Bold Fortune

fortune favors the bold

9066

by mollykl

I was an english major in college, and yes, I read Jane Austen. (In fact, I wrote my senior project on Jane Austen). But when I left school the first genre I really dived in to was history. I’d always had a thing for learning about history, so much so that I deeply regret not getting a second major in it. I’m not sure how, but Cornelius Ryan’s “The Longest Day” ended up in my possession, and I devoured it in two days. What sealed the deal for me with history is the morning I took my book to work to read on my lunch hour. My boss Dave noticed it and casually said, “Did you know George was a paratrooper at D-Day?” George. George “the tea guy”, my salesman from Murchies, who came in every two weeks to make sure I had enough product, place orders, etc. He was quiet and reserved and your standard middle aged, slightly paunchy white guy. The next time he came in I nervously asked, “So George, Dave said you were a paratrooper at D-Day?”  Yes, he replied. Then I blurted out, “Why the hell would you want to jump out of an airplane?” “It seemed like a good idea at the time” was his oh-so-George reply.

And with that I was hooked. Just the idea that the everyday people we run in to were a part of some of these moments in history, and you might never know what they’ve seen or how they played their part. At that same store I met a Vietnam veteran who flew helicopters, and despite the average one month life expectancy of huey pilots managed to come home, only to get in, you guessed it, a crash and lose partial mobility in his legs. At another place I worked we had a group of customers, old cranky-as-all-hell Russian women, who you made damn sure not to get on the wrong side of. I cringed every time I saw them, until the day I realized, suddenly, that given their age they lived under Stalin. They survived Stalin.  And from that moment on I had nothing but utter respect bordering on reverence.

In 1988 I was in college, and I wasn’t exactly the Cancun for spring break kind of girl. In fact, I rarely did anything for spring break besides go home and read for a week. But my mother bought me tickets to go to Washington D.C. and visit a friend, and it was my first time there. I was lucky enough to get to visit the Smithsonian when they had the exhibit “A More Perfect Union: Japanese Americans and the United States Constitution.” My companion for the day was T, and her family had been interned.  It was my first real exposure to what the internment detailed, and I soaked it all in. More than that, I watched. I watched T’s face at each display. I watched her try to put herself in their place, try to absorb the enormity of it, try to understand it. On a whole, it is outside of understanding. It was, and is, a symbol of the worst we do when we are afraid and when we allow our fear to dictate policy.

75 years ago today President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which moved all people of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast, into military controlled government camps. It was an order born out of fear, and was so blatantly a violation of the constitution and a suspension of rights that it will be studied by constitutional lawyers in perpetuity. We think that we’ve learned from the past, but when push comes to shove, when we are afraid, we repeat the same mistakes, over and over. It’s no surprise that among the hundreds of thousands marching on January 21st at the women’s marches held all over the world and in the spontaneous protests held after the recent executive order prohibiting immigration from specific Muslim countries were men and women who were interned at Manzanar, Tule Lake, Heart Mountain, Topaz, and Rohwer.

We still have people around us who lived this history, who know how it started, who perhaps hoped and prayed that it “wouldn’t come to this.” But it did. It’s time to respect the history they lived and their experiences and do our best to ensure it doesn’t happen again. That’s not going to happen with hoping, it’s going to happen with speaking up. It’s going to happen with the word no. It’s going to happen with standing up for what makes this country unique – our Constitution and the rights we are afforded by it. The best way to honor those Japanese-American who endured internment is to protect the next group that is unfairly targeted simply because of their “other-ness”.

 

 

Define great

by mollykl

The rain that we were promised yesterday came with a windstorm that left more than a few trees down in this area. I was driving to pick up son j and the overpass on the way to his school was blocked off by a fallen tree. That meant a 15 minute detour, because that overpass is the only convenient way to get across the freeway in this neighborhood (and the public elementary school and the Montessori school are both on the opposite side). After finally arriving and getting j we headed home, and I was not looking forward to having to navigate one of the two crowded-with-friday-traffic alternatives. But when I drove past the street leading to the overpass I noticed there was no line of cars. I pulled onto the street and sure enough, the overpass was open. As we headed down the north side I saw two men pulling freshly cut tree limbs out of the way.

The tree that had taken up one and a half lanes was now a pile of firewood. In less than 30 minutes. These guys didn’t call the city and wait for someone to show up – one of them grabbed a chainsaw and they went to work. My thought, besides a hearty thanks, was this: djt doesn’t think America is great, and he, of all people, thinks he can fix it?

Two guys standing out in the pouring rain and high winds solving a problem? That’s great. That is, I will argue, the example of how great America can be. They could have just called and waited for the city to deal with it. They didn’t. They helped out countless parents they would never know. They helped out a city that was already dealing with storm damage and now had one less item on their list.

The true things that make America great are the things we never lost: the willingness to dive in, to help. Is the United State perfect? Dear Lord no. But as we hurtle towards an autocracy we should keep in mind that we allowed ourselves to be convinced that we had lost what makes us great, when it was here all along.

Perhaps it just took a storm to remind us.

 

 

10 Free and Easy Acts of Resistance

by mollykl

I know. It’s January 20th and some of you, well quite a lot of you if the popular vote was any indication, are feeling either angry or sad. Or angry and sad. And what I’m about to say will sound unbearably childish to some. Naive. You’re probably right, and if you want to write to angrily tell me off, I won’t argue with you. (Hey, if you’ve got an intelligent argument, go for it.)

But hear me out. I’ve spent the last month of so writing and calling senators and the Speaker of the House, donating to causes that I feel are worthy (SPLC to name one), and trying my best to stay informed while not losing my ever loving mind (cue the DMX). I don’t regret a minute of it, despite the fact that I have anxiety and calling was the hardest thing I’ve done. Also, I realized I talked to Paul Ryan’s office more than own mother for a two week period.

I’m not going to stop, but I can’t go full bore every day without (again, cue the DMX) losing my mind.

So here are 10 free and easy acts of resistance to get you through today, tomorrow, and the next four years.

  1. Go to the public library and get a library card. Take your I.D., you’ll need it for the card.
  2. Check out a book while you’re there. Read it. Congratulations, you are now more well read than the leader of the free world.
  3. Smile and say hi to a total stranger. This is actually an expectation at my job, and it’s my favorite. You will discover that not everyone appreciates it, but the ones who do make it worth the while.
  4. Email a Senator and tell them you support their vote on an issue that is close to your heart. If you don’t have a computer, see #1, because at many libraries you can use the computers and access the internet for free. It’s true that most elected officials don’t care about complaints from citizens not in their district, but who doesn’t love to get positive reinforcement, regardless of where it comes from?
  5. Listen to your favorite song. Mine is the Beatles “Let It Be” (which is funny, ’cause I don’t really like the Beatles)
  6. Send your favorite vegetarian recipe to your Catholic friends for Lent. If you find Halal lamb on sale, text your Muslim friends.
  7. Take a walk. If you can walk in a natural setting, great. Appreciate that you have access to it. If you’re walking in an urban setting say hi to everyone you meet. Stop to appreciate architecture, early blooming camellias, or animal tracks.
  8. Make someone laugh or smile.
  9. Tell someone you love them.
  10. Enjoy your life and live it every day. That is really the best “fuck you” in the world.

 

The Princess and the General

by mollykl

I was 9 when Star Wars was released, and to my memory it was the first movie I saw in a theater. I didn’t want to be a princess because I simply was never that sort of girl. But I saw a glimpse of what I did want to be: a smart-mouthed, brave, feisty chick who could handle a gun, and who could still glower while staring up at her captor. I wanted a light saber and I wondered if I would ever have the courage to stand up against a seemingly all-powerful enemy.

The politics of the movie escaped me at that age, and honestly, I wish they still did. I might be able to blame the movie for my obsession with World War 2 history because my understanding of totalitarianism, and resistance, started with it.

I learned some great lessons that I carry with me today: that a girl can do everything a boy can, that she can fight for a cause, that she can change things. Leia was a role model I could identify with, and one that I knew I would have to actually work hard to live up to. An actress is not her character, but in Carrie Fisher’s case it sure seemed like there was a lot of her in Leia. They were both mouthy, brash and willing to speak up. In Leia, Fisher created the perfect feminist icon, perfect because, well, she wasn’t perfect, neither Fisher nor Leia, but rather relatable. The thing about fiction and fictional characters is that we’re able to carry them with us, but in Leia’s case we had her embodiment here with us.

In an awful year, and the awful four years to come, Carrie Fisher’s death was a particularly harsh blow. Yes, she was more than the princess/general she played in movies, but that image meant so much to many women of my generation. To lose our icon at the moment we need her most, when women are in danger of once again being relegated to being nothing more than “a piece of ass” is depressing.

So be sad, mourn, and then follow the sage advice of, my quotes here, “some guy on Twitter”:

Be Princess Leia in 2017.

Fight on the front lines. Strangle fascists with the chains they would have you wear. Be a motherfuckin’ general. 

-K O’Shea

No

by mollykl

It occurred to me today that I’ve never heard a man ask another man, who’s concentrating on his job, “are you cranky today?” or “are you having a bad day?” just because everything, including a not insignificant workload, was not dropped to hit them with a beaming smile. (For the record, I said hi, and then went back to the aforementioned not insignificant workload).

How often are men told “you should smile” or the odious version “smile honey!” One of my co-workers, who I adore, has a serious resting bitch face, but no one ever tells him to smile.

In college I was once told, “You’d be pretty if you got contacts.” (For the record, I look the same.) I’m sure the jackass thought he was being “helpful”.

At one of my first jobs my manager would stand there, not working I would like to add, and just watch me work and make comments about my legs and breasts. He also did the “accidental” brush up thing. You know that move, you’ve probably been subjected to that move before. I’m going to guess most men haven’t.

You’re over reacting.

Don’t be so sensitive.

Why are you being such a bitch?

Just ignore it.

You’re going to have to learn to deal with that.

Guess what? No.

No to all of it. No to the double standard that says I have to be merry fucking sunshine all of the time, but men can be serious and focused.  No to strangers giving me unsolicited advice about my glasses, my skin, my hair, or the fact that I should wear more feminine clothes and makeup. No to anyone who thinks they have the right to make crude remarks about my body.

I don’t care if you think I’m being overly sensitive.  I don’t care if you think I’m being a bitch. If my reaction is upsetting you, then you don’t matter to me. Care about more. Care about the inequality in the world, not that you think I’m cranky because I was doing my job instead of chatting you up. Care about the fact that you can write off seriousness in a woman as a bad thing. Care that women are subjected to standards that men would never put up with.

Because guess what? From now on I’m saying no, and I’m going to keep on saying it until you listen.

Why Agent Carter matters

by mollykl

Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter in Agent Carter:

The ABC show Agent Carter, the continuing adventures of Agent Margaret “Peggy” Carter, post Captain America, was cancelled this week much to the chagrin of those of who value, oh, good writing, believable and complex characters and strong storylines.

As I’ve mention before, in “You’ve come a long way, baby”  Agent Carter was unusual in today’s t.v. programming in that it allowed it’s characters to be layered and complicated. The bright colors of the sets and costumes belied the darkness of the storylines, of the everything the characters had seen and done during the war, and the reality of going back to “normal life”.   The show was the perfect reminder that the right thing can be done for the wrong reasons, and vice versa. Peggy is not perfect, her male co-workers can be assholes, a couple of the female antagonists are psychopaths, the good guys have dark secrets and the bad guys are sympathetic in their own ways.

And that’s just the show in general – that doesn’t even begin to get to the heart of Peggy herself. Here was a character for the ages – and one that made you wonder why it’s 2016 and we’re only NOW getting our “Wonder Woman” movie made, why there’s still practically zip in the way of “Black Widow” toys and don’t get me started on how Rey, the main-freaking-character in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, was cut out of the merchandising. Watching Agent Carter and witnessing the open hostility that was faced by women, on the job, in the street, and well, everywhere is a reminder of how far we’ve come. Watching Peggy deal with that shit is a reminder of how it’s done. Given that we’ve got a presidential candidate who has publicly referred to women as “a piece of ass” I think it’s safe to say that while we have come a long way we have a long way yet to go. Peggy handled it all. This is the hero we, not just women but all of us, need. For that matter, I’ll say that both Dottie and Whitney are the villains we need – they are each in their own way reflections of Peggy – smart, skilled, in Dottie’s case expendable, and in Whitney’s case undervalued and overlooked.

Peggy’s not a real person – I get that – but we need  characters real and fictional to learn and grow from and women need to be represented. I have plenty of real women who I look up to and who inspire me: the “Night Witches”, Eleanor Roosevelt, Stephanie Kwolek (inventor of Kevlar), Misty Copeland, and Lillian Hellman, to name a few. At least for a little while I had a make-believe one who kicked ass while wearing red lipstick.

“Look at what we can do”

by mollykl

We have one of those movie dvd rental boxes at the front of the store I work at, and the previews for each movie will stay for months. So everyday I pass by…and see the Tibetan prayer flags, the perfect blue sky, and the beautiful mountain scenery…and I know what’s coming. The previews for Everest play every day, every ten minutes, and have for months now. Most days I manage to hold it together, but some days I don’t, and for that I credit some really good writing by Jon Krakauer.

One day I was getting my lunch and watching the screen and the checker said to me, “Well, that’s just stupid. Why would they do that – they put themselves in danger.”

So why do people climb mountains? The simple answer might just be: because it’s there. Because once you’ve seen it, how can you not want to? Isn’t that the whole point of being human? To try the impossible, until it is no longer impossible? Climbing, free diving, exploring – these things move humanity forward, they help us to understand our world and our place in it. It’s a physical philosophy of sorts, and just as important as the purely mental. Seeing what we are capable of is inspiring. “Look at what we can do.” There’s a sense of pride and satisfaction in seeing what we are capable of.

20 years ago, on May 10-11 several climbing teams were on Mt. Everest, either ascending from or attempting to summit and when the storm hit everything went to hell. As luck would have, or not, both a journalist, Krakauer, and an IMAX team, were on Everest, at that time. 8 people died.

There have been worse incidents on Everest since then. Higher death tolls. But the drive to climb the highest peak in the world, to literally touch the sky, is everlasting.

 

The quote “Look at what we can do” is from Aaron Sorkin’s days on “Sports Night” and the episode “The Quality of Mercy at 29k”.

“Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland.”

by mollykl

But this is California. Central California, no less, which hasn’t seen snow since 1986 (or so J tells me), but when I lived in Spokane we saw snow. First big, real snow of the season, I’d find a comfy place to hide out, usually in the english department building, curl up nice and warm, re-read James Joyce’s “The Dead” and watch the snow fall.

It’s a dark and stormy night here, perfect for the reflective mood that the dark days of winter and the end of the year bring, an ideal time for some Joyce.

Grab a port, or a scotch, and a comfy chair and a copy of “The Dead”, reflect on your mortality and the concept of grace, remember the friends you’ve lost and those that you keep close, and enjoy the snow falling softly and some of the finest words ever written in the English language.

“Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly on the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crocked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last, upon all the living and the dead.”

James Joyce

Age appropriate

by mollykl

Son j is reading The Island of the Blue Dolphins for class. He’s in fourth grade, and they are all reading it together – two chapters in class each day, and one chapter at home. Husband J and I were thrilled that he’d get to read it and excitedly told him how great it is and that he is so lucky.

Yeah, that was all well and good until he gets to the point where otters, his favorite animal by the way, are killed and skinned. He was inconsolable. We dealt with it the best way we could, and we think he understands what we were saying, or at least trying to say. The whole thing’s been on my mind a lot today.

On my lunch I used Google to see if any other parents had advice or reactions. You know what I got? I got “why is this book being read by such young children!” “this book is too violent for this grade”.

Last night at the dinner table Husband J, when asked about his day, said that he had trainings, one of which was an “active shooter” training. Son j asked what that was and we had to tell him, our 9 year old, that he does active shooter trainings every year and has since first grade. He asked, “Oh, is that the one where we have to hide and keep very very quiet?”  He didn’t really understand why they had to do it, but he knew it was important. We felt the “why” of that one was best left till he is older.

My kid sees practicing response for a shooting as normal, but you’re worried that a story of survival that is a freakin’ Newbery Medal winner is too violent. For that matter as children my generation had to practice the stupid and utterly worthless “dunk and cover” (newsflash, we were surrounded by three Air Force bases, in case of nuclear attack, that desk was not going to be much help.)

Yes, he’s upset about the otters being killed. Good for him. He’s not a sociopath. You know how I’m going to keep it that way? I’m going to have him continue to read books that challenge him, and make him feel, and make him question.

 

Harriet Vane

by mollykl

I honestly have no idea how many books I’ve read so far in my life. Oh, I take those “How many of these great books have you read?” tests online (here’s a hint: not as many as you’d think) for fun, but at the end of the day I’m not worried about adding to my “great books read” list – I’m just looking for the next thing to read.

I firmly believe that if you’re a reader you are, in fact, a conglomeration of all you’ve read, of every hero, villain, personality quirk, vicarious experience and life that you’ve absorbed, the good and the bad. I am all that I have read.

Of course if you’re a reader you have favorites. Mine are Phryne Fisher, Julia Grey-Brisbane, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Elizabeth Bennet, Irene Adler, Barbara Gordon (Oracle), Meg Murray O’Keefe and Amelia Peabody Emerson, just to name a few. But if I had to pick just one, it would be…

Harriet Vane.

She of claret gowns and scholar’s robes. She’s quiet, unassuming, fucking brilliant and her marriage to Peter is an unintended foreshadowing of the approaching class-crisis in England. She has the brains of Oracle, the self-preservation of Irene Adler, the stubbornness of Julia Brisbane, the drive of Phryne Fisher…well, I could go on.

Yeah I know, I’m none of those things, but…I am…a little. And a little is all that’s needed.

I don’t read to impress you. I read to learn, to grow, and to experience. I’ve found that as long as I can form an emotional attachment to a character I’m able to do just that.

So tell me, who are you?