Bill Moeller Commentary: I‘m Thankful I Can Still Gripe and Wonder


I’ve been critical in the past about the fact that I consider that with every new step in modern communication gadgets, we tend to lose something. The first step came in the 19th Century with the invention of the telephone. Mark Twain had one, although he insisted that it be kept in a closet. An imaginary one came later, the two-way wrist radio that detective Dick Tracy used in the comic sections of newspapers. That was nearly 90 years ago by my calculation.

World War II gave us the walkie-talkie. It replaced the use of human runners between military groups. 

After discharge from the Army in the 1950s, I began a two-year course in radio electronics (but finished in one year by cramming) and was blown away, as they say, by something called a transistor. The portable radio was born. Transistors became smaller in size until the equivalent of something like a WWII walkie-talkie could be carried in a pocket.  

Now we have our internet devices and that leads me to the main subject for today’s column.

I still find it difficult to believe that it’s now possible for someone to be able to be alerted each time a specific word or name or title appears on the internet. But that’s what has made me thankful, to a point, in our progress in communication. I’ll explain.

My column last week dealt with my intention to stay inside and out of crowds by re-reading books in my collection. There is pleasure in that. I know, most of us will read a book once, but few of us will look at it again and discover the many things we missed the first time around. I’ve re-read Russ Mohney’s book,“A Simple Song,” five or six times and will do so many more. Last week, I started my project by reading “Good Night, Sweet Prince,” a 76 year old book by Gene Fowler elaborating on the life of one of the world’s great actors, John Barrymore.  As I mentioned in that column, I’d wanted to start with a book about an artist I had met years ago, Bill Cumming, but I can no longer find it. 

So here lies the crux of today’s column. Last Wednesday — the day before that column appeared in the regular edition — I received an email from a Seattle resident, John Braseth, saying Bill was his best friend and that he (John) beginning in 1983 had been Bill’s art dealer!  The next sentence was that he would love to send me a copy of the book! I suppose you’ve already guessed what my answer was to that. And, David at our own Book and Brush, went to the trouble of offering me a copy of the book as well.  The thoughtfulness of those two gentlemen is amazing, and appreciated.

And that isn’t the first time this sort of thing happened to me. A year or so ago, I wrote a couple of columns about a favorite seaside resort called The Sou’wester and I received a reply from a person, who I’m sure doesn’t subscribe to this newspaper, telling me that he managed the place for the last few years it was owned by Len and Miriam Atkins while Len was succumbing to Alzheimer’s disease.

So, the gist of this column is to remind some of us old geezers that advances in technology don’t necessarily lead to the destruction of life as we know it and I can live with that and, beyond that, be thankful! 

In parting, here is another contribution to our list of mistakes in television’s closed captioning.  After a weather disturbance crashed through Texas, it described how “citizens are now picking up the peas.”  Those pesky little things can get slippery when they’re wet, can’t they?


Bill Moeller is a former entertainer, mayor, bookstore owner, city council member, paratrooper and pilot living in Centralia. He can be reached at