Monday, October 31, 2011

Santa's Revenge

Local schools closed Monday; trick or treating postponed

Wicked Local
Posted Oct 30, 2011 @ 07:36 PM

Local Public Schools will be closed Monday, Oct. 31 due to the safety hazard of low-lying power lines and remaining debris, the Superintendent announced Sunday evening.
In addition, the Local Police Department postponed Halloween trick or treating until Friday, Nov. 4. The hours will be 5:30 to 9 p.m.

Our traditional homage to the Halloween gods before . . .

and after Santa's Revenge.
Don't screw with Santa.

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Real Legacy of the Salem Witchcraft Trials

Having grown up in Salem, I was surrounded by the folklore of the Salem witchcraft trials.

Say No to Drugs, but practice the Dark Arts at this school. 
Witchcraft Heights Elementary School is the actual name of this school. It is where my husband, my neighbors, and many of my friends attended elementary school. (I managed to complete my elementary education under the tutelage of the Sisters of St. Chretienne at Saint Anne's School before it closed. My husband missed that educational advantage by one year.)

In addition to the crazy-ass name for an elementary school, the good folks of Salem Town seemed to go through a witch renaissance - if you will - in the sixties and seventies. One particular area of town, Witchcraft Heights, is graced with some interesting street names.

I didn't grow up in Witchcraft Heights, but I
did practice cheerleading at Gallows Hill Park.
(Oh yeah, I was a cheerleader in middle school.) 
And our high school took full advantage of the infamy.

All the teams were named The Witches.
I'm not sure that was best for team morale. 

The witchcraft trials took place in Salem Village. Oddly, this is the modern-day town of Danvers, not Salem, Massachusetts; it is there where the memorial to the innocent victims is located. 

According to Richard Trask, local historian of the Salem witch-hunt:

Salem Village (Danvers) was ground zero of the witchcraft events of 1692, with virtually the entire 500 person population involved. Salem Town (Salem), though they had several accused witches who lived there and had the formal trials there, escaped the social and religious maelstrom that followed. When witch times were over, Salem Village didn’t want to be reminded of those dark days. When the Village became independent in 1752, it was given the new name of “Danvers” and their association with the witchcraft was happily obscured. By the late 19th century, Salem became a tourist destination and the witchcraft events took on a caricature of a non-threatening witch riding a brookstick and wearing a conical hat.

The spirit of Salem (Town) is not riding the broomstick of the horrendously evil murder of innocents. Rather, with an iconic caricature, it is capitalizing on the bizarre: a wildly irrational, but brief time in our history. This was a time when people believed that someone's actions could actually be forced by another person's thoughts, and that accusation alone was proof enough to hang the offending thinkers.

Now we know better and can laugh at its crackpot irrationality.

Can't we?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Walking Man

Today's song inspired by a little more than frost on my pumpkins (via FB friend)!

Say, who is that mask-ed squash?

I just love his voice.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

3 Good Things (Mixing It Up edition)

In the past week we've gone from tremendous to tacky to traditional in our search to spend our family time wisely.

We spent an entire Saturday afternoon with giant images and powerful sounds of the Metropolitan Opera's Anna Bolena. It was very good.

We spent the following Thursday night with ghoulish, ghastly geeks at Witch's Wood, a "Halloween Scream Park." It's been operating next door for many years; this is the first time we've been remotely tempted to go. It was kind of fun. Thanks, Groupon.

We spent some time on Friday afternoon hiking through our local conservation areas reveling in the gorgeous fall weather, a bit of Saturday morning at the pumpkin patch picking the perfect pumpkins and performing press poses, and an hour on Sunday carving colorful squash characters.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Objectivist Round Up #223

Welcome to the 223rd edition of the Objectivist Round Up, a weekly collection of blog posts written by Objectivist bloggers. Objectivism is the philosophy discovered and defined by Ayn Rand. You can find out more about Objectivism at the Ayn Rand Institute.

To live, man must hold three things as the supreme and ruling values of his life: Reason—Purpose—Self-esteem. Reason, as his only tool of knowledge—Purpose, as his choice of the happiness which that tool must proceed to achieve—Self-esteem, as his inviolate certainty that his mind is competent to think and his person is worthy of happiness, which means: is worthy of living.
Ayn Rand, Galt's Speech, Atlas Shrugged.

Read. Think. Enjoy.

Ryan Kavanagh presents Comments on Queen's University Academic Plan 2011 posted at Ryan Kavanagh's blog, saying, “Most of my concerns revolved around judging students, faculty and staff based on some group trait (i.e. ethnicity or gender) rather than on individual merit, while others revolved around recommendations on student assessment.”

C.W. presents The Financial Realities of Individual Retirement posted at Krazy Economy, saying, “I survey the problems with achieving a financially secure retirement. Calling people on Social Security "deadbeats" or "indigent" ignores the consequences of 100 years of government interference.”

Benjamin Skipper presents Chocolate Ethics: Slavery vs. Voluntary Child Labor posted at Capital Bean, saying, “Slavery and child labor are big issues in the chocolate world, but I argue that only one of these is truly a moral issue.”

Stephen Bourque presents Mere Hypocrisy posted at One Reality, saying, “Elizabeth Warren’s declaration follows, in all relevant aspects, the form of a protection racket.”

Doug Reich presents OWS Protestors Want Things Because They Want Them posted at The Rational Capitalist, saying, “A series of interviews and videos demonstrates the real motives of the Wall Street protesters.”

Edward Cline presents Not So Wonderful a Life posted at The Rule of Reason, saying, “At the risk of the accusation of my being a curmudgeon, a Grinch, overly analytical, and a person who was likely raised on a diet of sour grapes and Castor Oil, what follows is a critique of that hoary old American cinematic Christmas holiday chestnut, Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). I have never liked the movie, but have watched it many times, obsessed with the problem of why I did not like It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Doug Reich presents OWS: Dogs Chasing Cars posted at The Rational Capitalist, saying, “Some OWS protesters are comforted by not having any specific political demands. What is the essence of a movement that exists for the sake of being a movement?”

Jason Stotts presents SoCal Objectivists Second Meeting posted at Erosophia, saying, “A report from the second meeting of the SoCal Objectivists.”

Paul Hsieh presents Federal Government: All Your Data Are Belong To Us posted at We Stand FIRM, saying, “Under ObamaCare, the federal government will have much more access to your private medical data than you may realize.”

Kelly Valenzuela presents Shrinking US Cities Welcome Immigration posted at Mother of Exiles, saying, “Some cities are opening their arms to immigrants in an attempt to increase their shrinking tax base. How long will the welcome last though?”

Ari Armstrong presents A Parable of Shoe Stores and Bureaucrats posted at Free Colorado, saying, “What if bureaucrats controlled shoe stores the way they control other parts of the economy?”

Diana Hsieh presents Oh, Those Wacky YouTube Translations posted at NoodleFood, saying, “What happens when you put a simple conversation through YouTube's closed-caption translation feature... twice? Pure comedy gold, baby!”

See here for past and future hosts of the Objectivist Round Up.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Why We Work

“I am unshaven and have been in my pajamas all day.”
“I am putting on a bra and going to the library.”
“Happy Anniversary, Darling.”
“Happy Anniversary, Dear.”

This is not a staged representation of the lifestyles of the relatively well-off and totally obscure, but an accurate portrayal of an actual encounter on the stairs today. This is why we work: We are both terribly exciting people and sparkling conversationalists, and we each expect the same from our significant other.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Breaking Charity

We just finished reading The Crucible for school. My daughter was initially confused about the young girls' behavior and their motivations. As we read further, she became outraged at the injustice perpetrated on the accused innocents by the cowardly minister and pompous judges. This is of course only right, but still, her vehemence surprised me. Knowing that the book was written as a metaphor about the injustice of McCarthyism, this line from its author also surprised me:
In the countries of the Communist ideology, all resistance of any import is linked to the malign capitalist succubi, and in America any man who is not reactionary in his views is open to the charge of alliance with the Red hell.
Arthur Miller, The Crucible, 1952
Mostly it surprised me that sixty years later it seems as if both the malign capitalist succubi and the Red hell now occupy this one, same country. The questions to me remain: who will next be on trial for practicing witchcraft? And how many will be sacrificed before the validity of the accusations are questioned?

Government, alone, has the legitimate use of force. Government policies are in large part responsible for this economic mess. Government bailed out businesses, broke individual's contracts, and holds enormous power over sectors of the economy in the form of increasingly inscrutable regulations. A government which legislates every aspect of life is not progressive; It is not liberal; It is not an uninterested party. It is a master seeking slaves, whether they be in the bedrooms of Salem or the boardrooms of Wall Street.  

"Examination of a Witch" Thompkins H. Matteson, 1853

The only real evil in Salem flourished through the corruption of government (when it hanged 19 men and women and pressed one man to death for not confessing to the crime of practicing witchcraft). That bubbling cauldron of public opinion, clamorous claims, and slippery standards is as real today as it was then and is now, not only held, but also stirred by the government! It is this corruption of governmental powers that must stand accused. It is with these aspects of a corrupt government -- not the feckless, hysterical children -- that we must break charity.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Rest of Us

There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody.
You got a job out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear: you got to work on the roads the rest of us paid for; you were hired by employers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe at your work place because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your home, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.
Now look, you got a job and worked your way up, or came up with a successful idea? God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.
Never forget: you owe the rest of us.
The first sentence is hers. Elizabeth Warren, running for the Senate in Massachusetts, didn't add the last sentence, nor did she level her threats at the middle class worker. Rather, she targeted her comments to the factory owners, reminding them that their success depended on the work of others: specifically, enumerating functions paid for with government funds (i.e. taxes) as work done by “the rest of us.” I’d classify her words as a threat to those factory owners as she calls protection from marauding bands seizing their goods at their factories as work “the rest of us did.”  (I find this bit particularly wince-worthy when I think of the recent raids perpetrated by government agencies on Gibson Guitar and on raw milk sellers.)
Why is this would-be leader held in such high regard by some? Is it her middle-class-made-good background? Apparently, only those in the middle class who end up being able to go into academia are held in regard by Warren and her ilk.  She is able to capitalize on the idea that those who, God bless, built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea somehow owe more to the rest of us than those who earn their money indoctrinating our youth with the idea that some individuals must be sacrificed for the good of the rest of us. She conflates extralegal functions of the governments (e.g. roads and schools) with the legitimate functions of government (i.e. police) and paints the factory owners as exploiters of a system paid for by the workers. She exudes confidence in her idea that forced altruism (you are your brother’s keeper) is the duty of government while effortlessly collecting the praise sprung from upper middle-class guilt along her route.
She is a condescending elitist. Despite the fact that she must have worked diligently to obtain her positions, she not only dismisses the nature of earning one’s living, she further indicts those who own more private property than the rest of us. She ignores the facts that not only do factory owners also pay taxes, but further, that factories actually contribute to the rest of us. More ominously, it appears that she not only does not understand the actual documents used in the founding of this nation, but further, espouses a mystical, congenital contract.
In this country, it is not supposed to matter if you are rich or poor; you should be treated the same under the law. When our politicians call for special treatment, or mistreatment as the case may be, of any particular group, they are claiming the right to pick winners and losers as they violate all of our individual rights – the protection of which is the only proper role of government.
Yes. This class warfare is Elizabeth Warren’s philosophical foundation.
I urge all voters to follow the principles supported by our politicians to their logical conclusion. 

Ms. Warren’s actual words: September 2011:
There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody.
You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear: you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.
Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea? God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Angry Sophie and Loud Emily

I bought this book for my now 18 year-old daughter when she was about 4 or 5.  Molly Bang's pictures are memorable and the story is explosive with the colors of extreme emotion and gentle with the child's angry state. I remember my daughter, like Sophie, used to get very, very angry and would take herself out of the situation and go somewhere quiet to calm down. She still does this. It is a great skill to have. 

Around the same time, I bought her this book. The title kind of says it all. It's a little crazy tale that seemed  appropriate for my less-than-dulcet-toned child in that Emily uses her vocal talents for good!

Apparently, I'm not very subtle in my book as gift buying.

Despite the fact that these books are for ages 2-7, I sometimes want to break them out (of their "Children's Books to Save" prison under the stairs) and enjoy their sweet simple and timeless wisdom for myself.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fire Red and Gold

As I work my way back into the everyday life this morning, I wanted to share this stunning serigraph from Eyvind Earle that captures autumn. While I didn't see anything this spectacular, his use of color and shapes evokes the memories of a great, extended weekend - half with friends and half with my honey.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

It's Key

Gearing up for my annual Girls Weekend, I was at the store today to stock up on a few necessary grocery items. (Okay. Let's face it - it was for garnishes for my fantabulous Girls Weekend drinks.) Seeing no standard limes, I picked up a bag of ugly looking tiny Key limes and inspected them. Suddenly, up from my hands wafted this most wondrous smell!  It was them! They had the most splendidly sweet and citrusy subtle scent of a sultry summer soirĂ©e.  I wanted to bathe in them! (It's happened often enough that you could say this is my standard reaction when I really like the smell of something.)

Then I spied the big, uniformly green, regular limes for much less in the next aisle.  I wondered aloud if I should put back the more expensive bag of little discolored ones in favor of the pretty standard limes. They were going to be for decorative touches after all.

My daughter chimed in and said, "But did you smell these limes?" holding up the bag of Key limes.

She knows. The nose knows. I'm a sucker for smell and the incredible smell of these limes won me over. The drink will be pretty enough in its decorative glass with the salted rim and the gently muddled melange of red chili, green basil, and yellow ginger.  But between now and the end of my car trip to our GW destination, I'll get to smell that nearly indescribable memory.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Like a Fish Out of Water

This isn't a story about my husband in social situations; this is about our real fish out of water.

Early Friday evening, I went to check my email at my desk in the living room.  My desk is in a little dark corner behind the free-standing bookcase. You really can’t see me unless you know I'm there.  I like it that way. Anyway, this isn’t about me, but the location of my desk behind the bookcase, the location of the betta tank on the bookcase, and flippy/floppy sounds that pierce the darkest corners of the night.

So, I'm sitting there waiting for my email to download and I hear something rustling over near the stairs (my desk is in the corner and butts up against the landing on the dog-leg staircase). I figure it's a bug that somehow got in the backdoor and is now looking for a way out. I hear it again. I think, why is the bug in this darkest corner of the living room when bugs usually seek light? It must be a moth. I read my email. I hear it again. This time, it's loud enough that I turn on the light thinking it's got to be a huge moth.

I see a black and gold shape on my stack of bills. Wow. That IS a big moth! It moves again. EW!

It's not a moth, but my daughter's Betta, Sharkbait Ooh-Ha-Ha, aka: Chum lying flat on my stack of bills three feet below his tank!

I scream, WHAT?, scoop him up, and deposit him back in his tiny tank.

Chum in happier days. Maybe he's no longer a Buddhist.
The family gathers to watch the now dust and doghair covered Betta float in his tank. My daughter freaks out a little. I try to clean the doghair from the fish. He starts to swim around.

Now I don't know how long the damn thing was out of the water, but it was a good three to four minutes from the time I first heard him struggle until the time I figured out it was him.  Additionally, he had moved from the top of the bookcase where he apparently jumped out of his tank, to the edge of the bookcase, and flopped onto my bills!  I know this was his route because I could see his flippy trail in the dust on the top of the bookcase. (Ew for a few reasons.)

By later on in the evening, he appeared okay but began to develop pop-eyes. (Ew.)

It seems that Betta bowl abandonment  is not so unheard of. Apparently they're very sensitive to water quality issues and it's not uncommon for them to jump out of their bowls after the bowl has been cleaned. My daughter had cleaned his bowl not two hours before. Apparently, Bettas, like some other type of fish, have an organ called a labyrinth organ which allows them to breathe out of the water. Who knew? 

So now, while he seems to have survived his time out of water, his pop-eyes, a probably reaction to some type of bacterial infection from his dust/doghair dredging, may or may not clear up.

I hope it does. We've gotten used to having Chum around – just not as a paperweight.