Friday, May 3, 2019

First Lines: April 2019 edition

Our cherry tree.  Not on Cherry-Tree Lane, though.

Here are the first lines of the books I finished reading in April.  My selections this month all seemed to contain some form of gaslighting, a vicious psychological manipulation in which the perpetrator tries to get the victim to question reality.  And family features prominently, in one form or another.

Book 1
The handsome dining room of the Hotel Wessex, with its gilded plaster shields and the mural depicting the Green Mountains, had been reserved for the Ladies’ Night Dinner of the Fort Beulah Rotary Club.

Book 2
If you want to find Cherry-Tree Lane all you have to do is ask the policeman at the crossroads.

Book 3
I’m standing on the red railway car that sits abandoned next to the barn. The wind soars, whipping my hair across my face and pushing a chill down the open neck of my shirt.

Book 4
This report is submitted to the Attorney General pursuant to 28 C.F.R. § 600.8(c), which states that, "[a]t the conclusion of the Special Counsel 's work, he ... shall provide the Attorney General a confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions [the Special Counsel] reached."

Book 5
The villagers of Little Hangleton still called it “the Riddle House,” even though it had been many years since the Riddle family had lived there.

The titles and authors revealed:

Book 1
It Can’t Happen Here, by Sinclair Lewis.  © 1935.   In which “the Right Honorable Mr. Senator Berzelius Windrip” snatches the Democratic Party nomination from FDR, and comes to power as POTUS.  This fascist comes from the left, but to get to power employs gaslighting, anti-Semitism, and racism just the same as any fascist does.  Such tyranny hasn’t happened here on a national scale (yet) for white people.   But can it?

Here’s Lewis’ description of Berzelius ‘Buzz’ Windrip:
The Senator was vulgar, almost illiterate, a public liar easily detected, and in his “ideas” almost idiotic, while his celebrated piety was that of a traveling salesman for church furniture, and his yet more celebrated humor the sly cynicism of a country store. …
Certainly there was nothing exhilarating in the actual words of his speeches, nor anything convincing in his philosophy. His political platforms were only wings of a windmill. …
[He] would coldly and almost contemptuously jab his crowds with figures and facts—figures and facts that were inescapable even when, as often happened, they were entirely incorrect. …
he bellowed his anger like Jeremiah cursing Jerusalem, or like a sick cow mourning its kidnaped young. …
He grinned and knee-patted and back-slapped; and few of his visitors, once they had talked with him, failed to look upon him as their Little Father and to support him forever. . .. The few who did fail, most of them newspapermen, disliked the smell of him more than before they had met him. . .. Even they, by the unusual spiritedness and color of their attacks upon him, kept his name alive in every column. …

By contrast, here’s Windrip’s Republican opponent running for President:
Walt Trowbridge conducted his campaign as placidly as though he were certain to win.  …  The conspicuous fault of the Jeffersonian Party, like the personal fault of Senator Trowbridge, was that it represented integrity and reason, in a year when the electorate hungered for frisky emotions…

Book 2
Mary Poppins, by P.L. Travers.  © 1934.  
I read this (again) because we watched “Saving Mr. Banks” on Netflix which gave me a new perspective on this childhood favorite.  My reaction, as a child, to the Mary Poppins movie was kind of the same as the author’s:  Mary Poppins was supposed to be much more stern than Julie Andrews portrayed her.  It must be said that in the book Mary Poppins is a gaslighter, telling the children they didn’t see what they saw.

Book 3
Educated by Tara Westover. © 2018.    Memoir.   Everyone has raved about this book, but I found it difficult to take.   This book has a Class A gaslighter in it.  I read it for book club, but then was not able to attend book club.  It’s a good book-club book - there’s a lot here to discuss. 

Book 4
Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election, by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller, III.  Washington, D.C.  March 2019
A.k.a. The Mueller Report
I think I have never read a written work with so many footnotes (2,375, an average of 6 per page of text). My main conclusion is that Mueller is a wimp and that the Trump Campaign and Administration, i.e. the Trump Family, has zero regard for US democracy.    This time the gaslighting is done by the POTUS to his own staff.  For more on the Mueller report, see my Mueller Report Haiku.

Book 5
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (#4 in the series).  Not my favorite Harry Potter book, the first time around.  Nor this second time.  It reads like a movie script, with very little character development, I felt.  This one gets distinctly bloodier than the earlier books in the series.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Haiku Mueller Report

Citizen does cartwheels in front of White House.  April 21, 2017

Mueller Report in haiku

Presented in two volumes.

* * * *

Volume One describes
“Sweeping and systematic”
Election attacks.

Trump campaign staffers
Fall all over themselves
In self-promotion.

Russians on Facebook
Harm to Ongoing Matter
And fooled most of us.

Is fun to say, and so is

Russian citizen
Offers info on Clinton.
Young Trump salivates.

At June 9th meeting,
Only topic – adoption
Or so Trump dictates.

Early on November 9,
Investigative Technique
Wrote, “Putin has won.”

A crucial footnote1278
Claims that stolen emails are
Not property.  Arrrgh!

Harm to Ongoing
Matter, Investigative
Technique, Grand Jury

The admissible
Evidence does not meet the
Standard, says Mueller.
Where were you on June 9, 2016? I was at this cabin in the woods.

* * * * * * * *

Volume Two details
Evidence of Trump’s attempts
To obstruct justice.

“We determined not
to make a firm judgment on
the case.”  Oh, Mueller.

The fact that Russia
Swayed our election threatens
Trump’s fragile ego.

He needs “loyalty.”
Comey offers honesty
To Liar-in-Chief.

In safes everywhere,
Contemporaneous notes
Lie in wait, as proof.

President asks staff
To lie, cover up, and change
The facts to falsehood.

Reasons for firing
Comey are shifting sands on
The beach of Trump’s mind.

Harm to Ongoing
Matter, Harm to Ongoing
Matter, Personal

President wants staff
To do the dirty work and
Say “Sessions, you’re fired!”

Like the son in the
Parable, they said, “I go,
Sir,” but did not go.

* * * *
Crime committed? Who
Knows?  Absolution? No way.
Have at it, Congress.

The Presidential Oath of Office

Friday, April 5, 2019

First lines: March 2019 edition

Below are the first lines of the books I finished reading in March.  Seven books in one month is a lot for me.  I had some sleepless nights and a visit to the Old Folks’ Home at the beginning of the month.

Book 1
1: español/Spanish language
I am learning to speak.
            To give myself a way out.  A way in.

Book 2
In May of 1945, only a few weeks after the fighting had ended in Europe, I was rotated back to the States, where I spent the remainder of the war with a training company at Camp Crowder, Missouri.

Book 3
When people ask me what I do—taxi drivers, dental hygienists—I tell them I work in an office.

Book 4
Chapter One: Owl Post
Harry Potter was a highly unusual boy in many ways. For one thing, he hated the summer holidays more than any other time of year.

Book 5
A country road.  A tree.  Evening.  Estragon, sitting on a low mound, is trying to take off his boot.  He pulls at it with both hands, panting.  He gives up, exhausted, rests, tries again.  As before. 
Enter Vladimir.
Estragon:  (giving up again).  Nothing to be done.

Book 6
Chapter One: A Doctrine of Anger and Fear
On the day fascists first altered the direction of my life, I had barely mastered the art of walking.  The date was March 15, 1939.

Book 7
Tsuris ahead. That’s what Morris Feldstein, a man who spent his entire life avoiding anxiety, danger, or tsuris, thought as he sat in his dining room.

The titles and authors revealed:

Book 1
Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson, © 2017.
A Young Adult novel by African American author.  I really enjoyed this book.  The main character here is quite different from the character in the YA novel I read in February. This book plainly portrays some of the challenges facing all teens, and some particular challenges facing African American teens.  It also introduced to me artists who use the medium of collage.

Book 2
Defender of the Faith, by Philip Roth.  A short story published in The New Yorker Magazine in the March 14, 1959 issue. 
I read it for book club.  The narrator is Sergeant Nathan Marx – not the usual “Philip Roth” narrator that I have come to expect from a Philip Roth novel.

Book 3
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman, © 2017.  
An engaging novel about a young woman who has suffered a lot and has to figure out how to heal her soul.  The book includes the drinking of tea, which automatically makes me more prone to like it.  It takes place in Scotland, although not much is made of the setting.  We will discuss this at book club in a few months.

Book 4
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by J.K. Rowling, © 1999. 
It is so comforting to re-read these books, with the familiar characters and plot.

Book 5
Fascism: A Warning, by Madeline Albright, with Bill Woodward. © 2018. 
I think the dedication of this book is meaningful:
To the victims of Fascism
Then and now
And to all who fight Fascism
In others
And in themselves.

Book 6
Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett.  A play. First performance: 1953.
This is a play in which nothing happens.  I think it is famous for that, as a premier example of the Theater of the Absurd.  Is it true that there is “Nothing to be done,” as the characters state so frequently? Younger Daughter and I read most of it out loud, and I finished the rest on my own.

Book 7
The Global War on Morris, by Steve Israel.  © 2014. 
A very funny book by a (then) seated U.S. Congressman.  The story takes place mostly during the George W. Bush administration, with Cheney and Rove featured, as well as cameras and spy computers gone amok.  I learned a new Yiddish word from this book - Gottenyu, which most likely means "OMG".  

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Physics lesson

Welcome to my TED Talk.

Force equals mass times acceleration.

Wear your seatbelt.

Every object in a state of uniform motion will remain in that state of motion unless an external force acts on it.

Do not text while driving.  Just don’t.

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Leave a good distance between your car and the vehicle in front of you.

Newton’s Laws of Motion are true and cannot be repealed.

Do not, do not, do not drive while under the influence of a mind-altering substance.  Whether that’s alcohol, pot, antihistamine, opioids, or your mother-in-law’s comments, just don’t.

Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.

* * * * * * * *

Please do not tell my mother about this.  I will tell her at the right time.

On an average day in the US, there are about 18,000 car crashes.  On Monday, I was in one of them.  On an average day in the US, there are about 90 fatal car crashes.  On Monday, I was not one of them. I walked away without a scratch.  Just achy, and very, very grateful.

The force with which the car hit me (from behind) felt stunning and sudden.  But the airbag did not deploy, so maybe it was not that large a force, in the grand scheme of Newton’s Physics Rules.  It felt pretty damn forceful, and it pushed my car into the opposing lane of traffic.  That lane was empty, so I did not get hit twice.  The other driver was not hurt physically, at least as far as I saw.
One of the few photos I have of my car intact.
Mine is the maroon car, third from the front.

One more photo, from back in February, moving
my son back home.  This is such a great car for me.

I do not think that God intended for this crash to happen, nor do I think that a car crash is a good thing.  But I do see some of the hand of God in this:  the hand of God that created the human ingenuity and the political will to invent and implement: 
·      seat belts
·      car bumpers
·      headrests/whiplash preventers
·      fire departments with large brooms to sweep up glass and metal shards
·      taxpayers who pay local taxes to support a trained Emergency Medical Team, trained police force, and trained fire department, with adequate equipment to handle car crashes
·      technology to make 911 calls possible
·      a church full of people to pray for me and the other driver
·      a gas tank that does not automatically explode on impact
·      windows, through which an observer in the nearby school could see the whole thing happen and who then came to me before any emergency officials arrived, to check on me and give me a hug, and waited around to give a statement to police.

Thoroughly smashed up. 
* * * * * * * *

A few other observations

O Best Beloved, do not become too fond of thy car.  You never know when someone will smash it to smithereens. 

After the crash, I could not stop shaking.  My husband told me afterwards that the shaking was probably an element of being in shock. 

I found out that the fire department was not particularly necessary for this incident, but the fire station was in a training period.  So this car crash was used for practice.  You done good, fire fighters!   Never have the shards from a car crash been swept up more quickly and thoroughly.

A friend tells me that air bags do not usually deploy in a rear-end collision.  Which makes that seat belt even more important.  Please refer to my TED Talk above.

It still looks pretty good from the front.

But it's all jumbled up in the back.