Just make sure I'm around when you've finally got something to say.--Toad the Wet Sprocket

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Saying Goodbye to George

I can't believe I'm writing another one of these this year. This year has been devastating in its death toll on those we feel as though we know in the spotlight who have shared their talents with us and entertained us for so many years. We should be shock proof at this point, but I have to say that this took me completely by surprise. George Michael was only 53.

I remember being eleven and seeing the video for "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" on MTV. He wore those short shorts in some of the sequences and that t-shirt that said Choose Life.  It was an utterly wacky video for an utterly wacky song. But one thing my little mind noticed was that he wore an earring in both ears. Back then we were so obsessed with which ear a boy wore an earring in. If it was one ear he was gay. If it was the other he was fine. When I saw that George had one in both ears I just figured he was bisexual and shrugged my shoulders and went on with it. You see I was raised to accept such things as being ok. Which, while not exceedingly rare, were not common either. My mother has a gay cousin and a brother who is something and she used to talk about them openly while I was growing up. Just matter-of-factly like it was normal. So it never occurred to me think of it as abnormal. When George came out as gay all those years later I wasn't terribly surprised because I had already assumed it all those years ago. Yes, it was based on something stupid and he could easily have been straight, but looking back at that video I have to say he really did look gay in that video.  But of course so did Andrew of Wham! a bit.

When Faith came out I did not realize that there was all this controversy going on until a school bus trip to Washingon D.C. I didn't know that radio stations were refusing to play "I Want Your Sex". Or that the kids I went to school with couldn't listen to the album at home. My parents put no restrictions on what I listened to. At one point in D.C., the two buses got separated and we parked our bus and the bus driver and the adults on the bus got off to try to figure out what to do. Suddenly a group of the students looks around at each other and one of them pulls out a small boom box and puts in the tape Faith and "I Want Your Sex" starts playing. They had been dying for a chance to listen to it because they couldn't listen to it at home with their parents around or on the bus with the adults around.

With that one song George did something, no one had really ever done before so blatantly. He said the word SEX multiple times in a song. He didn't say making love or some other term. He bold as brass said the word SEX. Some of the songwriters who write some of the sexiest songs with the dirtiest lyrics like Prince and Steven Tyler could list about a hundred different euphemisms for sex without breaking a sweat. "Little Red Corvette" is not about a car, the lyrics to "Get Off" are very racy and never once even mention making love never mind sex, and when Steven isn't singing about sassyfrass or whatever he says in "Walk This Way" the bluntest he gets is in "Pink" when he says he wants to be "your lover" and then "wrap you in rubber" because he is Steven. If the guys who write the dirtiest songs and even others who aren't worth mentioning here because they weren't great but even they didn't mention the word SEX either and they were pretty crass. The word SEX was so taboo. And George didn't just break that taboo. He shattered it.

My favorite song by George is Freedom 90. At the time I had spent a great deal of my life with no freedom. So a song where you could yell Freedom! at the chorus was a song for me. And while the lyrics fit what George was going through with his life and not what I was going through, the chorus fit with what I was going through.
I think there's something you should know
I think it's time I told you so
There's something deep inside of me
There's someone else I've got to be
Take back your picture in a frame
Take back your singing in the rain
I just hope you understand
Sometimes the clothes do not make the man

All we have to do now
Is take these lies and make them true somehow
All we have to see
Is that I don't belong to you
And you don't belong to me yea yea
You've gotta give for what you take
You've gotta give for what you take
There was someone to whom the lyrics to this song I still think of. Of course, I've added someone to that list as time has passed.    Maybe we all have someone for whom we need to be free of. Or maybe we just need to earn our freedom from something.

He gave so much to this world as we are now learning. His money to those in need. His time. And of course his music. That will live on forever. Thank you, George.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The First GPS...In 1912

I write this for all those who are traveling over the holidays who will be using your GPS to find your way about. This is the story of the first GPS.

In the early 1900s, there were barely any markings for roads or street signs. Drivers found themselves hopelessly lost without a reliable navigation system. In New York City engineer J.W. Jones invented a turn-by-turn navigation system he named the Jones Live Map. A small circular contraption would sit on your car's dashboard, connected to the odometer. The driver would place a 9 1/2 inch in diameter disk with step by step directions from one predetermined place to another onto the device at the start of the drive.  The driver reads the first set of instructions from the disk. As the car moves forward the arrow on the directions change according to the odometer. The driver follows the directions on the disk until he gets to his destination. Each disk can provide directions for up to one hundred miles. Then you would have to change disks. He began selling his invention in 1912 for $75 and drivers loved it and bought them up. They were a miracle device.

Then in the 1920s city governments began to install road signs at intersections and in 1926 the U.S. government organized roadways even further with a system of numbers we know as highways.  For drivers, this was a godsend. Then companies started printing maps of the nation's highways and byways and instead of paying top dollar for a complicated navigational device motorists preferred the convenience and cheap price of maps. Jones was forced to shut down. But his idea did not die. In the 2000s Global Positioning System (GPS) which is based on twenty-four linked satelites, came along and it is based on the Jones Live Map, in that it is a turn-by-turn navigation system. Now people started throwing out their maps in favor of the easier GPS method. Oddly enough, the some of the GPSs have cost around $75 just like Jones's Live Map.  I think Jones would feel vindicated.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Wonder Woman Chronicles Continue

When we left off my daughter was just learning to appreciate Wonder Woman. Things have progressed much farther from there.  We're still watching the Linda Carter TV series with much fervor and in one of the episodes Robert Reed who plays Mike Brady on the Brady Bunch shows up as a Nazi spy.  He is one of the few actors to do a genuine German accent. Robert Logia also appears as a Nazi, but his accent comes by way of New York Italian; every word stretched out instead of the clipped German sounds. We both make fun of Major Steve Trevor who seems to need to be saved by Wonder Woman constantly and who is almost as useless as tits on a bull.

We've added The Justice League to our viewing pleasure and no I do not mean the one from the 1970s that I watched when I was her age. I won't put her through the horrors of the Wonder Twins and Gleek. I understand that there is more than one Justice League out there that is newish. We watch the one that has The Flash, Superman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Hawk Girl, Vision, and sometimes Batman. I forgot how much I enjoyed Hawk Girl. Shelby is getting a real kick out of watching it.

But neither of these is what prompted me to write today. Yesterday my daughter asked for her first Barbie doll and it wasn't just any old Barbie doll, it was  Wonder Woman. We were in Wal-Mart shopping and we went down the doll aisle, because I collect red-headed dolls ever since my best friend from college bought me my first one, Irish Barbie when we were in college. That was the first redheaded Barbie I had ever seen. I had grown up with the blonde Barbies and seeing other girls dyeing their hair blonde because that's what guys liked. Or so I was told and led to believe. It was impossible to dye my hair blonde without using Clorox so I was stuck with a hair color that guys did not find attractive. At least not in high school. College would be a different story. What, as a child I would not have given to have had a Barbie that looked like me. So when they finally started making them, I started to collect them.

So we went down that aisle so I could look to see if they had any new redheaded Barbie dolls and my daughter spotted Wonder Woman and even though it's almost Christmas she begged me to get her this doll. There weren't many left so instead of coming back later and getting it for a Christmas gift, I just bought it for her outright. An early Christmas gift. I couldn't resist as my little tomboy has never asked me for a doll before. She told me she wants to collect the whole DC Universe set: Heroes and Villains. I didn't tell her I already had Poison Ivy and Batgirl because both dolls were redheaded because then she'd steal them from me. She stole an Ariel doll from me once when I brought it home from the store. I never said she didn't have a Barbie doll. Just that she's never asked for one. And she quickly tired of Ariel. Will she quickly tire of Wonder Woman too? I don't know. She hasn't so far. And if she decides to spend her money on getting another doll to play with she may play with both of them together. A hero versus a villain.   I'm so proud that out of all the Barbie dolls she could choose from my daughter chose Wonder Woman.  

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Black and White of Heroin

These days politicians are talking about treating the disease of drug use with treatment rather than jail time and police and judges are starting to back that up---but it seems to only be applicable if you are from a white affluent neighborhood. These days heroin use is up. The largest number of heroin users though is among whites from middle and upper-class families. A rise in a death rate of 260% over the last five years among whites, while the overdose rate among people of color has doubled and no one has noticed. Maybe it was a white person who got hooked by taking pain pills for an injury or a teen who started taking pills as a party drug. Drugs like Oxy, Percocet, and Vicodin are from the same family as heroin. They are all made from the poppy plant.  Oxy is virtually the same thing as heroin and Percocet is right up there too. Vicodin is a slightly less strong drug.  Just because they can be prescribed to you by your doctor does not make them any less dangerous. But with the color of the user changing, suddenly everyone wants to treat the users--certain ones--with special care.

In the suburbs of Chicago, Rolling Meadows began a program where you can walk into a police station, or if you are picked up for a drug offense, you can turn over your drugs in exchange for getting put into a program. Lake County and Naperville have also joined in on this idea. The common denominator? They are all affluent and white with Lake County at 75% ,Naperville at 76%, and Rolling Meadow 62% white.

In the poverty stricken inner city nine out of ten arrested on drug offenses will end up in Cook County Jail and of those arrested one in six had used drugs in the days leading up to their arrest. Blacks were also eight times more likely to be stopped and frisked by police and of 1400 heroin users in jail, only a fraction will get help.  State sponsored programs have been cut in half, which disproportionately affects blacks, but there is finally an addiction program in jail called Division 6 that is only open to low-level offenders.

In Seatle, they have a program called Law Enforcement Assistant Diversion (LEAD) that allow police to assign drug users to case workers for low-level offenses. 36% of those in the LEAD program were arrested after entering the program compared to a control group where 59% were and they were less likely to be charged with a felony. It has been implemented in such cities as Albany, Atlanta, Portland, Maine, Baltimore, Fayetteville, NC, San Fransico, and Louisville. The last I heard, Hartford, Connecticut was considering LEAD. Lorezo Jones, co-director and co-founder of the Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice had this to say:
 “We support LEAD, not because we think the police and courts are going to do the right thing,” Jones said. “They have never done the right thing by poor and marginalized people. This is not an answer but a lever that the have-nots can pull, a new door that the have-nots can go through.”

But for those who can't get help or for those who slide, 80% of drug offenders are reincarcerated for future offenses, whether it be to support their bag or two a day habit or what they have to do to get the money to pay for the $10 a bag habit (A single opioid pill costs $20 or $30 by contrast). The difference is in who gets the help and who goes to jail.  Right now two-thirds of those in jail on drug offenses are people of color. The white drug use has flooded the inner city with cheap heroin that makes it tempting for those who possibly grew up seeing family members or friends use.  It's a rigged game against those in the inner cities who are put in a position to sell it in order to be able to use it or to be able to afford to put food on the table for their families even as a young teen or a kid. And those who sell it end up going to jail under a felony and then cannot get a real job or any job, for that matter, when they get out and are stuck in a trap, while the white users get put in treatment centers and don't get charged with a crime and therefore have no criminal record to hinder them in the future.  Until we are helping everybody we are not actually fixing the problem we are part of the problem.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

How the Scott Brother Finally Convinced People To Use Toilet Paper

In 1879 the most commonly used method to clean yourself after using the bathroom was a piece of cloth, newspaper, catalog pages, or corn husks which had been acceptable for use in the outhouse. None of these were very comfortable, but more importantly, the pipes in a house could not handle them and as a result, the plumbing would clog up and overflow.

Irving and Clarence Scott out of Philadelphia owned a wrapping paper and paper bag company and therefore had rollers for long sheets of paper, which is what gave them the idea for toilet paper. The problem was, this was the height of the Victorian Era and bathroom talk of any kind was strictly taboo. To talk about something that personal would be bordering on the obscene. Americans would rather keep their old uncomfortable methods and keep paying a plumber rather than ask for or pay for toilet paper in the store.

So, the Scott brothers came up with a plan. They went to the hotels and asked if they would like to stock it in their bathrooms. They figured if people could get used to using it they would love it so much they would want to ask for it. The hotels, sick of the plumbing bills, gladly bought the toilet paper. And the Scott brothers were right. People fell so in love with toilet paper they couldn't dream of ever going back to what they had used before and they got over their embarrassment about asking for it. You can still buy Scott toilet paper today.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

How the CIA Came to Publish Doctor Zhivago

Sixty-Seven-Year-old Russian writer, Boris Pasternak was a very famous and respected writer and translators of other books into Russian. His book of poetry, In My Sister's Life, is a classic.  However, like most writers he wanted to write the great novel, so he did and that novel was Doctor Zhivago.  He could not wait for the people to read his masterpiece about the doomed love affair between the married- to-other-people Dr. Yuri Zhivago and nurse Lara Guichard Antipov set against first World War I and then the Bolshevik Revolution.

When the Soviet hierarchy read a copy of it before it hits the press, they see the book as an attack on the Communist regime such as his subtle criticism against Stalin, Collectivization, The Great Purge, and the Gulag and ban the book.  Despondent that his book will not be published in his country, yet eager to see it published somewhere he arranges for the manuscript to be smuggled out by Sergio D'Angelo to an Italian printer who has it translated into eighteen different languages.  The book is an international sensation and hit.  Critics hail the work as that of a genius.  However, this does not make Pasternak happy as his own people, for whom he wrote the novel, cannot read it.

In 1958 the CIA are looking for a way to undermine the Soviets when they receive the book from their friends at MI6. They too interpret the book as being against communism and soon hatch a propaganda plot to publish it and get it smuggled into the Soviet Union.  In September at the World's Fair in Brussels, they pass the book to those Soviet diplomats that are sympathizers to the CIA'a cause.  Like the rest of the world, they too love the book and tear off the cover and smuggle it into the Soviet Union where they pass it along to others. Soon, the people are finding ways to buy their own black market copy of the book that has been smuggled in or reading a copy from a friend and it is all the Soviet Union can talk about.  It did not, however, as the CIA hoped, end communism in the Soviet Union.

One month later Pasternak won the Nobel Prize for Literature for Doctor Zhivago and book sales really soar.  If he accepted this award his mistress Olga would be sent to a gulag and it was hinted that if he traveled to Stockholm to attend the ceremony he would not be allowed to reenter the Soviet Union. So Pasternak politely refused the great honor.  Despite his refusal of the Nobel Prize, the Soviet Union of Writers hounded him daily in the press demanding that he be kicked out of the country. Pasternak wrote an impassioned letter to Khrushchev begging to be allowed to stay, because "leaving the motherland will equal death to me. I am tied to Russia by birth, by life and work." Indian Prime Minister Nehru interceded on his behalf and he was allowed to stay in the Soviet Union. Pasternak died on May 30, 1960, of lung cancer.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Marvel Vs DC: The Wonder Woman Chroncles

In my earlier post, I mentioned my lament over my daughter's distaste over Wonder Woman. She seemed to not see the importance or the ultimate coolness and strength of Wonder Woman. How tough she really was. Better, in my opinion than Superman and most other DC characters.  She has super-human strength that matches that of Superman, can deflect bullets with her bracelets, can use her lasso for multiple uses such as capturing bad guys, climbing something that way too tall for her to immediately leap on top of, and of course as a way to get others to tell the truth just to name a few.  She has an invisible plane that she can take anywhere.  Her tiara, which enabled her to communicate telepathically, call up her plane, protect her from a mental attack, could also be used as a razor sharp throwing weapon.  And eventually, she develops the ability to fly. She has superhuman speed and can speak many different languages including caveman and alien languages.  She can fight in armed and unarmed combat, knowing many different ways of fighting including the various martial arts as well as the exclusive Amazonian martial arts and Batman said of her that she was "the best melee fighter in the world".  She can astral project. She has great wisdom and intelligence as well as knowledge of psychology, philosophy, the sciences, and military strategy.  She also has enhanced senses including telescopic vision and super hearing. She also has super healing abilities.  

Whew. That's a lot for one superhero.  But Wonder Woman has been around since December 1941 and her attributes were pretty long for the time, but over time they grew a bit more extensive. Wikipedia, where I got some of this information, lists that she also at the beginning had ESP, had telepathy, and had mental control over the electricity in her body.  I didn't list these because I don't believe they stayed on with her over the years.

This is why Wonder Woman is so awesome. And so incredible. She truly is a superhero. She is also created to be a kind and generous person who seeks to not fight if there is a peaceful solution but will kick ass if need be. She has a strong sense of compassion, which some see as a weakness, but is really a strength.  It is easy to hate and be angry and fight first. It is much harder to have compassion for others and feel empathy, which she can thanks to one of the gods.

Anyway, the other night, my it was my night to choose what to watch and I chose to watch the Wonder Woman TV show with Linda Carter from the 1970s. My daughter, of course, moaned and groaned about it, but soon she was totally into it and so far we've watched five of them.  The last one had Robert
Loggia playing a Nazi. He was doing a stock German accident, but he couldn't keep the New York Italian hanging out of his voice at the end, instead of the clipped German tones.    It was a bit funny. The episode was called Wonder Woman vs. Gargantua. Gargantua was a great ape that had been trained to attack Wonder Woman and do other things upon command by the Nazis.  Wonder Woman with her compassionate heart wins over the ape and sees to it that at the end he gets sent back to the Republic of Congo where he was taken.  There's another episode where Wonder Woman gets captured by the Nazis and taken to Germany and Major Steve Trevor asks the General to let him parachute behind enemy lines to rescue her and the General tells him flat out no that it's too dangerous for him and that Wonder Woman can take care of herself. He tells Steve to take some time off, which he does to go to England to meet up with a buddy who will parachute him into Germany to meet with an agent who will help him get into where they have Wonder Woman. The General, of course, was right, Wonder Woman gets out without anyone's help. Steve, however, finds himself with a double agent and gets caught, so Wonder Woman, who is now back in the States, must fly back to Germany to save his ass. And when he compliments her on how good a job she does he always has to mention how hot she is when she does it. You just get the feeling that Batman and Superman don't have to put up with this.

My daughter was amazed to find out that the lasso did so much. And that Wonder Woman could run so fast or that she was so strong and could leap so high. There's a scene in one of the episodes where she alters her voice, which I'm not sure if she can actually do or not, but I'm going with it, and she thought that was the coolest thing in the world. My daughter now thinks Wonder Woman is cool. And that to me is the coolest thing in the world. I can't wait to see the other episodes or tell her all the other things Wonder Woman can do and see how amazed she'll be. Wonder Woman has always been my hero and now I hope she'll be my daughter's as well.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Marvel vs. DC And What No Mother Wants To Hear Come Out of Her Daughter's Mouth

The other day, my daughter said to me the words I never expected to hear from her: Mommy I like DC better.  I was horror stricken. I had raised her to be a Marvel girl. At a very young age I introduced her to Spiderman, the X-Men, and the Avengers.  When she was barely five-years-old she slept in her Spiderman pjs with her spiderman blanket on top of her comforter hugging a spiderman book.  Back then she had a habit of sleeping with books. Now that she's older she is able to put them on the nightstand before she goes to sleep.  Now she sleeps with Spiderman and Captain America.  No, my daughter doesn't have a teddy bear or other stuffed animals, with the exception of a blue bunny.  She prefers to sleep with her superheroes.

And until recently those superheroes have all been from the Marvel Universe, with the exception of Batman, with whom she had a passing interest in.  Now she tells me she prefers the DC Universe and it is breaking my heart. What is the worst about this is that she hates Wonder Woman. How can you hate Wonder Woman who is so totally awesome? Yes, I dip my toe in the DC world myself. I grew up watching shows like Wonder Woman, The Incredible Hulk, Shazam, Batman with Adam West, the Justice League cartoon (Wonder Twins activate--NOT) and the cartoon Spiderman and His Amazing Friends which featured Firestar who has nearly disappeared off the face of the earth and Iceman.  Shazam was pretty lame when I look back on it, so I hope when they do the movie they vastly improve on it.  I also had Wonder Woman underoos like so many other girls my age.  I keep trying to instill into my daughter that Wonder Woman is just as tough, if not tougher than the guys she likes so much from the DC world.  I believe there's a comic where Wonder Woman has her brain taken over by an alien and it takes everyone in the Justice League to take her down because she's so tough.  I tell her this and she still doesn't see it.  She locks onto Batman, Superman (who is the most boring of them all), Green Lantern, Hawkman, Flash, and even Robin who is merely a sidekick who is really rather pathetic.

But Marvel is so much better. How can you beat the X-Men? I mean there's Wolverine for crying out loud! And the whole Dark Phoenix story line with Jean Grey.  I mean the Phoenix is one of the most powerful comic characters ever. And Rogue who has one hell of a storyline where she can absorb other's powers and one day she absorbs too much of Marvel Girl's powers and is able to fly and have extra strength on a permanent basis. And who doesn't love the thief Gambit?  Or Storm who can freakin control the weather.  Or Nightcrawler who can transport from one place to another and has a gentle soul filled with faith.  Or the mercurial Emma Frost the only one who can stand up to Professor X in the mind reading realm.  And Magneto, the tortured soul who is mostly against the X-Men, but sometimes fights right along side them since they're goals occasionally are the same, though their ultimate goal is slightly different.  Or the complex Angel who becomes Avenging Angel who only wanted to be human.  Then there's Pietro and Wanda, Magneto's children, who never seem to measure up to his standards no matter how powerful they become. And let's not forget Charles's half-brother Juggernaught who is nearly unstoppable when he is wearing his helmet. Or the mystical Dr. Strange who sometimes switches sides as befits his whim.  I'd really like to forget Apocalypse who is one of the strongest villains of them all and just annoys me, but he is popular. Or Pyro with the power of fire and Bullseye who has unerring aim.  Or the mercurial Mystic whose side you never where she'll land.

Then, of course there's Spiderman's world with Venom and Green Goblin, and Electro and The Fantastic Four who seem to get no respect due to the movies which did not do so well.  They have Dr. Doom (who oddly enough gets defeated by Squirrel Girl) whom circles around all the Universes and recently crushed all the Marvel Universes together so that there are no more alternate universes. So we have a female Wolverine, a female Spiderman (Gwen Stacy), a female Iron Man, and let's not forget the formidable Jessica Jones, Nick Cage, and Daredevil who is finally getting the attention he deserves.

Yes, the DC Universe has such baddies as the insane Joker and the psychotic  Harley Quinn, the mesmerizing Mad Hatter, dangerous Poison Ivey, the tough Bane, the only character to sometimes play both sides the delicious Catwoman, the adorable Penguin, the never-say-die Lex, the never ending Riddler, the deadly Scarecrow, and of course Two-Face.  But in the Marvel world few of the baddies stay on one side of the fence like they do in the DC Universe.  They are much more complex than that. They have more dimensions to them.

For now, though, my daughter still sleeps with Spidey and Captain America and she recently discovered a cartoon called Little Superheroes which has mainly Avengers (Thor, Hulk, Wolverine, Iron Man, Falcon, and Silver Surfer)  fighting the good fight, though without the help of any regular women heroes, I am sad to report. Of course, their boss is Marvel Girl so that is something and there are guest appearances by other Marvel characters which include some women such as Storm.  At least she is watching a Marvel show. And we've started watching the old Incredible Hulk show from my childhood.  So, she may say she prefers DC over Marvel, but she has yet to turn her back on Marvel yet. Of course there's room for her to love both, but I will win her over to loving Marvel best, Stan Lee, I promise.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Why You Should Vote In This Election Even If You Don't Want to Cast A Vote For President

If you seriously feel you cannot decide who to vote for president in this election (and you really should choose one), then DO still go to the polls to vote. There are more elections going on than the presidential one. Your state may have a governor's race going on. Or a Senate or House race on the state or federal level. But more importantly, you will have local county commissioners and city councilmen or what your area's name for them are. These local people determine how the money will be spent on schools and libraries and many other local issues that directly affect you.  Your state officials will determine how much state money goes to your local municipalities and they handle such state issues as roads, health care to some degree, educational dollars, and pretty much anything you can think of.  Your federal representatives will help form bills that will become laws across this nation that can change all our lives.  Of course, it takes a long time to get anything changed in Washington. That's why it's important to vote for your local representatives who can effect immediate change to your lives.

And don't think that your vote does not count, because it does. In the past several presidential elections the vote was separated by only hundreds of thousands of votes.  That's less than the population of New York City. It's about the size of a mid-size city like Atlanta, Charlotte, Reno, Tuscon, or Green Bay.  That's a small amount compared to the vast number of people in the U.S.  So go and vote. Your country desperately needs you right now and this is how you can help it.  If you really want a better America or just want to see something have a possibility of getting done, then vote.  It's the right thing to do. It's the American thing to do.

And for those curious Hilary Rodham Clinton is not the first woman to run for president. She is merely the first one to be placed on a ballot.  The first woman to run for president was Victoria Woodhull a woman who arose from poverty to become, with her sister, the only woman to trade stocks on Wall Street under her company's name Woodhull, Claflin and Co.  She had been an advocate for women's rights, including the right to vote, but in 1870 she did the unthinkable and announced her candidacy for president. She was derided not just by men, but also by women in the suffrage movement like Susan B. Anthony and Harriet Beecher Stowe who believed in getting the vote but not in "being men".  During her two-year campaign to get on the ballot, she became the first woman to be allowed to address Congress and she argued that women had already been given the right to vote by the Constitution.  She formed the Equal Rights Party made up of a disparate group of people who were looking for something new and fair.  At the end of a speech at the delegation, she said "Let us have justice, though the heavens fall" to a roaring crowd.  She, of course, did not win the election of 1872. Ulysses S. Grant did.  Woodhull spent election day in jail.  She once told reporters that "To be perfectly frank I hardly expected to be elected. The truth is I am too many years ahead of this age...and the enlightened mind of the average man...If my political campaign for the Presidency is not successful  it will be educational."

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The First Presidential Birther Movement: Did We Have a President Born In Another Country?

On September 20, 1881, President James Garfield dies from the infection brought about by the bullet wound he received by Charles Guiteau (Garfield could possibly have been saved, but that's a whole nother story). The nation knows very little about the new 21st President that has just been sworn in, Chester A. Arthur, except that he was born in 1830, Fairfield, Vermont. But was he?

New York attorney Arthur P. Henmen is furious and like Donald Trump makes claims that the President was born out of the country, in this case, Canada not Kenya.  He has sworn testimony that Arthur's parents were in Canada in 1829 with a newborn.  Arthur's two other brothers were much younger than him.  However, neither Vermont nor Canada kept written birth records at the time.  Arthur tells the nation that this is nonsense and that he was a natural born citizen and Henmen is forced to back down since he has no hard evidence and the public backs their president.

Fast forward to 1975. A historian is researching a biography on Chester A. Arthur at the Library of Congress when he comes across the Arthur family bible, which back in the day is how most births and deaths were recorded rather than an official system at the courthouse.  Next to Arthur's name is the birth year of 1829. So Arthur lied about his birth year. At the time his father was a preacher and teacher, so his parents were going back and forth between Canada and Vermont and the bible does not list where he was born. So he could very well have been born in Canada just as Henmen supposed all those years ago with this eyewitness testimony that places Arthur's parents there with a newborn.  His father was listed as teaching in Stanbridge East at the local school that was known as the "white house". Also, his mother's family was living there and would have been there to help out with the children.  Arthur burned all his papers right before he died and lied about his birth year until the day he died and if there was nothing to hide, then why lie about it? Now I sound like Trump!  Nonetheless, both Bedford, Quebec, Canada and Fairfield, Vermont claim Chester A. Arthur as a native son and America may just have had a Canadian president.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Female Crusader Who Set Out To Corner The President With His Pants Down Literally

By the time the 1820s rolled around, the families of War vets were pretty much getting screwed by the government when their spouse, who had fought in the war died and his pension was taken away. That meant they were left with nothing to support them and back then women were not allowed to work. Her only options might be to take in washings and sewing (which paid very little), rent out rooms in her home (if it was big enough, which it likely wasn't), or become a prostitute or a beggar on the street unless she had family that could afford to take her and her children in.  They needed that pension money to survive.

Anne Royall began a crusade to have the government continue to pay the pension money to the widows of war vets until their deaths. It was a cause near and dear to her heart as she was one.  She wrote dozens of letters to President John Quincy Adams but received no reply. She tried to get in to see him at the White House, but his aide wouldn't let her in (back then it was possible to get in to see the President, even if you were just a regular person).

But Anne wasn't about to give up that easily. She read up on Adams and discovered that he enjoyed a daily swim, naked, in the Potomac every morning.  So she hatched a plan to go see him there and corner him while he was in the water.  When she showed up he yelled from the water to go away he wanted nothing to do with her.  That wasn't going to stop her, as you might have realized by now.  She went to the rock where his clothes were and sat on them. When he saw this, he capitulated and she went to the water with his clothes and he listened to what she had to say and agreed to do what he could to get Congress to pass a law to let war widows continue to get the pensions.  With Adams' backing, the bill does indeed become a law and many war widows are saved from a bleak fate. All due to a creative crusader.

Anne was a journalist and author and a thorn in many other people's side for her causes. For more information on her or to read her writings go here: https://www.loc.gov/loc/lcib/0001/royall.html

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Satanists Next Door

The Satanic Temple is not the same as the Church of Satan. The Church of Satan is made up of hedonistic atheists who hold self-centered beliefs.  The Satanic Temple, which was founded by Lucien Greaves, has as it's mission statement that it "is to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people. In addition, they embrace practical common sense and justice."

The tenets of the faith are:
  • One should strive to act with compassion and empathy towards all creatures in accordance with reason.
  • The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions.
  • One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.
  • The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo your own.
  • Beliefs should conform to our best scientific understanding of the world. We should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit our beliefs.
  • People are fallible. If we make a mistake, we should do our best to rectify it and resolve any harm that may have been caused.
  • Every tenet is a guiding principle designed to inspire nobility in action and thought. The spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word.
They are agnostics for the most part and do not believe in a devil.  "Satan is symbolic of the Eternal Rebel in opposition to arbitrary authority, forever defending personal sovereignty even in the face of insurmountable odds. Satan is an icon for the unbowed will of the unsilenced inquirer… the heretic who questions sacred laws and rejects all tyrannical impositions. Ours is the literary Satan best exemplified by Milton and the Romantic Satanists, from Blake to Shelley, to Anatole France." They do not worship Satan.

They do charity work and they are big on the pursuit of knowledge and in promoting knowledge on scientific subjects.   This leads them in the ongoing battle against Christian based Crisis clinics who misinform women in their efforts to keep them from having an abortion.  They will have a woman call in to get information and record the conversation.  The woman on the other end of the line will say things like abortions cause breast cancer or that they cause scarring that will make you infertile or that it will ruin your relationship with God.  Then they will make an appointment to go in and bring in recording equipment to show that the person they talked to was giving them false information and refusing to talk about abortion and that they had Christian propaganda in the room.  They will compile all the data they have gathered and give it to the government since these clinics receive money from the state and the federal government.

The largest number of members of The Satanic Temple are in Detroit, likely because when everyone left it became a haven for those that didn't have a place such as artists and in this case Satanists. One year on the grounds at the state capital they allowed a holiday display of a manger, so the Satanists insisted on a display of their own.  Their's was about three feet tall and depicted a snake wrapped around a cross with the words The Greatest Gift Is Knowledge across the bottom.  There were, of course some complaints, but most people just found it interesting.

That wasn't the case when their statue of Baphomet was sent to Detroit in 2015 for an unveiling. Baphomet does not stay in one place for very long.  He was created when Oklahoma decided to erect a monument of the ten commandments and place them on the capital grounds. They argued that they had just as much a right to put their own statue there.  Eventually, the Oklahoma State Supreme Court made the state take down the monument, but The Satanic Temple went ahead and made their statue. It is a pagan sabbatical goat with a caduceus, which represents reconciliation and negotiation. There are two children looking up to the goat.  The statue is for any state that decides to forget about the separation of church and state. They have no interest whatsoever in putting it up on state grounds.  They believe it doesn't belong there any more than any other religious symbol does. They're more understanding and tolerant of other religions than other religions are of them.  Members usually go by a pseudonym.

This religion may not be for me, but I do think that they are not a bad religion.  They seem to strive to do good in this world and seek to learn which is a noble endeavor itself.  It's a shame that people of other religions do not bother to learn about them or be tolerant of them as they are of them.  Too many people get caught up in the word Satan and it's negative conations and forget who he once was, an angel.  We could learn a lot from our neighbors the Satanists.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Rooster Who Made a Pact With the Devil

Basel, Switzerland in 1474 was a place where people farmed and had livestock. One fine day one of the farmers noticed that one of his roosters had laid an egg.  So he went into town to the leaders for guidance.  The leaders decided that this could be one of two things: a freak of nature or the interference of the devil.  Folklore at the time said that if a rooster laid an egg he had made a pact with the devil and his offspring will grow into a terrifying creature known as the Basilisk, a half rooster half dragon that breathes fire and could kill with a glance.

The only way to uncover the truth would be in formal court. They were going to put the rooster on trial. So, the rooster was given a defense lawyer who argued for his side and there was a prosecuting attorney who argued against him. The judge listened to both sides and decided on a verdict of guilty.  The punishment for having congress with the devil, much like those for whiches at the time, was to be burned at the stake.  So the rooster and the egg were burned at the stake.  No, they did not eat the cooked rooster when it was over.

Science today has shown that some hens have a hormonal imbalance that causes them to display plumage that is similar to that of a rooster. So it would seem that the "rooster" was likely a hen.  Oddly enough, the town became quite enamored with the Basilisk symbol and there are statues, paintings, and it appears on the official coat of arms.  So it seems that that poor "rooster" lives on forever in the hearts and minds of the people of Basel. The rooster who made a pact with the devil.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Why We Have the 1936 Berlin Olympics to Thank for Our Modern Olympics

The other night I watched a documentary on PBS on the 1936 Berlin Olympics. On May 24, 1930 on Lake Brombachsee, the International Olympic Committee were shown a spectacle of 2,000 row boats and ferries where they and their friends were taken for jaunts on the water. No one was bribed with money, but this would be the first time judges would be influenced personally and wined and dined for their vote with special favors.  Nowadays its a standard practice. When Hitler came to power in 1933 he showed the IOC his grand plans of a giant stadium to be built to last after the Olympics.  The 1932 Olympics held in L.A. were a modest affair and not the bigger plans the Americans had planned, as the Depression was on and there was little money to pay for them and few showed up for them. The IOC saw this as a vast improvement. There was some concern over the Nazi papers demanding that blacks not participate, and there was also the problem of there being no Jews on the German team.
But when the president Henri de Baillet-Latour  talked to Hitler he insisted this to not be true. The Germans sent out the statement "As a principle German Jews shall not be excluded from German Teams at the Games of the XIth Olympics."

It was enough for the IOC, even though everyone knew they were deliberately keeping them off of the teams and eventually they would be persuaded by a Charles Sherry to allow a "token" Jew. This is how Helena Myer ended up on the fencing team, though the German people were never told that this tall blonde woman was a Jew as that would go against what they were preaching.  At this time the Nuremberg Laws were going on depriving German Jews of their rights.  Also in preparation for the Olympics, another tradition that continues today in the Beijing and Rio Games, the streets were cleaned up of undesirables. In this case they were the Romas and they were sent to the gas chamber.

America had been considering boycotting the Olympics. The main person against this was the American in charge of the Olympics, Adrian Bundage, who was hoping to get a position on the board of the IOC  and one day be its president. The American delegate on the IOC had been against holding the games in Berlin. People had stormed German ships and ripped the Nazi flag and thrown it overboard at American docks in protest to America's participation.  Bundage went on a "fact finding" mission to Berlin where he expected to find nothing and he of course did not. It was a very close call, but on December 7, 1935, the Americans decided to go to Berlin. If they had boycotted it is believed by Professor David Clay Large that the Brits, the French and the Canadians would have boycotted as well and Hitler's party would have been ruined after giving Germany such a black eye. Three Jewish Austrian swimmers, Judith Deutch, Lucie  Goldman, and Ruth Langer did boycott the Olympics in protest and were stripped of their medals and banned from swimming for life.  Forty-nine countries did decided to go instead. More than any other year before.

The Berlin Olympics is also the first Olympics to have a torch bearer. The had runners come from Athens with a lit torch symbolizing Germany's link to the Ancient Greeks.  At the beginning of the ceremony in dramatic fashion the runner ran through the stadium and up a long flight of stairs to light the large torch there and run off, just as it has been done in every Olympics since.  For those who have seen footage from these Olympics and it appears that most of the countries are giving the Nazi salute, the Olympic salute is the right arm raised up to shoulder length and can be confused with it.  Although there were a few counties that did give the Nazi salute.

Hitler gambled that the superiority of the German race would shine through and they would be victorious in these games.  It didn't hurt that these athletes were professional soldiers who dedicated all their time to training and were hardly amateurs and that the IOC knew all this but turned a blind eye.  Early on the U.S. were heavy winners in track and field as you all may recall the famous Jesse Owens. We began to lose ground in rowing and gymnastics but made a notable win in nine-man crew against all odds,  which left us both tied at 19 gold medals each.  That only left the equestrian games which the Germans swept.  The gold final medal count was 33 Germany 24 U.S. (Total Medal Count 89 Germany 56 U.S.). This was a first for Germany. Bundage applauded Hitler's regime and thought the U.S. could learn a lot from the National Socialists and it's Olympic spirit.

After the Olympics, the IOC dropped the American member who hadn't wanted to hold it in Berlin and brought Bundage on board.  Bundage was also rewarded with the job of building the Germany Embassy in Washington D.C.   Hitler at this time begins to build up his army. In 1938 he annexed Austria and invaded the Sudetenland. 400 Jews were murdered during the November pogrom, synagogues burned while 30,000 were sent to concentration camps.  When the Japanese, who had been chosen for the 1940 Olympics [it really makes you wonder just how out of touch the IOC was] bows out because they are at war with the Chinese, the IOC, and I am not making this up, ask Hitler to host the 1940 Olympic games in June of 1939. This was after he had already threatened publicly to exterminate the Jews.  It became a moot point because, on September 1, 1939, he invaded Poland and Germany was no longer an option for the Olympics. 

You can drive yourself crazy playing the what-if game. The Nazis read every letter coming to and from the athletes.  Jesse Owens was mailed a letter that he never got that encouraged him to decline any medal he won as a protest to what was going on. Would he have if he had gotten that letter? Well, he's not alive for me to ask him that question. If we had boycotted the Olympics and there had been a domino effect of boycotts from other countries could that have caused a break in Germany's political system perhaps stopping World War II from happening? Life turns on a dime, but nothing is ever so simple and sometimes things are inevitable.  I once heard someone say that World War II began the day after World  War I ended due to the atrocious Peace Treaty terms that had Germany pay back such an ungodly sum of money they only just finished paying it back a few years ago.  For better or worse the Berlin Games of 1936 have given us the games we so enjoy today that seem to get more and more extravagant every two years.  I will leave you with this quotation.

"If the '36 Olympics games had happened in another country they might not be the same thing. What the Nazis showed us was that this event could be showcased and nationalized and politicized in a way that's always taken place since. There is no doubt that Berlin is at the root of the Modern Olympics." (Guy Walters)

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Stayin' Alive vs. Another One Bites the Dust

Anyone who takes a CPR class now is taught that when you do chest compression you can sing "Stayin' Alive" to get the beat of how often you should press down on the chest.  When they made this change, I heard on the radio a DJ mention that this would work just as well with "Another One Bites the Dust". The other day my daughter was in swim class and over the speakers "Stayin' Alive" came on and I have to admit I kinda looked around with all those lifeguards there for someone to be in cardiac arrest. It got me to thinking about the two songs and how maybe "Another One Bites the Dust" might be the more appropriate song to do when doing CPR. Let's look at the lyrics.

Stayin' Alive
Well, you can tell by
the way I use my walk
I'm a woman's man no time to talk
Music loud and women warm,
I've been kicked around
Since I was born
And now It's all right, it's ok
And you may look the other way
We can try to understand
The New York Times' effect on man
Whether you're a brother or
Whether you're a mother
You're stayin' alive, stayin' alive
Feel the city breakin'
and everybody shakin'
And we're stayin' alive
Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin'
alive, stayin' alive
Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin' alive
Well now I get low and I get high
And if I can't get either, I really try
Got the wings of heaven on my shoes
I'm a dancin' man and I just can't lose
You know it's all right, it's ok
I'll live to see another day
We can try to understand
The New York Times' effect of man
Whether you're a brother or
Whether you're a mother
You're stayin' alive, stayin' alive
Feel the city breakin'
and everybody shakin'
And we're stayin' alive, stayin' alive
Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin'
alive, stayin' alive
Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin'
alive, stayin' alive
Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin' alive
Life goin' nowhere, somebody help me
Somebody help me yeah
Life goin' nowhere, somebody
help me, yeah
Well, you can tell by
the way I use my walk
I'm a woman's man, no time to talk
Music loud and women warm
I've been kicked around since I was born
And now it's all right, it's ok
And you may look the other way
We can try to understand
The New York Times' effect on man
Whether you're a brother or
Whether you're a mother
You're stayin' alive
Feel the city breakin'
and everybody shakin'
And we're stayin' alive, stayin' alive
Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin'
alive, stayin' alive
Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin' alive
Life goin' nowhere, somebody help me
Somebody help me, yeah
Life goin' nowhere, somebody help me
Somebody help me, yeah
I'm stayin' alive

Another One Bites the Dust
Let's go!
Steve walks warily down the street
With the brim pulled way down low
Ain't now sound but the sound of his feet
Machine guns ready to go
Are you ready, hey
Are you ready for this
Are you hanging on the edge of your seat
Out of the doorway the bullets rip
To the sound of the beat, yeah
Another one bites the dust
Another one bites the dust
And another one gone
and another one gone
Another one bites the dust
Hey, I'm gonna get you too
Another one bites the dust
How do you think I'm going to get along
Without you, when you're gone
You took me for everything that I had
And kicked me out on my own
Are you happy, are you satisfied
How long can you stand the heat
Out of the doorway the bullets rip
To the sound of the beat, listen
Another one bites the dust
Another one bites the dust
And another one gone,
and another one gone
Another one bites the dust
Hey, I'm gonna get you too
Another one bites the dust
Hey, Oh, take it. Bite the dust hey,
Another one bites the dust
Another one bites the dust
Another one bites the dust, hey, hey
Another one bites the dust, hey
There are plenty of ways
you can hurt a man
And bring him to the ground
You can beat him
You can cheat him
You can treat him bad
You can leave him when he's down
But I'm ready, yes I'm ready for you
I'm standing on my own two feet
Out of the doorway the bullets rip
Repeating the sound of the beat
Another one bites the dust
Another one bites the dust
And another one gone
and another one gone
Another one bites the dust
Hey, I'm gonna get you too
Another one bites the dust

First Stayin' Alive. The only positive things he has to say in the song is that he's a "woman's man" and that he's a "dancin' man" who "just can't lose", though, that does not appear to be the case, as that is what he is doing in the song. All he IS doing is staying alive. He's been "kicked around" since the day he was born and life hasn't gotten any better.  The city is breaking apart to pieces, people are shaking and it doesn't matter whether you're a mother or a brother, all you are capable of doing is staying alive.  Just barely hanging on. He isn't even fighting to live.  In fact he says that "life's going nowhere", then begs for somebody to "help me".  This is a man who is on the verge of giving up on life. Yes, he does say that "he'll live to see another day", but it almost has a question mark after it, or at least a huge sigh. And you really don't want to mention the part about having heaven's wings on his shoes.  Is this the song you want to be singing to someone whose life you're trying to save?

Now let's look at "Another One Bites the Dust". It opens up with a shout of "Let's go!" Then "Steve walks warily down the street" and he his "machine gun's ready to go".  This is a guy going into battle.  He's not giving up. He's a fighter.   A woman has done everything possible to bring him low, but does he take this lying down? No. The bullets come flying out and he's gonna take her down and everyone else involved too.  And he's going to win.  It ends with him taking one after another down and he never gets hit himself.  He's like Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator.  You want the person you're working on to feel that strong.  Invincible.  Like they can take on the world, just like this guy did and win too.  You can always play with the pronouns to fit the situation so it sounds like that person is the one doing the fighting.  And if they believe they are fighting they will and they will want to win, just like Steve does in the song.  In my opinion, this one beats "Stayin' Alive" hands down.

By the way I love both of these songs for precisely the reasons I listed above. The Bee Gees tap into a desperation we all feel at some point in our lives and Queen ramps up up for the fight we must fight.  And yes, both of them hold places in my CD collection.  One day I will make it into the 21th century and get an ipod or and mp3 or mp4 player, but not today.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Cancer Questions

When I was reading the book Make 'Em Laugh by Debbie Reynolds (review to come soon) she told the story of a woman who worked closely with her named Jenn. Jenn had been from Texas just like Ms. Reynolds and even though she was married, she moved to California to work in real estate, as she had fallen in love with the place, and kept up a long distance marriage.  When Ms. Reynold's Vegas act ended and she came back to California and was in need of an assistant to handle things for her, Jenn was there. When Ms. Reynolds heard the news that her long time hair dresser was leaving to be in a Vegas drag show (a dream of his), she told Ms. Reynolds not to worry that she could do her hair and wigs. These two were quite close. In 2012 when Ms. Reynolds went to Colorado to write her autobiography, she brought along Jenn and her husband, among others.  One day Jenn was getting a microwave out of a vehicle to put into the cabin and experienced great pain. She went to a "quick care" type clinic and they gave her some meds for what she thought was just a pulled muscle in her back. What she didn't tell anyone was that the pain was excruciating and that it did not stop the entire time they were there. When they got back to California, though, they all made her go see a doctor who did x-rays and discovered that she had shattered two vertebrae in her back due to the breast cancer that had spread to her brain and weakened her bones. The doctor believed she had had this cancer for about ten years. Jenn was only 44. They put some braces in her back and she tried a round of chemo, but it was too late and she died soon after.

Now some facts. 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime and men have a 1 in a 1000 chance of getting it themselves. It is more common in black women under the age of 45 and they are more likely to die from it. 85% of people who are diagnosed have no family history of breast cancer.  The older you get the more likely you are to get it. [www.breastcancer.org] Fewer than 5% under the age of 40 are likely to get breast cancer, yet it is the number one leading cause of cancer death in women age 20-59. [www.komen.org].  When I was growing up the doctors told us you went in to get a baseline mammogram at age 35 and then began getting your regular mammograms at age 40. In 2003, amid some controversy, the American Cancer Society stated that women should have their first mammogram at age 45 and then begin regular yearly mammograms.

I don't know why Jenn didn't have a baseline mammogram done at age 35 or one at age 40. Ms. Reynolds says that Jenn didn't have cancer in her family so maybe she felt she didn't need to. Maybe she listened to the American Cancer Society, maybe she didn't. I don't know.  I do know her life could have probably been saved if she had. I did not. I take my health seriously. I had my baseline done at 35 and had my second mammogram a little late as I did not have insurance and needed to save up the money. I had it back in January. The place where I had it done a local theater group had put on a production of the play Calendar Girls and sold actual calendars to raise money for a 3D imaging scanner. Every woman who came in at that time was given a free calendar. It hangs proudly on my wall. It makes me mad that these doctors are telling women to wait to have mammograms when they could save their lives.  It's a painless procedure that only takes a few minutes. Something so simple can be so life changing.  You do not have to follow these guidelines put forth by the American Cancer Society and I urge you not to.

Now, at the other end of the spectrum.  A friend of mine is in her early seventies and her gynecologist told her she didn't need to come in every year anymore. I thought that was odd and was worried, as your chance of getting cancer down there does not go down when you get older. So I browbeat a nurse into spelling it out for me.  It turns out that once you reach a certain age doctors stop telling you to have certain "bothersome" procedures done such as pap smears and colonoscopies.  For one thing, medicare doesn't want to pay for it. But mainly, if you do get cancer, the thinking is that pneumonia or whatever you are likely to get from the treatment of the cancer, or something else entirely, will kill you long before the cancer will. So there is no point in bothering them with these pesky little preventive uncomfortable procedures.  I was floored. It seems they just give up on you when you reach a certain age. And they believe you would want it that way too, but they don't ask you. These doctors don't explain why you don't need them anymore and you're just so happy not to go through them as often that you don't stop to question why. I did not tell my friend this as she would never believe me.

None of this really seems right or fair.  It just seems a way to cut medical costs at the possible expense of someone's life. Every living, breathing life is sacred and we should do everything in out power to protect and save it, not give up on it because it's the easy thing to do, or play the odds with a young person's life.  I am not an age, but a human being and I demand to be treated with respect and courtesy and to not be held to some statisticians chart. I have hopes and dreams of a future just like everyone else and we all deserve to see them come true if it's possible, on our own terms.          

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Does Many Accents By Any Other Noises Sound as Sweet?

My mother and her family are from Texas. My dad and his family are from the hills of Kentucky. I was born in Lexington, Kentucky and grew up going to see my Mamaw and aunts and uncles on my dad's side, often, as they were close by. My dad said words like "overhauls" for overalls, and I and my brother did the same for years until we moved away. But that accent never really leaves you. Of course, I would find that that was not the only accent I had in my arsenal.

I first found out that I would change the way I spoke to fit the person I was talking to. I was talking to a girl named Gina for the first time at my college that was half southern, half northern, and she, who was from New Jersey, asked me what part of Jersey I was from. I explained that I was born in Kentucky but that I had spent the past seven years or soi in this state.  She could hardly believe me, as I sounded like I was from her state. I would do that time and again. And not just with accents. If I was talking with someone who spoke a certain way, or thought a certain way, or was at a certain vocabulary level, I changed the way I talked. I adjusted myself to them. I became a chameleon.

Once when I was working at this hotel job I had during college a local man came in to rent a room for a relative and for the first time in my life someone told me "You're not from around here, are you?" I explained where I had been born and that I had been living here a long while and he told me I didn't have the "local accent". That was when I realized what I sounded like. I was living with my dad who still had his mountain accent and my step-mother who has an Alabama accent, and I had mashed the two together and come up with some Frankenstein accent from hell. It stayed with me too, as long as I lived with them for a while, then it would go back to whatever the default was.

There is one person whom I did not change my talk or accent for and that is my best friend Randi. She is from Pennsylvania and had some interesting ideas about how Southern women go to college to get their MRS degree. Her roommate, sadly, was a complete oddball from another era, and was there to find a man, something I'd never heard of since the 60's. Once we got to talking and I disabused her of this notion, at some point the word that, to this day makes me laugh every time she says it, came out of her mouth: wudder. Or as you and I know it, water. I don't know why this cracks me up, but it does.

Once I graduated from college, I was not around so many Northerners, so my accent stopped changing, as far as I knew, until about a year ago. At the beginning of the school year I had  moved and couldn't find the iron, so I thought it had been left behind. I needed one to iron on my daughter's patches to her new Daisy uniform. So I called the drug store up the street to see if they had one and they asked me to repeat myself three times before I just spelled out the word, wondering what their problem was. Then we had to go through the process of curling or clothing. Once off the phone, I finally realized why she, as Southern woman, had not understood me. I had pronounced iron in the Kentucky mountain way. There is really no way to describe it here, it must be heard, but I will try: Eye-ur-n.  I was also calling tires, tarrs. My daughter tells me to just think about saying Iron Man and then just leave off the Man part, as I don't do this with Iron Man.  And whenever my daughter got into trouble my acccent went deep Georgia Southern.  When I was describing an argument I had with my ex to Randi about him wanting to change her hair and at one point I went Brooklyn, then at another point my accent with part South Carolina part Georgia.  So, I still have the ability to do Northern accents when the situation calls for it.

And then there's all the foreign words and phrases that started popping up. In the morning it's "vite, vite", which is French for faster, faster. And "mon petit chou", which is an endearment meaning my little cabbage. "Or "nyet", which is Russian for no.  "Ego amo te"and "Je t'aime" ( I love you in Latin and French) and others. The worst are the cliches and homilies. "Quickest begun, is quickest done." What is that? The pilgrims or something even older? Idle hands, etc... A journey of a thousand steps... "Close the front door, will ya! Do you think we live in a barn?" I have yet to use "If he jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge/Empire State Building would you do it too?" (Why is it always a New York City landmark, anyways?) I did hear her teacher's assistant use her version of it one day when I stopped by to have "brunch" (her lunch is at 10:30am) with her.

Where do some of these things come from anyway? I did not grow up hearing these things from my parents.  I read about them or heard them in movies or on TV and they sunk into my subconscious. I also picked up bits of languages here and there. I took four years of French and on year of Spanish, but I know bits of German, Japanese, and others here and there from reading, songs, movies, etc... Why I'm using them on my daughter and in my language now, I have no idea. Why my mountain accent is popping up now I can only explain as maybe I am being watched over/haunted by my Mamaw who passed back in September when most of this started.  Perhaps she is guiding me in some way, or perhaps I'm just screwed up like everyone else on this planet.   For now, my daughter knows she has a mother who "talks a bit screwy" and she loves her and understands everything she says, which is the most important thing in the world.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Me, Freddie, Brian and the Rest of Queen

When Wayne's World came out, I'll never forget, I was listening to the radio one night and someone called in and asked to hear "that song by that new band Queen." I nearly died laughing so hard. They were, of course referring to the song "Bohemian Rhapsody" which was featured prominently in the movie. For me, Queen has been a part of my life as long as I can remember.  When I was a kid, my best friend Silke, whose parents had escaped East Germany and introduced me to the wonders of Nutella (which I wouldn't see again until a few years ago) and the horrors of sauerkraut, would put the song "Another One Bites the Dust" on her record player and we wore that record out.

I remember the video for "Radio Gaga" and thinking the song was stupid because the only words I listened to were the title ones. It was only about a decade or so ago that I actually bothered to sit down and hear Freddie and realized that I was just like him in that song. While my radio didn't glow, it was always on with a tape in it ready to record something.  I loved the radio show War of the Worlds too. I had the radio on at night, and for a brief time listened to something a few of you might know called "The Southern Biscuit Flour Hour", where I began to wonder why they played so much Lynard Skynard and Almond Brothers.  And as Freddie says, "Someone still loves you", and that someone is still me.  I still listen to the radio all the time (though I no longer tape anything).

And who doesn't remember the big to-do over Ice Cube stealing "Under Pressure"? I spent some time explaining that one to my daughter showing her the differences between the two only to have her tell me that she preferred "Ice Ice Baby" just to see if she could get a rise out of me. She didn't. I'm wise to her ways now.  That song is pure magic.  "Under Pressure", people. David Bowie said he was never satisfied with his performance in that song and got angry when they put the song out. But he also admitted he would never have been satisfied. He was a bit of a perfectionist. The two men remained friends right up until the end and now we've lost them both.

My daughter loves "Bohemian Rhapsody" because I showed her the video from Wayne's World that showed her the proper way of listening to it. Now she headbangs the right way (with hands in the devil horns) and does the voices in the right spots. When I'm driving the car, she tells me she'll headbang for me since I have to watch the road.  Her second favorite is the Ahhh song, or as the rest of us know it, "Flash". I showed her the movie Flash Gordon and she agreed with me: the leader of the Hawks is really funny and the soundtrack by Queen makes the movie.  I'm afraid my daughter has inherited my love of bad movies. But it really is worth watching just to listen to. And the Hawk guy really is hilarious. It's also pretty goofy to see Timothy Dalton dressed up like Erroll Flynn in the movie Robin Hood. She's growing to love the rest. Especially "I Want it All", "Another One Bites the Dust", and "We Will Rock You". I'm working on "Fat Bottom Girls", "Crazy Little Thing", and "Somebody to Love". The hardcore stuff like "Hammer to Fall" will have to wait.

Whenever Brian starts doing something amazing on his guitar I make sure to point it out. I've told her all about Brian and how he is an astronomer and how he and his dad made his guitar from scratch when he was a teen. How smart he is.  And Freddie's incredible piano skills and soaring vocals. Yeah, I should mention Roger Taylor's drums, especially since she has an interest in them as well as guitar and piano, and sometimes my trumpet.  And let's not forget the poor bass player. My uncle is one and he'd kill me if I'd leave the bass player out. John Deacon holds it all down for the band. My ex-husband, however is a guitar player, so I know more about the guitar players then I do the drummers and bass players.  My daughter still hasn't nailed down what instrument she wants to play, which is why I point them all out in the songs I play for her, so she'll think they're all cool.

This is all a part of my evil plan. If I introduce her to all the good music early on and block out anything truly horrific, maybe when she hits her tween years and whatever Justin Beiber hell is waiting for me then, she won't be interested because she will see him for the crap that he is. Right now I'm just glad to be sharing one of my favorite bands in the world with her. It's like falling in love with them all over again.    

Monday, June 13, 2016

Dancing Days and Bought Drinks

I realized that I left out something on my birthday remembrance. My twenty-first birthday celebration, which was memorable in it's own weird way.  My friend S. Hatfield (I once discovered that a woman with my maiden name had married a McCoy and this made so much sense as me and Hatfield had such a close, but argumentative at times friendship) took me out to get drunk at Bogies, a restaurant named after the actor. There was a woman there playing acoustic guitar and singing songs and she had a row of girlfriends right up front to support her. Otherwise the place was pretty empty, but that was to be expected as it was a weeknight. I can't remember what my first drink was, but a Long Island Iced Tea was in there somewhere, as I had heard of them and was curious. The women caught on early that it was my birthday and bought me a shot of tequila because you can't celebrate your birthday without tequila, it seems. The singer asked me what song I wanted to hear and I told her "She Talks to Angels" by the Black Crows.  We had a really nice time and I got pleasantly drunk. When we got to the parking lot Hatfield looked at me and he said "You do know those were lesbians, right?" And I had had no idea. It didn't matter. I just felt like an idiot for not picking up on it. So the second drink bought for me (Hatfield bought the first) was by a group of lesbians. And I couldn't be happier.

I love dancing. I can't really do much of it anymore due to the fibro. I hate it for taking that away from me. Dancing made me feel so free.  And it was one of the only things I was ever any good at.  During college the only people in my group who went to the clubs to go dancing were the gays. So when I wasn't working I went with them to this gay club and we all danced with each other to "Rhythm Is a Dancer", "What Is Love", "Be My Lover", and of course "I Will Survive".  I have such happy memories of that place. And of someone who was with us there, who is not anymore.  Of dancing way into the night, free as can be. Of the drag show they had one Sunday night where I saw a reigning Queen who was way more woman than I could be with the help of a thousand specialists. She was truly amazing. But not once did I ever worry about my safety. Not once did I worry about someone coming in with an automatic gun and shooting up the place.

I mourn for those in Orlando.  They did nothing to deserve this. They, like me once, were just there to dance. To be with friends. To meet others. To have fun. To be free as the birds in the sky. This should not have happened to them.  This should not happen to anyone.

Our dead are not dead to us, until we have forgotten them.- George Eliot

   ...and while he did all the actual dancing, I remember whirling around and around the porch those hot 

  summer days so long ago and never wanting to stop.--Julie Reece Deaver (Say Goodnight Gracie)

  Dancing is just a conversation between two people. Talk to me- Harry Connick Jr. (Hope Floats)

Thursday, June 9, 2016

And Yet Another Year Has Gone With the Wind

"The sun is the same in a relative way but you're older, shorter of breath and one day closer to death." That is from "Time", my favorite song off of Pink Floyd's album Dark Side of the Moon. It is appropriate today as it is my birthday and the year I was born was the year that album came out.  It reached number one on the Billboard Charts in April and stayed there until 1988. It went back on the charts in 1991 and remains there today.  And yes, it is true if you sync it up with the movie The Wizard of Oz, it seems to go together in an eerie way.  There is a young man that I went to high school with who committed suicide his freshman year of college that I always think of when I listen to the song "Dark Side of the Moon". He was too sweet for this world.

I was born in Lexington, Kentucky. Horse country. Which is why it means something special to me that I share a special day with horse racing's most famous horse: Secretariat. On the day I was born, Secretariat, also a redhead, was busy making history, being the first horse to win the Triple Crown in twenty-five years at the Belmont Stakes.  But he did more than that. You say 31 and 2:24 to anyone in horse racing and they will know exactly what you are talking about. Secretariat won by 31 lengths and ran the race in 2:24 minutes. An amazing record for any race. But Secretariat is a once in a lifetime, or perhaps century, horse. He passed in 1989.

The now legendary band Aerosmith put out there first album, Aerosmith. It had on it "Makin' it" "Mamma Kin", and yes, "Dream On", which would be re-released in 1976 and finally became a hit.  No one really noticed this album. Or the band for several years, except for their loyal band of blue jean followers and the city of Boston.  It's hard to believe that their most famous song "Dream On" was out for years before it became a hit and got them some attention. But the music world is an odd one.

That year we also lost one of the greatest storytellers in the singer/songwriter/musician category: Jim Croce. He wrote: Don't Mess Around With Jim, Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown, Time in a Bottle, I've Got a Name, Rapid Roy That Stock Car Boy, Car Wash Blues, and One Less Set of Footsteps. He had set up a date to play at a college in Louisiana in December. But that was before he became famous and a "big name". Some people, hell most people, would have cancelled it. But that wasn't who he was. It was a small gig for peanuts and he had to take a tiny plane to get there and it crashed and he died. He left behind a wife, son, and some wonderful music filled with colorful characters and a great beat.  My daughter loves the "don't tug on Superman's cape song", which is about what I called it when I was her age, or what the rest of the world knows as "Don't Mess Around With Jim".  She even gets the Jim's and Slim's right, which took me years to nail down.

In the news: Roe v. Wade was passed; the Yom Kipur War;  the Watergate hearings begin with Nixon exclaiming "I am not a crook."'; US troops were withdrawn from Vietnam and a peace agreement signed; armed members of the American Indian Movement occupied Wounded Knee, South Dakota; in the Battle of the Sexes on the tennis court, Billy Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs; Richard Pryor burned his face by "free base"; and the Endangered Species Act is Passed. In pop culture: Mick and Keith kicked Brian Jones out of the band; Ben Vereen was killed in a car accident; Lisa "Left Eye" Lopez burned down her boyfriend's house (that was memorable); The Exorcist (I'm scared); Deliverance (Oh, yeah!); Live and Let Live (a Bond movie! Awesome!); The Sting; Jesus Christ Superstar; American Graffiti; The Last Tango in Paris; album "Some Girls" released; "Batdance"; "Crocodile Rock"; "Angie"; and  "My Love" (I could personally do without the woah, woah, woahs). Birthdays: Peter the Great; Cole Porter; Les Paul; The Great Soul/Blues singer Jackie Wilson; Patricia Cornwell; Michael J. Fox; Aaron Sorkin; Johnny Depp; Natalie Portman; and last, but never least, Donald Duck.

Now you may wonder what the point of all this was. Well, I sometimes need to remind myself that a lot of cool things (even if they were bad, they were important) and cool people, happened on my birthday. Especially now. I've always been mistaken for someone at least ten years younger than myself until a year ago. Suddenly I started being treated like I was ten years OLDER than I was. I took my daughter to the library and a man (It's always a man. It's a man who asks if when you are due, when you are not pregnant.) asked about my granddaughter. I had my daughter at an older age, but not all that old. I have yet to find a gray hair. How can I possibly look like someone's grandmother? When I went to see The Force with a friend of mine who is 30, the ticket agent asked if she had a student ID. When I stepped up, she saw my AAA card and thought it was an AARP card and said "Oh, you have AARP." My first thought was, of course, do I look that old? Then my thrifty Scots side came out and said who cares what she thinks. These tickets are well over $10. Take the discount. I was just about to open my mouth to agree with her, when she realized her mistake and I had to pay full price. So I got insulted and overcharged.  The very young nurse at my doctor's office is pushing the pneumonia shot I've seen on TV that they are aiming at the over 60 crowd. I look in the mirror and I don't see an old woman. My body feels like one because I have fibromyalgia. I have the body of an eighty-year-old sometimes. How did I go from still getting carded for buying alcohol to being treated like a grandmother almost overnight?  I'm not ashamed of how old I am. I always said that I would grow old gracefully, but I said that thinking that when I started growing old people would think I was ten years younger that I really was, not ten years older.

So, I grow one year older today. I still don't feel old. Maybe I'm in denial. Maybe I'm just happy with who I am and do not like being stuffed in a box. Especially one marked soon to expire, because it's old. As Freddie said "Who wants to live forever." I sure don't. I'm just not ready to be put up on a shelf. I've got a lot more living left to do. And a daughter who is telling everyone she sees that it is my birthday today and how old I am. We have an agreement to be as honest as possible with each other. When she asked me about my weight, however, I told her that was between me and the doctor's scale. She's happier than me, though to be celebrating my birthday.  Kids are wonderful. They keep you young.