From my mini-vacation in St. Louis to see the Gateway Arch and Chihuly in the Garden, I came home with some great pictures. Sharing them here for fans of the beautiful blown-glass artworks of Dale Chihuly, famous Seattle artist.
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Great advice all around.
Earlier, I blogged about watching “The Terror of History: Mystics, Heretics, and Witches in the Western Tradition,” lectures on DVD by Teofilo F. Ruiz, Ph.D., for The Teaching Company. I mentioned that lectures 1 through 13 held little of interest to me, except for Professor Ruiz’s passing mention of “quest literature” and his contention (with which I agree) that there are only two kinds of literature: the Quest, and the Coming of Age story.
Lecture 14 kicked off the part of the course that is devoted to witches, and that’s when the material really grabbed me. I’m familiar with much of the backstory of the witch craze that gripped Europe (and filtered into Salem, Massachusetts) from about 1480 until the 1690s. However, I did not know that an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 people — mostly old women — were executed during that time on charges of witchcraft.
The course delves deeply into the longstanding misogyny that led to the murder of these mostly widowed or single women. There’s discussion of the shift from ancient, female-centered fertility cults and vegetation (harvest) rituals to the male-dominated religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) that would brand women as evil temptresses and seducers of men.
Quoting from the course guidebook [with inserts in brackets from other salient parts of the discussion]:
• “War and other upheavals led to a surplus population of older women. Either widows or unmarried, these women who did not depend on men for their livelihoods [and were past the age of childbearing] became easy targets for witchcraft persecution.”
• “The rise of the [male-dominated] medical profession and its wholesale attack on certain forms of medicine (herbal healing, folk medicine), practiced mostly by old women, is closely related to the birth of the witch craze.”
• Capitalism was transforming Europe’s economy at this time, and “the period of adjustment to new economic systems was so fraught with tensions that it fostered persecution and scapegoating. … The anxieties created by the birth pangs of modernity were experienced as a collective feeling, a kind of mass pathology.”
The parallels with today’s cultural and economic shifts are remarkable. We, too, are undergoing an economic transformation, as low-skill jobs are disappearing and the demand grows for highly skilled professionals. The less-educated in society are afraid: afraid of change, afraid of losing power in the new political and economic order, afraid of people who seem different from themselves—people they’re determined to marginalize. In our own 21st century world, the same kind of mass pathology that once led to the burning of witches has given us Trumpism.
One point that jumped out at me is the fixation on “child murder” — the accusations leveled at “witches” that they killed and ate children. “The charges are as old as humanity itself,” writes Professor Ruiz. “These were precisely the same accusations made against oppressed minorities everywhere—from Christian to Jew to Muslim to Native American—over the course of centuries.”
Today, such accusations find their echoes in the nonsense about a child “sex ring” operating from a Washington, DC, pizzeria. The same impulses are at work now, the mistrust of the “other,” the fear of those who do not look, live, or believe the same way you do. The “other” is viewed as not merely dangerous, but subhuman … demonic, malevolent. Deserving of death.
In 500 years, American society has not progressed. In this country there are people who believe witches cast a “blue wave” spell to influence the outcome of the 2020 Presidential election. There are people who believe Liberals like me kill children. These people would gladly burn me and my kind at the stake.
If you want to understand the deep roots of the science-denying backwardness of tens of millions of Americans, then rent this course from your local library (that bastion of democratic socialism). At the Great Courses website, “The Terror of History” on DVD is offered for $255. I didn’t spend anywhere near that much for my copy, and I advise you to wait for a major sale, or just rent it.
It’s worth the time, particularly lectures 14 through 24: “The Mysteries” (alchemy, astrology, magic) through “The Survival of the Past” (the enduring cultural motifs of fairies, dragons, wizards, etc.). The course guidebook’s bibliography includes several titles that are worth study by history buffs and fantasy fans alike.
(A note on the illustration with which this post begins: It’s a screenshot from “Terror,” from the lecture that mentions “courtly love” — the medieval tradition of love between a knight and a married noblewoman. “The love of the knight for his lady was regarded as an ennobling passion and the relationship was typically unconsummated.” This is the flip side of the coin: women have traditionally been regarded as evil temptresses and witches, or as virtuous madonnas, placed on a pedestal. Neither view is realistic, correct, helpful, or healthy.)
I’ve never been well except when lying down in the universe.
I need truth and some aspirin.—Fernando Pessoa (Campos)14 March 1931
When Star Trek: Discovery first came out, Episode 1 of the first season was free to watch. I watched it, and was singularly unimpressed. The Klingons were ugly, and the First Officer’s insubordination was appalling. Very un-Starfleet. I wrote the series off then and there.
Then came Star Trek: Picard, which my friends all seemed to love. CBS offered a free month of the All Access streaming service, so I signed up just to watch ST Picard. I liked it. Can’t say that I loved it enough to watch it again right away, but it was good to have Patrick Stewart return as Picard, even for a little while.
Since I still had time on my free month, I decided to give ST Discovery another look. OMG, now I’m wishing for a memory wipe. As awful as Episode 1 was and is, the whole dreadful mess only gets worse from there.
This is a Star Trek I cannot like. Spoiler alert: Read no further if you actually plan to watch this disaster. I’ve given up after Season 1 Episode 6.
The Klingons are grotesque—plastic and metal, not flesh-and-blood characters. Give me Kor, Kang, and Koloth. Give me Worf. Give me Christopher Lloyd’s Klingon Commander Kruge. You can have Discovery‘s horrible plastic space-orcs. And what is with that tediously long, laboriously delivered, subtitled Klingon dialogue? For pity’s sake, spare us the subtitles and translate it for us.
Umm … this series is supposed to be a prequel? Nope. The weapons and spacecraft are considerably more advanced than in Kirk’s era.
A proper prequel is Star Trek: Enterprise, with Scott Bakula as Jonathan Archer, commanding officer of the USS Enterprise NX-01. That’s one of my favorite series. That early warp-capable starship lacks the range and capabilities of Kirk’s Enterprise, but the mission of exploration is the same. The way Jonathan Archer’s crew goes bumbling through the near-Earth parts of the galaxy, interfering in every culture they encounter, but always with the best of intentions, is lovable and heartwarming … and clearly shows why the Prime Directive was adopted.
In contrast, Jason Isaacs has brought a distinctly Malfoy Death-Eater sensibility to Capt. Lorca. He’s ruthless. It looks like he plans to let the Klingon-orcs have the Starfleet Admiral to keep her from removing him from command of Discovery. He should already have been removed, since he disobeys orders left and right. Very un-Starfleet.
And don’t get me started on the campy 1950s vibe — fungal spores? A giant tardigrade (moss piglet, water bear) as a navigator? How’d it get so big? Exposed to radiation like those giant ants back on Earth? 🤨
I found myself far more annoyed than entertained by ST Discovery, a show that truly matches its abbreviation: STD. The only character who appeals to me is Sarek. James Frain elevates every role he plays. But I know what lies ahead for Sarek, so this part of his “history” doesn’t interest me enough to keep me watching. I’m canceling my CBS All Access subscription.
Thank you, sister and brother Trekkers, for letting me vent. LLAP 🖖
And just so you know, I wrote the above before I went looking for other reviews. It took nanoseconds to learn that other serious Trekkers hate STD as much as I do. Here’s a mere sampling of what’s out there:
If I sound offended by STD, it’s because I am. Greed is the only explanation for why CBS vandalized Gene Roddenberry’s vision to make such an abomination. CBS evidently thought that Star Trek fans would pay good money to see them ruin something we love. Nope. Not this fan.
We are not the enemy of the people. We are the people.
Writers, journalists, editors, reporters, novelists, poets, translators, and all those who bear witness to our times. Without the words, there is no history. Without people bearing witness, telling the truths of each day, recording the words of people in power, recording the facts of the weather in the Arctic and in the Senate, recording the statements of the Congressmen and the homeless, recording the words of the clergy of every faith, recording the works of artists and singers, recording the stories of carpenters, engineers, social workers, bankers and plutocrats, we have no history. Without a history, we have no future. Without those who bear witness, we are not a society. And a society that claims these witnesses to be enemies is one clouded by shame.
–Authors Guild President Roxana Robinson
First President Trump complained that “the media” was biased against him. “Dishonest.” Presidents have made such complaints before, in moments of weakness and self-pity.
Then he labeled the media as “the opposition party.”
Now he has declared journalists to be “the enemy of the American People.”
We at the Authors Guild hear that as a declaration of war. We know our history. Enemy of the People is a phrase long favored by authoritarians and tyrants. The “correct Russian term,” Gary Shteyngart points out, is враг народа, vrag naroda. Long before Lenin and Stalin used it, Robespierre inaugurated the Reign of Terror by declaring that the Revolutionary Government “owes nothing to the Enemies of the People but death.”
An earlier president, John F. Kennedy—when he was taking a beating in the press after the Bay of Pigs fiasco—was asked if he resented the media. He said this:
“It is never pleasant to be reading things that are not agreeable news, but I would say that it is an invaluable arm of the presidency, as a check, really, on what is going on in the administration … I would think that Mr. Khrushchev operating a totalitarian system, which has many advantages as far as being able to move in secret, and all the rest—there is a terrific disadvantage in not having the abrasive quality of the press applied to you daily …Even though we never like it, and even though we wish they didn’t write it, and even though we disapprove, there isn’t any doubt that we could not do the job at all in a free society without a very, very active press.”
President Kennedy was a member of the Authors Guild. So are many of the journalists now covering the Trump presidency, the historians who will soon reflect upon it, and the novelists who challenge us with their imaginative—and, yes, subversive—visions.
The administration is now said to be preparing the elimination of the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities under the false guise of budgetary necessity. We understand this, too, to be part of an attack on the free expression of diverse views.
The Authors Guild serves writers as a nonpartisan advocate. Our members represent a broad spectrum of social and political views. But blanket attacks on writers and journalists, as a class, are not a partisan issue; they are attacks on democracy itself. And, as advocates for authors and the first amendment rights of writers, we cannot let these attacks go unanswered.
We are not the people’s enemies. We are the eyes and ears of the people. And we are the people’s memory.
(Reprinted from Authors Guild Industry & Advocacy News, February 20, 2017)
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it looks like Trump actually IS making America great again. Just look at the progress since the election:
1. Unprecedented levels of ongoing civic engagement.
2. Millions of Americans now know who their state and federal representatives are without having to google.
3. Millions of Americans are exercising more. They’re holding signs and marching every week.
4. Alec Baldwin is great again. Everyone’s forgotten he’s kind of a jerk.
5. The Postal Service is enjoying the influx of cash due to stamps purchased by millions of people for letter and postcard campaigns.
6. Likewise, the pharmaceutical industry is enjoying record growth in sales of antidepressants.
7. Millions of Americans now know how to call their elected officials and know exactly what to say to be effective.
8. Footage of town hall meetings is now entertaining.
9. Tens of millions of people are now correctly spelling words like emoluments, narcissist, fascist, misogynist, holocaust, and cognitive dissonance.
10. Everyone knows more about the rise of Hitler than they did last year.
11. Everyone knows more about legislation, branches of government, and how checks and balances work.
12. Marginalized groups are experiencing a surge in white allies.
13. White people in record numbers have just learned that racism is not dead.
14. White people in record numbers also finally understand that Obamacare IS the Affordable Care Act.
15. Stephen Colbert’s “Late Show” finally gained the elusive #1 spot in late-night talk shows, and Seth Meyers is finding his footing as today’s Jon Stewart.
16. “Mike Pence” has donated millions of dollars to Planned Parenthood since Nov. 9th.
17. Melissa FREAKING McCarthy.
18. Travel ban protesters put $24 million into ACLU coffers in just 48 hours, enabling them to hire 200 more attorneys. Lawyers are now heroes.
19. As people seek veracity in their news sources, respected news outlets are happily reporting a substantial increase in subscriptions, a boon to a struggling industry vital to our democracy.
20. Live-streaming court cases and congressional sessions are now as popular as the Kardashians.
21. Massive cleanup of Facebook friend lists.
22. People are reading classic literature again. Sales of George Orwell’s “1984” increased by 10,000% after the inauguration. (Yes, that is true. 10,000%. 9th grade Lit teachers all over the country are now rock stars.)
23. More than ever before, Americans are aware that education is important. Like, super important.
24. Now, more than anytime in history, everyone believes that anyone can be President. Seriously, anyone.
—Susan Keller (Copy and paste to share.)
If you are looking for an action plan to fight the rising tide of fascism in America, here is an insightful 20-point list from Yale historian and Holocaust expert Timothy Snyder. I’ve copied his Facebook post below, and interspersed my own remarks and responses in brackets and italics.
“Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so. Here are twenty lessons from the twentieth century, adapted to the circumstances of today.
“1. Do not obey in advance. Much of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then start to do it without being asked. You’ve already done this, haven’t you? Stop. Anticipatory obedience teaches authorities what is possible and accelerates unfreedom.”
[This is why we must NOT “give Trump a chance.”]
“2. Defend an institution. Follow the courts or the media, or a court or a newspaper. Do not speak of ‘our institutions’ unless you are making them yours by acting on their behalf. Institutions don’t protect themselves. They go down like dominoes unless each is defended from the beginning.”
[Join me in subscribing to THE WEEK magazine. Its wide focus encompasses current events, health, media, science, arts, and travel. From it, you’ll get the news the broadcast media ignore. I also recommend THE HIGHTOWER LOWDOWN, from fellow Texan Jim Hightower, who has long chronicled the ongoing democratic struggles by America’s ordinary people against rule by its plutocratic elites. ]
“3. Recall professional ethics. When the leaders of state set a negative example, professional commitments to just practice become much more important. It is hard to break a rule-of-law state without lawyers, and it is hard to have show trials without judges.”
[It’s also hard for fascists and tyrants to lie with impunity if investigative journalists uncover the truth and make the facts known.]
“4. When listening to politicians, distinguish certain words. Look out for the expansive use of ‘terrorism’ and ‘extremism.’ Be alive to the fatal notions of ‘exception’ and ’emergency.’ Be angry about the treacherous use of patriotic vocabulary.”
[“Republican Senator Doug Ericksen said in a news release in November 2016 that he planned on proposing a bill that would classify some forms of protesting as ‘economic terrorism.’ Ericksen said that the bill would target protests that disrupt businesses or shut down streets.” No, Senator, protesting is not “terrorism.” It is constitutionally protected free speech.]
“5. Be calm when the unthinkable arrives. When the terrorist attack comes, remember that all authoritarians at all times either await or plan such events in order to consolidate power. Think of the Reichstag fire. The sudden disaster that requires the end of the balance of power, the end of opposition parties, and so on, is the oldest trick in the Hitlerian book. Don’t fall for it.”
[Think of the so-called “Patriot” Act, established opportunistically in response to the September 11, 2001, attacks, and widely acknowledged as unconstitutional.]
“6. Be kind to our language. Avoid pronouncing the phrases everyone else does. Think up your own way of speaking, even if only to convey that thing you think everyone is saying. (Don’t use the internet before bed. Charge your gadgets away from your bedroom, and read.) What to read? Perhaps “The Power of the Powerless” by Václav Havel, 1984 by George Orwell, The Captive Mind by Czesław Milosz, The Rebel by Albert Camus, The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt, or Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev.”
“7. Stand out. Someone has to. It is easy, in words and deeds, to follow along. It can feel strange to do or say something different. But without that unease, there is no freedom. And the moment you set an example, the spell of the status quo is broken, and others will follow.”
[There is nothing normal about a Trump presidency, and I will not go along to get along.]
“8. Believe in truth. To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.”
[The proliferation of fake news threatens our democracy. Don’t believe everything you read!]
“9. Investigate. Figure things out for yourself. Spend more time with long articles. Subsidize investigative journalism by subscribing to print media. Realize that some of what is on your screen is there to harm you. Bookmark PropOrNot or other sites that investigate foreign propaganda pushes.”
[See items 2 and 6, above.]
“10. Practice corporeal politics. Power wants your body softening in your chair and your emotions dissipating on the screen. Get outside. Put your body in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people. Make new friends and march with them.”
[Join me and my new friends as we March on Washington, January 21.]
“11. Make eye contact and small talk. This is not just polite. It is a way to stay in touch with your surroundings, break down unnecessary social barriers, and come to understand whom you should and should not trust. If we enter a culture of denunciation, you will want to know the psychological landscape of your daily life.”
[A chilling thought, that our future safety may depend on knowing whom to trust. Welcome to Trump’s AmeriKKKa.]
“12. Take responsibility for the face of the world. Notice the swastikas and the other signs of hate. Do not look away and do not get used to them. Remove them yourself and set an example for others to do so.”
[Here’s an easy way to transform a swastika into a message of LOVE: http://wnyt.com/news/swastika-becomes-love-message-granger-caroline-streets-saratoga-springs/4317596/]
“13. Hinder the one-party state. The parties that took over states were once something else. They exploited a historical moment to make political life impossible for their rivals. Vote in local and state elections while you can.”
[Even in deep-red Texas, there is hope. Hillary Clinton won 3,868,291 votes in Texas, only about 815,000 fewer than Trump. As the state’s demographics change, Republicans and Tea Party extremists can be forced from their stranglehold here.]
“14. Give regularly to good causes, if you can. Pick a charity and set up autopay. Then you will know that you have made a free choice that is supporting civil society helping others doing something good.”
[American Civil Liberties Union. Set up a monthly donation.]
“15. Establish a private life. Nastier rulers will use what they know about you to push you around. Scrub your computer of malware. Remember that email is skywriting. Consider using alternative forms of the internet, or simply using it less. Have personal exchanges in person. For the same reason, resolve any legal trouble. Authoritarianism works as a blackmail state, looking for the hook on which to hang you. Try not to have too many hooks.”
[As a responsible, involved, and law-abiding citizen, I have nothing to hide.]
“16. Learn from others in other countries. Keep up your friendships abroad, or make new friends abroad. The present difficulties here are an element of a general trend. And no country is going to find a solution by itself. Make sure you and your family have passports.”
[I cherish my friends in other countries. They may become my lifeline.]
“17. Watch out for the paramilitaries. When the men with guns who have always claimed to be against the system start wearing uniforms and marching around with torches and pictures of a Leader, the end is nigh. When the pro-Leader paramilitary and the official police and military intermingle, the game is over.”
[The “constitutional carry” movement in Texas is absolutely terrifying. Some of our nuttier gun nuts actually believe they should be allowed to carry a gun, both openly and concealed, without a permit. Would those same people believe it’s OK to drive a big rig without a license, or practice medicine without a license? Senseless and dangerous. Please support Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Also, Stand With Standing Rock.]
“18. Be reflective if you must be armed. If you carry a weapon in public service, God bless you and keep you. But know that evils of the past involved policemen and soldiers finding themselves, one day, doing irregular things. Be ready to say no. (If you do not know what this means, contact the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and ask about training in professional ethics.)”
[United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Resources for Professionals in Law Enforcement]
“19. Be as courageous as you can. If none of us is prepared to die for freedom, then all of us will die in unfreedom.”
[Check out Common Cause for concrete ways to take action.]
“20. Be a patriot. The incoming president is not. Set a good example of what America means for the generations to come. They will need it.”
[I will say it again: Donald Trump is not a patriot. He is a clear and present danger to America and to the world. All who love freedom must stand up, speak out, and take to the streets. See you in Washington, January 21.]
You choose from 40 genres and indicate your preferences about content (the level of profanity or sex you want, etc.) and then the computers work their magic. It’s pretty cool, and easy to sign up for the daily emails — check it out! www.TheFussyLibrarian.com
For more details, please see my earlier post about The Fussy Librarian’s recommendations.
Grab a Bargain: Waterspell on Sale
As someone who has regularly paid $15 or more for a book, I think the standard ebook price of $2.99 is a STEAL. At that price, a reader can have all three books of the Waterspell trilogy for under $10.
But market forces seem to be driving ebook prices down to a mere 99 cents — the cost of a three-minute song. As I’ve said before, I have resisted offering my trilogy for such a paltry sum, lest people mistakenly believe that the quality is poor (it isn’t) or that I’m not proud of my work (I am). I spent 16 years writing Waterspell, and what I produced is the best writing of which I am capable. The reviews (excerpted below) would seem to bear out my belief that the trilogy is well worth $10.
As an experiment, however, I’ve dropped the price to 99 cents per book to coincide with The Fussy Librarian‘s recommendation.
So get ’em while they’re cheap! Or even cheaper than usual.
What People Say: Reviews of Waterspell
“What a brilliant and unforgettable story! I devoured this book … literally consumed by the originality and depth Deborah brings to her characters. She provides a strong balance between action, adventure, fantasy, and romance and Carin’s combination of pride and vulnerability make her a fabulous character! Quite frankly, I am just astounded by the emotions this book stirred in me. It is simply extraordinary.” —Feifei Le
“Once I started I only stopped to eat, sleep, and do those tasks that I could not put aside. It was imaginative, entertaining, and much more than just a delightful read. The main characters came alive on the pages and the book kept me guessing about what would happen next. Waterspell is a trilogy that I will highly recommend.” —Patrick M.
“This was an extremely well written fantasy story … [it] flows well with a very readable style that holds your interest throughout. The world building is solid and intriguing, the magical aspects well drawn and versatile and characterisation is energetic so that you are immediately invested in their future. The ending with its wonderful cliffhanger will ensure that you read on … All in all a marvellous addition to the fantasy genre and I would recommend it for lovers of magical mystical tales.” —Liz Wilkins
“I was hooked instantly when I started reading [Waterspell Book 1] The Warlock. I willingly gave up sleep and honestly could not wait to get up to read more of this book. I’m reading the whole series, and I absolutely am loving it.” —Sarah @ Amazon
“If you like epic fantasy that sweeps you to amazing, immersive worlds and while following intriguing characters, be sure to add this series to your to-read list.” —Once Upon a YA Book
“Grabbed my attention and kept it. It’s a truly unique book. This is a series not to miss.” —Tahlia Newland
“… a fabulous trilogy that should be read by every fantasy reader who would like something a little different. The author cleverly creates tension without resorting to the battles, complex political intrigue and predictable structure favoured by many in the traditional fantasy genre. I give it 5 stars without hesitation.” —Tahlia Newland
And there’s more! Additional reviews at www.waterspell.net
I am deeply grateful to all the wonderful reviewers who have responded so warmly to my work. Thank you all, so very much. And thank you, Fussy Librarian, for the recommendation!
“He spoke of Life as the rainbow that brilliantly spans two mysterious silences, one of which is dawn and the other sunset. This flaming arc must end, as it begins, in pain, but, past the silence, and, perhaps, in even greater mystery, the circle must somewhere become complete and round back to a new birth.”
—Myrtle Reed, Flower of the Dusk (1908)