Sunday, November 13, 2022

New classics: 99 MILES FROM L.A. (P. David Ebersole), BOUNDLESS AS THE SKY (Dawn Raffel), ROCKED IN TIME: Confessions of a Radical Theater Artist (Charles Degelman)

Classics have an impact on new books, whether intentional or not, and it is fun to read surprising twists on older literary forms. The James A. Cain classic crime novel, The Postman Always Rings Twice, is certainly an ancestor of P. David Ebersole's inventive and darkly hilarious crime novel, 99 MILES FROM L.A. (Pelekinesis).

The action of this book takes place in L.A. and Palm Springs. The title's an allusion to the role of Palm Springs in the heyday of big studios and stars under contract. Contract players were required to go no further than 100 miles away from L.A. (theoretically they might be needed on a set) so they fled to Palm Springs to avoid studio scrutiny. A destination for anonymity and forbidden love, bungalows and "love nests" flourished along with a population to serve them. Impoverished Mexicans crossed the porous border to work and return with cash and goods. That historic comes alive in this hard-boiled crime story. 

Elegantly written, 99 MILES FROM L.A.'s erotic energy is emotionally real and a send-up of romantic cliches, which the narrators ironically acknowledge, especially the "hero," a sweet crooner of Johnny Mathis. Unlike Postman, the eroticism is bisexual and begins at a bar, not a diner. Both novels feature a plot against a rich husband by a miserable wife, but Ebersole's characters are contradictory. The trophy wife is "too clever by half,"the romantic crooner a disillusioned music professor, the quietly charismatic Mexican bartender speaks no English. And the family business isn't a restaurant but the drug trade.

The group's plan is complicated by motives conscious-unconscious; behavior tender-inhuman, obtuse-obvious, silly-horrifying. The story told by a trio of unreliable narrators, has a Rashomon effect adding to the stakes. What happens is shocking, unexpected and entirely right. I can't wait for the movie.

Dawn Raffel's BOUNDLESS SKY (Sagging Miniscus Press) opens with a quote from Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities--"If I tell you that the city toward which my journey tends is discontinuous in space and time, now scattered, now more condensed, you must not believe the search for it can stop."

Calvino's stories, like Raffel's, are imaginary worlds we inhabit. The first part of  her short story collection BOUNDLESS SKY "The City Toward Which My Journey Tends" is made of "fables and tales. some of them true."  Photographs further illustrate imaginary worlds of our past and present, from fan dancer, Sally Rand to the famous Cube at Astor Place in NYC. Below is a familiar place we may recognize from the back of our minds.  

                                               The All-New Sanitary City

Sneezing is illegal in the Sanitary City. Also unlawful are sniffling, drooling, sweating, and sighing. Kissing! Verboten. All of the walls in the sanitary city are stainless, wiped in the hour. Sheets on the beds are made of paper, all the mattresses de feathered. Many people come to the sanitary city for refuge from bodily fluid. Menustration has been ended, Even insemination is mechanical. There is no fear in the sanitary city, no sorrow, no want, no unintended consequence. Nothing may swim from one life to another. Nothing may float from the breath to the ear.

I enjoyed my visit to the boundless sky.....

ROCKED IN TIME: Confessions of a Radical Theater Artist by Charles Degelman (Harvard Square Editions) is the third volume of a trilogy that began with Gates of Eden, and A Bowl Full of Nails.  This Resistance Trilogy is set in the political and social movements of the 1960s and 70s in the United States. Fiction based on fact, this novel recreates the era  from a variety of viewpoints of race, sex and class. The basis of the struggle, what was accomplished at what cost, and what it was like to be on the cultural ramparts of historical struggle are explored.

Compared with France's short-lived June Rebellion of 1832, popularly immortalized as Les Miz (from Victor Hugo's Les Miserables), resistance movements in the U.S. from 1960s-70s are rarely studied beyond a paragraph in U.S. history textbooks. The era is dismissed in pop culture memes or in narratives narrowed by current politics by subjects in Ken Burns' epic presentation. But this period of radical political and social change altered the course of a nation. Over 15 million people participated in the only mass political movement in the U.S. that succeeded in ending an unpopular war.  Every age, race and religion participated, and it was supported by broad participation by civic, political and military groups, such as The Vietnam Veterans Against the War. 

Fuelled by the escalation of the war and the growing power of the "military industrial complex" that profited from the war, as well as the inspiration of Martin Luther King's vision of the spiritual nature of freedom and "the storm of hope" to end racism and oppression. The huge national concensus, visible from President Johnson's window, was a major factor in ending the war. My favorite book in the trilogy, ROCKED IN TIME: Confessions of a radical theater artist is great funIt's the story of a cultural foot soldier, pre-internet, using his art to entertain, communicate the state of the nation, and rally the people.  

Les Miz  is loved for the fight of Law and the political power it serves, and human dignity. The hero of ROCKED IN TIME is similarly inspired by the powerful political plays of  German playwright Bertolt Brecht, a kind of guiding light in his work with The San Francisco Mime Troupe, a '60s guerilla theater dedicated to toppling the war machine with pratfalls, punch lines and comic rebellion. He first encounters the legendary group in a Berkeley park. Wildly entertaining Comedia del Arte poked fun at the war and "Whiteface" vaudeville at racism. 

Our hero's apprenticeship in ROCKED IN TIME began with the founding director's grueling physical work-outs, which included classical mime and dance training for split-second timing. The author's talents as a musician, designer and performer were put to use in works that were performed in parks and universities, in street forums, concerts, formal auditoriums and political demonstrations. Venues could feature arrest and/or injury, so  protecting personnel and equipment was a reason to be fast and nimble. 

Mummers marches enlightened audiences, as did controverial "gutter" hand puppets, which dramatized the Black Panthers' bids for housing and education. This serious theater troupe, exposed truths about society and of course had their own failings. There was a corp group, the director Vinnie and the beautiful compelling Olivia and newbies who became corp cadre, like the hero and the lovely dancer-actress Nikki.  The politics of the troupe are fascinating, a communal command with a leader. A leading lady forced to deny her strength. While celebrating the 60s search for life's deeper purpose in authentic experience, the author shows that the nascent woman's movement had yet to break through.

 Alternative lifestyle experiments in the 60s-'70s led to breakthroughs in media, science, art, architecture, as well as "sex, drugs and rock and roll." Unfortunately, the excesses of the era are better known than the triumphs. Think of freewheeling hit-and-run theater with something serious to say, free stores with clothes, tools, furniture, food and sometimes housing provided by the antimaterialistic Diggers Commune. Think of a nation, linking arms in Marches in cities across the country. The Mime Troupe, an ancestor of Mabou Mines, has yet to be matched for its serious inspiration, effectivenes and pure fun. Read ROCKED IN TIME for vicarious FUN. 



Monday, October 3, 2022

THE WISDOM OF DREAMS uniquely synthesizes modern dream science & the historic significance of dreams

The mysterious journey of a red balloon through an inner space. An open door awaits. Paul Klee, RED BALLOON, 1922 

“In this outstanding synthesis of dream science and depth psychology the authors’ expertise and love of the topic shine throughout. The book reminds the reader of the importance of dreams in human history and in everyday life and is an excellent introduction to dream work for therapists and the general public." – Bud Harris, PhD, Jungian Analyst, author of Sacred SelfishnessInto the Heart of the Feminine

MODERN DREAM SCIENCE AND HISTORIC INTERPRETATION OF DREAMS are synthesized in THE WISDOM OF DREAMS:  Science, Synchronicity and the Language of the Soul

 Sleep and dreaming are not separate processes, though scientists have limited the study of dreams to pure physiology. Yet in THE WISDOM OF DREAMS:  Science, Synchronicity and the Language of the Soul (Routledge), authors Greg Mahr MD, psychiatrist, and Christopher L. Drake Ph.D, psychologist and sleep researcher, have achieved a remarkable synthesis of Dream Science and Depth Psychology. Their varied backgrounds have allowed them to achieve a unique integration of the interpretative and physiological models of dreaming.

The authors use modern sleep science, as well as Freudian and Jungian traditions to explore the meaning and purpose of dreams, especially Jung’s broadly based investigations of dreams through cultural images and practices. Islamic, Jewish and early Christian traditions have recognized the importance of dreams and dream interpretation. Lucid dreaming is prominent in Tibetan traditions, including the Tibetan Book of the Dead; as well as in shamanic traditions. In our time, modern science has finally recognized the importance of lucid dreaming, and lucid dreaming strategies are being explored as treatments for nightmares in PTSD.

 THE WISDOM OF DREAMS also explains how the REM sleep process, which integrates memory and emotion, may have enabled primitive man to become the dominant species on earth. Other topics include end-of-life dreams, prophetic dreams, and cross-cultural dream analysis, as well as a new model for dream interpretation based on current neurophysiology, symbol formation and narrative structures. Dreams become comprehensible when they are examined in terms of narrative structure, plot, setting and characters.

Interestingly, though much of the world outside the U.S. appreciates the cultural, clinical and personal significance of dreams, our prejudice is toward "scientism" and pharmacological treatment. Therapists may write off dreams as meaningless stories or as "symptoms," rather than as messages from the unconscious. The objective of WISDOM is to both expand the "tool box" of professionals and provide new consciousness to all seekers. An awakening to a deeper purpose of life and more enlightened practice may result.


Greg Mahr MD is Division Head of Consultation Liaison Psychiatry at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. He teaches at Michigan State University Medical School and Wayne State University Medical School, where he has won awards as Teacher of the Year and Mentor of the year. Dr. Mahr has published multiple academic articles, as well as fiction in Flash Fiction and Intima, where his work was a contest winner. His poetry has appeared in multiple literary and medical journals, including Third Wednesday, Intima, Pulse, Peninsula Poets (where he was a contest winner), Psychological Perspectives, Academic Psychiatry and CHEST.  

Christopher L. Drake, PhD, FAASM is a board-certified sleep specialist and internationally recognized expert in sleep and circadian rhythm disorders. He is Professor of Medicine at the Michigan State College of Human Medicine and serves as the Director of Sleep Research for Henry Ford Health where he oversees NIH and Industry clinical trials in insomnia, narcolepsy, idiopathic hypersomnia, sleep apnea, and depression. He is the Insomnia Section Editor for Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine and serves as Associate Editor for SLEEP, Sleep Advances, and Behavioral Sleep Medicine. He has authored over 200 peer reviewed publications in the field. 


Friday, September 23, 2022

Life pinned to a specific even luminous window---Katrinka Moore's DIMINUENDO, Carla Sarett's SHE HAS VISIONS, Marc Zegan's LYON STREET

Poetry is to me the most difficult of literary forms.I love the narrative form. Poems, like a thread meander through the pages. Life is pinned to a specific even luminous window of time and place--in a poem. 

Katrinka Moore's Diminuendo (Pelekinesis), Carla Sarett's She Has Visions (Main Street Rag), Marc Zegan's Lyon Street (Bamboo Dart Press) could not otherwise be grouped together, though all are narrative poems. Moore's work happens in a forest, with an unnamed protagonist who may be human or a sprite. Sarett gives voice to a love of perfection, a marriage so suited that its untimely end and the shock of grief relives the beauty. Mark Zegan's book looks at an eternal passage of youth in a city for all time.


Sensei  (first appeared in Otoliths).

Finally the milkweeds split    

and silk-winged seeds slow-

stream     breeze-borne


A few come to ground     burrow

doze until spring


Who can remain still

until the moment of action


Hesitation     an idea

in shadow     patience

of a tree     a boulder


Light     in its own time

falls and fills     fills

and trembles at the edges


How did Sensei teach

us     novices     to dance

I think she said     wait


Cactus Rose 

You knew the rock collector in me

 How I prized Black glass From volcanoes

Shimmering pyrite

And mica schist 

In The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence 

That lonely blossom Against all the wildness Made me cry 

Every single time We sat together 

Every single time 

My brother’s name 

Every single time 

Over and over 

Like the cactus rose 

We saw together 

When I was known


North Beach

tonight, I’m a mourner
for when the keystone korner
was on vallejo
where I heard art blakey play
and denny zeitlin say
“I’m gonna do a little number
with charlie hayden on the bass”

tonight, I turn and remember
the spaghetti factory, one december
flamenco dancers stompin’ in the back
ruffled dresses, black heels goin’ clack
against the faded floor
memory a paramour
fadin’ in the mist

of the one I kissed
at the savoy tivoli
now, only reverie
lost in the grant street bustle
a schlock shop hustle
across from the post card store
selling remembrances of evermore

in the land where jack-o-lopes play
giant bunnies hop away
edgerton’s bullets stop, they say
as I try to grapple with what was that’s actual 
and what’s at best
blue smoke curlin’ 

at the old Trieste. 

Monday, August 8, 2022

A RIVER'S GIFTS: The Mighty Elwha River Reborn. Congrats Patricia Newman! NEW Essay on gratitude to the environment and education



           A River’s Gifts: The Mighty Elwha River Reborn by Patricia Newman, shows how a river, dammed for a century, was restored by a determined community.

NEW ESSAY by Patricia Newman on gratitude to the environment and children's science education.

A River's Gifts: The Mighty Elwha River Reborn. By Patricia Newman. Illus. by Natasha Donovan Sept. 2022. 48p. Lerner/Millbrook, $31.99 (9781541598706). Gr. 3–6. 639.90979

The Elwha River flows north through the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. and is the traditional lifeblood of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, "the Strong People.” In the 1790s, Sibert Honor Book author Newman (Sea Otter Heroes, 2017) explains, colonists came, cleared the wild plants from the riverbank, and cut down the trees to make homes. Worst of all, in 1910, a dam was built on the river to create electricity—electricity not provided to the Strong People—that flooded their land and killed the salmon and other wildlife. Newman then describes unexpected change as the Strong People fought to have dams on the Elwha removed, a fight they ultimately won, and the careful process of working to safely restore the river ecosystem to its prior health. Effectively using a compelling story to illustrate the concept of rewilding, this informative, striking presentation is powerful in its hopeful story that integrates history, environmental appreciation, and explanations of the interdependence of species in a landscape and the politics necessary to save them. With inset fact boxes on the Strong People’s creation myth and related themes, and with all set on a backdrop of Donovan’s beautiful pen, ink, and computer-generated images of the river, its people, and its wildlife, Newman could have another award winner on her hands. — Henrietta Verma

            Patricia Newman, activist and Sibert Medal Honoree, writes inspiring nonfiction books for children that show how actions for environmental justice can ripple around the world.  Free-flowing rivers nourish our environment and more than 1700 dams have been removed in the U.S., since 1912.  In A River’s Gifts: The Mighty Elwha River Reborn (Sept. 6, Lerner Publishing), for the first time, she tells the story of how this free-flowing river was restored.

             The book explains how the original ecosystem of the river, which fed salmon, plants, trees, elk and The Strong People, was destroyed in the 1800s by frontiersmen, who brought the miracle of electricity through the new dam. It also shows how human relationships with the river evolved over time. As the dam became obsolete, a desire to restore the river eventually brought together the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe (The Strong People), local townspeople, environmentalists and even Pres. George Bush.

            A River’s Gifts: The Mighty Elwha River Reborn, a 2022 Junior Library Guild Selection, is illustrated by Natasha Donovan, a native M├ętis, who lives in northern Washington, like the Klallam Tribe. There is a feeling of "home" about her visuals, which vividly show the work behind the restoration. Scientists study how the original river flowed, geologists learn how to refurbish the riverbed, engineers figured out how best to dismantle the dam, and biologists identified the original plants, trees and, of course, the salmon, which all hoped would return with the river.

            A River's Gifts: The Mighty Elwha River Reborn, is a wonderful conservation story that children can enjoy with hands-on learning, such as classroom "stream" tables and identifying river basins near them. This book, a new classic, joins Newman's previous award-winning books; Planet Ocean (Orbis Picture Award Recommend, The Best Children’s Books of 2021), Sea Otter Heroes (Robert F. Sibert Honor, ALA Notable, Green Earth Book Award); Eavesdropping on Elephants (NSTA/CBC Outstanding Science Trade Book), Zoo Scientists to the Rescue (Eureka! Gold Award, Banks Street Center Children's Books of the Year); Plastic, Ahoy! (Green Earth Book Award, AAAS/Subaru Science Books and Film Prize, finalist); and Neema's Reason to Smile (Parents' Choice Recommended).

Book trailer:

A River's Gifts. . A desecration. A rebirth.

Writing in stirring verse, Newman explains that in what is now Washington state, the Elwha River flowed north to the sea, nourishing the salmon that came each year to lay eggs. There were enough salmon to feed the birds, the animals, and the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, the Strong People, for thousands of years. But when Europeans arrived in the 1790s, they cut down ancient trees to build houses near the river and wrote laws declaring that Strong People couldn't fish or own land. In 1890, dams for generating electricity were built, effectively destroying the river and keeping the salmon from returning. In 1940, Olympic National Park expanded its boundaries to include the dams, and the Strong People worked together to restore the lost river and its habitat. The removal of two dams—the Glines Canyon Dam and Elwha Dam—took years of perseverance and cooperation among the Strong People, the National Park Service, and scientists. It was 2011 when the dams were finally removed; several years later, the rushing river called the salmon home again. Donovan's illustrations, rendered in pencil and ink and digitally, are dynamic, with thick black outlines that pop off the page. Sidebars elaborate on elements introduced in the main text. Beautifully illustrated and informative, this story conveys the fragility of our environment and the need to protect it. An illuminating glimpse at the Elwha River and its gifts."—starred, Kirkus Reviews

Here are some links to buy. and

CONGRATS!!  A RIVER'S GIFTS: The Mighty Elwha Reborn. Published today!  Patricia Newman, author & Natasha Donovan, illustrator.  Here how the salmon feeds the river: 1-adults swim from ocean to their river to spawn 2-Birds and predators follow, 3-after adult salmon spawn and die, they fertilize the soil to feed plankton, trees, algae. Plants feed grazers elk, deer and insects., 4-newly hatched salmon feed on insects, 5-when salmon are old enough they journey to sea to gather nutrients and cycle begins again. more information.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

What's a human life Worth? Alice Feiring, TO FALL IN LOVE, DRINK THIS. Rowan Hooper, HOW TO SAVE THE WORLD FOR JUST A TRILLION. Edward Einhorn, IPHIGENIA IN AULIS

Like many pivotal times in human history, say global plagues and wars, when civilizations rise and fall, when there is a question whether humanity will survive, human life is somehow cheapened. Between the rise of gun culture in the U.S. and society's tragic acquiescence, and the sudden devaluation of women's lives, I found myself wondering, "what's a human life worth in these times?  I found a memoir, a "how-to," and a an ancient play translated into a very moving graphic novel. For what it's worth, read on.

 I was certainly in the mood for Alice Feiring's coming of age story punctuated by very singular organic wines, To Fall in Love, Drink This: A wine writer's memoir (Scribner).  A memoir about learning to drink seemed a gimmick for a wine writer, except this connoisseur's education is like a painter learning his palette. Her narrative searches for meaning in light-dark encounters with family, lovers, writing and publishers. She finds sharp, unexpected, blissful, even incongruous flavors in vineyards with wine-makers dedicated to making natural wines without additives. (Natural wine making has been a maverick mission, considering the wine industry's long-time endorsement of additives.) 
Feiring's wine-makers; traditionalist women, men alone, couples, mostly make wine for the  love of it, hoping for money like this wine writer. Some vineyards have ancient family roots, others import them. Fun to ramble with Feiring to Chile, France, Vermont, Italy, Spain, the Czech Republic, Georgia (the Country), 

Interspersed with work excursions is a personal life. There's her origins in Brooklyn,  before she escaped to her ramshackle 670sq ft apartment. Feiring's family was a house divided, her father a swinging 1960s libertine, her mother a religious zealot. But when her father finally left, her mother never got over the loss. Yet Feiring was raised to be a traditional woman with marriage her destiny. This was derailed by her sensitive "nose" (inherited from a devout grandfather) which gave her subtleties in smell and taste others missed. She didn't have the heart for her mother’s Manischewitz or her dad’s gin but natural pure wines. And she choose to write about what she loved. But her girlhood began full of  failure, the taste of yearning and the subtlety of surprise. Despite growing up with bad Burgundy, she later found her desire as an adult with a Jura wine, Benedicte et Stephanie Tissot Singular, "This wine seemed like a charming innocent who went off to the Sorbonne, smoked fiendishly, danced with frenzy, and yet could perform a flawless pirouette, and so clever, getting rid of bat guano or rewiring a house is just in a day's work." 

From a harrowing girlhood trip to the east Village, to rescuing her mother in Long Beach during Superstorm Sandy, Feiring's personal adventures are full of courage and a desire for love. Unsurprisingly, the men she loved well are linked with appropriate wines. And the choice is sometimes pathos. On her beloved brother's last night on earth, she brings him a sublimely flavorful wine, aged on the "skin" of a grape. Mitsvane grape. Marina Mitsvane, Kartli, Georgia

During New York City's Covid lockdown, Alice Feiring found solace in flavor over buzz. Often she swills and spits out wine, because it is the weight, nuances, unexpected spice she desires. And, she says, only natural wines are worth her liver. Did her mother ever come to understand her “daughter who drinks?” Unsure. But her life was worth experiencing for its poignancy and pleasure.  
"Shows the world's most intractable problems might not actually be intractable. A fascinating, thought-provoking work."
Elizabth Kolbert, Pulitzer prize-winning author of The Sixth Extinction

Think we need to give up the climate fight? That it's useless, because the apocalypse is already upon us? Think again says Rowan Hooper, sr. editor at New Scientist, who's published In The Wall Street Journal, WIRED and The Economist In How to Save the World for Just a Trillion Dollars (published by THE EXPERIMENT), he shows a Trillion is not so much, considering sums spent in our national budgets and the sums billionaires burn, throwing their weightlessmess into outer space. Read these words--There are problems we can fix for this sum. 

Hooper's shopping cart is well researched as he describes the relative costs and benefits of his choices.  There are ten megaprojects that might save the world or advance humankind. Know--We already have the science and the money.  Some big ticket items to consider; curing all disease, saving life on Earth, settling off planet, redesigning our planet, finding aliens, turning the world Vegan. Play the trillionaire with Hooper. Consider his take on priorities and "bargains" under a trillion. Gems below, I liked. Also of interest why geological engineering is a nonstarter, yet seeding clouds with salt water..."

"The argument for spending the trillion on universal education and cash transfers is irresistable but if we don't put the 1 trillion to tackling climate change, starting right now, the future for the world's poorest people, will be far worse than the present..."

"Half a trillion dollars spent on ecosystem renewal won't save us from climate change. But if we got it right, simply letting forests grow is a powerful method for capturing carbon and increasing biodiversity and giving us time to get the rest of our society decarbonized..."

Why developing the moon makes more sense than Mars. Why 19 billion to the African Space Agency to establish the Terran Alliance for the Moon is a useful idea for NASA.

I found this book incredibly hopeful. Something can be done NOW.  People have studied this, we can afford it, and a plan can be made. I am grateful to this author that he put it together.  Humans are the only primates stupid enough to destroy their own environment. 
If we evolve more quickly, we might yet pull this out.

This book should be on the reading lists of schools, corporate handbooks, Congress. Voters might receive invitations to read. Saving the Earth means overcoming our lack of political and social will. The future is here, big-brained primates?  We can do it! 

Edward Einhorn is a playwright, director, translator, librettist, novelist. He is also the Artistic Director of Untitled Theater Company, whose productions are uniquely engaged with ideas. Whether they come from science, philosophy or the classics, this is moving theater. Works can be original, provocative, meaningful, even obtuse yet entertaining.  

Einhorn translated Euripides' text and his interpretation resonates in 2022, when not only the rights of women but their value as human beings has been challenged by a patriarchal political movement. At issue in the play IPhigenia in Aulli is the sacrifice of a girl, Iphigenia, to benefit a male war machine. The leader, Agamennon, is her father. This is an explosive primal story told in a beautifully rendered graphic novel. This version of the classic, makes her acquiescence plausible in the context.  The fact she gives her life for her father, not Helen, is a patriarchal tragedy. Achilles is a surprise here, willing to refute the “right” of her dad. 

Einhorn explains: "This play script/graphic novel hybrid version of Iphigenia in Aulis, which I translated and adapted, has art by Eisner-Award winner Eric Shanower.  It was just published by Image Comics. I think of it as sort of a play on paper, another way of making theater while not in the theater. We will be putting out an audio version of it in the Fall."

Below are samples. Quick plot points. Agamennon and Menelaus are brothers. Helen, Menelaus's wife, was so beautiful many men wanted her. Her father made them all pledge that after she chose her husband (Menelaus), they would fight any man who interferred with his right to his wife. When Helen ran off to Troy with Paris, an army was assembled to bring her back. Led by Agamennon, it's waiting in the first picture for his sacrifice to set sail.

In Einhorn's introduction to IPhigenia in Aullis, he explains how this book came about. "I have always envisioned this project as a play on paper. When I was young and didn’t have the opportunity to go to the theater too often, I would often just read scripts. Sometimes, to envision them, I would take toy figures and act them out. But mostly, I would have to imagine what the play would be, if I saw it."

In a used bookstore I found a copy of Eugene Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano in a “typographical interpretation” by Robert Massin, using Nicolas Bataille’s Paris production as an inspiration. It was a revelation. The book used black and white images of the actors from the show, a variety of typefaces, and some brilliant graphic design to portray not only the words of the script but also Ionesco’s chaotic, playful style. I felt like the book was a show in itself, in many ways equal to seeing a high quality performance."

I wanted to try a similar experiment. When Eric told me he was interested in combining his Age of Bronze graphic images with a new translation of the play, I jumped at it.  My translation was produced at La MaMa, in New York, which gave me a chance to develop it. Interpretive moments abound throughout the book. Eric drew the original illustrations for Age of Bronze and suggested the ones he thought would be most appropriate for this book. I helped arrange those illustrations (and a few he didn’t suggest), in order to express what I felt was the thrust of the emotion in the moment. In many ways, making those decisions felt similar to directing the play. I hope, when reading it, the words come to life, thanks to Eric’s work. There is no substitute for live theater, but this play on paper is, I think, its own experience, very different than reading an unadorned script."

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Women's Rights-imagine being legally nonexistent; no rights to your children, money, or physical person. Legal precedent before 1839


For some perspective on women's rights in the U.S., which were derived from English law--changed in Britain in 1839. Black men in the U.S. had the right to vote in 1870. White women in 1920 and black women not until the voting right act of 1965. Women's rights had little precedent in English law until Caroline Norton set a new precedent in 1839 (during Victoria's reign) with a mother's legal right to have access to her children. Before that time, Caroline, like all women, was a legal nonentity. Husbands and fathers represented them. (Spinsters, who could inherit if no male relatives, had more status then married women)

Nonentity means no legal precedent existed for women's rights in England. If a man beat his wife or broke her arm (like Caroline's husband), the matter was not considered a crime. Unless a woman was killed, domestic violence was private. Some men thought it helped woman's behavior to be "knocked around." Wages or inherited money-property were paid to a woman's male guardian. Whether a woman earned money with her pen, like Caroline, or worked in a factory or ran a shop, she was not entitled to receive her funds. Men, as masters of women, were expected to pay their bills, though if they were impecunious, the debtors could sue.  

To change the law (after her husband's perfidy) Caroline campaigned with her writing, publishing against injustice. Grandaughter to the famous playwright, Sheridan, her family was rich in literary tradition, not money. She liked making a living with her pen, marrying a man supposedly in line to inherit but without money.  One of three sisters considered "beauties," Caroline was renowned for her outrageous wit and sense of fun. When her husband asked her to use her contacts to get him a job, she became a celebrity for her salons. Powerful men were regulars and her writing was in huge demand; poetry, novels and articles for women's magazines (some illustrated by Turner). The Prime Minister, among others, enjoyed her company and, like other men, considered her an intellectual equal. Being a sophisticated flirt was not illegal and good for business. 

After she lost this high position, due to her husband, she was supposed to publicly disappear. She could not even write under her own name. As the situation continued, deprived of her living and her children, Caroline refused to fade away and fought the rules of her society. She suffered its censure and Justice, not just for herself, became a priority. She wrote for the voiceless, the plight of  working children in factories and mines, deprived of education, breaks from work, and often limbs. With a sympathetic lawyer, she pressed for changes in existing laws and set precedents  that came to be reflected in the colonies. Women in the colonies received money for work and received inheritance. When Martha Washington married George, she brought plantation land and hundreds of slaves. (Why Washington could not free them until after her death, is another story.)

Below is the publisher's summary of this book. Though not "new," it seems timely. Precedents for women's rights, the right to decide to bear a child or not is among the oldest, was just dismissed by the Supreme Court.  At issue is the control of women's lives. (Even in Jefferson's writings, he knew his wife's frequent pregnancies took a toil on her health, and regretted it, when she sickened and died at 33.) Caroline asked in a time when men's and women's "spheres" were considered separate but different, why injustice when both are equal? What do men and society have to fear? 



Award-winning historian Antonia Fraser brilliantly portrays a courageous and compassionate woman who refused to be curbed by the personal and political constraints of her time.

Caroline Norton dazzled nineteenth-century society with her vivacity, her intelligence, her poetry, and in her role as an artist's muse. After her marriage in 1828 to the MP George Norton, she continued to attract friends and admirers to her salon in Westminster, which included the young Disraeli. Most prominent among her admirers was the widowed Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne.

Racked with jealousy, George Norton took the Prime Minister to court, suing him for damages on account of his 'Criminal Conversation' (adultery) with Caroline. A dramatic trial followed. Despite the unexpected and sensational result—acquittal—Norton was still able to legally deny Caroline access to her three children, all under seven. He also claimed her income as an author for himself, since the copyrights of a married woman belonged to her husband.

Yet Caroline refused to despair. Beset by the personal cruelties perpetrated by her husband and a society whose rules were set against her, she chose to fight, not surrender. She channeled her energies in an area of much-needed reform: the rights of a married woman and specifically those of a mother. Over the next few years she campaigned tirelessly, achieving her first landmark victory with the Infant Custody Act of 1839. Provisions which are now taken for granted, such as the right of a mother to have access to her own children, owe much to Caroline, who was determined to secure justice for women at all levels of society from the privileged to the working poor and destitute.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Mid-Century Memoir- "What happened in 1969, when young people tried to remake the world?" Answer PART 2: Activism



This is a personal essay through the imperfect filter of memory. I began this series, when a friend asked what the year was like,  how was activism organized. Here's the second part of my answer.

It was late August 1969, when I arrived at Syracuse University, then a hard-partying campus. I remember rescuing a naive roomate through a window, after she unknowingly drank quaaludes at a raging frat party. But the war was to intrude on such campus fun and games.

That fall we freshman went about our business often oblivious to teach-ins on campus. They were also held in public schools sponsored by local business. Unlike rallies, the purpose was educational. Speakers, usually teachers, gave slide shows explaining the history of Vietnam and the French involvement, current politics and rationales for U.S. involvement. Financial and human costs were updated. (Our body counts kept rising, despite the napalm, we made and dropped) At the end of a teach-in, there was a Q&A, but it was less for shared feelings than information. Hand-outs with reading lists were available. 

The lottery, instituted in December 1969, brought new urgency to the politics of war.  Network news was pro-war, as were audiences at first. But as time went on, doubts arose and many people wanted to make up their own minds. Teach-ins were in demand. Before the lottery, the war was inequitably fought by those not attending college. Some, motivated by patriotism, deferred college acceptance. Others of draft age, who were "not college material" (and lacked funds to find a doctor to certify flat feet) had little choice. 

Now everyone was eligible.  A low lottery number meant you had to serve and without connections, go to 'Nam.  If in college, service awaited your graduation. Any academic lapse or failure, a delay in graduation, meant induction.  Families prayed for high numbers. Draft cards were burnt (an illegal act) followed by disappearances. Canada became a haven for draft resistors.  Others disappeared into a nebulous "underground." Those who had eschewed college for a business, like our class' star auto mechanic, served, unless the business was designated "essential." I also met guys with low numbers, who took LSD to appear crazy or faked being gay. They were put through tough interrogations, though the worst was rumored for conscientious objectors. Toward the later days of the war, those close to legally blind passed physicals.   

In 1969, individual cities in the Northeast organized Marches, culminating in a large national one in Washington. My experience was grass roots in upstate New York. The Vietnam Veterans Against the War were active in the antiwar movement, as were clergy and student groups. Door-to-door organizing was taken on by students. Novices worked with more experienced activists. Teachers also participated, supported by their universities. 

That this occurred is still a wonder to me.  I remember shock, as the university voted to close down for antiwar work. At a huge meeting of schools and departments; deans, chairmen and faculty stood up, one by one, and stated that their areas had voted to close for the antiwar effort. Students were to receive current class standing for the year.  I had an A average after only a couple months and was free to stay in the dorms (pre-paid) and take part or go home. 

I think my parents didn't quite understand or believe I had an A average for the year, though there would be no classes. It was kind of unbelievable to me that I would have full college credit for a year of antiwar work.  They listened to me, as though I were speaking a foreign language. They never asked for details but encouraged my idea to transfer to another school. I did my antiwar work days and painted nights in the deserted basement of the art building.  

As I recall, upstate universities and colleges, Cornell, Binghamton, Ithaca, coordinated with Syracuse in this effort. We learned to role-play. understand maps of neighborhoods and work in small mixed groups of men and women. There were expectations and rules. No one was to approach a residence alone. And the group always waited. We had copies of the Declaration of Independence. Circled were lines declaring it was a citizen's duty to protest an unjust war. 

We knocked on doors, explained the purpose of the March in Syracuse (to end the war), the groups participating, local sponsors, and invited everyone to take part. If interested, we gave a map which showed where their block was to meet the March. We also talked about the later March on Washington, that this one was a first step. My group was part of the effort to organize local marches in individual cities. All would culminate in the big March in front of The White House. There had been previous marches in Washington, such as in 1967, but in 1969 the stakes were higher. 

I remember the slanted porch of a ramshackle wooden house painted slate blue. Set far back from the street, settled into a narrow diagonal shape, I couldn't imagine people lived there.  When I knocked on the door, a middle-aged woman in a neat but faded housedress opened. "What do you want?" she asked annoyed. I started talking about Vietnam and showed her the Declaration. "Get the hell off my porch," she shouted and slammed the door. I quickly jumped down from that porch. My group was in sight. "Wait," she said, reopening the door. "Come in a minute." 

She looked at my group. "I'll wait," said the team leader, "We will meet you at the next place," he said to the others. who left. He looked curtly at me, as I followed the woman inside a long low room. Smaller rooms were toward the back, where she said the "old man" slept.  Like the woman, the house was tidy but little looked new. She took me to the front windows overlooking the porch and two framed photos of young men.  I looked politely. "This is my brother and this my son. My husband died in Korea. But his father's here. We're an army family. We stay together." I smiled, figured mine was a lost cause. But when I reached the door, she had her hand out for our giveaway map. "They're all dead now," she said. "Except for the old man."

Then came the day of our March. All neighborhoods joined the March to City Hall, as were other neighborhoods in other cities. Each city had a statement with mention of the Washington March. There were military groups in uniform, including the Vietnam Veterans Against the War.  Clergy of different denominations linked arms. I saw chamber of commerce and business people, teachers. The University had student and faculty groups.  "Bring our boys home!" banners were carried by families with loved ones overseas.  Among the stream of people, we had walkie-talkies, water, snacks, extra supplies for the first-aid groups. We also had marching orders; wheelchairs in the middle and sides, check old people and kids.

Among the wheelchairs in the center, I saw the woman in a fresher dress, pushing an old man wearing a military jacket. I was supposed to gather slips of paper from people in my neighborhood but I had lost track a while ago. Some came to the start point to march together. Others just showed up. Then we were together, walking. I remember the heavy thud of feet, an occasional hymn, antiwar song, a spiritual. This was a determined serious crowd, not a rowdy angry mob, yet I was claustrophobic.

Someone panicked in the crowd, stopped moving in my sector. I had to get through, make sure no one was trampled, offer an arm and water, get them to a side. With the walkie-talkies we got through to medics, who used megaphones to clear paths. These regular Americans weren't drunk or drug addled. Yet I remember seeing a stampede, quickly headed off by an organizer.  I am sure there were others.

After a final prayer by clergy, veteran and student groups thanked all who participated and local sponsors. The March ended with a rally in support of those fighting. There were fervent wishes for the war to finally end. Exhausted but feeling I had done something,  I signed out.  It was yet evening on the quiet campus. I slipped into my basement studio to forget the world in paint. 

As the war continued, in the face of growing opposition and infernal body counts, the Antiwar Movement expanded from student, clergy and veteran groups to outspoken politicians and coalitions of peace groups. There was a unified national strategy with both teach-ins and financial appeals to aid the anti-war effort. These culminated in the March on the Capital in November 1969. This was the largest antiwar protest in U.S. history with an estimated 500,000 people. In Syracuse, my activist group helped participants onto buses. We worked to make it safe, peaceful, orderly.  Did I board the bus? Not exactly.

Though I had wanted to escape before, peace and my job were foremost in my mind in the middle of the crowd. A quiet person, I have never liked crowded places. Yet I had prevented injury and done a job I believed in.  Was it time for me to leave The Moratorium March to others? Being a full-time activist was not a life I wanted.  It seemed trivial, but I wanted to complete my portfolio and try to transfer to an excellent art school with low tuition. (I had been rejected initially for a B/C average.) 

On May 4th 1970, students were shot in Kent State at a peace demonstration. Around the country, camped out in student unions, students watched the loop of the event over and over.  A sweet-looking girl put a flower in a guardsman's rifle. The sound of rifles. Unarmed students fell dead in a nonviolent protest.  After Kent State, there were mass rallies around the country, petitions to raise money for the defense of those in custody. "They Shoot Students Don't They" marathon dances were held (after They Shoot Horses Don't They, the Jane Fonda Depression era movie). Student leaders, working with faculty, coordinated efforts to find sponsors. My roommate, a young woman from a prominent St. Louis family,  danced nights on end raising the most money. She had incredible stamina and dedication, until her angry father arrived and dragged her to his car.  

Her family had little objection when the "Stumpies," a forest fraternity, chained her half-naked in a locked trunk and threw it into a fountain. Only by chance did campus police fish it out. When she sobered up, indignant that she "could have suffocated!", her feelings were smothered in parental pride that she had been selected. (The "prank was part of a competition to choose a mascot). That was all in “fun”. The movement to defend the Kent State students arrested and prosecute the officers (which had spread nationwide) was a "disgrace." 

I was accepted to transfer into Temple Univ.'s art school.  Ironically, my activist A's were considered a great achievement. (I believe they were unaware of the college shut-downs in New York State.) They also liked my 6-foot Payday Candy Bar painted with obsessive pop detail. Before dorms closed, I decided to visit an old boyfriend in Providence, who was part of a group with an incendiary approach to political change.  I was afraid of his maps. My cowardice was the practical kind learned in high school. Safety first, trouble can find you anyway. 

Fall 1970, I was so behind in my drawing skills, the instructor offered private crits until my work was up to class standard. The goal was to be able to draw whatever you could see. (If given an assignment of a 20-hour rendering, it was obvious if you only spent 10.)  Toward the end of the semester. I could put drawings in weekly "hangings” critiques. I also was able to process my activist work. For me, commitment to a political goal meant being useful, a cog in some wheel for the greater good. 

On network news, I had seen the thousands of people, young and old, Veterans, Jaycees, and Lion's Clubs; families, teachers, priests, ministers, rabbis.  Black and White people, marching as separate individuals or parts of groups. (Writing this, I wonder where were the Hispanics and Asians?  Did I not notice, or did they blend-into other groups?) All I know is that we were Americans together to end the war, as a peaceful community. An LBJ biography said that when he looked out his window at all the demonstrators, he knew it was time to go. Was that the March of 1969 or 1967?  My recollection was 1969, the rarely-aired Moratorium March. 

2022, "We the People" seemed to have lost touch with the yearning for peace that once remade America. The horrors of the Ukrainian war may have refreshed our minds. In 1969,  though sidelined by corporate objectives and elected officials, the big March, signalled crucial change. In 2022, our handlers cannot manage the crisis of environmental change. We are called by planetary crisis of epic proportions. Future shock is now, Facts broaden our nation to the entire human race. 

The peace movement showed unity came with a common purpose. And it took discipline not to fragment into groups.  Social media makes this harder, encouraging people to take sides, identify with a racial or social group, vent their frustrations. Yet listening to those with differing ideology and working to find understanding, common ground, is still essential--to create agency for an ongoing movement. Peace groups included Panthers and SDS. "Identity politics" work against mass societal change. 

The "Woodstock" generation was the first in U.S. history to publicly seek the end of an unpopular war. It succeeded in influencing the outcome, because it became a broad mainstream movement. The Vietnam War, when it is studied in schools, rarely focuses on what the Antiwar movement actually accomplished. We have always had propaganda to nullify political or social movements but in 2022 such controls have a multiplicity of objectives. 

Marginalizing environmental change seems to protect the profits margins of corporate business. Managing "hopelessness and eco-fear" are less expensive than changing their product or means of production to halt environmental crisis. Covid narratives in media focus on the isolated individual and their country's reaction to the virus. Few focus on the National Geographic story about the link between the depreciation of environments and the emergence of Covid and other viruses. All over the world, the usual hosts of these viruses, small mammals (who don't get sick from it) disappeared with their environments. That they jumped to human hosts is a fact, not some debatable possibility. How are world leaders restoring those environments and animals?  Why for convenience and profits, are some choosing  extinction?  (Other primates don't destroy their habitats).

But there are positive actions also occurring, little perceived by the obsessive churning "breaking" news of the 24/7 news cycle. A teenage boy invented an app for plastics and has cleaned the North Sea.  Defunct dams have been removed in every state and at least 1800 free-flowing rivers having been restored. Whole ecosystems including fish, have returned. Every city in the nation has removed one or more defunct dams. Coral reefs are being built. Young people growing up with serious environmental threat, are learning they can connect with others and make changes. What are our corporate overlords doing? Musk, Bezos, Zuckerberg seem invested in vehicles to flee Earth. Branson is also joining the space race. Gates is one of the few focussed on Earth's ecology and the survival of people. (I am all for space exploration, not the spectacle of an Exodus of rich people abandoning Mothership Earth).

As we celebrate the fight against Britain for Independence, the first generation in U.S. history to halt an unpopular war should also be discussed. History is in books, free in libraries that are still funded. I have worked publicizing political books for many university presses. There are two you might want to reference in terms of the Vietnam War and propaganda, information unknown today or forgotten. 

M.I.A.: Mythmaking in America by Bruce Franklin (Rutgers University Press). Excerpted in The Atlantic Monthly in the 1980s (and accepted as fact) shows the origins of the M.I.A. myth as a negotiating tool for the Nixon administration in the Paris Peace Accords, They took place ten years after the war was over and no soldiers were left. 

The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory and the Legacy of Vietnam by Jerry Lembcke, Sociology Professor at Holy Cross College and former member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, analyzed the widely believed narrative that American soldiers were “spat upon” and insulted by anti-war protestors upon returning home. After extensive documented research, Lembcke found not one case of any soldier being spat upon. Antiwar activism-the peace movement was widespread and included the participation of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. The enemy was never our brave soldiers but the hidden “military industrial complex” well depicted in “Dr. Strangelove.” Yet Hollywood movies like "Coming Home" sold that narrative. 

Hollywood characterizations of the antiwar movement rarely stray from deranged "hippies" obsessed with drugs and sex. Most films ignore the sane young men, who did not feel it was patriotic to die for geopolitical advantage. Also ignored in depictions of easy 60s "chicks," is the fact young women faced death from illegal abortion. Planned Parenthood gave many women, for the first time, access to gynecological care and counselling about sexuality. 

So many narratives of young women "getting into trouble" (their fault obviously) and no reference to a clean clinic they might go to--without shame. There is a reason Margaret Sanger, born in 1950s, became a birth control activist, sex educator, writer and nurse. Google her.  Today, any man can choose a vasectomy, even a reversible one. Why then the cultural desire to deny women's choice? The woman's movement was about the value of female lives as human beings. The worth of those lives was not equal in 1969 and still  disparaged in 2022.  

In 1969, grass-roots education, door-door work were essential. Soliciting donations was important, but the more impersonal, the less useful.  In 2022 a "the World First, save the planet movement" might focus on deliberate thoughtful actions occurring around the world.  Anyone can do something useful. For instance, during the early days of the Trump administration, scores of media people worked quickly to save scientific information on public sites, particularly NASA, that were being erased. People with skills were asked by government employees (many losing their jobs) to help preserve science.

Imagine where our diplomacy would be today, if all the career diplomats, forced to leave, after spending lifetimes working with other countries, had been able to store their knowledge for what has come.