When Exactly Did Clowns Become Scary?

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Pennywise the Clown

When exactly did clowns become scary?

By Mark Kennedy, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published:  March 25, 2018
Updated:    March 25, 2018 12:12 AM EDT
NEW YORK — His nose was round and bright red, his face as white as a sheet. His mouth was surrounded by an exaggerated smear of red makeup and his arched eyebrows hung ridiculously high on his forehead.
Such was the daily uniform of Bozo the Clown, who entertained kids for decades when TV was in its infancy. It’s also a uniform that for many now seems grotesque and sinister.
The death of longtime Bozo performer Frank Avruch this week triggered both feelings — warm memories from some and a shiver of fear from others who associate clowns more with the film It.
Which begs the question: When exactly did clowns go from birthday-party goofy to downright sinister? Well, hold onto your really big shoes — experts are divided.
David Carlyon, author, playwright and a former clown with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in the 1970s, argues that the fear of clowns — known officially as coulrophobia — is a relatively new phenomenon, born from the counter-culture 1960s and emerging as a popular force in the 1980s.
“There is no ancient fear of clowns,” he said. “It wasn’t like there was this panic rippling through Madison Square Garden as I walked up through the seats. Not at all.”
Carlyon said clowns were considered sweet and funny for two centuries until an inevitable backlash that included Stephen King’s hit novel It, the film Poltergeist, Heath Ledger’s white-faced maniac Joker, the misanthrope Krusty the Clown from The Simpsons, the shock band Insane Clown Posse and Homey D. Clown from In Living Color.
“Anything that gets that much glorification and is sentimentalized within an inch of its life invites someone to snark at it,” said Carlyon, who recently discovered the cover of a National Lampoon from 1979 with a girl cowering in fear of a malevolent clown.
“There’s nothing in any available evidence that kids were afraid of clowns in the ’40s, the ’50s, the ’60s, the ’70s,” he said. “Who said that about Red Skelton?”
Not so fast, argues Benjamin Radford, an author and editor at Skeptical Inquirer magazine who literally wrote the book on the subject, 2016’s Bad Clowns. Not to throw a pie in anyone’s face, but he argues that evil clowns have always been among us.
“It’s a mistake to ask when clowns turned bad because historically they were never really good. They’ve always had this deeply ambiguous character,” he said.
“Sometimes they’re good; sometimes they’re bad. Sometimes they’re making you laugh. Other times, they’re laughing at your expense.”
Radford traces bad clowns all the way to ancient Greece and connects them to court jesters and the Harlequin figure. He notes that Punch, an evil puppet who frequently smacks his partner Judy with a stick, made his first appearance in London in the 1500s. “You have this mass-murdering, baby-killing clown that’s beloved by Britons everywhere of all ages,” he said.
Clowns in America had their roots in circuses and they were at first meant to amuse adults, but clowning history took a detour in the 1950s and ’60s when the squeaky-clean Bozo and Ronald McDonald became the “quintessentially American default clowns” for kids, Radford said.
The more sinister clown waited patiently for his day to shine. “Stephen King didn’t invent the evil clown. That was long before his time. But what he did was turn the coin over, if you will,” Radford said.
Even if there’s debate on the issue, Radford paid homage to Avruch, the first nationally syndicated incarnation of the iconic Bozo. Without virtuous clowns like him to lay the foundation, the bad ones make no sense.
“The fact is that we need both bad and good clowns because without the good clowns like Bozo, there’s no contrast, there’s no tension to make the evil or scary clowns entertaining or interesting,” Radford said

What’s Being Done With Your Data?

According to the article posted  by Mark Gollom [CBC News] – What’s being done with your data: Experts ask, shouldn’t someone get this under control? – Facebook, Google and Amazon have a complete monopoly on records of what interests you.
Revelations that U.K.-based Cambridge Analytica apparently used data from more than 50 million Facebook accounts to try to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election in favour of Donald Trump have sparked criticism over how the giant social networking company protects its users’ data”.
According to computational social scientist Sandra Matz (an assistant professor of management at Columbia Business School) the bigger issues that should be addressed is what does it mean that those companies have that data; and, is the data that those companies hold sufficiently protected?
It appears that the current controversy arose when a psychological-profiling application for use within Facebook (created by researcher Aleksandr Kogan) was used by the data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica to obtain information about millions of Facebook users and friends (who never downloaded the app or explicitly gave consent for their data to be used to try and influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
In the wake of these revelations, now some regulators and politicians are considering whether tougher regulations need to be put into place to protect users. And, companies like Facebook have taken steps to allow users to adjust their privacy settings. However, Social scientist Matz has said, “I think it’s great if they have more control, but I think people simply don’t care enough. They probably don’t really know how much is possible and what their data is being used for.”
It appears that the current controversy arose when a psychological-profiling application for use within Facebook (created by researcher Aleksandr Kogan) was used by the data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica to obtain information about millions of Facebook users and friends (who never downloaded the app or explicitly gave consent for their data to be used to try and influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
In the wake of these revelations, now some regulators and politicians are considering whether tougher regulations need to be put into place to protect users. And, companies like Facebook have taken steps to allow users to adjust their privacy settings. However, Social scientist Matz has said, “I think it’s great if they have more control, but I think people simply don’t care enough. They probably don’t really know how much is possible and what their data is being used for.”
Meanwhile back in 2007, Helen A.S. Popkin – writing for MSNBC in an article titled Twitter Nation: Nobody Cares What You’re Doing may have captured the real reason why social media giants like Facebook is getting away with doing as they like with the data that its volunteer users provide willingly.
She asks, “Why do we think we’re so important that we believe other people want to know about what we’re having for lunch, how bored we are at work or the state of inebriation we happen to be at this very moment in time? How did society get to the point that we are constantly improving technology so that this non-news can reach others even faster than a cell phone, a text message, a blog, our Facebook profiles?”
And, she continues, “There’s no blaming Generation Y for that. Blame their parents, those touchy-feely post boomers who piled on the praise and positive reinforcement, lest they bruise little Dylan or Madison’s budding self esteem. It’s Mom and Dad who awarded gold stars and iMacs every time their precious progeny engaged in the most mundane of child development. Why should they or the rest of us gape in horror at the next generation posting itself naked on the Internet (both literally and metaphorically). Twitter is just the latest development in the biggest generation gap since rock n’ roll invented teenagers”.
But someone does care what you’re doing online; and they’re amassing fortunes mining the data being provided to them by their pavlovian subjects.

Barack Obama has presided over the collapse of American leadership in the world

Barack Obama has presided over the collapse of American leadership in the world

Michael Den Tandt | December 20, 2016 3:26 PM ET
Has there ever been a victory lap like President Barack Obama’s? Day after day the affable, soon-to-be-former leader of the free world makes his rounds — sombre and a little sad, reassuringly calm. Progressives and classical liberals everywhere, not least in Canada, wipe away a single tear as we contemplate the end of this grand moment in American history, inaugurated with a Nobel virtually before the man set foot in the Oval Office.
Perhaps in the New Year, as citizens of Earth grapple with the rising tide of chaos and carnage, and cope with the immediate consequences of Obama’s failures, there will be time for a more sober assessment of his legacy. Don’t count on it, though. Attention will likely be focused on more pressing concerns.
Tuesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel reacted to the mass murder in a Christmas market – 12 dead, 48 injured, at last count — after a man in a truck drove into a crowd of holiday shoppers in an apparent terrorist attack.
“I am, like millions of people in Germany, shocked, devastated and deeply saddened by what happened yesterday evening in Berlin,” Merkel told a news conference.
Shocked, devastated, deeply saddened; incomprehensible. It’s the now customary syntax in the aftermaths of these bloodbaths. But the words are no longer up to the job, if ever they were. Numbed, inured and resigned might serve better. For also Monday, the Russian ambassador to Turkey was shot dead in mid-speech at an art exhibit, by a young Turkish policeman — a member of the security detail — who then shouted “Don’t forget Aleppo! Don’t forget Syria!” and “Allahu Akbar!” over his corpse.
In Zurich, a 24-year-old Swiss man shot up an Islamic Centre, injuring three.
Pushed down the news list — because there’s only so much room for headlines about mass-casualty terrorist attacks — was the assault by Islamist gunmen Sunday on a tourist site in Karak, Jordan, which killed ten people, including retired Canadian teacher Linda Vatcher of Burgeo, N.L., 62.
Days before Karak there was Cairo — the bombing of a Coptic Christian cathedral, which killed more than two dozen and injured twice as many. A suicide bombing in Mogadishu, Somalia in mid-December, which killed 29 and injured 50, barely registered in the international media.
With each successive barbaric act, we drive our heads further into the dirt, or turn away with a narcotized, collective shrug. What can anyone do? In Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria Bashar Assad’s forces commit mass murder and bomb civilians with impunity; that was a trend leader on Facebook for a week. In Iraq the Islamic State rapes, enslaves and murders. The West’s chosen proxy fighters, Iraqi regulars and Kurdish militia, struggle to retake ground.
Certainly there can be no American-led or NATO army deployed to wipe out ISIL and kill or capture the sociopaths who lead it, we are informed. Because, you know, Iraq and Afghanistan; imperial overreach; war fatigue; and quagmire. God forbid there be a quagmire. Far better to allow the Syrian infection to fester for years on end, sending millions of refugees into Europe and igniting a destabilizing Islamophobic backlash worldwide — including, of course, in the United States. Europe itself may collapse. But there’s no quagmire.
No one can predict how extreme President-elect Donald Trump will be, or not, as Commander-in-Chief. But his security appointments and choice of chief strategist, self-described apologist for the “Judeo-Christian West” Stephen Bannon, indicate he is preparing for the clash of civilizations many feared immediately after 9/11.
If nothing else, this would explain Trump’s otherwise inexplicable fondness for Russia and its thuggish leader, Vladimir Putin — a convert from Soviet-era atheism to conservative Christianity, a staunch ally of the Russian Orthodox Church, and a sworn enemy of Islamism.
Is it fair to blame Obama and the Democratic establishment for this unfolding calamity? Let’s say this: President George W. Bush laid the groundwork for it with the terrible blunder of his 2003 invasion of Iraq and the subsequent disbanding of the Iraqi army, which later morphed into ISIL.
But Obama had his own historical moment, three years ago, when he drew a “red line” beyond which Assad could not cross, then watched him cross, then sidled away backwards, hoping no one would notice his retreat. That is when American leadership, badly damaged by Bush, actually died. The ensuing chaos is testament to the combined failure of two successive presidents. The Iran nuclear deal, foreign-policy centrepiece of Obama’s second term, now looks like a finger in the dyke.
Added to this, Obama presided over a working-class alienation so profound it caused life-long unionists and Democrats in the Rust Belt to stay home Nov. 8, handing the world’s greatest democracy — and the mantle of global leadership — to an authoritarian, volatile, unpredictable, untested billionaire.
Obama is a likeable, charismatic guy, and a fine speaker. His post-presidential career is locked in. Short of Bush the Younger, he may well be remembered as the worst American leader since the Second World War.
© 2016 National Post, a division of Postmedia Network Inc. All rights reserved. Unauthorized distribution, transmission or republication strictly prohibited.

 

Welcome To The Age of The Despot

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“Aleppo is now a synonym for hell,”

Welcome to the age of the despot

Every tyrant has now learned the Syrian lesson: you can bomb your cities and kill with impunity. How the West failed so horribly.

Terry Glavin December 19, 2016
“Aleppo is now a synonym for hell,” is the way outgoing UN Secretary – General Ban Ki – moon described the merciless bombardments and massacres that the Russians, Assadists and Shia militias were inflicting upon the last major stronghold of the fractured and hopeless Syrian rebels last Friday. Five years after Syria’s quixotic, non – violent democratic uprising began, nearly half a million deaths, more than five million refugees, and it had all come to this.
“We have collectively failed the people of Syria,” Ban declared at his farewell press conference at the UN headquarters in New York. “Peace will only prevail when it is accompanied by compassion, justice and accountability for the abominable crimes we have seen.”
There’s not much hope for any of that, anytime soon, no matter what fresh horror Islamic State mutates into, whether it’s crushed in the Battle of Mosul or not. Islamic State was never the main culprit in the dismemberment of Syria. It was always the Syrian mass murderer, Bashar Assad.
You can bomb your own cities to rubble, commit crimes against humanity, and wholly uproot the majority ethnic population of your own country. Assad got away with it. Russia’s Vladimir Putin got away with it. Hezbollah got away with it, and Tehran’s Qasem Soleimani, head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force, got away with it.
And all over the world, every tinpot tyrant has learned the Syrian lesson. You can get away with it.
A United Nations commission of inquiry can declare you guilty of undertaking “a state policy of extermination of the civilian population” of your country, and you can laugh it off, and for any of these “abominable” crimes to be headed off in the dark years to come, the rest of us are going to need to stop telling ourselves comforting lies about “Western intervention.” Entire political careers and the most stellar reputations in journalism have been built around these tawdry, self – exculpating deceptions. They may be ineradicable, but some honest effort should be put into enumerating them and rooting them out.
We might start by admitting that it’s not all George W. Bush‘s fault. It’s an idiotic claim, but it is deeply embedded in all the alibis and excuses that have paralyzed the NATO capitals in the face of the Syrian catastrophe. And Syria’s death throes are not over yet, not by a long shot.
Whatever the jollies we’ve all enjoyed at Bush’s expense, the Anglo – American misadventure in Mesopotamia was more than 13 years ago. The heaps of Syrian dead have grown far more than twice as high in half the time that it took the 2003 – 13 butcher’s bill from Shock and Awe to come due. The Iraqi invasion did not precipitate Syria’s implosion. Even if it did, that would not excuse anyone, least of all the United States, for the determined indifference that has left the Syrian people to their hideous fate.
Saddam had already slaughtered at least a million people by the time Bush showed up – by war, by poison gas in the genocidal Al – Anfal campaign against the Kurds, by his ethnic cleansing of the Marsh Arabs, by torture and by firing squad. If you think Iraq and Syria would be better off today if Saddam had been left unmolested in Baghdad, there’s something wrong with you.
Iraq was largely at peace and the Anbar uprising had succeeded in uprooting al – Qaeda by 2011, but Barack Obama decided to betray the Sunni minority and give the run of the place to Nouri al – Maliki, the sectarian Shiite gangster handpicked by the Quds Force’s Qasem Soleimani, last seen in public only last weekend, strutting around Aleppo, victorious.
The next favourite pretext for letting Syria die is Afghanistan, the “quagmire.”
It’s a country still bruised and battered from the years of mass murder and mayhem preceding 9/11, but a decade’s worth of opinion polling among Afghans following the 2001 ouster of the lunatic Taliban emirate never showed anything less than unambiguous support for the NATO – led, United Nations’ International Security Assistance Force mission that chased the hated Talibs back into Pakistan. They’re still blowing things up. But Afghanistan limps along. The country’s democratically elected president, the economist Ashraf Ghani, was ranked 50th on Foreign Policy magazine’s 2013 roll of the world’s 100 leading intellectuals. Syria should be so lucky.
Okay then, Libya.
It is conveniently forgotten that the United States did not overthrow the government of deranged strongman Moammar Gadhafi. The Libyan people did. They rose up in their hundreds of thousands, and it was only after Gadhafi threatened mass slaughter of his citizens that Europe and the Arab League countries dragged the United States into enforcing a no – fly zone that crippled the Libyan air force.
A year after the 2011 intervention, even after Obama pushed NATO into walking
away from Libya, a Gallup poll found 75 per cent of Libyans backed the NATO air operation. Half the Libyans surveyed (54 per cent) said they approved of the Obama administration, even, “among the highest approval Gallup has recorded in the Middle East and North Africa region outside of Israel,” Gallup reported.
Libya is a failed state, with an internationally recognized “national unity” government that barely governs beyond Tripoli and two national armies with separate blocs of militias united only in their commitment to protecting the re – emerging oil industry and cleaning out the pockets of Islamic State that have set in, as you’d expect, like gangrene. And yet, compared to Syria, Libya is a peaceable kingdom.
Oh, but Syria. Fiendishly complicated. No good guys, and “there’s nothing we could have done” now substitutes for “there’s nothing we can do.” The “we” in that lie is always intended to mean “the Americans.” The record of lost American opportunities and unmade decisions speaks loudly enough for itself.
– A no – fly zone before the Russians got involved.
– Accelerated arming of patriotic and democratic rebel groups instead of letting freelance Gulf State Islamists fill the blanks.
– A swift and punishing rain of drone strikes after Assad crossed Obama’s professed “red line” on the use of poison gas.
– Supplying the early Free Syrian Army units with anti-aircraft weapons to shoot down Assad’s barrel bombers.
– A green light to the CIA’s proposed long-game overthrow of the Assad regime.
No, Obama said. No. I’m smarter than everyone here.
Leon Panetta, Obama’s CIA drector and later Secretary of Defence, broke with Obama over Syria and walked away.
– Michael McFaul, Obama’s former ambassador to Russia, calls Obama’s abandonment of Syria and his absurd trust in the Russians a “giant failure.”
– Robert C. Hof, the senior State Department Syria analyst, resigned in despair.
– Obama’s Syria ambassador, Robert Ford, resigned in disgust.
– Even Hillary Clinton broke with him on Syria.
By the time Donald Trump came along, Obama’s inner circle on Syria had been emptied so thoroughly that his closest confidante was Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications. A public-relations man with a creative writing degree.
It was never about what the United States could have done. It was about what Obama would not do, and he would not do anything to upset the Khomeinists in Tehran. Hurt their feelings enough and they’d pull Iran out of Obama’s “legacy” foreign policy of nuclear rapprochement. The whole thing has been a failure, from beginning to end.
The lessons the world’s despots can take from this are as clear as crystal. And if there is any doubt, along comes Donald Trump, the president-elect, to clear it up: “We will stop looking to topple regimes and overthrow governments, folks.” You can get away with anything now.
What, then, would you do about all this? What would you do about Syria? There’s only one sensible and honest answer: we stop lying about what we have done, and what we have failed to do.
We start there.
© 2001 – 2016 Rogers Media. All rights reserved.

The Life Of A Movement — K. S. Bowers

In a move that has both stunned and angered Sanders supporters, Vermont senator Bernie Sanders endorsed Hillary Clinton today. Activists have expressed their anger and shock at this recent turn of events and many have become discouraged and disillusioned with the movement, forgetting the core fundaments of Bernie’s campaign. Many Americans have come out in […]

via The Life Of A Movement — K. S. Bowers

Disjointed Conversations

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The clouds languidly flow across the azure sky, besetted with fading golden rays of the setting sun. The sparkling but dying rays valiantly attempt to stay alit for one last instance before they seep away into nothingness.
Cool evening breezes rustle through the trees, slowly fluttering the leaves of autumn above like multi-coloured hues of the rainbow. Birds flitter and chirp, flicking from branch to branch, tree to tree.
In the background can be heard the distant and occasional automobile as it passes by, out of site and momentarily attracting one’s attention. Then its passing is  quickly discarded as a mere distraction.
The branches and bramble enflamed within the fire-pit emits the pungent aromas of  the surrounding forest of oaks, birches, pine and other underbrush . Shadows thrown by the overhead branches lazily plays tricks with the last remaining rays of sunlight that has absorbed my attention …..
What?! Sorry, it’s my day off. Yes, it’s a beautiful evening. Great for communing with nature. Fall is one of the most beautiful seasons of the year.
No, I live in the city. Lived in the area for a while but moved away.
Oh, really?!
Hey! Look at the size of that tree house ……..
My attention returns to the sky as those gathered about turn their attention to the tree-house pointed out by the excited child. But by now twilight had slipped its veil over the backyard in the countryside.
Against the thin dark mask of nightfall that was slipping into place was the puffy shape of the clouds pinned against the sky like patchworks of cotton. If you looked carefully and long enough the barest hint of the distant moon about to begin its march across the night sky was discernible. Playing hide and seek or attempting to break through? The game is entered.
A radio suddenly blares on, spewing out a discordant clashing musical instruments clamouring for superiority. All of which is counter-weighted by the sound of raw voices, angry voices, sad voices, dazed voices emanating from the throats of individuals who, apparently, have not yet learnt how to find themselves.
A voice in the crowd eventually intercedes and asks one of the children to change the radio station. This was then momentarily followed by the distinctive static that one hears when swiftly twirling the tuning knob through the various radio frequencies. Disjointed communication.
Then, just as quickly clear sound once again breaks forth from the speakers. The children slowly and subtly disperse off in various directions. Looking back up at the sky one notices that the stars are starting to sparkle through the occasional breaks of the now silver-lined clouds.
Scanning the sky once again, the moon is now completely obscured by the clouds. The earlier breezes seem to have died off, now gently caressing the shadowed and framed branches against the night sky.
The bumps and indentations of the ground under the carpet of  grass cushioning mould themselves to the back; and the pleasure lulls you into a deep sense of relaxation. Just then, a big husky dog strolls over and lays beside you, hunched on its forelegs, eyes and ears alert to the sounds of the night; the children wandering and playing amongst themselves. The dog, a guardian of the night.
I am slowly slipping under, holding on to nothing.
Voices dissipates. Sounds meld into nothingness. The song comes on at that precise moment and the imagination takes flight. The senses sharpen; and I am drifting away from the shore to what’s out there. To where it all began. Where it all comes together. The beauty of the infinite, the unknown.
Grey mornings. Blue skies. Red evenings. It doesn’t matter who’s around to feel alive. All you’ve got to do is crawl out of that hole that you’ve dug for yourself. If you stay the night would not give you up. If you want, the morning would keep its trust. The demons would get their battles and you can be assured that the voice of reassurance would reach out from close-by to steady you.
Some days just slip away ……
Want another beer?
Sure, thanks.
Look what you made me wear! I look and feel like a peacock. Everyone one else here is so casual.
Don’t worry about it. No one here will say anything to you. Besides, you look good.
But you said that we were going to a party?
(There is petulence and accusation in the tone and the words).
  Well, we’ll say that we’re going to a party over at ……..
The conversation is whispered between the man and woman going by.
People are clustered in random groups and engaged in various conversations around the bristling flames among the logs in the pit. Introductions are made all around. Jokes are shared. Personal and intimate news are exchanged. Social issues are discussed and commentaries made. Music appreciation and the hopes of mothers and fathers are given vocal expression. The atmosphere overall is quite easy-going.
The tongues of the flames hungrily licking at the cords of wood within the fire pit have their own magic. Whipped here and there by the passing breeze. Sculpted by the random positioning of the upright or fallen logs. Fuelled on occasion by the still fresh sap that bursts forth from within the heart of the stumps as the outer layer of bark is scorched and reduced to smoldering coal.
The radiant heat of the flames reaches out in waves across the open expanse of space that surrounds the pit and makes its presence felt to all those within its radius. Beautiful things, flames are. Their unbridled form and energy. A panorama of liquid colours contained within those elemental gases. And, at the same time, deadly to the unwary and uninitiated. Death and rebirth – dancing and weaving they are entwined from spark to dust. Insignificance to brillance.
Looking back up at the sky it can be seen that the stars are more clearly seen; and they are also out in greater numbers. The sliver of the moon is clearly visible overhead as the cloud cover slowly dissolves away to expose the majesty and beauty of the heavens and the night sky. A new sense of moisture is detected within the featherly touches of the breeze. Sounds in the night take on a new tone and generates new perceptions. Voices do not appear to simply disappear into the nothingness of the surrounding landscape. Instead they appear to be contained within the somewhat intangible boundaries created by the blanket of the night.
What do you think about the Clinton and Lewinsky scandal?
The opinions, pros and cons are bandied about all around. No side comes down clearly on either side of the subject. But there is a concensus that Clinton is a disgrace to the Presidency of the U.S and to men in particular. Monica, both the men and women agreed, was a little too naive and was used by everyone involved in the incidents and ensuing investigations.
When do you think the teacher’s strike is going to end? I say that it is time the government legislates the striking teachers back to the classrooms. We are, after all, their employers?
The teachers fared no better than Clinton and Monica.
The radio, forgotten in the distant background, is turned off and everyone realises that it is quite late. The beer, fire and conversations are slowly fading away. The dog rises and goes off in search of the children, most of whom have by now disappeared into the house. The dying embers of the fire are beyond the attempts of the ever-present breeze. The black and vast canvass of the night sky is now clearly awashed with sparkling stars. The silver crescent of the moon begining to dip toward the western horizon – the whisper of another dawn waiting in the wings of the eastern horizon.
Day and night. They will and always have been with us from the very begining. Tomorrow is just another day. Tonight is tonight. And there are days …….