A Mother’s Day Story

Jesus brought a few of his disciples with him to a wedding celebration at Cana. It’s likely that relatives of Mary were getting married and so to please his mother he made the two-day walk from his evangelizing base in Judea.

After he arrived, his mother told him the hosts had run out of wine. Jesus responded that he had come to party, not to work. (“Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.”) Rather than rebuke her son for speaking so rudely to her or slapping him — or asking who invited the apostles — Mary simply told the servants, ”Do whatever he tells you.”

Jesus ordered the servants to fill containers with water and then draw some off and take it to the chief steward. After tasting it, the steward remarked to the bridegroom that instead of following the custom of serving the good wine first and the lesser wine after the guests’ tastes had been dulled, they had held the best for last.

Even though he spoke rudely to his mother, Jesus didn’t just do what Mary wanted, he made her happy by producing excellent quality wine. And thus Jesus began his rather short career by performing his first supernatural phenomenon not to support his proselytizing, but to please his mother.

Why Not the Ides of April?

In William Shakespeare’s telling, a soothsayer gave warning to Julius Caesar: “Beware the Ides of March.”

Caesar had, in fact, been forewarned, but he did not take it seriously. On his way to the Senate on March 15, 44 B.C., Caesar passed by the seer and sneered, “Well, the Ides of March have come!” The seer responded, “Aye, Caesar; but not gone,”

When he arrived at the Senate, Caesar’s fellow senators attacked him. Twenty-three stab wounds later he was dead. The assassination ignited a civil war that ultimately ended the Roman Republic. By 40 B.C. Caesar’s nephew and understudy, Gaius Octavius, emerged as Rome’s first emperor, calling himself Augustus.

March 15, 44 B.C., the Ides, is a touchstone in Roman history.

Why don’t we call our tax day, April 15, the Ides? There is no Ides of April.

The Ides of March was an important day on the Roman calendar. Originally, March was the first month of the year and the Ides marked the first full moon and kicked off a week of religious celebrations. Later Roman calendars still were keyed to lunar cycles. The ides was calculated to be the 13th for most months, but the 15th in March, May, July, and October.

Julius Caesar’s assassination was not the only memorable Ides-of-March event.

  • March 15, 1971 – CBS Cancels the “Ed Sullivan Show,”
  • March 15, 1917 – Czar Nicholas II of Russia signs his abdication papers, ending a 304-year-old royal dynasty and ushering in Bolshevik rule. He and his family are taken captive and, in July 1918, executed before a firing squad.

Click here for more Ides-of-March incidents.

Dolly Fights the Pandemic

Dolly Parton is a country-music superstar and living legend. She is also widely regarded as a generous and all-around nice person. She made the news briefly in April last year for her $1 million contribution to Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s COVID-19 research work. She also encouraged her fans who could afford it to donate to the Vanderbilt project.

A few months later she learned that some of the donated money went to fund development of the Moderna vaccine. Her name had appeared with other sponsors in a preliminary report on the vaccine. “I just felt so proud to have been part of that little seed money that will hopefully grow into something great and help to heal this world,” she said.

Dolly Parton received her Moderna vaccine a few days ago. She appeared appropriately stylish in a dress open at the shoulder as if designed to make the injection easier.

Writer and humorist Roy Blount Jr (not to be confused with Republican Senator Roy Blunt) once said of the singer/songwriter’s performances, that “Dolly Parton makes me want to stand on my chair and wave my hat.”

A Deal with Russia

Remember when the previous occupant of the White House tried to pressure the president of Ukraine into a deal? The self-described greatest dealmaker did not succeed in the art of a deal with the former member of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, ex-sovereign state and current Russian pawn. All the then-occupant of the White House got out of it was his first impeachment.

Thirty years earlier, another U.S. president—the U.S. president of Pepsi-Cola, that is—did make a deal with Ukraine.

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The Future Has Passed

Mark Wattles began construction of his dream home in 1997. Two years later, he halted work on the 49,240-square-foot structure. The closet in the master suite alone measures twelve-hundred square feet.

The house sits on thirty-two acres in West Linn, south of Portland. The home-to-be overlooks a bend in the Willamette River, with a 270-degree view and 2,700 feet of water frontage. Wattles paid $1.25 million for the property in 1994 and says he spent $12 million on the construction.

Wattles maintained the unfinished dwelling and kept the building permits active for twenty years. He sold the property at auction for $2.27 million in 2018. The buyer envisioned a Tuscan-style villa estate and vineyard and a wine tasting room. After two years with no additional construction the property is for sale again. Asking price is $3,999,999, a bargain.

Wattles was the founder of Hollywood Video, for a time the second-largest chain of video-rental stores, behind Blockbuster. Facing a hostile takeover attempt by Blockbuster in 2005, Hollywood accepted a buyout by Movie Gallery, a smaller competitor. Movie Gallery went bankrupt and was liquidated in 2010.
Wattles meantime, purchased Ultimate Electronics consumer electronics stores, itself in bankruptcy. The Ultimate chain went into its final bankruptcy in 2011 and Wattles faced a $5.1 million judgement for personal guarantees he had made to Sony.

Industry powerhouse Blockbuster at its peak had more than nine-thousand stores. Today there is one. Blockbuster did not keep up with fast-moving technology. It faced competition from Netflix which offered subscriptions for mail-order DVD rentals. Netflix transitioned from rentals to on-line streaming service.

The last Blockbuster store is in Bend Oregon. If you’re not in their neighborhood, you can order merchandise from their web site. (Need a “Be Kind, Rewind” t-shirt?)

And Mark Wattles? His current project is drive-thru coffee shops in the Dallas Texas area.

Nat “King” Cole – TV Pioneer

The Nat King Cole Show premiered November 5, 1956 on the NBC television network. Cole’s popularity as a singer—he had sold millions of records—would have seemed to assure success as host of the eponymous variety show.

The fifteen-minute variety show, later expanded to a half hour, featured the suave and personable Cole hosting A-list guests such as Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Sammy Davis Jr. and Harry Belafonte. Nat Cole himself had performed on The Ed Sullivan Show, Cavalcade of Stars, and other popular TV variety programs.

Cole’s was the first nationally-broadcast program hosted by an African American. The Nat King Cole Show was canceled after thirteen months, unable to attract a national sponsor.

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