Monday, August 21, 2017

My Father's Biscotti Recipe

From my sister, photo and recipe of our father's biscotti  (which she served this weekend at her memorial party for our father)

 Other recipes for Sicilian cookies from my family: 

Tu Tu Cookies Recipe 

and  SOS Cookies, (or biscotti di Monreale)

Daniele’s Biscotti

Mix Together:
1-1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp ground anise
½ cup chopped nuts (hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts, or pecans)
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt

Blend Separately:
½ cup sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla
¼ cup honey, room temperature
2 tbsp melted butter

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Stir the wet ingredients into the flour mixture. Blend thoroughly.

Split dough into halves. Roll each one into a log to fit your cookie sheet.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until firm.

Cool so you can cut. Then slice into ½-inch diagonals.

Return to the oven for 10-12 minutes.

Optional: When the biscotti are still warm, brush with Grand Marnier or another liqueur of choice.

Former Neo-Nazi on Statues & Life After Hate

When I saw the faces of the white supremacists marching in Charlottsville, I got the sense that for many of these young guys, this is not about specific ideology so much as it's about belonging to something that will give them meaning and purpose. 

Which is very attractive--I get that.

When I was a young lesbian-feminist, I dabbled in some pretty outrageous views, like those in Valerie Solanis's SCUM Manifesto
[excerpts, where I got the screencap below]. 

Hm... looking at it again, I see she does raise some talking points about a certain kind of male, one we've been hearing an awful lot from, one who thinks Confederate statues are "Great Art":

Yeah, but I always leaned more toward the "we will heal the world with essential oils" kind of Piscean, Peace & Patchouli, let's-revive-Mother-Earth-with-menstrual-blood branch of feminism.
I'm still a little sad that didn't work out.

Anyway, former Neo-Nazi and founder of the Life after Hate group, Christian Picciolini, explains how the recruitment of vulnerable young men into white supremacist groups works  
in an interview (with transcript) on Democracy Now.

Picciolini's memoir >>
Romantic Violence, Memoirs of an American Skinhead

The group he founded, Life After Hate [] 
"works to help white nationalists and neo-Nazis disengage from hate and violent extremism. It is dedicated to inspiring individuals to a place of compassion and forgiveness, for themselves and for all people."

Some extracts from the fascinating interview (which also includes the close relative of a fascist who marched in Charlottesville):
CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI: I was recruited at 14 years old in 1987. And I spent—

AMY GOODMAN: Where did you live?

CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI: I was in Chicago, and that was the home and the birthplace of the American neo-Nazi skinhead movement. In fact, I was standing in an alley at 14 years old, and a man pulled his car up as I was smoking a joint, and he came over to me, and he said, "Don’t you know that that’s what the communists and Jews want you to do, to keep you docile?"

At 14, I was a marginalized kid. I had been bullied. I didn’t know what a communist or a Jew or even what the word "docile" meant. But this man brought me into a family. He gave me an identity, and he fed my sense of purpose.
While it was all misdirected, being marginalized and disaffected and feeling abandoned, I was willing to trade in the feeling of power, when I felt the most powerless, for something that was evil and eventually swallowed whole.

AMY GOODMAN: What was it that started you moving away and questioning what you were doing?

CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI: I started to meet people who I had kept outside of my social circle, who I hated: African Americans and Jews and gay people.

But the truth was that I had never had a meaningful interaction with them. But when I started to, I started to receive compassion from the people that I least deserved it from, when I least deserved it. They could have attacked me. They could have threatened me. They could have broken my windows.
But they didn’t.
And they knew who I was, and they took it upon themselves to show me empathy when I deserved it the least. And that helped me humanize them and dispel all the stereotypes that I had in my head. And suddenly, I couldn’t reconcile my hate anymore.

GOODMAN plays a clip of a white supremacist at the Charlottesville rally

CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI: This gentleman is an insecure—has no self-confidence and is clearly broken. There is something broken.
I’m a firm believer that ideology isn’t what radicalizes people. I think it’s the search for identity, community and a sense of purpose. And if there’s some sort of brokenness, a void underneath that in your life—and it could be trauma or addiction or mental health issues, anything that would hold you back or deviate your path from the intended one that you were on—you tend to look for acceptance in negative pathways.

"CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI:  Well, first of all, the monuments don’t really mean anything to these groups. They use them as an excuse to gather. You know, they don’t care. They’re egotists. They only care about themselves, their agenda and how it moves them forward.
And they’ll use, you know, the term "free speech" to hold a rally, or they’ll use an excuse to protect a statue to hold a rally. So, let’s just dispel that myth. Those statues really don’t mean anything to them.

 Let’s take the statues down, however we need to take them down. Let’s put them in Confederate cemeteries, so people who do genuinely believe in the heritage, even though I disagree with that, can still pay homage to their idols and to their family members who lost their lives in the Civil War.

However, I think we need to replace those statues with civil rights heroes, true Americans, who did give their lives to fight for justice and the American dream. And especially the Robert E. Lee statue that is in Charlottesville, I would propose that a statue goes up in its place to honor the three people who died that day, you know, because those are true Americans."

END OF EXCERPT: Read or watch full the interview: "Life After Hate: Full Intv. with Nephew of Fascist Who Marched in Charlottesville & Former Neo-Nazi"

King George III Statue = 42,088 Lead Bullets

OK, I was hot under the collar when I wrote yesterday that the Confederate statues should be melted down. In fact, I still strongly believe it's best if local groups decide what to do with their statues.

I'm curious. What have other nations and times done with their deposed statues?
Lots of things. 

The Allies ordered all Nazi symbols in German territory to be destroyed after the war:
"Every existing monument, poster, statue, edifice, street, or highway name marker, emblem, tablet or insignia .... must be completely destroyed and liquidated by 1 January 1947."
--from "How Did We Treat Monuments to White Supremacists When They Weren’t Our White Supremacists?" Slate, 8-13-17

GZ helpfully pointed me to Hungary's Memento Park:
"an open-air museum in Budapest, dedicated to monumental statues and sculpted plaques from Hungary's Communist period (1949–1989). 

The park was designed by Hungarian architect Ákos Eleőd, who said:
"This park is about dictatorship. And at the same time, because it can be talked about, described, built, this park is about democracy.
After all, only democracy is able to give the opportunity to let us think freely about dictatorship."
Grūtas Park is the same idea in Lithuania, nicknamed Stalin World. "Many of its features are re-creations of Soviet Gulag prison camps: wooden paths, guard towers, and barbed-wire fences."
Ha--it won the 2001 Ig Nobel Peace Prize, awarded to “honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think.”

Another option: melt down and reuse the metal.

Revolutionary Americans melted this lead statue of King George III into 42,088 musket balls. 

No, no more bullets! but I like the idea of reuse. What catches my imagination here is that someone bothered to count and record them. So human.
"Pulling Down the Statue of George III" (1859)
Artist John C. McRae based this engraving on a painting by Johannes Adam Simon Oertel.

INFO ADAPTED FROM Teach US History site:

On July 9, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was read for the first time in New York in front of George Washington and his troops. In reaction, soldiers and citizens went to Bowling Green, a park in Manhattan, and pulled down the lead statue of King George III on horseback there. (It was originally commissioned to celebrate the repeal of the Stamp Act in 1766.)

This art is a romanticized version of the event. According to the eye witness accounts, the mob included soldiers, sailors, blacks, and a few lower class citizens, not the women, children, and Native Americans pictured here. Also, descriptions of the actual statue say that King George was sculpted wearing a Roman toga. 

This incident showed that Americans were ready to be independent and free from tyrannical rule, and by pulling down a statue of the King, it symbolized the from a monarchy to a democracy."

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Tina Fey's Sheet Cake Plan

You've maybe already seen this, "Weekend Update: Tina Fey on Protesting After Charlottesville - Sat Nite Live"
but I hadn't gotten around to it until just now, and it somewhat restored me to sanity. (And I had a big scone and a bottle of beer for dinner last night, so I'd already intuitively taken up Tina's plan!)

So, if you haven't seen it yet:

Melting Down

I. Melt 'Em Down, I Say

I fear that by trying to blog in a calm and reasonable voice about race in America and the history of Confederacy monuments, I'm starting to sound like Donald Trump who says "both sides" are to blame.

So let me say clearly:

I cannot fathom putting 1 ounce of resources (money, space, staff) toward housing in a museum statues of people who raped, tortured, and murdered other people––or who, at best, treated them like valuable livestock––or who, if they didn't do any of that personally, actively supported a culture and a State that did. 

Like Robert E. Lee did.

Especially––especially––if people are carrying ACTUAL NAZI FLAGS––the red ones with the tilted black crosses––and calling for a return of this culture's values... today.

Which they are.

I don't think we Americans need a whole lot more education about how awful slavery is. Or about how Nazis are bad.
I think we need systemic change in how we fund and provide education, health care, and housing.

The vice-mayor of Charlottesville, VA, Wes Bellamy, said:
It’s not enough to just move a damn statue. . . 
 I think symbols matter. But you move the statue, and then what else? It’s cool to, quote-unquote, move the statues. But don’t try to pacify black folks or people of color.”

The same day [Charlottesville] voted to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee from a park — a move that white supremacists descended on the city to protest — the City Council did something that got much less publicity. 
It unanimously approved a $4 million spending plan [proposed by the vice-mayor Bellamy] to address racial disparities.
Over the next five years, about $2.5 million is to be used to redevelop public housing; $250,000 will go to expanding a park in a black neighborhood; and $20,000 a year will pay for G.E.D. classes for public housing residents."

Yes! Melt the statues of Confederates down, I say, and put the money toward housing, education, and health care.

Please stop telling me the statues should be in a museum.
I would never suggest to people in former Soviet-ruled nations that they save their statues of Stalin, or to Germans that they give museum space to statues of the SS.

If they choose to do so, that's their choice--but it's not for me to say.

And––I'm not saying this is exactly equivalent (history IS complicated)––I can't imagine telling English people that they should erect high on marble plinths handsome bronze statues of Irish Republican Army bombers (terrorists or freedom fighters) to be argued about in 100 years, the way the United Daughters of the Confederacy a few decades after the Civil War erected the Confederate monuments that we are arguing about now.

Let's give museum space to artists who have not been fully represented instead of more powerful, white, racist men.
Really. They're practically enshrined on every street corner already.

["At least 1,500 symbols of the Confederacy can be found in public spaces across the country."--from "Stonewall Jackson's Great-Great-Grandsons Call for Removal of Confederate Monuments"

"WARREN CHRISTIAN, descendant of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson:

I don’t feel like it should matter too much, you know, how we feel about the statues, but I do understand that it does—it is important to some folks how we feel about it.

And, for example, this statue at the University of North Carolina, when it was put up, the speaker, Julian Carr, who is a prominent local businessman, talked a lot about how the Confederate soldiers were working to save the Anglo-Saxon race.

And then, really kind of disgustingly, at the end of his speech, he bragged about having the—his quotes—"pleasant duty of horsewhipping a black woman in front of a hundred federal soldiers and leaving her clothes in tatters."
So I think the racist and white supremacist intent of these monuments is clear. And I think it’s past time that they’re all removed from the public squares of our country."
...As cities all over the South are realizing now, we are not in need of added context. We are in need of a new context—one in which the statues have been taken down."

II. Slavery Museums
 There are museums about slavery in the United States.

The United States has an excellent museum in Washington D.C., our national capitol, the National Museum of African American History & Culture, run by the Smithsonian.
One of its ten galleries is titled “Slavery and Freedom.”

Their founding director, Lonnie G. Bunch III, says, "The African American experience is the lens through which we understand what it is to be an American."

Maybe we need more?
But many African Americans say they do not want always and only to be seen in terms of slavery. Among other issues, white people can get off on a kind of tragedy porn or "I'm not racist" righteous groove around slavery.

From African American writer Kara Brown's article "I'm So Damn Tired of Slave Movies":

"It’s obvious at this point that Hollywood has a problem with only paying attention to non-white people when they’re playing a stereotype. Their love of the slave movie genre brings this issue out in the worst way. I’m tired of watching black people go through some of the worst pain in human history for entertainment, and I’m tired of white audiences falling over themselves to praise a film that has the courage and honesty to tell such a brutal story. "
III. Indigenous Americans and  News Coverage

As for indigenous people's rights, it's true, white America has screwed American Indians every which way, including giving their issues less press than African American issues and many other issues.

It's not right or fair, no, but some of this is a numbers game--the mainstream press pays more attention to bigger numbers.

6.6 million = The US population of American Indians and Alaska Natives, including those of more than one race, in 2015. 

46.3 million = The US black population, including those of more than one race, in 2015.

Anyone interested in American Indians has to take it on themselves to pay closer attention and to follow Native news specifically.
Luckily, it's online.
One could start... I don't know––here: Native News Online

Still, there's been some international press coverage of Native issues just recently that'd be hard to miss. I posted on this blog, for instance, about the protests against the Dakota Pipeline going through Native lands that mobilized Americans across the county, and which got international coverage.

It's still going on.
"Native Americans Bring Dakota Pipeline Protest To Trump’s Doorstep" March, 2017:

And this June 2017, there was a ton of press coverage of the awful, awful piece of art erected in a museum one (1) mile from where I live. It was dismantled, the New York Times reported in their article, "Dakota People Are Debating Whether to Burn ‘Scaffold’ Fragments ...after Native American groups denounced the insensitivity of the piece in recalling what they regarded as an act of genocide."

Or, you know, just google it, stuff you're curious about.
I just now googled "Charlottesville Sherman Alexie" (read his books!) and found this new poem he wrote and posted on FB on August 16, 2017:

Hymn: A New Poem by Sherman Alexie

The author’s new poem addresses the hatred currently plaguing the United States.

Why do we measure people's capacity
To love by how well they love their progeny?

That kind of love is easy. Encoded.
Any lion can be devoted

To its cubs. Any insect, be it prey
Or predator, worships its own DNA.

Like the wolf, elephant, bear, and bees,
We humans are programmed to love what we conceive.

That's why it's so shocking when a neighbor
Drives his car into a pond and slaughter–

Drowns his children. And that's why we curse
The mother who leaves her kids—her hearth—

And never returns. That kind of betrayal
Rattles our souls. That shit is biblical.

So, yes, we should grieve an ocean
When we encounter a caretaker so broken.

But I'm not going to send you a card
For being a decent parent. It ain't that hard

To love somebody who resembles you.
If you want an ode then join the endless queue

Of people who are good to their next of kin—
Who somehow love people with the same chin

And skin and religion and accent and eyes.
So you love your sibling? Big fucking surprise.

But how much do you love the strange and stranger?
Hey, Caveman, do you see only danger

When you peer into the night? Are you afraid
Of the country that exists outside of your cave?

Hey, Caveman, when are you going to evolve?
Are you still baffled by the way the earth revolves

Around the sun and not the other way around?
Are you terrified by the ever-shifting ground?

Hey, Trump, I know you weren't loved enough
By your sandpaper father, who roughed and roughed

And roughed the world. I have some empathy
For the boy you were. But, damn, your incivility,

Your volcanic hostility, your lists
Of enemies, your moral apocalypse—

All of it makes you dumb and dangerous.
You are the Antichrist we need to antitrust.

Or maybe you're only a minor league
Dictator—temporary, small, and weak.

You've wounded our country. It might heal.
And yet, I think of what you've revealed

About the millions and millions of people
Who worship beneath your tarnished steeple.

Those folks admire your lack of compassion.
They think it's honest and wonderfully old-fashioned.

They call you traditional and Christian.
LOL! You've given them permission

To be callous. They have been rewarded
For being heavily armed and heavily guarded.

You've convinced them that their deadly sins
(Envy, wrath, greed) have transformed into wins.

Of course, I'm also fragile and finite and flawed.
I have yet to fully atone for the pain I've caused.

I'm an atheist who believes in grace if not in God.
I'm a humanist who thinks that we’re all not

Humane enough. I think of someone who loves me—
A friend I love back—and how he didn't believe

How much I grieved the death of Prince and his paisley.
My friend doubted that anyone could grieve so deeply

The death of any stranger, especially a star.
"It doesn't feel real," he said. If I could play guitar

And sing, I would have turned purple and roared
One hundred Prince songs—every lick and chord—

But I think my friend would have still doubted me.
And now, in the context of this poem, I can see

That my friend’s love was the kind that only burns
In expectation of a fire in return.

He’s no longer my friend. I mourn that loss.
But, in the Trump aftermath, I've measured the costs

And benefits of loving those who don't love
Strangers. After all, I'm often the odd one—

The strangest stranger—in any field or room.
"He was weird" will be carved into my tomb.

But it’s wrong to measure my family and friends
By where their love for me begins or ends.

It’s too easy to keep a domestic score.
This world demands more love than that. More.

So let me ask demanding questions: Will you be
Eyes for the blind? Will you become the feet

For the wounded? Will you protect the poor?
Will you welcome the lost to your shore?

Will you battle the blood-thieves
And rescue the powerless from their teeth?

Who will you be? Who will I become
As we gather in this terrible kingdom?

My friends, I'm not quite sure what I should do.
I'm as angry and afraid and disillusioned as you.

But I do know this: I will resist hate. I will resist.
I will stand and sing my love. I will use my fist

To drum and drum my love. I will write and read poems
That offer the warmth and shelter of any good home.

I will sing for people who might not sing for me.
I will sing for people who are not my family.

I will sing honor songs for the unfamilar and new.
I will visit a different church and pray in a different pew.

I will silently sit and carefully listen to new stories
About other people’s tragedies and glories.

I will not assume my pain and joy are better.
I will not claim my people invented gravity or weather.

And, oh, I know I will still feel my rage and rage and rage
But I won’t act like I’m the only person onstage.

I am one more citizen marching against hatred.
Alone, we are defenseless. Collected, we are sacred.

We will march by the millions. We will tremble and grieve.
We will praise and weep and laugh. We will believe.

We will be courageous with our love. We will risk danger
As we sing and sing and sing to welcome strangers.

©2017, Sherman Alexie

Saturday, August 19, 2017

A Very Nice Horse

For Art Sparker*
A Very Nice Horse that just happens to be trotting riderless through Emancipation Park, Charlottesville, Virginia

*inspired by our discussion in comments on post below

Can We Work Together on Better Public Art?

Cathy left an intriguing comment on my post "Toppling Scarlett's Red Dress". Being from Yorkshire, she doesn't have the same emotional reaction to the topic of removing Confederate monuments that I do, an American and a Yankee. She raises a couple interesting points that deserve a fuller response than I could leave in the comments.

TO address her points:

1. I [Cathy] don't think [the statue of Robert E. Lee] should be destroyed, but moved to a corner in a museum that tells the whole story of the war and of slavery, in other keep it but place it in context.

I think something like that is a great idea:
a creative response!
I imagine a series of community meetings---each local community deciding together what to do with these monuments. 

That's hard to do, especially when people are already at such loggerheads...

I'm sure there are many examples of how that might work.
Not art related, but NPR reported in 2010:'The international peace-making organization Search for Common Ground is honoring three descendants of Thomas Jefferson for "their work to bridge the divide within their family and heal the legacy of slavery."'

One successful public art-making effort I know personally comes from a neighborhood group here, near me, who modeled how such a thing might work. 
In 2012 an all-white group of dog owners proposed the neighborhood alliance use grant money from the city to establish a leash-free dog park in a section of the large Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park.

Seems harmless, perhaps.
But a group of black neighbors strongly opposed it, saying that to them, dogs are associated with white people's violence  against black people (you've seen the famous photos of police dogs attacking black people in the Civil Rights era). 

Oh--searching for those images I found this new (2013) monument! a good example of ADDING to the representation of history, adding monuments to tell the full story [via "Obama Designates Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument"]:

Yeah, so, you can imagine tensions ran high in this neighborhood group.

But the leaders set up a series of talks, (with mediators, I think), so everyone could express themselves and to brainstorm a project everyone could get behind.

Eventually they came up with a public art project: 
a series of mosaic panels made by volunteers of all ages, to be mounted on the park building incorporating designs from the textile arts of different ethnic groups in the neighborhood.
I wrote about the making of the mosaics in 2013, which look absolutely stunning in place. Image via Sharra Frank, mosaic designer.

2. The statue was for "all the ordinary chaps that fought and gave their lives; the state may have helped the families grieve."

You'd think so, right? 
Here's the surprising (to me) thing about these Confederate monuments: 
they're not actually from the Confederacy.
Most they were erected during the era of Jim Crow, "the name for official segregation and state-sponsored racism.” [via "Who Was Jim Crow?"
According to Karen L. Cox, professor of history at the U of North Carolina, in a recent article in the Atlantic :
The vast majority of monuments date to between 1895 and World War I. They were part of a campaign to paint the Southern cause in the Civil War as just and slavery as a benevolent institution, and their installation came against a backdrop of Jim Crow violence and oppression of African Americans. The monuments were put up as explicit symbols of white supremacy."
Cox explains who was behind their erection, raised the money, etc. (the United Daughters of the Confederacy), and she also notes, "The bestselling book of 1936 and 1937, Gone With the Wind, which also became an international film sensation, [was] essentially [a] popular celebration of white supremacy and Southern civilization.

The Confederate battle flag came into popularity even later. According to historian David Goldfield, author of Still Fighting the Civil War:
"In the 1950s, as the Civil Rights Movement built up steam, you began to see more and more public displays of the Confederate battle flag, to the point where the state of Georgia in 1956 redesigned their state flag to include the Confederate battle flag."
Mayor Singer of Charlottesville, Va, today (8/19/17):
"All of a sudden these statues of Civil War generals installed in the Jim Crow era, they became touchstones of terror, the twisted totems that people are clearly drawn to, trying to create a whole architecture of intimidation and hatred around them that was visited around our town. It was evil."
I think white southerners who truly want to honor their dead and acknowledge the complexities of our heritage could find a better way than resurrecting symbols of oppression.

3. Robert E. Lee was presumably good at his job.

Yes! He was. He was exceptionally good at military things. 
But which of his jobs are we talking about?

For most of his career, he was an officer for the army of the United States of America, to whom he swore his loyalty. 
And then when his home state of Virginia seceded from the Union, he went with it and became a great military leader for the Confederate States of America. Which makes him a traitor as defined by the Constitution of the USA.

But Northerners don't usually tend to think of him as a traitor, and neither did Lincoln, who said that since the South had no legal right to leave the Union, its attempts to secede was just a failed attempt and let's move on and say no more about that... There were not treason trials after the war, and Lee is still often "revered as a southern gentleman who gave his all to the 'Lost Cause' of the Confederate States of America." [via A Patriot's History]

It's hard to get the emotional tone of another country's symbols right, but maybe Lee is a little like Oliver Cromwell??? 
Also "good at his job," depending on what you think his job was.
King-killer? Ethnic cleanser of Ireland? Key player in the establishment of Western democracy? All of the above?

Anyway, I was surprised to see there's a statue of Cromwell outside the Houses of Parliament in London.  

OK, so--those are my responses this Saturday morning. Now to go take the dog for a walk and clear my head!

Oh, no--wait! 
One more example of public art monuments in a literal face-off: The Fearless Girl and the  Wall Street Bull!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Toppling Scarlett's Red Dress

"For more than 150 years, the exaltation and defense of Confederate memory have been maintained with remarkable persistence in everything from town square monuments and state flags to seminal expressions of American culture like the films The Birth of a Nation and Gone with the Wind."
--"In Monument Debate, Calls for an Overdue Reckoning on Race and Southern Identity", New York Times, Aug 18, 2017

Every time I've mentioned Gone with the Wind on this blog, I've pointed out that it's racist: it romanticizes slavery and the Confederate cause. [I always liked my post comparing Star Wars' Jar Jar Binks to GWTW's Prissy, contending they are both doing the "subversive shuffle"--pretending to be dopey while undermining the Empire.] 

But in one post from October 2008, I'd mostly raved about the amazing red dress the protagonist, Scarlett (Vivien Leigh), wears to a party, and I included screencaps and behind-the-scenes images of the costume.

After what happened in Charlottesville, VA, this week [white nationalists rallying in support of Confederate monuments attack and murder counterprotestors], I've deleted that post. 
I'm sorry I didn't do it sooner. 
I confess to wanting it both ways---to being able to point out the racism while admiring its trappings. 
I wrote it during Obama's presidency, when though it was clear we were far from post-race, it seemed such things might just start to be possible.... Sadly, not.

The post got a ton of hits over the years from people searching for the dress. While I point out that the dress is sign of power at all costs, I know that political analysis is not what people came for nor what they take away.

What I'd written in the red-dress post:
Scarlett? Sure she's racist. The only white character in GWTW who suggests slavery is wrong is Ashley Wilkes, and he's shown up at the end as a boob, a useless intellectual. Even the characters who are slaves, like Mammy, are presented as if they approve of their lot at the hands of Scarlett O'Hara's family, grateful to be owned by "good" white masters.
Ashley and his gracious world view will not survive.
Scarlett and hers will.
She doesn't care who she screws or who she exploits--race is only part of it. The only thing she respects is strength.
She is a pure American industrialist, the ancestor of Dick Cheney. 
GWTW is billed as a romance.
It is one, but not primarily about the famous passion between Scarlett and Rhett. She doesn't even want him until the very end, after he rapes her (i.e. finally proves he's stronger than her). Gone with the Wind is about the love of power (represented by land and money) and the security it brings, and the length people will go to get and keep it.
Americans worship success, and we're suckers for glamor.
I suggest we love GWTW because it is success garbed in red velvet. Or green velvet, if you prefer the dress Scarlett makes out of drapes. Or rather, as an astute reader points out, that Mammy makes--a character who doesn't even have a name of her own.

The red dress is too effective, too seductive. Some people can't see past it to the movie's racism--it's part of what sells Scarlett's world view (white supremacy). It's like one of those beautiful monuments of Confederate heroes that Donald Trump laments the loss of. 

Why do some people love Gone with the Wind? I'd asked in an earlier post.
And a commenter had replied:
"The costumes! Scarlett in her red velvet party dress, wearing too much rouge, Melanie in her gray watered silk gown with a cerise sash, Scarlett's voluminous white batiste with embroidered emerald silk leaves scattered across the skirt. Not to mention the memorable Drapery Dress!"
So, down it comes.
There are plenty of fantastic costumes in the world that aren't clothing an infectious corpse. 

P.S. Interesting article in the Washington Post, "Why We Should Keep Reading GWTW" (July 2015):
"Gone With The Wind is a rich, complicated book. And while we can and should argue about a story that’s achieved such a hold on the American imagination, I’m struck anew every time I read it by a basic idea that drives the story from start to finish: Romanticizing the South has a deforming influence on its characters’ lives." 

Mock a Nazi!

Oh, I'm so pleased to see this article "How to Make Fun of Nazis" in today's NYT---you know I've been worried about the "punch a Nazi" rhetoric from the beginning (signs saying that were posted around my neighborhood on the day Trump was inaugurated as president).

Antifascists put forth some thought-compelling arguments for violent tactics against neo-nazis "before it’s too late":
"Antifascists argue that after the horrors of chattel slavery and the Holocaust, physical violence against white supremacists is both ethically justifiable and strategically effective.
We should not, they argue, abstractly assess the ethical status of violence in the absence of the values and context behind it. Instead, they put forth an ethically consistent, historically informed argument for fighting Nazis before it’s too late. "
I see their point, but, among other problems, "In the past, antifa activists have engaged with people who were clearly something less than outright neo-Nazis, raising questions about who, if anyone, deserves to be punched and whether there is such a thing as legitimate political violence." [NYT article on Antifa]

For that [who decides?] and many other reasons, I side with nonviolence--not passive "niceness" but politically active, tactical nonviolence, warrior nonviolence, as taught by Gandhi & Martin Luther King. 
Tactics which include mockery!
(I've already posted "Springtime for Hitler" and "Schicklegruber Doing the Lambeth March".)

It turns out places in Germany have been using subversive humor to turn neo-nazi marches into something like the Ministry of Silly Walks meets Confuse a Cat.

And in 2012, a Clown Counter-Protest met neo-nazi marchers with mockery in North Carolina too, among other things, tossing handfuls of white flour at white power.

What happened in Charlottesville went waaaaay beyond anything this sort of tactic could have stopped. 
But there's room for mockery in the arsenal of the Resistance. 

From "How to Make Fun of Nazis" :
"Humor is a particularly powerful tool — to avoid escalation, to highlight the absurdity of absurd positions and to deflate the puffery that, to the weak-minded at any rate, might resemble heroic purpose.
"By undercutting the gravitas white supremacists are trying to accrue, humorous counterprotests may blunt the events’ usefulness for recruitment. Brawling with bandanna-clad antifas may seem romantic to some disaffected young men, but being mocked by clowns?
Probably not so much.

"Those I spoke with appreciated the sentiment of the antifa, or anti-fascist, demonstrators who showed up in Charlottesville, members of an anti-racist group with militant and anarchist roots who are willing to fight people they consider fascists.
“I would want to punch a Nazi in the nose, too,” Maria Stephan, a program director at the United States Institute of Peace, told me. “But there’s a difference between a therapeutic and strategic response.” 
"The problem, she said, is that violence is simply bad strategy.
Violence directed at white nationalists only fuels their narrative of victimhood — of a hounded, soon-to-be-minority who can’t exercise their rights to free speech without getting pummeled. It also probably helps them recruit.

"And more broadly, if violence against minorities is what you find repugnant in neo-Nazi rhetoric, then “you are using the very force you’re trying to overcome,” Michael Nagler, the founder of the Peace and Conflict Studies program at the University of California, Berkeley, told me."
Continue reading the main story

Good Materials

My father's house is a testament to good materials. 
My parents bought this 1912 Craftsman-style bungalow in 1972, when I was eleven. My mother left in 1974, and my father let the place go for the next forty-three years. 

I almost never visited after I left at sixteen, mostly because I wasn't welcome but also because it felt like you might inhale something in the house that you'd never clear from your lungs. (This is not a metaphor.)

When my father died last month, I inherited one-third of this house, which I thought might well be a teardown. But, no! 
The realtor my executor-sister found said that when she first looked through the windows and saw brass sconces with tulip art-glass shades, her heart beat faster. Alongside hired help, she stripped the house of decades of encrustment, pulled up dead rose bushes from the yard, installed dehumidifiers in the basement, cleared the attic of god-knows-what, etc.

This week she has been staging it to put on the market.
Sister sent me photos. 
I wish I had "before" photos to show you, but imagine this porch crammed with so many large, broken things you can barely enter it and the windows half-obscured by scraggly bridal wreath spirea that never bloomed anymore. 
The realtor hauled the junk away, liberating the rattan furniture my father'd bought in Malaysia when he was teaching there. Those faded batik cushions are thirty years old, but it looks like the layers of cat hair are gone.

The realtor emptied the built-in shelves of moldering books––wearing a mask against airborne mold, I hope––cleared the objects furred with sticky dust from the mantel of the prairie-brick fireplace, and set up butterfly chairs my parents bought in the 1960s. I remember them well. My father must have bought new canvas covers at some point, but those red pillows--they are originals from my childhood.
(The little yellow stickers are tags my sister attached for the estate sale to come.)

You can see the floor is worn, but here's what I mean about good materials: the realtor says the floors and pretty much all the other fundamental materials are OK--with sanding, scraping, painting, polishing, and so forth, they'll come back. Someone will have a blast restoring this house.

I thought of this when I was cleaning an expensive, newish (early 200s?) condo downtown last month. I was on my knees cleaning the kitchen baseboards and I noticed the wood veneer was pulling up.
There's nothing like that in my father's house. It's solid.
And while my father didn't take care of it, he didn't ruin itwith awful modernizations either.

The house does have issues, like no driveway and no possibility of one. And its ancient electrical wiring. 

When we were at my father's deathbed, the only words my brother exchanged with me (besides his curt hello and goodbye) was after my sister warned us not to use anything electrical upstairs. They were running a window a/c in my father's room and, she said, anything else electric would short it out. 

My brother commented that you couldn't kill yourself by dropping a hair drier in the bathtub.
[Children of suicide, you know.]

I said you could run a toaster up from the kitchen.

"With an extension cord!" he said, laughing. 

I had a small flash of missing my brother at that, quite likely the last time I'll see him.

Dare we hope...?

"Trump Is Just Six Senate Votes Away From Impeachment" ---Newsweek 8-17-17
Representative Steve Cohen said in a statement:
“I have expressed great concerns about President Trump’s ability to lead our country in the Resolution of No Confidence (HRes 456) that I introduced in July with 29 of my colleagues. . . .  However, after the President’s comments on Saturday, August 12 and again on Tuesday, August 15 in response to the horrific events in Charlottesville, I believe the President should be impeached and removed from office.
"I am revolted by the fact that the President of the United States couldn't stand up and unequivocally condemn Nazis who want to kill Jews and whose predecessors murdered 6 million Jews during the Holocaust, and could not unequivocally condemn Klansmen whose organization is dedicated to terrorizing African Americans,” Mr Cohen said

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Scavenging Fiber Finds: Black Walnuts

Since I'm not working in thrift anymore (for the time being), I'm on a roll with thinking about reusing fiber, and also scavenging. This morning walking Astro, the dog I'm house sitting, I picked up some freshly fallen black walnuts---I've always wanted to try dyeing with them. 

I also weirdly like their acrid, bitter smell---they remind me when I was little, one year I helped my Missouri grandfather gather them in burlap sacks to sell for pennies. I thought this was fun. We also took step ladders to pick persimmons.
I never knew my mother's father well. He was pretty disengaged, and doing these things with him are about my only memories of enjoying him.

Note: Black walnuts are poison to dogs, so don't let yours eat them, like Astro wants to. Cicadas, however, are not poisonous, so if your dog eats one, like Astro did yesterday, don't worry.

Looked it up, and dyeing with black walnuts is quite easy--in fact, if you've ever had dealings with them, you know the trick is to keep them from staining everything!

"How to dye yarn with black walnuts":
basically you just crack the walnut casings, boil them up in a nonreactive pan, and plunk stuff in the pot.

Road Rags

Biking around town, I've often noticed clothes in the gutter run over by cars and stained by the weather and other factors that create unintentional dyes & patterns.

I decided to start picking some up to see if I might reuse them somehow. I'm only picking up natural materials, and I draw the line at socks & underwear.

Here's fabric from T-shirts I picked up off the street, yesterday. Washed & dried,  it's quite beautiful, don't you think?

Wednesday, August 16, 2017


I biked past an old stuffed armchair in the alley trash, SOLID WASTE markered on it, and soaking wet from last night's rain. 
Its brocade was so beautiful, I circled back and tore some off.

It tore easily, but washed and dried, the fabric proved to be totally sound.

Now, what shall I do with it?

"easily startled"

Guerilla sign I saw at the Midtown Global Market, Minneapolis, today (8/16/17) (that's my bike, behind):


No kidding.
Their latest victim: Justine Diamond, a white, Australian, meditation teacher... One month ago, she called 911 to report a possible assault in progress; the police arrived and shot her to death, "startled" by a noise.

Dog & Bike

I did a quick repair job on my bike pannier, (zipper ripped out), and I patched over the brand name, though the company, Cannondale, does deserve credit for making a set of panniers I've used since 1994. 
Still, it's my intention to cover over company logos on my personal belongings with something more fun (even if it takes me 23 years)--like this sewing-notions fabric I had a scrap of.

Astro was interested: did I leave any crumbs of food inside?

I'm biking over to a yarn shop I've heard a lot about:
Steven Be's.  They carry hip-geek things such as Nerd Alert yarns.

I don't knit or crochet, or want to: I'm on a mission for my Auntie Vi who wants roving--bundles of wool to spin.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Girl & Lion

The lion is done for now, with a ruff and a daisy cape.

Red Hair Girl is inspired by the farmer's children in Seven Samurai.
Those fabrics. . . !

Sunday, August 13, 2017

"the dearest freshness"

Life returns!
I spent this Sunday afternoon with Julia (happify design), sewing at the co-op (they've added a place to sit and snack). 

I started adding & embellishing (the orange stitches) a sunflower ruff onto the lion puppet I rescued (99¢) at the thrift store--it's ripped along some seams, but nothing that impedes its lionness:

Julia's dad, Tank, who recently celebrated his 97th birthday, kept us company. 
Tank's short-term memory is worn pretty thin, but not his long term: he recited Gerard Manley Hopkins's poem:

The world is charged with the grandeur of God,
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Danger Will Robinson!
I'm house sitting L&M's, while bink teaches a drawing class in Door County, and Astro is very interested in the lion.


On June 12, I got hired at the thrift store; 
on July 12, my father died; 
and on August 12, yesterday, I quit.

Freedom! Happy little honey-bee waggle dance!
The whole two months was great timing:
at first, the job was a hand-up out of the slump I was in after writing Fandom; then it was the perfect full-of-people-but-impersonal setting to go back to after Death;
and then... the corporation is so restrictive, and the culture so compliant, it got crushingly boring. 

Example of boring corporate climate: 
I was excited to hear the staff is encouraged to dress up during October for Halloween. (You get "boo bucks" to spend at the store--otherwise staff gets no discounts on purchases. Goodwill sucks as an employer.) I could work up some cosplay ideas, I thought.
But no. 

Each week is assigned a theme, such as Zombies or Sports, and your costume must fit the theme. As one of my coworkers said, "It used to be fun, but they made it stupid."
The job got me moving again, and that was great. 
But even though I am stronger now, working at a counter for three days in a row, like I did this past week, left me foot-sore, not invigorated: 
I wouldn't come home and sew, I'd come home and sleep.

So--overall, I'm glad I did the job--it was fun at first!––and glad I left before I got resentful. 
(Thanks, bink, for helping me see the danger was staying too long, not being a "flake" for quitting!)

I won't miss the work.
But I liked most of my coworkers, some of them a lot, and I'll miss working with them. That connection doesn't translate outside of work. I was pleased (touched, in fact) that a few said I should come hang out after I'm gone, but that means partying, which isn't my thing.

And now? Not sure... I feel happy for me and my life, and August has always been a good month for me.
Back to the road again.

L to R: Me, Alice, Clare, and bink on Camino, summer 2001

P.S. I worked two months at GW without hearing my coworkers say the name of the US president even once or mention any politics at all. I'm not exaggerating.

I can't help noticing stuff's kept getting weirder, however, so I want to say here & now that if I/we go up in a puff of smoke or get mowed down or something, it's been a real pleasure knowing you all! 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Red Bear's Secret Past

... hanging out with Peter Falk on the set of Columbo.
(Thanks, Marz!)

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Red Panda Apple Sneak

Inspired to look up red panda pouncy cuteness by Mith's GIFs on Twitter asking, Is wrestler El Generico (Sami Zayn) really a red panda?
From Buzzfeed's roundup of red panda gifs.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Laura's back! (Radiant Leo)

Yay! My friend Laura was NOT EATEN BY A GRIZZLY BEAR and is back from her month as artist in residence at Glacier Nat'l Park! 
If you're in town, she's showing at

Powderhorn Art Fair this weekend!

She'll be in the Community Showcase Area- Booth 10B
in the round circle of tents just south of the park building.
Saturday, August 5, 10-6
Sunday, August 6, 10-5

This is the polymer-clay relief the fair commissioned her to make for them last year:
 This is another of her pieces (pre-Glacier)--I don't know what she calls it, but it's radiant Leo, the zodiac sign we are currently in.