I've been reading about and watching films screened at this year's Sundance Festival, and as is so common, the most riveting have been in the non-fiction category, the documentary. If you cannot reach the YouTube interview and clips, the transcript contains the words of the interviewer, Amy Goodman, the film-makers, the two mothers of the raped and abused girls, and the girl who survived. Audrie killed herself, Daisy has survived attempts on herself, now with a wholly changed attitude towards the way social life functions for young women in the US: do take out the half-hour to watch. This is far more important than any of the films nominated for Oscars this year:
What's striking is the continuing difficulty of finding at least some kind of redress through legal system. A friend who ilves in Germany remarked that A 2014 study in Germany found that only an average of 8.4% (!!) reported rapes actually led to a conviction. The police chief and prosecutors in this case actually say they think the girls told such stories to get attention! It was the young men who put these humiliating pornographic photos online.
Just as seemingly unchangeable: the teen culture described by the two mothers, which led to two girls leading themselves open to aggravated assault, humilation, public ridicule and shaming in the high school and on-line to anyone who cares to click. I have seen this culture described so many times in the diferent age and activity manifestation. What startled me about the interview is both mothers describe the kinds of acts permitted (encouraged at these "parties") in language that suggests if they don't consciously accept it, they have lived with it all their own lives and are not as horrifyingly appalled by what happened as they should be or should have become. They are not shocked enough. One of them knew this party was going on and understood the sort of things that could happen. They are not angry enough
I particpated only briefly in teen culture and after age 14 mostly at a great distance; what I experienced was searing to me and I have never forgotten it. Today I am more shocked than these women still and find myself relieved and grateful that I saw so little of this culture, that I made it wholly alien to me insofar as I could. Three books about teen and twenties culture not at all obsolete: Peggy Reeves Sanday, Fraternity Gang Rape: Sex, Brotherhood and Privilege on Campus; Emily White, Fast Girls; and Leora Tenenbaum, Slut! Growing up Female with a Bad Reputation.
A few thoughts:
I have come close to concluding that there has been no fundamental improvement in women's lot and position in the world since the end of the first wave of feminism in the later 1920s which culminated in women getting the vote. Men were willing, as husbands, brothers, fathers, nephews, very grudgingy, intensely unwillingly and it came partly because men as employers needed the other 50% of the population -- they were willing to grant property ownership, decent jobs, custody of children (though that is now under attack as the first resort, and in the 17th century the maternal family in England took orphaned children as infants. The vote was on offer because powerful people knew its individual limitations.But what men will not grant and is at the center of the imprisoning of women is sexual liberty, freedom from heterosexual males' desire to do with women what they want. The second wave was so castigated because that was its central insight, and when we do hear the phrase "sexual liberation" any more? Much I see around me convinces Dworking was right the ability of women to have sex outside marriage, to have children outside marriage without the society destroying them has changed only one nightmare for another -- since so much in sexual attitudes and behavior has remained unchanged plus the job area of self-support is still limited. The fourth phase partly brought women back to overdoing motherhood; it did try for more inclusiveness on race, ethnicity, class. The fifth phase seems to water down feminism to no meaning at all (if you like X, then you should do it) or declare we are not past the need for a feminist or women's movement. Seeking power for itself is a replication of male capitalist values.
There is a statist theory which argues that when women become more available to men, they lose power vis-a-vis men. They may look like they have more liberty; in reality, they are simply more trafficked, traded, used, in the terms of the culture they are part of.
And we have an example of this in recent developments in the area of marriage: a significant reality of life for women nowadays is living with a man without being married. This is an area I don't find feminists talking about much but it is so significant. Huge numbers of young women now live with their partners for years without marriage. What is this relationship like? We can rejoice if he beats her, she has no legal bonds but if you look at who this happens to you find statistically in the US far more working class whites and spanish women. That suggests it's a relationship in which women have less power. Middle class and upper class women do this less. Divorces are also much less common among the upper middle to upper classes. Women have more status and things to offer at that level.
I know from talking to young women in their thirties, even after living with a guy for years, perhaps having children with him, they wait for him to ask them to marry them. He calls this shot. What happens to children born in such relationships? To the woman with such children. I suggest one effect is the impoverishment of women -- the rate of poverty among women especially with children is well well above men's.
To return to the original topic: the acceptance of rape is an acceptance that men have the right to women's bodies, and if she does not withhold it in utterly visible ways, the presumption that he is in the dominant position when it comes to sexual relationships seems to hold true.
Among these the silently politicized (from its inception) Oscars. One of the earliest of these marketing prizes in culture. Last night on-line I caught Spike Lee saying he's not going. Not a boycott, but why go when you are excluded. Not in the room where choices are made. The year his Do the Right Thing was made, Driving Miss Daisy took all the Oscars; his film is now studied in colleges, that pastiche forgotten.
So I thought to begin this blog by voting too:
Best films for 2015: Mr Turner, I'll Dream of You, Mr Holmes, Kilo Two Bravo, and not made this year but since I watched it for the first time, The Proposition. Favorite TV mini-series or film: Wolf Hall.
Best new books (to me): Diski's What I don't know about Animals, Apology for the woman writing; Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies; the revelation: Henry Fielding's Tom Jones. Best biography: Hermione Lee's Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life.
Best play I saw produced, RSC Merchant of Venice screened at the Folger, and at Kennedy Center Sophocles' Antigone live (Juliette Binoche).
Izzy and I looked and found 2015 was a lacklustre year for opera for us, so I must stretch beyond 2015: best opera: from 2014 Met: The Death of Klinghofer (which should have gone into 2015 but was stopped by a suit from the fierce Israeli lobbies determined to carry on murdering without the slightest information getting through to the American public in mainstream media); 2015 HD-Met Les Pecheurs de Perles and HD-Covent Garden Cav & Pag.
Best art exhibit: Pathos and Power at the National Gallery (Hellenistic sculpture).
Best concert performance: my first experience of Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion at Wolf Trap this 2015 summer.
And best political commercial (stretching to this year): Oh watch it, watch the look of America, hear hear this resonant widely popular song - and vote with me for Bernie
How much I too would like to believe he might have actuated. His vision remains with us; the beginning of the modern civil rights movement which did produce much from President Johnson - including voting rights. We have those things, the achievements he was allowed, his articulated values. His voice mesmerized but it was the spirit who filled the words. They matter.
Today was released his 1964 Nobel Prize speech. Find an interval in your day and listen:
An important article.
I've never read Tikkum before that I can remember but I am not only impressed by Paxton's analysis of fascism and the demonstration that fascism is growing again in this country -- or has been now for 3 decades unchecked -- but the very worried hesitant explanation by the editor that the paper usually does not go for such a strong point of view but tries to be neutral. Neutral is often mindless - as I've seen too often on PBS reports. I did not know that Ryan has angered his Tea Party constituency by trying to make the gov't work. He had some of the heat taken off him by his predecessor who managed to do some business he could not have done had he worried that he needed a majority of his suppoters:
I do know that not just the Tea Party group doesn't care if the gov't is shut down; people like the Kock brothers and supporters of ALEC have been working to change the fundamental assumptions and laws of the constitution through rereading perversely words in it (so money now equals free speech for example; bigotry over religion when a company refuses to pay for what they religiously disapprove of is religious freedom).
I am aware that the nitpicking which finds this or that aspect of Trump does not fit the bill is wrong. When for example, you diagnose a disease you do not ask that all the traits the person has fits the bill; you look at the salient important ones.
Let me call attention to this specifcally:
In all of these ways, Trump not only reveals that he is indeed fascist, but perhaps even more importantly that his followers – even as some of them are in the habit of describing their own enemies on the left as “fascist” and who have loudly professed their disinterest in a caudillo – are actively seeking fascist solutions to problems that ail them.
Each year since I published a paper on the six poems by Anne Cecil de Vere, Countess of Oxford (daughter of Burghley -- to identify her fully) in English Literary Renaissance, I've received a Christmas card from Arthur Kinney, its chief editor. They've each time included a poem about Christmas or related to the winter solstice holiday, one not well-known, sometimes unusually touching, individual somehow.
This year was no different and when I read George Herbert's Christmas, and realized one of his themes is people are one, under the same sun, and that this thought cheers him, I would put the poem on line::
All after pleasures as I rid one day,
My horse and I, both tir'd, bodie and minde,
With full crie of affections, quite astray;
I took up the next inne I could finde.
There when I came, whom found I but my deare,
My dearest Lord, expecting till the grief
Of pleasures brought me to him, ready there
To be all passengers most sweet relief?
Oh Thou, whose glorious, yet contracted light
Wrapt in nights mantle, stole into a manger;
Since my dark soul and brutish is thy right,
To Man of all beasts be not thou a stranger:
Furnish & deck my soul, that thou mayst have
. A better lodging, then a rack, or grave.
The shepherds sing; and shall I be silent?
My God, no hymne for thee?
My soul's a shepherd too; a flock it feeds
Of thoughts, and words, and deeds.
The pasture is thy word; the streams, thy grace
Enriching all the place.
Shepherd and flock shall sing, and all my powers
Out-sing the day-light houres.
Then we will chide the sunne for letting night
Take up his place and right:
We sing one common Lord; wherefore he should
Himself the candle hold. -
I will go searching, till I finde a sunne
Shall stay, till we have done;
A willing shiner, that shall shine as gladly,
. As frost-nipt sunnes look sadly.
Then we will sing, and shine all our own day,
And one another pay: .
His beams shall cheer my breast, and both so twine;
Till ev'n his beams sing, and my musick shine.
--- George Herbert, from The Temple
A photo of Yvette and my tree out on our lawn, taken by Caroline
P.S. I looked for the lyrics of some of the Celtic songs from Christmas Revels but could not find one, only ads for albums or ads for going to the show -- for I would have liked to include some of these celtic lyrics. And the livejournal software does not allow me to repeat the line indentations (nor does it permit me to make all the founts alike if I type in some and scan others), but I did manage to separate accurately the stanzas.
Friends and readers,
Last night as you watched (if you did) the Republican "debate" on CNN, and heard the war-mongering careless threats to the well-being of people in the US and by extension many people in other countries, did you wonder what happened to the liberal wing of the Republican party? Have you ever wondered where they went? Not just Jacob Javits and the more memorable senators, but quieter people like Senator Clifford P. Case from New Jersey? A man of real integrity and now New Jersey is run by a lying thug who has destroyed much that was good in his state in gov't and is now running for president?
We are encouraged to imagine the people who supported the liberal Republicans just melted away somehow; that a new spirit was abroad (note how un-concrete that kind of phrase is) and all these people "took a turn towards the right," or that seeing the election of these crazys and fearful of religious fanatics, intelligent Republicans who were not CEOs of corporations or their patsys gave up, became democrats, or they stopped voting. The last is laughably unlikely among the older generation (people over 50 say). Or they are outnumbered by religious crazies and bigots and ignorant people. Fled in distaste from primaries?
Why? such people would have the same aggressions, intensities, desires for places on boards, committed beliefs as anyone else?
There were "preventive" police raids on in the area (whatever happened to the bill of rights?).
Most of the time when people discuss police brutality, the support and collusion of state agencies, the instigation of these to act by corporations the people brutalized, arrested, maimed, the subject is leftists: civil rights activists in the 1960s, Black Panthers in the 1970s, in the 1990s environmentalists (now called "eco-terrorists" by some courts); recently the Occupy Movement, now Black Lives matter, anti-nuclear power activists for decades, to go back in time the Suffragettes in the early twentieth century and before that native people's in colonized countries. So attention is focused on these groups, not on the way they are crushed. You pick a scapegoat, like the woman who tried to defend herself against a police officer in the Occupy debacle in NYC. She was physically abused in prison, tried to use the system (lawyers) to obtain right and justice, but found she could not. We have not heard about her since.
But these methods can be and are used to destroy middle-of-the-road groups just as strongly, and importantly.
The subject of Hermes's book is the methods of repression themselves and how they are used against all kinds of protest, depending on who wants the particular group silenced and where.
Then you make sure the media tells the story in such a way as to castigate and isolate the protesters.
"At the same time, these events also provided a laboratory for the radical, innovative, and confrontational forms of legal support carried out by R2K Legal, a defendant-led collective that raised unprecedented amounts of money for legal defense, used a unique form of court solidarity to overcome hundreds of serious charges, and implemented a PR campaign that turned the tide of public opinion in favor of dissidents.
"Over the past 15 years, people in the United States—and dissidents in particular—have witnessed a steady escalation of the National Security State, including invasive surveillance and infiltration, indiscriminate police violence, and unlawful arrests. These concerted efforts to spy on Americans and undermine meaningful social change are greatly enhanced by the coordination of numerous local, state, and federal agencies often operating at the behest of private corporations. Crashing the Party shows how these developments—normally associated with the realities of a post–9/11 world—were already being set in motion during the Republican National Convention protests in 2000. It also documents how, in response, dissidents confronted new forms of political repression by pushing legal boundaries and establishing new models of collective resistance. <em>Crashing the Party</em> explains how the events of 2000 acted as a testing ground in which Philadelphia Police Commissioner John Timoney was able to develop repressive methods of policing that have been used extensively across the U.S. ever since. At the same time, these events also provided a laboratory for the radical, innovative, and confrontational forms of legal support carried out by R2K Legal, a defendant-led collective that raised unprecedented amounts of money for legal defense, used a unique form of court solidarity to overcome hundreds of serious charges, and implemented a PR campaign that turned the tide of public opinion in favor of dissidents. While much has been written about the global-justice era of struggle, little attention has been paid to the legal struggles of the period or the renewed use of solidarity tactics in jail and the courtroom that made them possible. By analyzing the successes and failures of these tactics, Crashing the Party offers rare insight into the mechanics and concrete effects of such resistance. In this way, it is an invaluable resource for those seeking to confront today’s renewed counterintelligence tactics."
I rarely put book reviews on this blog any more, but given the present state of the presidential campaign and unending wars, thought I should notice this one. How do you define oppression? It's the undermining and disabling from effective work or fulillment of a particular group of people. The word disabling reminds me of how disabled people unless supported by non-disabled people dare not, cannot go the streets to demonstrate.
I begin with a soothing video -- surely needed during this season
as a preface to two linked topics: climate change and the spread of cancer everywhere to all age groups. The chemical manipulation of our environment.
So to the heat: We are still having shortened daylight here in a mid-Atlantic state of the East Coast of the US, but otherwise he climate is really changing. Well, duh. Summer in winter? Well in Virginia (not far from DC so by the water) we are having a summery-winter. It's not summer and it's not an Indian summer and it's not fall. It gets quite cold when the sun goes down; dawn is dank and chilled but by noon it's balmy with a chill in the air; waters are higher too (as in the Potomac). The bulbs I planted do not grow as they do in very early spring/late winter (as it once was). You do need some sort of coat or sweater. If I open windows too wide, it gets too cold in my house. The cats sit by the grates still.
In the morning as I awake and the sun creeps into my room (like it did in the older winter) it nonetheless feels hot in the way it does on an early summer day. And at night the house is hot the way it is after it's baked all day in summer. It's just not baked with quite the same high temperatures.
My younger daughter went to the University of Buffalo to become the librarian she is today. She used to talk of small, medium, and big snow events. The first January she wrote us that she would never leave her room again, it has been that cold for so many weeks. She now tells me it has yet to snow in Buffalo. This has not happened in 150 years. It's a new kind of season.
Then cancer. The New Yorker is not usually stupid or mean or obtuse, as witness this week's cover by Eric Drooker:
But they can be, as witness a peculiarly small-minded essay on Thoreau several weeks ago, spiteful ("pond scum"?), written out of the new certitude that people who retreat are idle self-indulgent fools, living off others, and anyway only social life is life. The moral myopia is Kathryn Schultz's.
I usually don't review reviews, especially when I've not read the book through. But Malcolm Gladwell's dismissal of T. De Vita Jr's admittedly oddly titled The Death of Cancer in the Dec 14, 2015 issue of the New Yorker deserves to be called the ridiculous point of view it is. Gladwell's complaint is De Vita was not a team player. Hence he was didn't last when he reached the prestigious position of physician-in-chief at Sloane Kettering. The chapters' demonstration is that 1) the medical establishment does not look for a cure for cancer; 2) is far more careful to follow protocols lest anyone be sued than try to cure a particular person's cancer; 3) lets people die knowing this is happening and something could have been tried to stop it; 4) carries on with bad policies and procedures known not to help but perhaps harm lest a particular group of doctors (breast cancer folks) or arm of the industry (any of the chemo drugs) make less profit. Gladwell calls all this "deeply unsettling." But clearly he's not unsettled by what DeVita shows the reader. What he doesn't like is DeVita's take on institutional politics. (We may assume Gladwell wouldn't like Thoreau either.) Gladwell's priorities are as screwed up as the people treating cancers who can't predict even what their medical treatment will result in. Read the review by all means. Gladwell is conscientious and gives his devil his due, and reports the important content of De Vita's book.
In the light of some replies I've gotten I want to say that cancer is anything but dead and among the things wrong with this book is the false upbeat framing of it. Cancer is spreading, more kinds are emerging, more rare kinds are becoming common and more and more people develop cancer at an early age: not only is our climate changing, but it and all we eat and drink is more and more poisoned by cancer-causing chemicals.
Dear friends and readers,
Since the time of my last writing, proposals by people who either have the power to implement them, or are campaigning to be elected to a powerful office, have been implemented or put before the public. Those getting the most media attention, have been anywhere from counterproductive and murderous in their immediate effect to coming totalitarian oppression (silencing and isolating) in the not-so-long run. So I thought I'd write briefly provide URLS which offer sane solutions, as well as point out where reasonable constitutional courses of action have been outlined or where a danger to all people has been pointed out.
Brief expatiation: the counterproductive killing. Obama spoke to the US public on Sunday night of the latest massacre, and referred to several before this one. His solution is to bomb Syria. In this instance the people who opened fire with assault weapons on a group of co-workers were Muslims, but he admitted that there was no connection between ISIS and other crazed fanatic groups in the Middle East and this sick couple. In previous instances the person shooting was a white Christian male filled with false information about women's health clinic, before that a white racist male, encouraged by the Ku Klux Klan to kill African-Americans to start a war. I omit smaller instances (family murders, ordinary daily robberies), but bring in several killings of African-American men and children by police. It is egregiously obvious the solution is to control the sale and distribution of guns and bullets in the US, and to forbid all sale of assault weapons. I have come across two intelligent sets of proposals for bills which are constitutional: Anglocat (a lawyer) and from Sam Gwynn:
1. Register all guns and ammo bought in stores, traded, or received as gifts in a federal database.
2. Register all guns and ammo bought or traded at gun shows in a federal database.
3. Have local authorities impound all purchased weapons and ammo and hold them for a period of two weeks before releasing them to buyers.
4. Require all purchasers of guns and ammo to show a hunting license, a voter registration card, and a gun-safety course certificate along with a driver's license.
5. Require that all owners of handguns and assault-style rifles carry gun liability insurance covering accidents, self-defense, and victims of crimes in which these weapons were used.
A street in Syria on November 28, 2015
Bombing Syria just pushes us further down the road which led to the formation of these terrorist groups. There has to be begun somehow movement towards social democracy through gradual secular education, and the stopping of imperialists and settler colonialists (Israeli) from taking the land and resources of these people. We have to stop upholding ruthless military regimes.
Second, beyond the proposals to control all immigration to the US severely, and target Muslims by surveillance and "rounding them up" (in the way FDR did the Japanese during WW2), there has been a proposal by Trump to close down the Internet.
This is no surprise. Hillary Clinton said something in her judicious way along these lines. The people who have ever professed to despise it, discount it because it threatens their coteries' grasp on communications and places in institutions and on jobs, oh how they see their opportunity The corporations are in court again trying to destroy net neutrality. I'm told their latest case is weak but it just needs a conservative or corrupt judge (one looking to make money for himself and his groups). Obama did an important thing when he declared the Net a utility so the conduit is like a dial tone but that could be overturned. The FFC is again listening to these corporations. If net neutrality goes that would make it increasingly difficult to reach others through ordinary email. The point is to silence and control information. Bryan Alexander has a cogent blog on how this is an education as well as liberty issue: Political leaders now want to crack down on the Internet
My reply: There are a number of human rights not recognized by the bill of rights: health care we know about. We think about the right to an education as a human right — or some of us do — when it comes to the disabled. The famous large visible example is that before the 18th century and sign language deaf people lived isolated and (it seemed to others) idiot lives. Teach them sign language and they become productive members of society. Let’s extend that: the right to an education is an important human right to self- and social-development. That is — despite all the bad sides of the Internet (like life has its bad sides) — a central value of the Internet. We reach information. Information is power. Trump would cut off power from individuals in an instant.
Obama's FCC did rule that the Internet electronic lines are to be regarded as a central vital utility and the way water is allowed to flow through faucets, or a dial is allowed to flow through phone lines, so the cable and other lines will be allowed to flow through equally for everyone. His first win as President was enormously helped by Moveon.org But I give him the credit for knowing that this access is far more than a personal help for people running for public office. .
He offered such a ridiculous solution to the massacres occurring in the US regularly and such a poor meandering speech because the he could not get himself to say something decent or offer some humane program to solve the underlying deep injustices, to say it's time to stop supporting barbaric dictatorships like Saudi Arabia, or supporting the Turks who are determined to destroy the Kurds, the most effective people in the area against ISIS -- lest he be ridiculed or despised by those in power, lest he be castigated, lest those making enormous sums from fossil fuels quietly begin to destroy him. . At each point he mentions some problem and does not address what needs to be done at all.
Obama has repeatedly shown he hasn't had the stomach to fight the interest groups in the US which make for immiseration for a majority of people across the earth. Look at the way Corbyn is treated in the British media; the US media regards him as beneath contempt. Obama felt he couldn't just be silent and insofar he did not make any proposals to shut down major communications between people and put in place Draconian controls on people's movements based on their religion, race, ethnicity, he did minimal good. He is no Angela Merkel, no Bernie Sanders. None of what is occurring has to be. Witness Iceland's rebound since 2008, and this one governor:
Even the New York Times has weighed in super-soberly:
People know what needs to be done; they know the 2nd amendment of the constitution was not intended to give individuals the unrestricted right to carry deadly weapons. It's easy to find blogs and essays outlining the method. A majority of US people intensely want gun and bullet control. So why don't we have it?
Congress. What is cited is the NRA and fear of a maddened vocal minority in elections. This is not credible at this point. Indifference is the reality. They do not themselves feel personally threatened. I'm told that the security arrangements at the Congress are as fierce as those surrounding the Pentagon. For decades congress had a beautiful health care plan and would do nothing to help millions without health care, in debt from trying to obtain health care; now that the Affordable Health Care Act is being slowly shredded they do nothing. The impoverished state of a huge number of Americans doesn't touch this majority in congress. No US banker from the companies who fleeced the system and caused the 2008 depression goes to jail. They do not regard education as the human right it ought to be, but are allowing the public school system to be destroyed, and the universities to be ways the banks can put huge numbers of people into permanent debt. Public news media are owned by corporations.
What is needed is sweeping change in elections so that the majority of American's vote can count again. What is needed is the power to vote those large numbers of congressmen who have done nothing or voted against gun control out. Polls show Bernie Sanders to be the most electable of all the candidates, but he won't win the nomination and the way the states are gerrymandered and the way public discourse is couched, gets to most people, he probably would not win. We don't need to save Democracy from the billionaire class; we need to re-install it as we have been successfully slowly destroyed, undermined, outright (nowadays) attacked by a war of the very wealthy against the middle and working classes of the US since the 1970s.
Until my husband died, I didn't realize how many of these there are to get through; the difference between the "holiday" ones and non-holiday ones is no one much speaks of the latter as they are individual. I read on mirable dictu a history of her thanksgivings; they become more vague towards the end.
Ian just now on the other side of my computer -- by the window where the sun comes in
Mine can be described briefly: from the time I remember until some time after my parents moved away from the Bronx (was I 11?), we went to my father's relatives on Thanksgiving in the southeast Bronx where most of us lived: there were a number of relatives and my grandmother made Thanksgiving. Then she got too ill to do such work, and went to live with my aunt (my father's second sister), and we went one Thanksgiving to this aunt's apartment in Brooklyn and some relatives were there. Then nothing observed.
The year Jim and I married we and my parents were invited to another of my aunts, this time my mother's younger sister living on Staten Island for Thanksgiving and since my birthday occurs around that time, my aunt had a cake for me. It was one of the kind events that have occurred on my birthday over the years; another was the year Jim and I met and he gave me a bunch of yellow flowers on my birthday. I would be around 24 for that Thanksgiving at my mother's sister's and 22 when Jim bought me the flowers. Then for around 10 or so years Jim and I and my parents did Thanksgiving together: I had one daughter when I was 31 so there was a baby towards the end of that custom. Then Jim and I moved to Alexandria; for 2 years we returned to NYC to have Thanksgiving with them but the second year it was not a 8 but 11 hour trip and we stopped. WhenI was 39 or so my parents came here once after that and I remember Jim built a fire in the fireplace; Izzy had been born and that was why they came. But it was a grinding trip for them and we had nowhere for them to sleep.
Since Jim complained Turkey was so dry and there was too much of it, we began just to have a chicken and go for a walk in a nearby park or in picturesque Old Town Alexandria (just down the hill from my house), once Roosevelt Island. I did try to make it celebratory (in the way I used to try for Christmas) but I was too old and disillusioned to keep up such an effort; he disliked these imposed holidays as falsifying (like Trollope I suppose). The first year Jim died, Thao (who I used to call my third daughter) a ex-student become friend came with her partner (from Canada! -- they also visited others in DC and DC itself) and I tried to make a dinner out of a chicken and vegetables but I am a bad cook. After that it's been chicken and a movie with Izzy, or chicken with Izzy and a walk by myself.
Clarycat sitting on the floor nearby -- near the heat coming out of the grate
This year, yesterday to become precise, I phoned my mother's sister, the same aunt who made me that cake (now living in New Jersey), because a birthday card had arrived (I will be 69 on Nov 29th); and she and I and my uncle talked for about a half an hour on a kind of group call.
I've known my Aunt Barbara since I was 3 years old and she was 16: the spring I was three she came to visit my parents; after my mother and father married, her parents declared my mother dead. This is a Jewish exclusionary practice, my father was born Catholic though by the time he was in his teens, he was an atheist -- not much better. Well my aunt came to our apartment, made up with my parents, and then to took me over to my grandparents for the first time to try to make up. The four did, sort of, and I lived with my Jewish grandparents and this aunt for four months when I was 4. I remember traveling with her through Brooklyin on trolley cars. When I was around 13 and she 26 we were said to resemble one another. So she kindly sent a birthday card; it may be my only one.
Today Izzy and I will walk in Alexandria around noon, and put on a chicken around 3, eat early so she can watch her ice-skating on ice-network tonight.
Considerably idealized -- through color, light, figures -- a street in Old Town Alexandria (Faye.F. Vander)
I'm reading Ford Madox Ford's Fifth Queen (Katharine Howard and Thomas Cromwell), Jenny Diski's Apology for a Woman Writing (a novel whose central character is Marie le Jars de Gourney, pupil, amanuensis, young friend of Montaigne), and Deborah Cherry's Beyond the Frame: Feminism and Visual Culture, Britian 1850-1900. As seen here I've blogged (as has Izzy), I'll be posting to friends on listserv, maybe face-book, and write an email letter to a friend in England; I spent a good day with her in London this past September.
I prefer Thanksgiving to Xmas because at least people are not expected to exchange (often expensive) presents so the culture has not managed to commercialize it.
Samuel Johnson suggested we can find some rest on the stability of truth. Accepting ourselves, what we are, what we have become, helps too. Kindness is the hardest task as so often there are obstacles (inward, outward).
So, the best story I've ever read about these sorts of holidays is Bobbie Ann Mason's "Drawing Names" in her Shiloh and Other Stories. It is about a family get-together that occurs every Christmas; it's not caustic or bitter or satiric (like Saki) but rather gives a real gist of what such occasions are like, including tensions between people who are supposed to mean much to one another, fraught disappointments kept down but emerging. I recommend the whole volume and also especially "Residents and Transients" about how Americans move so frequently than in most neighborhoods where people own their own homes, it's still rare to find the same group of people living there within a 7 year period. The heroine and her husband were residents though as Jim and I were and I am now. I've been in this house for 32 years and just about everyone around me for a two block length and across the street (whom I know) has been here less than 10.
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