Image-making

21 Apr

Bear with me as I try to make a point about the media’s construction of “Image” and its manipulation of the visual record–whether aesthetic or historical or both. Theory has never been my strong suit as a thinker or teacher, so I may be reinventing the hermeneutic wheel here in a flat-footed way; and it could be that my comparisons here are stretched beyond persuasiveness, but current events have contrived to bring these ideas together for me right now.

This is the article that began this rumination:

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/04/17/mary-beard-cut-us-version-civilisations-fearing-slightly-creaky/

 

If she is to be believed, the eminent scholar Mary Beard, pictured above, was largely deleted from the American presentation of the ambitious new “Civilizations” series, because, according to her, PBS Boston thought her appearance wouldn’t appeal to an American audience. She tweeted: “Can’t help think that there is something about a creaky 63 year old grey haired lady that doesn’t quite fit the bill. But I am probably smelling a rat where there isn’t one!” Beard also indicated that the American edits veered the narration of the series much more directly toward Christian views, and turned the episodes into an “anodyne” version that critics have noted in a rebuke of the productions’ “value free” approach to the subject.

While Beard may indeed be placing blame for the cuts on the wrong culprit, that such edits were made at all is a dismaying indictment of U.S. media’s interpretation of what American audiences want or should be exposed to–as if we can’t deal with another culture’s approach to history and art. Such micromanagement of what the American public sees smacks of the most egregious kind of censorship:  insulting an entire culture’s intelligence. Personally, as a “creaky old lady” myself, I tend to believe that Mary Beard is right:  her physical appearance doesn’t fit the mold of female talking head in America.  As if anyone watching a series with as lofty a goal as explaining “civilization” would be put off by a female presence not as attractive as the weather girls on local television stations!

The second image (which I don’t seem to be able to edit into place, so will have to place it  at the bottom of this discourse) is a screen shot from the scholar Thomas Elsaesser’s film about his family, “Sonneninsel”, “Sun Island” in English.

http://www.3sat.de/mediathek/?mode=play&obj=72067

As I have written before (https://esauboeck.wordpress.com/2018/01/16/a-book-proposal/), Elsaesser serendipitously discovered my blog about Irmgard Rexroth-Kern, one of my “Three German Women”, and contacted me because Kern and her husband H.G. Rexroth figure in his film! (An indication of what a godsend Google can be for researchers!) He quite graciously sent me photos of Fr. Kern, as she appeared in the 1940s, and we have been sharing information ever since.  I was thrilled that he brought his film to USC this week, where we were able to see it yesterday and to meet the man himself.  “Sun Island” is a fascinating documentary based on home movies that tells a complex story of family, but brings up many other intellectual strands, having to do with architecture, the birth of the Green movement, memory, and revelations about everyday German life before, during, and after World War II.

After the film’s presentation and insightful discussion by extremely clued-in film students (they are, after all, at one of the most renowned film schools in the world), one of the faculty members wanted Elsaesser to address the “dilemma” raised by the film showing images of family members in Nazi uniform. The argument seemed to center on the fact that American audiences would not be able to read these images as anything but meaning that Elsaesser’s family were indeed Nazis, and that while Elsaesser does mention the appearance of people in uniforms, he doesn’t explain clearly enough what these depictions “mean”.  There was much back and forth about whether such images should be deleted for an American audience that wouldn’t understand.

Such concerns, to my mind, are exactly why such images of Germans in the 1930s and 1940s should be shown–to give a realistic presentation of what living in Germany at this tumultuous time meant.  Everyday life went on, people continued to make gardens, have friends over for tea, went for strolls in the gardens or swims in the lake.  Just like today, most Germans were, if not apolitical, neither Nazis nor leftists. As the war proceeded, men were drafted and sent off to the front. There wasn’t much they could do about it no matter how they felt about the military forces in charge of the country, unless they were immensely courageous and refused to go. Americans should also try to remember that Germans were not receiving the same kind of news that the Allies received; as far as most Germans knew, they were winning victories, they were fighting for the Fatherland, and life went on.  By the mid-40s, having a family member in uniform was as normal as seeing an American in uniform during the Vietnam war, and the feelings about their presence were as complex and emotional as were ours during that time.

But for the media,  what IMAGE is presented and how it will be interpreted is of utmost importance.  The awareness by professional documentarians and filmmakers of the inevitable self-censorship that happens with any film-making must always, I think,  be informed by film’s educational possibilities, even when dealing with “the market”, as the film-watching public is considered to be. Too often, however, those market forces seem to take precedence over the opportunity to educate.  That Elsaesser has such access to this amazing vernacular footage provides a brilliant opportunity to expand the interpretation of German life, to broaden the expected image of GERMAN that the world has created. As the people in this film reveal, they embraced neither one ideology nor the other; their visualized story presents a much more mundane picture of human beings going about the living of their lives, unaware that they were experiencing what has now become history.  Elsaesser’s desire to eradicate some stereotypes and misinterpretations of this past is the main reason I’m writing my book, too:  each of my German Women had to deal with the exigencies of this miserable history as it was happening, and none of them fit neatly into any of these black-and-white models of politics or ideology.  The concern about “accepted” presentation–whether of the supposedly desired female image for TV or the assumed meaning of a Nazi uniform–is not what is important to me or, I would hope, to most intelligent viewers or readers.  This “creaky old lady” just wants these stories to be told as factually yet evocatively as possible.

 

2018-04-21.png

A screen shot from Thomas Elsaesser’s “Sun Island,” showing a family member sitting in German uniform at a family gathering during WWII.

Book proposal accepted!

14 Mar

cambridgecontract

So my book proposal, Three German Women:  Personal Histories from the Twentieth Century, has been accepted by the press to whom I sent the proposal!  EEEK!  Now I really have write it!  I am excited, and not yet daunted.

Here’s the blog I wrote about the topic:  https://esauboeck.wordpress.com/2018/01/16/a-book-proposal/

I have changed the deadline to September 2019, just to be safe, but I hope I will have it finished by next Spring at the latest.

And here’s the “blurb”, as the publishers call it, that I just sent back with the contract:

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

THREE GERMAN WOMEN:  PERSONAL HISTORIES FROM THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

 

This book presents the life stories of three women of the German-speaking realm whose lives inspired the author directly: mathematician Maria Weber Steinberg (1920-2013);  journalist Irmgard Rexroth-Kern (1907-1983) ; and Viennese art historian Fr. Dr. Anna von Spitzmüller (1903-2001).  The lives of these three women serve as emotional mirrors to the cultural transformations and tumultuous history of the 20th century. Their stories tell of the hardships, struggles, and victories of intellectual European women in this era. Each was related to men who played a role in European cultural life, men who received some prominence in history books; these women, in contrast, received very few public accolades for their important achievements. Placing them in the cultural context of the times in Germany and Austria, the author  highlights the traumatic choices imposed on ordinary people by political and social circumstances over which they had no control. Along with the women’s individual stories, the chapters focus on overarching themes: intellectual women’s roles in European society , the fate of Jewish culture in Germany and Austria, and specific historical background describing the incidents affecting their life trajectories (e.g., Irmgard Kern’s involvement in Berlin’s literary world,  Dr. Spitzmüller’s work with the Monuments Men, and Maria Steinberg’s father’s position in the Reichstag of the Weimar era).

As you can see, I simply cobbled together aspects of my original proposal.

And now I put out the call:  anyone who has any information about any of these women and their families–photographs, too!–please contact me, either here in the comments or through email at esauboeck@gmail.com.

Now back to work!  Right now I’m converting Fr. Kern’s “Autobiografie einer jungen Frau,” published in 1932 in a German newspaper in Fraktur, into readable text; then I will translate it.

 

 

 

 

 

Drizzle or sprinkle?

3 Mar

As we sat inside on one of the RARE-and-getting-rarer Southern Californian days when it rained, George and I got into a discussion about which KIND of rain was falling at that moment, and which was the correct term for which kind of rain. I maintained that “sprinkle” is heavier rain than “drizzle,” which I understand as a misty kind that doesn’t cause drops to fall (as in the two photos above). If you can see drops on the ground–as in the third picture above–then it’s a “sprinkle,” but not yet a full-on rain, and it may pass by quickly. G. thought (and still does) that “drizzle” refers to a greater amount of rain over a longer period of time.

When I put this question to my ultimate source of authority–my Facebook friends–the discussion was lively, with arguments on both sides. In the end, the “drizzlers” outweighed the “sprinklers,” but I think only because I framed the question in terms of which kind of rain brought more water. We were particularly swayed by the experts: our friends who live in Oregon and Washington. Here’s what one of them said:  “After 30 plus years in Oregon I have a hundred different words for moisture in the air a sprinkle is light rain for a brief time. A drizzle is a light rain that lasts for hours. Drizzle is the answer!”  And another friend:  ” It’s the weather pattern here in the southern Willamette Valley that I call low hung mung. The sodden blanket of grey that spits a fine mist of wet continuously for days on end.”  So in terms of the AMOUNT of wet, “drizzle” seems to be the correct answer.  

Not wanting to concede defeat, I turned to those other sources of authoritative information, the internet and Youtube. First is another blog entry on terms for rain in that soggy region, the Pacific Northwest:

https://www.theodysseyonline.com/10-words-rain

This one seems to substantiate my feelings about the term “sprinkle”, as does this little video:

Being the diplomat that I am (!), I’m going to declare a tie:  in terms of wetness, “drizzle” implies more water over a longer time, while “sprinkle”  refers to sudden droplets that clear up quickly.

In any case, rain of any sort is becoming an increasingly infrequent, and therefore welcome, phenomenon in SoCal. We’re just thankful that we’ve had some this week, whether “sprinkles,” “drizzle” or steady rain!

Rad Lib Aggregator

16 Feb

[No doubt many of you will recognize that this entry comes not from me, Erika, but from George, the other half of ESAUBOECK! He’s so sweet and earnest to have taken on this experimental project. –Erika.]

 

Just after the start of the year, I became impatient with the bland news reported in Google News and Huffington Post, the two aggregators I follow.  I decided to aggregate news from left-leaning publications, then added a few “from the other side of the aisle”.  A daily task undertaken at about 4:00 in the afternoon, it was really pretty interesting and only took a little more than an hour each day.

After a six week trial, it seems to me that RealClearPolitics.com does just about as good a job as I can with way better graphics, though being less selective.  The conclusions:  it is much easier to find positive, forward-looking articles in liberal publications than in conservative ones.  National Review is particularly noted for preferring attacks on opposition figures over descriptions of efforts by conservatives.  Selecting the appropriate publication from which to take popular stories was often a challenge.

Technically, finding current postings of classical music on YouTube is time consuming due to the incredible number of dippy “classical music for relaxed studying which will also put your baby to sleep”; they generally don’t give proper attribution.  WordPress’s free blog function works pretty well, despite some odd layout editing, the most frustrating being an inclination to automatically run paragraphs together.

I have no idea if anyone found the blog.

Here is the list of the not particularly Rad publications I looked through for this post followed by a few weeks of the post itself, enough for you to get an idea of the coverage.

The Atlantic.
Center for American Progress
Dead Spin 
Foreign Affairs
Gizmodo
Guardian
Huffington Post
Jezebel
Los Angeles Times
The Monthly Today
The Nation
New Republic
New York Book Review
New York Times
The New Yorker
Politico
Salon
Splinter
Washington Post
YouTube
From the other side of the aisle:
The Hill
Fiscal Times.
National Review
Reason.Com.
Washington Examiner

Feb 15, 2018.  On this day in 2001, the first draft of the  human genome is published in Nature

Why Can’t the U.S. Treat Gun Violence as a Public-Health Problem? A 1996 bill has had a chilling effect on the CDC’s ability to research the problem.  Sarah Zhang. The Atlantic.

Why Drones Are Still the Future of War. Troops Will Learn to Trust Them. Paul Scharre; Jacquelyn Schneider and Julia Macdonald.  Foreign Affairs.

119,000 Passports and Photo IDs of FedEx Customers Found on Unsecured Amazon Server.Dell Cameron.  Gizmodo.

What Happens When A Journalist Gets Beat Up? Too Often, Not Much.  Bernie Lunzer. Huffington Post.

Bipartisan Senate effort to protect Dreamers collapses after Trump threatens veto. Los Angeles Times.

Cry me a river. The Murray-Darling Basin Plan is key to the PM’s legacy. He must save it.   Paddy Manning.  The Monthly Today.

Amazon Doesn’t Just Want to Dominate the Market—It Wants to Become the Market. The company is a radically new kind of monopoly with ambitions that dwarf those of earlier empires.  Stacy Mitchell.  The Nation.

What Congress Has Accomplished Since the Sandy Hook Massacre. More than 1,600 mass shootings have taken place in America since then.  New York Times.

The Sad Reality of Trying to Keep Guns Away from Mentally Ill People.  Michael Luo.  The New Yorker.

Trump struggles with consoler-in-chief role. The president gave remarks that were appropriate to the moment following the Parkland school shooting, but failed to convey the sorrow Americans expect from their leader. Edward-Isaac Dovere.  Politico.On social media, Parkland students subvert the news cycle. A generational culture of real-time social media empowered witnesses to redirect the national conversation. Nicole Karlis.  Salon.The AR-15: ‘America’s rifle’ or illegitimate killing machine?  Most Americans back a ban on the weapon used in many school shootings. But the rifles and their cousins are among the nation’s most popular and profitable guns.  Marc Fisher.  Washington Post.

Giselle – Act II pas de deux (The Royal Ballet).  YouTube.

Feb. 14, 2018.  On this day in 1920, the League of Women Voters is founded in Chicago.

The Out Olympics .  Adam Rippon and Gus Kenworthy show the entertainment value, and political power, of gay people embracing full visibility.   Spencer Kornhaber. The Atlantic.

Cracking the Shell. Trump and the Corrupting Potential of Furtive Russian Money.  Center for American Progress.

The China Reckoning. How Beijing Defied American Expectations.  Kurt M. Campbell and Ely Ratner.  Foreign Affairs.

We’re Averaging One School Shooting Every 60 Hours In 2018. Wednesday’s shooting at a Florida high school is the 18th school shooting of the year. Lydia O’Connor. Huffington Post.

ICE launches new immigration sweeps in L.A. area; at least 100 detained so far. Los Angeles Times.

Big business tax cuts a non-starter. You can’t cut tax for companies paying zero.  Paddy Manning.  The Monthly Today.

With His Assault on PBS and NPR, Trump Seeks to Eliminate Real News.  John Nichols.  The Nation.

South Africa’s Zuma Leaves Behind a Broken Democracy. Can the party of Nelson Mandela cleanse and revive itself?  New York Times.

“America’s Harvest Box” Captures the Trumpian Attitude Toward Poverty.  Sasha Abramsky.  The New Yorker.

The best photo we have of the Trump White House is Colbie Holderness and her black eye. The photo of Rob Porter’s wife with a black eye is a picture of hate and violence. Lucian K. Truscott IV.  Salon.

South African president resigns amid corruption allegations.  The African National Congress had pressured Jacob Zuma to step down. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who replaced Zuma as ANC leader in December, is expected to become acting president.  Kevin Sieff and Krista Mahr.  Washington Post.

“The Song of Trees” by Keiko Abe. Performed by Felix Reyes.  YouTube.

From the other side of the aisle:

Under pressure, Trump says he’s ‘totally opposed to domestic violence’.   Jordan Fabian.  The Hill.

How Trump’s Budget Would Cut the Social Safety Net. As a candidate, President Trump said he would not cut Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security. But his 2019 budget proposal seeks to reduce spending on all three programs.  Yuval Rosenberg. Fiscal Times.

Success Academy Charter Schools Are a Big Success. Kids who attend New York City’s Success Academy charter schools do remarkably well. John Stossell.  Reason.Com.

VA Secretary David Shulkin regrets misusing taxpayer funds for European trip, reimburses government.   Naomi Lim.  Washington Examiner.

Feb. 13, 2018.   On this day in 1914,  the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) was established to protect the copyrighted musical compositions of its members.

Trump’s Top Intelligence Officials Contradict Him on Russian Meddling.  The intelligence community has a stark warning about Russia’s intentions to interfere in the 2018 elections—but no public plan to prevent it.  Natasha Bertrand. The Atlantic.

A Bad Budget for America’s Place in the World.  Center for American Progress.

Benjamin Netanyahu: Israeli police recommend indicting prime minister. Attorney general will examine evidence and decide whether to indict after police investigation of the prime minister in two cases.  Oliver Holmes. Guardian.

Trump’s Plan To Screw Over Your Bartender. The Restaurant Owner-In-Chief Wants To Give Employers More Control Over Tips.  Dave JamiesonHuffington Post.

As foreign hackers plot next attack, Washington struggles to shore up vulnerable voting systems. Los Angeles Times.

Why Does the Pentagon Always Tell Us the End Is Right Around the Corner?  What they should say is how many times they’ve been wrong about that.  Tom Engelhardt.  The Nation.

Information Wants to Be Chinese.  How investment from the People’s Republic is dividing Washington and Silicon Valley.  Moira Weigel. New Republic.

The Hidden Political Message of Michelle Obama’s Portrait Dress. From the pattern to the designer, the dress is the most revealing part.  Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell.  Politico.

Chopin Waltz Op.69 no 2 played by Thu Le, Classical Guitar. Arranged by Roland Dyens.  YouTube.

From the other side of the aisle:

Schiff: We’re not going to revise Democratic memo.  The Hill.

Democracy in Chains Author Nancy MacLean Calls Autism a Leading Cause of Libertarianism.  “It’s striking to me how many of the architects of this cause seem to be on the autism spectrum: people who don’t feel solidarity or empathy with others.”  Robby Soave.  Reason.Com.

Greece is the word: Fiscal recklessness portends a crash.  Quin Hillyer.  Washington Examiner.

Feb. 12, 2018.  On this day in 1817, Frederick Douglas was born into slavery in Maryland.

The Fetishization of Kim Yo Jong.  Krishnadev Calamur. The Atlantic.

Election Security in All 50 States. Defending America’s Elections.Center for American Progress.

U.S. Soccer Blew It.  Billy Haisley. Dead Spin.

Frustrations at the White House and the Pentagon. Why They Can’t Seem to See Eye to Eye on North Korea. Julianne Smith and Loren DeJonge Schulman.  Foreign Affairs.

Why Purebred Dogs Are Sick, Miserable, and Ugly.  George Dvorsky.  Gizmodo.

Barack and Michelle Obama’s official portraits expand beyond usual format. The pictures, painted by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, are vivid depictions by African American artists and will hang at the Smithsonian.  David Smith. Guardian.

Do You Like Paying Tolls? You’re Gonna Love Trump’s Infrastructure Plan. The proposal would allow more states to toll interstate highways. Igor Bobic. Huffington Post.

Jeff Sessions, Not Trying to Hide It, Praises ‘Anglo-American Heritage of Law Enforcement’. Ellie Shechet.  Jezebel.

Minding the gap. For once, really important targets are making a difference. Paddy Manning.  The Monthly Today.

Randy Bryce’s Campaign Is Not Just Pro-Union—It’s Unionized.  The Campaign Workers Guild has negotiated its first collectively bargained contract, with the Democratic candidate challenging Paul Ryan.  John Nichols.  The Nation.

Trump Budget Ignores Deficit With Increases for Military.  The plan also includes large increases for the military, envisioning deficits totaling at least $7.1 trillion over the next decade.  Julie Hirschfeld Davis.  The Nation.

Trump’s Words Will Leave a Lasting Mark.  History proves that presidential rhetoric impacts policy, sometimes long after the president himself has left office.  Jeet Heer.  New Republic.

God’s Own Music.  The Anglican choral tradition is one of the great successes of English cultural diffusion.  Ian Bostridge.  New York Book Review.

Trump Budget Ignores Deficit With Increases for Military.  The plan also includes large increases for the military, envisioning deficits totaling at least $7.1 trillion over the next decade.  Julie Hirschfeld Davis. New York Times.

The Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony: People Are Awesome. The Games feel like a testament to human pleasure: let us gather, and do these pure and ridiculous things for fun.  Amanda Petrusich.  The New Yorker.

McConnell’s immigration gamble. The Senate majority leader is unleashing a free-for-all debate over Dreamers — and his endgame is a mystery.  Seung Min Kim and Burgess Everett.  Politico.

Jeff Sessions Let His Racism Peek Through a Little More Than He May Have Intended To.  Emma Roller. Splinter.

Trump wants to overhaul America’s safety net with cuts to health care, food stamps and housing. The budget proposal presumes lawmakers will change entitlement programs for the poor in ways beyond what Congress so far has been willing to do.   Tracy Jan, Caitlin Dewey, Amy Goldstein and Jeff Stein. Washington Post.

Gregorian chant.Early Music Sources.YouTube.

From the other side of the aisle:

Trump fires first salvo on drug prices. The Hill.

The Trump Budget’s $7.1 Trillion Hole. Yuval RosenbergFiscal Times.

When Border Searches Become Unreasonable. Allowing warrantless searches everywhere within 100 miles of the border leads to much abuse.  Kyle Sammin.  National Review.

Trump’s New Budget Plan Is a Fiscal Disaster. The administration’s spending blueprint continues the fiscal decline that began during the Bush era.  Marc. Joffe.  Reason.Com.

Feb. 11, 2018.  On this day in 1937, General Motors recognized the United Auto Workers’ Union following a sit-down strike lasting 44 days.

A Better Way to Look at Most Every Political Issue. Americans would be less alienated from one another and solve problems more easily if they recognized one little-noticed distinction in policy debates.  Conor Friedersdorf. The Atlantic.

Cryptojackers Strike Again, Hitting Thousands of Sites Including US and UK Government Pages.  Tom McKay. Gizmodo.

The Guardian view on childhood obesity: forget small steps, tackle big food. Guardian.Heartbreaking Video Shows Black Parents Teaching Their Kids About Police Encounters. “Do everything that you can to get back to me.” Taylor Pittman.  Huffington Post.

Weinstein Company Sale Delayed by New York State Lawsuit.  New York’s attorney general filed a suit alleging the studio and its founders repeatedly violated state and city laws barring gender discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual abuse and coercion. It appeared timed to at least temporarily stop a sale.  Brooks Barnes and William Neuman. New York Times.

Progressives storm Democratic primaries. Veteran blue-state incumbents are hitting unexpected turbulence this year.  Laura Nahmias and Lauren Dezensky.  Politico.

White House wants to turn space station into commercially run venture. The administration plans to stop funding for the station after 2024, ending direct federal support of the orbiting laboratory. But it does not intend to abandon the station altogether, according to an internal NASA document obtained by The Post. Christian Davenport. Washington Post.

Paganini Violin Concerto no. 1 arrangement for reduced orchestra by Rechtman. Israel Camerata Orchestra.YouTube.

From the other side of the aisle:

Trump officials do damage control after staff turmoil. Julia Manchester. The Hill.

Trump touts Lou Barletta as a ‘Great Republican’ running against Sen. Bob Casey. Steven Nelson.  Washington Examiner.

Feb. 11, 2018.  On this day in 1937, General Motors recognized the United Auto Workers’ Union following a sit-down strike lasting 44 days.

A Better Way to Look at Most Every Political Issue. Americans would be less alienated from one another and solve problems more easily if they recognized one little-noticed distinction in policy debates.  Conor Friedersdorf. The Atlantic.

Cryptojackers Strike Again, Hitting Thousands of Sites Including US and UK Government Pages.  Tom McKay. Gizmodo.

The Guardian view on childhood obesity: forget small steps, tackle big food. Guardian.Heartbreaking Video Shows Black Parents Teaching Their Kids About Police Encounters. “Do everything that you can to get back to me.” Taylor Pittman.  Huffington Post.

Weinstein Company Sale Delayed by New York State Lawsuit.  New York’s attorney general filed a suit alleging the studio and its founders repeatedly violated state and city laws barring gender discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual abuse and coercion. It appeared timed to at least temporarily stop a sale.  Brooks Barnes and William Neuman. New York Times.

Feb. 10, 2018.

How WeWork Has Perfectly Captured the Millennial Id.  The company sells a somewhat uneasy combination of capitalist ambition and cooperative warmth.  Laura Bliss. The Atlantic.

Purdue Pharmaceuticals Says It Will Stop the Aggressive Opioid Marketing That Made It Billions.   Tom McKay.  Gizmodo.

Corporations Won’t Fix American Health Care. They Already Run It.  Neil J. Young. Huffington Post.

White House floats an offer to keep legal immigration at 1 million per year instead of cutting it. Los Angeles Times.

Can Germany’s Social Democrats Get Their Groove Back?  The turn to neoliberalism demoralized the party—and helped fuel the rise of the extreme right.  Jordan Stancil.  The Nation.

The Heart of Conrad. (Review of The Dawn Watch: Joseph Conrad in a Global World by May Jasanoff).  Colm Tóibín.  New York Book Review.

G.O.P. Squirms as Trump Veers Off Script With Abuse Remarks.  Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns.  New York Times.

class=”River__hed___re6RP”>Sports Illustrated’s Spectacularly Silly #MeToo Swimsuit Issue.You may have heard that women everywhere are sick of being sexually harassed; Sports Illustrated has, too.  Alexandra Schwartz.  The New Yorker.

The Democrats’ secret weapon to take back statehouses. The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee is pumping money and infrastructure into an array of legislative races. Special election results suggest it’s paying off.  Edward-Isaac Dovere. Politico.

Catching a glimpse of “the black tech renaissance”. I went down to BlackTech Week in Miami with a group from Maryland to see the future of cybersecurity.  D. Watkins.  Salon.

Danish folk song by Bon Voyage Music Project. YouTube.

From the other side of the aisle:

EPA chief’s questions about climate science draw new scrutiny.  The Hill.

In Memoriam: The GOP Pretending to Care About Fiscal Restraint.  The new two-year budget deal will result in a $1 trillion deficit.   Austin Bragg & Meredith Bragg.  Reason.Com.

Feb. 9, 2018.  On this day in 1950,  U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy (R. Wisc.) said that the U.S. Dept. of State was full of communists which he considered a bad thing.

6 Things to Watch for in Trump’s Infrastructure Scam.  Center for American Progress.

How to Win a Great-Power Competition. Alliances, Aid, and Diplomacy in the Last Struggle for Global Influence.   Benn Steil.  Foreign Affairs.

Trump’s America will be saddled with debt – just like his bankrupted hotels.  Guardian.

Dow rises 330 points Friday, but stocks still have worst week in two years.    Los Angeles Times.A New Housing-Rights Movement Has the Real-Estate Industry Running Scared.  In cities across the country, tenants are demanding robust regulations to keep rents affordable and stop unjust evictions.  Jimmy Tobias.  The Nation.

Could This Madman Accidentally Bring Peace to the Korean Peninsula?  The Trump administration’s extreme rhetoric on North Korea is forcing South Korea to seek a new solution for its longterm securityJeet Heer. New Republic.

Welcome to the Post-Text Future.  The internet was born in text. Now, video and audio are ascendant, writing is being left behind, and everything will be different.  Fahrad Manjoo.  New York Times.

Trump Gives Wife Beater Praise He Usually Reserves for Child Molesters and Nazis.  Andy Borowitz.  The New Yorker.

Justice Department’s No. 3 official plans to step downRachel Brand will take a private-sector job after nine months as associate attorney general, said a person familiar with the decision.Sari Horwitz and Josh DawseyWashington Post.

Brahms – Piano Concerto No.2 (recording of the Century : Emil Gilels/Reiner, 1958, Chicago).YouTube.

From the other side of the aisle:

Pence did not stand for Korean delegation at Olympics opening ceremonies: report.The Hill.

Trump declines to release Democratic memo.   Kelly Cohen.  Washington Examiner.

Feb. 8, 2018.  On this day in 1575, Leiden University was founded; its motto, Praesidium Libertatis or bastion of liberty, while appropriate from the start, was coined in 1839.

The Weirdest—and Possibly Best—Proposal to Resolve the North Korea Crisis. The administration is nowhere near out of peaceful options. Peter Beinart. The Atlantic.

10 Faith Leaders to Watch in 2018.Center for American Progress.

ICE Wants to Be an Intelligence Agency Under Trump. Immigration enforcers have tried for years to get access to spy agency secrets. Civil libertarians call the prospect ‘frankly terrifying’—and a lot more realistic under Trump.  Betsy Woodruff.  The Daily Beast.

Muslim Voters and the European Left. When Inclusion Leads to Populism. Rafaela M. Dancygier.  Foreign Affairs.

Google Will Soon Start Shaming All Sites That Don’t Use HTTPS as ‘Not Secure’.  Sam Rutherford. Gizmodo.

As Vladimir Putin steals the Russian election, our leaders are shamefully silent.  Guardian.

U.S. Gun Companies Manufactured A Record 11 Million Firearms In 2016. The gun industry’s output doubled over the Obama era — and it appears likely to keep growing. Nick Wing. Huffington Post.

George W. Bush says Russia meddled in 2016 U.S. election.  Curtis Lee. Los Angeles Times.

Sex, Lies, and Human Resources. If you think the #MeToo reckoning is over because the Weinsteins of the world have been toppled, you’ve missed the point.  Marie Claire and Esquire came together to ask some of the smartest people we know 21 questions to cut through popular opinion, diagnose how we really got here, and debate where we go next. Edited by

Am I bothered? Big bank regulatory risks are being priced in comfortably. Paddy Manning .  The Monthly Today.

John Kelly Has Got to Go.  His awful response to domestic-abuse charges involving a top aide is just the latest in a series of toxic blunders.  John Nichols.  The Nation.

We All Have Stake in Stock Market, Right? Guess Again.Wall Street’s up and downs have little impact on the income or wealth of most Americans, despite the bromides of politicians on both sides of the aisle. Patricia Cohen. New York Times.

North Korea’s Mesmerizing “Army of Beauties”. The allure of the country’s cheerleading squad is connected with the degree to which its members appear to be under complete control.  Jia Tolentino.  The New Yorker.

Rand’s latest stand puts government on brink of shutdown.  Get ready for a long night.  Burgess Everett. Politico.

Mike Pence Is Having a Full-Blown Meltdown Over Being Called Out for His Homophobia.  Isha Aran. Splinter.

With 1,000-point loss, Dow drops into correction territory for first time in years.  Thomas Heath. Washington Post.

Saint-Saëns: The Swan (The Carnival of the Animals) – Sarah Joy. YouTube.From the other side of the aisle:

If a School Cop Threatens Your 13-Year-Old with Child Porn Charges for Sexting, Get a Lawyer.  Families should never consent to have school resource officers search kids’ phonesRobby Soave.  Reason.Com.

Prison reform, the time is now.  Cal Thomas.  Washington Times.

Feb. 7, 2018.  On this day in 1898,   1889 Emile Zola was brought to trial for libel for publishing J’accuse,  a letter accusing the government of France of anti-semitism in the Dreyfus affair.

How Humans Sank New Orleans. Engineering put the Crescent City below sea level. Now, its future is at risk. Richard Campanella.  The Atlantic.

Nancy Pelosi Holds The Floor More Than 8 Hours To Demand Immigration Promise. The Democrat says she won’t support a budget deal until the House speaker commits to holding a vote for Dreamers.  Elise Foley and Igor Bobic. Huffington Post.“403,000 jobs in a row”. The PM should be careful grandstanding on the economy. Paddy Manning.  The Monthly Today.

A Glimpse of North Korea’s Isolated Athletes.  We’ve gathered insights from the country’s state news media, analysts, defectors and athletes who have competed alongside North Koreans.  Motoko Rich.  New York Times.

Raining on Trump’s Parade. The reason to oppose the President’s desired military showcase is simply that it is not—in the old-fashioned sense—the American way.   Adam Gopnik. The New Yorker.

Trump’s military parade draws bipartisan rebuke.  Bryan Bender.   Politico.

Trump’s big parade turns military tradition and honor on its head.  Toy soldiers and toy tanks on Pennsylvania Avenue will make him look like a tin pot dictator. Lucian K. Truscott IV.  Salon.

Extreme Homophobe Mike Pence Doesn’t Seem to Get Why a Gay Person Won’t Talk to Him.  Kinsha Aran. Splinter.

In Conversation: Quincy Jones. The music legend on the secret Michael Jackson, his relationship with the Trumps, and the problem with modern pop.  David Marchese.  Vulture.

Republicans are doing a complete reversal on the deficit.   The debt binge, which is projected to push the annual gap between spending and revenue past $1.1 trillion in 2019, caps off a major shift for the Republican Party, which has been swept up by President Trump’s demands for more spending and tax cuts.  Damian Paletta and Erica Werner. Washington Post.

Quincy Jones – The Best Quincy Jones – (full album) HQ.  YouTube.

From the other side of the aisle:

Right revolts on budget deal.  The Hill.

Big Jump in Corporate Buybacks.  Critics of the GOP tax overhaul argue that businesses will use their tax cut windfall not for domestic investment but to boost buybacks and enrich shareholders.  Fiscal Times.

Jeff Sessions Says Opioid Addiction Starts With Marijuana. Here Are 6 Studies That Say Otherwise.  Sessions: “We think a lot of this is starting with marijuana and other drugs, too.”  J. Ciaramella.  Reason.Com

Feb. 6, 2018.  On this day in 1959,  Jack Kilby of Texas Instruments filed the first patent for an integrated circuit.

On the Proper Name for the Trump Era: ‘Democracide’, ‘Ochlocracy’, or Something Else.  James Fallows.  The Atlantic.

Falcon Heavy Now Officially the Most Powerful Rocket in the World.  George Dvorsky.  Gizmodo.

Daniel Barenboim. Beethoven Piano Concerto # 5 – Jansons / Bavarian Radio S.O.  YouTube.

From the other side of the aisle:

Pentagon planning grand military parade for Trump. Avery Anapol.  The Hill.

Trump’s NAFTA Antics Will Drive America’s Auto Industry Into a Ditch.  Daniel Griswold.  Reason.Com..

Feb. 5, 2018.  On this day in 1994,  Byron De La Beckwith was convicted of the 1963 murder of civil rights leader Medgar Evers.

Boycott the Republican Party. If conservatives want to save the GOP from itself, they need to vote mindlessly and mechanically against its nominees. Jonathan Rauch and Benjamin Wittes. The Atlantic.

Fertile Ground. Using the 2018 Farm Bill To Grow Investment in Private Lands Conservation. Ryan Richards, Mary Ellen Kustin, William Murray, and Caroline Kitchens.  Center for American Progress.

Why Spanish Nationalism Is on the Rise. And What It Means for the Country’s Politics. Omar G. EncarnaciónForeign Affairs.

Apple Music Was Always Going to Win.  Adam Clark Estes. Gizmodo.
Australian and Japanese stock markets slide after Dow suffers biggest one-day points fall.   Claire Phipps, Graeme Wearden and Nick Fletcher.

Guardian.

Trump:  Dems Who Didn’t Clap at SOTU “Treasonous”. President Attacks Democrats Not Clapping At State Of The Union As ‘Un-American’. Marina Fang. Huffington Post.

Millennials Are Keeping Unions Alive. Jobs are precarious, health-care costs are skyrocketing, and wages aren’t keeping up with the cost of living—no wonder young people are organizing.
Michelle ChenThe Nation.

The Elizabeth Warren Model of Political Leadership. As her campaign against Wells Fargo shows, success on Capitol Hill can’t always be measured through a legislative scorecard.   David Dayen.  New Republic.

Stocks Plunge as Sell-Off Enters 2nd Week. The Dow and S.&P. Lose About 4% as Investors Grow Wary.  Matt Phillips.  New York Times.

Trump Goes Quiet as the Stock Market Slumps. Having boasted as the Dow Jones was rising, the President can hardly complain if people now associate him with it as it falls.  John Cassidy.  The New Yorker.

From the other side of the aisle:

Apple Music on Track to Overtake Spotify in U.S. Subscribers. 
Apple’s U.S. subscriber-account base has been growing about 5% a month, versus No. 1 Spotify’s 2% clip.  Anne Steele.  Wall Street Journal.

Feb. 4, 2018. On this day in 2004, Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook.

China’s Surveillance State Should Scare Everyone. The country is perfecting a vast network of digital espionage as a means of social control—with implications for democracies worldwide. Anna Mitchell and Larry Diamond. The Atlantic.

After Credibility. American Foreign Policy in the Trump Era. Keren Yarhi-Milo. Foreign Affairs.

No 10 rules out customs union with EU. Statement comes after ministers contradict each other and reports of a challenge to Theresa May’s leadership over issue. Rajeev Syal. Guardian.

A book proposal

16 Jan

As some of you may remember, I have wanted to expand my writings about “my” German women into a book–their fascinating stories should be told. Recently, the film historian Thomas Elsaesser discovered my blog about Fr. Kern, and was kind enough to send me photographs of her from the 1930s. (Please see Elsaesser’s page about the Martin Elsaesser Foundation at http://www.martin-elsaesser-stiftung.de/.)  This serendipitous correspondence provided the necessary impetus for me to go ahead with this project. Here is the book proposal I have submitted to an interested publisher. I would appreciate any comments.]

Title:  Three German Women: Personal Histories from the Twentieth Century

Author(s): Erika Esau

Publication type:

(Monograph/Series volume/Edited collection/other):  Monograph

Subject:  German Cultural Studies, Women’s Studies

Estimated manuscript delivery date:  January 2019

Number of words:  35,000 maximum

Has the proposed title been published elsewhere in the same, or a similar form?

A small segment of the section on Anna Spitzmüller has been quoted in Hermann Weissgärber, You Can’t Copy Tradition:  A view on the eventful history and bilateral work of the Austro-American Institute of Education from 1926-2016, vol. 1, Vienna 2016 (ISBN 978-3-7412-1906-1).

Rationale for publication:

This project began when I learned of the death of Maria Steinberg, a woman who had worked as a volunteer in my library until she was 86. She had such an interesting and historically significant life story, and I could not find any but the briefest of obituaries for her.  I kept thinking that her story should be told, as an example of the battles and successes faced by intelligent women confronted with the conflicts and explosive events of  20th-century Europe.

The decision to tell her story made me remember the other women in my life whose fascinating stories have also never been recounted. I then realized that other women who had inspired me came from my German-speaking life:  Irmgard Rexroth-Kern, a journalist and Wellesley graduate who I met while on my Fulbright in Darmstadt in 1973-74; and Fr. Dr. Anna von Spitzmüller, my art history teacher in Vienna in 1969-70, who was in the 1930s the first female curator in Vienna.  The lives of these three women serve as emotional mirrors to the amazing changes and tumultuous history of the 20th century.

Their stories tell of the hardships, struggles, and victories of intellectual women in this era. The three women were related to men who played a role in European cultural history, men who received a relatively prominent place in history books and online sites, and at least gained recognition through obituaries that outlined their achievements. These women, in contrast, received very few public accolades for their equally important achievements. All of them (one of them was Jewish) had to endure astonishing hardships during World War II. In focusing on these stories, I hope to place them in the context of the times, in Germany and Austria, and to highlight the way in which traumatic choices were imposed on ordinary people (even well-educated and socially prominent ones) by political and social circumstances over which they had no control.

All of my previous writings have been decidedly academic; the work closest in tone to what I will write here is the biographical sketch of the collector LaVera Pohl in my catalogue, German Expressionism at Lawrence University: The La Vera Pohl Collection (Appleton, Wisconsin 1988). While I want to retain the more personal voice of my blog entries in writing about the women, I will also ground these subjects in an academic framework, with a chapter focusing on some overarching themes: intellectual women’s roles in European society and culture, the fate of Jewish culture in Germany and Austria, and specific historical background describing the incidents affecting the women’s life trajectories (e.g., Irmgard Kern’s escaping Berlin bombings to give birth, Dr. Spitzmüller’s work with the Monuments Men, Maria Steinberg’s father’s position in the Reichstag).

The academic literature of this period is, of course, vast, much of which serves as a scholarly foundation for the book.  Of particular pertinence, I mention the following:

Petra Unger. Frauenspaziergänge:  Entdeckungsreisen durch Wien. Vienna 2012

Tim Bonyhady. Good Living Street: Portrait of a Patron Family, Vienna 1900. New York 2011

Maja Haderlap. Engel des Vergessens. Göttingen 2011

Marjorie Perloff. The Vienna Paradox:  A Memoir. New York 2004

Karen Hagemann, Jean Quataert, Gendering Modern German History, New York 2008

Angela Thompson.  Blackout:  A Woman’s Struggle for Survival in Twentieth Century Germany. 2012

Anonymous. A Woman in Berlin:  Eight Weeks in the Conquered City: A Diary. New York 2006

Edgar Feuchtwanger. Hitler, My Neighbor. New York 2017

Fritz Stern. The Politics of Cultural Despair:  A Study in the Rise of German Ideology. Berkeley, CA 1974.

Anton Gill. Dance Between the Flames: Berlin Between the Wars. 1970

Ehrhard Bahr.  Weimar on the Pacific: German Exile Culture in Los Angeles and the Crisis of Modernism (Weimar and Now: German Cultural Criticism) Berkeley, CA 2008

 Table of contents:

(Please include at least one sample chapter or writing sample as an Appendix to this form)

I. Introduction

II.  Women in the Tumult: Stories of Beauty and Endurance

III. From Berlin to California:  Maria Weber Steinberg (1920-2013)

IV.  Kernel’s Brilliant Career:  Irmgard Maria Rexroth-Kern (1907-1983)

V.  A Child of Empire:  Anna von Spitzmüller (1903-2001)

VI. Appendix:  Translation of Irmgard Kern’s 13-part “Autobiografie eines jungen Mädchens” in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, July 1934.

Who do you feel is the main audience for this work?

Those interested in stories of the Weimar period in Berlin, German women’s biographies, history of Germany 1920-1970, and memoirs of Viennese culture.

 What are the existing competitor titles?

I would say that Angela Thompson’s Blackout (2012) and Marjorie Perloff’s The Vienna Paradox (2004), as well as her recently released Edge of Irony: Modernism in the Shadow of the Hapsburg Empire (Chicago 2018) would be closest in subject matter.

What makes the proposed title different?

These stories encompass a broader range of topics than either memoir, and offer  specific stories about one of the participants in the events that Perloff discusses in her most recent book, as well as women directly connected to historical events in Weimar Berlin and World War II in Germany.

Where the publication might be promoted, when published?

I would imagine that any of the places that promote books on German and Austrian culture would do, as well as ones specializing in women’s studies. Two specific sources also come to mind:

1) Film historian Thomas Elsaesser, whose family knew Rexroth-Kern and her husband in the 1930s and who has just produced a film about his famous relatives, has written to me:  “At some point early in 2019 we will be working on Rexroth’s literary estate, and it would be wonderful, if by then your book/study of Irmgard Kern were also to see the light.”

2) Hermann Weissgaerber, Director of Amerika-Institut in Vienna, where Anna Spitzmüller taught, has already published a small segment of my writing on Fr. Dr. Spitzmüller (see above), and would be overjoyed to have a more comprehensive publication about her to promote.

What networks do you have to support this?

Followers of my blog, my website, Facebook, and connections through my work with the Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. I would also consider as “networks” the contacts mentioned above, Thomas Elsaesser and Hermann Weissgaerber.

Author biographies: 

(Please detail (or attach as a separate document, or include a link to a webpage) your main academic credentials, including publication history)

Curriculum vitae sent by email as a separate document.

Appendix:

Links to blog entries already written:

Maria Steinberg:

https://esauboeck.wordpress.com/2014/08/14/maria-and-other-german-speaking-women-of-influence/

https://esauboeck.wordpress.com/2015/10/16/more-on-maria/

Irmgard Rexroth-Kern:

https://esauboeck.wordpress.com/2015/06/08/frau-rexroth-kern/

https://esauboeck.wordpress.com/2015/06/25/frau-kern-part-ii-germany-and-the-war/

https://esauboeck.wordpress.com/2015/10/27/footnote-frau-kerns-obituary/

Anna von Spitzmüller:

https://esauboeck.wordpress.com/2015/11/13/spitzi-part-i-my-memories/

https://esauboeck.wordpress.com/2015/11/30/spitzi-part-ii-her-life/

 

 

 

 

What a crazy trip!

9 Jan

So we have finally made it home to Pasadena, after driving about 3500 miles in 2 weeks, the last stretch from Sacramento to home through a death-defying torrential rain storm–the first significant rainfall  in SoCal in a year, and one that is now causing all kinds of mudslides and flooding in the areas affected by the fire. Before putting this wild ride to bed, I’ve just gotta share a few more weirdnesses that took place along the way.

Get this: so we drive from Chico to Sacramento on Saturday, and park at our old friends the Detwilers’ house–we had a lovely visit with them while we stayed in their “little house”. (The pictures above, by the way, are from Chico–perhaps more on that later. Suffice it to say we had a lovely, if wet, visit in this college town, and could very easily live there if it comes to that!) Our car is parked on the street outside their house in the upscale part of town where they live. We bring in everything in the car except a plastic bin of gifts and books and notebooks in the trunk. We forget to lock the car’s front door when we at some point go out to retrieve a coat later in the day. In the morning, I go out to get another book, open the trunk, and notice that things seem to be a in some disarray, but assume G. had just messed stuff up when unloading. We go out to visit a realtor, and I notice that the glove compartment is open; again, I just assume we’ve forgotten to close it. When we get back to the house after a few hours, Peter is all excited: their neighbors about 4 houses down the street, by chance seeing Peter, ask if he knows any George visiting, because another neighbor walking her dog in the early morning has found on her lawn a passport for someone named George!!  Yep, it’s G’s passport. We then realize that we had left our passport wallet, with ALL FOUR of our passports in that plastic bin in the trunk, and finally twig to the fact that someone, probably kids, had indeed rifled through all our belongings, looking for whatever they could find of value.  Sigh…Apparently this is a common occurrence in Sacramento, going down rows of cars looking for any that are open and taking what they can find.  Surprisingly, I have never heard of this method of thievery, much to Peter’s astonishment.

We then started looking down the entire street to see if we can find the other missing passports (they took nothing else, even leaving a pair of binoculars). Sure enough, we found the wallet, with one other passport in it, under a truck a few feet away, and George found my two passports still tossed in the trunk.  Whew….Of course, we still felt like idiots, and a bit amazed that this whole set of what Jung would call “synchronicities” led to our car being uncharacteristically unlocked on the very night that little mischief-makers hit that street to carry out their vandalizing activities.  And in a more positively serendipitous example of synchronicity,  Peter just happened to be out as the neighbor was working in her yard, asked him if he knew a George, and she knew the neighbor who had found the passport in the first place.  This is what comes of living in the same neighborhood for decades, and knowing one’s neighbors.  We were then able to go down to the dog-walking neighbors and thank them for retrieving the passport and going to the trouble of trying to contact us. She had even searched for George’s name online, had found our website, and written to us!  A synchronistic world indeed!

20180108_160355.jpg

On the Grapevine, January 8 2018.

This was just one in a string of wild occurrences on this trip–from having to detour in Utah down to New Mexico to get to Colorado, forgetting our computer bag in Utah, George losing his debit card, and having to drive home in the first rain to hit the state in months. We were trying to get home quickly because George has a bad tooth, and was anxious to get to his dentist’s this morning.  (He also has the toddler’s cold that we have been passing around the family now for weeks.) He got up bright and early, drove down to the office–to find that they had no power because of the rain storm!  They were all sitting around in the dark, unable to see any patients. We’re still waiting to hear from them as I write this.

A wild ride, yes?  Finally, the feral kittens that we so dutifully got neutered and released back into their colony have, apparently, not figured out how to hunt or be good feral cats. They just sit at our back porch, bleating for food all day.  Oh, dear, not quite what we expected to happen by having them fixed….Welcome to 2018!  In the end, though, nothing was life-threatening, all resolved itself with no trauma except financial, and we made it back in one piece.  Let the wild rumpus begin!

20180109_091300.jpg

 

 

Southwestern peregrinations

5 Jan

 

 

Our plans for the 2017 holidays began with a fairly simple set of decisions. We rented our house to friends who were keen to see the Rose Parade, and then had to find an inexpensive way to be elsewhere for two weeks.  We were going to go up to my sister’s place near Yosemite for a week, while they drove their RV (or five-wheeler, or whatever the behemoth is) for a nice little holiday stay on the coast in Ventura.  Then for another week we would head up to Chico and Sacramento–places still on our list as possibilities in the “where could we move to that we would like and can still afford?” contest.

Then all Hell broke loose: the fires that have devastated so much of Southern California burned down my sister’s vacation spot, and they couldn’t find another place to go! Not wanting to impose on them while they were at home, and still thinking we should try and save a little money by finding amenable accommodation, we resigned ourselves to do what we had vowed never to do again: to drive to our kids in Denver during the winter. So on December 23, we set out on the shortest route (via Las Vegas), with the intention of stopping in our favorite mid spot of Cedar City, Utah, then crossing through the mountains to arrive in Lakewood, Colorado, on Christmas Eve evening, in time to see the near-two-year-old grandson open his presents on Christmas morning. Despite the driving, this seemed a very nice alternative, as long as the weather held.

Traffic to Las Vegas, through the desolate California desert, was, as always, insane: bumper-to-bumper cars and impossible drivers urgently trying to get to the casino tables. As soon as you hit Nevada, the traffic suddenly opens up, but until then, it’s stop and go and frustration. Max points out, correctly I think, that this is because California has no desire to make the highways easy to get to Vegas, taking all that money out of the state. We eventually made it to Cedar City and got to our hotel, having had no weather problems at all.

That evening we checked the forecasts for I-70 going through the Colorado Rockies at Vail Pass. Eeek! An unexpected blizzard had closed down the entire pass! Not even cars with chains were getting through! What to do?  Briefly, we considered turning back and prevailing upon my sister to put us up. Then we started scouring the internet maps for alternative routes that might have had reasonable weather conditions. Finally, in the realm of making lemonade out of lemons, we decided to head south, through Arizona’s Navajo Nation, past Monument Valley (where all those John Wayne/John Ford movies were filmed! Remember “The Searchers”?), onto Four Corners, and into Farmington, New Mexico, where we would stop for the night before driving into Colorado for another 8 hours before reaching Lakewood on Christmas Day evening.  Since this was a part of the country we had not yet experienced, we were actually excited to have an excuse to make this rather extended detour.

The roads were completely clear all the way to New Mexico, and we arrived in Farmington with no problems, having seen some interesting desert landscapes and even a few Native Americans on horseback.  The only distressing incident:  when we got to the hotel, we realized that we had somehow forgotten a bag in Cedar City–the one with BOTH of our computers in it!  In 40 years of travelling, we have never done anything as bone-headed as this kind of oversight. We were so distressed by this forgetfulness that we started to think we should hang up our travelling spurs. To our great relief, we called the hotel and found out that we had left the bag in our hotel room. While it took a few days to arrange because of the holidays, we were able, for a not completely impossible price, to have it delivered to Max & Dottie’s house by UPS. By this time, of course, our idea of having an inexpensive holiday had gone out the window, and I was forced to remember my father’s favorite saying: “Never worry about anything that money can fix.”

The journey from New Mexico  through Colorado involved the only hairy bit of driving, as we forgot that there were inevitably going to be mountain crossings. Fortunately, by the time we got to La Manga Pass, the sun was shining brightly and the iciest parts of the road had melted.  This being Christmas Day, we saw very few cars on the road, and everything (outside of a store on the Jicarilla Apache Reservation!) was closed. When our Colorado friends later learned of our route, they told us that we would have been in great trouble if the weather had turned, since there are no services along most of those highways.  Luck was on our side, and we made it to the family’s house before Christmas dinner!

 

It was so worth the effort!  Such a treat to see our beautiful, precocious little grandson, who, despite one epic toddler meltdown, was throughout a delight–devouring books, learning new words every day, and being mischievous enough to make us laugh. Poor exhausted parents are doing a fantastic job of turning him into a civilized empathetic creature, even if they aren’t sure they are.  Both Max & Dottie had the holiday virus that their child had so generously shared with them and has now passed on to us. No matter: we cooked and ate, and read stories and took walks in the freezing Colorado landscape. It was grand, with memories that will last (although I imagine Lyle is still too young to remember them when he’s older). Nothing can take the place of a two-year-old’s little kiss and a “Bye bye, Grammy!” with a wave as we departed.

 

In our only venture outside the Lakewood house, we did manage finally to meet our friends Don & Cyndy at one of the real “destinations” of Denver, the Clyfford Still Museum. Don is an avid aficionado of the place, and could tell us all about how this incredible collection of one man’s oeuvre came to be in Denver, with an admirable building created specifically for the collection. Still, who was notoriously cantankerous, had held on to most of his works, reluctant to sell them; they were languishing in a barn when he died. His wife, with the collusion of his nephew living in Denver, amazingly persuaded the city fathers to acquire 95% of the paintings the artist ever did, and to make this museum to house them.  Well worth a visit!

 

Having already planned to be in Chico on January 2, we reluctantly departed Lakewood on New Year’s Eve Day, deciding to take the northern route back to California–on Interstate 80, crossing southern Wyoming and Nevada. and into the Sierra Nevada range. Getting to I-80 involved driving through a foggy whiteout through the Poudre Valley shepherded by a 16 wheeler–fascinating if scary–but once we were on the freeway we had absolutely clear skies, if cold temperatures, for the entire route. We spent New Year’s Eve night in a lovely little apartment in North Salt Lake, then drove on to the phantasmagoric glitz of a Reno casino for the night of New Year’s Day (don’t ask why). This itinerary meant that we experienced the desolate expanses of southern Wyoming and middle Nevada, a journey that can only cause tremendous admiration for those early pioneers who crossed these wastelands in the mid-19th century, having no idea what was in store for them. That any of them made it is miraculous. (For a fascinating account of one of the first crossings, read John Bidwell, the founder of Chico, by clicking here: Gold Hunters of California. The First Emigrant Train to California )

I was elated when we finally crossed into California and saw trees again!  We stopped in the artsy little gold town of Nevada City for lunch–and were able to sit outside in the sun on January 2! This is, of course, not good news–the mountains really should have more snow by now–but we were so happy to be warm again. I couldn’t resist taking a photo of the main street, to compare with the 1856 daguerreotype by Starkweather that I included in my book about Gold Rush photographers. Many of the buildings being raised then are still there in town.

So we are now in Chico, scoping out this nice little college town, waiting to return home on Monday after a few days in Sacramento. That’s another 7 hours of driving, which seems like a breeze after traversing all of the Southwestern states in the last week.  We have indeed driven from California through Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Wyoming! Another adventure in what George has taken to calling our “life on the lam.”

Oh:  before closing, I would be remiss without including a cat: the regal and inimitable Freddy was a constant entertainment!

freddyinsnow