Portus Museum Project

The instructors for the Portus MOOC asked us to consider a museum we would make with artifacts from Portus and what we’d include. I decided to do a pictorial blog! (Links to all images and information will be placed at the end of the blog)   portushead

The Portus Head, discovered by Dr. Simon Keay

The first artifact I would include would be the Portus Head. it is assumed that it represents a fisherman, which makes sense considering the importance of the sea to the Port and its inhabitants. It is a lovely representation of the Port, finely detailed and belongs in any collection associated with Portus.

Photograph of an amphora

Ceramics and glass project digital image

Examples of amphorae would be extremely important, both because of the reliance on amphorae to trade within the Empire and because of the vast amount of sherds and vessels found at the site of Portus.


Portus, Present Day


Trajanic Basin, Present Day

Relationship of Portus to Ostia.

I would also include various maps and pictures to explain the relationship of the port in Ancient Rome, what’s there today, maps, etc.

Portus on a coin of Nero

Coins would also play a large part in my museum. Not only do they offer a view into coinage itself, they remain important in terms of what Portus was for. As a huge complex dedicated to trade, money played an important part of life in Portus. Additionally, coins give us insight into the politics, religion, and technology in relation to the site.

Brick stamps would be necessary to include as they give us important information regarding standards and practices both within Rome and Portus.

Also important would be to include much of the CGI work so that the museum patrons would be able to see a computer image of some of the ruins. 

Computer graphic simulation of the interior of the Grandi Magazzini

Mosaics and reconstructions give people an idea of the artistry and lifestyle of Portus and Rome.

As well as friezes. 

The history of the Emperors associated with Rome and Portus would also be essential. 

Trajan's Column, Rome

Trajan’s Column

Trajan, Marcus Ulpius Nerva Traianus Augustus: 98 – 117

Bust of Emperor Hadrian. Born: January 24, 76 AD, Italica, Spain Died: July 10, 138 AD








Claudius crop.jpg

Emperor Claudius, Reign- 24 January 41 – 13 October 54 (13 years)

Finally, any personal finds and artifacts showing the daily life of the people in Portus would need to be displayed. I wanted to show a picture of the hair pin that was found and shown on the videos from the class, but I couldn’t find an image. There is one of a beautiful copper alloy crucifix, which if you’d like to see it can be found here:


I would also offer some hands on (if this were not on the net) displays for kids and adults. We could wash pottery sherds, have a “dig” with organic materials and a “skeleton”, coloring activities,  and access to online activities through a computer lab. 














Review: Futurelearn’s Start Writing Fiction and Week 1 of Global Health and Humanitarianism

Futurelearn’s Start Writing Fiction which can be found here:  https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/start-writing-fiction   is one of the more popular courses in the Futurelearn catalog and was what started my obsession with MOOCs. As mentioned before, I’ve been having something of an issue with writer’s block and I thought that a class focusing on writing fiction might jumpstart the desire to write as that’s what my problem has been. There were some positives to the class, but it was less motivating than I’d hoped.

First, it was very difficult to workshop a piece. In fact, you really couldn’t. You submitted one short 500 word piece and then a 1000 word piece and got some feedback, never for it to be seen again. Which brings me to the second issue, the message board set up for Futurelearn is often problematic, but really, really clunky in this case. You can get back to your work by clicking here, then there, then over there. It’s not organic. By the time you click around there’s even more messages and it goes round and round. For other classes this is not such an issue, I usually just pick and choose, but for workshopping fiction work it’s too cumbersome. This is not the instructor’s fault as this is an issue with Futurelearn as a rule. The biggest issue I had was also not the instructor’s fault, per se.

I’ve done many writing classes, and the title did say Start Writing Fiction, so I should have known that it would be pretty simplistic. But it’s main focus was to keep a notebook. Drink coffee, write in a notebook. Watch TV or listen to the radio, write in the notebook. Wake up in the morning use the notebook. This is pretty standard. It’s not something I do but I do appreciate that many writers, and many famous ones, do indeed keep a notebook. What was irritating was that other than a few excerpts and some small commentary two or three weeks was taken up with talking about this notebook, writing about the notebook, and I’m pretty sure there was even a quiz question regarding the damn notebook. This time could have been spent elsewhere, in my opinion. But, to be fair, it wasn’t the worst class. There was some really good information and the people that I did interact with were lovely, lively, and engaged. I know that classes run more than once, and I’m a firm believer in feedback so my suggestions were to revamp their messaging system and to either offer a more advanced class or to stop with the notebook and give some suggestions to outside writing like Stephen King’s On Writing. which while King does indeed suggest having a notebook, he also gives great advice for other methods to start you on your way. Hopefully by the time they run the course again they will have addressed the forum situation as Futurelearn has admitted to the issues.



  The second class I’d like to talk about is Global Health and Humanitarianism, found here: Global Health and Humanitarianism. This class is very well structured and slightly different than other courses, even those on Coursera.  The typical assessments are there, three quizzes and three writing assignments. but they offer a few short lectures with documentary films added into the mix as well as links to optional readings to further your understanding, which is slightly different from most courses that are generally one Professor talking to the camera without much outside media. One film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ns_nR3HtNGU

offers a look at the situation surrounding care for pregnant mothers in Bangladesh as well as the focus of sending educators from the community to inform women of their rights and given them information regarding marriage and pregnancy as well as providing the women with access to health care.



The class was stimulating and I enjoyed the extra videos and appreciated looking at Global Health in terms of more than vaccinations and epidemics. One of the aspects of Global Health is obviously access, but access doesn’t always mean economic access. There are also issues with geographic location and violence against women, among others. While this was a very introductory module, it bodes well for future classes.

If I had one little gripe it would be about the Prof. in charge of the lectures. She’s very stoic. I’m sure I’ll get use to her, though, so that’s pretty much a tiny problem.

Glen Coe, the Beach and the Landscapes That Move Me



Image from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/holidaytypeshub/article-620054/Here-I-Coe-wilds.html


For my Sustainability, Society, and You course we were asked to think of landscapes that we feel are the most beautiful. I have two, the very specific Glen Coe, and Northern California beaches.

Glen Coe, in the Scottish Highlands, is stunning. The colors vary depending on the time of year you visit, and the various greens of the hills are velvety and sumptuous and when the light fades those hills turn a majestic purple. Water glistens, heather blooms, and the peace that flows through the valleys invades every sense. It has a specific smell, almost minty, definitely woodsy and fresh, and the quiet (even with tourists) is incredibly refresing. When I went there was a bagpiper standing by a hillside, lending to Glen Coe an almost surreal atmosphere (yes, I realize he was a cheesy tourist attraction), one in which you could leave the bustling city of Edinburgh (which I also love) drive for a bit, and journey back in time to a pristine landscape, one that has been preserved and untouched. I felt I was home and its peaceful energy felt like an embrace.

I also love the raucous nature of Northern California beaches. I’m from the San Francisco Bay Area and I grew up driving up and down Highway 1, one of the most beautiful drive in the world.

Mendocino Coast, California

Image from:http://www.best-california-beach.com/northern-california-vacation.html

We are very blessed in California. We have mountains, and forests, beaches, lakes, snow, sun, desert, and everything in between. But it’s the beaches that are my favorite places to go. The salty smell, the soft sand under my feet, and the roar of the waves all bring back both childhood memories and joy at infinite beauty. As you look out over the crashing waves you fully understand how vast the ocean is and it might be a cliche’ but you really do understand how insignificant you really are. The kaleidoscope of blue and green water is not found anywhere else, and often you can see sea lions, otters, and even whales.

I haven’t blogged in quite a while, mostly as I’ve been having some writer’s block, but with my new obsession there’s plenty for me to say. MOOC’s, or Massively Online Open Courses, give me an opportunity to learn more about subjects I love as well as subjects I would normally not have picked to study as they didn’t fit into my program. That they are free just makes them all the better.

I have to admit, I went a little crazy. But this new (to me) aspect of learning is so exciting that I can’t help myself and I’m maintaining so it’s fine. As long as I can also read the extra materials and participate in fora that I enjoy, I’ll keep adding to my list. Because I don’t think you can ever stop learning.

There are several MOOC providers out there, with Coursera and Futurelearn being the most well-known. There are others out there, though, and everyone has a different take on how successful each one is. EdX, Canvas.net, and Open2study all have several free courses, and there’s some random schools getting involved. A mutual MOOC addict found this one.


at American Public University.

What people need to understand is that these are not just fun little courses, although I find them very entertaining. These are classes that are created and structured by Professors who are tops in their fields who enlist colleagues to help them make courses that are stimulating, informative, and interactive in a way that hasn’t been seen before.

Most importantly is that these classes connect us in a global way, one that is revolutionary. One student shared a story that without MOOCs, students in her country would not be able to learn about the subject (in this case,  a class focused on various aspects of the Bible which I will discuss later) or many others as they are restricted. MOOCs are truly the future of global learning and if given the chance, will alter many perceptions and many lives.

On a personal level, I just love to learn, and MOOCs allow me to do it. I have a list that I check off every day and then I start again. I have finished only two of them, but I would like to start blogging more and do some reviews. Sometimes the most popular courses are repeated, so if you missed them this round, please check them out. You’ll be surprised how much you can learn!

Issues and benefits of the providers I’ve used:

Probably the easiest to use, the classes are divided in an easy to use fashion, generally several videos for the week, a quiz, and some peer edited writing. The discussion boards are also easily used, and if you subscribe to them you can get the responses through email. Coursera offers a wide range of MOOCs, from the Humanities, to Math, to Sustainability, to Forensic Science. The one downside is the anonymous posting. If there’s a troll, it’s generally an anonymous poster as well as pretty much every person with a petty complaint about the course.

Their content and the effort put into the courses is amazing and they also offer a great many courses with a lot of diversity. Their discussion system, depending on the course, is sometimes very difficult to navigate. In most cases once you get used to it, it’s fine, but I have a creative writing course in which it’s impossible to actually receive any valuable criticism.

Some of the best content out there, but again their structure for discussion is really problematic. I resolved myself to just posting and finding one or two posts that I enjoyed and comment on those. The staff for Tangible Things recognized this difficulty and assigned groups, which was helpful.

This one is a mixed bag. I’m taking the History of The Vietnam War and Dr. Michael Brooks has structured and created  a fantastic course, equal to actual history courses I took in college for my BA in history. But I actually dropped another course because there was no interaction. Brooks speaks with us, responds to our questions personally, and comments on our work, also expecting actual papers with research and the like.

Interesting offerings, but I often forget to do the classes because they’re very short, and the interaction between students is really, really hard to do. All of the discussion is smashed into one small window and it’s too difficult to actually interact.


Go at your own pace courses, really just videos and you can discuss if you’d like, but few do.

Here’s my list of courses:


The Art and Archaeology of Ancient Nubia (Completed)

History of Rock, Part One

The Bible’s Prehistory, Purpose, and Political Future

Greek and Roman Mythology

Introduction to Forensic Science

The Changing Global Order

Ocean Solutions

Paradoxes of War

Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World

Greek and Roman Mythology

Deciphering Secrets: Unlocking the Manuscripts of Medieval Spain

Global Health and Humanitarianism

Marriage and the Movies: A History (Completed)







Tangible Things

Natural Disasters


The History of the Vietnam War


I’ve finished Marriage and the Movies and The Art and Archaeology of Nubia. Both were incredibly enjoyable.
Professor Jeanine Basinger taught Marriage and the Movies in an easy, fresh style, one in which you could see that not only is she exceptionally knowledgeable she also had passion for movies that translated to very enjoyable lectures. Taking an exploration through silent film to The War of the Roses and Heartburn, she examines how Hollywood portrays marriage, gender, humor, and tragedy within restrictions of morality clauses an and audience reaction. I highly recommend this course if it’s repeated.

orchids Suspicion-(1941)---Cary-Grant,-Joan-Fontaine-791379

(Wild Orchids)                                                                                (Suspicion)


I’m going to try to do at least a review a week, and I also have one class that requires a blog.

Consider a MOOC or two. You won’t be disappointed.

9 Months in a Tent; or Failing at the American Dream

There’s a few ways people go when you tell them you’re living in a tent. They either look at you with total confusion and try to get away as quickly as possible, they try not to believe you, or they ask very stupid questions. The very tiny minority offer you a place to shower as long as your husband doesn’t watch Fox News, which, by the way, after being homeless for almost 2 years he no longer does.

It’s really interesting being down and out in the United States. And let me preface this by saying that there are a few good people out there who give a shit, but I know from experience that it’s pretty minimal. And it’s not that the others are bad necessarily, it’s that we’ve become a country that really only cares about itself, and that is certainly reflected in how we feel about the poor and others in general. The sad thing is that not only do we not care about  our poor, and we really don’t, we are ashamed of them. The people who turn away, or who say really stupid things like why don’t you just get an apartment somewhere, aren’t horrible human beings. The ones who call you a loser, maybe they are, but those are thankfully few and far between as well and usually are family members.

I’d also like to say that I don’t blame anyone for our being in the tent. It was purely our fault, partially bad financial planning, lack of good jobs, and irresponsibility. I do, however, blame a lot of people for my senior citizen parents being in the situation they were in. They worked their entire lives, which is what we’re all supposed to do then everything will be alright, right, and still ended up in basically the same place we did. There was some help for them, but not much and the only real help came from our very kind neighbor who let us stay in the tents, the motor home, and finally a couple of fifth wheels on his property.

All of that didn’t really bother me. Living in the tent wasn’t terrible, and don’t get me wrong, we didn’t really live rough. We stole electricity from our old house, and snuck into my mom’s house for showers, and had a BBQ for cooking. It was more like extended camping. And in no way do I feel sorry for myself. But what we experienced is symptomatic of everything that is wrong with people who don’t understand poverty and resent those who are poor.
And let me make it very clear: At no time during this experience were we on Welfare. So just take that off your list of things we must have been doing wrong in order to deserve this.
Paul, my mother, and my daughter were employed, my other daughter was going to school full time and looking for a job, my dad was on social security, and I was frantically looking for a job with my two degrees in hand. I, five years later, am still looking. The rest of them are all employed and I doubt any of us will ever be homeless again, ever. Ever.
So, see all of you who read this, we did in fact learn our lesson.

There’s a few questions that get thrown your way, too. Most of them completely stupid.

1. How did you get in this situation?

Well, I don’t know. Short answer is we fucked up. Long answer has to do with feeling a duty to care for my aging parents, being afraid we wouldn’t make rent one month and be in this situation elsewhere, being afraid in general, the economy imploding and no jobs for middle aged women, and really not having enough money between the five of us (Paul, myself, and the kids) to even go down onto first street and rent the roach motel.

2. Why don’t you force your parents into a home? Said in a much nicer way without the word force.

Short answer. Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! Long answer: Obviously none of you ever knew my father or my mother. Mom lived in a motorhome until the day before she died so that she could go to work. Only one person at her work even knew her situation because she was ashamed to tell anyone. I kept telling her that she worked at a Walmart, so nobody would care. But she was afraid her bosses would fire her for being homeless, which apparently is actually a concern. Just google “Fired for being homeless” and quite a few separate incidents come up. That is incredibly sad.

And my dad, well anyone that knows him knows he’ll never go into a home in this lifetime. I’d have had to get them both declared incompetent and that would suck. Because they weren’t and aren’t crazy. What they were was demoralized, sad, angry, frustrated, and scared. It’s so easy to forget that part. That their home of 35 years was taken because dad had a string of bad luck, basically retired, and also did stupid shit like not paying off the house when he could have. So, yes, it was their “fault” too, I guess. But is this the way we measure success? Or pride in our country? Dad and his family lived the American Dream. Every one of his mother’s children had a better life than she did. But it all crumbled into a nightmare because that dream only counts if you’re committed to being the same as everyone else. Yes, I said it. The American Dream is for boring people. And even some of those get shafted if their company underfunds their retirement, goes bankrupt so that they don’t have to pay anyone but the CEO’s, or if the economy blats like it did recently. I think my brother lost half the worth of his 401k and he’s been doing everything he should do in order to have a good life. Just goes to show you, everyone can get screwed regardless of who or what or how they behave.

Why don’t you just get a job?

Not really a short answer here. I tried like Hell. Still can’t get one, rarely even get an interview, and I have no idea why. And yes, I’ve dumbed down my resume and I’ve plumped it up. Nothing. Thankfully, Paul is awesome and is doing very well or we’d be screwed.

Why do you blame others?

That one always pissed me off because I never did. All I wanted was a little help until we got on our feet. Funnily enough, after going to New Jersey and realizing that we had to do without that help, things got much better. My problem is that had anyone I knew been in the situation we were in…anyone…I would have been much like our very kind neighbor and done anything I could to help. Maybe I’m the stupid one, but I’d like to think that that’s what kindness means and that’s what you do when you are in a better place. All of us have times in our lives when we’re down. It’s how we react when we’re not that counts.
And we did have help from people who know who they are, and after three more months in a fifth wheel, we had this apartment.

Sometimes I miss the tents. I very much miss the Ranch and it’s smell, just so fresh and clean, foresty. I miss the quiet and the pitch black nights, and looking at the stars through the top before we got our first snow in 30 years and it collapsed on top of us. I can’t see those stars now because of the city lights. I miss just being able to go outside and feel peace. We never have that here. Just peace.

I miss my mom humming her way out of the motorhome to meet me at the tent and we’d eat some cereal together on the rickety card table that Paul tried to make into a dining room table, and listening to her complain about whatever it was that she hated that day. Mostly my dad, not surprisingly.

What does all of this mean? Am I complaining once again? Probably. But it’s not because we were in the tents or why we were in the tents that bothers me, and that’s something that most people don’t understand. We were extremely fortunate, and I know that in reality that my parents had places to go. They were just crazy and refused to got there. What bothers me is the idea that our poor are so far beneath us. My father served in the Korean War. He built  the original nukes after Fat Man and Little Boy (something he pretty much regrets, but he did it), and he always helped people out when he could. We always had someone living with us that needed help. My mom raised her kids, went to work when she felt she could, and was one of the most brilliant people I’ve ever known. My mom’s last days were not unhappy, really. She had me and other family members with her. But they should never have been in a tiny space no bigger than some people’s bathrooms.

And that’s what pisses me off. All the excuses as to why we can’t have health care, or housing, or education. Or care for our elderly. Because they worked for all of that, too, and they didn’t get it either.

I sometimes say I am ashamed of our country, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart. People on the other side always claim that other countries with socialism or whatever have failed, and in some cases they are so very right. But aren’t we supposed to be the best country in the world? Can’t we find a way to compromise so that this doesn’t happen to more people?

But I guess the bigger question is what happened to us to make us not care. Because I have a great many acquaintances, more than the opposite, who I know think we somehow deserved this or that we feel sorry for ourselves. We do not. We have struggled to have a good life and we have made it through and of that I am so proud and nobody can take that away from us. And you can think we deserved it because I’m an artist and I didn’t do the work thing all you want. Go fuck yourself. Or that we took advantage. Or whatever. But go take a good long look in the mirror. And ask yourself if you hate the poor or what the poor represent. Ask yourself what it is about the poor that frightens you so much. Because this is the first year since 1998 that I have lived above the poverty line.

And then ask yourself if any decent human being puts their money before kindness. Take care of you and yours, yes. But money should never be the priority. Does this mean I may end up like my parents without a good financial plan? Not really. It just means that I give a shit. And I’ve seen how money tears families apart. Very recently, in fact. It’s just plain stupidity, greed, and evil. And it shames me that most of the United States thinks this is ok.

My mom told me while she lay dying, that I was the kindest person she ever knew and that she loved me. What you have to understand is that mom and I never got along and that I can count on my one hand how many times she told me she loved me after I was an adult. She was pretty loopy on morphine and was only lucid for moments at a time, but she was very clear at that very second. She grabbed for my hand and thanked me for being who I was, so strong and so loving. And I have to admit, I am not strong. I did what I had to do, and I regret how I was with her at the very end. I had to be stern because she didn’t want any care and I had to force it. I couldn’t just sit and hold her hand and give her support because she needed that care. And when you are there in that situation a million questions go through your head; do you give her more morphine than they told you you could because she’s in pain and the nurse from hospice hasn’t gotten back to you? Yes, you do. Do you give her her laxatives and vitamins even though she’s puking them right back up and you know, even though nobody else has seemed to notice, that she isn’t going to be here much longer? No, no you don’t.  You make decisions because you have to.

And that’s how it is with being homeless. You do shit because you have to. You live in a tent and you cook outside and you love your children and your parents and your animals because that’s all you have. And if people think you are somehow less deserving of respect or dignity because of the situation then there isn’t a damn thing you can do about it, and that reflects upon them, not you.

The last question I get asked, often, and this goes for my very frank discussion of my time in the mental hospital, is why do you talk so openly about all of this? it’s nobody’s business, and it can only make you feel badly to talk about it.

My answer to this is that I don’t work that way. For me, talking about it is the only way for me to heal, because my greatest hope is that I can help someone, somehow. I am not ashamed, and that’s really the question they are asking me, just in a circuitous manner, is am I ashamed and if not, why the fuck not? And my answer to that is because I know that while being homeless was mostly our own fault, it isn’t what makes me who I am. Homelessness did not and does not define me, as it shouldn’t anyone. What do I have to be ashamed about? I’d be far more ashamed if I were all those people who judged.

Race Riots; Racism in the US

Firstly, I’d like to say that this is how I should have vented about Paula Deen in the first place. I swore I wasn’t going to get involved in politics on Facebook, and I did and all it did was frustrate me to the point of not wanting to be on Facebook or even be my normal fight the good fight self. I just can’t comprehend how people do not understand that racism is rampant in the United States, nor can I understand how people can condone that racism, specifically in a public figure who is known for a warm personality.

But let’s leave Paula Deen out of this for a minute.

You have to admit when people are in an uproar over this commercial:

there is something really wrong. And when the maker of Cheerios has to disable the comments because of racist remarks, there’s a problem. This country has many biracial and multiracial  families and this commercial is representative of our melting pot that we are supposedly so proud of. Of course, that’s only if the melting pot is German, Irish, Italian, you know, white.  Start putting a little spice in that fondue and the racists get all wiggy and start to grumble.

Add to that and the excuses being made for these racist assholes and you have a bomb ready to go off.

And then, there’s this:


Granted, we liberals said something similar about Bush, but it had nothing to do with race. It had to do with the fact that he’s an idiot.
Our President is biracial and it’s perfectly acceptable to continually call into question whether he was born here or not. This is not because people really think he was not born here, it’s racist assholes being pissed about a black man of any sort being our President. And sadly, there are people out there that not only think that this is not racist, but that the promotion of this shit is not racist either. I am not saying that if you didn’t vote for Obama you are racist, that’s ridiculous. I am saying that Obama’s election, an event that should be celebrated (not because of Obama himself but because a biracial man got elected), has been tainted by the fact that for some reason this has opened a flood gate for people who if not racist, are at the least, misinformed. And to be fair, voting for Obama just because he’s biracial is just as racist if you get right down to it.

Again, people forget the history. Which is really continuing on into the present. But let’s look at some of that history and put it into context.

A lot of people throughout history have held slaves. The Egyptians, the Romans, the Greeks, all of whom we base some of our political systems upon. The Dutch, from whom we got most of our slaves, ended slavery in 1814, although they didn’t seem to think selling human beings was a bad thing.  Slavery didn’t end in Great Britain until 1833, Russia in 1783, and we know when ours was ended. We are not the only people to have used forced labor. The difference is that our slavery was based upon a color, or race if you prefer. The Greeks and Romans enslaved their own people, Mediterranean people, African people, Celts, and whatever they could get their hands on. And those people, as could most slaves throughout history, were more like our indentured servants, and could work their way out of that slavery. Never easy, not always accomplished, but still a possibility.

Our slave system was based on race. There were not Irish slaves. No Asian slaves (notwithstanding the horrible conditions the Asians suffered on the west coast), although there were quite a few Native-American slaves as well, although they were not considered as valuable as the African slaves. We bred people to be slaves, to give us a free labor force, but more significantly, a force that cold be raped, beaten, and murdered on a whim.

Sure, we all know this, right? What’s this have to do with anything? It’s history, right? None of that matters now because it’s in the past.

If I hear this one more time I’m going to puke.

One of the biggest problems with the US is that we make every excuse in the world. We cannot accept responsibility for the things we’ve done, will do, or are doing. Always, always some excuse. My brother once told me that I take too much responsibility, but I’d rather do that than be like most people who either bury their head so far in the sand they’re puking pyramids or are just so oblivious that they perpetuate a problem without knowing about it or caring.

So, why does history matter so much?

Partially because of it making up who we are. I always find it funny when people evoke the founding fathers to prove that they were conservative, then say that history doesn’t matter. They weren’t in the context of the time, but that’s another point. Our history is made up of fucking horrible shit. Slavery. Genocide. Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Civil War. The Trail of Tears. Japanese Internment. McCarthyism.

Hmmm. Look at that list. Every single one of them involves either race or limiting freedoms, with the exception of the bombs. Yep, in the land of the free, if you’re white, rich, and male, for the most part.

At some point we have to say, what the fuck? But people don’t. They continually say stupid shit like:

That was another time.
What’s that got to do with me, I didn’t have slaves.
I’m not racist, but I don’t want those thugs in my neighborhood.

OK. Continue to lie to yourself. Everybody else does, which is why things will never get better.

A few moments in our history since 1900 regarding race.



Yeah, that last one is from this year. And people will continue to say, well that’s not racism. But, it is.

Getting back to Paula Deen, I’d like to go through a few steps with her. I’d like to point out that I liked her, a lot, before all of this. I don’t hate her but I do think she’s a racist.

First off, let’s talk about the word and what she herself has done. In no way is it ever ok for a white person to use that word. Ever. I don’t see what the controversy is over that. And the excuse, yet another one, that “they” (see how that is, that construction of the other, calling blacks “they” rather than saying some people) use it is stupid. Let me give you two examples of how stupid in simpler terms.

I am fat. I know I’m fat. But if other people, especially people who don’t know me and my struggles with food call me fat, I go ballistic. It pisses me off. I want to punch them. And this is about being fat, certainly not being considered sub-human by many people in this country. Don’t lie. We all know people who consider women, blacks, Mexicans. and other minorities as somehow less than them.

Another example, or maybe just a point to be made, is that circular reasoning such as “they” say it so why can’t I is kind of like saying Johnnie’s parents let him drive the car without a driver’s license so why can’t I.

Again it’s about personal responsibility. Do you really want to make that argument? It’s petulant, childish, and really just an….well, you get it.

I will say, had this only been an aberration 15 years ago, I could let it go. People do make mistakes, and she’s entitled. If it were a one time event. Apparently, those who are supporting her either don’t care that she’s getting sued, as is her brother Bubba, for continuing this behavior, for hiring light skinned blacks for the front of the house and relegating dark-skinned blacks to the back of the house. That she wanted tap dancing, middle-aged black men to serve at her brother’s wedding. That she continually called one of her employees “the little monkey”. And that the two of them are being sued not by a black person, but a white woman.

What does all of this mean? I’d love to call it all ignorance, but aside from the making of excuses, it’s much deeper than that. Since Obama has been elected a lot of racism has reared its ugly head. And somehow, perhaps with the advent of social media, it’s become ok.  It’s not ok. Just as it isn’t ok to say a rape is the woman’s fault. Or that Asians are exotic. Or that Mexicans are all illegal. Or that all Jews should be exterminated.

If when reading this I make you angry, you should think about that for a minute. Why? Why are you angry at reading why you shouldn’t ever use racist language or make excuses for a woman who has? I’m not angry at you for defending her, but I am saddened by how many of you don’t get it.

And for the record, I don’t think the word should be used by anyone. It’s a huge misunderstanding of both the context and the history when people use it. Makes them sound ignorant and stupid about their own history. It is, however, unlikely that the complete annihilation of the word will happen. And while I don’t think it should be used, I’ m not for censorship, either. It should stay in Huckleberry Finn purely for the fact if we continue to clean up our books and writings (and even gangster rap, if you get right down to it) then we do get to this point. Where we forget. Forget that the Civil Rights movement happened only 50 years ago. Forget that some people are still fighting. Forget that some people are vile just because.

Paula Deen is not a hero and she is probably not really a villain either. What she is is a public figure who fucked up royally and is now trying to cover her ass. I genuinely hope that this is all some crap drug up by a disgruntled employee just for the fact that she had to have been doing this for years and people let her get away with it for such a long time if it’s all true. And that is frightening. Because that means we really haven’t learned from any of our mistakes.

Fairy Tale Follies; or Analyzing Beloved Stories Without Being Shot. Dead.

Ah, the Fairy Tale. Few icons of popular culture illicit such vehement defense. Especially the Disney versions. I know women who absolutely get angry when I espouse how Disney fairy tales are the worst blueprint for women on earth. And they aren’t so great for men, either. But it really isn’t Disney’s fault, not completely. He isn’t the first to alter the original meanings of the stories, nor will he be the last. The problem with Disney is in actuality the problem with our society at large.

1. Make everything sweetness and light.

2. Take away the actual meaning behind why these things are happening to these women, and/or men.

3. Dress the stories up in a pretty package and hope nobody notices how bad they are for young minds that are just forming.

4. Ignore the bad shit.

And that’s the big one. Ignore the bad shit. Why? Why do people continue to turn their head from what really happens in this world?  I maintain that they’re all a bunch of chickenshits who are afraid that if they admit the bad shit happens that it might happen to them. I also think that this is incredibly detrimental to our children. People wonder why kids have so many more problems than the used to. This is often explained as “times were harsher” and they were, but kids today are not allowed to fail, are not allowed to know what small amounts of pain are let alone what real suffering and strife is. We make it too easy for them, and then they are severely disappointed when things do not go their way. Granted, this is a huge generalization, but I’ve seen it, especially in girls and their ideas of what a man should be. Unfortunately, this circles back to Disney and the sanitation of tales that were supposed to warn girls (and sometimes boys) of the horrors that the world has to offer.

Let’s look at the original tale of Little Red Riding Hood (which, as far as I know, Disney has not mangled). Briefly, the tale of her going through the woods has pretty much remained the same throughout the centuries, and yes, I said centuries. The little girl goes to visit her grandmother, has a bunch of goodies in her basket, meets the wolf, innocently (or stupidly, depending on your point of view) tells the wolf where’ she’s going, he eats the grandma and is there waiting for Red in anticipation of eating her, too. And if you are not getting the overtly sexual metaphors here, then your head has really been in the sand your entire life. This is where the story has changed, dramatically, over the years.
In the original version, the oral tale, Red (Cap in this case, not Hood) is treated to her grandmother’s intestines splattered all over her grandmother’s shack, and the wolf offers her her grandmother’s blood to drink, which she does. He asks her to undress bit by bit and get in the bed with him. Naked. Red only escapes by telling him that she has to urinate. He ties her to a large rope which she then ties to a tree and makes her escape, presumably as naked as the day she was born.

Here we have a story that not only is intended to frighten children of the dangers of the woods (which at the time these stories were popular were more dangerous than any city) but to warn little girls of “charming” men. Same old story, there, right? They never had oral tales explaining to boy children how not to be a raving, drooling, rapist. Nope, it’s always on the women.

And, this may seem strange, but the fault there might in fact not lie with a patriarchal society, but with the women themselves. I know, the world has ended, the feminist is blaming the women. But there’s a lot to what I’m saying.

First off, The Grimm Brothers wrote very few of the stories attributed to them. I think maybe one or two. What they did was go to the women of Germany, all over the countryside, the cities, to friends, to noblewomen, to peasants, and gather the stories from women. Women who passed the stories around and down through the generations  as oral tales told while spinning, weaving, sewing, knitting, and perhaps after reading the Bible and before going to bed. The women told tales to scare the Hell out of their daughters, whether out of love or concern for a good marriage, it was still the women who continued the cautionary tales that informed their daughters’ lives and it was those daughters who continued the pattern.

The story of Little Red Cap that The Grimm Brothers anthologized is significantly changed from the original oral tale. In the version many of us knew when we were growing up the blood and gore was mostly gone, Red never had to get naked, and the Huntsman came and rescued her and Grandmother.  Again, the mothers of European girls in the 17th, 18th, and 19th were very much focused on marriage, and a good, hardworking, strong, man was the one to look for. And because girls were weaker in spirit, mind, and body they needed this guy to rescue them.
Looking at this illustration…


…we see the real attitude toward women and girls especially. Here Red is the coquette “playing” the innocent while the ravaging wolf looks on. How can he help himself? She’s there for the taking.
And this is one fairy tale I’d like changed. There have been modernizations, such as Francesca Lia Block’s stunning and terrifying Wolf  which shows the wolf as a manipulative step-father who will do anything to possess his  young step-daughter. It examines pedophilia and molestation in an open and honest way, one that I’ll bet most mother’s won’t let their child read, and they should. Just as those mother’s did around the fireplace decades ago. Wolf is the modern cautionary tale and one that shouldn’t be ignored.

But what does all of this have to do with Disney or even the sanitation of fairy tales? Little Red Riding Hood doesn’t follow the pattern only because it’s closer to its roots than many of the other fairy stories children have loved for eons. But it does show what fairy tales are really all about. They were meant to be stories that warned girls of falling prey to men, whether by charm, losing their virginity, or just marrying a cad in general. These were stories that gave young women, metaphorically, instructions on living life with the least amount of pain and strife.


Cinderella, for example. The original tale discusses mutilations and an apparently moronic prince who cannot even remember who the love of his life is the next day. But Cinderella can marry a prince, high above her social class in reality, if she only remains pure, obedient, and cleans the shit out of the house. Presumably she’s a damn fine cook, as well. Well, she doesn’t really follow the obedience part, otherwise she never would have married the Prince. In the meantime, her step-mother imprisons her, beats her, and has killed her father for his money, and her step-sisters mutilate themselves in order to marry the dolt of a prince who doesn’t even notice the course of blood flowing from the shoe until a bird, a bird, tells him that the shoe does not fit.

Disney keeps most of the tale intact, remarkably. He omits the bird and we never really see the evil step-mother as anything other than mean. Sure she uses Cindy as a slave and locks her in her room, but we never really fear for Cindy’s life as we do in the tale. Maybe little children shouldn’t be exposed to death threats, but being sent to your room also shouldn’t be seen as evil personified. And that’s all that really happens in the Disney version. Cinderella is being punished for defying her step-mother. Wah. Get over it, kid. At least this step-mother didn’t go to the ball dressed as a young woman with her breasts exposed, which she did in the Grimm’s version. Hell, if the ugly sisters can’t get the Prince, then mama can!

The point is, Fairy Tales were supposed to scare girls into behaving. Most of them are sexist and focused on finding a husband even before Disney made them so happy and full of light. The husband’s were just as dull, by the way. Remember, these are stories told by women, so not only are they promoting marriage, they’re warning their daughters that the husbands of the time are really dull and don’t care much for anything other than begetting and moving on.

But, they also had a deeper purpose. One that was to warn against the evils of men, or the devil, or even other women. That evil can walk on this earth and harm all of us, especially young and innocent girls and boys.  Disney forgets this in their attempt to satisfy the larger demographic. It certainly isn’t the worst thing a filmmaker has done, and I watched the movies along with my children. But  I also read them the originals so that they knew what the literature looks, sounds, and feels liked.
The mermaid does not get her man, but she gets Jesus in the end. Sleeping Beauty is raped in her sleep and her Ogre mother-in-law wants to eat her and her offspring. Peter Pan wants a mother and has a fairy by his side who has a boudoir and wants more than  his fairy dust, if you know what I mean. While not a fairy tale, Pocahontas dies rather quickly after leaving the US and John Smith doesn’t make it back to England and she marries someone completely different.

Does any of this matter? Probably not to most people, but I see an increasing amount of people saying things such as we do not want to know the bad parts of the holocaust, as an example. They’re belief is that just knowing about it is good enough, why experience the pain of seeing and reading about what happened to those poor people. Because, you moron, if you don’t feel and see and experience this shit it doesn’t feel real and it happens again. So is Disney awful? No. The stories that the studio tells are lovely little interludes of brightness and light. But beware! If you do not explain to your daughters and sons that those stories are pure bullshit you will have a generation of disillusioned adults who will never find their perfect partner because Prince Phillip never existed.