Thursday, August 31, 2017

Why Not Fund These People Too?

It's always nice to see more page views...I regret that, as far as local sponsors are concerned, foreign readers don't count. I welcome readers from Hong Kong, Portugal, Poland, and of course our faithful core of Russian and Ukrainian readers, and Brazilian contacts through GBP's church. My sponsors aren't even interested in Canadian readers. They look at the page view count and ask, "How many of them are in the U.S. where they'd ever be able to buy anything?" The Internet is global, and in fact readers from Europe, New Zealand, and the Philippines have bought things (writings) from this web site, but payment can become complicated. But what the sponsors are undoubtedly thinking is "Those foreign readers are never going to visit my real-world store. Even if foreign tourists did once come to Duffield, Virginia, carrying an AC article by Priscilla King, that doesn't happen every day." If the computer tracked such things they'd probably be saying "...and readers in Seattle don't count, either."

Gentle Readers, I'm living in the U.S. on a writer's up-and-down income, and for the last two years that's been less than US$2000 for the year. (By way of comparison, foreign readers, people living in U.S. cities usually think they're doing well if they can live on US$2000 per month.) If your income for the year 2016 exceeded US$12,000 (or the equivalent in your kind of money), you need to be funding this web
Here are the options; so far as I know each of these is a legitimate funding/job-ordering site that works where I am, so you can choose one that works where you are:

And I'm still at this site, although, last time I checked, the "i-frame" system was still there, making it unlikely that clients will get all of whatever I write for them, because our local Internet server scrambles anything coded inside an "i-frame." If you're a client from Hirewriters, Iwriter has a similar job-ordering system (and seems to be managed by nicer people)--but then there are the i-frames. If you've found me through this site, you're free to order and pay for a writing job through Iwriter, then request that what I actually wrote be re-sent through e-mail if what you get looks incomplete or incoherent. .

Because people--specifically the people who whined for months, until the day I set up the Patreon page, that they wanted to support me online, and then checked out the Patreon page and didn't like it--have failed to use the Patreon page so far, last month I tested the system.

Fair disclosure: Yes, the Patreon and Paypal system will tap directly into your Paypal-linked bank account if it's active, rather than limiting itself to your Paypal account. This web site recommends the following strategies to limit potential hacking and scamming activity:

(1) Have a business account with Paypal, your Paypal-linked bank, and the IRS. Really determined people can use a business account to trace your real name, home address, etc., but most e-pests won't bother. The main thing is that any name, street address, or phone number you use online should be different from the ones in your actual home. If you don't do e-business from a real store or office, rent a post office box and voice-mail-only phone line.

(2) Use your Paypal-linked bank account for Paypal only--no checking, no savings. Do not allow the balance to exceed $100.

(3) If possible, have your Paypal-linked bank account with a different bank, and preferably in a different state, from any full-sized bank account(s) you may have.

(4) And if your Paypal-linked bank ceases to exist, and Paypal allows sites like Patreon to link to that long-defunct account rather than an active account at a real bank, all to the good.

Anyway, I now understand why the people who urged me to set up the online payment system decided they were just too old to bother with all that mess, but if you have an active Paypal account, the system should work beautifully for you. Yesterday an e-friend reported that dozens of writers are setting up Patreon accounts where you can support the production of more of your favorite books, blogs, poems, etc.

In July I was aware of two e-friends who have Patreon accounts; since I've linked to several of each one's posts, regular readers are aware of them too. I thought, "Dan Lewis or Naomi Parkhurst?" for a few uncomfortable hours, and finally decided, "Oh, there's no choice, no comparison; why not squander one e-dollar on each one." So I did...not because either of those writers seems to be anywhere near as low on money as I am, but just to test how easy it was to make those payments and no more.

The immediate result was, of course, "Why not me?"

The obvious answer was, of course, "Because I really couldn't afford to spend even those two dollars. No more money is available from me."

If some writers had been impolitely persistent they might have asked, "But why Lewis or Parkhurst instead of me?"

The answer to that would have been, "Because, in July, either you didn't have a Patreon account or I wasn't aware of it."

Gentle Readers, Patreon is set up to make it dead easy for you to pay $5 per month to as many bloggers as you see delivering a monthly magazine's worth of content, $1 to all those who deliver an occasional blog post you like or a steady supply of pleasing tweets on Twitter. Patreon works with Paypal for the express purpose of handling lots of $1 payments. You can be an e-patron to lots of different writers.

Here, once again, are the two accounts I supported, in alphabetical order: Lewis, Dan, finder of fun facts...I am aware of P.J. O'Rourke's warning about the perils of writing glib, happy, product-supportive stuff, but I have to say DL is a world-class finder of products for which his fun facts can be considered "product-supportive content":

Parkhurst, Naomi, knitting stitch pattern designer:

Now unfortunately Patreon does not make it easy to search for user pages. Their flashy new system tries to do too much, wastes too much memory, and makes a search take twenty or fifty times as long as older search systems that just waited for you to type in what you wanted, without trying to scan your computer's memory and guess. So this is, so far, the only other Patreon account that I recognized that I've found on Patreon:

I found e-friend and favorite author Pamela Dean from her blog:

(She set up her account after I why does everyone else have a normal-looking name on their account and I have a bunch of random numbers people can't remember?)

For those who've not already discovered Pamela Dean...fantasy-genre novels for girls, but the fantasies weren't romance or "princess" fantasies; they're about girl power through serious friendships among creative girls and young women. Such friendships exist in real life, although they're rare. They're awesome when they happen. So far as I know Pamela Dean has been the first author to celebrate what they sound like when they happen among young writer-type North Americans; certainly the best. Her heroines don't gossip, natter about clothes, or babble about sex; they collaborate. Women who recognize it, at any age, love these young adult novels:

They're not only good reads; they may be a whole new contribution to World Literature. Funding the promotion of these books, and/or more like them, may be channelling funding to a subset of Dean fans who aren't primarily about friendship, but so what? Gender-confused people can be real friends too. For me the existence of books that celebrate real philia, friendship as distinct from old acquaintance or romance, is worth it.

Then there's Karen @HappiiStudio , the Twitter poet. If you like formal poems short enough to fit into Twitter, you probably already follow her for things like this:

Be my float, In the wonder ocean, Be my boat, In the love sea.

Poems, quotes, and pictures are guaranteed to brighten anyone's day.Well, last week, after I'd Twittered about "subscribing" to Lewis and Parkhurst on Patreon for one month only (the system automatically does that), Karen hopefully shared a link to her Kickstarter page. Er, um...last time I checked, Kickstarter wasn't even set up to work with Paypal, although that may have changed, or may vary in different places. However, if it works for you, here's a link to her home page, which contains the Kickstarter buttons, and a Twitter stream of poems, quotes, and graphics.

My LJ doesn't have a Paypal tip jar, because the button for that uses "i-frames." Elizabeth Barrette's does; there's an ongoing "Poetry Fishbowl" sort of game where her more affluent friends and sponsors support individual poems. She's done good, formal, capital-P Poems, but the LJ poems tend to be more like short conceptual fiction in free verse...regular readers may remember the Monster House story-in-poems, and this week I was piqued by some of the actual science behind the saga of this science-fiction supervillain...

"Feeding the Poet" in the Poetry Fishbowl at LJ is a whole, so far unique, system unto itself: 

My point in all this being,,,This web site is, obviously, about its own members, primarily me. But it's about me as a writer, so it's also about other writers as well as me. You do not have to pick one writer and throw the rest of us away. If you can spare twenty or fifty dollars a month, you can show respect to all the writers mentioned here. And I say the more the merrier.

Book Review: La Historia Interminable

Title: La Historia Interminable (Die Unendliche Geschichte)

(Wow, those collector prices! A newer edition is available; if you don't specify the first Spanish edition here, and do want the Spanish edition, you'll get the new one. The picture shows the book I physically read.)

Author: Michael Ende

Translator: Miguel Saenz

Date: 1979 (German), 1989 (Spanish)

Publisher: Alfaguara (Spanish)

ISBN: 84-204-2522-2

Length: 419 pages

Illustrations: line drawings by Roswitha Quadflieg

Quote: “Me gustaría saber qué pasa realmente en un libro cuando está cerrado.”

There’s an English edition of DieUnendliche Geschichte, too, called TheNeverending Story; it sold well while the movie was in theatres. I checked it out of the library at the time. What I own is the Spanish edition. My comments apply, I think, to both English and Spanish editions. I don’t read German.

So, the verdict: When I expected this story to be as good as TheEverlasting Story of Nory, e.g., I was disappointed. When I identified and acknowledged its worst defect, I was able to enjoy it.

At 419 pages La Historia Interminable may really seem interminable—especially after you notice that, despite appearances, it’s not a classic fantasy novel. It’s speculative fiction, yes, but it’s based in twentieth century psychology. This is a story about the strange, morbid fear of fantasy that dominated Europe and North America in the early twentieth century.

Classic schizophrenia is genetic, linked to a combination of several different genes. (Yes, the celiac gene is part of the mix; most schizophrenics are not celiacs and most celiacs are not schizophrenics, but the incidence of schizophrenia has been estimated to be three times as high in the celiac population as it is in the gluten-tolerant population. No worries, Nephews. The rest of those genes have not been recorded in our family.) Symptoms worsen over a patient’s lifetime but are obvious, if they’re going to develop at all, before age thirty. Some schizophrenics whose symptoms are mild are able to recognize their delusions and live relatively normal lives. What these rare best-case schizophrenics tell us is that maintaining a focus on external reality seems to help them focus on using the healthier parts of their brains.

As a result, in the early twentieth century, a lot of people inferred from the schizophrenics’ testimony that we’d all be saner if we stamped out all traces of imagination, including any taste for fiction. Fantasy stories, especially, were supposed to be indignantly rejected as “too babyish” for anyone over age six. Serious scientists warned parents that indulging any taste (children’s or their own) for fantasy, science fiction, speculation, or any kind of “escape” reading was likely to lure us into a fantasy world from which we might be unable to escape. S.I. McMillen, particularly, warned that his worst-case schizophrenic patient had been a sensitive, imaginative, shy child, and suspected—I think he sincerely believed—that it was her parents’ failure to force this child to join after-school groups and play sports that caused her to become catatonic in college.

This, we now know, is not true. Bruno Bettelheim observed in the 1940s, and documented during the middle of the century, that in fact the ability to imagine a better world helped people cope with horrific conditions (i.e. prison camps during the war) and helped people make improvements in the real world, whether by fantasizing about more efficient forms of technology or about better social relationships. Whether daydreaming is productive or not depends on who is daydreaming, how, and when, but neither daydreaming nor writing fantasy novels makes people schizophrenic. Still, Michael Ende grew up with a vocation to write novels and a large number of elders warning him that if he spent too much time in a fantasy world he’d never be able to come out. Die Unendliche Geschichte was at least an interesting fantasy about this misbelief.

The “Neverending Story” begins with Bastian, a little fat boy, hiding from bullies, stealing a book from the local bookstore, and hiding in an attic to read the novel about the brave hunter Atreyu, whose complexion is not “Red” but olive green, and his quest for a Savior from the World of Human Beings who can restore the Empress of Fantasia to health by giving her a new name. When Bastian thinks of a name for her and says it aloud, he finds himself inside the fantasy, redesigning the landscape and rearranging its population as he goes along.

Bastian, unfortunately, is not a professional writer. His stories are all about a not very imaginative, greedy, selfish little boy, and they’re so boring and self-aggrandizing that readers may lose interest. He wants to be not only the Savior and the Strongest Hero but also the Wisest Writer, and so on, and so forth. Perhaps it’s meant to be his one redeeming feature, in the long, long middle passage of this novel, that his fantasies aren’t all about food.

Then he makes his way to the City of the Ancient Emperors, where the souls of humans who stayed in Fantasia too long lose all their memories and spend eternity turning up random letters, while a snarky monkey watches to see whether they’ll ever turn up enough words to make a book.

The story will, of course, have a happy ending...but its final third leaves me cold. Ende seems to have consciously decided to ignore the moral issues Bastian’s selfishness raises, and rely instead on images taken straight from the psychoanalytic process.’s not Alice in Wonderland, or Gulliver’s Travels, or The Arabian Nights. Possibly because it shares the same fear of fantasy, as well as because I read it (most attentively) in the same language, La Historia Interminable seems most especially inferior to Don Quixote. I suspect that it won’t appeal to many people who appreciate Tolkien, or C.S. Lewis, or even Piers Anthony...(Anne McCaffrey? Maybe. A “lucky” white dragon flies heroically through the book and bonds with Bastian.)

Even in Susan Cooper’s fantasies, careful as those are to distinguish between “Light” and “Dark” as sides in an alien political struggle rather than human “good” and “evil,” the characters have a solid moral sense of why one is “the right side” and one is “the wrong side” for humans. Ende is, like Cooper, post-Christian, struggling heroically to express a valid moral system that would be different from the Christian system. Nobody is allowed to mention that Bastian is a glutton and his gluttony is self-destructive, although his story can be summarized that way. Nobody ever suggests that Bastian might do better to think about something other than me-me-me-and-my-little-feelings.We have to have faith that spending time with a motherly lady, who says a lot of things psychoanalysts say, will mysteriously prompt Bastian to spare a little thought for his father.

Some minor characters in La Historia Interminable are the ayayai, literally woe-woe-woe, animals that look like particularly large unappealing grubs but that have enough in the way of minds to bewail their own repulsiveness. For much of the book Bastian’s character  is uglier than the ayayai. Possibly Ende’s purpose was to say to normal adolescents, who may be in the awkward selfconscious stage of adolescence but are probably nicer than Bastian, “If there’s hope for this horrid little grub of a boy, there’s hope for you.” How effectively he says that, perhaps teenagers may judge better than adults.

In any case, given its deliberate refusal to be the fantasy epic its packaging suggests—this is not The Hobbit or Watership Down or Haroun andthe Sea of Stories, and if you want a fantasy about Jungian psychology I can think of no reason not to prefer Nancy Springer’s—La Historia Interminable is well enough written to be a good long light read. Fantasia is no less a charming fantasy world because its author thinks it’s a generic fantasy world. Some of the characters are not merely stick figures but popsicle stick figures. Others are unusual and appealing. This is not a great book but it's an unusual, amusing one.

If you're not attached to a specific edition, either La Historia Interminable or The Neverending Story can be ordered from this web site for $5 per book, $5 per package, plus $1 per online payment, and both books plus at least two more of similar size would fit into one $5 package. Both versions have been reprinted in several editions, some of which are ridiculously expensive collectors' books by now. German editions are hard to find in the U.S. and all seem to be outrageously expensive, although, perhaps for that reason, Amazon is currently offering an audio-file version of the original German free with "trials" of Amazon's Audible Audiobook software. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Book Review: Good Housekeeping's Best Book of Nature Stories

Title: Good Housekeeping’s Best Book of Nature Stories

Author (editor): Pauline Rush Evans

Date: 1957

Publisher: Prentice-Hall

ISBN: none

Length: 383 pages

Illustrations: drawings by Mel Hunter

Quote: “I have long held a private theory...that as long as you let other creatures alone, they will let you alone.”

Explaining how she was able to enjoy both gardens and groundhogs, Margery Bianco (of “Velveteen Rabbit” fame) may be said to have provided the theme for these twenty-six animal stories. Only the last story mentions that some animals are enemies to humans. Even there, when the cattlemen  “have to” kill the wolves, they remember the wolves—who have earned names, Lobo and Bianca—with a sort of romantic admiration.

The other twenty-five stories are a delight. They feature big animals (a lion, an elephant, cobras) and small ones (water striders, and a European burrowing wasp small enough that all her offspring can live on the carcass of one large grasshopper). Each is narrated as a story. Not all are told the way scientists tell children about animals today, but each seems to have been drawn from life. Most of the stories were either previews or abridgments of full-length books by authors who were considered good in their day (Cherry Keaton, W.H. Hudson, Raymond L. Ditmars)or are still admired today (Ernest Thompson Seton, Jean George, Edwin Way Teale, Rachel Carson).

Animal protagonists include the groundhogs, a dolphin,ants, songbirds, coyotes, lions, stick insects, a cardinal (in its fruit-eating South American phase, otters, a tadpole, sharks, foxes, jerboas, aye-aye (lemurs), echidnas, cobras, skunks, penguins, a red squirrel, bats, water-striders, a beaver, bees, an eel, the burrowing wasp, and the wolves.

Reading levels vary. Most children like animal stories; most children are likely to enjoy this collection. If one or two stories (notably the one about the tadpole) seem to talk down to elementary school audiences, others were written  for teenagers and adults. Since each individual story is short, I’d offer this book for supplementary reading for primary school children, but expect their levels of interest and enjoyment to change from year to year. The Sea Around Us is a reasonably challenging read for adults; an excerpt from it might have been included as a hint to teenagers not to dismiss Good Housekeeping’s Best Book of Nature Stories as “babyish.”

To buy it here, send $5 per book + $5 per package + $1 per online payment to the appropriate address at the very bottom of the screen. Four books of this size will fit into a package.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Phenology, Tortie Tuesday, Hurricane, Poison Fallout, and an Undeserved Blessing

(Status update: No further income since Friday. It's a week of prepaid posts, but you still need to support this web site. Depending on where you are and what you'd like this site to do for you:

And I'm still at this site, although, last time I checked, the "i-frame" system was still there, making it unlikely that clients will get all of whatever I write for them, because our local Internet server scrambles anything coded inside an "i-frame": )

Trigger warning: here comes another somewhat sad chronicle of the continuing effects of allegedly "safe" herbicides near the Cat Sanctuary. It wasn't only on Route 23, as I'd hoped. A storm took out our power line, among others, and although the American Electric Power and Asplundh crews' smooth teamwork was a beautiful sight to see...trees had toppled other trees for a solid half-mile, and they removed trees and spliced the wire in less than four some points along the line, some idjit sprayed more of that evil Monsanto product this web site would like to see banned worldwide. "Roundup" is not safe. It affects different individuals of the same species in enough different ways that tests don't show one consistent way it harms humans and the animals we care about, but harm it most definitely does.

Recap: I was seriously ill for about a week after the poisoning. Bruno, the kitten we adopted from the former Cat Sanctuary down the street, died immediately. His sister Boots died slowly, in agony. Jenny Wren died, apparently in pain, after laying one viable egg and one or more defective eggs in a nest she'd chosen to put right in my face--in the hedge nearest the porch, where she could grab mosquitoes attracted to me. My friendly paper wasps, Polistes fuscatus, have disappeared. Several human friends have been ill with different symptoms, most of which they described as things they've had before "but not this bad--I'm getting 'old'," though age probably has less to do with it than the amount of poison they inhaled. The cats stopped drinking from the stream near the power line, and currently rely on me for bottled water when they're not drinking rain water. Heather showed effects of poisoning twice, but responded promptly to treatment with charcoal. Last week I reported that two of Heather's own kittens died, that I'd given one of them charcoal and she seemed to be surviving, but it was still touch and go...

So then...she went. Heather fed and groomed and loved the one surviving kitten. I called her Aster, after the late summer flowers that are often clear light blue like the kitten's eyes. She responded to her name and snuggled in my hand when given charcoal. She had begun to see and hear and explore the world outside the nest box, slowly, on flimsy baby-kitten legs. One morning after Heather had left her in the nest box and gone out on her own cat business, I heard a faint sigh and saw the kitten roll over in the box, and lie still in a suspiciously less than comfortable position. I went into town on human business. When I came back, Heather nonverbally said that something was wrong--Aster wasn't squeaking for attention--and sure enough she was still in that awkward position, stiff and dead. But at least she looked like a healthy kitten rolling over in a pleasant dream.

About charcoal: No, you don't just go out on the patio and munch a briquet, or force your pet to swallow a bit of burnt wood out of the fire. We're talking about carefully prepared, food-quality-clean-and-pure, powdered charcoal, available as a powder or made into tablets or capsules, sold in some pharmacies and "health food" stores as a "supplement." Warning: it's not a supplement in the sense that vitamin pills are supplements! What charcoal does, inside the digestive tract, is "adsorb," meaning mop up incredible quantities of many things that harm the body. It's a fast, safe cure for chemical or bacterial contamination from food or water, if given before contaminants are absorbed into the blood. Occasionally it can be a safe remedy for gas and indigestion from eating something that disagrees with you--it belongs in every traveller's first aid pack--but it's not for everyday use. In addition to mopping up poisons from the digestive tract, charcoal will also "adsorb" nutrients the body needs, so using it regularly could in theory make a person sick, and some pharmacies won't sell it for that reason. Nevertheless, one teaspoon of powdered charcoal stirred into one cup of water is a standard dose for accidental poisoning in humans, and proportionate quantities for the species in question are a safe first aid treatment for accidental poisoning in domestic animals...five cc for a cat, one cc for a kitten, a bucket for a cow...

Heather and her litter mates had a rough time when they were little. Heather's mother, Candice, adopted the kittens Candice's mother, Bisquit, left behind when Bisquit slowly succumbed to what was probably glyphosate poisoning from eating poisoned insect-eating birds, so one year-old mother cat was trying to rear Heather, Shellie, Iris, Irene, Ivy, Inkblot, Little Mo, and Beech. (Beech's sibling Sandy died before Bisquit left her kittens in Candice's nest.) From the fact that this web site has rarely mentioned Shellie, Inkblot, or Beech, you may know that...Shellie was the one who stayed in a coma for four days, her body processing charcoal treatment but never fully recovering. Beech was the one Candice buried. Inkblot died suddenly; I found and buried him. But for two full weeks, around the time they started eating solid food, all eight of those kittens were given charcoal daily--intensive emergency treatment, because they'd also been exposed to flea-borne bacterial enteritis. Bisquit's sister Grayzel taught the kittens to line up on the porch and take their medicine. And five of the eight have lived reasonably long, healthy lives.

So Heather knows about charcoal; she recognizes both the word and the special black ceramic cup in which I mix it, and if I ask her whether she thinks she needs it, or a kitten does, she knows how to tell me yes or no. She also knows that it saves lives...only sometimes. She and I spent part of this weekend huddled together in that "At least we still have each other" routine grieving people sometimes do.

It was a sort of pleasant weekend, in southwestern Virginia. Thursday's rain had sent us more cool, mild weather, instead of the usual oppressive heat and humidity that indicate the edge of a weather disaster a few hundred miles away. Still, there were times when the air and light had that edge quality...I'm not sure which, if any, of my conscious senses detect it, but somehow sometimes the air in among the protective mountains just feels like the edge of very nasty weather passing over flatter land.

Well, if your e-mail is anything like mine, you received a few dozen headlines about Hurricane Harvey. This means that if you watch TV or listen to radio on weekends, you've probably been hearing hurricane stories day and night. This web site heaves a heavy sigh. We would like to be able to support disaster relief efforts, which are the legitimate purpose of that urge to make donations that always feels so good when you're able to do it. We will note that, in addition to all the usual suspects, Mercy Chefs, the fiscal conservatives' disaster relief charity (no left-wingers admitted to the board to steer this organization astray), is active in Texas:

Although there are more convenient places...when anything goes wrong in Houston, one specific resident of that city has a standing invitation to visit either Grandma Bonnie Peters or me. She knows who she is. She knows where we are. If by any chance she didn't know, she's hereby urged to pack a van with as many neighbors as will fit into the van; they should bring their own money and sleeping bags; they can pile into the older part of the house, or pitch tents under the trees in the orchard, as they prefer.

Now the phenology that's of actual scientific interest...I don't think glyphosate poisoning had anything to do with the hibiscus leaf caterpillars. They're a rare species here because, like the Hibiscus syriacus, they're non-native; it took them almost twenty years to find the Rose of Sharon, and now they have. But I'm quite sure glyphosate poisoning is the reason why Fall Webworms moved into my privet hedge and box elder bushes. In fact it's rare, and happens only in years (like this one) when we've had an unusually mild winter and "early spring," that we actually see these animals as Fall Webworms. Older gardening books describe Fall Webworms looking different from Spring Webworms but mine do not; normally they're different local populations of one species, and mine look just like the Spring Webworms I saw in box elder bushes in the neighborhood this spring.

The caterpillars' original host trees were defoliated by poison, so the caterpillars migrated to mine. The ones that formed webs on the privet did not appear to be thriving. You can't overprune privet--the plant actually thrives, and forms a thicker, prettier hedge, when it's aggressively pruned--and privet clippings also make great tinder for a cooking fire, so I pruned off the ugly-looking webbed ends. The contents of the webs were mostly frass and shed skins, but a few live caterpillars crawled out, twitching feebly in an instinctive threat display that seems unlikely to work on any larger predator. (Like tent caterpillars' instinct to climb onto anything that touches their backs, webworms' squirming display may confuse tiny predatory insects.)

A few sassy, glossy mud-dauber wasps, whom the paper wasps normally keep in their place down near the creek, apparently smelled the caterpillars' distress and buzzed around, nonverbally saying "If you're not going to eat them yourself, you might let me have them!" I backed away and watched; they really wanted to snatch those caterpillars from the fire, but didn't quite dare. Exposure to fire, or even to hot pavement on a ninety-degree day, kills insects so fast it has to be considered a humane method. Mud-daubers have always seemed stupid to me (they take weeks to learn to recognize friendly humans and stop making threat displays that nature has not even equipped them to carry out, and although they don't form colonies and protect their eggs themselves, they don't spread out their eggs to protect them from predators) but they did have enough sense to stay out of the fire.

Pipe Organ Mud Dauber with Spider - Trypoxylon politum, Leesylvania State Park, Woodbridge, Virginia.jpg
The Wikipedia post for Trypoxylon politum says these wasps are "generally pleasant to have around." They are useful predators, but they lack social instincts and are much harder to "tame" than paper wasps; I find them annoying, and wish the paper wasps were chasing them away from the house. However, their seemingly incessant threat displays are mostly bluff--this species is not known ever to sting in aggression, and packs so little venom that when it does sting it's more of a protest than a fight. Photo by Judy Gallagher, , donated to . This one, shown killing a spider, is female. Males are much smaller; females often carry their mates about.)

The webworms on the box elder, I left alone. I'm leaving the box elder alone for non-ecological reasons, neither encouraging nor discouraging it in any way. Besides, I saw clear evidence that nature was taking care of the caterpillars in its own way.

Image donated to Wikipedia by Sandy Rae:

Stinkbugs really are bugs--suckers, not gnawers--and they drain the sap from corn and cotton and sorghum, and the juices from cucumbers, squash, and melons, in the garden, so they can be considered a pest. The best thing about seeing stinkbugs near crop plants is that, although they're highly resistant to poisons, they are big and slow enough to be easy to kill. However, another good thing about them is that they also drain the "blood," or ichor, from other insects. The ones I saw--both native green stinkbugs, like the one in the picture, and the super-annoying Brown Marmorated Stinkbug that like to hibernate in houses and befoul humans' clothes, books, and furniture--were aggressively chasing down those Webworms. I'll be greatly surprised if even one Webworm lives to become a moth on my box elder.

Only a few insect species have evolved to a point where they have very few or no natural predators (e.g. cockroaches) and really need to be killed by humans. Most of them are vulnerable to relatively safe, stable borax or diatomaceous earth (thanks to +Ruth Cox for mentioning diatomaceous earth--I've never tried it, but many Granola Greens swear by it). The others are big and slow enough that humans can be effective predators, not poisoners. 

Don't you just haaate when Brown Marmorated Stinkbugs get into your house? I do too. Not so much the odor--for about half of this month I lived with the odor of Wrymouth Possum, whom I cremated before burying to protect Pally Possum, and if you can stand the smell of a burning possum carcass you can stand anything; I've spent days in Kingsport. I hate the way the odor of the inevitably crushed stinkbug body attracts other stinkbugs, so if it's on your clothes the horrid little animals swarm around you. Not if I can help it, they don't. I scoop those things up and burn'em. 

But if they're not attacking crops or invading your home, then even Brown Marmorated Stinkbugs may be making themselves useful as predators on other insects. Their small size and insect senses make it easy for them to hunt down insect pests that we humans can't see or reach. They're a new immigrant species and therefore a major nuisance...but they're natural creatures, and have their place in nature.

Poisons are what don't have a place in nature. Those Webworms wouldn't have infested my privet if foolish humans hadn't destroyed the plants that were obviously better food for them. They are an example of how trying to "control" any species with poison actually produces irruptions of that species, first as displaced individuals migrate to infest places they would not normally infest, then as natural predators eat poisoned individuals and die. 

Stinkbugs are one predator that can survive eating poisoned mosquitoes, poisoned caterpillars, poisoned Japanese Beetles--and they do eat those. 

So, if any lazy stupid fools in your neighborhood have poisoned the neighborhood with glyphosate, you want stinkbugs. They're not as loyal and lovable as paper wasps, much less as pretty (and totally harmless to humans) as dragonflies or as amusing as mantids, but they're one animal that can safely consume the insects the glyphosate has poisoned. Few other creatures want to eat them...

It probably takes a poisoning episode to make anyone react to any kind of stinkbug this way, but as I saw those Brown Marmorated Stinkbugs racing with the native stinkbugs to devour the displaced webworms, I thought, "Carry on, little friends, and Blessed Be." For the first time in my life I understood why God created stinkbugs.

I've seen other insects that don't normally come close to the Cat Sanctuary this weekend. Other caterpillars in the "Bears that grow up to be Tigers" family, the Arctiinae, most of which haven't even acquired complete web pages of their own yet. (Generally, these caterpillars are nicknamed "bears" because they have thick hair and hibernate; they're the only caterpillars in our part of the world that are normally found in winter, when they may be dug up in the garden or seen crawling around and gnawing on grass during a thaw. Woolly Bears, with their familiar black and brown bands, and Black and Brown Bears, all one color, are as common and familiar as Webworms. I've seen a few other species, including the little bright white ones.) An Orange-Striped Oakworm, Anisota senatoria, moving away from the area of poisoning, looking sickly; I wouldn't expect it to turn into a moth either.

And that undeserved blessing? Although Jenny Wren died, Johnny Wren is alive. Tiger mosquitoes, the ones that positively prefer my blood to anyone else's, are active and hungry in the morning (when native mosquitoes are asleep), and Johnny swooped out of the hedge and nabbed a mosquito that started to follow me down the private road this morning. He nonverbally said he intends to stay at the Cat Sanctuary, and try to attract another mate...and I say Heaven speed the day. I had noticed fewer mosquito bites than the last couple of weekends.

If only Johnny Wren survives eating all these poison-displaced insects...The cardinals scolded him for flying out at the mosquito, but I always used to suspect that our resident House Wrens liked living near the house in defiance of the cardinals. They spent a lot of time bickering but never harmed one another. Anyway, both species look cute, and their territorial yelling and fussing at each other sounds sort of musical, to humans.

Northern Cardinal Broadside.jpg
This male cardinal is saying "Touch me and I'll bite!", but to humans, even if he did nip a finger in his strong little beak, even that would seem adorable. Photo donated to Wikipedia By Dakota L. - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, )

Book Review with Fashion Rant: The Book of Looks

Title: The Book of Looks

Author: Lorraine Johnson

Date: 1983

Publisher: Johnson Editions (UK), Plume/Signet (US)

ISBN: 0-452-25441-8

Length: 191 pages

Illustrations: full-color drawings by Neil Greer

Quote: “[O]nly after studying the original look can you begin to be creative...”

“...and communicate the 1980s fashion statement you want to make” is unstated, but true.

The Book of Looks is a celebration of a tentative step toward fair treatment for women. In the 1980s as now, few fashion designers were women, or were married to women. Women had, however, said no to truly dysfunctional fashions long enough, firmly enough, to rein in the basic misogyny of Madison Avenue. Designers, regrouping, had given up pushing just one fashion for each season and tried marketing different collections for all the different lifestyles out there, pleading with the generation that had rejected them that they’d acknowledge that whatever we wanted to wear could be considered “fashionable” if it was done right.

This was a delectable moment in the history of fashion, savored by women around the world. Office dress codes might still order us to keep dancing with the woman-haters in New York, but at least we were calling the tunes. Telling them to forget about stiff ugly shoes and back zippers was within sight.

What my generation wear hasn’t changed much since 1983. Those of us who can still get into them are likely to be wearing some of the same clothes. It takes a sharp eye for fashion, like Johnson’s, to direct our eyes to the differences. Even then...fashions are constantly recycling themselves, and New York can only keep pushing revivals of the dowdy 1970s look for so long. We’re due for a 1980s revival so this nostalgia trip for baby-boomers may be timely for young women too.

Four to six pages are devoted to each “look,” including a big full-page picture. These were the styles being marketed in London. A few of them never made it across The Pond, and still look odd today. Others became popular in the 1980s but faded out; watch for those to be the ones New York tries to dig up as “the 1980s look,” suggesting that they’re what everyone was wearing—they’re not. Then there are the looks that haven’t changed; components of “The Sportswoman,” “The Classicist,” and “The Innocent” still appear in U.S. store ads every year.

Chapters about “The Forties” and “The Fifties” may help predict the eventual fate of The book of Looks. If you don’t remember those years firsthand, you can find pictures of what actual humans wore to work, school, church, or parties. There were fads that lasted for one season, but basically a lot of what people wore in the 1940s and 1950s could still be worn today without calling much attention to itself. What changed was the perception of the appropriate levels of formality for the different looks. In the 1940s even boys were embarrassed if they “had to” wear jeans to school; some schools banned jeans. In the  1980s jeans were fashion statements worn at all schools and some offices; what people wore only for exercise or grungy jobs, removed immediately afterward, and were sort of embarrassed to be seen wearing, were sweats. Now we see adults wearing sweats all day, in town, in winter, and hardly anyone blinks an eye...The “casual” button-down shirts and skirts or slacks that teenyboppers wore to school, in the 1940s when business or party wear was much dressier, now seem “dressy” enough for work, church, or a daytime party. But as for the actual clothing...if a T-shirt from the 1940s is still intact, you can still wear it.

You can still wear the looks described as “The Worker,” “The Horsewoman,” “The Sportswoman,” in The Book of Looks, too—but nothing screams “1980s” quite so loudly as the self-consciously bizarre styles described as “The Futurist.”

In the U.S., as I recall, what Johnson describes as “The Schoolgirl” look never sold well and still looks avant-garde today. “The Fair Islander” never quite diverged from “The Sweater Girl” (non-knitters may need Johnson’s explanation of what made those two different looks). If people wore “The Pirate” and “The Castaway,” they wore them at the beach. “The Punkette” and “The Futurist” are the chapters to study if you’re going for a “lost in the 1980s” look today.

With most of the other looks...a big selling point for new clothes in the 1980s was “wardrobe engineering.” In theory, once we’d “invested” in the good-quality shirts, skirts, trousers, coats, and dresses that suited us, we’d be able to wear them until they wore out and still be considered well dressed. And I think most of us have borne this in mind. Now that we’re the employers and customers young people need to “dress to impress,” we’re much more practical than the older generation were with us. Office dress codes that used to mandate neckties for males and nylon stockings for females have dwindled to cautious “guidelines” that the more sensitive parts of the body should generally be covered; uniforms that used to involve starched collars and fitted waists now consist of smocks or T-shirts. Outfits that were considered quite “casual” office attire in 1983 might raise eyebrows as being “dressy” today.

One look that’s not in The Book of Looks, although I see a fair bit of it in the catalogues these days, is what the fashion industry was not trying to bring back in 1983—“The 1970s”! By persuading people to discard their 1970s fashion clothes, designers hoped to create a 1970s revival fad and persuade people to toss their 1980s clothes and buy more of “The 1970s Look” by now.

Has not happened. What I see going on in the stores these days is that most women are remembering what we learned about wardrobe engineering in the 1980s, about sticking to looks that work for us.

The thing about 1970s fashions, apart from the pre-AIDS-awareness culture miniskirts suggested (if anybody didn’t want to hear constant references to sex, the thinking was, they would’ve stayed home)...1970s fashions were for Twiggy, for Karen Carpenter. All the fashions between about 1965 and 1975, if distinctive enough to be recognized now, made most women look fatter than necessary. Early 1980s fashions set by Diana Spencer and Nancy Reagan weren’t a great improvement, but late 1980s and early 1990s fashions, set by Sarah Ferguson and Barbara Bush, were designed for the majority of women who, at or below our healthiest weight, have curves.

In the 1990s some designers were already trying to bring the 1970s look back. (They’d been trying to bring miniskirts back for at least one season of every year since 1976, when they first acknowledged that miniskirts were over.) Women saw those old familiar bell bottoms in the stores and said, “Meh...those looked good on Twiggy,” and, if we bought new jeans, we bought straight-leg styles. We saw the muddy colors that were fashionable in the 1970s and said, “Ah yes, the ‘autumn’ colors look great on brown-eyed redheads,” and since most of us are not brown-eyed redheads we continued wearing the colors that suited us. The 1970s look has thus remained very trendy, for those who do choose to wear it, for about twenty years. Designers have continued pushing it and women have, by and large, continued not buying it, so it always looks “different.”

I’m dismayed, though, by indications that at some schools young women are letting themselves be bullied by Madison Avenue Misogynists again. Last winter a writer admitted to being bullied into buying “girly” T-shirts in the “current fashion,” meaning shirts that looked like shrunken hand-me-downs, because if girls she knew wore normal, functional-looking T-shirts they were accused of wearing men’s shirts. Oh please...T-shirts are part of a “Sports” or “Worker” look. Basically they are unisex, and though women can get away with a scooped-out neckline or a stretch-to-fit T-shirt if we want to wear one, we’re entitled to fabrics as solid and durable as men’s. You have to let the stores figure out what they want to do with the “girly” T-shirts that look as if they’ve already been worn out, girls. I’m sure the quality of the fabric will give them the right idea when they think about it.

Notice, especially, the skirts in The Book of Looks. Yes, short skirts are mentioned...but most of the skirts are described in terms that specify “long enough to cover the curve of the leg.” Skimpy skirts create a visual illusion. They draw a heavy line across the knee, making a woman’s legs look shorter and fatter. In the 1960s some women let New York tell us that the solution to this problem was the micro-mini-skirt that needed constant tugging to keep it below the panty line. Then the discovery that frequently wearing short skirts signals the body to lay an extra coat of fat on the upper legs brought us back to our senses, and now we as a demographic say to the young, “Of course you can wear skirts that cut you off at the knees, if you want. We won’t leap to conclusions about your sex life. We’ll just enjoy looking as if we might be taller and thinner than you when, in fact, we’re the same size, or slightly shorter and fatter.”

After thinking about this you probably won’t be paying for any new skirts that don’t cover the curve of your legs, with ample room for long strides, too. At this level of liberation you may even start telling the fashion industry, “The solution to the problem of miserly little pockets creating bulges around the hipline is deep, roomy, man-sized pockets, with room to carry a tablet computer and a water bottle, down below the hipline.”Admit it: setting fashions rather than following them feels good.

We have to keep our eyes on these people. Never take Madison Avenue’s word on anything. There’s really only one fashion rule for women these days, and that rule is, “Remember that we rule fashion.”

Next question: Is this A Fair Trade Book? Lorraine Johnson may still be a living writer, though Amazon lists only one other fashion book with that author name. A lot of people are currently using the name "Lorraine Johnson," in cyberspace. Disambiguation won't be easy. If, however, you buy The Book of Looks here, for $5 per book plus $5 per package (four books of this size per package, maybe five) plus $1 per online payment, this web site will find the time, somewhere, to identify which Lorraine Johnson wrote this book and send $1 to her or a charity of her choice.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Book Review: The Princess Who Lost Her Hair

A Fair Trade Book

Title: The Princess Who Lost Her Hair

Author: Tololwa M. Mollel

Author's web site:

Date: 1993

Publisher: Troll Associates

ISBN: 0-8167-2815-1

Length: 32 pages

Illustrations: color paintings by Charles Reasoner

Quote: “Each morning, with the plaits undone and her hair adorned with gold, her handmaidens held her hair up off the ground as the princess strolled from the palace to be admired by her subjects.”

This is a fable about the virtue of generosity. The princess becomes too vain to share a few hairs with a needy bird. As a punishment her hair falls out. One of her loyal subjects sets out to help find the seed of the magic tree that grows hair. We all know how this kind of story goes. At a certain age children are likely to choose a few stories of this kind and ask adults to read them over and over and over, until they've memorized the words and may be able to use their memory of the words to figure out what the printed letters spell, and until the adults are thoroughly tired of the stories. The Princess Who Lost Her Hair just might be a child's choice so be sure, before buying it, that you can stand to read it a thousand times.

As with many picture books, the pictures are the main attraction. Reasoner’s are gorgeous. The story comes from Africa; the setting is a vaguely African-like corner of Fairy Tale Land, and both trees and people are stylized, but children who like those fashion-type dolls with super-long hair will love the colorful costumes.

Tololwa Mollel is alive, writing, and teaching. He's written fifteen other picture books as well as this one. (It's probably not possible to get all sixteen books into one $5 package, but this web site will try it if you want the lot.) To buy The Princess Who Lost Her Hair as a Fair Trade Book, send $5 per book, $5 per package + $1 per online payment, for a total of $10 by U.S. postal money order to Boxholder, P.O. Box 322, or $11 by Paypal to the address you receive by e-mailing salolianigodagewi @ yahoo, as shown at the bottom of the screen. To add any of Mollel's other books that were published more than ten years ago, list the titles and send, as of today, $5 per additional book.

For each Fair Trade Book this web site mails out, we will send $1 to the author or a charity of his choice...if, that is, the charity of Mollel's choice will take payments of $1. This web site ran into problems last year when a reader purchased a Fair Trade Book by Laura Ingraham, who didn't specify her charity for several weeks and, when she did, specified one with a web site where the minimum payment accepted is $5. Oh, wotthe...why not practice the virtue of generosity? Mollel has written enough slim, light books that you might as well pick ten, send us $55 or $56, and thereby donate $10 to Mollel's charity. The other books aren't about long-haired princesses but they all have pretty pictures too.

To order a doll, or set of dolls, dressed to match a picture in this book, send $10 per doll, $5 per package, $1 per online payment, and specify which page the picture is on.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Book Review: Someday I'll Be Well

A Fair Trade Book (Hurrah!)

Title: Someday I’ll Be Well

Author: Gail Linam

Date: 1982

Publisher: Southern Baptist Convention

ISBN: none

Length: 33 pages

Illustrations: drawings by David Durham

Quote: “Months ago Sundar had fallen. He had hurt his arm badly.”

Doctors at the Bangalore Baptist Hospital may be able to help, so Sundar and his father “crawled into the family oxcart for the long trip to Bangalore.” When they get there the little boy is shown around the hospital. Then we leave him waiting to have his arm set, with the assurance that “his dream came true”—he recovered the use of his arm—after the time frame of the story.

As a Sunday School book for primary school children this is one of the genre some people find most annoying—the ones written for the purpose of persuading little children to put their pennies into collections for various church projects. As long as the money collected really does go to institutions like the Bangalore Baptist Hospital, and evidently it did, I suppose fundraising storybooks are legitimate. The question may be whether they succeed as picture books.

Pictures are the main attraction in a picture book, and I have to mark Someday I’ll Be Well down for containing too many drawings of faces and not enough of its exotic setting. Children get information from the pictures in a picture book. If the purpose of this book is to tell them about the Bangalore Baptist Hospital, and all the pictures give them is yet another view of what a fictional character’s face is supposed to look like...who cares what a fictional character looks like? He's fiction! Of course smiling doctors are more fun to look at than autoclaves or traction frames, and the amount of scenery a patient sees from a hospital bed may be limited, but Durham really owed the child reader more than all these faces.

As an historical document, this book is still valuable. Yes, children, there really was a Bangalore Baptist Hospital. There still is. You can see pictures of the hospital as it is now, and compare them with those drawings of the way it was in 1982, at

And the book is completely out of print...collector prices may apply! Since Gail Linam is alive and well, according to the Internet, still a Provost at the Dallas Baptist University and having recently celebrated her golden wedding anniversary, I'd like to offer Someday I'll Be Well as a Fair Trade Book, but it's not currently available through Amazon. The copy I physically own is intact, but showing too much wear to meet Amazon's standards. I don't know whether I can offer it as a Fair Trade Book, nor what the price will be, by the time you order it. E-mail salolianigodagewi @ yahoo and we'll discuss that then.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Clues for the Clueless: Symbols versus Substance

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Problem: Most young Black men are decent, law-abiding people. Enough young Black men are violent criminals that people, including older Black men, who see a young Black man approaching on a city street instantly brace for trouble. Because of this stereotype people, including police, sometimes feel a need to counterattack when young Black men are not actually attacking anybody. Even when the young Black men in these scenarios are not injured or killed, they're more likely to be found guilty of more serious crimes, on less evidence, than any other demographic group in America. Even if you're not personally acquainted with any young Black men, you know this is just not right. (I'm not only acquainted with some, I'm related to a few, so my sense of the wrongness of this situation is urgent.)

Possible Solutions: (1) Hire and train more young Black men as police officers, to improve the ability of the police force to recognize young Black men as individuals.

(2) Pay more attention to young Black men who are behaving well, and not exclusively as athletes or musicians, to improve the ability of the general public to see beyond stereotypes. Build consciousness of the possibility that a young Black man approaching on a city street might be a teacher, doctor, mechanic, storekeeper, chef...

(3) Write more movies and TV shows with a richer assortment of young Black men in all kinds of roles that somebody out there might want a child to see as models--from truck drivers to astrophysicists.

(4) If you are a young (or mature but well preserved) Black man, just hang in there and keep being decent and teaching people to see you, at least, as a good neighbor, a friend, or even a rescuing hero. If you are a Black man with a talent for teaching elementary school or operating a library, bookstore, wholesome video game arcade or cafe or some other sort of place where youth hang out, do the work that will be piled on you; it is needed. If you are not a Black man, find a colleague who is one, who is doing a good job, and promote what he is doing.

(5) Pick fights, insult other people's ancestors, and attack symbols of their family history. Make sure people see you as a bully with a chip on your shoulder.

One of these thoughts is not like the others! One of these thoughts just doesn't belong! 

As a Daughter of the Confederacy, I've traced most of my ancestors back through the 1850s--all of my ancestors were in the United States by 1850. Of the ones who were male and physically qualified, all but two were Confederates. Each one joined the Confederate Army at a different stage in life, for different reasons. Slavery was not the issue in the war--money was--and only one of those Confederate ancestors ever owned slaves.

Living in Virginia, I see lots of people whose first approach to studying our history, which those who don't learn are doomed to repeat, involves identifying with their Confederate ancestors. Even descendants of Union troops who get interested in the actual battles tend to be interested in the Confederate Army's strategy--what were the "great" but not victorious leaders thinking? how could winning this battle have convinced Confederate troops that they could win the war? would it have been possible for them to have won this other battle? and so on. Descendants of Confederates can't always name their Confederate ancestors or remember any family legends about them, but they tend to assume that, if they'd existed in 1862, they would have been where some of their DNA really was.

The wave-Confederate-flags, salute-a-print-of-General-Lee's-portrait stage is one I remember feeling embarrassed by when I was going through it at ages nine and ten. It's a childish reaction; even to a child it surely can't look or feel much like an adult's understanding of history, philosophy, or morality.

I was blessed not to have to spend a lot of time with that fantasy of "Whoever my great-grandfathers were, whatever they did, must have been heroic." One of my great-grandfathers had been an especially young Confederate; living people had known him. And one of the first things I learned about him was that he did not keep waving that Confederate battle flag. He later served in the U.S. Army, as did his eldest son, my grandfather; they were buried under U.S. flags. If he'd been a sloganeer he probably would have said that it was his duty as a Virginian to defend Virginia, from Pennsylvania when necessary, along with Pennsylvania when possible.

I am interested in history, as this web site shows. I like to see younger people taking an interest in history, identifying with their ancestors. When I see Confederate flag motifs on cars, shirts, houses, etc., in Virginia I think, "So that's the level they're on," and hope some of them will join me on a more advanced level of historical studies. I'd like to hear more discussion of the complexities of the Civil War, the impossibility of identifying either side of that war with the philosophical issues of our own time. But if all you know about your great-great-great-grandfather is that he was a Confederate, and you don't know in which of the Confederate troops he fought or what his given name was, then you probably, understandably, feel a need to identify with General Lee.

This has nothing whatsoever to do with your feelings about Black people, if any. Some people have both Confederate and Black ancestors, and their family stories tend to be more interesting than "After his wife became ill, Great-Grandfather took advantage of the nurse," although sometimes they turn up that kind of stories too. What are they supposed to do? Blame, hate, disown their Confederate ancestors to honor the Black ones? Or vice versa? Please. Why can't those of us who are adults with a little education encourage young people to try to understand their ancestors--all of their ancestors--in a balanced historical perspective?

Then there was, a few weeks ago, a discussion on The Blaze about whether Northerners should fly or buy Confederate flags (apparently somebody wanted to sell the things at a county fair in Wisconsin). My initial comment was that collectors of Nazi memorabilia, in the English-speaking countries, tend to be proud descendants of the victorious troops who've preserved the spoils of war; as a Southerner I don't feel welcomed by Yankees flying Confederate flags. Not terrorized, but not welcomed. Well, someone said, what about those descendants of Confederates who had moved north in the past 150 years. Well, wouldn't a better demonstration of loyalty to their Confederate ancestors involve moving back to their ancestors' farm? It can be hard to take these things seriously, or believe that people do, but evidently a few people do.

Like it or not, gripers, this is America. When the English moved in, one of the sneakier strategies the more hateful English immigrants used, to gain an advantage against the then-majority ethnic groups, was to encourage old feuds and quarrels between groups. And what I learned about my own ancestors, well before the Civil War, was that they didn't buy into that. The ones who came from Europe recognized that Virginia and North Carolina were places that naturally inspired gratitude to God, as shown by burying the feuds and quarrels they had left behind in Europe. The Irish ones married the English ones, the German ones married the French ones, and the ones who reached the Tennessee border married Cherokees. They appreciated the value of interpersonal distance in limiting interpersonal conflicts, but apart from periods of military "duty" none of them had any serious quarrels or blood feuds with anybody; they were Christians. That's an example I wish more people's ancestors had set, and more people were willing to live by.

Here's a good exercise for those currently waving Confederate flags--or claiming to feel terrorized by the sight of them. Read the collected, preserved, reprinted letters of General Lee. Pay particular attention to his support for General--no, President--Grant.

Yes, he wrote a lot of letters. No, you're not done with this exercise yet. Now read the letters of Martin Luther King.

Now try to imagine these two misguided, yet still definitely Christian, gentlemen living at the same time. After reading their letters, do you doubt that they would have shaken hands? I don't.

So what's causing this blindness to history and common sense, this effort on the part of Afro-American gripers to stir up hostility among Euro-American Southerners who were at least trying to rethink their stereotypes of young Black men? I do have a guess. When people grow weary in the service of any good cause, prudent leaders look for a quick-and-easy victory to encourage them.

Thus feminists, confronted with the excessive simplicity of the Equal Rights Amendment and the impossibility of rallying Americans to support drafting girls into the military, became hypersensitive in the 1980s to nice innocent words. They liked to pick on the words that ended in "-man," including "human" and "woman," although some feminists claimed that those were formed by a different process and still usable. To me the suffix "-man," pronounced "m'n," sounds different enough from the word "man" that calling Barbara Lee a Congressman makes as good sense as calling me (in the 1980s) a Takoman (one whose Washington neighborhood of choice was Takoma Park), or calling any fourteen-year-old a freshman. But after some ritual grumbling about the clunkiness of "Congressperson" and the beloved resonance of "America, America, God shed His grace on thee, / And crown thy good with brotherhood...", most Americans conceded that it was sensible and courteous to stop insulting people with the presupposition that they were male. Most of us, even if we still say "Congressman," do now write general sentences like "Each student should bring her/his..." or "All students should bring their...", and old documents containing "Each student should bring his..." now seem musty and misogynist.

Thus, likewise, the whining about renaming things that were named after Native Americans. Meh. I think many of these names are intended and used to honor actual people, not to defame them; I think, even when the names are used in a silly way, the whining sounds even sillier; to the very limited extent that I'm a football fan (I'll sit through a game if the man in my life wants to), I can think of good reasons to rename the Washington Redskins, as in ending the "They mean their faces are red because they've not won the Super Bowl since 1989?" routine, but I know of no way renaming the'Skins would help anybody in Pine Ridge survive another Dakota winter. However, most owners of sports teams and other commercial ventures want the names they use to appeal to customers, so in most cases renaming has been a quick-and-easy victory for any Native Americans (not that I personally know any) who've seen it as a victory. just happens that the birthdays of Martin Luther King, Robert E. Lee, and also General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, all fall within the same week: January 15, 19, and 21 respectively. Before King's time, some people had been observing a "Lee/Jackson Day" in mid-January. So around 1970 when people wanted to add "Martin Luther King Memorial Day" to the calendar, nationwide, some people objected to this observance being scheduled on the same day as Lee/Jackson Day.

Meh. Those of us who don't work in government offices tend generally to feel that people should celebrate holidays that are meaningful, at times that are meaningful, to them, and that if government offices were able to find people willing to work on Christmas Day (and take a corresponding holiday to celebrate, e.g., Moon Walk Day on July 20), that would be a good thing. Lee/Jackson Day was a nuisance to many independent workers, and Martin Luther King Day is one now.

Anyway, the image of protesters waving images of Dr. King and protesters waving images of General Lee, on opposite sides, entered American consciousness around 1970. Over the last fifty years a lot of people have been willing--I was willing--to stop displaying Confederate flag motifs if they allegedly distracted or alienated people, at least when we were in the North, as a point of courtesy. So apparently some activists think that demanding that everybody stop displaying Confederate flag motifs is one of those easy-victory thingies.

They're wrong about the reactions of Southerners. I have never, not even in grade four when I didn't know better ways to show pride in my state and my ancestors, felt so inclined to wave a Confederate flag as I do this week. I don't believe it's right to give bullies what they want; I perceive the screeching about Confederate flags and images as crybullying, and I don't want to seem in any way to support it. That's the reaction of a Southerner who's been getting by just fine without a Confederate flag, ever since the Carter Administration. Do you even want to know what Southerners for whom a Confederate flag is their only link with their great-grandfathers are saying?

They're also wrong about the usefulness of this strategy in achieving its intended purpose. Remember, #BlackLivesMatter activists, the goal is (or should be) to build awareness of the good qualities of Black men. Crybullying and picking useless quarrels are not good qualities.

They're wrong even about the use of this strategy in rallying support from adults who identify as Black. I didn't plan to write about this topic today, but when I checked this web site's feed, this was what I saw:

The quarrel-seekers are quarrelling with Andrew Young:

They are quarrelling, in a very ugly way, with NBA athlete-turned-analyst Charles Barkley...Ambassador Young's argument was based on politics, but Barkley, oh dear, dared to mention that young Black men could break down that hateful old stereotype by brawling less among themselves. He will now become a target, like Bill Cosby. Pray for him.

They are quarrelling with Stacey Dash, apparently about a lot of other things I've not been following, other ways they've been trying to define Blackness as Left-ness:

Sigh. In the name of Martin Luther King, in the name of Robert E. Lee, in the name of the ancestors of the members of this web site...can we all, please, stop picking stupid quarrels about symbols, and move on with the substance, already?

There is still a real need for more awareness of the existence of good, kind, decent, honest, peaceable Black young men.