Monthly Archives: August 2020

Pic of the Day


Untitled Poem

Untitled Poem

When wit, and wine, and friends have met
And laughter crowns the festive hour
In vain I struggle to forget
Still does my heart confess thy power
And fondly turn to thee!

But Octavia, do not strive to rob
My heart, of all that soothes its pain
The mournful hope that every throb
Will make it break for thee!

—attributed to Edgar Allan Poe

Octavia Walton Le Vert

Octavia Walton Le Vert was born at her maternal grandmother’s home, Belle Vue, near Augusta, Georgia. She spent her early years in Georgia and was educated by her mother and paternal grandmother. In 1821, her family moved to Pensacola, Florida, where Le Vert learned French, Spanish, and the local Seminole dialect. During her father’s long tenure in Florida, her mother frequently took the children on tours along the Eastern Seaboard. Historians and literary scholars believe that it was during one of these trips in the late 1820s that Octavia Walton Le Vert encountered Edgar Allan Poe, with whom she continued correspondence until his death. After her death the poem above, the text of which was authenticated as being written in Poe’s hand, was found in one of her personal albums. The date “May 1, 1827” was written in her hand on the poem. While traveling with her mother and brother in 1832, Le Vert shared an Alabama stagecoach with writer Washington Irving, who encouraged her to begin keeping a journal. The following year, she made her social debut in Washington, D.C. She also attended Congressional debates and became friends with Senator Henry Clay.

In 1835, Le Vert’s family moved from Pensacola to Mobile, Alabama, and she met and married a local doctor, Henry Strachey LeVert. Dr. LeVert spelled his last name as one word, but Octavia soon changed that and began having people call her Madame Le Vert. While in Mobile, she became known as the “Countess of Mobile,” because of her reputation as one of the nation’s leading socialites during the 1850s. The couple entertained widely, including in their circle theatrical and literary figures. As the quintessential Southern hostess who reigned over Mobile society before the Civil War, Le Vert held lavish parties in her mansion downtown on Government Street and entertaining notables from America and Europe.

Madame Le Vert’s pen pals included Henry Clay, Washington Irving, Edgar Allan Poe and General P.G.T. Beauregard. She was so close to Clay, who visited her in Mobile in 1844, that she wrote a eulogy for his funeral, for which Irving commended her. Le Vert made two trips to Europe in the mid-1850s. Some of her letters about her experiences were published in newspapers, and Le Vert was persuaded by friends to create a book from her letters and journal entries. Souvenirs of Travel was published in 1857. Millard Fillmore, the 13th U.S. president, was her escort at some of her appearances at parties in Europe. During her travels, she was presented to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in London. She joined the guests at the court of Napoleon III in Paris and attended the New York ball in honor of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII. She was also a guest of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning in Florence.

Le Vert’s mansion on Government Street in Mobile

During the Civil War, the citizens of Mobile became suspicious of Mobile’s leading socialite believing she sympathized with the Yankees. At the very least, she was known to be opposed to secession and slavery. Le Vert was far more cosmopolitan and educated than many of her peers in Mobile, which I am sure caused some jealousy. As the city received news of Appomattox, Le Vert committed a major faux pas when she ran to the nearby home of Admiral Raphael Semmes to cheer about General Robert E. Lee’s surrender. Legend has it that Semmes’ daughter angrily asked her to leave the premises. Her attempts to befriend the occupying troops only made things worse; her neighbors were horrified when she entertained Yankee officers in her home. For this, Le Vert was ostracized by Mobile society, and she soon left to visit friends in the North. 

Along with many other wealthy Southerners, she became destitute after the war – her husband had died in 1864. In 1869, she moved to Augusta, Georgia to live with relatives in her birthplace, Belle Vue. Le Vert spent several years in the mid-1870s traveling as a public lecturer, but she returned to Belle Vue in 1876 and she died there of pneumonia the following year.

I first came across the story of Octavia Walton Le Vert when I was conducting dissertation research at the Alabama Department of Archives and History. I was searching for Alabamians who had traveled to Italy and left behind firsthand accounts. During this research I came across Le Vert’s diary from 1846-1860. The diary contained descriptions of Le Vert’s travels in Italy and other places in Europe. Her European experiences made a lasting impression on her. The poverty and misery experienced by European working women led her to work for the welfare of women working in sweat shops, cotton fields, and theatre troupes, as wells as those pioneering new fields for women. Le Vert is largely forgotten today, and her home in Mobile was demolished. She was a very interesting woman who spoke many languages and travelled widely. Too bad more people don’t know about her.


Pic of the Day

 When I first saw this picture, the words “Choices, Choices” popped in my mind. As we get nearer to Joe Biden announcing his VP pick, I thought this was appropriate.

It’s official. The choice has been made.


Neurology Appointment

On Friday, I had an appointment with my neurologist about my chronic migraines. I’ve been going to the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Headache Clinic for nearly a year now. The initial visit took about two hours’ worth of questions. My doctor did a full medical history, especially concerning my headaches and completed a neurological exam. She decided that I would start taking the Emgality injections once a month. It usually takes 2-3 months for the medicine to get into your system and start working. I was on Emgality for 6 months. The frequency of the headaches did improve; I went from having a headache every day to having 3-4 a week. For my neurologist, a 50 percent decrease was insufficient progress, so it was decided that I would switch to Aimovig, another injectable that I took every 28 days. With the Aimovig, I saw no improvement; in fact, I went back to having a headache every day. Not only was it ineffective against the migraines, but the side effects were excruciating. Aimovig is known to cause severe constipation, and some days the stomach cramps were worse that the headaches. Maybe that’s TMI, but I am just being honest.

When I met with the headache clinic’s nurse practitioner on Friday, I discussed the issues with her, and she determined that I would be taken off the Aimovig. However, since I did not respond sufficiently to the Emgality and the Aimovig was completely ineffective (both medicines are calcitonin gene-related peptide inhibitors), she believed that the third CGRP inhibitor, Ajovy, would likewise be ineffective. Furthermore, the anti-seizure mediation that has proven effective for migraine prevention is also out of the question because they all contain sulfur, and I am allergic to sulfur-based medicines. Therefore, the next option is Botox injections. There is one problem though. Aimovig has a half-life of 3-4 months, so it will be a while before my digestive tract returns to normal.

My first Botox treatment is scheduled for September 21 and should take about 20 minutes. The doctor will give me 31 injections in seven key areas of the head and neck. Each injection will contain small amounts of Botox that will go into shallow muscles in the skin. According to what I have read, it can take up to six months to see the maximum benefit from Botox. I will have to drive down to the clinic, which is about a 50-minute drive, every twelve weeks. The appointments cannot start for at least another month because it will take at least a month for the insurance appeals to be approved, hence the September 21 date. We already know that the insurance company will deny the initial request for the procedure. They have denied all of the migraine medications I have been prescribed, and my doctor has had to make appeals. Thankfully, all of the appeals have eventually been successful.

The fact that the procedure has to be appealed to the insurance company and is not automatically granted is one of the greatest failings of the healthcare system in the United States. Thankfully, Obamacare did require health insurance companies to cover preexisting conditions. Before the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, i.e. Obamacare, was passed in 2010, most insurance companies would not pay for my migraine treatments because I had previously been diagnosed with migraines. I cannot understand how it is legal in the United States for an insurance company, whose claims officers do not have medical degrees, to determine if you can have the treatment that a doctor prescribes. This is, in my opinion, the greatest failure in the healthcare system.

When I was young, I had frequent migraines, but I do not remember having headaches every single day. Since I have been an adult, I have a headache nearly every day, sometimes they would be so debilitating that I could not function. Through all of it, I was expected to continue my studies in college and graduate school. I was expected to work through the pain. If I took off every time, I had a migraine, I would rarely be able to work. Even if I took sick days for the most debilitating migraines, I would burn through my sick leave within six months. 

I have soldiered on. I’m not saying that for sympathy; I am just stating a fact. Besides the migraines, I have suffered through some pretty awful treatments. When I was on Elavil, an antidepressant with sedative effects, I suffered from night terrors. If you have never experienced night terrors, you are very lucky. In my experience, I would wake up, but I could not emerge from the nightmare I was experiencing. My mother always told me she would have to fight me to wake me up, and it was very upsetting for her, as I would be screaming for her but never know she was already there. This was a very traumatic experience for a kid. I’ve already told you about the depression effects caused by Ativan. Those were just two of the preventatives. When I took the triptans to relieve my headaches, I often felt like I was having a heart attack with severe chest pains and arm pain. The one time I tried Imitrex, it intensified the headache so much that I dropped to the floor and just cried. Sometimes, the treatment is worse than the chronic migraines.

So, I will try the Botox. I pray that it will give me the relief I crave. I don’t know what other options are out there. I feel fortunate that I have the Headache Clinic at Dartmouth-Hitchcock nearby. There is one at the University of Vermont too, but the one at DH is considered the best in the area.


Pic of the Day


Appearances

Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.

—John 7:24

The seventh chapter of John recounts Jesus’ visit to Jerusalem for the feast of Tabernacles, the possibility of his arrest, and the debate as to whether he is the Messiah. The book containing this chapter is anonymous, but early Christian tradition uniformly affirmed that John composed this Gospel. To put the above verse into context, let’s first look at John 7:14–24. These verses describe a strong spiritual challenge issued by Jesus against the religious leaders of Jerusalem. Jesus makes the point that obedience is a necessary aspect of learning. The resistance of the Scribes and Pharisees is ultimately a matter of rebellion, not knowledge. In the same way, Jesus criticizes their hypocritical attitude towards His miracles. This concludes with a powerful statement about the need to use ”right judgment,” rather than shallow appearances.

Some prefer the term “discern” as opposed to “judge” as a way to delineate between what we are supposed to do, which is to wisely and honestly evaluate without hating or doing God’s job of condemning, and the other kind that we are admonished to avoid. It takes a kind of judgment to put our faith in Christ. We see him. We judge for ourselves whether we think he is who he says he is, and we act accordingly. This is what Jesus is hoping for when he tells them, “judge with righteous judgment.”

In Matthew 7:1-4, Jesus states: 

Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?

When only Matthew 7:1 is quoted out of context, it gives the impression that Jesus simply said, “Do not judge.” However, Jesus is saying that not only should we not judge others; we should also first look at ourselves and realize our own flaws. Jesus’ frequent teaching was that we should not be superficial in our assessment of other people. However, it is crucial that we separate what is good from what is evil. The kind of judgment or judgmentalism mentioned in Matthew 7:1 is a way of playing God and making ourselves an idol by hating others for what we are judging in them.

Matthew 7:24 follows a direct challenge to the spiritual authority of Jerusalem’s religious leaders. Jesus had been attacked for healing a man on the Sabbath, but Jesus is telling them that God wants us to work to help others at all times, and if that means healing someone on the Sabbath, then He will do so. The Jewish leaders who were self-righteous would not look past the external to see the reality of what was happening in and around Jesus. In 1 Samuel 16:7, it is stated:

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

Jesus criticized the Jewish leadership because they were unable to make the connection between doing God’s work of circumcision on the Sabbath and healing a whole body or whole person on the Sabbath. They loved the letter of the law but did not understand the spirit of the law. People love to focus on appearances because they can feel they are righteous without having to let God into their hearts, which is where sin dwells and those feelings would be painful and toilsome to deal with.

Despite the Bible not mentioning Jesus receiving any formal religious education, Jesus bewildered his critics with his religious knowledge and understanding. He accused them of hard-headedness. In John 5:39–40), Jesus says, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.” He also accused them of disobedience. In John 7:17, Jesus declares, “If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself.” Furthermore, He even accused them of attempted violence in John 7:19, when He admonished them by asking, “Did not Moses give you the Law, and yet none of you carries out the Law? Why do you seek to kill Me?” The result which was seen in the next few verses, the people of Jerusalem began to wonder if Jesus was being allowed to preach because the authorities were powerless, or because they had come to believe Him. John 7:25–26 states:

So, some of the people of Jerusalem were saying, “Is this not the man whom they are seeking to kill? Look, He is speaking publicly, and they are saying nothing to Him. The rulers do not really know that this is the Christ, do they?”

 That crisis of confidence spurred the Jewish leaders towards drastic measures to silence Christ. Jesus’ life and words were a threat to the Jewish leaders’ way of life. They seemed to love their way of life and understanding of the world more than they loved God. It was all too easy for them to find reasons to dismiss Jesus so that they could dismiss what he said.

In summary, Adam Clarke (1762 – 26 August 1832), the British Methodist theologian and biblical scholar, wrote in his biblical commentary that:

Attend to the law, not merely in the letter, but in its spirit and design. Learn that the law which commands men to rest on the Sabbath day is subordinate to the law of mercy and love, which requires them to be ever active to promote God’s glory in the comfort and salvation of their fellow creatures; and endeavor to judge of the merit or demerit of an action, not from the first impression it may make upon your prejudices but from its tendency, and the motives of the person, as far as it is possible for you to acquaint yourselves with them; still believing the best, where you have no certain proof to the contrary.


Pic of the Day


Moment of Zen: Steven Lee

Steven Lee is a porn star for Falcon Studios. He’s not 100 percent my type, but he’s quite handsome and has the right equipment to be a porn star (I can’t show pics of that though). With that being said, he’s a pretty interesting guy. He is a gay man’s fantasy – Georgia born, high school jock, and smart guy – he holds a bachelor’s degree in Atmospheric Science. For a brief time, he showed off his assets on television, working as a TV meteorologist in Texas – can you imagine waking up to that every morning? I’d definitely be watching the news more regularly, and we have our fair share of hot anchormen in Vermont already. However, he left the news saying, “The pays awful, the hours are awful, and viewers are assholes. I did it for 2 years in 2 different cities and that was plenty!” Weathermen always seem to get the brunt of critical viewers because let’s face it, the weather is hard to predict. He currently lives in Denver, where he also performs as the drag queen MascKara.


Pic of the Day


There Is No Bottom for Trump

Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden bows his head in prayer as he visits Bethel AME Church in Wilmington, Del., Monday, June 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Truly there is no depths to how low Trump will go. Every time we think he can’t stoop lower; he proves us wrong. The saddest and most disturbing part of all of it is that his followers don’t seem to mind. In just the last few days, he has seemingly gone over the deep end. After months of screaming without any proof that mail-in voting would lead to voter fraud and that it will take months or years to get the results of the election if ballots are mailed in, the Postmaster General he appointed is purposely trying to slow down the mail and to top off the whole idiocy of his voter fraud claims, Trump stated in his usual incoherent speech that:

“Florida’s got a great Republican governor. And it had a great Republican governor. Two great governors. And over a long period of time they’ve been able to get the absentee ballots done extremely professionally. They’re so well run. Florida’s a very well-run state. Low taxes, low everything. They’ve done a great job. Really a great job.”

Trump not only votes in Florida now, but does so by absentee ballot. It’s hard to believe that even Trump could utter the phrase, “Florida’s a very well-run state.” DeSantis’s handling of the pandemic might just be worse than Trump’s. And let us not forget the fiasco of the 2000 presidential election, which Florida has done little to reform their failings from then. Then, the very same day he praised the incompetent State of Florida, he followed through on his threats to sue Nevada over its plan to conduct the November election almost entirely by mail-in ballot.

In this episode of “Axios on HBO,” President Trump discussed in a disastrous interview for his campaign his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the upcoming election and much more with National Political Correspondent Jonathan Swan. The interview was filmed on Tuesday, July 28 and aired Monday, August 3 on HBO. While the interview highlighted Trump’s incompetence in handling or even understanding the coronavirus pandemic, the full list of his false claims during the interview are staggering. Swan grilled Trump on his laughably inaccurate claim that the virus is “under control,” which he has been making for more than six months. In the interview, Trump said, “Right now, I think it’s under control. I’ll tell you what –“

Swan responded with, “How? 1,000 Americans are dying a day.”

Trump’s answer was that “They are dying. That’s true. And you have — it is what it is. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t doing everything we can. It’s under control as much as you can control it.” And there you have it, Trump’s total lack of empathy for the American people and his inability to be any kind of effective leader. All he can say is, “It is what it is.” It was one of many eyebrow-raising statements made by the president in the sit-down chat. The Biden campaign released a 27-second advertisement showing Trump making the statement, then cuts to a montage of images of medical professionals in protective equipment and people mourning those killed by COVID-19. The Biden campaign and The Lincoln Project have produced some pretty efficient ads, and they don’t have to rely on lies and misinformation.

These instances just continue to show his incompetence, stupidity, and lack of ability to tell the truth or have any morals. But now Trump is really trying to reach bottom in a new campaign advertisement. Trump, the darling of evangelicals despite his decidedly ungodly behavior, has put out a new campaign ad that mocks former Vice President Joe Biden for praying. Biden is shown with his head down wearing a mask and clasping his hands. “Deep in the heart of Delaware Joe Biden sits in his basement, alone, hiding, diminished,” the ad begins. Five seconds into the ad, a photo of Biden sitting on the floor by himself is shown with the line, but the Iowa newspaper The Gazette has come forward to say that the photo was taken by their reporter and had been dramatically manipulated. In the original photo, Biden is surrounded by reporters and supporters in the home of Coralville, Iowa Mayor John Lundell. Approximately three dozen people were in the room, according to the newspaper. Biden had sat on the floor after giving up his seat so someone else could sit there.

The ad ends by saying that Biden “Has no answers” and “He never will.” The end of the ad shows the last statement superimposed over a picture of Biden praying inside the historic Black Bethel AME church in Delaware. The image is meant to make Biden look like a defeated old man, when he is simply a man who is praying. Biden’s Director of Rapid Response said in an emailed statement, “Donald Trump is the only president in our history to tear gas peaceful Americans and kick a priest out of their church so he could profane it for a photo op….Which makes it unsurprising – but no less sickening – that the Trump campaign just denigrated Joe Biden for praying.”

While prominent religious leaders and activists, including anti-LGBTQ hate group, have made excuses for Trump several times over, will they stomach Trump mocking a devout Catholic man for praying in a church? If any of you are familiar with most Protestant denominations, especially those in the South and whose members are the core of Trump’s devotees, you know that these bigots don’t consider Catholics Christians. I can’t count the number of times I have heard Protestants make the claim that Catholics are not Christian. Many of my students—middle school, high school, and college—were surprised to know that the Catholic Church was the main form of western Christianity until the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century. So, don’t expect there to be much outrage in the South over Trump ridiculing Biden for praying. They don’t believe his is a Christian, so how can he pray? What they fail to realize or even want to know is that Biden is a regular churchgoer, while Trump has rarely ever stepped into a church.