The Pope’s Stone, Retooled

PopeStarCovFinally! I get to check off one of the older items on my To-Do List! Eight years ago I published my first attempt at writing an adult novel. It was titled THE POPE’S STONE and while any writer’s first novel could be considered a practice piece, I was more than happy with my efforts. Certainly any professional writer would rip it to shreds, but I was pleased with myself since up until that point I had written only a few children’s books which were a lot shorter and a lot less work.

“POPE” is a historical novel which, I think, involves a lot more effort than a piece of straight fiction. The latter is a matter of dumping your mind and guts out onto the pages. A historical novel lets you take some fictional liberties with history if that helps the story move along, but you better have most of the real stuff spot on or you blow your credibility. I spent an enormous amount of time making sure the historical events and locations in POPE were accurate.

So, what was the big “to-do” that had to be done with THE POPE’S STONE? Well, the one point of criticism that stood out was that readers found some of the chapters too predictable. They also had some difficulty keeping up with time and place. The story involves two descendants of a family who live a century apart, yet their lives and all the events and experiences they have parallel each other. To emphasize this, I originally flipped-flopped the time and location chapter-by-chapter. So when you read about a particular circumstance of descendant A, you knew descendant B would experience a similar scenario in the chapter that immediately followed. This sounded like an approachable model to tell the story but readers found it otherwise.

So, what to do? After a few years of procrastination I got to thinking the only way to answer the criticism was to break the book into two parts, one for the earlier descendant and part II for the latter. This did not reduce the concept of how the two lives mirrored each other, but the separation of chapters made the story less repetitive. So I set about maneuvering the chapters accordingly and made adjustments to the text when and where they were necessary.

That’s my story and this time I’m stickin’ to it. THE POPE’S STONE, Second Edition is available via  Here’s the link: I

Or, is necessary, search “The Pope’s Stone, Second Edition, Kuhn.”



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Senior using a walkerI got to wondering last week how many walkers must be out there in our world these days? Yeah, I know…weird!  I had just taken delivery of a new one while I was in the hospital last week.  I joined the walker ranks a few months ago, although I still have hopes that I may one day walk again without one. I never really pictured myself having to use a walker. I doubt anyone does.

Once you step into the walker environment you are fair game for related consequences.  There are also wheel chairs to contend with and inauguration into the I’ve fallen and can’t get up populace. I am sad to say I’ve been there/done all of these.

One way I noticed the walker influencing me was that it made me more observant of where my feet are and where they are about to go, things taken for granted previously. Now, of course, using a walker is no Olympic fete, but it is imperative that you stick every landing. Falling on your own is bad enough, but falling with a walker is worse because it is usually face first.

I originally purchased a fancier walker model–one of those that comes with a built-in seat and storage box. It was a snazzy maroon. I did not get the turbo-charged model but it sure felt like it. The problem with these more evolved walkers is that are maneuvered about on four wheels. The standard army walker has only two wheels with the back support legs being wheelless. Four-wheel models are for only the more advanced users because you may as well be on rollerblades.

Walkers offer lots of possibilities when it comes to supplemental gimmicks. True, some are a little contrived like a bulb horn so you can honk your way through a crowd. I have a wire basket attached to the front of mine so I have somewhere to store my phone. It has a built-in cup holder that comes in handy.   I suppose I could install a GPS system too or maybe even a gizmo that calls for an ambulance next time I fall. There are all kinds of possibilities.

My guess is there are gazillions walkers in use today.  Somewhere out there is an individual or two who own the factories that pump out all these walkers. Walker design and manufacturing are really quite simple.  After all, it’s not brain surgery.  Imagine how rich these people have become simply  by stumbling into a good thing!




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I have come to respect the impressive ability the cockroach has to follow me wherever I go. No, I am not kidding. Cockroaches have lived in every house I have lived in. I guess I should be flattered that they appreciate my taste. It is, I hasten to say, an adversarial relationship we’ve always had. They attempt to overrun every room in the house while I stand by with a can of Raid to fire at will. I usually win–the battle, not the war.


It’s not a likable subject to approach,

This war between me and the roach.

It’s simply horrible and more than I can bear

When I find him roaming my drawer of silverware.

If that’s not enough to quell any attempt to be congenial,

Imagine how I feel when I discover he’s been in my cereal.

He’s too fast to catch by hand, too squirmy to squash by foot.

I might get off a lucky shot of bug spay if he’d just stay put.

Then he’ll scurry about for a place to hide for a few minutes more,

And the next day I’ll find him upside down on the kitchen floor.

Oh the humanity! Oh the cockroachery! this battle will forever cry

I may vanquish some, but the mighty cockroach will never die.

AdobeStock_323924464 (1)


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Marc005I suspect most mothers have a few words or phrases they repeatedly toss out from the pages of their childrearing playbook. Early on as toddlers, “please” and “thank you” were coaxed out of us anytime someone gave us something. The cue from mom was always, “What do you say?” The goal was to embed the proper response in our brain, enough so that “pleases” and thank yous” rolled out of our lips as instinctively as Pavlov’s dog salivated when a bell was rung. My mother must have done the job well since I have spent my entire life expressing my gratitude to anyone who does something on my behalf, no matter how inconsequential. If the mailman were to hand me a stack of bills I’d no doubt issue him a verbal “thank you!”

But it was one of my mother’s more profound phrases that lives on, forever deeply instilled within one of the older, dustier vaults of my brain. And here I am today yet being confronted with it once more. Whenever and whatever it was appropriate to the circumstance, out it came…and still does: little things matter much! It’s a simple concept that has become a no-brainer to me. It came to mind today when a good friend and past colleague and I were discussing the hiring process we used to put people through. I told him if someone came to an interview without a pen I interpreted that as a person who did not pay attention to detail. He said likewise if a job candidate failed at the smaller tasks presented, it was likely he/she could not handle the bigger, more important ones.

Details can, indeed, come back to bite you in butt. But there have been times when I envy those who look at the big picture and don’t get lost in its elements. My brother, always my exact opposite, breezed through life with a “what, me worry?” attitude. I couldn’t handle living that way. I fret over everything and, as such, I have great anticipatory skills. I always foresee all the possibilities a project might present and I am rarely without a plan B…and sometimes even a C.

I have learned many times over that Mom was right–little things do matter much, but it can go both ways. Case in point, my son is currently on hand to help with chores I am not able to do as I slowly recover from a bad fall. He and I do not work well together at all. I need to be in control, always displaying exactly how I want things done. Why? Because years of experience have taught me how to avoid mistakes. But to my son, every LITTLE nudge, every LITTLE direction I offer is taken as MUCH like a bolder tossed at him by a compulsive dictator, a person whom, he says, he will never please. That little comment hurts much and, as a result, I find myself not asking him to do certain things that I can get around to doing myself later on as my recovery progresses.

The lesson I still, after all my years. have problems accepting is letting go sometimes. It means thinking about the little things is not always relegated to just the details, but to people as well. Another phrase comes to mind and that is, people like me would sometimes be better off if they’d stop making much ado about nothing.




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I was sitting in the second row of our van as we pulled up into our driveway after yet another doctor visit. There was a truck in front of the house and a man was unloading something out of the back.  Rosemarie got out of the car, went around to the back of the truck and started helping the man lift whatever it was out of the truck. I wasn’t sure exactly what it was until it came into full view. It was a wheelchair. I stared as my wife was struggling to hold onto it while the man was attempting to handle the task by himself. But I wasn’t really paying much attention to the unloading itself.  Instead, what was going through my mind was that’s a wheelchair and it was for me.  My mind in many ways is still like it was when I was a teenager, when I was a young adult, when I was a family man…but never, never did I ever imagine that I would be watching my wife help unload a wheelchair that was meant for me.. I cannot express the emotion that overwhelmed me at the time. But lucky me, I used it once and I don’t think I will be needing it again anytime soon.


There were more things to come: a walker, bedside appliances and little tools to help me hold onto things or reach for objects higher than I could lift my arms. They were all things I had seen before but they had never been meant for me. Indeed, a fall in the wee hours of the morning which resulted in such an incredible change in my physical well-being was now becoming what I thought at the time perhaps a lifelong situation…pending exactly how long that life was going to last now that it had already spanned ¾’s of a century..


I am pleased with my progress now that it’s been 4 weeks since I had spinal surgery to relieve the pressure on my spinal cord in the back of my neck. Paralysis in my hands and in my arms has not lessened much.  My fingers are numb, they don’t hold things well, I drop a lot of stuff and I cannot write at all—not even scribble. I use a walker because I’m not able the guide my feet exactly where I want them to go although I have a good feeling that the Improvement I have shown so far will lead to walking unaided in the months ahead. My hands and my arms could take up to a year or more from what I understand. Or, I could get lucky and wake up one morning and magically the little valleys and tunnels and whatever passageways send messages from my brain to my fingertips will build new pathways back to some state of normalcy…or maybe not.

there have been one or two milestones if you want to consider than that. I have an electric toothbrush and I have been unable to have the strength in my fingers to push it on and push it . but then suddenly 3 weeks after my surgery I tried again and it’s familiar Buzz started up and it stopped when I push the stop button. It was as if I’ve mastered fine instrument and I took incredible Joy out of the progress I had made. I still can’t slice my own meat open a bottle without dropping the cap on the floor and lots of other things and I assume I won’t Venture Ali overcome at least that is my mission I’m sworn to it and I will work for it.

I have new empathy for people who are so-called disabled or handicapped like those returning from war with some horrific circumstance and who must start a new way of living in an entirely different environment. I am lucky I am told that over time most of my abilities may return. It will not be easy, it will not be shortcoming and it wiil not be without this awful feeling of sadness and frustration. The fact that I have always been a very independent person only exacerbates the situation.

I am a very fortunate individual because I have accumulated a gathering of good friends along the way. These people are in constant contact with me, expressing their concern and otherwise cheering me on.  When you’re in this kind of situation and you realize the good friends you have you’ll never ever take them for granted nor will you ever look at your wife as you have in the past now that she has the burden of being your primary caregiver.  While Rosemary has been an RN for entire life, taking care of an elderly spouse with the disabilities that I have at this point, well it’s even more than the expected “in sickness and in health.”  Sickness was always supposed to be something like the flu, never anything like this. I am such a lucky man.

So that’s where I am today as I dictate into a microphone which interprets what I say and formulas the words my computer screen. there are a gazillion mistakes that I have to fix and some of the misinterpretations of individual words are quite humorous. Nonetheless I have a lot of corrections to do and that means I will be pecking away with my forefinger for a few more hours.  But I want to make sure that as doom and gloom as all this may have sounded, I’m looking forward to continuing my recovery. I have enough determination and optimism to know that things will be better and they are just getting through these current days presents challenges more than any I’ve faced in the past. I am up for the task… but for right now I suggest you have someone else pour your coffee.


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man-falling-down-vector-15468971In case any of you may have noticed, I have disappeared for many many weeks. I know this is very unusual for my blog to go dormant, so maybe even one of you might be curious as to why. Well, now you shall learn why, but first I must ask you a favor. I’m not typing this posting with my hands. Instead, I am using a voice-to-text program. This allows me to voice what it is I wish to say and the computer types it out, although not always very accurately. Forgive me for not correcting some of these inaccuracies but I’m not able to do so in an efficient manner at this time. Nevertheless I think you’ll be able to read today’s posting and get beyond any typos, misspellings or inaccuracies. That said…hello again from Marc’s Blog!

So where to begin? I’m really not sure. first of all, I am always a little reluctant to write about certain personal things that have happened to me, particularly those things “medical” for lack of another word. But my life changed on April 4th and I’m not sure where it’s headed and how I’m supposed to get to wherever it is I’m supposed to get. so with all this ambiguity in mind, I will proceed and for those interested you will ride along while others of you may otherwise go on to doing something else.

around 3 a.m. on the 4th of April I woke up in the middle of the night which was not unusual for me and I went into the kitchen and made myself a cup of decaf. I remember carrying it back to my desk in my room and placing it next to the keyboard. I assume then I sat down in the chair and began doing something on my computer. the only thing I remember after placing the coffee on my desk is violently hitting the floor with my right cheekbone. I have been falling a lot lately. No, not tripping or stumbling over something. The falls come while I’ve been asleep. I had falls out of bed and out of a chair that I might be sleeping in. I’ve had years and years of sleep disorders but I’ve never had the falling problem before. some of the falls have been pretty bruising but the ones that hurt the most are those when my head hits first. when your head hit something hard like a hardwood floor there’s an unusual sound that I can’t even describe and the proverbial flash of white light. it’s all true, it does happen. it’s happened to me several times but this last time was critically different. after I hit the ground I immediately woke up I was fully aware of what happened except for one thing that was different this time. I could not move anything nor sense anyting below my neck. I could see, I could hear, I could speak but I could not move any part of my body. I can, in no words, express the horror then I felt at this particular moment. I called for Rosemarie several times and thank God she woke up and came in. it must have been a horrible sight for her to see me lying motionless on the floor. I asked her to get her hand out of my face. she told me it wasn’t her hand, it was mine. perplexing is not a strong enough word to describe the situation.

She wanted to call 911. I maybe. because I wasn’t in any particular pain, persuaded her not to do that just yet. it was right at the beginning of the Coronavirus situation and the last place a 74 year old man should be at that time was the hospital. it took maybe a quarter to a half an hour that I spent struggling to move before I finally was able to gain some movement and sensation in my right leg. what seemed forever was the time it took for me to continue to gain movement and sensation in my body. with help from Rosemarie I was able to eventually get myself on my knees and then slowly work myself up the side of the bed and onto the mattress. I was relieved that I was able to move but still scared to death that I had radically injured myself beyond repair. we waited and fretted for a few more hours and then decided that I really had no choice–I should go to the ER and have myself checked out because I was still far from normal. both my arms and hands we’re paralyzed. I could move them, but I could not manipulate them in any fashion. they both felt that I had fallen asleep on them. they were numb and heavy and I had pins and needles up and down my arms into my hands.This is how they have remained ever since. I also discovered that I could not walk properly and in no way could do so by myself. I was in bad shape.

at the hospital they ran a bunch of tests on me and took x-rays and I was to have a third test the next morning after being held in the hospital overnight. all along all I thought of was the virus and not my particular problems from the fall. the virus news on the TV scared me sufficiently enough to know that the hospital was the last place that I should be. in the meantime it seemed that the room I was in had not been occupied for a while because it wasn’t very clean and I understood that all the virus victims we’re on the floor above me. despite my being a usually low key, uncomplaining patient. I was getting frustrated by not getting any help at all for those things that needed doing. Imagine being suddenly paralyzed and placed in an invironment that could kill you within days. since I have been told that the test I was having in the morning was not urgent and could be done at another time I decided I would check out of the hospital. It was only making matters worse. So I went home. I subsequently began a marathon of visits to doctors, resulting in tests of just about every part of my body. now, a month-plus later, my walking and the functioning of my arms and hands had slowly deteriorated even beyond where they were immediately after the fall. My entire way of living and functioning had changed dramatically in the moment my face hit the floor. So too had that of Rosemarie. We had much to do and much to think about…more on that next time while I had a great fall and await to see if all the king’s men can put me back together again.





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This is very unusual. I am genuinely afraid for the first time in my life.  I know it’s the first time because I have never experienced this kind of fear.    Oh, I distinctly remember being rolled into the OR when I was eight years old.  I panicked. There were all these people in the room and they had masks on and one picked up this black cone and held it tight against my faced.  I was forced to breathe in this horrible odor.  Back then, doctors and nurses didn’t explain to children what was about to happen them.  Nope, they just did it.  But still, the fear I felt wasn’t like this.

I also remember my car being hit by a truck and then spinning out of control, doing a full three-sixty across three lanes while my life and other cars whizzed by me at 70 miles per hour.  But that, too, didn’t have me feeling this way.  No, I am completely absorbed and unnerved by how I feel today…a day, just like others lately, that will feature the daily announcement of how many people are battling the Covid 19 virus…and  how many have lost that battle.

At first, I treated the coronavirus like other events. Basically, it was a news story that involved other people in other places.  I wasunlikely to become personally involved, I thought, because I do not have a particularly active social life.  I am retired so the entire work environment and the people who populate it are no longer part of my routine.   My calendar usually contains lunches or dinners with various friends.  These are easily postponed or canceled altogether. I have to admit, this is the first time I have bagged such events because of the threat of a virus.  But, as we have all learned, this is no usual virus. Popping Tylenol and consuming lots of OJ and chicken soup doesn’t chase this bug away.  And, oh yeah, this invisible little creature doesn’t just mess with your plumbing, stuff up your airways and increase your running temperature…no, it does more: it can kill you.

Especially vulnerable are people over 65.  Hmmm, I have that beat by ten years.  You are even more vulnerable if you are 65 and have various inhibiting medical issues. Hmmm again, where do I start? And the kicker especially hits home:  this virus sets up shop very easily when the host’s autoimmune system is pretty much nonexistent. Cue another hmmm. Among the   of pills I dump into my body week after week is one that tanks my immunity level.

So here I pace, a perfect target, big and bold, with a lethal virus just waiting for me to be still for a moment and step out from amongst the trees and expose myself. And this is the fear I have never felt before.  It is so surreal…and so real.


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It is just about three months since we moved into our new home.  I think Rosemarie andhomesweet I are finally feeling settled in, despite a lengthy list of tasks still waiting to be done.  But the word, “home” has become the accepted term to describe where we live now and not where we lived before.  That concept, after 23 years in the same house, has been a difficult one to maneuver in my mind.

There were a few things we were willing give up when we were shopping for a new house.  The stairs were the highest on the list, while losing the canal passing along the outer edge of our backyard …well, that would be sorely missed given all the wildlife it regularly presented  for our viewing pleasure.  Perhaps we could find a new home with a similar waterway.  That, unfortunately, didn’t happen.  But as for having a magical menagerie on our doorstep, we lucked out.

lanaiWe live in the end unit of a series of coach homes which is a modern-day way of saying row house.  I should know; I grew up in a post WWII community in the middle of a row of 40 joined homes and that was one side of a block and the blocks ran as far as far as the eye could see.  Being on the end, we are blessed with extra windows. There are seven large windows in the living room alone.  And what is the view outside?  Tropical woods!  On the left is the setting looking out from the patio–ah, in this house it’s called a lanai.

The entire back of the house abuts a state preserve. This is an area that represents the State’s natural environment, including its geographical and botanical samplings.  You can count on the area to be around and undisturbed forever, hence preserve.  What’s more, don’t mess with it!

So, while we missed out on having a canal, the preserve, so far, has introduced us to a whole new collection of birdlife, several rabbits, a new species of ducks and one raccoon.  And  no, not a snake in sight.



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I came across another reason this week why you should avoid getting any older.  If I ranked them this latest reason would be top ten, definitely. The topic is life insurance, the consumer product everyone hates to buy, but is so glad they did, although those who buy it and get to use it never really experience the payoff.

Like most things we do, Rosemarie and I have always had life insurance based on its practicality.  We figure if one of us has to go it’d be very helpful if there were a sudden rush of funds for the remaining partner to do things like pay off the mortgage, or pay all the medical services that failed to save our dear one.  Then too, maybe the surviving spouse just buys a few fun things to help the healing process.

The problem with insurance is that you are at the mercy of the insurer.  I’ve even had a policy cancelled on me that was supposed to take me to my grave, so to speak, or so spoke the guy who sold it to me. When that happened I discovered the only kind of insurance I could get is known as term.  These are policies that usually run annually or even month-to-month and if the company still likes you, you can renew them.  Eventually, however, the age factor kicks in.  Obviously, the older you get, the more risk you become to insure.  Makes sense, but here is where it gets ugly.

Insurance companies can be ruthless.  Don’t believe everything they advertise.  Indeed, you may not be in the best hands and when the critical time comes, that company may not be there.  Bless them, however, these fine companies, because they really do not like to terminate the policy.  Terminating must have some possible backlash of sorts.  This is why they find other ways to end the policy.  If you have reached the little quadrant in their life-expectancy chart, you are in the danger zone.  Do not expect the happy relationship you’ve had with your insurance company to continue much longer.  You are about to be dumped.  But more than likely, it is you who will terminate the policy.  How come? Check out this letter I got last week…

“Dear Policy Owner: (Ah gee, they must have forgotten my name)                                        Thank you for being a valued Transamerica customer.  We appreciate your business (actually, it’s the $878 check I send them twice a year that they find to their liking) and the opportunity to assist in securing your financial future.” (Note: it’s their financial future they’re really interested in).

The letter goes on to explain that my premium will be going up.  Hey, nothing new there.  Premiums always go up, don’t they?  But this particular increase is taking the express escalator.  And, to clarify, they type the payment period in caps: “SEMI ANNUAL.”

Now remember, they are not terminating the policy, merely increasing the premium now that I have gotten a little older…or in other words, nearer to the age when people begin dying.  And just so I know, they alert me to the fact that each year as policy renewal time rolls around, I will be getting other kind letters of appreciation…along with an annual rate hike.  Aren’t they caring to make things so clearly understood?

Of course, I realize that you’ve been waiting  for me to tell you how much this first rate hike is.  Trust me, it’s worth waiting for.  And while you’re waiting, I will admit I called that 800 number the Colonial Penn Insurance Company was advertising on TV.  But now I’m tainted…I was turned down.  No, not because of any health reasons, but because I am terminating my current insurance. Remember, my insurance company is not terminating my policy, they are merely raising the rate. It is I who has decided not to renew.  That makes me the terminator and there’s a Florida law that says if a policy-holder terminates the insurance, he cannot go out and get another policy with a new company. Why? I’m not sure.  Colonial Penn knew enough about the law to turn me down, but had sketchy reasons as to the why. I shall have to investigate further.

Of course, the real loser in all this is Rosemarie.  If I go first and it’s not in some kind of accident, then she’ll get nothing.  And here she had her heart set on a silver Mercedes SL.  Too bad because she deserves one.

Okay it’s 11 o’clock; here’s the film….the rate hike takes my SEMI ANNUAL premium from
$878.12 to….




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twain2As the infamous Mark Twain line goes…reports of my death are greatly exaggerated. In fact, considering my last posting on this blog was February 8th, I have to admit I am a bit disappointed that no one took a moment to inquire whether or not I was still around.  Well, I am. It is just that my time allotted for writing has been intruded upon by the move Rosemarie and I made in January from the Atlantic coast of Florida to the Gulf coast.  Moves like this were a lot easier when we were young.  There were less boxes to unpack and more energy to do it.  And too, a few age-related health issues are inhibiting my ability to do things the way I used to.  Whoever labeled these The Golden Years must have been a purebred with perfect body organs and good bones.  Us of the lesser breeds see nothing golden in the ailments and the accompanying aches and pains brought on by old age.  The closest we come to gold is the amber color of the pile of pill bottles we’ve accumulated.

We marked two months in our new home this week.  Rosemarie has become so enthused about her new digs she told me she finally feels like a retired person, an atmosphere missing previously.  I, on the other hand, feel like I’m back at a full-time job. My to-do list has kept me busy unpacking boxes and solving the mystery of where to put the contents. There was a totally disrupted week of having new flooring installed.  The major issue with this endeavor was the gigantic dust storm swirling around inside the house while sections of tile were broken up and removed.  Even the dust needed dusting.  But the new floors look great.  I installed some under-cabinet lights in the kitchen, replaced some plumbing, and touched up paint here and there.   Every day featured a new cut or bruise just to let me know I was not born to be a Mr. Fixit.

So, with all that going on, there was little time and even less energy left for blogging.  Plus, after some  654 postings I’m about written out.   In fact, this posting pretty much mimics Jerry Seinfeld.  It’s about nothing!  I will, however, disclose one relatively new commotion in my life and maybe yours too.  It’s YouTube.

As far as I am concerned, YouTube beats Twitter, Facebook and just about any social media site…hands down!  The only reason I have managed to fix things around the house is because there is a tutorial on how to fix everything imaginable right there on YouTube…and usually it includes your specific product brand and model number. Then, if you are a sentimentalist, there are tons of young lads sharing their surprise wedding proposals and a slew of soldier/sailor homecomings that will tear you up in seconds.  And if you like all those shows featuring talent competition, you can watch rerun auditions into the wee hours of the morning. There are clips of Carol Burnett, Ellen, and tons of leftover TV hits, documentaries on most things historical and full concerts from Brahms’ 4th to the latest videos by Swift (I recommend Taylor’s “You Need to Calm Down”).  You name it, you can search it on YouTube and no doubt be offered a selection of videos to look through. And, and, and it’s all FREE–and addictive.  So pick a topic you are interested in and put it in the search box at the top of YouTube…and be off!


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