taxable, but we are living in unusual times. PPP loans were often lifelines to small business that otherwise may not have made it through the pandemic, and many would have struggled to pay this tax.

When the federal government makes a tax rule, states must make decisions about if that rule will apply to state taxes, too. Maine’s constitution requires that the state have a balanced budget, and just as this year has caused Maine families to tighten the purse strings, a decrease in revenue has strained the state budget.

Conforming Maine’s tax code with the federal tax code and exempting forgiven PPP loans from income tax will be challenging for our state budget, but I truly believe it is the right thing to do. It’s what we need to do for our small businesses and our communities right now. Some of the businesses that received PPP loans would not have been able to keep their doors open if it weren’t for this help, and an unexpected state tax bill will be too much for some of them. I am encouraged that Gov. Janet Mills has directed her departments to look for federal funding that will fill the gap caused by not taxing these loans. However, regardless of the success of the Governor’s attempts to find funds elsewhere, I will not support any proposal that will tax the PPP funds. Such a tax would be contrary to the original purpose of the PPP funds. In fact, I am cosponsoring legislation that will require Maine to conform our tax rules with the federal tax rules, thus ending the threat of taxing the PPP loans.

As part of the second coronavirus relief bill passed in December, the federal government opened another round of PPP loans, dedicating $284 billion in funding. If you have a small business or are self-employed, I encourage you to learn more about your eligibility for a PPP loan, and to consider applying. I will keep you updated as the federal government considers further coronavirus support, and as the state looks for a way to avoid taxing forgiven PPP loans. You can read my monthly columns here and sign up to receive my weekly e-newsletter at And as always, if you ever have any questions, or if you need assistance, please don’t hesitate to send me an email at or to give my office a call at 207-287-1515. <

Andy Young: John Lennon -- Dead as long as alive

By Andy Young

Special to The Windham Eagle

If it seems like a lifetime since the songwriter/vocalist/guitarist who co-founded the Beatles was killed by a deranged gunman outside his Manhattan apartment, well, that’s because it has been. Specifically, his lifetime. On Feb. 6, John Lennon will have been dead for 14,671 days. That’s the precise number of days he lived.

When Lennon was gunned down on Dec. 8, 1980, 56-year-old Jimmy Carter was the president of the United States, albeit a lame duck one. The concrete barrier which cut off West Berlin from surrounding East Germany was still standing. The seven-year-old Twin Towers that constituted the World Trade Center, considered eyesores by many New Yorkers ("an example of the purposeless giantism and technological exhibitionism that are now eviscerating the living tissue of every great city,” one contemporary critic wrote), dominated the city’s skyline. And in San Mateo, California, it had been just over four months since Thomas Edward Brady Jr., aided by his parents and his three older sisters, had celebrated his third birthday.

Today, a full Lennon’s lifetime after Lennon’s lifetime, the 96-year-old Carter is the longest-lived ex-president in American history, the Berlin Wall and the Twin Towers are both long gone, and the Brady lad, now the winningest quarterback in American football history, is preparing to play in his 10th Super Bowl.

There was justifiable grief over Lennon’s premature demise, particularly given the relative brevity of his life. But he was allotted more Earthly days than Martin Luther King, Jr. was. He lived longer than Sylvia Plath, Christa McAuliffe, Yuri Gagarin, Che Guevara, Jimi Hendrix, Marilyn Monroe, Roberto Clemente, Ernie Davis, or Lou Gehrig. His lifespan was longer than the combined ones of Anne Frank and Nathan Hale. Samantha Smith, the precocious and legendary Maine peace activist, got just 4805 days. Her life was less than a third as long as Lennon’s.

The length of one’s life has a direct bearing on when an individual has been dead for as long as they were alive (DALAA). That explains how the inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell (born 1847) and singer/songwriter Janis Joplin (born 1943) could achieve DALAA status in the same calendar year (1998). There are similar unlikely examples: Harry Truman and basketball superstar Kobe Bryant will both become DALAA in the year 2061. That’s an even more stark incongruity, given that basketball didn’t exist when America’s 33rd president was born in 1884, and Truman had been dead for over half a decade by the time Bryant was born in 1978. In 2024 singer Aaliyah, who died at age 22 in a 2001 plane crash, will become DALAA three months before Orville Wright, the co-inventor of the mode of transportation that brought about her premature demise, even though he was born more than a century before she was.

Lennon isn’t the only noted musician who’s becoming dead for as long as he was alive in 2021. Kurt Cobain (May 19), Tupac Shakur (Dec. 12), and Biggie Smalls (Dec. 26) will all attain that less-than-coveted status later this year.

Researching the chronological lengths of various notable lifespans turns up some odd coincidences. Who knew Marilyn Monroe’s 13,213-day lifespan was just three days longer than Princess Diana’s? Or that Walt Disney will turn DALAA on Christmas Day, 2031? Or that the previously mentioned Aaliyah and comedian Freddie Prinze lived the exact same number of days (8,257)?

There’s nothing terribly exceptional about being deceased for as long as one was breathing. Not only can anyone do it, we all will do it. However, barring remarkable scientific advances, none among us will be able to personally observe this particular milestone. <

Insight: To annoy or not to annoy?

By Ed Pierce

Managing Editor

As I’ve gotten older, it’s possible that I’ve somewhat mellowed from my “Grumpy Old Man” status, but I still find certain annoyances utterly frustrating from time to time.

No, I’m not speaking about family members who use nearly all the bacon but return the package to the refrigerator with just one slice left and not tell anyone. I’m talking about common annoyances that our society in 2021 seems to willingly tolerate and look the other way.

Here’s a short list of annoyances that continue to frustrate me to no end:

** Does anyone in America purchase a car warranty when telemarketers call at the most inopportune time to let you know that this is the second time that they have notified you that yours has expired? Our family ditched our landline years ago in hopes of avoiding cold callers selling products and services or individuals taking a poll in the middle of dinner, but this car warranty tactic seems to have shifted the annoying genre to the mobile phone platform and appears to be thriving.

Can anyone tell me how the callers have gotten my cell phone number? And how do they know that the warranty for a vehicle that I owned in 2011 but sold in 2014 is soon about to expire? Why do they always call when you are either in the middle of an important meeting at work or when in line waiting to check out at the grocery store?

The latest gimmick that car warranty people use to get me to answer their call is to rotate their out-of-state number and area code. As fast as I can block their New Hampshire number on my iPhone to prevent them from ever reaching me again, they switch to a number with a Colorado area code or a number with an Iowa area code to fool me.

One of these days when I truly do have the time, I plan on engaging these callers in a lengthy conversation about my car warranty and taking up as much of their time as possible and then letting them know that I always finance my car warranty through my automobile loan and have no need to purchase one through them. Would like to do the same thing to anyone trying to pitch me credit card rate reduction services or offering me low-cost health insurance plans from as little as 99 cents a month.

** While I’m on the subject of annoyances, I’m also constantly irritated by the lack of creativity among those who are trying to sell pharmaceutical products on television. Their depictions of ideals of happiness and health boggle my mind, such as one with a couple walking down a flowered park pathway pushing a baby stroller as the Temptations sing “My Girl” all to promote a new medication for hypertension, or another featuring insomniacs reaching for prescription sleep pills as a green animated butterfly gently flutters over their bed or glides through their bedroom window.

Can’t these commercial makers come up with anything better or more motivational? When I can’t sleep, I’m certainly not going to go shopping for medications, I rely on my physician to choose one that will work the best for me, so I really don’t get the point of many pharmaceutical commercials. Don’t think I’ve ever asked my doctor about a particular medication advertised during the evening news and I’m probably not going to start now.

** Anyone who subscribes to Netflix will also tell you about another annoying tactic they employ that I’ve experienced too. It’s when you visit their home page and within five seconds a video will automatically start playing.

I’m sure that there is some technological trick to stop this from happening, but I don’t visit their home page often enough to have figured it out yet. Therefore, I’m bombarded for a minimum of 30 seconds of some violent martial arts movie or teen romance drama until I can discern how to exit that annoying screen and choose to select a program I do want to watch.

And can anyone explain why the volume is suddenly ramped up exponentially when a violent martial arts movie or creepy creature horror movie appears unwanted on my screen? This phenomenon is not exclusive to Netflix, it happens on other sites across the internet too.

I suppose that when I figure out how to disable their “autoplay” feature, I’ll also learn how to stop the next show in the queue from playing three seconds after the one I’ve just watched ends. <