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Churning up old memories

Along with being a craft and needlework hoarder, I am, um, well just a hoarder, in general.  Today  I was sorting, okay, beginning to sort would be more accurate, old letters from my pen pals around the world endeavor:

Multiculturalism My Way

I came across a 1980 DOD publication that has a photo of me and my Army AIT boyfriend in it, at the Department of Defense Information School (DINFOS) at  Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis, IN..  The title of the story says it all:  Wizards who tell the story.  My boyfriend was a tall, handsome…… Marine;-)  Enough to make a girl’s heart swoon.

Ways to go on this blazing paper trails in my house.  Later…

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A couple links

Andrew McCarthy at National Review wrote an interesting piece on the Russian/NRA connection: Collusion 3-0: Russia and the NRA

McCarthy details the Trump/Russian collusion narrative and how so far that narrative keeps imploding, despite Democrats and the mainstream media maintaining over a yearlong stream of hysterical spin.  McCarthy also points out the larger point that keeps getting lost in the rabid partisan battle – we really do need to investigate and figure out the extent of Russian infiltration of American institutions.  By so politicizing Russian information warfare efforts in 2016 and turning it into a domestic partisan issue, it’s going to be very hard to even understand the full scope of the Russian efforts and even harder to defeat them.  The Russians will easily continue to manipulate and egg on the rabid American partisans.

On Twitter this morning, I came across this Weekly Standard piece on immigration that’s worth a read too: Why America Needs People from ‘Shithole’ Countries

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“A few leaves of grass” for remembrance

20171125_132102-1.jpg

We had a very quiet Thanksgiving and only one of our kids could come home.  I cooked the complete turkey meal and baked a couple of pumpkin pies that morning too.  By early evening our son had gone home.  All of the dishes were cleaned up and the leftovers put away.  I spent a few hours working in my sewing/craft room, then picked up a book that I like to read bits and pieces from often.

I keep War Letters:  Extraordinary Correspondence from American Wars, edited by Andrew Carroll, on a small table by my recliner.  A few years ago, I mentioned General Pershing’s famous WWI letter to his young son, Warren, which I came across in this book.   General Pershing’s letter to his son was a father explaining the important values Americans fights to protect and preserve.  It’s probably my favorite letter in the book, but a close second is a letter written in 1918,  by Maude B. Fisher, an American Red Cross nurse.  She penned one of the most touching letters to Mrs. Hogan, the mother of a young soldier, Richard Hogan, who died of influenza in their hospital.  This wonderful nurse took the time to pen a very personal letter, so that a grieving mother would know how her son died.  The letter includes details of how brave and cheerful the dying soldier was, the care he received, and even more than that this nurse wrote the details of the soldier’s burial:

“He was laid to rest in the little cemetery of Commercy, and sleeps under a simple wooden cross among his comrades who, like him, have died for their country.  His grave number is 22, plot 1.  His aluminum identification tag is on the cross , and a similar one around his neck, both bearing his serial number, 2793346.

The plot of the grave in the cemetery where your son is buried was given to the Army for our boys and the people of Commercy will alway tend it with loving hands and keep it fresh and clean.  I enclose here a few leaves of grass that grows near in a pretty meadow.

A big hill overshadows that place and the sun was setting behind it just as the Chaplain said the last prayer over your boy.”

page 171, War Letters: Extraordinary Correspondence from American Wars, edited by Andrew Carroll

No one required this nurse to write to this grieving mother, because the Army notified fallen soldiers’ families, but she cared enough to want this mother to have more details.  The book offers a few details about each letter.  Mrs. Hogan lost two of her other children back home in Woburn, Massachusetts, during the 1918 influenza epidemic.  It must have been a great comfort for her to know her son far away was dutifully cared for as he lay dying and that he was given a proper burial.  And imagine her relief knowing exactly where her son was buried.

Thoughtful good deeds, like Maude Fisher’s, used to be very common when most people were reared to put other people before themselves and when quietly doing the right thing was drilled into children and served as the cultural norm.

Almost every good deed now is posted on social media, hyped as some fake gimmicky publicity stunt for attention, or used to sell oneself as more caring than someone else.

Maude Fisher reminds me of the same kind of nurse my mother was.  My mother sent me a little book of Psalms and prayers in 1980, when I was far away from home and going through a hard time in my life.  My mother explained how she came to have this little book:

“… died in 1964 and this booklet was unclaimed by her relatives.  She was a lovely old lady and it was a rewarding experience caring for her.  I am giving this to you Susie, as over the years I found pleasure in reading psalms and prayers.

As you know I’m not a person to force religion on anyone.  I do have faith in God and you will find comfort in reading psalms in times when you’re distressed and unhappy.”

In 1980, I was young and considered myself more agnostic than faithful, but my mother was right.  Over the years, I have picked up this little book or my Bible and turned to the Psalms when I feel  “distressed and unhappy”.

In 2001, my mother was hospitalized for several weeks and I began to worry a great deal, even though she and my sisters assured me that she was improving.  My mother kept telling me there was no need to come to PA, because she would be out of the hospital soon.  Still, I worried and I mailed this booklet to PA and asked my sister to take it to my mother in the hospital.  My mother was happy to see it again and to read it.

My mother died suddenly and unexpectedly on the day she was supposed to be discharged to a local rehabilitation facility for some follow-on care.

My mother quietly helped as many people as she could.  She never talked about it, she just did it, because it was the right thing to do.  People like Maude Fisher and my mother used to be the rule, not the exception.

I don’t have the religious education to argue Christian theology and truthfully if something doesn’t make sense to me, like so much in most religions, I refuse to say, “I believe.”   However, I think having rules or guidelines to serve as guard rails in life, to keep you on track, and sign posts to keep from getting lost, are very helpful.  I reread the Sermon on the Mount often.  I can understand that.  Matthew 6:1-4 has served as the guide for how I try to live my life and it assuredly was how my mother and Maude Fisher lived theirs:

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%205-7

Watching America’s endless game of partisan one upmanship has caused me to reevaluate my own strident partisan views.   Truly, so much of the extreme emotional investment in these “political hills to die on” won’t matter at all if the country is filled with raging partisans, who hate each other.  The hate bodes poorly, with many Americans who refuse to even talk to anyone with opposing political views, some want those with opposing views silenced, and there are even some wishing those with opposing partisan views were dead.

We could all take a page from Maude Fisher’s and my mother’s book.  Caring about other people is about more than clicking “like” on social media feeds or posting about every shallow thought that pops into your head.   I wonder how many people attending a funeral today would take the time away from their smartphone to even notice that the sun was setting when a young soldier was buried or the pretty meadow.   Assuredly, I doubt hardly anyone would take the time to pick “a few leaves of grass” for remembrance and pen a letter like this to a grieving mother.

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Filed under American Character, Civility, Food for Thought, General Interest, Uncategorized

Happy Thanksgiving!

“In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.”

— Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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Our Thoth,  God of 140-characters

My first two altered book junk journals.  The one on the left is for my oldest daughter, who loves primitive country type stuff.  For her book, Ann Coulter’s Godless, was transformed into a lovely autumn journal.  The book on the right was an “alterable book” I purchased at a craft store long ago.  The covers are very simple – more old calendar pictures cut-up and glued on with Mod Podge.  The spines are covered with old Walmart clearance ribbon.  The little metal word pieces have been in my scrapbooking supplies for many years.

The sampler image, on the left, is from The Lang Country Sampler 2009 calendar, artwork by Ellen  Stouffer.  The image on right is from my 2006 Holly Hobbie calendar.

In the early 2000s, I purchased several books on how to make altered books, but the altered book projects looked more like art journals, way beyond my very basic crafting skill  level, and although well-written, with clear step-by-step instructions, I didn’t have the confidence to attempt making one.

In 2017, after watching many hours of YouTube “junk journal” videos, I decided to try making some myself. Thinking about “altered books” as making “junk journals” from old “junk” removed a mental block for me.

The words we use can completely change how we, not only perceive the world, but they can also “alter” reality.  In many previous posts, I’ve written about America’s raging war of words (here, here, here, here).

Politicians have always used words to influence people.  Andrew Robinson, in the introduction of his 1995 book, The Story of Writing, wrote:

Writing and literacy are generally seen as forces for good.  It hardly needs saying that a person who can read and write has greater opportunities for fulfillment than one who is illiterate.  But there is also a dark side to the spread of writing that is present throughout its history, if somewhat less obvious.  Writing has been used to tell lies as well as truth, to bamboozle and exploit as well as to educate, to make minds lazy as well as to stretch them.

Socrates pinpointed our ambivalence towards writing in his story of the Egyptian god Thoth, the inventor of writing, who came to see the king seeking royal blessing on his enlightening invention.  The king told Thoth: ‘You, who are the father of letters, have been led by your affection to ascribe to them a power the opposite of that which they really possess… You have invented an elixir not of memory, but of reminding; and you offer your pupils the appearance of wisdom, not true wisdom, for they will read many things without instruction and will therefore seem to know many things, when they are for the most part ignorant.’  In a late 20th century world drenched with written information and surrounded by information technologies of astonishing speed, convenience and power, these words spoken in antiquity have a distinctly contemporary ring”

page 8, The Story of Writing, by Andrew Robinson, Copyright  1995 Thomas & Hudson Ltd, London

Back in 1992, when he ran for president, Bill Clinton became a household name, as did his nickname, Slick Willie, which he had acquired back in Arkansas, due to his remarkable way of using words to deceive people.  Pulitzer prize winning journalist, Paul Greenberg, coined the Slick Willie nickname in 1980 and it stuck with Bill Clinton ever since:

“Greenberg saw Slick Willie as a waffler, a zigzagger, a master of obfuscation — the unworthy alter-ego of Clinton, the compassionate idealist. Greenberg concluded that, like Faubus, Clinton had presented a facade of making great progress during his first term when he had retreated on his basic promises. He talked about preserving the environment, for instance, but appeased the chicken industry. Slick Willie became a recurring character for Greenberg. All other Clinton monikers — “Kid Clinton,” “Boy Governor,” “Young Smoothie” — were retired.

In Slick Willie, Greenberg felt, he had found the perfect coinage. “It doesn’t mean liar. It means dissembler,” he explains now. “This is a particular subspecies of lying. It’s a very lawyerly, sophisticated, elastic lie. In my opinion, the old-fashioned lie would be a step up.””

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/special/clinton/stories/slick122098.htm

Bill Clinton is a brilliant politician, who masterfully uses words and has a rare gift for sophisticated obfuscation.

Donald J. Trump is the king of conflating issues  His use of words is the polar opposite of Bill Clinton’s brand of “slick”.  Trump uses simplistic “branding” phrases, often divorced from the rest of the sentences he utters.  The sentences don’t matter in Trump’s dumbed-down, branding type of information warfare.

Trump transformed the Clinton spin information warfare, that relied on carefully worded, focus-group tested talking points, repeated by a vast army of colluding journalists and political operatives, into rapid-fire, Army of One, Trump-driven 140-character, daily information warfare guerilla attacks.

He’s using guerilla warfare tactics in an information war.

Trump word salad attacks break all the rules.  He strikes with bold-faced lies and never looks back. Trump doesn’t even bother to obfuscate.  He boldly lies, then insists all those around him repeat and back his lies, no matter how outrageous the lie.

He has perfected the art of conflating issues into being all about “Make America Great Again”. Trump seized on the issue of NFL players kneeling during the national anthem in protest over racial injustice and conflated it into disrespecting the U.S. military.  He creates endless reality TV conflicts, casting himself as the champion of American patriotism, who is the constantly maligned victim of the dastardly “fake news”. He wants to keep his supporters agitated and angry, while he wraps himself in the American flag and MAGA sound bites.

Yesterday, in his effort to deflect from a reporter questioning why he hasn’t called the families of recently fallen soldiers, Trump bold-faced lied about President Obama and other presidents, claiming they didn’t call fallen soldiers’ families.

General Dempsey, who has tried to stay out of the 2016 information war, took to Twitter last night to counter Trump’s LIE.

Our Thoth, God of 140-characters, manages to manipulate millions, mostly poor white people, by playing to their insecurities, their prejudices and most of all their anger.

The smarter Trump followers aren’t blind to his many flaws, but they’ve bought into a Faustian bargain, all prefaced on the belief that America is at the Flight 93 crisis point:

“2016 is the Flight 93 election: charge the cockpit or you die. You may die anyway. You—or the leader of your party—may make it into the cockpit and not know how to fly or land the plane. There are no guarantees.

Except one: if you don’t try, death is certain. To compound the metaphor: a Hillary Clinton presidency is Russian Roulette with a semi-auto. With Trump, at least you can spin the cylinder and take your chances.”

http://www.claremont.org/crb/basicpage/the-flight-93-election/

At every Trump outrage they cringe, but then they fortify themselves by talking amongst themselves about how the Left is worse, but Gorsuch, and turn up the volume of FOX News blaring about how Trump is “making America great again”.  And of course, the Left leads only to American demise… Trump is the last best hope in their view.

Trump is a “fighter”…

Flight 93 had some real heroes on board; the Trump propaganda train jumped the tracks into tin pot dictator level, Dear Leader, bowing and scraping.

Over the weekend, I walked into the room where my husband was watching FOX News, like always.  Jerry Falwell, Jr. was blathering on about how President Trump will likely go down in history as a great president, as great as President Lincoln.  The FOX  sycophantic hosts are as dutiful as the Pink Lady in North Korea.

They smiled, heads nodding, and agreed with Falwell.

Make America Great Again…

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The death of gentlemen

cad:

dated, informal 

Watching Hollywood actresses denounce Harvey Weinstein, coupled with the photos and videos of many of these same actresses smiling and sharing warm embraces with Weinstein, when it benefitted their acting careers, showcases the hypocrisy of the elite Left perfectly.  To see the hypocrisy of the Right, listen to blowhards like Sean Hannity rail about Weinstein and the Hollywood cover-up of his behavior, while pretending that President Trump was a victim of the media, when the Access Hollywood tape, where Trump bragged about grabbing women by their lady parts, was released.

The truth is there is not a hairsbreadth of difference between the behavior of Weinstein, Trump, Bill Clinton, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly.  They used their power and position to prey on women.

The most entertaining explanation of Weinstein’s behavior is Emma Thompson, with her lovely English accent:

Thompson, like many feminists, is using this example of men behaving badly as a rallying cry to attack the “male patriarchy” again.  They hit the airwaves to rally women, and men, to stop this form of “extreme masculinity” and demand that women stand up against behavior like Weinstein’s.

It’s time for a historical reality check.

The so-called “male patriarchy” is not what enabled Harvey Weinstein to behave as he did.  Power and money did.  A whole lot of people around Weinstein, to include many women, knew about his behavior and helped cover it up.  However, the larger cultural reasons behind this growing list of powerful men engaging in behavior Thompson dubbed “extreme masculinity” stems from over a century of loosening of sexual  behavior, largely fueled by modern feminism.

Along with women burning their bras in the 60s, they burned down all those traditional boundaries, that guided sexual behavior.  Men who clung to gentlemanly behavior were derided by feminists in the early days of the feminist movement in 1960s. Modern feminism killed off chivalry and gentlemanly behavior, as the cultural norm for male behavior.

In the 1800s  American women had a great deal more independence and freedom than women in the rest of the world.  DeTocqueville noted this in his travels across America in 1831 and accounts of women traveling alone around America, throughout the 1800s, are not hard to find.  Women felt safe to travel alone, without fear of being accosted, because the culture defined a strict code of male behavior, which demanded gentlemanly behavior toward women.  Women did not have to fight “extreme masculinity”, because the so-called “male patriarchy” instilled in boys how to treat a lady.  Men policed other men’s behavior around women, without ladies having to march, protest or even lift a finger.   Men who broke the code were ostracized from polite society.

Feminists send off a mixed message when it comes to relations between men and women.  Let me correct that, the current push for “transgender rights” has now muddied the distinctions about gender to the point where some of the most extreme social justice warriors want the very terms male and female to become obsolete.  In this sort of jumbled, often contradictory, moral vacuum, where right and wrong exist only in doing whatever one feels like doing, feminists flounder about looking for where to point the finger of blame.

The blame goes to a modern culture that has no agreed upon social boundaries when it comes to, not only sexual conduct, but to civil conduct, in general.  Good manners is a term as antiquated as the simple English word that describes Weinstein’s behavior: cad.

We live in a society where people make excuses for every sort of bad human behavior, often categorizing the most extreme deviancies as “addictions”, absolving the perpetrators of all personal responsibility.  News that Weinstein was entering treatment for his “sex addiction” followed the typical pattern for badly behaving celebrities trying to redeem their public reputation.  Just shameless media and legal posturing for sympathy rather than any admittance of wrongdoing and hey, it’s an “addiction’, which he has no control over, right?

In the absence of boundaries on individual conduct, a code of conduct, based on values we all agree are worth living up to, there’s no common ground upon which social norms can take root and grow.

Even the simple word cad, to describe someone like Weinstein, is, as Oxford lists it, “dated”.  Oxford’s list of synonyms for cad sound equally old-fashioned: scoundrel, rascal, good-for-nothing, reprobate, unprincipled person.

So, we are left with euphemisms tossed about by angry feminists, blaming remnants of the “male patriarchy” for “extreme masculinity” to explain the problem.

The truth is the sexual revolution, which modern feminists helped fight, killed gentlemen as the social norm for acceptable male conduct and the world is much worse off without them.

We need gentlemen, and ladies, to restore civility to our culture.  That requires agreeing on boundaries on individual conduct.  It requires agreeing on some common values.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for Americans to find common ground on… anything.

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Kneeling or Standing: A fake diversion

Kneeling or standing seems to be another one of these “national conversations” America is having.  Here’s another junk journal I made last weekend, using a 2010 military-themed calendar. It was a free calendar, handed out at the military commissary I use on Fort Stewart.  The clothespins are just to hold the pages open. The songbook came in a fundraising letter from the Disabled American Veterans and on the back it has 2014 on it.  The post card is one of several American bicentennial ones, I bought in 1976:

I put my “I love America” junk journal together, using only stuff I had already.  I still have a lot of work to do with embellishing the inside and finding charms or beads or something to add to the strings hanging out the bottom, which are the strings from sewing the page signatures into the book:

I made the cover out of a cereal box and covered it with patriotic fabric I’ve had for many years.  I decided to put several coats of Mod Podge matte sealer on top, because it makes the cover easy to wipe clean (good for messy me) and it also made it feel sturdier.

This old calendar had lots of nice photos, worth saving, so I added them, some patriotic scrapbook paper, old map pages, and some assorted other paper.  It felt better to be working on this journal last weekend, almost like therapy in the age of Trump: The Potemkin American President, which is a bizarre reality show and sequel to Trump: The Potemkin 2016 Campaign.   His MAGA 2.0 is totally fake.  He plays a constant, vile “us vs. them” strategy. It’s the same old Clinton strategy, where they were always the victim of some nefarious, “vast, right-wing conspiracy”.

This kneeling controversy follows his constant borrowing on the American people’s respect for the generals surrounding him, stealing their honor whenever he can.  He uses those generals to bolster his image as “Trump loves the military” and he uses the military as stage props and flags, flags and more flags, to wrap himself in.

Last weekend’s controversy was a classic Trump diversion. He once again changed the subject, latched onto the topic, showing respect for the flag and national anthem, that he knew his base and millions of Americans would rally behind, all to create a controversy, where the Left would screech.  He has played the innocent, standard-bearer victim for MAGA, again. The real issue was not about kneeling or standing. It was an abuse of power by the President of the United States, trying to exert influence on NFL owners to prod them to fire players over players’ political expressions. Most people buy into either Trump’s spin or the liberal media’s spin and do not think for themselves. With Americans trained to take sides on every hot bed issue, few will stop and say, “that’s not really what the issue is.”

As someone who cringed, when President Clinton waxed about feeling people’s pain, watching Clinton’s old golfing buddy, pretend to be a Republican, sickens me, but it also makes me wonder why so many Republicans rolled over and got on the Trump train, even though Trump’s vacillating policies, pronouncements and even his character were things that many of these Republicans railed against.

These days, I wonder who are these Trump loyalists, people who spent decades preaching conservative values?

Who are these people, who still cheer President Trump’s divisive, phony chants at rallies?  Even more worrisome is who are these mouthpieces, who are willing to repeat any Trump talking point, no matter how untruthful, disingenuous, or fake it is?

The Left and the mainstream (liberal) media are running a phony information war too and besides their endless #Resist campaign to delegitimize Trump, there are many bizarre, dishonest headlines and stories from ostensibly hard news reporters.

Their news reporting often makes me cringe, but their opinion pieces often make me feel like revisionist history is being written from the pages of American journalism’s top newspapers. The New York Times ran an opinion piece a couple of days ago, continuing their Duranty heritage of willingly spreading communist propaganda.  When you examine the #Resist, with their Women’s March, then their Immigration and Workers’ Rights March in May, with far-left organizers, communist propaganda seems to be in vogue again. Lately, the target audience for communist indoctrination is women:

“The Communists did many terrible things,” my grandmother always says at the end of her reminiscences. “But they made women’s lives much better.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/25/opinion/women-china-communist-revolution.html

In August, the New York Times ran an opinion piece titled, Why Women Had Better Sex Under Socialism

While President Trump captures media attention daily with his information war, there’s plenty to be disturbed about with the liberal media too.   I’m doing less blogging and more crafting and needlework,  because the raging information war in America worries me a “great” deal.

Junk journal made with a 2009 local bank calendar.  I turned this into my Hurricane Irma evacuation journal and have it almost completely filled up with collages, receipts, lists, and journaling.

Junk journal made with 2004 Country Bouquet calendar.

I used a dollar store 2018 calendar with lovely vintage collage pictures as pages to add to my Monet journal, which had too much empty space along the spine.  I made two more signatures of assorted pages and sewed them into that journal.  I didn’t have enough of the brown cord that I used to sew in the other 3 signatures, so I used a green beading cord.   I didn’t want to throw away the scrap pieces, that I cut off of those vintage collage pages, so I’ve been cutting and tearing them up, making my own collages on index cards, using  paint, rubber stamping and images from an old wildlife book. I coated them with Mod Podge to seal them.

I made the bird ones, cutting out pieces of paper and using a little bit of ink around the edges, but they looked pretty blah and lifeless.  So, then I tried the butterfly using acrylic paint, inking and gel pen highlights, after, of course, watching more YouTube videos on mixed media collage art.  I cut the words, Timeless Beauty, out of an old magazine.  I opted for tearing out my pieces of paper, like the real collage artists do and I experimented with the paint.   On the bobcat card, I  added paint and some rubber-stamping on the background.  The purrsonality script is from an old sticker sheet.  As a person with zero artistic talent, I am thankful for Pinterest and YouTube videos.

The never-ending information warfare is reforming this die-hard news junkie into a crafting/sewing fanatic.

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