One Year Later

Today is the first anniversary of my wife Dymphna’s death. The future Baron is here, and he and I are going to venture out into the rain and pick some flowers from her flowerbeds (I see coreopsis, coneflower, butterfly weed, and various other blooms I don’t know the names of). We’re planning to meet some friends at the churchyard and put the flowers on her grave.

So posting may be light today.

I posted a photo of Dymphna during last month’s fundraiser, and said I thought it would be the last one. However, I decided to add one more, and you can see it at the top of this post.

The occasion was the baptism of the future Baron in the late 1980s, when he was still a rug rat. He held up pretty well until his mother lowered him over the font to get sprinkled. He got a little upset, but never started to cry. At the left is the late Bishop Charles Vaché.

The original is blurry, since it was taken indoors without a flash. I couldn’t make it any sharper than that.

Dymphna probably told the you following story at some point, but I’ll tell it again. It happened in the parish hall after the baptism. The bishop was filling out the entry in the baptism book. He wanted to enter the date, and said, “What day is it?”

Dymphna was nearby, and, being a good Catholic girl, responded promptly: “St. Joseph’s Feast Day.”

The bishop waited politely, holding his pen poised. And waited. And waited. Dymphna had moved on into the kitchen, not realizing that she had baffled the bishop.

Finally, someone else told him it was March 19.

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And that was my wife. There was no one else quite like her.

Have a blessed day, everyone.

All That Vanished Glory


(Click to enlarge)

The central preoccupation of Americans — those who are literate enough to be preoccupied with history — is the Civil War, a.k.a. the War Between the States, a.k.a. the Recent Unpleasantness. The degree of preoccupation varies according to the distance between where one lives and the areas where most of the fighting took place. Since Virginia is the state where most of the battles were fought, any Virginia family — black or white — of sufficiently long lineage can tell you stories that have been passed down from generation to generation for a century and a half.

Mind you, I’m not talking about the hysterical preoccupation with “racism”, “slavery”, and “oppression” that is raging in the land as I write these words. I’m talking about a deep and abiding interest in the tragic years 1861-1865 generated by the impact they had on one’s family and environment.

I wrote about such matters in my poem “Sayler’s Creek” (the full text is here), which opens with these stanzas:

There is too much history here in Virginia;
we are drowning in its muddy flood.
Every April sweeps its pontoons from their moorings
on the North Fork of the Shenandoah
with Federal soldiers watching helplessly from the bank.
Every pitcher toeing the mound
scuffs up a lode of Minié balls.
A metal detector swept over any ravine
uncovers the belt buckles and canteens
urgently shed by fleeing infantry.
A faded daguerreotype of General Lee
stares down from every wall,
a stern reminder of all that vanished glory.

The top drawer of every dusty dresser
in every second-hand shop
opens to reveal a brittle bundle of worthless banknotes.
Everyone’s great-great-uncle Theophrastus
led the charge at the Crater.

That poem was written in 1996, when one could still see photographs of General Lee here and there in public places. Those days are gone, alas. A rearguard action is even now being fought against the removal of his statue from Monument Avenue in Richmond, but the cause is just as lost as it was the spring of 1865. The Wokerati will prevail. The last depictions of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson will eventually be erased from public view in the Commonwealth, no matter what the average Virginia citizen might think of the matter. All objective accounts of Confederate history will be removed from high school and university curricula. The stories will be passed down by word of mouth only. The artifacts and written accounts of the events of those years will be confined to private collections and family attics.

And one such attic will obviously be mine.

There are little pieces of family lore in the stanzas of my poem. My mother’s great-great uncle was famous for leading the charge at the Crater in Petersburg, but his name wasn’t Theophrastus. He was Brigadier General David Weisiger (pronounced “Wizziger”, for readers who live outside the Richmond area), and was renowned, at least in Virginia, for his heroism on that day.

I am also in possession of a brittle bundle of worthless banknotes from the period. For many years they were kept in the top drawer of Dymphna’s and my dresser.

My grandmother’s first cousin (i.e. my first cousin twice removed) was the only daughter of the eldest daughter (there were five daughters, no sons) of David Weisiger’s brother, so she inherited most of the family heirlooms from the plantation. She never married, and when she died the various items were divided among her cousins.

The largest pieces of furniture went to my uncle and my mother. The item that I coveted most was a plantation medical kit, which was a wooden cabinet with little drawers and cubbies for medicinal substances, surgical implements, etc. I remember one drawer was labeled “Opium”, and there was a dried black tarry residue at the bottom of it. I really wanted that cabinet, but it went to one of my cousins.

One of the few things I received (which I had also wanted) was an envelope full of Confederate money. I’ve scanned some of the notes to display here.

In my bundle of worthless banknotes are two hundred-dollar bills, one twenty (not shown here), eighteen Confederate tens, one Virginia ten, and three pieces of fractional scrip from the City of Richmond — 25¢ (not shown here), 30¢, and 75¢. That makes a total of $411.30, which was a lot of money in 1862, especially since it was presumably received in exchange for gold and/or silver coins. I’m certain those were sorely missed in April of 1865.

This is the back of the hundred-dollar note shown at the top of this post:


(Click to enlarge)

The interest rate paid on the note was 2¢ daily, which is an APR of 7.3%.


(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)

There’s no indication that any interest was paid on the tens and twenties.

The fractional notes issued by the City of Richmond are worn and wrinkled, indicating that they saw wide circulation. The other bills were in better shape, and may not have circulated much before coming to rest in the family strongbox.

For the higher-denomination notes, the Confederate government promised to pay the bearer the face amount on demand six months or two years (depending on the note) after a peace treaty was signed with the United States. It was hoped that the delay would allow the nascent state to accumulate enough gold and silver through taxes and tariffs to be able to pay off its promissory notes.

Alas, no peace treaty ever came. The surrender was signed by General Lee on April 9, 1865 (which day I refer to in my more sardonic moments as “the Confederate naqba”), and all those Confederate, Virginia, and Richmond banknotes suddenly became worthless pieces of paper.

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Identity

Our Israeli correspondent MC has some thoughts on socialism, Black Lives Matter, the ancient Hebrews, and related topics.

Those who claim that socialism will work ‘this time around’, and that the previous iterations failed because they did not implement socialism properly, may have a point. The National Socialism of the Third Reich was eerily sound and stable, and in all truth, it was brought down only by the unsound and unstable socialism of Joseph Stalin.

The Communist version of socialism never works, probably more because of what it lacks, than what it espouses. Communism (and many other forms of socialism) lack the warmth of heart that humans need to survive.

National Socialism was about being German, and on the whole Germans loved it. It enhanced their identity, their oneness, and they were thus able to express a warmth to other Germans. In Stalin’s Russia, everyone outside of one’s family circle was a potential enemy.

In this we can see the roots of the politics of racism. To a German Nazi, a non-German (or a Jew/Slav/Gypsy) was not automatically part of the comfortable clique, but for a Russian, there was no comfortable clique at all.

I came across a photograph on the internet the other day. It was on a forum and the poster was asking if anybody knew anything about this photo that had been found in an old box.

I am in that photo, and I remember being given five minutes’ notice by the gunnery officer. I had seen on daily orders that there was a photo session for the gunnery team, but I was a specialist, only part of the gunnery team for shore bombardment, my role being to do the math behind offsets and deflections (no computers or calculators in those days). What had not been made clear was that my ship had won the fleet gunnery trophy and the fleet shore bombardment trophy, so I was included.

The photo got me remembering the insularity of the ship’s company within the midst of all the other ships in the Royal Navy. Us and Them.

This it seems to me is why ‘racism’ is just a natural part of human life, and to turn Racism into a political thumbscrew is absolute folly.

Communism is unstable because it cannot provide for stable relationships. It cannot provide a ship’s company. It cannot provide a team that will work together and have confidence in each other. I was missing, I was searched out, and I took my place in the photo so that the team was complete and the photo meaningful.

If I had thought that my fellow crew members would rat on me for the slightest political incorrectness, I would have had to have been more careful and calculating — or suffer the consequences.

When I am accused of ‘racism’, it is as if my place in the team has been erased and my contribution excreted. The idea of racism with its sibling Islamophobia (and yes, even in some cases anti-Semitism) removes the ‘warmth of heart’ referred to above, and which is vitally necessary for the effective functioning of humanity together. Any fear of ‘racism’ is going to produce division.

Legitimate criticism of Jews, Jewishness and Israel do not constitute anti-Semitism, but picking out Jews for unbalanced criticism does. It is fine to criticise the so called ‘occupation’ if you also include all the other instances of occupation around the world, Tibet, Königsberg (Kaliningrad), Spanish Morocco, to name but a few. Israel was granted to Jews in 1922, and all nations who have signed up for the United Nations Charter have also signed up for article 80 of that Charter, which brings the 1922 Mandate for Palestine into the Charter — indeed, it could be argued that under international law, it is Jordan that has ‘occupied’ Israeli land (see article 25 of the Mandate).

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The Treaty of Trianon, One Hundred Years Later


Suleiman

The Treaty of Trianon, which dismembered the state of Hungary after the Great War, came into force exactly one hundred years ago today. Hungary and the Western Allies signed the instrument at the Grand Trianon Palace in Versailles; hence its name.

Hungary ended up losing two-thirds of its territory under the terms of the treaty, which stranded more than 40% of its population outside the borders of Hungary without anyone having to move.

Our Hungarian correspondent CrossWare has translated the following essay about the Treaty of Trianon, which relates Trianon to the earlier Muslim invasion, from the conservative portal PestiSracok.hu:

Suleiman was also present at the Trianon execution attempt

by László Kovács Vésey
May 25, 2020

Like when a man is beaten down with bat, so was the Trianon peace dictatorship: he falls to his knees, the world spins around him, and he doesn’t even understand what happened to him. To date, we have not recovered from it, either as a country or as a people. Those who demand that we at last leave this Trianon problem behind us and deal instead with the future do not take note of reality, because the past cannot be left behind unfinished. Trianon itself is a good example of this, as it has not fallen into our head without antecedents. Even a hundred years ago, the unprocessed past, our own omissions, and the fruits of the trickery of our enemies ripened together.

In today’s eyes it is almost inconceivable that Hungary came to the end of the Middle Ages as a sparingly stable and unified country, one of the leading powers in Europe. Even if the nobles and lords intervened at times in the king’s affairs and were able to stir up internal strife, no one could question the existence of a unified royal power. The kingdom had serious reserves of power, and was rich in precious metals, ores, and salt, not to mention food. Hungary had one and a half times as many inhabitants as England or Poland, two and a half times as many as the Czech Republic, and we had a decisive influence on the life of Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans. There was no mention of a united Germany and Italy at that time; France was working on the creation of a centralized kingdom, just as a similar process took place in Spain after the success of the Reconquista. Besides ourselves, the latter two states were real military powers in that era.

It may even be considered a vagary of fate that in the immediate vicinity of this Hungary, which was a great power in all respects, the Ottoman Empire, which surpassed the strength of all European countries, had arisen. To this day there is no consensus among historians as to whether we would have been able to defend ourselves, but if we had, it would have required unparalleled self-discipline and conscious unity for two centuries from the king, nobles, and serfs. We lost the inevitable clash, but the Turks did not have enough strength to swallow our entire country. Thus, we did not sink into the Balkans (Transylvania, Partium and the South, after Trianon), but in terms of population, nothing worse could have happened to us. For two centuries our country became a battleground, with marches of the ever-increasing Ottoman, Habsburg, and Transylvanian armies regularly passing through our territory, requisitioning the peasantry that remained after taxation and double taxation. And if only they had just taken the taxes!

We Have Suffered a Disastrous Destruction

The Ottoman looting of the rural populations was accompanied by a significant extinction of the population and the destruction of the settlement structure. The whole countryside was depopulated, and many villages disappeared forever. If we look at the map of present-day Hungary, we can see that there are still only rare settlements in the Great Plain. During the uncertain period of occupation, instead of defenseless villages, people concentrated in a few swollen market towns and settled on large-scale animal husbandry, which was more sustainable in terms of possible escape, rather than farming. For this reason, there are settlements with a larger population and sparsely populated areas in the Great Plain, and the instances of single standalone farms are also rooted in this fact. But the Hungarian population remained at least partially here.


Hungary’s settlement density — the footprint of the Ottoman Turks is still visible today (source: terport.hu)

Muslim conquerors killed a large number of people and drove the enslaved Hungarians in endless columns to Istanbul and then sold them to various corners of the empire. During the Turkish conquest of 1521-1568, the Fifteen Years’ War of 1591-1606, the Austro-Turkish War of 1663-1664, and the expulsion of the Turks between 1683 and 1699, we suffered immeasurable horrors, probably the most brutal genocide in Europe in the last thousand years. At that time the Hungarians of Szerémség disappeared from the Hungarian majority of Temesköz, but by the end of the Turkish expulsion, the Hungarian population of Baranya, Tolna, Somogy counties and Partium had largely disappeared. These flat areas were the main terrain of the movements, so their populations became extinct, which in the vast majority of cases meant the Hungarian population.

Our Numbers Were Dwindling, While Everybody Else Was Thriving

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Fundraising in the Time of Corona

This was the “sticky” post for the spring fundraiser. It was first published on May 25, and was on top throughout fundraising week. Scroll down for items posted on and after that date.

Spring Fundraiser 2020, Day Seven

Sunday’s Update: A Diversity Flashback

We’re moving into the final day of what has been a very unusual fundraising week.

Tip jarThere was no way to tell in advance how this quarter’s fundraiser might turn out, given the economic devastation that is enshrouding most of the Western world. Would anybody have spare cash to donate to a minor website?

Would anyone even be paying attention?

Well… Up until now there have been a greater than average number of donations — which is astonishing. Yet the total amount that has come in is somewhat less than average, which isn’t surprising at all, since most people have been hit hard financially for the past two months or so. It’s gratifying that so many have been willing to chip in, under the circumstances.

If you haven’t got around to it yet, the tip jar is on the sidebar, or you can use this link.

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Instead of another COVID-related update, I’ll close this fundraiser with a blast from the past. The excerpt below was written by Dymphna almost exactly eight years ago, on June 4, 2012, for the final fundraising post of that year’s spring fundraiser.

The theme for that week’s bleg was “Diversity”, and she wrapped everything up with the following remarks:

The subject of Diversity is fraught. So for this Fundraiser, I’ve deliberately kept the lid on certain subjects. They can accumulate like barnacles or smart bombs on the wall of diversity, or rather on the battlements of modern, top-down “Diversity”. As is true of any other project, some stuff has to be routinely scraped off so you can see what’s underneath, yet other junk — whilst appearing to be identical — will blow up in your face. Frankly, the explosions aren’t interesting anymore.

It is the former which draws my curiosity. .The latter, full of traps like the origins or even the existence of “global” “warming” — oops, climate change…oops, methane in the atmosphere. Whatever. Any point in “discussing” those issues is long past. Those in Charge will tell you ahead of time: “It’s settled…” “Consensus Has Been Reached”… “Everyone Knows”… “Only an Idiot Would Think Such a Thing”….and so on, ad infinitum, ad nauseam.

Have you noticed that the more fervently views on such issues are clung to (bitterly), the less room there is for Reason or even the possibility of entertaining alternate ideas? Entertaining ideas? Enter that realm at your own risk.

Here’s a partial list of Don’t-Go-There-Unless-You-Want-a-Fight hot buttons. No particular order here, simply a reflection of what I’ve been reading and thinking about. These are only contentions; I have no solutions. The mysteries of life usually don’t come with quick remedies:

  • Abortion. Or not. When does life begin to have value? No, it’s not “settled”. Look up the numbers of those who believe religiously in #1 vs. those who think the prize is behind Door #2. Just don’t put these folks in the same room.
  • Gender. What could be simpler: This is a girl; see that little cleft where her penis should be? This is a boy, see his penis hanging there? Gender-bending is occurring at younger and younger ages, much to the horrified sorrow of parents caught in a five year-old’s intense identity crisis. It may well be that the crisis is real enough, but it could turn out to be just one manifestation of a larger, more complex reality than the one we can see. Human beings are quite malleable, but they are also fragile. The times in which we live, where sexual identity is up for grabs — literally — are reflected in many issues, and one of them is seen in these canary children. In different times most of them would’ve been spared this assault from the zeitgeist, an assault which begins during the dark floaty existence in utero. Were there no assaults from the residues of psychotropic drugs left in the drinking water (just to name one possible influence), or the constant low-level cultural exposure to increasingly depraved pornography, these children could have lived within the boundaries of their respective anatomy without a blip. When times simplify again — and they surely will — outlier cases will recede again. That’s not much comfort now to these kids or their parents as they stumble through the nightmare.
  • Religion is a crutch vs. Spirituality is a part of human experience. The former has become the more intellectually acceptable attitude of late, though one wonders what insecurity keeps the more aggressively devout unbelievers at their megaphones, proselytizing like hard-shell Mississippi Baptists. You begin to ask if there is some fervent need on their part to save the unwashed from arrant foolishness. Perhaps a good dose of American history about the cycles of the Great Awakenings in the 18th and 19th centuries would at least help the ardent atheists this side of the Atlantic to gain some perspective.

    My guess regarding the foundation of this popular orthodoxy among the media gatekeepers? It’s high school redux: they want to be with the cool kids and they don’t want to have to actually study anything. Aping your betters is so much easier, especially if your “educated” betters are being all edgy and you know it will irritate those boring duds in Flyover Country… As is the case for other media belief blankets, if you want to hear another side (and there is more than one) you’ll have to hunt for it on your own. What surprises me is the number of people who do — want to hear another point of view, I mean.

  • Sex among adults. Interestingly, as the results from the Boomer generation become apparent, and the laws of unintended consequences begin to take their toll, their children are turning away from their parents’ youthful decisions to let it all hang out. They see the results and politely decline. Or at least the ones who catch on early enough do so. They know the health risks for both sexes of too many sexual partners. They understand the complexities of bonding better than their naïve parents did. Except for the one percent — those befuddled “Occupy” useful tools — for the most part middle-class kids have turned back the clock. Of course many of them face rigors their parents did not: huge education debt, a poor job market, and increasing balkanization by class. Their lives will be tougher in many ways, but then so will they. At least the ones who aren’t forced to move back home, much the same way their great grandparents had to do to get by.
  • Sex with children as the new norm. Nope, that’s not worth our time. The downward deviancy of our culture was seen two generations ago and I’m sure it’s not hit bottom yet. But it will. In the meantime, let’s not contribute to the pollution.
  • Death. Like the beginnings of life, its endings are becoming more fungible. The Right to Die vs. the Responsibility to Die. Our old are becoming the Ice Floe Generation. And who gets to decide whose life has meaning or value? Recently, a couple sued for Wrongful Birth when their child was born with congenital anomalies the parents believed they should have been told about ahead of time. Among the nettles were questions like financial responsibility for this life no one wants. This question lies floundering side-by-side with the reality of aborted, breathing fetuses who are killed on the operating table without a qualm. Are we confused or what?
  • Trash. There are lots more thorns and contention here, but let’s end with garbage, with refuse, with detritus. Like global warming, there are folks on both sides of the Religion of Recycling, which is a smaller denomination of the colossal Environmental Cathedral — and that place makes Vatican City look like a high-rise tenement. Again, this subject has sectarian overtones in the higher reaches (or screeches) of the True Believers. For the dissidents there is often no choice: just because you can ‘prove’ your locality saves nothing by recycling doesn’t mean you can opt out. There are handy garbage technologies in your wheelie bin that will see you fined or put in jail if you don’t conform.

    One of the dystopian uncharms of living in an urban landscape is unending trash. But city-slicker trash has become another source of revenue for cash-poor rural areas. While the downside is that the nearby urban poor often find it cheaper to skulk out here to the country and leave their bags of unidentifiable refuse because they can’t afford the trash stickers the city makes them buy, there’s an upside to this. Big cities up North will pay good money to poor rural areas if they’ll take the garbage out. Thus many county boards of supervisors do just that, and this venture keeps the real estate tax rate down for the bumpkins.

    Don’t you wonder where this will lead as consumers are unable to continue consuming? Will trash reduce itself to an endangered species? In order to continue the justification of its existence, will the EPA have to step in with emergency rulings?

Diverse contentions. They’re endless and they get more polarized all the time. As resources get thin on the ground, look for the rigidities to worsen. I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of living in interesting times. I’m ready for a good long spell of boredom — kind of like those endless amber waves of grain we don’t have anymore because they hybridized all the wheat. Modern varieties are now too short to wave at anyone.

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The photo below was taken in the late 1990s. It shows Dymphna on her 58th birthday:

It’s probably the last image of her that I’ll scan and post, unless I happen upon another trove of lost photos. She gave her permission for me to post just one, the photo of her holding a puppy that I included with my eulogy for her last June.

However, I figure that her attitude about such things is probably more relaxed now that she is incorporeal. The photos of her that I’ve posted here over the past twelve months are excellent ones, in my opinion. She is exactly herself in them, and I cherish them more than words can say. I think she’s OK with my including them here.

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Saturday’s gifts came in from:

Stateside: California, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Texas

Far Abroad: Australia and the UK

Canada: Ontario

I’ll be back in a few days to post a wrap-up with the final tally of locations.

The next fundraiser will begin sometime in the hot, hot summer. Who knows what the coronacrisis will have morphed into by then?

Many thanks to everyone for their generosity.

Saturday’s Update: Who is That Masked Man?

We’re moving into the penultimate day of Gates of Vienna’s quarterly fundraiser.

Readers who are sheltering in place at home and have nothing better to do are invited to send a modest donation by way of the tip cup on the sidebar (or by using this link).

Those small individual gifts are the way I keep this blog going. If a significant number of readers give a little bit each, it adds up to enough to pay for the site and keep me in cheese and crackers for another quarter.

Full disclosure: This website is not corona-compliant. Its proprietor is a coronadissident who refuses to wear a mask.

Since yesterday morning’s update I became aware of an article published by the The New England Journal of Medicinethat bolsters my dissident stance. It concerns the ineffectiveness of wearing a mask as a means of preventing the spread of COVID-19. One of our commenters mentioned it, but I also ran across it on Twitter.

This was actually published in April, but for some reason is only now drawing attention:

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The PVV on the Expropriation of Jewish Property in the Netherlands During World War Two

Below are written Parliamentary questions from Gidi Markuszower MP and Geert Wilders MP (both PVV Party for Freedom, Partij voor de Vrijheid) to the Ministers of Education, Culture and Science; of Health, Welfare and Sport; of the Interior and Kingdom Relations; of Finance; and of Justice and Security, about the article that four out of five municipalities do not know whether “during the Second World War, Jewish real estate was expropriated and resold, while that did happen in their municipality”*:

1.   Are you familiar with the article and the research?
2.   Are you prepared to map all the stolen property of Jews, in cooperation with the Dutch municipalities? Including the real estate that was expropriated during the war but was not resold? And also, for example, commercial real estate that was stolen by “verwalters” appointed by the Nazis?
3.   Did the Dutch government, central and local, own and/or take possession of real estate for which the Jewish owners or their relatives were murdered? If so, do you not believe that these properties should be returned to the Jewish Community?
4.   What efforts did Jews, who survived the Shoah, have to make after the war, and what costs did they have to incur, to get their looted property back?
5.   Does the Minister believe that the State of the Netherlands is liable for the actions of wrong notaries; after all, they formed a crucial link in the robbery of the Jewish looted real estate in and after the war?
6.   Are you familiar with the fact that with every sale of stolen Jewish property, the Tax Authorities collected a 5% “registration fee”? If so, are you willing to refund these fees?
7.   Was the restitution of the looted Jewish real estate part of the settlement made by the government with the Jewish Community in 2000?
8.   Which municipalities have imposed leasehold, street tax and other levies on returning Jews?
9.   Do you share our opinion that the time has come to find out which governmental irregularities in WWII can still be rectified? Such as collected fines and taxes, Jewish star fees, transport costs paid by or on behalf of those transported away?
10.   Are you aware that much information about the stolen Jewish property is in the archives of the Dutch Management Institute? Don’t you think it is time to make all these archives digitally accessible and freely available?
*   Research by Follow The Money en Pointer
 

Signs and Portents Everywhere… But of What? (Part III)

Below is the most recent installment in Seneca III’s latest treatise. See the archives link at the bottom of this post for previous installments in this series.

Signs and Portents Everywhere…But of What?

by Seneca III

Part III — Of times past and modern parallels

Times can and do change drastically, often after great events that upturn the lives of vast numbers of people. And so it shall soon be for us as we fight our way out of this Covid debacle, an event which has been as badly mismanaged as was the advent and conduct of the Great War 1914-18, which saw the end of the Edwardian era and kick-started the 20th century.

I found this visual vignette on the Woodpile Report sometime last year (although the link no longer seems to work) and it has fascinated me ever since. Every time I look at it, it seems to encapsulate a time different from ours and yet in some ways not so distant or different despite being separated by nearly a century. No date came with it, but there are clues aplenty, and it provides an interesting look into the prescient mind and times of the graphic artist who committed it to posterity.

The artist went to some length to emphasize that the ‘boisson du jour’ was lemonade so we can assume that we are looking at a time during the period between 1920 and 1933. The Volstead Act[1] (ratified on January 16th 1919, came into force on January 29th 1920) was a statutory ban on the production, importation, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages designed to provide enforcement for the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution. The 21st Amendment, which repealed the 18th, was ratified on December 5th 1933… and a very Merry Christmas for America.

Starting in the top left-hand corner we see a small aircraft with what appears to be the aerodynamic characteristics of a house brick, despite the semi-streamlined overall shape. What purpose the mudguards were meant to serve is beyond me, although they do have a vague aerodynamic shape to them. The rear of the aircraft is obscured by the head of the woman in red, so we cannot determine what form of propulsion the artist had in mind. Also note that the cockpit/passenger cabin is fully enclosed and windowed. This does not provide any clues to the exact time as the first airplane with an enclosed cabin appeared in 1912, the Avro Type F, and during the 1920s there were many passenger aircraft with enclosed cabins.


AVRO Type F

The largest impediment to having closed cockpits/cabins was the material used to make the windows. Prior to Perspex becoming available in 1933, windows were either safety glass, which was heavy, or cellulose nitrate (i.e. guncotton), which yellowed quickly and was extremely flammable.

Hence we shall have to look for other clues if we wish to pin down the precise period, although the fact that the women are wearing goggles would suggest a time in the mid to late twenties, when the movement from open to enclosed cockpits was well afoot but open cockpits were still far from obsolete. The clothes the women are wearing[2] are a different matter, and very much of their time, so let us have a look at their outfits and see what we can determine there.

First, observe the waitress in the middle ground. Bearing in mind that as I am far from being an expert on haute couture, I will happily accept a different opinion on this subject from anyone who is au fait. The simple two-piece includes slacks (trousers), just as the two main characters are also wearing, and which prior to WWI were seriously frowned upon in certain circles. That and the rather butch hair-do the waitress is sporting clearly signal that post-war female emancipation had come to stay and, of course, the liberal application of rouge to women’s cheeks is very much a thing of that time.

That was that generation, so what now of ours, I wonder?

Back to the main theme

The two women in the foreground are using devices that were yet to come. The artist must have been very far-sighted to hypothesize in such a way… or was he or she simply looking at technical developments during that period and then extrapolating?

The arrival of mobile (cell) audio-phones, and then later with the addition of colour screens, was far in the future, in fact such speculation was only found in the realm of the lurid pulp science fiction of the time. It amazes me that he or she was not that far off in that prediction, fact when one considers that the technology extant then — headphones, a microphone, a flat screen (that was far, far in the future) and a transportable battery pack to power them — were all there before the days of Silicon Valley, electronics, lithium batteries and the consequent step-by-step miniaturization of everything through the development of solid-state architecture.

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Signs and Portents Everywhere… But of What? (Part IIB)

This is the latest installment in Seneca III’s latest treatise. See the archives link at the bottom of this post for previous installments in this series.

Signs and Portents Everywhere… But of What?

by Seneca III

Part IIB — A loosely connected miscellany of the darkly disturbing plus a journey into the past

2019 — Another welcome addition, one Claudia Naomi Webbe MP, takes up residence in the Labour Party Parliamentary Zoo.

Claudia arrived from Leicester East — another wonderfully enriched constituency after replacing the toy boy bum’n’coke aficionado and industrial washing machine salesman, a.k.a. Keith Vaz MP (resigned)[1].

Yet it would appear that electing a race-baiting Castro and Lenin supporter (see the pictures on her wall) comes quite naturally to that well-diversified electorate, but — much to Claudia’s credit — she has not been known to sell industrial washing machines or inhale exotic substances.

“Webbe was born and brought up in Leicester and has family members living in the constituency. She studied social science at De Montfort University, Leicester, then later an MSc in Race and Ethnic Relations at Birkbeck, University of London.

Having participated in its development in the mid-1990s, Webbe was the chair of Operation Trident, a community-led initiative to tackle gun-related homicides disproportionately affecting black communities. Webbe was a policy director and adviser to the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone. She was responsible for culture, cultural strategy, sports and tourism, and she was a member of his election campaign team in 2000 and 2004.

Webbe wrote about Livingstone when in 2006 he was found guilty by the Standards Board for England’s Adjudication Panel of bringing his office into disrepute and suspended from office for four weeks. Webbe said that “I have worked with Ken in numerous anti-racist organisations and campaigns including the Anti-Racist Alliance, the National Assembly against Racism and while I was director of Westminster Race Equality Council, he took up cases that I referred onto him for support. His history of work in the anti-racist movement is unquestionable.” [From Wikipedia]

De Montfort University is located in Leicester, England. It was established in accordance with the Further and Higher Education Act in 1992 as a degree-awarding body. De Montfort University has approximately 27,000 full- and part-time students, 3,240 staff and an annual turnover in the region of £168 million. The university is organised into four faculties: Art, Design, and Humanities (ADH); Business and Law (BAL); Health and Life Sciences (H&LS); and Computing, Engineering and Media (CEM). It is a Sustainable Development Hub, focusing on Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, an initiative by the United Nations launched in 2018.

In 2019, the first Times Higher Education (THE) University Impact Rankings, a global performance tables that assess universities against the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, ranked De Montfort University 50th in the world. The university has special arrangements with more than 80 universities and colleges in over 25 countries, including Nanjing University, ranked 120th in the world by the Times Higher Education and situated in Jiangsu, eastern China. The two universities have launched various initiatives, including a scholarship programme for De Montfort students and doctoral study coupled with English language tuition for students from Nanjing.” [From Wikipedia]

That figures, and just 50th? Highly appropriate methinks. It and Leicester deserve each other, and if there were such a ranking, it would probably rate in the top 5% of those turning out career Baristas… or Labour politicians.

2020 — Another heartwarming example of our enrichment — The Curious Case of Nadia Whittome

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’Arold Decks Enoch

I was going through a box of very old stuff today up here in the Eyrie at Schloss Bodissey, and I found a crumpled political cartoon from the autumn of 1968. I’ve restored it as best I can; it’s a real blast from the past:

It was published in The Manchester Guardian, as it was known then. Now it’s just The Guardian, more popularly known as The Grauniad.

The guy landing the punch is Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson. The man receiving the knockout blow is Enoch Powell of the Conservative Party. The previous April Mr. Powell had delivered his famous “Rivers of Blood” speech about immigration. At the time the cartoon was published, he was in the process of being shunned and shamed for that speech by everybody — Labour, Conservative, and Liberals alike. The latter party held about two seats in Parliament, if I remember rightly. I don’t know if the cartoon had anything to do with Mr. Powell’s speech, but presumably he had just been lambasted by the prime minister, who had chosen to attack him instead of Edward “Ted” Heath, the leader of the Conservative opposition, who is depicted here sitting gormlessly on his stool while ’Arold decks Enoch.

Ted Heath was popularly known as “Grocer Heath”, due to his supposed bourgeois family background, if I remember rightly. The Conservatives won the general election of June 1970, and Mr. Heath became prime minister a few days after I took my A-levels, just before my family moved back to the USA.

The artist who drew the cartoon was Papas, who was my favorite cartoonist at the time. I entered some sort of caption contest that he and the Guardian held that year. I don’t remember exactly what it was, but I found a note of acknowledgement from him in the same dusty box.

There’s no punch line to this post. It’s just a snapshot from a brief political moment in the distant past, almost fifty-two years ago. Tempus fugit.

In Loco Parentis

Longtime readers will remember that Dymphna spent much of her childhood in foster homes and an orphanage. This week’s edition of Dymphna’s Greatest Hits, written on Christmas Eve of 2009, is an extensive meditation on her experiences, and how they compare with an academic study on the subject.

In Loco Parentis

by Dymphna
Originally published December 24, 2009

Do you have an opinion on the value of orphanages versus that of foster homes as places to put a motherless child?

Which of the two do you think is better for children? Whatever your conclusion, how did you come to hold your opinion as the correct one?

These aren’t rhetorical questions, but they are (in a sense) loaded. Unless you’ve made a study of the subject, or been a resident of an orphanage or foster home, you’d have to base your answer on what you ‘feel’ rather than any hard information. No surprises there: we all do that on any number of issues. We work from our own experience, from observations, maybe from reading or from conversations with other people. In these ways we arrive at answers crafted to satisfy our intellect and our practical experience.

Of course, the question about which environment is best for children assumes you care one way or another. Those who don’t care should read something else.

In putting forth my own ideas there is the unspoken assumption that at least some of our readers have an opinion on this, if for no other reason than the inescapable fact we’ve all experienced being a child (some still are — e.g., our homeschoolers). Every child has wondered at one time or another, “Who will take care of me if something happens to my parents?” Kids know they’re dependent on adults to survive. For them the question is not yet academic.

Recently Scientific American published a study addressed to this very question: which is better for the motherless (okay, “parentless”) child, an orphanage or a foster home? Before looking at their findings, I’ll present my own experience with foster homes and orphanages, both as a child and later as an adult social worker. If the personal part isn’t of interest, just skip to the section about the study’s findings.

I’ve given lots of thought to foster homes and orphanages. They loomed large in my childhood from the age of two until I reached ten. I didn’t know that I was to encounter these places again in my adult work life.

From age two or so until age five, I was in any number of unsatisfactory daycare, foster care and foster group home arrangements. There was even a brief surreal interlude where a homeless mother with her own child lived in our house to take care of me while Mother was at work. In exchange for room and board and a spot of money, Mrs. X was to mind me during the day. In addition she was to cook supper for all of us. That set-up lasted only as long as it took the neighbor ladies — two widows with a parrot — to report to my mother the screams and beatings taking place while she was absent. Half-deaf, the both of them, but they could hear my travail loud and clear. Their frightened report to my mother brought that experiment to an abrupt end. On paper it had been a great idea. In reality, envy and rage at my mother’s good fortune to have a home and a job created an unbearable turmoil for Mrs. X and she was compelled to pass the mess on to me.

Stacked up in my memories there are other more mundane tales of neglect, of punitive harshness decked out in “you must learn to be obedient”, and a myriad of other sadisms all children know so well, even the lucky ones with parents.

By the time I was five and no stable arrangement had been found by my determined, fiercely devoted Mother, the damage was starting to show. Mostly it took the form of anxiety and a run-down immune system. At the family doctor’s behest, Mother placed me in Saint Mary’s Orphanage so that I could have a stable routine and some continuity. I got both, and much more than that during the years until I turned ten.

Yes, of course I’ve wondered why my mother didn’t apply for welfare back then. She’s gone now, so I can’t ask her, but I have some ideas about her hesitation. Recently her oldest passport, the one that got her from Liverpool into New York City, floated up to the top level of my chaotic papers. Looking at that worn dark green booklet made me recall having seen her immigrant card a few times. The light went on: my foreign mother was not a citizen, so she didn’t qualify for welfare.

My guess is she’d have applied if she weren’t so afraid of calling the attention of “the authorities” to her existence, thus starting a Kafka-esque process ending in her being sent back to Ireland. If you’re familiar with the fundamentally shame-based reality of the Irish middle class, you already know why she’d have died rather than face such a fate.

Logical thinking? Hardly. More like basic animal fear. My mother’s Logical Thinking chip never did function very well. Her quite Victorian father seems to have removed that potential from all his daughters. So whatever thinking went on where her children and her own survival were concerned was paralyzed with fear but fueled with fierce mama-bear determination. In other words, an engine stuck in neutral but revved up all the time…

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An Open Letter to Cindy Sheehan

This week’s edition of Dymphna’s Greatest Hits takes us back to a topic that after fifteen years has already faded into the mists of history. Cindy Sheehan had her fifteen minutes of fame, and then she moved on to… Well, to whatever people do when their fifteen minutes is up.

For those of you who are too young to remember, or weren’t paying attention at the time: Cindy Sheehan’s son Casey was killed in the Iraq War in 2004. In the summer of 2005 she made headlines as antiwar activist cum grieving mother who held a vigil outside George W. Bush’s ranch in Texas to protest the Iraq war. Later she took part in other “peace” actions, and was associated with Code Pink in some fashion.

Dymphna’s take on Cindy Sheehan was quite different from what was going around in the rest of the right-wing blogosphere in 2005. Since she had lost her own child just two years before, Dymphna had some insight into what another grieving mother might be feeling, and addressed her in that spirit.

It’s now been nine months since Dymphna died. Last summer was a time of horror and devastation for me, against which my psyche has protected me by making me unable to remember a lot of it. I just have flashes, snapshots, brief vignettes from those first awful weeks — enough to recall the utter misery of it. And it’s still here with me, but nowhere near as intense.

However… After living with Dymphna through the time of Shelagh’s death, I can tell you that the death of a child is far worse than the death of a spouse. Dymphna never really came back to her old self afterwards. I encouraged her to start this blog as a way to bring herself out of the worst of it, to mitigate her bottomless sorrow by doing something useful and important that drew on her gifts as a writer.

And here I am, fifteen years later, circling back to revisit that difficult time. Re-reading her essay brought it all back for me.

An Open Letter to Cindy Sheehan

by Dymphna
Originally published August 20, 2005

I had to look up your name since I have avoided your story as much as possible. Not out of a lack of compassion for your sorrow, but rather because of my own fragility and the sorrow I carry for my own dead daughter.

Here’s what I know about your story — and when you think about it, to have learned this much despite not having a TV and making an effort to avoid learning about your odyssey, it’s amazing I know as much as I do.

Your son Casey was a soldier and he died in Iraq. At first, you were able to maintain in the face of this catastrophic loss. I believe you even met with the President at one point? See — even I, with no access to regular media and a real wish to avoid your story, even I know these things. Or maybe what I “know” is some garbled version of what has been going on for you in your public grief.

This is a guess — an educated guess from one mother of a dead child to another — but I think things began to unravel as time went on and the reality of Casey’s complete and total and lifelong and irrevocable absence hit your consciousness like a fist sinks into a gut. And the bunched knuckles kept coming back to deliver blow after unending blow.

One picture I happened upon in the grocery store showed you on your knees. I presume it was taken in Crawford since someone who didn’t know me well wanted to discuss your story and said you’d gone to President Bush’s ranch. I remember turning away from your face as you knelt there. Yours was a sorrowful visage, a broken face like the reflection from a fractured mirror. My heart twisted for you even though I barely glanced at the picture.

Your grief has served to polarize others. Some say you’re being used, some dismiss you as “crazy” — and tell me, what mother of a dead child isn’t crazy? You’ve been cheated of your son; you walk through the valley of the shadow of death and no one comes to greet you. There will never, ever again be a laughing bear hug from this son grown tall and handsome.

When a husband or wife dies, we call the surviving partner the widow or widower. Why do you think it is that there is no one word to describe our condition, Cindy? Mother-of-a-dead-child is the best we can do? The lack of a name gives you some inkling how much our culture avoids the knowledge of this sorrow. If we named it we’d have some power over it. But the condition you and I share is unnamed because since time immemorial parents have dreaded this loss. It is the worst. There is nothing else that can be done to us. A motherless child is a pitiful creature and carries a life-long emptiness he or she tries to fill with other grown-ups. A childless mother is a crazy person and nothing can fill the hole, not if she had a baby a year for the rest of her life.

Do you have other children? I have three. And when people ask me, pleasantly, “how many children do you have?” I look at them blankly. It is all I can do to not to run screaming from the room.

Here is where I liken my experience to what is happening to you: after Shelagh’s sudden death, after the Rescue Squad carried her off and I watched them disappear down the drive, after the Medical Examiner returned her body to us, there was lots to do. The first morning I awoke I heard her say distinctly, laughing, “Mom, welcome to the first day of the rest of your life without me.” I think she was trying to make it easier in her Shelagh way.

There was so much to do. Her children needed clothing for the funeral, there were burial arrangements to make, a minister to call, family visitation to be arranged, a burial service to be created. So many, many people to notify. Elderly grandparents and a large contingent of Irish relatives to talk to and arrange for flights. As the days passed, I thought to myself “I can do this. I can just keep having this whole thing to organize and plan and I’ll be okay. As long as I never have to bury her, I’ll be fine.” Yes, this is crazy thinking. Even then, I vaguely knew that.

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Love in the Time of Coronavirus

The title of this post has nothing to do with its content; it just seemed an appropriate header in these parlous pandemic times for an off-topic quote.

The text below is an excerpt from Baja Oklahoma by the late Dan Jenkins (who is better known as the author of Semi-Tough). Dymphna and I both loved the book. At some point back in the ’80s she photocopied the page, trimmed it, and posted it on the refrigerator. When we got a new refrigerator in about 1990, the yellowed clippings from the old one went into an envelope marked “FROM THE OLD REFRIGERATOR”. I found that envelope a few months ago when I was going through boxes of stuff, and have restored the excerpt to the refrigerator:

Mankind’s Ten Stages of Drunkenness

In only twelve years of marriage, Bonnie fancifully transformed herself from Rita Hayworth into Joseph Stalin.

Bonnie deserved all the credit for driving Slick to a unique psychological discovery, the unearthing of Mankind’s Ten Stages of Drunkenness, which were:

1.   Witty and Charming.
2.   Rich and Powerful.
3.   Benevolent.
4.   Clairvoyant.
5.   F**k Dinner.
6.   Patriotic.
7.   Crank up the Enola Gay
8.   Witty and Charming, Part II.
9.   Invisible.
10.   Bulletproof.
 

The last stage was almost certain to end a marriage.

A Host of Kind Faces

This post was a “sticky” feature for a week, and was first published last Monday. Scroll down for items posted since that time.

Winter Fundraiser 2020, Day Seven

Sunday’s Update: Snaps From the Family Album

This morning’s update will be brief, and will include just two final photos of kind faces from my memory. The first one is the above snapshot of Dymphna from 1987. I’ll tell you more about that in a minute, after I get the formalities out of the way.

Tip jarWe’re down to the wire here in the Winter Fundraiser of 2020: this is the final day. If you haven’t put a jingle into the tip cup (or this link), now is the time to do it.

Just think: this is a way to avoid all those noisome and obnoxious ads that you see on most sites. This blog relies entirely on modest donations by individual readers. I have no commercial sponsors. I’m not supported by any foundations or think tanks. The only sponsors are the people who read this site.

So if you appreciate what you find here, please drop a groat in the cup. A reminder: I send 10% of what I fundraise here to Vlad Tepes, whose video work is absolutely crucial to what I do. If you think he deserves more, please visit his site and click his own donate button.

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The photo of Dymphna at the top of this update is one of my all-time favorites. It captures her essence: that is exactly Dymphna, my beloved wife, with whom I spent forty fortunate years.

The picture was taken at my annual art show in the fall of 1987. The venue was a restaurant on the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville. I’ve racked my brains trying to figure out who Dymphna was talking to when I took the snap, but I can’t do it. However, I can identify all three paintings on the wall in the background, despite the blurriness. Funny about that.

The final set of kind faces for this fundraiser is a detail from a larger group photo that was taken in the mid-1980s when the future Baron was just a few months old. As far as I know, the fB and I are the only two people in the photo who are still alive, but just in case I’ve cropped the rest of them out:

That’s Dymphna at the top, and her mother seated in front of her. Boy, I sure had more hair in those days. And none of it was white yet.

These last two snaps from the Bodissey family album wrap up the 2020 Winter Fundraiser. I realize that I’ve been wallowing in nostalgia this past week, but then, wallowing is an emotional necessity for me in these our wintry days.

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Saturday’s donors hailed from:

Stateside: Connecticut, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Mexico, West Virginia, and Washington

Far Abroad: Lithuania and the UK

Canada: Ontario

Australia: Western Australia

This concludes the 2020 Winter Fundraiser for Gates of Vienna. I’ll post a wrap-up with all the locations sometime in the next few days.

A hearty Bodisseyan “thank you” to all those people on four continents who chipped in. It looks like I’ll be set for another quarter.

Saturday’s Update: Miscellaneous Faces From History, Not All of Them Kind

I’ll switch gears this morning and post a series of faces from history, chosen by whim from my image library. The one above shows Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili (a.k.a. Joseph Stalin), Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Sir Winston Churchill at the Tehran Conference in late 1943. Sir Winston’s face might be characterized as “kind”, but FDR’s and Uncle Joe’s not so much.

I have more faces to post, but first a word about what I’ve been doing during this week that is rapidly drawing to a close.

For one week every quarter I beg for money from readers to help keep Gates of Vienna going. The tradition began while Dymphna was alive, and continues in her absence. We depended, and I still depend, on the kindness of strangers. Actually, not all of you are strangers, come to think of it…

So if you haven’t done so already, please click that funky tip cup on the sidebar (or use this link) and drop in a ha’penny or two to help keep this enterprise afloat.

What’s amazing to me is the large number of modest donations that have come in. They’re generally quite small, but there are so MANY of them — they really add up. I’m humbled by your generosity, and pleased to see so many first-time donors.

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Fly Away Home

I don’t know about the rest of the country — or even the rest of Virginia — but the part of the Piedmont I live in has been suffering from a plague of ladybugs for at least the past 25 years.

The first time they came to my attention was in the fall of 1994, which was also the worst year of infestation. The little bastards would get in through the tiniest gaps around windows and doors, and then buzz around the house, forming large clumps in the corners where two walls meet the ceiling. I remember at one point seeing a mass of ladybugs as big as a ping-pong ball in one corner. They all eventually found their way up here to the Eyrie, the highest point in the house. They also seem to prefer to enter through the south window here, which is bright and warm during the day. They make their way through tiny cracks around (or in) the frame, then buzz all around the window, and spread to the rest of the room. When there are a lot of them, I have to cover my coffee cup when I’m not sipping from it, because they have a habit of dropping into it and drowning. If I then sip from the cup without looking first, I get an unpleasant surprise — they taste NASTY.

Back in 1994 I resorted to keeping the vacuum cleaner up here in order to deal with the ladybugs. I scrounged around and found all the lengths of pipe extensions we had for it, as well as a four-foot flexible hose. The straight, rigid section I put together was about eight feet long, allowing me to reach almost the entire room while standing in the middle of the floor. Some days I would vacuum up several hundred of them in several passes through the room. I learned to appreciate the satisfying thwip each bug made when it was sucked into the narrow aperture in the outermost attachment at the end of the pipe.

When I was done with a vacuuming session, I put a piece of duct tape over the end of the pipe to keep the prisoners from escaping. I found out early in the game that if I didn’t do that, eventually some of the little demons would make their way out of the pipe and back into the house.

1995 was also bad, but not as bad as 1994. Since then there have been some really bad years, and some where there were almost no ladybugs. But there have been no years in which the annoying creatures were entirely absent.

The period of their annual infestation seems to have gradually moved to later in the season. They used to be here from September until about December, with almost none after New Year’s. Now the peak is generally from January to March. They’re pretty bad this year, which is why I’m writing about them. I sucked up a lot of them yesterday, but many more have come in today.

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These aren’t the normal ladybugs that we were used to before 1994. They’re not bright red, like the ladybugs of my childhood — in fact, they may have displaced the original population, for all I know. They’re kind of dull brown, and not at all attractive.

They’re also aggressive, and will occasionally bite if they land on your skin. They seem to prefer fair Nordic types, and tend to bite them more often. But I’ve been bitten by them a few times — a sudden sharp stinging feeling, followed by itching.

I’ve been told that these new updated ladybugs were introduced into the local ecology by the state department of agriculture, to control the bark beetles. Timber companies have invested in large tracts of pine forests in this area, and the bark beetles are a serious problem for them. I assume they lobbied in Richmond for the ladybug solution.

After I heard about the ladybug project, I realized that I had seen one of the first drops of the bugs back in 1989. The future Baron and I were out for a ride in Nelson County, and we stopped when we saw a helicopter operation in a field next to the road. We watched the helicopter take off, and then a cloud of something was released from its cargo bay into the air above us. Five years later, when the bugs hit and someone told me about their origins, I put two and two together and deduced that the fB and I had seen the first wave of the buggers being released into the local environment.

Now they are permanent residents here, and a permanent nuisance. I don’t suppose that our being plagued with the damned things carries much weight when balanced against the need to harvest enough pine trees to print the Congressional Record and The Washington Post. So we have no choice but to endure them.

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A final note: Typing the word “ladybug” reminded me that what we colonials call “ladybugs” are known as “ladybirds” in England. Or at least they were in the 1960s, when I lived there.