27. April 2017 · Comments Off on BLOG, Apr. 27, 2017 · Categories: Blog

Here’s some more memories of my teenage years, between 1950 and 1959.  This one is on what I remember about entertainment (movies, radio, TV, and music).  It won’t be every girl’s memory, but it’s mine.

Upcoming blogs will be on my memories about shopping, art, transportation, and travel in the ‘50’s.

Entertainment in the 1950’s

We didn’t own a television set until I was 14, which would have been 1953, but I remember listening to the radio, to shows like Death Valley Days, The Green Hornet, Hopalong Cassidy, Kukla, Fran and Ollie, Jack Benny, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, and others.

I recall listening obsessively to Your Hit Parade on a radio in my bedroom, which I shared with my grandmother.  I’d sing along with all the songs, learning to sing like the stars such as Rosemary Clooney, Dorothy Collins, Giselle MacKenzie, Dinah Shore, and others not so well-known.  I even got two girlfriends to learn a few songs, such as “Mr. Sandman,” which we recorded (of course, we never did anything with it).  And I tried out for a talent show at my Junior High School, planning to sing Elvis’ “You Saw Me Crying in the Chapel,” but I got stage fright before I sang a note, and ran off the stage – yes, that was me.

Once we got a TV set, we barely ever listened to the radio.  Shows I watched included variety programs like Your Show of Shows, The Jimmy Durante Show, Milton Berle, and far too many other shows to list.  Ed Sullivan of Your Show of Shows introduced us to The Beatles, Elvis Presley, and a number of other then- and soon-to-be-famous acts.  I watched Flash Gordon, The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, and dozens of other shows, including of course, baseball and cartoons, and especially any private eye or cop shows.

The quiz show craze began in 1955 with the premiere of The 64,000 Dollar Question.  That was one of my favorite types of show, and there were many imitations, most of which I also watched.

After 1955, if memory serves, my interest in television began to wane.  There were many more interesting things going on in my life, specifically boys.  I still watched an occasional show but my heart wasn’t really in it; I spent most of my free time with girlfriends, and figuring out how to get asked on a date.

Movies were a whole lot cheaper then than they are now.  Almost every Saturday afternoon, my sister and two or three girlfriends and I walked from the projects to a movie theater about nineteen blocks away.  There we would pay our quarter and watch a double feature, a cartoon, and a newsreel, and sometimes trailers for upcoming movies, which we would then plan whether to see or not.

I guess we were too poor to attend concerts or plays, and neither I nor my family was interested in opera.  I’m sure there were concerts held in or near Oakland, but I never had enough cash from my babysitting jobs to spend sitting in a crowd listening to someone play that I could hear on the radio, or on our records.

Everyone had a record player, and we all had records, many records.  These were mostly the large vinyl records called 78’s, because they played at 78 rpm.  Also around 1952, some budget-priced plastic 7-inch 78 rpm pop music singles became available.

In 1949 RCA Victor released the first 45 rpm single, 7 inches in diameter with a large center hole.  Another size and format was 33-1⁄3  rpm, and 16 inches in diameter.  Both the 33-1⁄3 rpm record (LP, for long-playing) and the 45 rpm single records were flexible and unbreakable in normal use.  The vinyl records, however, were easier to scratch or gouge, and much more prone to warping, compared to most 78 rpm records.

All us teenagers watched American Bandstand religiously.  Although it was recorded in Philadelphia, I never had a sense that it was an East Coast show.  Dick Clark didn’t host it until 1956, and I had stopped watching it by then.  But it always featured popular music, and ran the gamut from Jerry Lee Lewis to a new kind of music, rapping.

Music wasn’t really my thing, although I did want to be a professional singer.  I’d had lots of compliments on my singing, mostly from my family.  But after I married my first husband and he joined the Navy and left for Japan, I used to sing while I vacuumed my tiny apartment in Oakland.  I was offered a job as a singer with a country and western band that played in a bar on Oakland’s Broadway but, of course, I was too young.  But that became fodder for years of dreams.  

 

22. April 2017 · Comments Off on BLOG, Apr. 22, 2017 · Categories: Blog

The Fifties (1950’s)

This is the first part of a blog that I’m writing over the next week or two.  I thought someone might be interested in how the 1950’s seemed to me.

As I recall, in the 1950’s, things were a bit different than they are now.  I lived in a housing project in Oakland from my age 7 to 14, which encompassed 1947 to 1954.  My family moved into a house in Santa Clara in 1954, I got married in 1956, and graduated high school in 1957.  By 1958, I was divorced, and still single by 1960.  This was how things were, at least in California where I lived.

Fashion

Very few women in my neighborhood were focused on fashion in the 1950’s, as far as I was concerned.  We saw fashionable ladies in magazines and in the movies, but certainly not in the projects.  The height of fashion, as I recall, was a pert hat, a fur coat, and three-inch heels; these were worn with a curly perm, gloves and a handbag, and stockings with very straight seams.  And they were worn generally to church.  Teachers, mostly female, wore skirts and dresses, with cloth coats, shoes with short heels, and seamed stockings.  I wore the same thing (though I wore flats), except to go to church or a dance.

Men’s fashion really didn’t exist.  Men wore hats, mostly felt or fedora hats, and if they wore a suit and tie, these all looked the same from one man to another, from one day to the next.  Again, we saw variations of these in magazines and in the movies, but men generally only wore suits to church.  Most men I saw were blue collar, so they wore slacks, shirts and sports coats.  I suppose some men wore suits to work, but being only 11 to 20 years old during the 50’s, I didn’t see much of men at work.  After my marriage (I was 17, he was 18) in 1956, my husband wore what he’d worn to school – jeans, t-shirts, and windbreakers, sweaters, or letter jackets.

Politics

I didn’t know much about politics in the 50’s – I paid very little attention.  I knew that my father was a Democrat and my mother a Republican, and they joked that they cancelled out each other’s votes.  We didn’t talk much about politics, although it sometimes came up at the dinner table with regard to something one of us kids was studying in school.

Researching the era, I found that what was known as the Cold War, an ongoing state of political conflict, military tension, and economic competition between the Soviet Union and the Western world led by the United States, caused a great state of alarm.  This put us school children in terror because of air raid sirens which went off on occasion, requiring us to “tuck and roll,” meaning cover our ears, tuck ourselves into a ball, and roll under our desks.  There was also something called the space race, which described a “race” between the Soviet Union and the U.S. to be first to reach outer space.  This included the 1957 launch by the Soviet Union of the Sputnik satellite, a major milestone in the Cold War.

The Korean War (or conflict) lasted from 1950 to 1953, and was actually between North and South Korea.  The U.S. was involved with the hope of preventing Communism taking hold in South Korea and moving into other countries.

Other conflicts waged in the 50’s included the Suez Canal Crisis, problems with  Guatemala, Venezuela, Haiti, and Cuba.  I myself knew very little of this as our history and social studies classes tended to gloss over these awful things.

People had to deal with Communism and McCarthyism; we were told that Communism was a creeping horror that Russia, Cuba, and China were all living under, and we must avoid being infected by it by any means.  Senator Joseph McCarthy conducted a “witch hunt,” looking for Commies everywhere, from the early to the mid-50’s.

Then there was the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement.  In 1957, the Little Rock Nine integrated a school in Little Rock, Arkansas, a key event in the fight to end segregation in schools and other public places.  My own junior high school included a single black child.  He was a major basketball star, one of the most popular boys in school, so I really had no idea what the Civil Rights Movement was all about.

My next blog should be about entertainment, the police, and grocery & clothes shopping.

09. April 2017 · Comments Off on BLOG, Apr. 9, 2017 · Categories: Blog

Here is the prologue to a book I’m working on now; I don’t have a whole lot more than this, but I thought it would be nice to share what I’ve got so far.

Prologue to THE GEMSTONE

All the white witches were gathered together under the full moon of the vernal equinox, in the abandoned church beside an old cemetery.  After the ritual sacrifice of the white dove, Mathew, High Priest of the Emmery witches’ coven, who had stood at the podium throughout the ceremony, proclaimed that he wished to make an announcement.

Turning grandly to face the ten coven members, he said, “Hannah, you will step forward.”

Uncertain why the leader was calling her out, Hannah moved through the white-gowned group as they whispered and nodded to one another, and took her place below the altar where the High Priest stood.  Once silence had descended again upon the group, Mathew raised his arms at his sides and thundered, “Hannah, you have been accused of the theft of spells from the black witch Engrágen.  How do you plead?”

“Ummm,” she managed.  The blood drained from her face and she stammered, “Y-y-yes, your Excellency, I have-have stolen such spells, but-but . . .”

Seemingly uninterested in her justification, Mathew went on.  “You are hereby found guilty of the crimes of theft, and of experimenting with black spells.  Do you have an explanation?”

“Yes, I d-do,” Hannah said, her confidence slowly returning.  “You see, I- I’m a scientist, and I simply wished to test these spells with the scientific method.”

Mathew snorted, then turned to the coven and, raising his arms once again, proclaimed to his audience, “As we are taught, such spells are the exclusive domain of black witches.  Hannah knew this as well as any of us.  She has risked calling the Black Warlock to our coven by casting such spells.”

The remaining coven members gasped and backed away from Hannah, who stood now at the center of the white-gowned group.  “But. . . “

“Hannah Taylor,” the High Priest intoned, “thou shalt be evicted from the Emmery coven as of this night, by order of the Witches Council.  Now, you may leave us.”  The entire group turned and put their backs to her.  She gazed around in bewilderment.  Then, making up her mind, with as much dignity as she could muster, Hannah walked through the church and out the double doors at the back.  She had to employ all her power of will to refrain from slamming the doors shut.

As she stood outside the church, Hannah allowed herself to feel her fury with the High Priest and the other white witches who had not spoken up for her.  “It’s so unfair,” she muttered.  “I wasn’t going to use the spells for myself, but only to see if I could cast them.  I was only trying to explore the covens’ beliefs from a scientific point of view.  The High Priest should have been more open-minded.”

She set off to return to her home, walking slowly but still furious, and working out how she might get back at the coven’s high Priest.  She went directly to her hidden altar room and opened her Book of Spells.  Finding the one she wanted, she set about gathering up the ingredients for the spell.  Once she had lit the candles and set out her materials, she stepped inside the inverted pentagram, encircled by chalk, used now as a symbol of protection, and chanted the spell.

Hail, Guardians of the Watchtowers of the East, Powers of Air.
Here stands one in need of protection of the mind.
Let the light of dawn surround me in safety,
Let the Aspen tree ground me to Mother Earth,
Let the eastern wind hold me in the palm of its hand,
That I may grow in goodness and light, in the service of the Mother.
Hail, Guardians of the Watchtowers of the South, Powers of Fire.
Here stands one in need of protection of the spirit.
Let the noon light surround me in safety,
Let the Almond tree ground me to Mother Earth,
Let the southern wind flow around me to protect me,
That I may grow in goodness and light, in the service of the Mother.
Hail, Guardians of the Watchtowers of the West, Powers of Water.
Here stands one in need of protection of her emotions.
Let the dusk of twilight shroud me in protection,
Let the Willow tree ground me to Mother Earth,
Let the western wind shroud me from all evil,
That I may grow in goodness and light, in the service of the Mother.
Hail, Guardians of the Watchtowers of the North, Powers of Earth.
Here stands one in need of protection of her body.
Let the dark of midnight shroud me in protection,
Let the Oak tree ground me to Mother Earth,
Let the northern wind keep me from all harm,
That I may grow in goodness and light, in the service of the Mother.
Hear me, oh guardians of the elements and quarters.
I stand a child of the universe
Beset on all sides by those who wish me ill.
I ask not that you change them, for their will is their own,
But grant me strength, that I may shine in the light
Growing in goodness in the service of Mankind and Mother Earth

Then she stepped back, a bit fearful, to await the results.  After a long few minutes, she felt a breeze on her back, though no window was open.  The breeze grew until suddenly the terrifying visage of the Black Warlock reared high above her just outside the circle she had drawn.  She was terrified, worried that she had forgotten some small part of the spell which might prove dangerous for her.

She pleaded with the demon to let her live.   “Calm yourself, little Hannah,” the Warlock snickered.  “I will let you live if you do something for me.  It’s something quite simple,” he assured her with a smile she was sure he meant to be reassuring, but it terrified her.

“There is a certain small gemstone which I wish to own.  Some think there are rivers of blood associated with it, from both white and black witches who have misused it.  But all I want you to do is to retrieve it and bring it to me.  You must know that this gemstone, which some have called the ‘Black Sapphire,’ has potent healing powers.”

The Warlock snickered, causing Hannah to blanch, but he ignored her and went on.  “If you succeed in bringing me the gemstone, you will earn a seat beside me in the ruling Council of the City of Shades.”

Hannah was astonished, uncertain whether to believe him or not.  Though the Black Warlock seemed to downplay its peril, this must truly be a dangerous quest if the reward was a seat on the Council.  “Can you tell me more about it?” she asked querulously, anxious that she might say the wrong thing.

“All I will say,” he answered, slitting his eyes, “is that a Black Warlock may use the stone to kill a witch from afar.  Few warlocks have heard of the existence of this sapphire, and those who have, generally consider it a fable.  But they are mistaken.”

“So it is real?” Hannah asked.  The Black Warlock nodded with a fiendish smirk, and Hannah spent a moment pondering how safe she might be after she turned the gemstone over to the Black Warlock.  Then she told herself she had best not ask about her own safety and risk arousing his ire.

As the Black Warlock vanished, returning to wherever he had arisen from, Hannah hung her head in fear.  Then she began to think about how she might learn more about this gemstone.

 

24. March 2017 · Comments Off on BLOG, Mar. 24, 2017 · Categories: Blog

Almost a year ago, I wrote in my blog part of the second story in my novella, “THE DAWN PEOPLE.”  That story was called The Legend of Kehra.  The book is still awaiting publication.  I based the first story in the book on the myth of Ishtar.  Here is the pertinent portion of the story, which is based on Ishtar.  At the end of the segment, you’ll find the research from which I took the idea.

The story, called The Legend of Shehta, is set in 7,000 B.C., within the Grey Owl tribe.  The heroine of the story is Shehta; Ershka is the shaman who loves Temmah, though he thinks of her as a friend; Urush is Temmah’s father;  Shehta loves Temmah and he loves her; Nergal is Temmah’s mother; Kusha is Shehta’s best friend.

 

“ERSHKA sent for me,” Urush told them.  “She said she did all she could to save him, but Temmah was too badly injured.  He is dead.”

“Nooooo!”  Shehta tore her hair and screamed upon hearing this.  She crumpled to the floor and sobbed, and Nergal knelt beside her, trying to hug her and pat her, but was obviously badly in need of such sympathy herself.

“It should not have happened,” Shehta wailed, and Nergal shook her head in shared despair.

Urush stood by helplessly, and finally said, “Ershka told me we may see him tomorrow, after he has been anointed.”

Tradition held that shamans said final prayers over the dead and then anointed them with fragrant oils.  After this, Temmah would be wrapped in linen and then dipped in the nearby river.  The burial ceremony would take place four days after his death.  In the meantime, his body could not be viewed until the second day.  So now, all they could do was wait.

As their shared grief finally seemed to calm Shehta, the other woman appeared to grow weaker.  Finally, Shehta stood and gathered Nergal in her arms, heedless of her own pain, and led her to the sleeping platform where they slumped together, silent except for their sighs and sobs.

. . . Shehta’s grief subsided a little, and then she grew apathetic and depressed.  Nergal had begun to rally and had moved away to prepare some tea for them both, handing a cup to Shehta.  But the girl wouldn’t even lift the cup to her mouth.  She sat staring into space, the full cup in her hand, until her friend Kusha arrived.  Even when Kusha rushed over and held her close, trying to comfort her, Shehta sat immobile.

“Hursha sent me in,” Kusha said, trying to revive her.  “She is right outside.  Would you like to see her?”

There was no response from Shehta, and Nergal shook her head when Kusha looked to her for advice.  So the three women continued to sit, saying nothing.  Finally Shehta stirred and looked up and around the room.  Her eyes rested on Kusha as if she hadn’t known her friend was there until now; she threw her arms around the girl and began to wail again.

“He cannot be dead, Kusha,” she cried.  “I cannot believe the gods would take him from me.  We were going to be so happy!”

“I know,” Kusha murmured, tears flooding her own eyes.  She patted her friend’s shoulder and nodded, and the tears streaked both their cheeks.  The two swayed together on the platform while Nergal went to heat up the tea again. . . .

By now, most of the village had heard of Temmah’s death, and a number of people arrived to wait with them.  Shehta listened to speculations by their friends and neighbors that the (suddenly warlike) hill people must have tried a flanking maneuver and Temmah had caught them.

If that were the case, Shehta thought but didn’t say, Temmah would have fought back and probably hurt at least one of the enemies.  Though they could have carried off any casualties, she told herself.  But if he had not stopped them, why had they not carried out the flanking maneuver and attacked from behind the lines?  Not one invader had been found behind the lines.  It made no sense at all to her that the invaders would go behind their enemy’s lines and attack a single person who apparently wore no weapons, and only beat him.

 

AFTER a while, Shehta felt a little calmer and looked around, wondering why she could still hear the birds singing in the trees outside the house, and why her own heart still beat.  It should not be beating, she told herself disconsolately.  If Temmah has been taken to the gods, I too should die.  Why would the gods take Temmah?  It was I who sinned, I who resented my uncle and went against his wishes to keep on seeing Temmah.  It was I who doubted the gods. Why would they not take me?

And now he has fallen into the greedy hands of the shaman Ershka.  She wondered, Is this how the gods will punish me, by taking Temmah away from me and giving his dead body to Ershka?  Are the gods truly that unreasonable?  The gods are punishing me for hating my uncle, or maybe the gods really are on Ershka’s side.  It made sense to her no other way.

Outwardly quiet and calm, but seething and raging inside, Shehta kept up this internal double-talk.  Temmah’s father Urush talked with Hursha quietly while Shehta huddled with Temmah’s mother, hearing little of what went on around them.

Assuming they were not listening, Hursha observed quietly to Urush, “Nergal and Shehta will need to take on the traditional duties of the bereaved.  I wish I could help, but it is their responsibility.  But they are both still so upset that they can do nothing except grieve for now.”

Urush said, “I will do what I can, Hursha, but Nergal will not listen to me at all.  She only ignores me.  What do you suggest?”

Shehta could hear them talking, but very little of it penetrated her misery.  She kept telling herself it was not possible that Temmah could be dead.  It doesn’t feel like he’s gone.  We had so many cycles of seasons to be together.  It isn’t fair that I’ve lost him before I even Joined with him. He just cannot be dead; maybe if I pray very hard, the gods will spare him even now.

In this manner, she slowly convinced herself that perhaps her beloved wasn’t dead, and would live after all.  Maybe her heart knew better than her mind.  But still, he was in Ershka’s hands now.

Suddenly, just as Urush walked by carrying a cup of tea to Nergal in hopes she would rouse enough to sip it, Shehta jumped up and declared, “Ershka the shaman is wrong, or she is lying.  I am going to bring him back!”

“What?” her mother and Temmah’s father exclaimed together, the tea splashing onto his pelt.  He barely noticed it, though, and gaped at her.

She stood facing them both, hands on her hips, and declared defiantly, “I am going to the burial caves to demand that Temmah be turned over to me.  He is still living, and I will not have him buried alive!”

The others objected loudly and clutched at Shehta, but couldn’t stop her as she marched out of the house and started up the hill to the shaman’s chambers. . . .

She . . . concluded that Ershka would definitely have let her see him if he truly were dead—Ershka would have enjoyed tormenting her; she thought the shaman might even have blamed her for his death.  Therefore, he was not dead, and she had been right all along.

Perhaps she had been right about the gods, as well; or possibly the gods had now turned against Ershka for coming between her and Temmah.

 

The Research:  The Descent of Ishtar to the Underworld.

Ishtar, daughter of Sin (a god), wanted to go to Kurnugi, land of no return, where those who enter are deprived of light, where dust is their food, clay their bread, and they are clothed with feathers like birds.  When she arrived, she told the keeper of the gate to open it or she would smash the door and shatter the bolt, raise up the dead and they would eat the living. The gatekeeper begged her not to break down the gate, and asked if he could report to the Queen, Ereshkigal.  Apparently she agreed, so he went to the queen and told her.  The queen was frightened, wondering what had brought her sister Ishtar to her terrible place.  She told the gatekeeper to go and open the gates for Ishtar and treat her well, according to the rites.  As she entered each of the seven doors, he took her crown and her jewels, and finally her gown, which he said was part of the rites.

The queen trembled before Ishtar, who cursed her.  As a result, soon there were no new couplings in the city, either of humans or animals.  The vizier became depressed and wept to the king, begging him to do something.  The king created a good-looking young man to make the queen feel better.  He said the young man should drink from the queen’s waterskin and when he asked for it, the queen got upset and cursed the city, bringing bread, water, shade, places to sit, shells and golden thrones to the city, and then directed the vizier to sprinkle Ishtar with the waters of life.  He did this, and sent her out of the gates, returning all her things to her.  This was her ransom for the lover of her youth, and it seems he was released back to the world of the living.

One interpretation of this myth is that Ishtar, angered that the priests wouldn’t help her to save her lover/mate whom she believed was not dead, put herself into a horrifying, dangerous, life-threatening situation in order to rescue him when he had been taken for dead and might have been undergoing preparation for burial.

 

17. March 2017 · Comments Off on BLOG, Mar. 17, 2017 · Categories: Blog

MORE ON GENETICS, CLIMATE CHANGE, AND FORENSICS

How do we know we evolved from the ape family millions of years ago, and did not just appear exactly as we are now, 6,600 years ago as Creationists believe?

The question, Where did we come from? must bother many more people than myself.  I first began thinking about it when I was eleven years old, and my grandmother (not a particularly intelligent nor educated woman) gave me a two-volume set about sociology.  It was an old book, published in about 1914, I think.  Certainly the information in it was dated, which I could see when I first started reading it but didn’t have enough education to know how poorly it was written.  But when I started to read it, I saw ideas and concepts I’d had absolutely no idea existed. 

Aside from my grandmother having only a fourth- or fifth-grade education, my parents were both quite under-educated.  My father was very intelligent, and could talk to anyone about nearly anything, but he only finished high school until after leaving the Navy.  Since he’d been a Chief Petty Officer and a Pharmacist’s Mate there, he’d had a little bit of an education in medical terminology and first aid, along with his leadership skills, but not much else.  When he left the Navy, he had decided to be a chiropractor, and he spent two years studying physical therapy, and then was grandfathered in to receive a certificate.  My mother also finished high school, but had no interest in further formal education.

I’d like to share some of the ways in which I believe the study of evolution may impact people’s lives today. 

The study of genetic variations in human populations has provided forensic science with the capability of understanding DNA, thereby expanding the field of criminal investigation, as the study of fingerprinting once did.  Genetic research can now be used to assist in forensics, the science of clues, so to speak.  One thing we might learn from genetic research is what makes a psychopath or sociopath kill.

Understanding genetic growth and variation may help us with decisions about conservation and the environment, including current concepts and information about global warming and/or climate change.  Genetic research may tell us a great deal about how global warming, or climate change, works.  We may learn just what changes might occur if a new Ice Age overtakes us. 

Medical research in genetics can help us to understand diseases such as Huntington’s Chorea, AIDS, cancer, and Alzheimer’s.  We may also learn to develop powerful new drugs and chemical compounds to treat diseases, and to track pathogens in disease control.  We can hope to learn who might be potentially subject to genetic malformations, and it may be possible in the near future to live to age 100 in good health.  

The study of evolution is allowing us to make improvements in the sciences of agriculture and animal husbandry as well, so as to ensure an adequate food supply for us and our children in the future.  As another result of the study of evolution, scientists are now capable of designing robotic biosensors for military and defensive needs.  This may someday result in the creation of the “perfect soldier.” .

Software engineering also benefits from the study of evolution, by allowing us to develop new software based on models of genetics that can adapt without human input.  We can learn to design artificial intelligence software that ever more closely emulates the operation of the human brain.