One Book a Week-2


One book a week? To date this year it has been more like 3-4, depending on the book and week. I wrote reviews for four books today on Goodreads including The Sea of Tranquility, Little Fires Everywhere, An Imaginary Life, The Woman They Could Not Silence. I mentioned the first one in my last post.

I noticed that Little Fires Everywhere is now a series, streaming. I will not watch it because it is one of the few books that made me cry. I rarely cry. Is it worth reading? Yes. I view it as recommended reading for parents. How do you treat your child who is different, the child who is not how you want your child to be? Is conforming the best way to live? And at what cost? Is a poor minority child better off with wealthy parents from a different ethnicity who can provide everything?

Next I read a non-fiction book, The Woman They Could Not Silence, The Shocking Story Of A Woman Who Dared To Fight Back, by Kate Moore. Apparently I did not know as much about women’s history in the US as I had thought. This is the true story of the life of Elizabeth Packard. Here are some of the things I learned:

  1. In the mid 1800s if a woman was married, her husband could place her in a mental asylum as insane and she could do nothing about it even if she was sane. She could not get out even if relatives and friends tried to come to her rescue.
  2. Her husband could confiscate all her property and do with it whatever he pleased. She and everything she owned now belonged to him.
  3. People in mental asylums were terrorized and treated with methods now considered even illegal treatment for actual terrorists, e.g. water boarding.
  4. A common, accepted treatment for “difficult” and “emotional” women was clitoridectomies, female genital mutilation. Prominent psychiatrists viewed female genitalia as the cause of female insanity. Dr. Isaac Brown, a prominent London surgeon, stated that it was easy to cure female insanity, just cut off her clitoris. This was practiced in both the US and England.

Elizabeth Packard’s husband placed her in an asylum because she disagreed with his religious views and her outgoing nature. This book details her life in the decades she struggled to be released from the asylum and her struggles to make life better for those who were placed in asylums. It is a must read for anyone interested in the history of women in the 1800s and the treatment of those deemed insane.

Prophetic Passages from Octavia Butler


In my last blog post about reading, I promised to address the prophecies of Octavia Butler in my next post. The best way is to quote some passages from Parable of the Talents which was published in 1998. This book is the sequel to Parable of the Sowers. In that book the main character creates a new religion with CHANGE as a major focus. In fact, one of the main tenants of that religion forms the words on Octavia Butler’s tombstone which I quoted in an earlier post. Here are some passages from Parable of the Talents:

I couldn’t help wondering, though, whether these people with their crosses, had some connection with my current least favorite presidential candidate, Texas Senator Andrew Steele Jarrett. It sounds like the sort of thing his people might do—a revival of some nasty out of the past….So now we have another group that uses crosses and slaughters people. Jarrett’s people could be behind it. He insists on being a throwback to some earlier ‘simpler’ time. Now does not suit him. Religious tolerance does not suit him. He wants to take us back to some magical time when everyone believed in the same God, worshipped Him in the same way, and understood that their safety in the universe depended on completing the same religious rituals and stomping anyone who is different.

Jarrett’s supporters have been known to burn people at the stake for being witches….a Moslem, a Jew, a Hindu, a Buddhist, or in some parts of the country, a Mormon, a Jehovah’s Witness, or even a Catholic. A witch may also be an atheist or an eccentric…anyone who does not fit into Jarrett’s version of Christianity. He condemns the burnings but in very mild language.

He has a simple answer: ‘Join us! Our doors are open to every nationality, every race.! Leave your sinful past behind, and become one of us. Help us make American great again.”

Note: If you are interested in Octavia Butler books, the stack at the right bottom of the photo are mostly her books. Some are series and need to be read in a certain order.

An Afternoon at the Cheech Museum – 2


The second floor of the Cheech contains even more astonishing art including more multidimensional pieces except smaller than the giant one you see when you enter the building.

Depending where you stand in front, to either side, what you see is quite different. I kept thinking some old Flemish art or Hieronymus Bosch meets modern technology.

Much of the art makes a social or political statement especially about colonization, culture, poverty.

Some of the art is reminiscent of Mayan and Aztec calendars.

Hearts appear in many of the paintings.

And of course Frida.

This is a space ship with changing eyes. If you walk around the back there is a creature inside watching everything with monitors.

An Afternoon at the Cheech–1


Some of you may remember the comedy duo Cheech and Chong way back in the day. Cheech has spent his life collecting Chicano and Chicana art. This year he gave a lot of his art collection to open a new museum in Riverside, California. Earlier this week my grandson, his girlfriend and I went to visit the museum. Photos and videos are allowed without flash. The following is the first set of photos I took. Please note that you need to see this art for yourself. Photos do not do it justice. Much of it is multidimensional and looks very different depending on where the viewer stands.

This is what you see when you enter the door; it is two stories high and multidimensional. Look how different the next photo of it looks from this one.

Walk farther to the side and it looks totally different again.

This speaks for itself. Right now where I live the air is clean enough that unless it is foggy, I can see all the way to downtown LA 30 plus miles away.

All the art at this museum has a message; much of it illustrates the ills of society.

The influence of indigenous art, e.g. Aztec, Mayan, can be seem in much of the art and the statements the art makes.

The woman above and the woman below hang next to each other.

The White Supremacist History of Tear Gas


One hundred years ago, a racist US General, Amos Fries, transformed tear gas from a wartime chemical into use against protestors. He loved war gases and saw them as the ultimate in US technology.  He advocated the use of tear gas against any form of civil disorder.  As head of US Chemical Warfare Services, he pedaled his favorite gas to private security firms, police departments, and the National Guard.  According to him, tear gas in the hands of the “White man can quell any uprising.”  He went on to talk about how White men are set apart from the Negro, Gurkha, and the Moroccan. In his effects were letters from the women of the Ku Klux Klan praising his efforts.

Today the tear gas he loved is used all over the world by tyrannical governments to control their people.

We The Corporations


IMG_3487This is for those who are mystified, upset, angry, or whatever else about Citizens United.  Without doubt I learned more from this book by Adam Winkler than I have learned from any book in months and some of it shocked me. It is this month’s assignment if one is a member of the PBS/New York Times online book club.

The first English settlement, Jamestown, was a corporation.  The people who first lived there were all employees of that corporation and could not own anything  themselves.  Massachusetts Bay Colony was founded as a corporation as were several other colonies and Dartmouth, Harvard, and Yale.  In the first business related case before the Supreme Court in 1809, Bank of the United States vs. Derveaux, the bank won.  It was the first Supreme Court case which dealt with the constitutional rights of corporations.  With occasional exceptions, since that first case, the Supreme Court has generally sided with businesses.

Corporate and business donations to presidential campaigns began over a hundred years ago with the election cycle of McKinley vs. William Jennings Bryan. Marcus Alonzo Hanna realized just how much money could matter and transformed the campaign process.  He created the first national advertising campaign.  This new strategy required money, lots more than the traditional campaigning methods.  Where did he acquire this money?  Corporations.  He coined the phrase, “There are two things important in politics.  The first is money, and I can’t remember what the second one is.”

In a case in 1916, Dodge Brothers vs. Ford Motor Company, Ford lost because of his testimony when he said he had the right to make business decisions in the interests of the general public even if stockholders had to sacrifice.  The Michigan Supreme Court ruled against him, stating that they could not commit to the concept that “a general purpose and plan to benefit mankind at the expense of stockholders” is acceptable.

Although there have been periods of time when the Supreme Court of the US has been prone to limit the rights of corporations, they have been brief in comparison to periods where corporate rights were increased by Supreme Court decisions. The extension of corporate rights to free speech began long ago in Britain.  However, in the US, the Fourteenth Amendment was used in the case of Grosjean vs. American Press Company to guarantee free speech rights to corporations. This case decades ago is, along with many other cases, a precursor to Citizens United.

If you want to understand how corporations have increasingly attained rights, I highly recommend this book.  It will give you new insights into where we are now and how we got to this point regarding the rights of corporations in the United States.

Summer Reading


IMG_3957Last year I joined Now Read This, the online bookclub sponsored by PBS and The New York Times.  Why did I join?  To expand my exposure to books I might not otherwise read, to learn, to explore, to interact with others reading the same books.

I rarely read fantasy or science fiction.  This summer has become an exception.  The June choice, The Fifth Season by Jemisin, won the Hugo in 2016.  The other two books in the trilogy won in 2017 and 2018.  I wanted to know what happened to the characters so I read them all.  The spine says Fantasy.  I think they are more science fiction.  Even people who claimed they did not like either fantasy or science fiction became like me and read them all.  This series tells a futuristic tale extremely applicable to events, both social and political, in the world today, how prejudice kills both overtly and covertly,  how fear of those who are different affect everyone, what it costs to live in a world where certain attitudes exist.

It took me two days to finish the July title even with chores, touchup house painting, all the things teachers attempt to do during summer break.  Although I had previously read at least three books by Luis Alberto Urrea, I had not read this one, The House of Broken Angels about a family who lives back and forth across the border–San Diego and Tijuana.  It is a tragic-comedy about the endurance, hopes, dreams, cooking, living of several generations.  His non-fiction book, The Devil’s Highway, is a must read for those who want to understand what occurs along the US-Mexico borderlands.

In the midst of all this, I went back and reread Ursula LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness.  Wow, no wonder it caused a stir when it was published in the 1960s: a whole country where everyone switches back and forth between male and female and those who cannot do this are considered perverts.  Additionally, the main character is described as having very dark brown skin and those who do not behave exactly as they should or politically protest are sent off to a stark camp where they work in excessive cold and eventually die.

Then I read an article about Toni Morrison and authors who do not write for people based on a certain audience, e.g. black, white.  They write about what they know, what they feel, for a different purpose. One book listed was Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, a fantasy, all of which takes place in what we now think of as Nigeria. It has not one single white character in it.  I kept thinking, wow.  I read a lot of literature from Africa, Middle East, and Latin America.  Most of the time, for better or worse, characters from other cultures show up, usually European and usually for the worse.  Not in this one.  If you go to a book store looking for it, look in Young Adult.  Jemisin’s can be found in Adult Science Fiction/Fantasy.  When I mentioned to someone I could not tell why some are categorized one way and some another, I was told there is less graphic sex in YA.  Really?  I cannot tell the difference.

Next on my list?  I annually act as a judge in a literary contest.  Three novels arrived in yesterday’s mail.  Guess I need to get busy.

 

September 1, on the Rim of Wonder


Sunrise

Dappled clouds

Owl hooting

Wren climbing

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Later, I graded papers and watched part of John McCain’s funeral, some of which almost brought me to tears.  I often disagreed with him but never did I question his passionate love of country, his courage, his willingness to buck the norm, to defy convention when he thought it was the right thing to do.  I think he and I shared certain values on which this country is based even if the country as a whole rarely lives up to them.  These include the conviction that all people are equal, that everyone deserves justice, and each person carries the right to find his or her own share of happiness without judgment and condemnation from others who may think differently.

Later, while working on the latest book I am writing, I found handwritten recipes written by my grandmother, my mother’s mother, Nellie Narcissus Duke (Kaiser),whose father came here from Switzerland as a child.  One, for dumplings, remains readable.  The other written in pencil on the front and back of thin paper is fragile.  It is for Strawberry Shortcake.  If Grandmother Duke ever made dumplings, I do not remember it.  Mother did–chicken and dumplings.  I wonder if she used this recipe.  I do remember conversations about the shortcake because Dad did not like strawberry shortcake even though he liked strawberries.  I took photos of these two recipes written decades ago in my grandmother’s handwriting.

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Do You Need an AK-15??


I was going to post a poem today but found this and decided to share.  Maybe I could create a poem about all this shooting but would it matter? Doubt it.  This blog post says more or less what I think about all this.  I read the comments on the original blog post.  Anyone who seems to post anything controversial will receive a lot of malign and or misinformed comments.  Some people appeared to have totally misread the post.

Do I know how to shoot?  Yes.  I used to be my dad’s hunting partner.  I could hit bunnies, squirrels, raccoons on the run with a 22 without a scope.  We used large caliber rifles to deer hunt.

I no longer possess any interest in killing animals.  I do not object to hunting if you eat it and it is not endangered.

via “Fuck you, I like guns.”

Blood Quantum: A Poem for Our Time


 

My grandson cuts himself into 16 equal pieces:

4/16 Urhobo from Africa

3/16 Spanish from Spain

4/16 European–two Swiss German great, great-grandfathers

(Werth and Kaiser), Irish, English and who knows what

3/16 Mexican–whatever mixtures that may be

2/16 Navaho

 

Who am I? What am I?

Who are you? What are you?

Do we really know?

Who sets the rules?

white men

black

Indian

Native American

Irish

English

German

from where and for whom?

 

He looks Navaho:

-blue black straight hair

-pale brown skin

-obsidian eyes.

One four year old girl asks him,

“Are you American Indian?”

His six year old self says nothing.

She repeats,

“Are you American Indian?”

He says, “It’s complicated.”

 

The Navaho won’t claim him, too little blood.

He needs 1/4, not 1/8.

Caddy and Fort Sill Apache allow 1/16, not Navahos.

1/4 blood is for

-Sioux

-Cheyenne

-Kiowa

-Navaho

1/8 works for Comanche and Pawnee.

Some Cherokees only want a Cherokee ancestor.

 

But he is none of those.

Is he Navaho?

Is he white?

The old South goes by the one drop rule:

one drop of Negro…

Is a person with 99/100 per cent white

and 1/100 black, black?

Who says?

Kids at school ask, “What are you?”

He tells them.

They say, “You’re lying.”

 

I only know specifically about two ancestors,

the Swiss Germans.

Another great grandfather disappeared during the Civil War.

I don’t even know his name.

Who am I?

Who are you?

I think I’ll get a DNA test.

Then I’ll know how many pieces I need to cut myself into.

 

Note:  This was originally published in my book “On the Rim of Wonder”.  I had a cousin send me 75 pages of ancestry information.  I looked up more myself.  That one great grandfather remains a mystery.  I had my DNA done.  It did not match what I expected from the ancestry work.

Blood quantum is the term the US government used to determine whether a person would be qualified as an Indian.  Now many Indian Nations use it to decide who can be on the tribal rolls and who cannot.