Highly Recommended

September 14, 2023

With the current wave of women’s speech suppressed by gender activists, it is essential to see this in context of patriarchal silencing of women. This problem is about 5,000 years old.

This talk goes live Friday September 15 at 3pm Eastern Time.

Sinead O’Connor 1966-2013: Woman of Integrity

July 28, 2023
Sinead O’Connor. Photo: Grussworte

Like the rest of the world, I am digesting the news of the death of Irish singer Sinead O’Connor, although unlike many of her fans, I know her mainly for one thing: tearing up the picture of Pope John Paul II on Saturday Night Live.

And everybody knows about that. I remember coming to work the next day and hearing the young Catholic women rage and rage about it. I hadn’t watched SNL the night before – I heard it for the first time from the ragers – but I remember thinking, “Get a grip. It’s just this woman’s opinion and she has a right to it.”

But they wouldn’t get a grip. It spawned a pearl clutch in the shallow US news media, who, bobbleheads that they are, slavered over this public relations savvy pope like he had granted them absolution from thinking. Up to this time, Sinead had a meteoric rise in her career as a singer-songwriter, and I never heard her name again except in connection with the pope incident.

But I have thought about Sinead every day for the past dozen years or so. She was the first person I remember being cancelled for her view. Singular. For one opinion, though of course she had many others. Even the Smothers Brothers survived controversy after controversy. And the cancellation was swift, complete, and irrevocable – even after she had been shown to be right.

And she was so right. She was so so right. The horrific extent of sexual abuse by priests and the extent of coverups by the higher clergy, including the pope, eventually did become widely known, although it took years of work by dedicated survivors to make the crimes visible. That work had already started when Sinead gave her infamous performance, but certain segments of the population – including the wealthy elites who guard the gates of fame – were not willing to contemplate uncomfortable truths.

So the reason I have been thinking about Sinead has to do with the current cancel culture around gender identity, though the gender critical movement has too many martyrs to iterate in a short blog post. There are lessons from the church sexual abuse scandals that can be applied here. The first is that the more correct, and the more urgent, the criticism of a powerful authority, the more unforgiving will be the backlash. The second is that reckoning takes a very long time. The third is that the US media and entertainment industry is more fucked up than the Catholic Church.

There has never been any doubt in my mind that the gender industry will one day be universally acknowledged as the sex abuse scandal that it is. From the musty halls of Berkeley’s sociopathic sociology department  to the antiseptic surgical units of Mayo Clinic, it will be aired and flushed. The question is when. Truth is a bitch, and many people hate her. The truth – other people’s reception of the truth – came too late for Sinead. If other women of integrity are waiting for a mea culpa from the craven cheerleaders of elitest decadence, we’ll have to wait for our own funeral.

Marking Me Safe

July 13, 2023

So I wasn’t going to blog about this, but people have been calling me today so I should post something. We had quite a flood in the Adirondack village where I live on Monday night. All roads to the outside were blocked for a full day. Bridges out, roads in tatters, mudslides, dams washed away. Some people had substantial damage to their homes, and some people still haven’t been able to leave their homes. I didn’t take pictures; a photo doesn’t do the scene justice.

I was perfectly safe. My apartment building was water tight and undamaged. I didn’t even lose electricity. I slept fitfully that night, but in retrospect I was silly to try to sleep, knowing that the area was potentially flooding. I should have been up and trying to stay awake.

Today people have been calling to see if I’m okay. Yes, I’m fine. One road was cleared by Wednesday morning, so I even went to work. The state has been sending a lot of road construction crews to dig us out. Lots of places are closed and won’t be open for awhile, but I’m amazed at how quickly the village has rallied.

Somebody asked me if I was upset that Vermont is getting all the attention. Media has been focused there, and it took a few days for news about my village to reach people outside the area who know me. I would have marked myself “safe” on Facebook, but I couldn’t find my disaster listed. But of course Vermont is getting the attention. For one thing, the flooding there covered a larger area. Also, a more populated area. The human scope of the Vermont flood is huge. Here, the impact of nature is impressive but in human terms less costly.

Garter’s Point

June 2, 2023

Last Saturday, I hiked to Kelley’s Point, a stopping point on Long Lake along the 136 mile Northville-Placid Trail. I traveled about ten miles of it, and it was a difficult hike due to the frequent blow-down, which was irritating but not impassable.

Kelley’s Point is the site of an old hotel, and the stone steps leading down to the lake still remain. There were several campers there Saturday, who evidently paddled in.

I was resting on a rocky outcropping at the Point when a huge Garter Snake slid onto the rock. It had the characteristic green stripe, but it was so big that I doubled checked to make sure there was no rattle. It came straight for me, and I had to move or it would have been on my lap.

An unusual encounter with an animal such as this is always an important sign. This snake was making sure I got the message. Snakes to me are about change. I have been spending more time outdoors, vowing to get back in shape after the life problems that distracted me the past few years. The snake coming to me at that particular point was telling me that my efforts would be well rewarded.

In my first book, Invoking Animal Magic, I have a whole chapter the significance of the snake.

It’s only temporary….

March 2, 2023

So I’ve been busy since the start of the year getting ready for my social work license renewal.

I haven’t been practicing in the field for a few years, so there’s lots of catch up to do. I don’t mind the continuing education, as far as it goes, but it is keeping me from my writing and keeping me inside quite a bit.

Fortunately, it’s been a terrible year for outdoor activities, swinging from bitter cold to rain and back again for many weeks. This is the kind of weather I grew up with in Ohio, and it makes even an outdoor winter person want to stay indoors. So I’m not missing too much. If you HAVE to do 101 continuing education hours in five months, on top of your job, this is the time to do it.

The job is very part time, so I’m not working and studying all the time. But there’s only so much time I can spend in front of the computer, with my pain issues, so the writing is taking a back seat. Temporarily.

The Train

February 17, 2023

I feel like I should say something about the toxic chemical spill from the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, but I don’t know what to say. Is it bad or is it really bad or is it really really bad? The reports of people in the area continue to be at variance to what public officials are saying.

On February 3rd, during the night, a train carrying vinyl chloride and other chemicals derailed, causing a toxic spill in a rural area of northeastern Ohio. People within a mile of the derailment were evacuated immediately. Then a few days later, the evacuation area was three miles.

Toxic gases were intentionally released into the air soon after the spill, and a few days later a “controlled burn” of the chemicals was executed. This released a mushroom cloud of toxins. The purported justification of the burn was to avoid an explosion. Now some have suggested that it was done to open the railroad as soon as possible.

Two days after the burn, residents were told they could return home, with local officials warning them not to drink the water for a day. They returned to an apocalyptic landscape, with thousands of dead fish in the water. The fumes burned their throats and their stock animals were sick or dying or dead. Wildlife also died, and the birds left. Residents were told a few days later that the water was safe to drink and no chemicals were detected in the air. But the smell, the dead animals, and the nausea they experienced have made the public mistrusting of officials.

While sympathies go out to the communities near East Palestine, the proximity of the spill to the Ohio River is the bigger concern. Vinyl Chloride is a chemical that takes a very very very long time to degrade. Like, not in your or my lifetime. How this will affect the health and ecology of Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Indiana is unknown. The biggest unknown is what chemicals exactly were released during the burn.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, the Biden administration, the EPA, and the corporate media offer reassurances that the area of the spill is safe and so is the Ohio River watershed. The reports of people on the ground, including journalists who have traveled to the area, differ.

Here is Erin Brockovich talking about the spill. Listen to the first seven minutes or so at least.

With Good Intentions….

January 6, 2023

Well, I started to write a longish blogpost for today, tentatively titled “A Brief History of Magic,” but I got some bad news and couldn’t finish writing it. Nothing that, probably, won’t be fixed, but of the bureaucratic nightmare variety. Today I have a flat tire and I’m waiting (and waiting and waiting) for roadside service to call back.

What is going on in my stars? I don’t know for sure, but something. It’s difficult to read your own chart sometimes. I’ve been getting mired in one agency flub-up after another, all threatening my livelihood and none from mistakes on my part (which is the good news–bureaucracies are not very forgiving). Mercury is retrograde, but there’s probably more going on, since this has been a theme for a year now.

About this time last year, I got thrust into the exorbitant housing market as my landlord (a church that prides itself on liberal politics) decided to cash in on a housing shortage caused by AirBnB and COVID. Also de facto lost my job at the same time. Had to come up with another job and another deposit and $800+ in moving fees plus other nickel-and-dime expenses associated with a move. Then I had to hire a lawyer to get my deposit back from the church. (Keene Valley Congregational. Terrible people. The whole village has become filled with rich woke mean assholes. The kind of people who put signs in their yard declaring how progressive they are, while not returning your rent deposit.)

I don’t know how I survived, in retrospect. I suppose I’ll get through this bump too, but I’m getting tired of these punches to the gut. I do have a better job now. I also have a place to live, one that’s far far away from the job, and too small, and too expensive, but I know I was damn lucky to find any place that would let me keep the cat.

I have an optimistic Aries nature, but I’m not a happy camper right now. In a week or two I’ll either get back to magical history or share what went haywire with my stars.

Notes From Underground*

September 3, 2022

*Apologies to Fyodor Dostoyevsky

I’ve been musing about the changes in telephone customs over the course of my life.

In the 70s (in Ohio) social performance around phones centered on etiquette. Except in an emergency or when expressly invited, you called between 9:00 am and 9:00 pm, except between 6:00 and 7:00 pm, the supposed dinner hour. Calling during dinner hour was height of rudeness. Calling after 9:00 pm was unthinkable. The only permissible ways of answering were to state your name or to chirp “hello?” in a pleasant voice. If it was a wrong number, you politely informed the caller and assured them that they were forgiven before gently replacing the receiver. You limited your phone call to 30 minutes max. Other people might be trying to call.

As teenagers we made fun of these rules, dreaming of the day when we had our own number. Smartasses who took Spanish class said “Bueno” when they answered the phone. What rascals we were.

Rich people had lots of phone extensions. See, the house had to be wired for each extension. The richer you were, the less steps you took to answer the phone. Really rich people had a separate phone line for the children. I don’t think I knew anybody who had a maid answering their phone. If somebody other than family or friends or babysitter answered the phone, it was some kind of nurse and that person was very sick.

Rich people also might have answering services. It was considered reasonable for people, even important people like doctors, to be unavailable for hours at a stretch. When babysitting, the parents might leave a number of a restaurant or other place they would be going, but they usually didn’t. If there was an emergency with the child, you had to call your own mother.

Innovations in phone usage trended toward choice and convenience. The first big one I recall was being able to own your telephone, instead of renting it from the phone company. It was a small step toward freedom. Then it became common for houses to be wired with multiple phone jacks from the start, so convenience spread to more people. It wasn’t odd anymore for someone to have a phone in their garage or basement. The biggest step toward freedom was the answering machine. No longer did you wait by the phone for a call that never came.

Call screening answering machines upped the game considerably. You didn’t have to talk to friends and family if you didn’t feel like it, and you didn’t have to talk to bill collectors at all.

Car phones (big bulky things) came in the 80s, again for rich people (and realtors). In 1990 I got my first “you’ll never guess where I’m calling you from” call. It was a group of friends, driving a mucky-muck’s borrowed car, calling from my driveway as a lark.

The package of premium phone services that appeared in the mid-90s (call waiting, speed dialing, caller ID, etc. etc.) was again geared toward convenience. Little did we know that we had reached the turning point.

Cell phones became accessible to everyone, and we began a journey back to inconvenience that was disguised as cutting edge.

At first most people just had a cell in addition to their landline. Or people who couldn’t have a landline, due to homelessness or illegal activities, suddenly had phone service. An improvement. During the era of the flip phone, you didn’t give your cell number out to everyone. People who had your cell number tried you at home first and didn’t call unless they truly needed you at that moment.

Then students and others on a budget decided to drop the landline and just use the cell. It didn’t make sense to pay for both. People with hot deals in the works or with expensive gadgety phones that had to be justified said “Just call me on my cell.” A phone became something that was not necessarily a few steps away, but something that had to be dug out of a purse or backpack or briefcase, usually in another room if the call came while you were at home. Even worse, the phone was often forgotten or mislaid or even stolen or out of range. All the money spent bringing phone service to rural customers became pointless, as rural areas became “dead zones” with no cell reception. Some people think the answer to dead zones is more cell towers spoiling the landscape. Telephone lines themselves are an eyesore, but do we really need or want to be connected all the time? The last time I summited Mount Marcy, the tallest mountain in New York, almost everyone had their cell phone out saying “Guess where I’m calling you from?” What is wilderness really about?

Domestic violence abusers buy phones so they can track the movements of their victims. Amateurs just call on the half hour, but real pros know someone who can track the phone. Bosses, of course, love cell phone technology, which brings me to my personal grievance against the cell phone.

When mobile phones first became available to the masses, I was employed as a psychiatric social worker. I worked in children’s residential treatment. I wouldn’t say anyone ever abused my availability, but I didn’t enjoy hearing from them. When someone from work was trying to reach me, it was never good. Never ever. And there’s something about a stressful job where you have to be available 24/7 that raises your base anxiety level. You can never truly let your hair down.

Later I worked on-call at a hospital emergency department, and again it wasn’t good news when someone needed to reach me. In this job, my times on-call alternated with time truly off, so it was less stressful. But still, I began to savor the times when no one could reach me.

When money became tight several years ago, I dropped the flip phone and kept the landline. A lot of people would have done the opposite, but I live in a rural area where there are a lot of dead zones, and I hear tons of complaints about cell tower outages, dropped calls, cell plans that only work with certain towers due to cutthroat business practices of mobile phone carriers….on and on. Plus, I usually don’t need to make a phone call if I’m not at work or at home. Yes, I have friends, but they can leave a message on my machine or online. They can call me at home, where I have mutltiple phone extensions and am never far away.

The first inkling that I was losing my lone battle against the cell phone was after I bought my last car. I discovered there was no music player in the car. No CD or mp3 player, and in my area radio reception is iffy. The saleswoman explained that the car was equipped to work with a cell phone for music streaming or satellite radio. Oh well, it worked with an iPod.

Next I found a workaround for those people who say, “Don’t call or leave a voicemail or an email. Send me a text.” I don’t need those kind of friends, but one of the people saying this was my landlord. I discovered you can text to a phone from a desktop or laptop, using Google Voice.

There’s probably no workaround for the increasing tendency of businesses and organizations to dispense with flyers and leaflets in favor of info that’s scanned into a smartphone. Because everybody has a smartphone, right? A phone that works with cell towers in my vicinity and streams music that can be stored offline (because the phone doesn’t work in most places) costs $700. It is guaranteed for software support for two years, meaning in about five years it will be obsolete, so it makes more sense to lease the phone through the wireless provider. This, to me, brings a disquieting taste of deja vu. Though there are certainly cheaper phones without my own set of limitations (or my own reasons for even having a cell), this is not a good option for low income people.

Venmo is the stickiest problem. Itinerent retailers and lots of ordinary people only want to be paid by Venmo, and you can’t pay with Venmo from a computer. Smortphone seems to be the way we’re moving to a cashless society, and there’s an entrance fee.

When I started my last job everybody wanted my cell number. They were aghast when I said I didn’t have one. “What if we need to reach you?” The thing about cell phones is they give you no excuse for being unavailable (although in my case I suppose I could claim I was out of range of the tower). It’s a small step from being able to reached at all times to being required to be available at all times. The cell phone is a leash.

Apple recently announced they are discontinuing the iPod. I see another workaround in my future.

I get asked for my cell number at least three times a week by someone who is not a potential friend. That used to be a rude question. The last time was by my insurance broker. I guess there conceivably are times when an insurance agent would need to call me on my cell, but wouldn’t I initiate the call in that kind of emergency?

I don’t have a cell phone; I am at a secret location.

When I moved into my latest apartment, it was not even wired for a landline. In what is certainly a bone-headed move, the phone company charges a lot of money to wire a building and to turn on new service. Don’t they realize that times have changed? Though I concede that I will eventually lose this battle, I found a workaround by using home phone service through the Internet company. The landlord explained that he didn’t think anyone would want a landline in this day and age when everybody used cell phones.

At least he didn’t ask to be paid in Venmo.