The Little Rock 9

The Little Rock 9, who braved endless harassment to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in the 1950's

The Little Rock 9, who braved endless harassment to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in the 1950’s.  Their mentor Daisy Bates of the NAACP is also in the photo.

Kids, if you think it’s not easy to go to your school, where maybe a few other students don’t care for you, imagine this.  Imagine being one of only nine students to integrate a formerly all-White high school in Little Rock, Arkansas, in the 1950’s, back when Black customers couldn’t even sit at lunch counters with Whites, or use the same water fountains and rest rooms.

And think what it would have been like if the White kids in the school not only did not want you there, and did all they could to make your life miserable, but had members of the White Supremacy hate group The Ku Klux Klan “coaching” them on how best to drive you crazy!

Incredibly, this is exactly what happened in Little Rock in 1957.  The Klan was helping the White children to debase the Black ones.  It was all part of a plan to get the Black students to drop out of the White school.

Well, it didn’t work.  President Eisenhower sent in the armed forces to ensure the school was integrated.  Paratroopers escorted the Black children to and from the school until the situation calmed down a bit – though it never fully abated during the entire year when the Black ones were targeted for abuse.  Only one student finally got mad enough at the abuse to leave Central High School.  I don’t blame her.  If that had been me, I’d have blown my top faster and worse.  She was amazing for sticking it out as long as she did.  More power to her!

The Little Rock Nine were Minnijean Brown, Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Thelma Mothershed, Melba Patillo, Gloria Ray, Terrence Roberts, Jefferson Thomas and Carlotta Walls.  Melba Patillo Beals wrote an exceptionally good book on the situation called Warriors Don’t Cry.  It ought to be required reading in every school in America.  I highly recommend it.

The NAACP stepped in to coach the Black students on how not to respond to the taunts of the Whites.  If someone threw something at one of the Nine, they simply picked it up, gave it back, and told their tormentor, “You dropped this.”  I do not know how these brave students managed to remain so calm in the face of so much abuse, but even though it was unbearable, they did.

Many years later, in 1997, the Little Rock Nine were invited back to the school for a ceremony.  They were in for a really pleasant surprise when they arrived: the doors to their old school were swung open to them – by none other than then-President Bill Clinton.

A monument to the Little Rock Nine now stands on the grounds of Central High School.  It’s a very cool set of statues, one for each of the famous nine, to commemorate their bravery.  They also got the Congressional Gold Medal.

As for their battalion of tormentors, well, unless you count the fact that they earned the contempt of people of goodwill everywhere, they got nothing!  I can’t help but smile whenever I think of the poetic justice of that.

So whenever you know you’re on the right track, remember the grace of the Little Rock Nine.  Stand tall, stand proud, and stand your ground!

The Statue of The Little Rock Nine.  Fabulous!

The Statue of The Little Rock Nine. Fabulous!

 

Get MAMA ROSE’S TURN for a Song on Amazon Now!

My book, MAMA ROSE'S TURN, covers the life of the mother of Baby June and Gypsy Rose Lee.

My book, MAMA ROSE’S TURN, covers the life of the mother of Baby June and Gypsy Rose Lee.

If you have yet to order your copy of my book, MAMA ROSE’S TURN: The True Story of America’s Most Notorious Stage Mother, wait no further!  This week it is available for a wonderfully reduced price on Amazon.  The link is right here, and now is the hour of power – or at least, of a terrific bargain:

“Sing out, Louise,” and go for it here:

http://amzn.com/1617038539

The Jack the Ripper Case: SOLVED via DNA!

This is one of the best news stories I’ve ever seen: a doctor in Liverpool, Dr. Jari Louhelainen, analyzed blood stains on the shawl of one of Jack the Ripper’s victims, Catherine Eddowes, which also contained DNA from “Jack” himself.  She tracked down descendants of both the victim and the suspect to get their DNA and see what she could find out.

And voila!  A cold case from 1888 is solved by modern science!

“Jack,” it turns out, was one Aaron Kosminski.  He was suspected at the time of having been the killer the press dubbed “The Ripper.”

The truth always comes out.  It just sometimes takes quite a while before it gets revealed.  One hundred and twenty-six years, in this case.  To Dr. Louhelainen, I say BRAVA!

Dr. Jari Louhelainen, who finally solved the Jack the Ripper Case.

Dr. Jari Louhelainen, who finally solved the Jack the Ripper Case.

Take a look:

http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/liverpool-scientist-how-solved-mystery-7732111

 

A Confederacy of Dunces

Ignatius J. Reilly when he gts a job selling hot dogs from a weenie wagon.  Look out, pedestrians, here he comes!

Ignatius J. Reilly when he gets a job selling hot dogs from a weenie wagon. Look out, pedestrians, here he comes!

“When a great genius appears in the world  you may know him by this sign; that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.”  –Jonathan Swift

This is the quote that begins one of the funniest books ever written, A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole.

The book is the story of an over-educated sloth named Ignatius J. Reilly who doesn’t like the 20th Century, to put it mildly.  He nevertheless has to get out of his room where he spends his lazy days writing amounts to a manifesto as he mooches off his mother and get a job when a car accident requires the duo to pay damages.  The author apparently based a lot of the character of Ignatius on one of his own colleagues from when he was a professor – then added some hysterical embellishments.

I say no more or I’d spoil the joy of this book.  I’ll just give you a few Ignatius quotes:

“I am at the moment writing a lengthy indictment against our century.  When my brain begins to reel from my literary labors, I make an occasional cheese dip.”

On what’s wrong with the century:

“With the breakdown of the medieval system, the gods of chaos, lunacy, and bad taste gained ascendancy.”

Before going to work:

“The day before me is fraught with God knows what horrors.”

On going to a 1960’s musical at the movies:

“The film I saw last night was especially grueling, a teen-age beach musical.  I almost collapsed during the singing sequence on surfboard.”

There is a play in the works based on this book, and I can hardly wait to see it, since the book is laugh-out-loud funny – yet it, incredibly, almost didn’t get published.  Finding agents and publishers can take quite some time.  It’s all a matter of the right fit, and it rarely happens instantly with the first agent or publisher who’s approached.  The trick is to move right on and try a second one if the first doesn’t work out, or a third, or even a hundreth.

Unfortunately the author of this comic masterpiece became so discouraged over his trouble with finding a publisher that he killed himself.  He should never, ever have given up.

It was Toole’s indomitable mother who found a publisher for this book later, many years after Toole died.  A Confederacy of Dunces, once in print, won the Pulitzer Prize.  It’s made people happy all over the world.  What a difference a day, or two or three, might have made in Toole’s life, if only he’d waited the publishing situation out!

The book even inspired a monument.  It’s set in New Orleans, where a statue of the character of Ignatius was erected in the “Big Easy” in front of the site of the store where, in the opening chapter, he’s standing around waiting for his mother.  Take a look.  And if you’re in the midst of any kind of an uphill battle, stick your chin up and don’t despair.  Remember this hilarious author that we lost too young, John Kennedy Toole.  Keep going.  Like the Commander of the USS Chesapeake once said during a battle in 1813, “Don’t give up the ship!”

Ignatius: The Statue!

Ignatius: The Statue!

 

 

 

Boycott Zara!

Zara's first designer mistake: their Swastika purse from 2007

Zara’s first designer mistake: their Swastika purse from 2007

Warning: this unfolding fashion story is absolutely bizarre.

In 2007, clothing chain Zara made their first designer mistake when they sold purses with swastikas on them.  Take a look.  The photo is above.

The Zara powers that be claimed that when they saw the prototype of the purse in a photograph and agreed to sell it, the swastika “wasn’t visible.”  I could almost believe that line, considering that maybe, perhaps, it might have been an oversight, which can happen sometimes, sure – except for the fact that when the offending purses arrived in the stores, their having a bright green swastika glaring on them would be a little hard to miss.

It gets crazier and worse.

Now they have a new offensive item.  This one is almost unbelievable, surreal, impossible – but now, they began selling striped blue-and-white pajama shirts with six-pointed yellow stars, to children, yet, that are evocative of concentration camp uniforms.

It would be one matter if this Zara company had made just the first outrageous mistake by selling the Nazi purse, but now they’ve manufactured Nazi pajamas, complete with yellow stars.  They claim the star was supposed to be a sheriff’s star, not a Star of David, as was de rigeur on the outfits of the Jewish inmates in places like Auschwitz.  Get real, though, Zara!  Where, exactly, did any sheriff ever wear a striped shirt?  Any striped shirt – let alone one in the full Nazi prison garb blue-white-and-yellow palette?  This is insanity!

Who, exactly, is running Zara?  What’s their agenda?  What kind of financing do they have?  Whose money is behind this store with their Third Reich fashion blunders?

Are they even, truly, “blunders?”

Doesn’t it make you wonder?

Boycott Zara!

zarashirt

 

Lucille Ball: Unofficial English Language Ambassador!

Lucille Ball in top form stomping the grapes in I LOVE LUCY.

Lucille Ball in top form stomping the grapes in a classic episode of I LOVE LUCY.

It’s universal: everybody loves Lucy!

One of my favorite Lucille Ball stories happened when she was in the hospital in California.  Queen Elizabeth was visiting the hospital on a tour and asked how Lucy was.

The Queen of Comedy was floored.  She reportedly naively said, “Queen Elizabeth knows who I am?”

Of course she did!  The entire world loved her, including Her Majesty, the Queen.

The girls’ name Lucy topped the popularity charts in an African country right after I Love Lucy was first broadcast there.  An American store changed the night of the week when it closed in order to watch the show, explaining with a sign to customers, “We love Lucy, too!”

There’s another legend to add to the never-ending list.  So many of the friends I have who come from other countries watch I Love Lucy after they move to New York City – to learn English!  I’m not sure if the show is broadcast in China, but I know some Mandarin-speakers who absolutely adore it.  It’s a show that it’s impossible not to like.  That makes watching it for the additional benefit of becoming at ease with English even more fun.

It’s fantastic that this show from the 1950’s is still broadcast, still putting smiles on faces all over the world, and even has the added benefit of helping people to improve their English.

Brava, Lucy!

Lucille Ball, the Queen of Comedy!

Lucille Ball, the Queen of Comedy!

How to Ruin a “Crazy Maker’s” Day

No, it sure won't!

No, it sure won’t!

Something’s in the air lately.  Several friends have been comparing notes with me on various “crazy makers” they know and don’t exactly love, so I thought the type might just make a fun blog post.
Author Julia Cameron wrote a whole chapter about the crazy makers in her book on creativity, The Artist’s Way.  Everyone who has read that book loves that chapter.  Crazy makers are the impossible folks we all run into every now and again.   They try to basically take over everyone else’s life, or control them, or maybe they hassle them to get attention.  They’re not above emotional blackmail.  Ha, they’re not above anything, really, to get what they think they want – from you.  Sometimes it’s all about misguided love, or the wrong kind of quest for money.  Maybe it’s the strangest imaginable route you’ve ever seen anyone take to try to attain false power.  Well, you get the picture.  Whatever the method they use, though, it’s always and forever a form of out-of-control manipulation.  Worse, it’s all about them…but that, of course, is their weakest point.
Your life isn’t about appeasing such creatures.  It’s about being the best you that you can be.
I find these people to be fascinating, if only in terms of the creative material they can provide – unintentionally, that is – for any and all writers of fiction.  I’m thinking of putting my favorite two into a nice screenplay.  They’re absolutely awful to deal with, but hey!  Unpleasant people can make for more interesting stories than nice ones do.
Here are a few ways I’ve personally employed that you can adopt to drive the one who’s in your life at the moment up the wall and onto the ceiling:
1.  Be Vague.  Crazy makers are my-way-or-the-highway people.  They can’t tolerate anyone who doesn’t do everything exactly like they do.  The more non-committal you are about “their way,” whatever their way is, the less they can stand that.
2.  Say you couldn’t care less about whatever-it-is they’re pushing you for.  This is especially useful with those that want to convert you in some way to their way of thinking.  They won’t be happy with this strategy, so be sure to bring some ear plugs if you use it.  They’ll start yelling.  Then again, if you couldn’t care less, let them hear it!
3.  Ignore their vast rants.  They’ll hurl any kind of an accusation at you as their strategy to try to get you to do what they want.  This can be interesting.  Usually they don’t start yelling about what is actually going on with you but what they think might be.  It almost always reveals more about their state of mind than yours.  For example, the individual I once worked with, many years ago, who hated her own looks used to attack other peoples’ appearances.  The first time it happened to someone in front of me, I figured out more about her than she ever meant to show me.
4.  Deflate their emotional balloons.  Remember the parents of old who would try to get their kids to behave with the ultimatum of withholding ice cream for dessert?  “Do such-in-such right now or you won’t get any ice cream!”  Really?  All any of the kids had to do to get the upper hand back was to say, “That’s okay – I don’t like ice cream.”  It’s not possible to dangle a carrot before someone who doesn’t want one.  Make sure they know it.
5.  Keep your sense of humor.  Like I said, if you are creative, even go so far as to keep a notebook of these kinds of encounters.  Take copious notes!  Never underestimate their power for one thing only: providing you with material.  
Let the rest of their power quests fall flat.  They won’t mind.  They’ll just go on their not-so-merry way to look for an easier mark.