Saturday, January 26, 2019

A Few Words About Walls

"People have been building walls all through history.  Why do you assume walls don't work?"  This is a question I've seen asked recently on Facebook (I'd provide a link, but I can't find the post).  Here is my answer.

First and foremost, walls in history have usually been built primarily for military purposes - to stop military invasions.  One very famous wall that sometimes gets mentioned is the Great Wall of China.  This is what China Travellers website has to say about the purpose of that wall:
The Great Wall of China was built to protect China from its enemies and invaders from the North, especially the Mongols. The Mongols were a tribal group that would regularly conduct raids into China. Despite the wall, the Mongols eventually conquered China. The Wall also kept Chinese citizens from leaving China.
I would draw your attention to the fact that "Despite the wall, the Mongols eventually conquered China." It was big, and beautify, and ultimately didn't work.

Another example of a wall built for military purposes is the Maginot Line between France and Germany.  Built after WWI, this wall was supposed to deter another German invasion of France.  And while the wall itself was well made and strong, it obviously didn't stop the Germans from invading in WWII.  In fact, it was so unsuccessful in producing its ultimate goal that it has become synonymous with a false sense of security.  In fact, Merriam-Webster defines Maginot Line as follows:
1 : a line of defensive fortifications built before World War II to protect the eastern border of France but easily outflanked by German invaders
2 : a defensive barrier or strategy that inspires a false sense of security
These walls were built primarily for defensive, military purposes and they ultimately failed.  So let's look at a wall that was built primarily for immigration purposes - the Berlin Wall.  The Berlin Wall was built in 1961 to stop people from leaving East Berlin for West Berlin.  According to Wikipedia:
Before the Wall's erection, 3.5 million East Germans circumvented Eastern Bloc emigration restrictions and defected from the GDR, many by crossing over the border from East Berlin into West Berlin; from there they could then travel to West Germany and to other Western European countries. Between 1961 and 1989 the Wall prevented almost all such emigration.[7]
Ah ha!  A successful wall you say.  Yes, it was a successful wall, but it was also a very well guarded wall. Again from wikipedia:
The barrier included guard towers placed along large concrete walls,[4] accompanied by a wide area (later known as the "death strip") that contained anti-vehicle trenches, "fakir beds" and other defenses.
It was also only approximately 87 miles long.  Trump is asking for a much longer wall to be built - anywhere from 234 miles to 1000 miles according to a report from cnbc.com. And even the very effective Berlin Wall was not perfect.  Going back to the Wikipedia article:
During this period over 100,000[6] people attempted to escape and over 5,000 people succeeded in escaping over the Wall, with an estimated death toll ranging from 136[8] to more than 200[9][6] in and around Berlin.
And let us not forget who wanted that wall torn down.  I believe it was the much revered (in some circles) Ronald Reagan who famously said "Tear Down This Wall."   In the late 1980s, a wall built for retarding illegal immigration was seen as a threat to freedom and liberty.  So why is one such a good idea now?

These are some examples of why I assume walls don't work and are a bad idea.  Where there is a will, there's a way.  People will always find a way around, over, through, or under a wall.  Building a wall doesn't get to the root of the problem, it just spends a lot of time, money and effort to reroute the problem. 

Let us remember also that walls in the past have not just been built to keep people out, but also to keep people in.  I'm reminded of "Mending Wall" by Robert Frost, in which he says:
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.
And, as Reinette (aka Madame De Pompadour) reminds us in "The Girl in the Fireplace" episode of Doctor Who:
A door once opened may be stepped through in either direction.
A wall, once built, blocks passage from both directions. Think about it.


Saturday, January 12, 2019

2018 Book List

Here is the list of books that I read in 2018:

The House of Seven Gables - Nathaniel Hawthorne
Keeper of the Castle - Juliet Blackwell
Give Up the Ghost - Juliet Blackwell
The Fast and the Furriest - Sofie Ryan
The Moviegoer - Walker Percy
A Ghostly Light - Juliet Blackwell
The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen
The Bone Garden - Tess Gerritsen
My Antonia - Willa Cather
A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

I read 13 books in 2018.  Not too bad for me.  As you can probably tell, I took a turn into the classics this year, with only a few light reads thrown in.  Well, Alice in Wonderland was really both - a classic and a light read - but it was on the list of classics that I found online and I had never read it, so I figured "what the heck."  I was hoping there would actually be more to it than what you always here about it, but no, not really, just a kids story like you'd expect.  I had actually read A Christmas Carol before, but I was in middle school at the time. My husband and I watched "The Man Who Invented Christmas" and it inspired me to re-read it.

I think I'm all caught up on my murder mystery series - Magical Cats, Second Chance Cats, and Haunted Home Renovations.  I think there may be some new ones coming out soon, though.  The one Tess Gerritsen novel that I read this year was one of her "stand alone" books, not in the Rizzoli & Isles series, although Isles did make a cameo appearance.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Obsessive Thinking

I have an issue with obsessive thinking.  Sometimes, when I get an idea in my head, I just have trouble getting it out of my head.  It could be a problem that I'm trying to solve or an issue that I am wrestling with.  Or it could just be the lyrics to a song that I'm puzzling over their meaning or what they mean to me.  Whatever the subject, it tends to stick around and monopolize my mental energy.

On a couple of recent occasions, the thoughts/issues that I was wrestling with lent themselves to sending an email to someone to express my thoughts on a subject.  In each case, I felt that the person I was emailing wanted to know, or needed to know, or would benefit from knowing my thoughts.  In those cases, I felt better after sending the email.  It's not that I completely stopped thinking about the issue, but I felt that my mind could rest from the subject at that point.  The obsessive nature of the thinking subsided.

My catharsis in writing down my thoughts made me think of the lines to a song - Breathe by Anna Nalick:
Two AM and I'm still awake, writing a song
If I get it all down on paper, its no longer
Inside of me, threatening the life it belongs to
Now I'm no poet or lyricist, but I do feel that getting my ideas carefully thought out and arranged in writing is helpful.  In many cases, however, there isn't necessarily an individual that I can, or want to, email about the topic on my mind, so I'm thinking that I will try do that here on this blog.  I haven't blogged regularly in long time, and I still may not do it regularly, but I think it's worth giving it a try.  I could just write my thoughts in a journal or diary, but I think there is also value in the knowledge that I am sharing my thoughts with someone else.  Even if no one actually comes across them and reads them, they are out there.  Maybe that matters somehow. 

I have to be aware also of what Anna Nalick goes on share in the next few lines of the song:
And I feel like I'm naked in front of the crowd
'Cause these words are my diary, screaming out loud
And I know that you'll use them, however you want to
I know that sometimes people will come along and take offense at the things that are said on the internet, but I suppose that is the risk that I'm taking.   And, it's my blog, so if the comments get annoying, I can always disable them for an individual post (as has only happened once).

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

2017 Book List

I just realized that it is the last day of January, and I still haven't written up my book list from last year.  So, here it goes, the books I read last year:

Exhume - Danielle Girard
Paws and Effect - Sofie Kelly
Telling Tails - Sofie Ryan
We Have Lost the President - Paul Mathews
Murder on the House - Juliet Blackwell
Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands - Jorge Amado
Home for the Haunting - Juliet Blackwell
Last to Die - Tess Gerritsen
Die Again - Tess Gerritsen
Call After Midnight - Tess Gerritsen
The Scarlet Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne
I Know A Secret - Tess Gerritsen
We Have Lost the Pelicans - Paul Mathews
When the Bough Breaks - Jonathan Kellerman
The Color of Magic - Terry Pratchett
Fool's Puzzle - Earlene Fowler

That makes 16 books.  A marked improvement over last year's 10 books.  There are still a lot of mystery series books in there.  The one Terry Pratchett novel, the first in the DiscWorld series, was  the one scifi/fantasy novel.  And the Amado and Hawthorne novels were my forays into serious literature this year. 

I find that I am getting a bit tired of the formulaic mystery novels.  I feel like I'm reading basically the same thing over and over.  When I read more serious things, I feel like I get more out of it, but it takes my longer to get through them, as a general rule.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Feeling Surrounded

More and more I feel like I am trapped in the last few seconds of the last scene of Act 1 of Cabaret.

Friday, November 17, 2017

We have a Culture Problem

Part of the problem with sexual harassment in this country comes from the fact that we have a culture problem.  Our culture tends to glorify, or at least condone, the sexual mistreatment of women.  In the case of Al Franken, grabbing and kissing a woman without her permission, we have very iconic examples.  Take for instance, the famous picture of the sailor kissing the nurse in Times Square at the end of WWII. This was not his girlfriend or even someone he knew.  He was half drunk and happy that the war was over and celebrated by kissing "the first nurse he saw" even though he was on a date with a completely different woman. 
So on this joyous and unbelievable afternoon, George ran from Rita — the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen — grabbed the first nurse he saw, spun her around, dipped her and kissed her. Rita was just steps behind them, and in the photo she’s beaming.
This picture is celebrated as culturally significant and romantic, but the woman being kissed was not too happy about it at the time.
The kiss did kind of bother someone else, though: the woman in the nurse’s uniform, Greta Zimmer, who wasn’t even a nurse. She was a 21-year-old dental assistant from Queens, who, having heard rumors about the end of the war, walked over to Times Square from her office on Lexington Avenue. George says he was so drunk, he doesn’t even remember the kiss. Greta says she’ll never forget it. [...] She isn’t sure how long she was standing there; maybe minutes. “And then I was grabbed,” she says. “That man was very strong. I wasn’t kissing him. He was kissing me.”
And, of course, the movies are filled with scenes where a man grabs a woman and kisses her, she slaps him, then she kisses him back, which gives the impression that it was really okay all along and that being forcibly kissed without permission is what all woman secretly want.  This is a problem and sends a bad message.

Now Senator Franken has said that his actions, including the photo of him groping the accusers breasts while she sleeps, was done in the name of comedy, but that is no excuse.  Whether done for celebratory, comedic, or sexual reasons, it is wrong to kiss or touch a woman sexually without her permission. Period.

And, of course, there is the man who will probably soon be the newest Senator from my home state, the great state of Alabama, Roy Moore.  Now I can't think of any good examples of Hollywood glorifying a sexual relationship between a man in his 30s and a girl of 14, but there is probably one out there somewhere.  But there are examples of people defending his behavior as not really a problem. Oh wrong, maybe, but not really a problem. 
During a CNN interview on Monday, Brandon Moseley, a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter, argued that allegations such as the ones being leveled at Moore shouldn't disqualify the candidate. He noted that the accusation detailed in a recent The Washington Post report, in which a woman claimed Moore made sexual advances on her in 1979 when she was 14 and he was 32, would count as a misdemeanor in Alabama at the time.
"Does that make it OK?" anchor Brooke Baldwin asked.
“No. But again, if, you know, Roy Moore had stolen a lawn mower when he was 21, that’s bad, but that’s not a reason, 50 years later, to all of a sudden, you know, throw him off the ballot or let Mitch McConnell pick the next senator of Alabama," Moseley said.
Now I grew up in Alabama, so I was once a 14 year old girl in Alabama. It was the 80s not the 70s, but I doubt attitudes were much different between the two time frames.  The legal age of consent was 16, but 14 year-olds were sexually active.  There were older guys that hung out at high school football games and high school dances trolling for younger girls, and many didn't care if they were underage or not (just as people have said Moore did).  And the problem is, many of the girls parents didn't seem to mind either.  In fact, when my older sister was 15 she met a guy who was 21 at a high school dance and started dating him.  My parents allowed it.  When I was 14 years old I dated a guy who was 19 years old and my parents allowed it.  In both cases, I know for a fact that they were looking for someone that was young and malleable so that they could make them into what they wanted as a wife or girlfriend.  In the case of my older boyfriend, his girlfriend before me was 14 and his girlfriend after me was 14.  It is that age where the girls have all the look of an adult woman, but often lack the maturity or strength of mind that comes with adulthood.  That makes it perfect for the unscrupulous male predator, and don't get me wrong, that is exactly what they are - predators.  Just like Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame.
A video on YouTube shows Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson, in 2009, urging adult men to marry 15 and 16 year old girls who will “pick their ducks” and not their pockets.
 And the problem is, even though Alabama law technically recognizes this as a crime, our culture tells us that it is really okay, that there is really no harm done.  That is wrong.  There is harm done.  And in fact, back in the 80s (I don't know about now) it was legal for a 14 year old to get married with parental consent.  So it wasn't okay for a 14 year old to consent to sex, but it was okay for her parents to consent to it for her.  I'm sorry (okay I'm not really sorry), but that is WRONG! In fact, apparently in Louisiana, marrying the underage girl was a way to get out of statutory rape charges. Again, see Phil Robertson as an example:

Robertson has a history of messing around with underage girls.  At age 20, he was having sex with a 14-year-old girl who got pregnant and was forced to marry her at 16 to avoid going to prison for statutory rape in Louisiana.
 So, if we are going to do something about sexual harassment in our country, we need to address our cultural issues with the topic, not just our laws.  We need to socialize our young males to realize that forced affection is not true affection and a woman's (or girl's) body is her own to make her own decisions about.  And if she is not of legal age to make those decisions, then they shouldn't ask her to make them, they should keep their hands to themselves!  And, in fact, it goes both ways.  Women should not be forcing themselves on men or boys either.  Remember, your body is your own, and your rights end where someone else's nose (or lips, or breast, or vagina, or penis, etc) begins.  It's not funny, it's not romantic, and it's not okay.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

2016 Book List

Here are the books that I read in 2016:

Speaking in Bones - Kathy Reichs
Faux Paw - Sofie Kelly
The Christmas Box - Richard Paul Evans
Driving Heat - Richard Castle
A Whisker of Trouble - Sofie Ryan
If Walls Could Talk - Juliet Blackwell
Dead Bolt - Juliet Blackwell
Tempest-Tost - Robertson Davies
Leaven of Malice - Robertson Davies
Goodbye to Berlin - Christopher Isherwood

Only 10 books this year.  Oh, well, it seems that I just keep moving in the same direction, fewer books each year.  Mostly light reading and books in a series this year, too.  Mostly murder mysteries, with the exception of Davies, Isherwood, and Evans.  Maybe I will find more time for reading this year.  Only time will tell.