Sunday, June 3, 2018

Where to Live and Die

The search for the ideal place to live has been a big part of my life. I prefer a quiet rural area far from neighbors with a hilly terrain, affordable housing, moderate weather and earthy women.

I've lived in scores of places in 12 states now and have yet to find heaven on earth, but I keep getting closer.

Apparently, perfection is a state of mind rather than a spot on a map.


Obviously, everyone has their own reason for choosing where to live, such as economic opportunities, climate, cost of living, political environment, quality of education, social atmosphere, recreational activities, etc.

One consideration for finding the ideal place to nest might be projected life expectancy of various locations. Dr. Christopher Murray of the Harvard School of Public Health conducted a study of life spans across the USA.

The longest human life spans by state are:

  • Hawaii – 80.0
  • Minnesota – 78.8
  • Connecticut -- 78.7
  • Utah – 78.7
  • Massachusetts – 78.4
  • Iowa -- 78.3
  • New Hampshire -- 78.3
  • North Dakota -- 78.3
  • Rhode Island – 78.3

The shortest life spans by state are:

  • Georgia – 75.3
  • Arkansas -- 75.2
  • Kentucky -- 75.2
  • Oklahoma – 75.2
  • Tennessee -- 75.1
  • West Virginia – 75.1
  • Alabama – 74.4
  • Louisiana – 74.2
  • Mississippi – 73.6

For some reason, southerners don't last as long as the rest of the country. That's probably because they're too busy having a good time, eating too much deep-fried possum and breathing in too many NASCAR fumes.

Hawaii may be a good place to live a long life but it's also highly vulnerable to natural disasters.

A university study, recently published by Live Science, listed the largest 50 American cities from the safest to the most vulnerable to natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, flooding, etc.

The 10 safest cities are:

1) Mesa, Ariz.
2) Milwaukee, Wis.
3) Cleveland, Ohio
4) El Paso, Tex.
5) Phoenix, Ariz.
6) Tucson, Ariz.
7) Colorado Springs, Colo.
8) Detroit, Mich.
9) Fresno, Calif.
10) Minneapolis, Minn.

The 10 most dangerous American cities when it comes to natural disasters are:

41) Tulsa, Okla.
42) Long Beach, Calif.
43) Houston, Tex.
44) Los Angeles, Calif.
45) San Jose, Calif.
46) Honolulu, Hawaii
47) San Francisco, Calif.
48) Oakland, Calif.
49) New Orleans, La.
50) Miami, Fla.

The most dangerous places are near the ocean. The West Coast is along the Pacific Ring of Fire where there's a lot of volcanic and seismic activity, and the East Coast has an active annual hurricane season.

I lived in Miami (1964-65) during Hurricane Cleo (devastating property damage) and in Los Angeles (1975-86) through many earthquakes (mostly minor), not to mention brush fires, mudslides and occasional riots.

Another study, listed the same largest 50 American cities, from best to worst, based on "essential quality-of-life and economic factors that affect your personal sustainability."

The top 10 cities are:

1) Portland, Ore.
2) San Francisco, Calif.
3) Seattle, Wash.
4) Chicago, Ill.
5) Oakland, Calif.
6) New York City, N.Y.
7) Boston, Mass.
8) Philadelphia, Penn.
9) Denver, Colo.
10) Minneapolis, Minn.

The 10 least favorable cities are:

41) Arlington, Tex.
42) Nashville, Tenn.
43) Detroit, Mich.
44) Memphis, Tenn.
45) Indianapolis, Ind.
46) Fort Worth, Tex.
47) Mesa, Ariz.
48) Virginia Beach, Va.
49) Oklahoma City, Okla.
50) Columbus, Ohio.

Utilizing the above criteria, Minneapolis appears to be the best place to live. Minnesota is second in terms of life span, plus Minneapolis is in the top ten of the safest cities and in the top ten of the most sustainable cities.

I lived in the Minneapolis metropolitan area in 1956-64 and 1968-75. It's a great place, but very cold in the winter and the summers are infested with the Minnesota state bird, more commonly known as the mosquito.

These days, I’m in the Ozark Mountains of northern Arkansas, where the terrain is hilly, housing is affordable, weather is fairly moderate and the women are definitely earthy. I’ll probably remain here for a long time.

The one place you don't want to live is anywhere near me, especially if you have noisy kids or wind chimes.


Every living thing in this dimension suffers from extinction. Death is a part of life -- it’s merely a matter of when and how.

“There are worse things than death, like spending an afternoon with an insurance salesman.” Woody Allen

A coward dies a thousand deaths, the brave die but once.

All the world is a stage, and all the men and women merely players.

Life is a three-act play -- birth, death and everything else in between.

When the final curtain drops on the players, the audience applauds and life goes on.

Forbes Magazine, ever eager to promote optimal decision-making, has recently ranked the best places to die. The results are based on the following five categories with the weighted percentage of importance in parenthesis.

  • (44 percent) Health Care Quality – How well patients were treated for a variety of diseases based on the latest available data originally published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

  • (22 percent) Cancer Deaths in Hospitals, Nursing Homes, or at Home – Researchers at Brown University tracked where cancer patients were likely to die (home being the preferred choice).

  • (22 percent) Percent of Medicare Patients using Hospice in the Last Year of life – Data from the Dartmouth Atlas of Health based on the percentage of Medicare patients cared for at home in the last year of life.

  • (8 percent) Legal Protection – Based on an American Bar Association report on law and aging which rates each state in terms of quality and comprehensiveness of law for the elderly.

  • (4 percent) Estate Taxes – Computed, by state, for an estate worth $10 million legated by the widow or widower to their direct heirs, based on each individual state's estate and gift tax code.

For those concerned about such matters, perhaps you should switch to a decaf.

The top places to die are:

1) Utah
2) Oregon
3) Delaware
4) Colorado
5) Hawaii
6) New Hampshire
7) Iowa
8) North Dakota
9) Vermont
10) Montana

Apparently, Utah is the best place to die. I've been to Utah and would wholeheartedly agree. If I’m not mistaken, Utah is a Ute Indian word meaning land of salt and boredom. According to Mormon folklore, Utah is the land nobody wanted. But the Mormons yearned for a place where they could practice their religion without interference from the outside world, so they settled in the barren desert and set up shop. They frown on alcohol and gambling, but tend to have lots of kids -- not much else to do.

As reported above, based on longevity Utah was third, behind Hawaii and Minnesota, as the number one state in which to live. In Utah, you will live longer than almost anywhere else in the country and it’s the number one place to die (based on the above criteria). If you are a Latter-day Saint, you will fit right in. If you are any other form of Saint, you should probably practice your sainthood elsewhere.

The following states are at the bottom of the list. If you live in one of these states, you might consider moving to Salt Lake City and joining the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

45) Texas
46) New Jersey
47) Mississippi
48) Louisiana
49) Ohio
50) Illinois

Birth is a blessed gift, death is inevitable and everything else in between is up to us. You can either live life to the fullest or screw it all up. In the end all that truly matters is the impact, or lack thereof, you left on the world.  But don't worry too much about the end of existence in this dimension. It's just another phase we go through on the eternal sojourn of the soul into the Infinite.

And eternity is a very long time, especially toward the end.

Quote for the Day – "Either he's dead or my watch stopped." Groucho Marx

Bret Burquest is the author of 12 books. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a few dogs and where earthy women roam in hilly terrain.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Movie Stars in World War II

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese Navy perpetrated a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, compelling the USA to enter into the horrific global conflict called World War II.

Many Hollywood movie stars were involved in military action during WWII.

JAMES STEWART (1908-1997)
Enlisted in 1940 -- commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant after Pearl Harbor attack -- as a licensed pilot he trained other pilots -- appointed squadron commander in 1943 -- flew combat missions over Germany, leading 20 missions and participating in hundreds of other air strikes -- retired as an active member of the Air Force Reserve in the late 1950s as a Brigadier General.

CLARK GABLE (1901-1960)
Joined the Army Air Corps in 1942 after the death of his wife, Carol Lombard -- assigned to aerial gunnery training -- commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant -- flew in operational missions over Europe in B-17s -- relieved of duty (over-age for combat) in 1944 at the rank of Major.

LEE MARVIN (1924-1987)
Joined the Marines after being expelled from several prep schools -- wounded during the Battle of Saipan, during which most of his company of Marines were killed -- he received a Purple Heart and was given a medical discharge at the rank of Private First Class.

AUDIE MURPHY (1924-1971)
Stood 5' 5" and enlisted in the Army after Pearl Harbor at age 16 by lying about his age -- the most decorated soldier in World War II, including the Congressional Medal of Honor -- his Medal of Honor citation reads as follows:

"Second Lt. Murphy commanded Company B, which was attacked by six tanks and waves of infantry. 2d Lt. Murphy ordered his men to withdraw to a prepared position in a woods, while he remained forward at his command post and continued to give fire directions to the artillery by telephone. Behind him, to his right, one of our tank destroyers received a direct hit and began to burn. Its crew withdrew to the woods. 2d Lt. Murphy continued to direct artillery fire, which killed large numbers of the advancing enemy infantry. With the enemy tanks abreast of his position, 2d Lt. Murphy climbed on the burning tank destroyer, which was in danger of blowing up at any moment, and employed its .50 caliber machine gun against the enemy. He was alone and exposed to German fire from three sides, but his deadly fire killed dozens of Germans and caused their infantry attack to waver. The enemy tanks, losing infantry support, began to fall back. For an hour the Germans tried every available weapon to eliminate 2d Lt. Murphy, but he continued to hold his position and wiped out a squad that was trying to creep up unnoticed on his right flank. Germans reached as close as 10 yards, only to be mowed down by his fire. He received a leg wound, but ignored it and continued his single-handed fight until his ammunition was exhausted. He then made his way back to his company, refused medical attention, and organized the company in a counterattack, which forced the Germans to withdraw. His directing of artillery fire wiped out many of the enemy; he killed or wounded about 50. 2d Lt. Murphy's indomitable courage and his refusal to give an inch of ground saved his company from possible encirclement and destruction, and enabled it to hold the woods which had been the enemy's objective."

TYRONE POWER (1914-1958)
Enlisted in the Marines in 1942 -- having been a pilot prior to enlistment, he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in 1943 -- he flew cargo into war zones in the Battle of Iwo Jima and the Battle of Okinawa, then flew wounded Marines out of the war zones -- released from duty in 1946 at the rank of Captain.

Joined the Navy in 1935 and was discharged in 1941, but re-enlisted after Pearl Harbor -- discharged again in 1945, after 10 years in the Navy, at the rank of Gunner's Mate.

Enlisted in the Army Air Force in 1943 -- served as an aerial gunner on B-29s -- saw action in Guam, Tinian and Saipan -- awarded a Purple Heart for wounds received in action.

EDDIE ALBERT (1906-2005)
Prior to WWII, he worked in a circus in Mexico as a clown and high-wire artist while secretly on assignment for Army Intelligence photographing German U-boats in Mexican Harbors -- enlisted in the Navy in 1942 -- awarded a Bronze Star for his actions during the Invasion of Tarawa in 1943 -- was the pilot of a landing craft that rescued 47 Marines while under heavy enemy fire.

Many other Hollywood actors were also active on military duty during in World War II, including George C. Scott, Brian Keith, John Russell, Robert Ryan, Charles Durning and others.

December 7, 2011, was the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

My father, Weston K. Burquest, passed on to the Great Beyond the following day, December 8, 2011, at age 92.

Rest in Peace.

My father was conscripted (drafted) during World War II. He eventually became a flight instructor in the U.S. Army Air Force, training others to become pilots, and was discharged at the end of the war as a First Lieutenant. He was not an actor or a hero -- just another one of the more than 11 million men who were called upon by their country to defend freedom and were inducted (drafted) into military service in WWII.

"In peace, sons bury their fathers -- in war, fathers bury their sons." Herodotus

Only when the power of love overcomes the love of power, will there be Peace on Earth.

The last Monday in May is Memorial Day -- a day to honor all those who lost life and limb in defense of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Quote for the Day – "Whatever enables us to go to war, secures our peace." Thomas Jefferson

Bret Burquest is the author of 12 books. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a few dogs and was drafted into the U.S. Army during the Vietnam Era.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Plot to Assassinate John Wayne

Marion Robert Morrison was born in Winterset, Iowa, on May 16, 1907.

At age four, his family moved to Los Angeles. He was a gifted athlete who lost his football scholarship at USC due to a body surfing accident. Soon, he found work in small bit parts at local film studios, where he eventually changed his name to John Wayne.

John Wayne appeared in 142 motion pictures, often in Westerns as a heroic character, and won an Academy Award for his role as a U.S. Marshall in the movie TRUE GRIT.

Throughout his life, John Wayne was a staunch political conservative, opposing communism and politically liberal viewpoints.

He passed on to the Great Beyond in 1979 due to stomach cancer.

According to a book titled JOHN WAYNE -- THE MAN BEHIND THE MYTH by Michael Munn, there were three assassination attempts on Wayne's life.

In 1949, Joseph Stalin (communist dictator of the USSR) learned about John Wayne's anti-communist fervor from Russian filmmaker Sergei Gerasimov during a peace conference in New York. Stalin soon decided Wayne should be killed.

The plot to assassinate John Wayne was also reported by Russian filmmaker Alexei Kapler (who had been imprisoned by Stalin) and Russian filmmaker Sergei Bondahuck, later confirmed by Gerasimov.

According to Munn's book, John Wayne's good friend, legendary stuntman Yakima Canutt, had "saved his life" in the early 1950s. The FBI had discovered that Russian agents were being sent to Hollywood to assassinate Wayne and notified him of the problem. Supposedly, Wayne told the FBI to let the agents show up and he would deal with it. Wayne then devised a plan, with help from a screenwriter named Jimmy Grant, to dissuade the assassins from carrying out their plans.

While the details of the incident were never revealed to Munn, the prevailing rumor was that a group of stuntmen abducted the agents and drove them to a beach where they staged a mock execution. Thereafter, the agents supposedly remained in the USA and worked for the FBI.

Subsequently, Wayne rejected any FBI protection and relocated with his family to a more secure house surrounded by a large wall. In addition, a group of Hollywood stuntmen pals infiltrated communist cells in America and learned of additional plots to kill Wayne

In 1953, another attempt on Wayne's life was initiated in Mexico by a communist cell when Wayne was filming the movie, HONDO. This plot also failed.

Joseph Stalin died in 1953 whereby Nikita Krushchev became the new communist leader of the USSR.

In a private meeting in 1958, Krushchev told Wayne that he had cancelled Stalin's orders to assassinate him. "That was a decision of Stalin during his last five mad years. When Stalin died, I rescinded that order."

The third attempt on Wayne's life occurred in 1966 when he was visiting U.S. troops in Vietnam. An enemy sniper who had been captured claimed, "There was a price on John Wayne's head, put there by Mao Tse Tung (communist leader of China).

To some John Wayne was a grand hero, emblematic of American values.

To others, he was a symbol of what was wrong with America, as a self-righteous bully who conquered others through force.

From FEAR AND LOATHING IN AMERICA by Hunter S. Thompson -- "John Wayne is a final, rotten symbol of everything that went wrong with the American dream -- he is our Frankenstein monster, a hero to millions… The brainwaves of 'The Duke' are like those of the Hammerhead Shark… He is a ruthless stupid beast with only one instinct -- to attack, to hurt & cripple & kill… John Wayne, a cowboy movie actor whose only real talent was an almost preternatural genius for brainless violence. The Duke wasn't satisfied with just killing people; he beat them into bloody, screaming hamburger."

Love him or hate him, John Wayne was bigger than life. He was a proud American who understood that communism was a form of human slavery, serving the bureaucratic masters who rule the Government Plantation.

More government control means less individual freedom.

Power does not corrupt people -- position of power attract corrupt people.

Those who yearn to control others, even if they regard it as benevolence, are simply demanding the right to create their own version of heaven on earth.

The struggle for freedom never ends.

Whether or not John Wayne was a hero is debatable.

Perhaps the true heroes are those who go gently through life treating others with tolerance, compassion and forgiveness.

Quote for the Day – "Life is tough -- it's even tougher if you're stupid." John Wayne

Bret Burquest is the author of 12 books. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a few dogs and an imaginary girlfriend named Tequila Mockingbird.