Wednesday, August 19, 2015

What Witchery Be This Google?

Greetings Kind Reader, 

Told you I'd be back... and here I am - and I'm actually looking forward to writing this post because it's getting me back to my earliest blogging roots and lets me dabble into one of my favorite things - history.  6 years ago I started writing some posts I referred to as 'Six Degrees of (Historically Significant) Separation' wherein I took one day (not a specific year - just a day) and found 6 'related' things that happened on that day in history. 

Six Degrees of (Historically Significant) Separation:
The 'What Witchery Be This Google?' Edition

The First Degree - August 19, 1612 - Salmelsbury, Lancashire, England
     Monty Python understood the lunacy of witch trials in their 1975 classic 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail'. John Cleese's line 'She turned me into a newt...I got better' made people cackle with laughter the first time it was seen and now, a good 40 years since the movie's release, it still cracks people up. But if someone had said that line back in the late 1600s in England, a country united in name but divided by religion, odds were likely someone was going to be put on trial for their life. 

Take for instance the case against 3 women, Jane Southworth and Eileen and Jennet Brierley, in Samelsbury, Lancashire, England. They were accused by a young girl, Grace Sowerbutts (yes, that really was her name), of murder, cannibalism, consorting with the Devil and a couple other things that have slipped my mind. 

Geez, those are some serious accusations to be tossing about - surely this young girl had some evidence to back up what she was saying? Well, no. But hey, evidence-shemevidence...who really needs proof because Grace's story was so compelling. She said she saw the accused 
  • Poke a nail through the bellybutton of an infant and suck its blood. (GROSS! - I foresee a hanging.) 
  • Then after the baby died and was buried, the women were accused by the same girl of digging up the body and eating it (WHAAAAT?! Quick, find a thick tree branch!) 
  • Then she said they not only ate the child, but there were tall men with dark clothes and no faces who just popped up out of the ground at the picnic (A noose is too good. Fire up the grill! It's time for a witch-be-que!) 
Yes, that creepy testimony seems pretty compelling - the judge and spectators were ready to take down the three witches and rid the world of a little more evil. But they couldn't base executions on just one girl's word. No, they weren't barbarians. They needed something more. Something truly damning. And that's when it was revealed that 
  • the long dead father-in-law of one of the women went out of his way to avoid his new relation because he didn't trust her since she was ... hold your children near, folks ... she was a Protestant! 
Wait? Huh? The lives of three women hinged on a story the likes of which M. Night Shyamalan drools over and the fact that a dead dude was ticked off that his son rejected Catholicism to become a Protestant and therefore he loathed his new daughter-in-law. 

Well, Lord, excuse me for being blunt ... but that's just plain stupid. 

Thankfully, when the judge heard that last little bit of testimony, he agreed and he started to question whether or not anything young Grace had said was true. So, he had the girl questioned - away from anyone who might be able to influence her and wouldn't you know it - someone had coached her into what to say.

Why? All because there was a ridiculous rift between people who held onto their Roman Catholic traditions (in secret) when the majority of England under Elizabeth I was Protestant. 

One case of wild witchery squashed and three women were exonerated. Of course, there were still 100s of people who were executed throughout Europe based on similar, wild accusations. But on August 19, 1612 things turned out pretty good. 

The Second Degree - August 19, 1692 Salem, Massachusetts 

If you've read Arthur Miller's The Crucible you'll probably recognize some of the names from the play that told the story of a dark period in the earliest stages of the American colonies. Although, if you thought The Crucible was an accurate historical recounting of what happened in Salem, you're wrong. Sorry.

While The Crucible does have factual events and people in the story - isn't really about the Salem Witch Trials - it's actually an allegorical story recounting the Joe McCarthy fueled 'I see Communists' Era (And yes, I did just make another reference to M. Night Shyamalan)

So, in one way it's kind of good that we do have The Crucible - otherwise, most people would know even less than they think they do about one of the most disturbing events in American history. Dozens of innocent people were falsely accused of witchery and consorting with the Devil and 'cursing' others. And we're not talking about a Stephen King 'Thinner' sort of curse where all sorts of bad crap happens because a moron is literally cursed for killing a gypsy girl with his car (while, it should be noted, his wife was 'pleasuring' him). His life sort of went to Hell after that. 

But that's not the sort of 'cursing' that people were accused of levying on others during the time of the Salem Witch Trial. I'm talking more along the lines of... 'One day I passed by So&So and she looked at me funny - then my chickens started to die for no reason. She obviously cursed me.' Yes, obviously. 

Sadly, the world of the Puritans in America was so steeped in fear simply because their lives weren't easy they were 'looking for witches' to explain/blame all the negative things that happened to them. And it was a good way to get rid of people who were a thorn in the sides of people who didn't like having people stand up against them. 

Like the 3 accused women 80 years earlier back in England, the people accused of witchcraft in and around Salem (which wound up being about 200) were 'judged' by otherwise rational people. Unlike the women in Salmelsbury, who had only one accuser whose story kept changing, the accused in Salem found themselves trapped in a frenzy of radical religious fear and were pretty much doomed from the get go. All in all 20 people were executed, scores others were emotionally scarred for the rest of their lives, and the first of many big dark blots on American history was made. 

For the purposes of this historical chain of events ... on August 19, 1692 - 5 people were executed. 

The Third Degree - The Birth of a Nickname -August 19, 1812
      Most people think that after the American Revolution, the war with Britain over American independence was over. Sure, on the outside the good old (young) US-of-A looked like a sleek, shiny prototype car with all sorts of nifty bells and whistles. Now, if you know anything about prototypes - sometimes there are serious bugs that have to be worked out with the overall design. But there was no way the folks running the fledgling United States were going to admit that the experimental new government was anything less than totally awesome.

But when you really think about it, those first few years kind of had a 'choose your adventure' feel to them since the government that was set up was one big sociopolitical experiment based on the idea that people could be governed using 3 branches of government and a series of checks and balances where-gads- The People were heard via votes. Today, it seems so logical, it's stupid to suggest that there was ever a time when people didn't think it was the best thing since sliced bread.

And in 1812 - England, still reeling from losing to the Americans in the first place, wasn't pleased with the fact that there were unresolved issues dealing with boundaries. After all, there was a LOT of land beyond what was 'The USA' at the time and at the time it was as valuable to those who wanted control of it as the oil fields in the Middle East and Asia are today. Yes, in the 1800s lumber and animal pelts were pretty freaking valuable - and North America had millions and millions of acres of land just ripe for the picking.

The English decided to pick at the still fresh wounds between them and the USofA by doing stupid things like stopping American merchant ships, pulling off American sailors, and 'empressing' (a fancy way of saying forcing) them into service for the British. And that really, really... really did not sit well with the Americans.

So, on June 18, 1812 (FYI, my daughter's birthday - as well as Sir Paul McCartney's birthday - is on June 18) the US government declared war on Britain. Yep. There really was an actual, honest to goodness war between the American Revolution and the American Civil War.

The War of 1812 is like Rodney Dangerfield - it gets no respect! For Pete's sake - it's often referred to as 'The Insignificant War'. But if it wasn't for the War of 1812 there would be no Star Spangled Banner. That's right - don't believe me, tough. It's true. No rockets red glare or bombs bursting in air.

There also wouldn't be any reason to remember one of the first US Naval heavy frigates - the USS Constitution. In fact, it would probably have been scrapped long ago. Instead, it's still moored at a naval slip in Boston because it wasn't just 'a ship of war' for America. It became THE symbol of what became American naval dominance thanks to the fact that during the War of 1812 she helped capture multiple British merchant ships and defeated - as in DEFEATED five... yes 5... British war ships. One of which was the HMS Guerrière (not to be confused with the tasty French cheese) during a battle that the Constitution probably should've lost.  

But instead of losing - she won. In fact, according to reports the cannon shot 'bounced off the wooden ship like it had sides of iron'. It was a victory that created a different kind of frenzy in America. It wasn't a frenzy of fear - it was a frenzy of pride. And on August 19, 1812 - Old Ironsides became the official nickname for the USS Constitution

Oh and guess what? I was lucky enough to be aboard the Constitution for a 'turn about' trip with my husband and daughter. OMG. That was so so so awesome. It's something very few people ever get to do. Did I mention it was awesome?

The Fourth Degree - August 19, 1839 'Daguerreotype Photographic Method' a gift to the world
     A lot of people wonder what it would be like to invent something that changes the world as we know it. Funny thing is, most of the time the things that we think were invented by one person (the person to whom all the credit goes) actually didn't invent whatever it was. Like most people think Edison 'invented' electricity (a better way to put it would be 'invented a way to harness electricity for consumption' but let's not get picky); however, Nikola Tesla really ought to get the credit. 

And the car? Ask most people and they'll say 'Henry Ford invented the car' (No. It's a little more accurate to say it was Nicolas Cugnot - a French guy; or Karl Benz - (yes, that Benz from Germany); or even the Duryea brothers from America. But Ford gets the credit. 

And what about photographs? No, Apple, Inc. did NOT invent photography. It just elevated it to a wholly new sort of level! And it wasn't someone named Kodak, either. Nor was it a guy named Polaroid. (Polaroid isn't even a name! It was a name based on a process developed by a guy named Edwin Land). 

So what about the camera and photography? That credit goes to a French guy named Louis Daguerre (well, okay, so he actually improved on another guy's work but the other guy was cool with it, really). Daguerre came up with a way to capture exact replica images using chemicals, light, and a special 'film' media. The first 'real' picture was of the Boulevard du Temple in Paris and it took 10 minutes to capture. But it's pretty dang cool - especially, if you look in the far left corner you can see a man getting his shoes shined. (Apparently it took about 10-15 minutes to get a good shine in Paris back in 1838)

Daguerre's amazing technological invention was something unlike anything ever seen before because it let people 'see' things as they were - proof, so to say. 

Somehow, I'm thinking if little Grace Sowerbutts had a photo of creepy men rising from the ground back in 1612 her story might have been believed. Of course, they'd have burned the poor girl at the stake the instant she whipped it out but it would've been like that scene in M. Night Shymalan's The Sixth Sense when the audience realizes Bruce Willis has been dead the whole damn time. Oops, sorry, should've prefaced that with 'spoiler alert'.  Sorry. 

Oh, and take a look at this old picture of the USS Constitution - it was taken in 1858 (just 20 years after that first photo in Paris) using a camera based on the technology created by Daguerre. 

The Fifth Degree - August 19, 1964 - The Beatles start their first US tour 
     That's right on this day in history, The Beatles - one of the most iconic bands EVER started their first United States tour at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. But why the Cow Palace? 

Honestly, it sounds like a really big honky tonk bar. Actually, it's a pretty big place. At the time it could hold something like 17,000 people. And since it was a good 6 months after The Beathels appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, their manager was worried they might not even be able to fill up the place. Boy was he wrong. That first show was like a mob scene - The Beatles had truly arrived. 

And it was all captured on film and photographs that made girls swoon like they were under some sort of spell whenever they saw one of the Fab Four in a magazine. 

Gosh, what would the folks in Salem have thought about that! Girls falling down, screaming, crying, and professing their undying love for four fellows from Liverpool. 

The Sixth Degree - August 19, 2004 Google Goes Public 
      And everything changed. Seriously. Google is a business based on 'looking up stuff' ... FAST. The faster the better. Heck if you look up ANY of the degree topics I've chosen to look at today - you'll get so many 'hits' you could never actually look at every single one. Really. 

Samelsbury Witches - about 19,500 results (0.54 seconds)
Salem Witch Trials - about 1,060,000 results (0.55 seconds)
USS Constitution - about 1,940,000 results (0.46 seconds)
Louis Daguerre - about 461,000 results (0.32 seconds)
The Beatles - about 81,200,000 results (0.42 seconds)
Google - about 5,430,000,000 results (0.38 seconds) 

Wow - that's impressive. In less than 6 seconds I can get over 5 BILLION electronic references to Google. 

On August 19, 2004, Google went 'public' - anyone, anywhere could be a financial partner of the faster than fast search engine company ... for a price. 

Now some might call the ability to instantaneously summon information in an almost god-like fashion... witchery. And if history tells us anything - being accused of witchery is not good. (Unless, it's the plot line of a TV show with really sexy people being witchy) 

Luckily the people who bought into Google on that day only had to shell out $85US to get on the Google money boat. At least they didn't have to pay with their souls ... or did they? 


There you have it - 6 events - all of which occurred on August 19 throughout history that are linked to one another by really weird circumstances - and one writer who always seems to find the weird in things.

(Oh, and here's one last little tidbit that I just thought was too good to not mention - on August 19, 1964 Kyra Sedgwyck was born ... Kyra is married to Kevin Bacon and I think I've heard of a little game people play called 'Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon' ... I wonder what the pair of them would think about their role in the August 19 chain of historical events?) 


Oh, and for my sister, Christie, who lives in Alaska and whose birthday is also on August 19 - 
Bet you didn't think you'd get mentioned in an international blog, now did you? 


Monday, August 17, 2015

I Am Here - Really I Am.

Greetings Kind Reader,

I Am Here - Really I Am.

Of course, you've read that before. And I would be here - for a day or two, then I would be gone for weeks and weeks.


I had so many excuses. (And yes, they were all really good, valid ones)

But as of today, I have no excuses left. (Well, I'm sure there will be occasional 'I was too busy' or 'I was sick' sort of excuse but none of the long, drawn out 'I was doing this and because I was doing this I couldn't do that and since I couldn't do that - I couldn't blog' sort of excuses)

So why now?

Because now it's just little ol' me hanging out during the day at my house because my beautiful, super talented daughter (yes, I am biased but she is truly beautiful and I kid you not she's very talented) has gone off to college. It's over 4 hours away from home - and yet, it's STILL in the state of Texas. (Well I should point out that my mother is here, but she's busy watching her shows and enjoying being in her mid70s so she's not the 'crux' of this post!)

Her going to school (including the months long process of her graduating high school and getting ready to go off to college) is the main reason why I've been AFK from WASWR -

How can that be? Other people who write or simply have blogs have kids who go off to college all the time and they don't stop writing or blogging. So what made me just sort of turn off that 'I think I'll write or write a blog today' switch?

I think it's because I've felt depressed for the past few months. Sort of like I knew this moment (my daughter heading off to school - away from our little nest) was creeping up on me and I was so worried about it actually happening, I kind of stopped doing things that might inadvertently remind me of it.

Which is really weird because that sort of meant 'stopping doing things that made me happy' like writing!

But hey, depression is weird like that. (And yes, I do suffer from depression and I'm being treated for it - have been for years. I look at it as a medical condition - kinda like diabetes - you have it, you deal with it and things will work themselves out... you don't and things go really screwy really quickly)

And it doesn't help that I have an autoimmune disorder (Fibromyalgia) that flairs up when I get stressed out and/or depressed.

Because elevated stress from depression leads to anxiety that leads to fibro pain that leads to anxiety then to depression which elevates stress. Sometimes it's like living in a giant tangled ball of yarn. Which can be, and you can quote me on this one, a real bitch.

Of course, my daughter going off to school isn't the only change in the house.

My husband has a new job (same corporation just a new group/position) that he started TODAY.

He's excited. Nervous. Anxious. And yes, he's also feeling sad because his little love dove has flown from the nest and isn't just a hop, skip, and a jump away.

So of course, I feel all anxious and nervous and stressed for him because just like I want my daughter to have a smooth transition into college life, I want him to have a great transition. too.

Geez, if only that overly pleasant lady at our 'prenatal parenting sessions' had said,  'One day, the beautiful relationship you're making with your child will be pulled and stretched and sometimes it'll hurt like the dickens BUT if you just keep on moving forward and reaching out to those who love you, you'll be just fine ... eventually'.  That would have been a pretty good lesson to learn.

Instead we learned 'Now we're going to take in a deep breath together and hold it for 3 let it go, slowly.'  Heck, I didn't even need to know that breathing stuff considering Jessica was born via C-section and Todd and I knew from the time I was at 5 months with her it was going to be that way! UGH.

You know what's roughest, I can't even really imagine how fatherhood feels for my husband. One day I said, "Hey, I'm pregnant." Then Jessica was born and he was like 'Well, now what do we do?"

(Yes, we had all the books - we were weird like that - I swear I think I could have written a damn book about the stupidity of all the books we read - most of which were filled with the sort of stuff that actual parents who work actual jobs and don't work out 4 hours a day don't even care about)

And now 18 years later, the little girl about whom he once (and I kid you not) asked when she was about 6 weeks old and sound asleep 'When is she going to do something? All she does now is sleep. I want to play with her' has headed off to college.

Then one day she was suddenly 'doing stuff' and he was so excited. Being a Dad really agrees with my husband - that's not true of all men, but for my husband it was, is, and always will be 100% true.

We were there to experience it the smiles, tears, boo-boos, and cheers. And now - she's not here in our house even though she's still doing the stuff that brings smiles, tears, boo-boos, and cheers. It's frustrating because just like that <SNAP!> her 'childhood' was over.

And now we're like 'Damn, what did we used to do before she came along?'

Which brings me to the joy of technology.

Now I know there are some people who hate, hate, hate all the technology in the world. They say it removes us from the human quality of life. And yes, if you live wholly through your electronics then that's not healthy ...


At least I can literally tell my sweetie either with Facetime or a simple text 'GOOD MORNING!' and I can send her a video of her cat being his annoying cat self or our dog being little miss lazy bones. I can tell her GOOD NIGHT! (Something that is super important to me because every single night for years and years she's come to my bedroom and said 'Night!' then given me a kiss) I might not get to kiss her forehead but hearing goodnight is good enough for me!

And she can tell me what's bothering her when it's bothering her, what's making her happy when it's making her happy, and what's she's having for dinner when she's having dinner. She doesn't have to hold anything in because she thinks no one will listen because she knows her dad and I will always be there to listen.

But most of all we, he dad - me - and, of course, she, can tell one another 'I LOVE YOU' in our family chats. Those truly are the most important words in the world - no matter what language you say it in, no matter what your race, no matter what your religion, NO MATTER WHAT.

And that, my friends, is when technology works to bring us closer together.

All this reminds me of when I went off to college - I just went. Sure, I could call on the telephone - but it was long distance and I didn't want my parents to spend money unnecessarily. I could come home on the weekends - every so often and then spend a few hours talking around our table. But somehow there was a disconnect - like I was having to remember all the things I wanted to mention and then I felt bad when I realized I didn't mention them after I left.

And I now know the same was true of my husband's family. He was an only child and when he went off to college (just like our daughter is) I know for sure that his mom was like 'Well, damn, he's gone. Now I have to wait for him to come home - if he feels like it.'

That totally sucks. Makes me wish I could go back and redo some of the weekends where we just sat around doing nothing instead of going home to see our respective folks. I wish I could. But I can't. Nope. You can't take back those days gone by.

So, to Jane and Ralph, and to my mom and my late father, I feel like I should say 'I'm sorry we didn't come to visit more often. Neither one of us realized then that it wasn't easy for you. But now we do.'

Yes, Todd and I are lucky in so many ways. We have a daughter who loves us and who is following her dreams. And thanks to our various electronic devices today - we can not only chat as a family but we can even do things like watch our favorite shows TOGETHER but 100s of miles apart. And there's nothing like watching my daughter as she watches a show she loves. It's a hoot.

So there you have it - a wholly honest, kinda sad - but filled with hope message from me to you.

I'm jumping back into writing with both feet, well, hands really. My brain is swimming with ideas and my fingers are connecting with those thoughts like mad and finding their spots on the keyboard like they were never gone.

My husband has his new job - my daughter has a world of new experiences just waiting to be had - and I have a drive to write and not just to write - but to be published.

And now - I think it's time to dry my weepy mommy eyes and get on with doing what I said I'll do!

Until later my dear, Kind Reader. (And hopefully not too long from now either ... oh, and WAY less boo-hooey, too!)