Saturday, April 28, 2012

Friday, April 27, 2012

The really real reality ...

I’ve spent most of today in bed, and other than a brief meeting I cannot miss, I’m not going to work tonight. The world continues to spin backwards, leaving me a bit confused, a lot dizzy and more than a little cranky. …

But good things happen even when the bad ones creep up on you. One of our history blog readers paid to get us some rather expensive digital scans. My writing partner forwarded copies to me. I’m reading them now. I’ll re-read them later when I’m more stable and can think, but this is good stuff. One of these four page newspapers contains a serialization of John Locke’s (Yes, that John Locke) The Reasonableness of Christianity. This confirms in a huge way something we knew bits of.

I also woke up to find a scan of a court transcript from the 1880s. It’s dull stuff, all about an inheritance dispute among the children of a medical confectioner who was also an Adventist preacher. The good bits all relate to his mental state. (He was nuts; nuttier than a fruit cake and twice as stale). He was one of those responsible for kicking the editor of their paper out of office. People listened to this Philbert (that’s a kinda nut if you didn’t know) because he had the money. This will require a lot of boring reading, but I’m used to that.

I’m going to try going back to work tomorrow. I have Sunday and Monday off and there are no classes on Monday. So I’ll put on my warm snuggly jammies (after a hot bath – with vanilla body wash. Just in case, mind you.) and read and read and read. Little details are so important. It’s like writing fiction with just the right details. Writing history is, I mean. You can’t tell the story without details. My opinion of those who’ve preceded us is quite poor. I KNOW that some of them had most of this material and failed to use it. That they chose not to is a strong indication that they favor their respective myths. We try very hard not to create new myths and just write history.

As I was half dozing this morning, it occurred to me that I have a vision of myself and others that isn’t quite reality but is real. Did you find that confusing? Let me illustrate: My writing partner is an old guy. He’s tall, grown fat in his old age, balding, and just generally not as youthful as he was in his twenties. I know all this. He’s prolly smack me or say something rude if I posted a photo. Anyway, see the photo of Kaiser Wilhelm? My WP is sorta related to him – no need to say how – and you can see something of his face in the Kaiser's. See the eyebrow ridge, and the hooded eyes, and the chin? The ears too? Okay those bits find a place on his face.

My WP has a distinctive walk. I can tell it’s him without looking up by the pattern of his footsteps. All this stuff I know, right? It’s not how I see him in the secret world that lives in my mind. Ever see those bas-reliefs of medieval knights? The ones where they’re standing, shield in one hand and weapon in the other? That’s how he really is. At least to me.

I see others in that odd way too. It’s like an overlay of reality on a world I’d rather see as myth. I don’t like the real world much. I like the world as I see it much better. You prolly think I’m nuts. I can live with that.

One of the school district administrators is tall, youngish, has a close cropped chin beard and walks slightly stooped over. He’s in his 30s somewhere. I see him as an eight year old boy.

Now I see myself as a mythical creature. You knew that, didn’t you? I see myself as “other.” As not quite human, or not totally human. This picture is how I see myself – not exactly – but close enough. This self-view has its roots in my illness. One of the symptoms is seeing things that aren’t really there. This isn’t as bad as it sounds. It’s not frequent, and it’s always obvious that it’s not real. Besides the images don’t persist. Ever “see” something out of the corner of your eye, only to turn and find its something else? Well, it’s something like that.

And then … I see things you might not – Blue fairies, a slender black dragon that flies over our city in the summers, the hidden fairy lair across from the 10th Street convenience store. (Scoff if you want. They’re all really real!) So that’ poof positive I’m “other”, right? (Harry and Occasional, you may both stop laughing now. That’s more than a little rude. I KNOW Anthony believes me.)

So why this form? I dunno. It suits me. It’s the attitude I think. I see the attitude in me or me in this picture or something.

Knobby Knees is tall, sandy haired, kinda lanky, soft spoken most days. On the cute-ish side when he’s not being annoying. He’s addicting. A good kisser. Mischievous. He’s either an oatmeal-raisin cookie or a red tricycle. One of those is nummy and the other is fun. Now that’s when he’s not in my sight. When he is within my sight he’s the scarlet pimpernel, rescuing people from the terror and creating chaos among the French rabble.

Well, that’s how I see him, anyway.

Young Native American Mother. About 1890.

A princess of Pixies in 1906

An Italian Pixie Child

Roberto comes to my personal blog from the history blogs. This is his gramma from about 1920. Thanks for sharing, Robert.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The cousins at Toulon, France

Get Well Flowers from Harry

Just don't

I don't owe anyone an apology for being ill. I didn't do anything to merit this condition. I do not have any control over its effects on my disposition or the quality of my life. I do not owe anyone a detailed explanation of what this does to me or why. I do not owe you an explantion of the side-effects of the medications I take. I don't owe you anything at all.

You may not use my blog to insult me. While I most generally like comments, I do not like insults. I won't allow an insulting post. No one compels you to come here. Perhaps you should stop. Then you won't be offended, and I won't have to delete your comments.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


I get moderate traffic on this blog, mostly from people who are interested in the old photos. I have few regular readers. While I appreciate my regular readers, I do not see any reason to continue this blog.

It is herewith suspended indefinitely.

Harry's comment in the in the umm comment trail is right. I am not well, and I ended up being hauled off to the hosptial again near the end of my shift. If you all stay with me, I'll stay with you. I'm back, I guess.

Steam Tractor - S. California

In the big woods ... mystery photo

A lick and promise

It might have happened this way ….

So, I’m sitting on the floor playing cards with Daughter 4. We’re playing Fish. Things look bad for me. Katarina has a satisfied look on her face as she calls out, “eight,” then “ten” then “sevens!” I’m out of cards and hope.

Daughter five folds her legs and sits. “You lost again, Mom. … I want to play too.”

We readjust ourselves into a sort of equilateral triangle. It’s Kat’s turn to deal. She’s not very good at shuffling, so I do that, but she deals the cards.

Annie calls first. “Tens,” she says as if she knew someone had at least one. No one did.

“Go fish,” Kat says.

“Got one!” Annie says. She draws again. “Got another!” she says. She draws again.

“You didn’t shuffle very well,” Kat grumbles.

I make a face. She returns it.

I call “Aces.”

Kat grimaces and hands me three. I make a book, the first of the game. Kat looks determined, out for pixie blood. …

Annie leans over and licks my arm. Now I’m used to unaccountable behaviors from my children … still, this is odd.

“Why did you do that?” I asked.

“I just wanted to see …”

“See what?” I’m probably silly for pursuing this topic. You never know where things like this may lead.

“What you tasted like …”

“You planning on being a cannibal when you … finally … grow up?” That was from Kat.

Anastasia sticks out her tongue. It’s remarkably and unnaturally pink. She’s been sucking on those heart-shaped mints. Nasty things. “Well,” she says as if everything should be self evident, “Dad calls you ‘sweetie.’ I wanted to know …”

Makes perfect sense, right?

Kat says, “Well you’re NOT licking me!”

Annie says, “I already know you’re not sweet!”

I say, “So who else have you ummm licked?”

“Dad and Arpita.”

“… and?”

“Arpita threw a pillow at me.”

“… and?”

She considers. “Dad, just tasted hairy. …. You do taste sweet though.”

“I think you got the powdered sugar off your sister’s donut. …”

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Living in the Past

I’m supposed to be writing away. I’m not. I’m sitting in a chat room listening to an Algerian make a total fool of himself. Don’t ask me why. I don’t know myself. I’m too tired to care I guess.

Knobby Knees is home. He’s still sleeping and it’s nearly ten am. At least I’m up and more or less functioning. Blurry eyed, vegetating. But up.

Other than occasionally mentally wandering back to the reason I’m so tired, I’ve been thinkin’ ‘bout the revolutions of 1848. How do I explain in a paragraph or less the issues as they affected millennialist thought? I face my usual problem. The story is fascinating. When I was umm maybe eleven I read one of those Barnes and Noble published specialty history books they put out first in the 1960s before they were a huge chain store. I don’t remember the title. I rode my bike down to a little bookstore and blew a month’s baby sitting and lawn care money on a pile of those books. It was money well spent.

I am rambling, aren’t I? Let me sip more coffee … Okay … so … these revolutions are often portrayed as expressions of democratic ideals. That, dear hearts, is largely propaganda derived from late 19th Century western historians. They were anti-monarchist, but few of them were based on democratic ideals beyond some lip-service to them. They were about disenfranchisement. They were about a grab for power. They were, particularly in France, an excuse for the return of rule by rabble. A rising of the masses doesn’t mean they have democratic ideals. None of that is relevant to our story. The one element from it that is, is that it disturbed the social order imposed by the Conference of Vienna. Millennialists looked for significant disturbance of the social order as a sign of Christ’s near return.

They had looked to France since the 1740s, and the French Revolution seemed to verify that speculation. Millennialists found every event in France to be some sort of portent of the world’s end. When Napoleon III took power, many wrote books and booklets speculating that he was the coming personal anti-Christ. Do not look at this from a 21st Century perspective. We’ve stepped back into the mid 19th Century. If you could do that in reality and not just through the pages of a book, you’d find yourself in a world full of the familiar … until you met the alien, strange, startlingly different bits that were the 19th Century.

Religion was more important then than now. News traveled more slowly, and, where today it might be colored by a geo-political viewpoint or put in a scientific guise, then it was likely to be put in a religious context. For example the recently failed North Korean rocket was analyzed in terms of political context, the mechanical reasons for the failure, the role of the Chinese, the technical expertise required to salvage the missile for scientific analyses, but it was not considered in any sort of theological way. Our ancestors would have preached sermons about it, speculated on its theological implications, commented on the unrighteous Yellow Peril, and even (at least in the United States) the Atheists would have commented on the religious aspects of it.

There is a tendency to sneer at our 19th Century believing ancestors. Writers and readers forget how different from ours that world is. I think our major textual weakness rests in an inability to bring the 19th Century to life in our readers’ mind. My writing partner is a fan of Francis Parkman. He owns and has read more than once each of Parkman’s books. I agree that Parkman makes the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries live. His massive history of France in the New World is lovely. Parkman walked miles, visiting the scene of each event. One cannot read his books without feeling the age. The problem for us is we don’t have the luxury of endless, narrowly focused volumes, or the income required to visit and walk each site, and we are further removed in spirit from the era we write about than Parkman was from that which was his focus.

In 1840 commerce was by wagon. Railroads were new and limited. In our family papers is a letter from a distant uncle describing the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, the first line of which was laid in umm 1837 or so. (I’m not lookin’ it up, but that’s close.) He describes it in terms we would use for a return to the moon or a trip to Mars. There Erie Canal was still new, opening limited transport by donkey and horse pulled barge across bits of the northeast. Cities were nasty places. Dickens’ London is not fanciful. Cities smelled bad.

You sit on your nice porcelain pot, do your job, and flush it, giving no thought to where your “deposit” went. In 1840 you squatted over a tea-cup shaped pot, wondered what if anything you’d wipe yourself with, and then had to find a place to put the leftovers. In many places it went into a ditch that may have ran right in front of your door, or failing that out the window and into the street.

Big gleaming cities did not exist. They were brick and wood. New York City burned to the ground repeatedly. Do you know how very little of 1830 New York City is left? There are a few buildings in what is now the China town section, and some in a few other places. But most of NYC as it was in 1830 was gone by 1840. Fire did that.

You bathe daily? Your ancestors from 1840 could not. You use deodorant? Pfutt … they used perfume if anything. The idea of germs did not exist. If you were confined to childbed trying to push out a reluctant baby, you were likely to be examined by a physician (well-trained at four weeks of schooling and a year or so as an assistant to another doctor) who may have come straight to you from a cadaver. The incidence of childbed fever, almost always fatal, was extreme.

We cannot comment on every aspect of 19th Century life in this book. So I wonder just how far from 19th Century reality our readers are. There must be some balance. We have no reason to describe the perils of a sea voyage as it was in 1842. But they rest behind part of this story. We have no occasion to describe a horse-drawn omnibus of 1880, though one appears in our history. How many of our readers grasp the human smells, dirt, and attitudes found on an open omnibus? Who cares about a driver smelling of horse because he hadn’t bathed in a week, or two, or a month … ?

Even crime was different. Police were on foot, on horseback at best. They were untrained, often corrupt, easy to bribe, and by today’s standards inefficient. There was no CSI. The likes of Vidocq were rare, and even he would stand as untrained and inefficient besides officers who today do average police work. The issue isn’t mind. Vidocq was undeniably brilliant. Tools make the difference, and they did not exist in his era or for a hundred years past. Crime is part of this story.

I’m rambling again …

The problem, more simply stated, is that most of our readers will not connect to the era about which we write. Failing to do so will mean they lose sympathy for those we profile. They will miss key parts of the story from lack of sympathy.

Friday, April 20, 2012

I can't find a really good Welsh version ... but this is really good

Midnight in the Park ...

Okay so it was more like 4:10 am, but more about that later. I have other things to say first.

I’m bouncy excited. Our invitation only history blog has a new member. He values his privacy, so I won’t name him. But my Writing Partner considers him one of the few true experts in the field. My WP has him looking into things he’s been incurious about. He has access to a few things we do not. He told my WP that he might read through a magazine called The Herald of Life, the issues from 1863 to 1869. That would be great. We don’t have those, and can’t afford to send for them.

Now on to more interesting things … So back on Tuesday I was heading home, thinkin’ about slipping into my snugglies and thumping Knobby Knees on the butt until he moved back onto his side of the bed. Thoughts of snuggles and maybe kisses and licks and stuff ran through my head. When I finally arrived, I heard this noise. I stood listening for a few, and localized it to just down the block from us. I have a nice “Deputy Pixie” flashlight. I take it in hand and creep down the street. I stop out of sight of the area from where the noise is coming. It sounds like someone trying to break into a garage, not something I want to tackle on my own.

… But I’m not sure. So do I call 911 and give a board city guy something to do? Or what? I decide there’s a chance it might be an animal. I get back in my car and drive to the end of the block, turn around and drive back with my strong light on. I probably woke up a half dozen people with that light. I get to the narrow space between a hedge and the garage. … And I have my ne’re do well, nefarious, evil, thieving …. huge raccoon dead to rights. He backs out of the trash can he’s raiding and ambles off into the dark. I breathe a sigh of relief and head back to my house. I intend to tie my pet Scot to the bed post and have my way with him, or at least get a good snuggle.

I open the door. All is not as it should be. There are voices coming from the kitchen. Daughters 2 and 3 are banging around. I smell pancakes cooking. Dear Hearts, its four thirty in the morning. They should be asleep! I make my way into the living room, and there’s Knobby Knees! Asleep! With a strange woman on his lap! Umm okay so she isn’t strange and she hasn’t made it to womanhood yet. She’s two, and she’s my half-sister. She’s zonked out too.

I find my daughters in the kitchen. “What’s going on?” I ask.

My umm she’s too young for me to call her my mother-in-law. I’m five years older than she is. So let’s call her my father’s second wife. Anyway, she fell down some concrete steps and broke her leg. We have the baby.

I gently lift my sister off Knobby Knee’s lap and tuck her in the closest bed. Dau 2 pokes her head into the living room. “Want pancakes?” she says.

I say yes and gently shake KK. A blurry eye opens. I repeat Dau 2’s question. He rouses himself from the chair as if he’s a man twice his age. We eat pancakes

We’ve had my baby sister off and on since. Mommy is much better though in a cast that goes from her diaphragm to her ankle. She’s pretty miserable.

My baby sister adores her nieces, and they, being much older than she, think she’s pretty hot stuff for a two year old. There is nothing like a mutual admiration society.

Oh, and any idea of a nice snuggle, bunches of kisses and licks and such went out the window. By the time KK had finished his pancakes it was nearly time for him to dress for work. Dang it! That had to wait until he got home.

Now, Thursday morning Knobby Knees called from work and said he had to make an unexpected trip to Boise, Idaho. He hates flying, so he decided to drive it. He left this morning. Way early this morning, about 3 am, he called my cell phone and told me to meet him at a small, mostly disused park near the river. “I’ll bring breakfast,” he said. “And coffee …” I added.

I got off work slightly early. The manager who replaces me arrived almost an hour early. He kindly took over a half hour early. So I got to the park at 4:15 am. K. Knees was sitting in his truck sippin’ coffee. We found a place at a picnic table and munched Egg McMuffins (Two for him, one for me.) and hash browns.

I wear dresses to work. It’s still cool in the mornings, and I could feel the cold creeping up to my unmentionables. But the river was beautiful. It’s almost never still. A slight breeze will set it in motion, but today it was glassy. The river has its own glow and many moods. We cuddled and watched the water. A huge sturgeon was feeding. They seldom break the surface, but we could see the darkness of him and the swirl he produced in the other wise still water.

Now river glow, big fish, city lights, and stillness have only so much appeal. The cuddle turned into a cuddle and a nice, sticky, prolonged kiss. This was nice. Kisses turned into other things. No need to be graphic, but for some unaccountable reason I found myself leaning over the picnic table. I can tell you that as chilly, as dampish 55 degree air was, it was colder for a few minutes. Good thing no one shows up in that park until about noon when the south side mommy play group takes their obnox … umm little darlings down there. Knobby Knees is off in Boise. I STILL have a smile on my face. Oh, and he texted me this afternoon saying, “We should do breakfast in the park more often.”

One more thing. I had a really disruptive child in one of my classes. I’ve worked to help her with her behaviors, but it hasn’t worked. We set up a Parent-Teacher-Administrator conference. The mother called and canceled that, withdrawing her daughter from the class. This is good.

A Train ... Total mystery, but I want this train!

Monitor Class Ship, The Maintonomah, at Phildelphia Naval Yard, 1908

Atlantic City Inlet - 1911

I Hate Google!

The new blogger interface reminds me of 20 years ago. It's poorly designed, doesn't work well. AND I've reached my limit. IS there an easy way to transfer the content of this blog into a better blog hosting system?

Never mind. I found how to convert back! Damn fools at google should stop hiring out of work AoL techies.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Providence RI 1902

The USS Idaho in Dry Dock, Philadelphia Navel Yard, August 22, 1900

The Larchmont at Providence RI

A pixie ...

A European photograher sent me an interpretation of Pixie. I've debated what to do with this photo for days. I've deciding not to post it, even though it is really good. The pixie is lovely, green eyed. The costume is skimpy, but not too revealing. But ... as much as I appreciate the photo, (it is exactly as I see pixies), it's on the edge for this blog.

The photographer can send me another any time. I love her work. It's breathtaking! But I cannot post it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

With flowers ....

Transference ... From Harry

Here's a brief post I wrote this morning. -Harry

So I am sitting in my favorite fast food place eating my breakfast biscuit and sipping my coffee - God's gift to anyone who wakes to an alarm clock.

In the next booth a mom is trying to get her three youngsters to eat their food.

"What's that? I don't like hot sauce." one of them says loudly.

"it's just catchup, for your potatoes. It's not hot sauce."

"Mom!" one little girl shouts. "I know him. He goes to my school." She points to an older boy who is walking in the door.

"Hi… Hi! Mom why didn't he say hi?"

"Maybe he didn't see you, Sugar. Eat your Hash Rounds."

I few minutes later I've finished my breakfast and the mom is trying to get her brood together.

"I don't wanna go to school. I hate school." The voice is whinny and getting higher in pitch. I… don't… wanna go!"

Finally Mom has had enough. She turns around and stares.

"Sir! Please stop. You are upsetting my children!"

[Mild-mannered teacher by day; exhausted mild-mannered, looking forward to retirement, teacher by night.]

You may think this is funny ... unfortunately your boss did not.

You never know when your supervisor may overhear something you say. You may be just around the corner from her when you say something silly like ummm ummm, "I wonder if she's smarter now that she's not blond."

That will get you all sorts of interesting results, such as a conference with you and your section manager in her office, a reprimand in your file, a month long suspension, and other things of a similar nature, such as reduced hours. And to your plaintive "how will I live with no income?" your boss, the formerly blond boss, may just shrug her shoulders. And certainly to your angry, "I'll sue you!" she will say, "have your lawyer contact ours. Here's his number." And then she may politely remind you of all the adverse material in your file, most of it from the last six months. AND then she'll suggest that a suspension may not be appropriate, have you escorted off site and told not to return or you will be prosecuted for trespass. Good luck on the job search.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Hiding in plain sight. A princess's adventures as a red-headed pixie

So … change your hair colour and you must reassess what you wear. Now that I have red hair, I discovered that I look better in dresses I seldom wear. This became an issue last evening as I was dressing for work. Understand, this is a place where you dress up. We expect everyone to present themselves professionally. So … what to wear. There was my really pretty blue dress. It’s probably my favorite. It just didn’t look the same. I have a basic black dress. It was okay. I almost wore it. Then there is a yellow dress with white trim that I almost never wear. I wore that. It looked good with my new dark red hair.

The real test of Redness is outside reaction. That discounts family reaction. Family is either brutal (Dau 2) or tries not to hurt your feelings (“It’s nice, honest it is, mom.” – Dau 1). Then there’s Knobby Knees who thinks Hot Vanilla body wash is an aphrodisiac. His reaction was predictable: “Do red-heads do it more than blonds?” Yes, dear readers, Knobby Knees is a pervert.

Off to work I go, hi ho, hi ho. I feel as nervous as a sixteen year old being presented to the Queen. (Never mind what country. It doesn’t matter.) And I haven’t felt that nervous in ages and ages … more or less since I was sixteen. (Except on my wedding night – maybe – or maybe not. I deny totally my husband’s claim that I undressed in a closet. It was the bathroom.) So I show up at work, do a quick hair fix in the restroom and make my way to my office. … Reactions from staff were mostly supportive, if you ignore the auditor’s, “My Dear God! What did you do to your hair!”

Probably the one who liked it the most is a fairly new hire, a housekeeper who is a recent immigrant from Thailand. She doesn’t speak English well, but she’s learning. She’s a very fun and funny person. “I like,” she said. “Very like.” I took that as an endorsement of dark red hair on a pixie.

After the initial shock the comments died, mostly due to a very busy evening. Keep ‘em workin’ and they ain’t gots time to talk! Things slacked off about eleven pm. I took my little self, red hair and all, off to the less formal café area. I ordered a salad (our kitchen makes nummy salads. This one is all olives, artichoke hearts, lettuce, bits of hard salami, shredded white cheese, and bleu cheese dressing.) I’m updating my planner and reading the rough draft of our new employee manual when a shadow passes over my table. Resisting the urge to pull my fairy-killing dagger, I look up. A tall, very thin, graying guy (He doesn’t look like a fairy, but you never know. Fairies are sneaky.) says to me, “Do I know you?”

Now, dear hearts, he says this in German. I understand it far better than I speak it. So I say, sweetly of course, but in English, “I don’t think we’ve met.”

“You do speak German, then,” he says, also in English.

“Not at all well.”

“You’ve been in Germany?” His accent is hard to place. It’s a bit South German and a bit Vienna.

“Not for some years,” I say.

“You are very familiar,” he says.

I nod. He looks to be maybe 75 or even older. I invite him to sit. You can’t trust old guys any more than wicked fairies, but I figure I’m safe in the informal dining area. (I’d tell you its name but Harry would google it. Of course there are probably 1000 places with the same name. It’s not a very imaginative one.)

He mumbles something about how kind I am to invite him to sit. The server brings him a menu. He orders one of the larger meals. He probably needs the food. He’s stick thin.

“Tell me about your trip to Germany,” he says.

I sip coffee; it gives me time to think. “My last time in Germany was for a wedding,” I say … “for a cousin’s wedding.”

“So.” He says. I’m uncertain what he means by “so.” But it prompts me to tell him a bit more. I tell him where the wedding was, the name of the small cathedral church.

“I know this church,” he says. “Would I know your cousin?”

Now this is getting a bit personal. “You might,” I say.

He names a name. I am impressed. He was, dear hearts, at the same wedding. I have no memory of him, but I spent most of my time after the service talking to relations near and distant, not watching strangers. I watch strangers at Starbucks. They make great characters for stories.

He has been looking at my name tag. Now I use my married name on the tag, not the long hyphenated thing I was born with. “What’s your name?” he asks.

I tap my pretty little brass name tag.

“No, I mean your real name …”

Well that is my ‘real’ name. But I can translate irrational thought, having tones of experience with pixie children. “Victoria Louisa …”

“Ah,” he says. “Yes, we did meet.”

“I am sorry, I don’t remember the meeting.”

“No mind,” he says. “I do.”

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Guest Post - O. Reader


In 1961 country singer Sue Thompson had a top-ten hit record with a little ballad penned by John D Loudermilk, called Sad Movies.

That is really irrelevant, because this post is about another form of celluloid heaven – BAD MOVIES.

I have a sizeable DVD collection of bad movies. The family can’t understand me. I can’t always understand me, but hey – I LIKE bad movies!

I don’t mean the colossal expensive stinkers, where studios collapsed after bankrolling some vanity project of some overinflated star – where the money shows in everything apart from one tiny little detail, a decent script.

No – I mean the poverty row jobs – especially those of the 1950s.

As a Brit, my grasp on American culture is somewhat tenuous, but in parts of the States you have drive-in movies. (In Britain you would be sunk by rubbish weather). But at drive-in movies, you park up and watch the film on a huge outdoor screen – and hope that the plot of Boris Karloff’s last decent film “Targets” doesn’t come true. (For those too young, a homicidal gun-toting young man starts picking off the audience, while Karloff is in the audience and – scrambling the gunman’s tortured brain even further – is also on the screen).

But – correct me if I’m wrong - the concept of drive-in movies in the 50s appears to be that you borrow your parents’ station wagon, pick up your girl, park up, and – well, the quality of the film was not necessarily of paramount importance. Add to that concept the independent nature of many 50s movies – not tied in with big studios but free to express themselves with threadbare resources – you have a field of mind-boggling ineptitude that can be a delight in the 21st century.

Robot Monster – Teenagers from Outer Space – Plan 9 from Outer Space – oh yes, I’ve seen them all and have a comprehensive collection in my library – albeit shelved apart from the theology.

But to-night I am going to nominate – Girls Town – a teen flick from 1959.

A cursory look down the cast list produces some very famous names in this production. From the silent and early sound era – WOW – there’s Charles Chaplin and Harold Lloyd. There is only one slight problem – it’s the wrong generation: these are Charles Chaplin Jr and Harold Lloyd Jr. Other progeny virtually cutting their movie teeth include Jim Mitchum (son of Robert) and Cathy Crosby (niece of Bing). Watching this film helps viewers understand how their efforts to break into movies were generally doomed – names or no names.

The main star was peroxide blonde Mamie Van Doren, sometimes called the poor man’s Jayne Mansfield, who was in turn called the poor man’s Marilyn Monroe. Mamie had the kind of pneumatic figure designed to fuel the fantasies of fourteen year old boys of all ages. In her late 20s at the time, Mamie played Silver Morgan (there’s a name for you), supposedly aged 16. Silver’s sister has an altercation with Harold Lloyd Jr, who falls off a cliff to his death. (Here is a great in-joke for cinephiles who might remember Harold Lloyd Sr’s exploits on high buildings in movies like Safety Last and Feet First). Somehow in the mess that follows, Silver gets sent to Girls Town, an institution run by scary nuns, whose aim is to “reform” her.

There are subplots featuring good and bad teenage boys. Battling for the good is teen idol Paul Anka (who wrote and sang Diana – and years later cleaned up by writing the English lyrics for My Way). Anka looks about 12. Battling for the bad is evil hoodlum Mel Torme. Mel Torme? The velvet toned crooner who must have been not far short of 40 at the time? Yes – that Mel Torme. A fight between Anka and Torme is hilarious.

Other highlights? Anka sings Ave Maria to Mamie Van Doreen – who cries. You are filled with emotion too, but of a different sort.

But the “piece de resistance” in my book is the performance by the vocal group, The Platters.

The Platters had a string of top twenty hits in the mid to late fifties – ‘The Great Pretender’, ‘My Prayer’, Twilight Time’, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes’ and others. Unfortunately, 1959 wasn’t the best of years for them; the men all got arrested on vice charges, and their lead singer, Tony Williams – who in fact did all the work (the rest just swayed gently going Oooh-Aaah in the background) was to leave the group and fail as a solo shortly afterwards. But the Platters sing – and – er - something has happened, because Tony Williams is missing. Rather than doing the sensible thing – a quick competition and a quick buck for the nearest decent Tony Williams lookalike to lip-synch – they get someone of approximate build and try desperately to hide his face all through the song. So we have the Platters swaying from the rear, we have the Platters swaying from off center with just a shoulder and pair of hands of lead singer in shot, and finally we have the Platters swaying from the front, with a piece of wrought ironwork in the nightclub conveniently obscuring his face. It must have been a nightmare – where’s Tony Williams? But we’ve publicised the Platters – quick, try this. Does it work? Of course it doesn’t – it’s a mind boggling failure on all fronts – and that is what makes the film so delightful.

With a suitable can of refreshment and a suitable frame of mind, I can sit and watch rubbish like Girls Town – and laugh all over again - as the rest of the family mutter words like “Strange” and “Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m going to bed!”

I was going to say that some people sometimes have no “soul” – but since occasional family members have been known to read this blog, I guess I’d better not.

I don't know of any surviving Drive In movie theaters ... Pixie

I'm trying ...

I'm trying to read a microfilm printout. The print is so small that I'm using my strongest magnifying glass. (Good thing I collect stamps!)

Later: Good stuff in this article. ... eye strain is growing. Say ... I'd like to know my blog readers are actually alive ... just sayin'.

Later still: I've lost tract of a letter from William Miller. ... still looking.

Later later: Writing partner found the missing letter. I feel a bit stupid. It was where it was supposed to be.

Much Later: Made coffee. Eye strain is growing. I'm taking a break.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Somewhere on this blog I wrote briefly of my adventures within my mother’s religion. Those few sentences didn’t begin to tell the story. I told about reading everything I could get, and finally questioning the basis for their attractive, but ultimately fanciful, interpretation of scripture. To be fair, I should note that they have quietly moved away from that in the last two decades.

I remain fascinated by what they write. Some of it is spectacularly well done. Some of it is … not. But, let’s move back to when I was twelve and interested but full of questions. I borrowed, purchased in thrift stores, begged, everything that I could find and read it carefully, sometimes two, three or four times. I read things that tickled my fancy, that made me laugh with pleasure – and that were just stupid. In the Law of Moses a system of Cities of Refuge is established to protect accidental man-slayers from revenge killing. (Ignore the questions that may arise about revenge killing. They’re not relevant here.) So, I’m happily reading an article published in the 1950s that finds prophetic fulfillments in this bit of Old Testament history. In the middle of it is a reference to Josephus, the Jewish historian. Josephus added details not found in the Bible. Fine. The article suggested that these bits from a secular historian might themselves have prophetic fulfillments.

That, dear hearts, raised all sorts of questions. No one particularly wanted to answer them. I called my uncle who shares that faith and who had associated himself with it back in the very early 1950s. He gave me a frank and surprising answer. “There is no basis on which to find a prophetic fulfillment in anything Josephus wrote. The author was wrong to suggest that, even if he did it in a tentative way.” It turned out that my uncle knew who the author was even though the articles are published anonymously. (They follow the old Brethren practice of publishing anonymously.)

This is not the response I got from those in authority within the congregation my mother attended. What radiated from them was distaste that I had asked the question. Apparently, in their view a young child should ask her parents (in this case, my mother) and not bother her betters with uncomfortable questions. One of them told my mother as much. Out of the gaggle of what? Twelve if I remember right … elders, only one bothered to take me into the church library, find the reference, read it and say essentially what my uncle had said.

There were many more incidents like this, each of them insignificant in itself, but collectively disturbing. I read an article published by them in the early 1960s. It was footnoted. I think there were ten footnotes, all referencing secular histories. I lived in the public library and a friendly reference librarian helped me send for the first reference. Within days a book on Bible laws arrived, and I read it. I found the pages referenced. ALL of the footnotes came from that one work. They did not READ the others. They cited them as if they had. This is dishonest. If I had been caught doing that on a school assignment (Yes, I was 12-13, but I was also a Junior in High School and taking AP classes) I would have seen my paper marked with a Fail.

You have no idea the reaction I got when I raised this issue. I teach children who are as I was. Some adults have a tendency to see them as an irritant, as impertinent, rude, aggressive. (Some are, of course, but most are not.) So I have some after-the-fact sympathy for their clergy. (They deny having a clergy. This is a lie, a self deception. Their elders fill the office and do the work of any clergyman. Calling it something else does not change what it is.) My sympathy is limited. Two of those men were abusive; one of them hauled my mother and me into a back room and spent almost forty minuets scolding us both, my mom for allowing me to ask questions and me for having asked them. Finally, my mother looked him in the eye and said, “She’s a child. You’re an adult. Perhaps you should act like one. If you don’t have an answer, say so.” She took us out of the room, found their presiding elder and read him “the riot act.”

I stopped asking them questions. If you think that ended my difficulties, you’re wrong. One of these men – call him George – took it upon himself to criticize everything about me. He accused me of wearing “sluttish” clothes. I wore very modest clothes. The dress in question came to a few inches below my knee, but it had a slit that went maybe two inches above my knee. My mother, bless her, put this undereducated moron in his place.

That didn’t work, right? So he asked my mom if I snuck out at night! You may think that came from nowhere. However, his daughter had snuck out and had a sexual relationship with a boy from school a few years before. He lost his standing over that and had just gotten it back the year before. He transferred on to me his daughter’s behavior. Me? The only man I ever had sex with is Knobby Knees and we're married! This event went to their body of elders who sent two of their number over to our house and interviewed me. One was Mr. Good Elder, the other was Mr. Bad Elder. They probably got this off some cop show on TV.

My mother put it bluntly to them that they had better stop the harassment from George or she’d call the church’s central authority and complain. This visibly startled the two elders. They met with George. George transferred to a neighboring congregation within weeks. Things were better? Right? ... Wrong.

Elder Jerry was a touchy feeling person. My uncle is very good at hiding his feelings, but it didn’t take much to see that he saw Jerry as slime. He had good reasons for his feelings. Elder Jerry couldn’t keep his hands off the women and girls, including me. After a Sunday service he cornered me back by the church bulletin board. I literally had my back to the wall. He kept touching my arm and shoulder. Finally I said, rather loudly, “Stop touching me!” He did. He had no choice. He was suitably embarrassed.

I might have been young, a virgin, but I wasn’t stupid. I watched this predator. He never had sex with the women in the congregation as far as I could tell, but he had sexless prolonged flirtations with two of them. It almost ruined a marriage. The rest of the elders were not blind to this, and eventually they did something. While he was more discreet, he did not stop.

Another thing this monster did was to undermine and attack other elders who he saw as more talented or more respected than he was. Since, I have traced his activity back for four decades. He has a long history of trouble making, of working to get other elders removed from their appointments. This finally caught up with him and he was removed from his assignment. About four years later he was reappointed, but, while he may be more cautious, he has not changed. He continued to peruse some of those he attacked for years. The man is a parasite.

Then there was Elder John. Elder John had been a country-music musician of indifferent talent. He was an uneducated hick. This church has its own schools. They like to think of them as equivalent to college. They are not. (More on this in a few). So John was elevated to clergy status, having no real sense of spirituality and not even the most basic understanding of the Bible. Elder John believed it was wrong to read anything but his church’s books and magazines. He didn’t even read the newspaper. One of the women in the church shared my interest in history. She bought a small box of books at a yard sale. We were away, and she didn’t want to leave them on our porch just to sit for a couple of days. So she dropped them at Elder John’s house since he lived about four blocks from us.

Elder John was displeased. He brought the books to the next Sunday meeting and gave them to me with a lecture on how I shouldn’t read any of them. They were all “un-theocratic,” un-Godly and they’d corrupted my already corrupted mind. I ignored it all, took the books from his hands and handed one back to him with a sweet smile. “This one is more appropriate to you,” I said. It was Dr. Spock’s book on parenting. He threw it away. I was maybe 14 or 15 when this happened.

There were more insidious and dramatic things, but many of those did not come my way except secondarily. But they spoke of abuse of power, of overweening pride, of dishonesty. Privacy issues should probably keep me from telling most of those stories. One concerned a conversation between two of their upper-level traveling ministers. I was with my uncle at a rather large convention. It was away from where most everyone from our congregation attended, but it was the one to which we were assigned. So I knew no one. He worked at what was called the Volunteer Service desk. At mid-day he took some papers (a report of some sort I think) off to one of these guys. They acted as if he weren’t there, refusing to acknowledge him at all, even though they knew who he was and why he was there. They were talking about which congregation gave them the most money, who fed them well, who gave them what perks. They were trading assignments after the convention, and greed was the topic.

I thought these men were in that service to build up the faith of others. They were in it for exotic vacations, money, and reputation. I never looked at another traveling minister of that faith without wondering if they were like these two men.

It didn’t take a genius to figure out that this church did not educate its elders in any meaningful way. Those that were talented were autodidacts. I remember two of these. One was an ex-air force mechanic (World War 2) turned civil servant. He had a daughter my age, and I spent hours in their house. He was modest, informed, hard as a rock when he had to be, but a very gentle man. And he loved the flock. He stood as a barrier between me and the fools that populated their elder body. He was never intimidated by my questions and he never refused to discuss things, never shoved me off on someone else. The closest he came to that was over an article in their principal magazine. I had a question over the phrasing of one paragraph. I asked him about it (it was something about women; don’t ask me what. It’s been too long.) and he re-read it. His answer was, “I don’t know.” Now, I love that answer. I’ve used it enough myself. It’s honest.

This church has traveling ministers. Half the congregation seems to live in abject fear of them. I understood that with a few of them, but mostly they were just people, often likeable people. So traveling Elder Will shows up for his visit. I’d forgotten about my question, but Elder Civil Servant had not. He motioned me over, introduced me to Elder Will, and said, “Rachael had a question.” He repeated it to Elder Will. Elder Will had a ready answer. All the details of the question and the answer are gone out of my head now. But the kindness of these two men to a young woman in need of answers was notable.

They were exceptions. In my experience their elders were self-centered, ignorant in areas where they were supposed to be knowledgeable, and often cruel and dictatorial. Between issues of rational doctrine and elder behavior, by the time I was fourteen I was well on my way to looking elsewhere.

Each church has a bible school meant to train elders and evangelists in a kind of Continuing Education program. It has been reduced in clock hours to a nearly meaningless amount. But when I attended it was longer. A student is assigned material to research and then present as a short dialogue or talk or reading. Some of their officials suggest that this is equivalent to college. Pfffuttt!

However, it can be, or at least could be when it was longer. If one thoroughly researched each assignment, wrote it up, kept a record, then one could really learn something. My uncle is a college graduate. He teaches. He taught at this school too. He was really, really good. I’ve pawed through is notebooks. He has what is essentially a commentary on the Bible housed in three ring binders. These are filled with his personal notes, quotations from sources, photocopies of research material, articles and such, all scribbled up. The binder with his notes on the Psalms containes a series of fresh translations. He denies having the ability, but he obviously does. So, one can derive from this school a really first- class education. But almost none of them do. Most of those enrolled don’t even read the material until they have an assignment.

I was enrolled for several years, until I was eighteen. I enjoyed the school. By then I’d learned not to ask any questions. I wrote them down, making great lists of them, then researching them myself. Sometimes I agreed with church doctrine. Sometimes it seemed very wrong.

I attended as long as I was under my mother’s roof. I owed her that respect; besides I did get benefit from attending. After a while I just ignored the grief. I refused to listen to the elders when one of the mentally diseased among them wanted to make some issue. I am honest enough to tell you if I deserved what I got. I did not deserve any of the complaints, especially being called a slut over a four or five inch slit in a skirt. None of these men were my father, though Elder Civil Servant came close in my affection for him. I did not owe them respect in the face of abuse.

These men were cowards of first rank. They were unprepared to answer my questions. Worse, they saw honest questions as a challenge to their authority. My ultimate question was, “from where do they get their authority.” They would have answered from God. Their actions showed any authority they had to be self-derived.

This does not tell much of the story. I can't see telling things that are someone else's personal business. I went looking for knowledge ... and for the love Christians are supposed to have for one another. I found some knowledge but little of the affection one would expect.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Rabble Rousing, Incendiary Writer!

I have puzzled over partisan objections to our history of Nelson Barbour and the Barbourite movement. I was especially puzzled by an appeal to not publish because it might show someone’s belief system to be less than divine. I think my writing partner handled that really well in the preface.

We have been working on what will be chapter two of the next book for about a full year, researching as deeply and carefully as we can. Much of this will be new to our readers. We lead them into details and ideas that will be new. As always, we’re just writing accurate, thoroughly researched history. We have no intention of furthering a belief system, though we certainly each have our own. We let some things slip in that reflect our beliefs. My writing partner consistently calls the Seventh-day Adventists “the Seventh-day sect.” It’s plain that he sees the SDA church in a dim light. Other things creep in too. We occasionally (in some chapters it’s more often than an “occasion”) thump some writer, usually identified with a sectarian approach, for the nonsense they’ve produced. While this isn’t a slap at their religion, at the very least their doctrine hasn’t kept them from being bad writers, researchers, and sometimes liars.

This is nothing.

As we write and revise chapter two – mind you it’s just straight history – we end up presenting the Heroes of the descendant religions as holding doctrines that these bodies soundly reject today. This, more than an occasional “you didn’t get the story right,” upsets some of our readers. This is also why we get very limited assistance from the principal descendant church. They hide this stuff. It disturbs some of them. It makes them uneasy, their place on the chair of Moses a bit shaky. They have an authoritarian ecclesiastical structure. None of the 19th Century Heroes of that faith would have found their church structure Scriptural. They would have and did soundly reject just that sort of thing.

We won’t alter the story to accommodate anyone. I’m not even sorry that it makes some of them shudder. Those that have expressed their displeasure deserve the unease well-researched history brings to them. Personally, I think the 19th Century dudes have it right. Those who project a dictatorial, episcopal authority structure put themselves in Christ’s place, certainly in a place Christ did not intend them to hold. Let them sweat.

So … I get to see myself as a rabble rouser. Of course, this isn’t a new thing. I’ve been a rabble rouser since I could toddle. It’s just that this is not our intention. We write history. Let the chips fall where they may. But I’m not unhappy that a body of spiritual dictators has found something that makes them sweat. I’m not unhappy that they hate what we write. The most I feel is regret that some of my writing partner’s contacts with that organization are – in my view, strangely not in his view - mistreating him. He makes far more allowances for people than I do, or ever will.

Comments on the Old Photo

I date this photo to 1880-1900 by the absence of cars and mechanized farm equipment. As Harry observed in the post trail, this is winter. He observed the trees. You can also see that a huge snow storm is coming. A small snow has already fallen. You can see it on the ground (white areas) and on the branches of the trees.

The trees are a planting, not a natural grove. They follow the fence and road lines, and were probably intended for windbreak. This is prairie, probably Nebraska or the Dakotas. I surmise this from the wild grass and the upward slope. The trees appear to be cottonwoods, but this is a wild-guess. There are four, possibly five, evergreens – pines by the look of them – planted near the two houses, and more on the top of the ridge. These seem out of place, but possibly they are the native trees. If you live on the edge of prairie, you will see areas where mountain pines encroach on the prairie.

You can see a woman standing in the partially open back door of the small house. There are no small animals or chickens. This is another sign of winter. The small house has a picket fence that turns into a wire fence. If you look at the enlargement of the small house, you will see that they grow vegetables. The plot is evenly plowed, bare from recent harvest, and free of weeds, indicating considerable care. It is too small for commercial use, so they grow for their own use. The ground on the other side of the wire fence was plowed and planted at one time. You can see the furrows, and some of the original planting has re-grown. You can see this from the straight line of plants.

The small house may be an out building for the larger house seen on the right. There are smaller out buildings near that house. The larger house is well maintained. Note the nice white paint. The small house in the foreground needs a repainting as does the utility building next to it.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Old Photos

I love old photos. I've collected them for years, haunting tag sales, antique malls, ebay and thrift stores to find them. I' also the repository of dozens of family photos, photo cards, and post cards with photos of family. Some are jems of photographic art; others are merely interesting. A very few speak of mystery. Here is a print from an original glass negative. First we have the full photo, then two detailed views. Tell me what you think. What do we see in this photo? What time of year is it? Where is this? Why was it taken? Any observation at all is good, and your guess is as good as mine.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Dangerous eyes ...

I've started a new pixie story - just a short story. Right now it's just notes and a few pages of text. I'm playing with the phrases "Dangerous eyes" and "Old Eyes." An anthropology student working on an archaeology project asks a pixie (he doesn't know she's a pixie) how old she is. She replies, "My mother says I have old eyes."

These are dangerous, old eyes.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Well ... Soup and a depixelating mind.

I had to recover some of it from notes, but I didn't lose as much material as I first thought. So I feel better. Better yet, I spent part of the day frustrated by a missing pamphlet, but I have now located it. It wasn't lost. It was where it belonged. My defective brain remembered it as a separate booklet, but we own it bound into a book. The ah-ha moment came when I read a quotation from it in another book.

We're having home made vegetable beef soup tonight. It should be done in about ten minutes. I'm starving. The house smells of soup. Lovely, thick, meaty soup!

I've incorporated stuff my writing partner sent me today. That can be a difficult task. I'll print all this out and take it to work with me. It should be a quiet night after 2 am or so. I'll mark this all up.

The most difficult part of this chapter is a biography of a man named George Storrs. So much that is utterly silly has been written about him, and there is so much that is really interesting but not relevant to the history we're writing. I've deleted maybe thirty paragraphs as not needed. That represented a huge amount of research, but it distracted one from the important bits of this story.

We are following two research trails now. One concerns the Piladelphia "event" of 1844. It's very important, but as with much of this story, all sorts of nonsence has made it into print. The other concerns his period within the Life and Advent Union. We need to condense about seven years of Storrs' life into maybe five paragraphs. Dunno 'bout that.

Knobby Knees is home, sitting in his chair reading the newspaper and looking a tad worn out. Jet lag and a prolonged pixie-snuggle did that I think. Teach him to go off for days gallivanting around the uncivilized bits of Europe!

So ... Harry? How's mom?

A Disorganized Pixie!

So, I've been looking for a pamphlet I know I own. Right? Got that? Yes ... Well, I can't find it. I will eventually, but I haven't yet. Because of the way I've acquired this stuff, some things that go together logically are in separate folders. I need to re-file the entire bunch.
The folder I have on my desk right now might make one of my blog readers jealous, or maybe it wouldn't. Let's see .... Here's what's in it:

1. G. Storrs: Six Sermons, 1847 edition as a paperback.
2. H. Grew: A. An Examination of the Divine Testimony. B. An Appeal to Pious Trinitarians. C. Future Punishment. D. The Intermediate State. These are all from the 1830s.
3. William Whiston: The Eternity of Hell Torments Considered, 1740. [Rare and usually expensive. The pixie did a deal!]
4. Zion's Watch Tower, June 11, 1894, special issue.
5. Prophetic Times, May 1872. [This one belongs in another folder with the rest of these]
6. The Literalist, single issue from 1841.
7. D. T. Taylor: The Coming Earth Quake, 1870 edition.
8. H. L. Hastings: Pauline Theology and the Destiny of the Wicked. Undated reprint in booklet form, published for a UK audience.
9. C. C. Barker: A Bible View of the Millennium. A later reprint. Barker was an associate of Barbour. This booklet is meant to refute some of Storrs' views.
10. Benjamin Newton: A. On the Natural Relations of Men and the Governments to God, 1873. B. Jerusalem: Its Future Glory, 1908 edition. C. Prophetic Psalms, 1900 edition.[These belong in another folder with the rest of Newton's stuff.]
11. Archival folder with 24 mid 19th Century tracts. These are all tri-fold and small. Mostly about God's judgment on sinners.
12. The Congregational Manual, 1888.
13. The Reformer and Christian, single issue Feb 1832.
14. The Interpretation of the First Part of the Apocalypse by a Reader of the Prophets, Rochester NY 1880. [ultra rare]
15. John Batey: Toughts on the Immoratality and Future Condition of man ... in reply to Geo Storrs, 1842. [rarer than rare!]

Did I make you jealous? Prolly not. Most of my blog readers have no interest in these things. A few do, but they seldom comment – except for Occasional Reader.

In the mean time, I’m still missing stuff. I need a secretary!

Monday, April 02, 2012

I worked all day...

wrote my fingers to the bone. Clicked save. and Word failed to save my work. I'm angry and depressed. I have to start all over and I lost days worth of thought.