The Widdershins

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Just in time for Independence Day, NBC News wrote an article about the excavation of Sally Hemmings‘ living quarters at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello plantation. The byline reads: “Thomas Jefferson’s mistress Sally Hemings’ secret living quarters finally discovered.” NBC’s use of the word “mistress” is unfortunate. Hemmings was a slave. She was 14 years old when Jefferson first raped her. What editor wrote this byline without a bolt of lighting striking them down?

We are living in a diseased world. Trump himself is not the disease, he is a symptom. He used the disease of misogyny, racism, homophobia, etc., to get himself elected. He launched his campaign by declaring all Mexicans as rapists and murderers. (And some, he assumed, were ok.) We are living in the same world that also houses Brock Turner. On January 18, 2015 Turner raped an unconscious woman. He was convicted of his crime. The presiding judge, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky, sentenced Brock to 6 months in jail. A year since that ruling, Judge Persky has finally decided to explain himself. ““I have a reputation for being fair to both sides,” Persky says. Let that sink in for a moment. Persky was looking at a victim of rape and the man who raped her while she was unconscious. And Persky prides himself on being fair to both sides. He is running for reelection. I’d like to say that there’s no chance Persky will get reelected, but we are living in a Trump world. He might.

I ran into this article at Mother Jones about men taking credit for women’s work. (Last week Bernie Sanders embraced Hillary Clinton’s public option healthcare plan. It was the same plan he and his Bros previously excoriated Clinton for. But now Sanders is taking credit for it, and some in the media are happily giving him credit. Sanders also previously embraced Hillary’s college tuition plan after being vehemently against it. The  media gave him credit for Hillary’s plan too.) Mother Jones digs far, back to cave paintings. Newest research suggests they were painted by women. From Mary Shelley to Ada Lovelace to the rapper M.I.A. and singer Taylor Swift – the more things change, the more men continue to take credit for women’s work. (Remember when Michael Moore claimed to be the leader of the Resistance? Yeah, no Michael Moore. You’re NOT the Resistance.)

We’ve all heard the word “mansplain.” It’s a word that has entered the lexicon fairly quickly. I didn’t even notice it, it was just sort of there. I did not realize it originated with a 2008 essay “Men Explain Things To Me” by Rebecca Solnit. Solnit related an anecdote that at a party she got into a discussion with a man who had heard Solnit was an author. She began to tell him about her latest book about Eadweard Muybridge and the man interrupted her to inform her that just last year a new and popular book about Muybridge came out. Had she heard of it? It so happens that she had. Solnit wrote it.

And finally: on June 26th we celebrated the 20th anniversary since the publishing of the first Harry Potter novel: “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.” (Retitled “The Sorcerer’s Stone” in the US.) Joanne Rowling famously started jotting down the novel onJK-Rowling a napkin in an Edinburgh cafe when she was a single mother and broke, living on welfare. She finished the manuscript on an old-fashioned typewriter. It was rejected by 12 publishers. Finally a small children’s publisher Bloomsbury accepted. They asked Rowling to create a gender-neutral name because a novel about a boy wizard was likely to sell better if boys didn’t know a woman had written it. So Joanne became J.K. Rowling. Bloomsbury printed 500 copies of the original hardcover (now worth a fortune!) 300 of those copies were sent to libraries and only 200 into the wild. The rest, of course, is history. Over the course of seven novels Rowling’s story of the boy wizard and his best friends Ron and Hermione’s struggles against forces of evil have inspired generations of children and adults. Movies and a play made billions. Rowling herself became a billionaire (Forbes claims she is the first writer to make a billion dollars from writing alone), and at one point Rowing was proclaimed to be richer than the Queen of England. However, Rowling gave away so much to charity that Forbes had to remove her from their list of billionaires. She is currently said to have only about $840,000,000.

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white-houseA few of random thoughts for the week, my fellow Widdershins.

This weekend I attended a friend’s wedding in Washington DC. My friend, Mike, served for 5 years in the Army, including tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and worked his way to Captain before leaving service. He came out of the closet to his friends in the army shortly before leaving and before DADT was repealed.  (His husband used to work in a publicity firm in DC that serves politicians. Because everybody needs good PR.) They took Trump’s election very personally, especially as a gay couple. But it was encouraging to have the military chaplain, who presided over the ceremony, acknowledge how difficult life for gay men and women is in the military and how much he hopes things get better.

I was seated at the table with some of my friend’s former military brothers and sisters, all straight. My direct neighbor was one very Southern redneck from Texas.  I, the East coast elite, looked at him with suspicion at first. But as he cheered the grooms’ first dance I was reminded of a story another friend once told me about Spike Lee. That friend was a manager of a movie theater in Harlem and they held premieres of several Spike Lee movies. At one premiere a fight broke out in the audience. Lee came up to my friend afterwards and apologized for the fight, though he had nothing to do with it. My friend responded: “Oh it’s fine, we were expecting it so we were prepared.” Lee responded: “You shouldn’t have expected it and it shouldn’t have happened. I’m sorry it happened.” Lessons learned about assumptions, so I shouldn’t have made any about this large Southern military man and what he thinks about gay people and their marriages.

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Speaking of gay, Madonna was just named Billboard Magazine’s woman of the year. I love Madonna, not just in that back-handed “Well she’s proved her mettle for 30 years and she’s got a few big hits” sort of way. I genuinely love her music, she’s written some of the most infectious and important pop songs of the last 30 years.  She’s charted more No. 1 hits than any other artist in Billboard’s history. Her tours have earned $1.3 billion, the most of any female artist.  So it’s not just shock values, she has proven her musical chops for 30 years.  I also admire her determination. This is one woman who refused to bake cookies.  One may not like her music or respect her approach to fame, but it’s hard to argue she’s more famous than Jesus’s mother at this point.  That’s quite the feat.  She’s paved the way for many women in the entertainment industry. Now, as a 58 year old, she’s still pushing boundaries. About a year ago she posted a photo to Instragram with hairy armpits. Internet broke. People were very upset. Mind you, she caused controversy with hairy armpits in the 1980’s too and maybe the fact that people were still angry about it is why it was important for her post the photo. The Billboard interview that accompanies the Woman of the Year headline, by the actress Elizabeth Banks, touches on a few interesting topics. Madonna hosted a rally for Hillary Clinton in Washington Square Park in NYC the night before the election. She says since the election she’s felt like “someone died.” And she was disappointed by how many women voted for Trump.

Women’s nature is not to support other women. It’s really sad. Men protect each other, and women protect their men and children. Women turn inward and men are more external. A lot of it has do with jealousy and some sort of tribal inability to accept that one of their kind could lead a nation. Other people just didn’t bother to vote because they didn’t like either candidate, or they didn’t think Trump had a chance in the world. They took their hands off the wheel and then the car crashed.

Madonna is also asked about ageism in the entertainment industry and America. One thing people constantly tell Madonna now is she should stop flaunting her boobs or hairy armpits because she’s an old woman. One way to dismiss her is to call her “irrelevant.” Nobody says that about Mick Jagger. And they were telling Madonna to not flaunt her boobs when she was in her 20’s too.

Age is only brought up with regard to women. It’s connected to sexism, chauvinism and misogyny. When Leonardo [DiCaprio] is 60 years old, no one is going to talk about his relevance. Am I relevant as a female in this society that hates women? Well, to people who are educated and are not chauvinists or misogynists, yes.

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lincoln-memorialAnd speaking of Washington DC, above is a photo we took at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday.

And one of the places we visited was the Holocaust Museum. The subject of the Holocaust is one I’ve read about a fair amount in the past. Nazi atrocities have always fascinated me so I’ve done a fair amount of reading on the subject because I keep trying to understand how ordinary people could such awful things. I highly recommend Richard Rhodes’ “Masters of Death,” for example, about the Einsatzgruppen, an elite group of SS soldiers who followed the German army into Eastern Europe and exterminated, virtually by hand, about 1.5 million people as the German Army advanced into the Soviet Union in 1941.  It was the first step of Hitler’s Final Solution. So the images and the stories at the museum are something I have been reading about and studying for some time. But having everything assembled in one place and in such a thorough fashion is very heavy. Two places at the exhibit were particularly haunting. At the end of the Final Solution section the hundreds of shoes in a pile are hair-raising. But the most emotional moment, unexpectedly so, was walking through a train car used to deport Jews to Dachau. You walk in, you stop for a moment inside – and it just takes your breath away. You can hear the voices still echoing inside the walls.

In the first part of the exhibit, about Hitler’s rise to power, it’s really difficult to not see the ascendancy of Trump and its parallels to Hitler. I know, you’re not supposed to compare people to Hitler. But sometimes you can and you should. Hitler rose in power in part because nobody believed he would do any of the horrible things he said he would do. His ideas and philosophies were not new to anyone. He articulated them in his book and he spoke about them at length as he rose to power, before he was appointed to be the Chancellor of Germany by President Paul von Hindenburg. Hitler challenged Hindenburg for Presidency in 1932. The vote was close and they had to have a run-off, one week of campaigning. Hindenburg delivered one radio address. Hitler rented a plane from Lufthansa and spent the week flying around Germany, holding rallies in 22 cities in one week. The public was electrified, he made headlines of every newspaper. Hindenburg, a very well-known figure, won the run-off. But Hitler, the master rally-holder, became a big enough thorn in Hindenburg’s side that he appointed Hitler to be Chancellor of Germany. Hindenburg’s allies convinced the aging President that Hitler could be controlled from the inside and that appointing him would be harmless. We know the rest.

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As Germany’s Left shattered because nobody could agree on a common adversary, and a certain wing of the Left didn’t think everyone else was pure enough to support – Hitler, who promised the frustrated Germans that he would make Germany relevant again – quickly consolidated his power. He then did exactly what he said he would do. In one documentary shown at the museum, a female reporter returning from Germany held a press-conference on a boat. (Sadly I did not jot down her name and have not been successful at locating this press-conference online. I couldn’t even narrow down the name of the reporter.) But she said explicitly that she observed that the Nazis had started doing in Germany exactly what they all along said they were going to do, so maybe America and the world should start taking them seriously.

I’m not saying Trump is Hitler. I’m just saying…

One thing I really liked in the exhibit is that the final section is dedicated to many individuals who fought against the Nazis and helped Jews during the Holocaust.  There are many names and photographs, and brief summaries of how they helped.  None of them are as famous as Oscar Schindler.  But how amazing that someone remembers their individual stories, ordinary men and women of different ages, backgrounds, professions and religions, who risked their own lives to save others.

I kept checking for their death dates and was glad to see that many of them did survive the war and lived long lives.  Though not all.

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Hans and Sophie Scholl with Christoph Probst in summer 1942

A few college students formed a small group The White Rose. Consisting of students from University of Munich that included siblings Hans and Sophie Scholl, Willi Graf, Christoph Probst,  Alex Schmorell, another Scholl sibling Inge and a philosophy professor Kurt Huber.  The students were in their early 20’s.  Between June 1942 and February 1943 they distributed leaflets denouncing the Nazis and their mass murders of Jews, some of which the members of The White Rose hand witnessed first-hand at home and at the front.  Soon they were all arrested and executed.  Hans Scholl’s final words were: “Long live Freedom!”

Prior to their deaths, several members of the White Rose believed that their execution would stir university students and other anti-war citizens into a rallying activism against Hitler and the war. Accounts suggest, however, that university students continued their studies as usual, citizens mentioned nothing, many regarding the movement as anti-national. Their actions were mostly dismissed, until after the war when their efforts were eventually praised by the German consciousness.

 

 

What’s on your mind folks? This is an open thread.

 

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Oh my, it’s Saturday which means we’ve survived another week of the shenanigans from our nation’s capital and the politicians who attempt to run the place, as well as the other serious events of the week.  So, let’s try to look at some things on the lighter side, which I skipped last Saturday due to those events.

PROTECTING YOUR CHICKENS

There is a website (which I was unable to get loaded) called The Bookseller which is sort of like a trade publication in England for the publishing industry.  It seems that The Bookseller holds a contest each year for the Diagram Prize, which is given to the book with the oddest title.

This year’s winner was Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop which was written by Messrs. Reginald Bakeley and Clint Marsh which may or may not be available on Amazon.  I did not check.  Coming in at a close second was “How Tea Cosies Changed the World” and right behind the Cosies was a book by Tom Hickman titled “God’s Doodle: The Life and Times of the Penis”.  As I and the comedian have said before, “I shit you not”.  Others that were, say, honorable mentions were: a study of Adolf Hitler’s health titled “Was Hitler Ill?”, “Lofts of North America: Pigeon Lofts”, and a guidebook titled “How to Sharpen Pencils”.  With so many of today’s children making more and more use of the keyboard or keypad instead of writing by hand, I can see the possible usefulness of a guidebook on how to not only sharpen but to actually use a pencil.

Philip Stone who coordinates the prize was totally serious when he said:

 the award might seem just fun but publishers and booksellers were well aware that a title can make all the difference to the sales of a book.

“It spotlights an undervalued art that can make or break a work of literature,” Stone said in a statement.

He cited books such as “A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian”, “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” and “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” as owing part of their success to odd titles.

“The kind of niche, off-beat publications that often appear on the Diagram Prize shortlist might not make their writers or publishers rich beyond their wildest dreams, but the fact writers still passionately write such works and publishers are still willing to invest in them is a marvelous thing that deserves to be celebrated,” Stone added.

The Diagram Prize was founded at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 1978, and past winners include “Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice” and last year’s “Cooking with Poo”, a Thai cookbook by Bangkok resident Saiyuud Diwong whose nickname is Poo.

LITTLE FISH – LONG TRIP

It seems that some little visitors arrive on the coast of Washington State after having made the 5,000 mile trip from Japan to the coast.   The fish, called Striped beak fish  were caught up from the Tsunami that hit Japan in 2011.  The fish were found in the hold of a ship that washed out from the Tsunami and made the trip across the Pacific.

The batch of striped beak fish – five in all – were discovered submerged in the hold of the 20-foot-long fishing skiff, dubbed the Sai-shou-maru, on Long Beach in southwestern Washington.

The vessel, found beached right-side-up, was confirmed this week to have originated from the region of northern Japan devastated in the immense tidal surge generated by the March 2011 Fukushima earthquake.

Other boats carried away by the tsunami have previously washed up along the U.S. Pacific Northwest and Alaska, as have chunks of piers and large quantities of other debris. But the fish found aboard the Sai-shou-maru are the first vertebrates – animals with backbones – known to have made the voyage.

Marine biologists studying the phenomenon are puzzled over precisely how striped beak fish, natural denizens of warmer, shallow southern Japanese waters, ended up as live stowaways in the well of the boat, and how they endured a two-year journey across the ocean.

GUILTY OF MURDER BY MERCEDES

Clara Harris was up for parole in Texas this week, but alas it was denied.

Clara Harris caught David Harris philandering around with his dental receptionist employee person.  Clara said at the trial that after she discovered the affair she wanted to save her marriage so she quit her job, gave him some good lovin’ three times a night, cooked his favorite meals and hired a personal trainer.

She also testified she even went to a tanning salon and scheduled liposuction and breast enhancement surgery to make him happy, only to catch him in a tryst with Bridges at the same hotel where the Harrises were married on Valentine’s Day 1992. David Harris was killed in the hotel parking lot moments later.

Clara found out that all the exercising and cooking and loving wasn’t enough for David because she found he was still seeing the object of his affection Gail Bridges.  Well David said he was going to meet Gail to tell her they were through, except:

On July 24, David told Clara that he was going to meet his lover at a restaurant to tell her they were through.  Instead, the couple ended up in a room at the Nassau Bay Hilton, next door to the spot where Clara and David had exchanged marriage vows a decade earlier.

[snip]

Bridges’ black Lincoln Navigator became the first target of Clara’s rage. She scratched it with her keys and bent the windshield wipers. She then ordered Lindsey to call her father’s cell phone, and lie to him, saying that one of his baby boys was sick.

A few moments later, David appeared in the lobby, holding his paramour’s hand. Clara fell upon Bridges in a hair-tearing, blouse-ripping fury .

Clara insisted she could not recall what happened next, but there were plenty of witnesses, including

Lindsey, who would testify against her stepmother at the trial that started on Jan. 22, 2003. There was also videotape taken by the private eye Clara had hired.

When Clara and Lindsey got into the Mercedes, the girl testified, “She just had this evil look on her face.”
Clara “stomped on the accelerator and went straight for him,” sending David flying 25 feet. Three more times, witnesses said, she hit the gas and rolled over him before hitting the brakes.

Clara insisted that it all was an accident, that she had been aiming for Bridges’ car and hit her husband instead. She had no recollection of rolling over him three times. “Everything was like a dream,” she told the court.

After eight hours of deliberation, the jury found her guilty of murder, which might have sent her to jail for life. But the jury also decided that she acted with “sudden passion,” cutting the sentence to a maximum of 20 years.

To get a good toss of 25 feet I’m guessing Clara was driving either an “E” or “S” class Mercedes.  I don’t think the “C” class has that much oomph to it.  😉

I leave you today dear Widdershins with your inspirational speech of the day.  This is not just one inspirational speech to get you going for the day.  Oh no…try a couple of minutes of inspiring line-reading, all compiled together.

So tell me below in the comments how your day is going or did go.

The Book ClubI am a bookworm. I make no bones about it, I read a lot. I have spoken before of my love for the written word and am hard pressed to pinpoint a time in my life when I did not have a book in my hands which led to some pretty bad dinners set before my family when I found myself buried within the pages of a book while the dinner was left to overcook itself.

Books have been my salvation in a sense. They took me away to safe places as the world in which I resided was shook by uncertainties and chaos over which I had little control. Finding refuge in the pages, I was able to shut out my surroundings for a time, carried away to other worlds that served as a balm to a troubled spirit.

Although I have read many books, there are a few that had a profound impact on me as I permitted the author to take up residence in my mind. Upon reading Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” I felt the dust in my mouth as he narrated the story of the Joad family, inching their way across the nation seeking the land of plenty as had been promised awaited them in California during the Depression years of the 30’s. His ability to chronicle the devastation of that time along with the displacement of whole families who had tended the land for centuries, was a mixture of despair and hope. He was able to capture the indestructibility of the human spirit coupled with the exposure of a corrupt system of governance that led to so much of the suffering. The impact was stunning.

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