By Dan Pool
This fall I needed new arrows for my old wooden recurve bow. I enjoy shooting at a target in the backyard and the arrows used make a lot of difference. Before March of 2019, I would drive over to the Bargain Barn for advice and arrows. Although it sounded like a second-hand store, they had a knowledgeable staff on all things hunting and fishing along with a wide selection of outdoor products. Longtime residents will be familiar with what they sold as the Bargain Barn had been in business since 1961 and was a competitor of Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops when the Jasper store was at its peak.
Now, I’ll either need to drive out-of-town or order online and “chat” to get my questions answered.
With retailers, if a community doesn’t use them, they lose them and the Bargain Barn closed in 2019. People occasionally mention that we need a book store here, to which I remind them we had one, a nice one, right on Main Street. Nickell Books is long gone also.
With the Bargain Barn, the book store, and quite a few other specialty stores, you often run into higher prices than what’s online. With free shipping and hassle-free exchanges, it’s hard for local mom-and-pop stores to compete against the likes of Amazon.
This year digital companies have extended their domination of the American economy, as people staying home found they could do more online and e-companies, to their credit, stepped up to fill the need.
Consider that in August, it was reported in the NY Times that “The stocks of Apple, Amazon, Alphabet (Google), Microsoft and Facebook, the five largest publicly traded companies in America, rose 37 percent in the first seven months this year, while all the other stocks in the S&P 500 fell a combined 6 percent.”
Those massive companies have seen their stock prices continue an upward trajectory, most either doubling this year or close to it.
No one should begrudge them the success. It wasn’t luck, they earned it. They made shopping while sitting in sweats on your couch ridiculously easy with two of the companies, Facebook and Google, driving you to products you never knew existed.
But as we enter this holiday shopping period, I ask our readers to consider the impact of where they shop? [First, a little caution is warranted. Who knows what will happen next with so much turmoil in the world? Now is not the time to max our credit cards.]
The underlying question: Are you going to help online retailers make even more money or do you want to support the businesses of this community?
When you shop, remember that what is spent by everyone in the community at area stores and restaurants, makes an impact right here at home. A jump in local spending allows some of the businesses to keep a full crew or offer bonuses or in some cases, just keep the doors open.
On the other hand, all the 2020 holiday spending by Pickens residents wouldn’t be a drop in the bucket to the biggest online retailers.
Instead of insisting on the lowest price possible, how about enjoying the small town atmosphere of shopping with people you know? We realize that some arrows and other specialty products simply are not available here. But we all need to realize that if we don’t support our neighbors in their businesses even fewer products will be available here.
Furthermore, the big national companies are going to take what you spend back to the corporate office and divide it out to shareholders, being sure that billionaire owners are compensated in the millions.
Here, the money you spend (hopefully) is re-spent at other local businesses, buying tires, paying HVAC repairmen and having parking lots resurfaced, running ads in the newspaper, paying property taxes and providing sales tax to help our schools and governments.
Worst of all, a closed local business is a sad sight, a morale killer for the whole community and does nothing to benefit anyone.
Now is the time to support your community – loyal to local as the saying goes. No matter how nice the online offerings may be, there’s no way those companies are employing your neighbors, supporting a church building fund or helping with medical expenses of someone here. And it’s unlikely the owner of any of them will stop and speak to you.
By Dan Pool
I realized last week that the majority of the fodder you see on the internet is self-help material. By fodder, I mean e-mails you didn’t request and the links that pop up everywhere.
It’s an interesting world, where you can lose hours studying everything from which bourbons ought to be in your bar to how to do a “perfect pushup” as though regular push ups aren’t enough. And maybe that is the draw - “What if I could do the perfect pushup?” Would I suddenly look like an NFL linebacker?
I worry whether we have the horse or the cart in front here. Are we in so much need of help that we are all searching for the best meditation apps for our iPhone? Or, are there so many people profiting off this stuff it is creating an atmosphere where we feel compelled to read “10 tips for improving your memory?”
In any event, below is a collection of various advice that caught my attention in a trip down the rabbit-hole of self-help gurus and advice.
• Zen Buddhist guidelines for daily living from “Moon Journeying Through Clouds” - Pause before buying and see if breathing is enough.
• From How to Be Productive. According to Ancient Philosophy by Author Darius Foroux - “‘Better a little which is well done, than a great deal imperfectly.’– Plato,” to which the author adds, “We can achieve a lot in a lifetime. We can achieve little in a day.”
• From the Drug Market Observer Intelligence Report, for investors not partiers, “Magic Mushrooms Are The Next Big Boom (and Legal!)”
• From Blazer.com on dressing sharp heading into fall, “Fall has always been the time for smart layering, especially when it comes to jackets.”
• From Men’s Health – 20 ways to boost your mental health - Number three on their list was this gem, “Troubleshoot pre-trouble - It’s not worrying; it’s strategizing.”
• From Digg.com - “Helpful tips to avoid being tired all the time,” a video that advises among other things, less caffeine in the afternoon will help you sleep better.
• From Wired.com, a doctor and “food archeologist” says we eat meat all wrong – it’s the innards and blood we should go for, not the t-bones. And avoid eating meat where you don’t know the name of the person who killed and processed it – as in a local farmer and butcher or hunters.
• Daily Bible Living advises to memorize Bible verses that you can fall back on in trying times. Their recommended verses were Psalm 29:10-11, Luke 8:43-48, Isaiah 45:3, 2 Corinthians 1:9-10
• Tim Ferriss, a famous podcaster and author, had in a recent newsletter: “What I’m using twice a week — Hand balance boards for handstands and hand balancing -- I’ve been getting back into spending time upside down. Specifically, I’m working on hand balancing.”
• Gretchen Rubin, another author/podcaster who has made a career out of advising others, offers a plentitude of tips at the The Happiness Project including creating an “emergency kit for anxiety, worry, and stress,” which are a bunch of relaxation techniques.
• But I was more interested in “Caskers” and their “six spirits you should try” including – Ardbeg 10 year old – “it’s not just the peat that comes to the forefront, it’s the unmistakable scent of salty sea air, which manages to transport you to a seaside cliff on Islay.” Now that sounds like a drink and a emergency kit for stress all rolled into one.
• According to RealSimple.com, it’s not Scotch but breakfast that will be big in 2021. Everyone working from home has gotten used to more than a bowl of cereal on the run. They also advise olive oil’s fad will run its course.
• And finally, for anyone hoping I would give out the magic formula for foods that burn belly fat, according Healthguide.com, tofu and berries are at the top of the list.
A few months ago, one of the Progress’ contributors wrote about how a heated presidential election in 1884 impacted Pickens County. Not only did one local community go so far as to rename their town after Republican candidate James G. Blaine (who lost to Democrat Grover Cleveland), tempers flared to the point that some here feared for their lives.
In his column, Blake Moss recalls a prominent Pickens politician’s grandson who wrote an editorial that was critical of Blaine, and that “sparked major controversies.”
“When one commenced to read it there was no stopping till the end, except to cuss, if you were a Republican,” one local judge wrote of the piece.
The Democratic author ended up leaving town because he was fearful of violent retaliation.
Moss goes on to write, “The final results came in on a snowy November day. Many locals gathered at the rail depot in Jasper and the Democrats broke into celebration - Grover Cleveland had won the election. That night celebrations were held in Jasper over the narrow victory, the Democrats ‘tore up the hats of every Republican in town’ and somehow the celebrators secured a lot of gunpowder and two anvils in hopes to ‘wake the dead.’” The gunpowder was detonated between anvils in front of the courthouse in Jasper.
That election was notable because it was unusually nasty (an article in American Heritage calls it “The Dirtiest Election”). The below-the-belt style from the 1884 race unfortunately mirrors the election cycle we have had on both presidential and local levels this year. We’re writing this editorial the weekend after - yet again on social media - accusations were lobbed and arguing ensued among a commission chair candidate and his opponent’s supporters, and we’re writing it just a few weeks after the debacle that was the first presidential debate. This is, of course, not to mention all the other mudslinging that has come out of other state and local elections this year (sheriff’s and tax commissioner’s races we’re looking at you). And the hostility has been from candidates and from the public.
The record lines and record turnout we are seeing during early voting are heartening. It’s inspiring to see people wait for hours to cast their ballot – but this election season has been exhausting for everyone and we’re ready (and we think most people are ready) to move on. But an NPR article reports public safety entities are “preparing for tensions and the possibility of violence” on Election Day, November 3.
“Military officials don't anticipate any particular problems of violence at the polls themselves, but they do say that with the bitter campaign, street protests and the rise of armed groups, violence could occur after the election, regardless of who wins,” the article states.
The Wall Street Journal also recently ran a piece, “Facebook Prepares Measures for Possible Election Unrest” that describes Facebook using tools to slow “the spread of certain posts and tweaking users’ news feeds.”
According to these and many other articles, the weeks following the election aren’t shaping up to be any better than how things have been leading up to it - but we don’t want the losing party to retaliate violently by “[tearing] up the hats” of the opposing side like they did in 1884 (or whatever the modern day equivalent would be). We’re not anticipating winners will be announced on Election Day with the record numbers of mail-in ballots that need to be counted, but when the call is eventually made we’re praying for a peaceful transition of power between candidates – and their supporters.
Celebrating when your candidate wins (preferably not with gunpowder between two anvils, but whatever the less-destructive modern equivalent would be) is expected – but the leaders we want to win don’t always. After this election let’s please exercise some civility, suck it up if our candidates lose, move on, and figure out how the next phase of our country – and county’s - futures – can be better than they are now.
By Dan Pool
On Halloween night I was visited by three ghosts, each more horrible than the last. They were the spirts of our Jasper parks. There was the Park-Present, The Park of Misfit Design and Park of Irrational Dreams.
I first detected a horrible aroma in my study – like the poop of some fowl from Hell. The eerie figure was distraught and said it felt unloved. “Sure they replaced some playground equipment and even added a little more and made a dog run which isn’t used that much, but hey it was a nice thought.” But this jealous, angry spectre knew that the big money (SPLOST $525,000) was being directed elsewhere.
“What more do I need to do?” this morose spirit implored? “Don’t I tolerate all manner of use and misuse, from those foul fowl (do you think I want to be covered in goose poop?); To the kids that must ride bicycles on my tennis court for they have no where else to go; To the people who crowd in every weekend. I welcome all, yet the bulk of the SPLOST spending goes not to my needs.”
Seeing this poor creature at wit’s end, I unburdened my suspicion that the powers-that-be want a newer, prettier park. “It’s sad but it happens and they want something they can show off to out-of-towners whom they hope to lure here.” But I urged this poor park to hold its head high, “You’re the park where families go on Saturdays, kids swing and slide and old folks gather to eat fried chicken.” The spirit, somewhat cheered, departed.
Next showed up a spirit so thin and misshapen I couldn’t even ascertain that it was a park at all, just a parking spot in the woods, with a small gazebo. I demanded to know what it was, for this apparition frightened me. I imagined all sorts of crimes committed in it presence.
With a whimper, the being spoke saying, “I’m that park on Lumber Company Road, named for a noble councilwoman but you’ll probably know me only as the ‘raper park.’ So unfair, so unfair.” it continued. “No crimes have been committed there [Police records show ‘tis true]. My woods are not evil, just poorly planned.”
I agreed this wraith had a rough time. To cheer it up, I pointed out that the terrain is quite nice, but who knows what to do with it? Turns out this park of Misfit Design is more a mystery than a ghost story.
Finally as I drifted back to sleep, I heard loud, loud music coming from another dimension and bright lights and squealing tires. I inquired, “What the devil are you?” And this creature threw back it’s mirrored sunglasses, straightened its ascot and said, “Back off man. I’m the future. I am going right downtown and we’ll have an amphitheater, water jets and tower to look at the mountain. I’ll stretch to residential areas and might even have a nearby dining plaza. Let a real park show you how it’s done.” He gestured toward the other departing spirits with a smirk, “losers,” he called.
But how, how will it get here? With a diabolical laugh, he said “grants of course.”
Then I knew that this Park of Irrational Dreams spake without reason or sound mind. For its one thing to believe in ghosts but quite another level of gullibility to wait around on a grant for a third park when you’ve got two that need attention right now.
Right as I fell back asleep a fourth little spirit entered but recognizing it quickly as the ghost of the Peace Park/water park in downtown, I threw a shoe at it. “You were never a park, just an empty lot with some stones that now is just an empty lot. We’ll talk about you when we discuss streetscapes, not tonight.”
By Dan Pool
About a decade ago, a man who ran a small business here, approached me about a story that was a matter of life and death. This man, who is no longer with us, had convinced himself based personal experiments that eating apple seeds cured cancer.
He was very serious and felt he had fully tested this theory -- on himself only; there was nothing approaching any bona fide medical tests. He had a sense of urgency that this story needed immediate release as the medical industry was trying to silence him he thought.
For a brief period, he called frequently (he ran ads for his regular business as well) and at one point I almost gave in. I considered whether a short article might pacify him and not do any harm if we explained that the theory was completely untested.
We never did the story, as it simply wouldn’t have been accurate and second, it could have had real consequences.
First, the established medical community holds the opinion that apple seeds contain toxic substances and are harmful to anyone who ate too many and they back their view with real science. What would the effect be on a cancer patient with a compromised immune system who ate something toxic? What would the emotional impact be on someone who had lost a spouse to cancer to see an article claiming all they had needed to do was eat apple seeds? Or what if the parent of a child with cancer doing poorly suddenly quit the hospital-prescribed treatment to go home and eat apple seeds?
This in a microcosm is how conspiracy theories start: one person tosses out an untested, no-fact view and someone passes it along. This story would have been very compelling: local guy from small town cures horrible disease, everyone celebrates and spreads it around --except it’s not true. It’s simply not a fact.
What makes conspiracy theories so hard to disprove is believers can so easily claim the lies go deeper and deeper. Take the moon landing. If you try to argue that there are pictures, videos, interviews with men who have walked on the moon, the denialists retort those are all fake too.
Our example of not publishing something that has very little credence is not an isolated example. It’s what reputable newspaper publishers have done for at least two centuries and even at this small weekly, we have stranger stories brought to us that never made the printed page. Social media, and the internet has not developed any such standards.
But that may be forced to change with both liberals and conservatives saying this no-holds-barred atmosphere goes too far. Conservatives argue that it allows a widespread bias against their views; liberals say it allows hate speech to go unchallenged.
The political argument often refers back to “Section 230” which is part of the Communications Decency Act and in a very simplified version gives social media companies immunity from any harm that posts by others on their platform cause. One of the quietest members of the Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas, indicated this month that it’s time to take a look at that.
From the position of this editor, I’d concur that it’s high time to impose on the social media giants, the same responsibilities that newspapers operate under.
With freedom of speech, people most certainly have the right to say whatever they think and opinions, even distasteful ones, should be protected. But that First Amendment right doesn’t offer an excuse for any medium (whether print, broadcast, or social media) to simply ignore any responsibility for what they have created and profit handsomely from.
And part of that is recognizing the difference in opinion and political rhetoric versus malicious efforts to intentionally present misinformation.
And the bottom line is facts are facts; they are either right or wrong.