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Yesterday we went to lunch with friends at the Belching Beaver Brewery in Vista, and as we walked up to the entrance, we got to walk past a wall covered by giant Birds of Paradise plants, right by the sidewalk.

Birds of Paradise [click to enlarge]

Then something caught my eye:

Mother Dove [click to enlarge]

There was a dove sitting in her nest, still, just looking at me. I waited a while until she moved her head and I knew she was real.

Now you’ll have to go to the first photograph, enlarge it, and find the dove.

Good luck!

Readers of the diary will have no difficulty seeing the similarities between Friedrich’s world and our own. And with Friedrich they will wonder with alarm why the pillars of civilization are so meager they can be pulled down by brutes.

— Kellner, Robert Scott. My Opposition (p. xxxi). Cambridge University Press, speaking about the Nazis.

Some of the most iconic rock music in history was made by these hands.

Did you guess it?

Keith Richards.

The other day, on my drive to work, as I exited our neighborhood, I came upon this strange picture. Two large birds were in the middle of the road. One of them was apparently working on eating some roadkill. The other one had spread its wings, standing on the median, in an apparent gesture of perhaps guarding its mate while it ate, by looking threatening.

[click to enlarge any of the pictures]

Upon closer inspection I identified them as turkey vultures. Here is a zoomed image. These are large birds.

Very slowly I drove a little closer, making sure not to scare them. Here is a picture showing it as close as I got.

When I inched further along, the one on the road flew away onto a nearby fence to watch me, and the one on the median, which has its wings spread, hopped away from me and kept an eye on me.

I didn’t exit my car as to not to scare them.

As I drove away I saw that the roadkill they were munching on was a fresh rabbit.

And that is the wildlife in our neighborhood.

I won’t describe the scene the other night when our neighbor found a rattlesnake in her side yard next to our house!

My paternal grandfather was a German soldier in World War II under Hitler. He was born in 1905 and was therefore 34 years old in 1939 when the was conscripted. As a private, he was a low-ranking soldier who spent the entire war away from his family and his five small children. At the end of the war he was stationed in Italy.

After he returned from the war, he became a tax preparer. I remember him working from home behind a huge desk with piles of papers. Grandpa.

He passed away in 1985. My father obtained some of his belongings, and made a surprise discovery. However, my father did not share any of this with us (his children) until just now, in 2019, when he showed one of my sisters some of this treasures. This is how I came about this information.

The photo on the left shows my grandfather’s driver’s license (Führerschein). Driver’s licenses in Germany were cardboard booklets, about 4 by 6 inches, and required a little folder so they didn’t get torn up as they were lugged around in jacket pockets over the years. When he died, my father found some letters that my father had written to him as a child when he was in the war, hidden behind the license in the booklet. Apparently he had carried those letters along with his driver’s license for the rest of his life, from 1945 to 1985. Nobody knew he had those letters, let alone that he carried them with him everywhere he went for all those decades. Here are some of the contents.

Below is a drawing of him my father made when he was about seven years old as part of a letter he sent to his dad toward the end of the war when the Russians started to close in on the eastern front in Silesia, where they lived at the time.

The drawing was done around Christmas, so you see a Christmas tree. My father is color-blind, so somebody must have helped him with the color of the tree and the candles on it, but then gave up. Hence the moon is green and the sun violet. Above the soldier he annotated my grandfather’s name, Gerhard Haupt. On the left is says “Mein lieber Vati” (my dear daddy) and on the right, around the tree “ich wünsche dir ein frohes Weihnachtsfest” (I wish you a merry Christmas).  My grandfather is shown in a blue uniform, with a backpack, a green rifle on his shoulder, and a green hand grenade in each hand. There is a cat by his legs.

Here is the address page of the military field letter. Apparently the military mail worked quite well still in 1944/1945.

This is notable because of the slogan written in old German script:

Tapferkeit, Aufopferung, Standhaftigkeit sind the Grundpfeiler der Unabhängigkeit eines Volkes

— Scharnhorst

(valor, sacrifice, steadfastness are the pillars of independence of a nation)

Gerhard von Scharnhorst was a Prussian general during the Napoleonic Wars. This was propaganda by the Nazis on their field post envelopes that were obviously used by German children to send letters to their fathers during the war.

Below is one of the letters my father wrote to his dad that he found 40 years later in the driver’s license booklet:


(My dear daddy, I write to you quickly in bed. We all sleep in the living room now. Mom also sleeps in the living room. On the 21st we have vacation and we won’t have to do homework. Good bye, your son Norbert?)

The reference to sleeping in the living room is interesting. This was just before the Russians closed in on the eastern front, and German families were getting ready to flee toward the west to escape capture by the enemy. Millions packed up their meager belongings, whatever they could carry in backpacks and suitcases, and literally started walking west. My father’s mother, in her 30s, with her mother, an aunt, and five small children, made that journey. They slept in the same room so his mom could keep an eye on all of them together in case of an invasion of their home by the Russians.

Here is another letter:

(Daddy, my dear, could you not send me a “Tuschkasten” if you can get one, please buy me one. Good bye, your son Norbert.)

A Tuschkasten is a water color set. That was his wish. Obviously, in Germany in 1944, there was no way to obtain such luxuries. He thought that his father could round one up in Italy and mail it to him.

War is cruel. There are no winners. There are only losers. Many die, many get injured, and many carry damages with them for the rest of their lives. My grandfather, without anyone else knowing it, carried these letters for the entire second half of his life. My father discovered them in 1985, and then he kept them to himself for all these years.

War is cruel.

Here is a good one for all of us Americans. Most Americans speak only one language, and some only half a one.

One of my good childhood friends, who is a German, but teaches Latin and French (note there is no English in that list) recently gave me an English lesson. I pride myself on my strong English and large vocabulary, but his comments have given me pause.

He read my post about Freud and America and noticed that I talked about egalitarianism and how it is built into our language. He promptly challenged me about the use of “you” to address everyone, formal and informal. His lesson is so profound, I decided to repeat it here:

As a Latin and French teacher I am per se interested in language history. When I read Norbert’s commentary on Freud’s attitude to the USA, I remembered learning a long time ago that the English word you is actually a plural: you “are”. But I had forgotten the details. Here is what I found:

You and ye used to be the plural forms of the second person pronoun.
You was the accusative form, and ye was the nominative form.

Because of this, you still conjugates verbs in the plural form even when it is singular; that is, you are is correct even if you is only referring to one person.
Thee and thou used to be the singular forms.
Thou was the nominative form, and thee was the accusative form.

You is the plural.
Thou is the singular form of you.

Thou has now disappeared from common use and is used only to address God. The process resulting in the use of the singular pronoun to express intimacy and the plural pronoun to mark respect or social distance is termed
T-V_distinction, after the Latin tu and vos and is found is many languages, especially of the Proto Indo European family tree.

See for instance, in addition to the Latin form above:

French: tu => vous
German: du => ihr (2nd person plural) or sie (3rd person plural)

Even some languages that seem not to comply exactly (because they don’t seem to use the 2nd-person plural) actually hide a form a compliance.
Spanish: tu => vos (vos is still used in Argentina instead of tú, and used to be a more formal form of tú)

Italian used to use voi (2nd person plural).
Italian now uses “Lei” (3rd feminine person, singular) as a courtesy form. “Voi” (2nd plural) sounds now archaic and, when used, expresses even more social distance than “Lei”. (that is, you’d use it for a king, pretty much nothing less). Why lei, who is the third person singularly feminine?

The use of Lei (lit.: She) as a form of respect goes back to the XVII-XVIII century, when it was common not to address somebody important directly, but to use abstract forms such as la Signoria Vostra. E.g. “Cosa pensa la Signoria Vostra di quest’opera?” that is: “What does Your Lordship think of this opera?” or “La Signoria Vostra desidera un caffè?” that is: “Would Your Lordship like a coffee?”.
As you can see from these examples, the sentence is constructed in the third person singular, and because titles like signoria (lordship), maestà (majesty), altezza (highness), etc. are all feminine, this explains the use of the feminine pronoun Lei (she). There are some wonderful examples of the usage of these titles in the comedies written by Carlo Goldoni, the famous Venetian play writer.

All in all, English has pushed T-V distinction so far that thou is not used anymore in common speak.

Puzzled, I then asked what the singular form for “your” was and he promptly replied:

before a noun beginning with a consonant:
thy goodness and mercy
before an initial vowel:
the first rule of warfare: know thine enemy

And there it is: This English speaker (and snob at it) just got an English lesson from a German Latin and French teacher.

But my Japanese is better than yours — na na na na na na!

On July 26 at 5:15pm I became a grandfather. Best feeling.

Our local San Diego Union has a weekly contest. We see a picture, and we are tasked to come up with the caption. Last week was the two snails below.

I usually draw a complete blank with those. I just don’t have that creative angle. But every week I see the responses, and I think they are hilarious.

Last week, Trisha entered, and promptly became a finalist.

Source: San Diego Union July 28, 2019 – click to enlarge

 

I receive continuous views of my posts about the Dow under Obama and Trump, with a number of critical comments.

Here is my post from January 2018.

It’s time for an update.

The start of the Obama presidency has now slipped off the 10-year chart on the left. I have the blue arrow pointing off the chart down to 7949, which was the Dow when Obama took office. It was a low-point, as we all know.

Looking back through the Obama years, we had a steady rise of the Dow, with a flatting of the slope in 2015 and modest recovery at the end of 2016.

Trump was elected and took office, and the slope increased. The Dow grew faster for the next 12 months all the way through 2017. But it has sputtered through 2018 and 2019, with significant spikes and drops through those 18 months. The pro-business stance of the Trump administration, the lifting of regulations, has fueled the economy.

However, I would say that when readers say “we have been suffering” through the Obama years, I don’t think that’s accurate, at least not from the view point of the stock market and its growth. Unless Trump starts getting gains again with a steady upward trend, his overall performance from low to high may not be that of the Obama years. We’ll have to wait and see.

What concerns me is the debt.

We have new record deficits. I remember the “fiscally responsible party”, the GOP, making endless noise about Obama’s racking up of debt. Then it stopped. All of a sudden nobody worries about the debt ceiling anymore. The battles in the Republican-controlled Congress about the debt ceiling during the latter Obama years were epic. Now, we just raise the ceiling quietly.

Am I the only one concerned with that?

This tells me I need to create a deficit and debt chart next to put this into perspective. But that’s for another day.

 

Freud is known for the following statement:

“America is a mistake, a gigantic mistake it is true, but none the less a mistake.”

— Sigmund Freud

In his youth, we was reportedly enamored with all things America. He had the Declaration of Independence hung on a wall in his room. He had memorized Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and often recited it. But all that changed when he came to America one time. He never returned after his first visit.

He regarded Americans as poorly educated, uncultured, and backward, and he resented the fact that he had to take on more and more of them as patients in Vienna. He disliked the American system of consumption, and he didn’t respect American wealth and rich people.

He also had trouble with the egalitarianism we practice at America. People of all walks of life called him Sigmund, rather than Herr Dr. Freud or Dr. Freud. Most German speakers have a difficult time in America at first with the apparent familiarity and egalitarian social structure. They like their ranks and class distance as it is built into the language. They have trouble, at first, calling everyone “you” in the familiar form. In the English language, we address each other with you, no matter what the relationship is. We talk the same way to our doctors, our supervisors at work, the president of the country, teachers, relatives, parents, students, playmates, buddies and our dogs. Not so in German, French, Spanish, or Japanese, to name just a few major languages which differentiate the common address based on relationship and status.

Dr. Freud didn’t like the American way.

Is what we commonly call here “the greatest country in the world” really a mistake?

Let’s not ask Freud.

This book is about trees.

You and the tree in your backyard come from a common ancestor. A billion and a half years ago, the two of you parted ways. But even now, after an immense journey in separate directions, that tree and you still share a quarter of your genes. . . .

Powers, Richard. The Overstory: A Novel (p. 132).

Have you ever thought about where the material for trees comes from? The wood is heavy. Does it come from the dirt? One of the protagonists, when she was a 10-year-old girl, asked her father, an arborist, this question. He suggested an experiment. They prepare a large tub behind their barn and fill it with an exact amount of dirt. They weigh the dirt and record the weight. Then they plant a seedling tree. He tells her that they’d weigh the tree and the dirt on her sixteenth birthday. They’d have their answer.

When the time finally came, it was a substantial tree. She dug it out and carefully removed all the dirt from the roots and then weighed the tree. It was heavier than she was. Then she weighed the dirt, and is was exactly the same weight it was many years before. Clearly, all the mass of the tree had come from the air.

I must admit, I had never thought of that before. We all know that trees tie up carbon, and the carbon is pulled out of the air. That’s one thing I learned from reading The Overstory.

Did you know that the American chestnut tree was once the most common tree in the country, until a disease wiped them out completely?

I learned many other fascinating facts I had never thought of before or knew nothing about.

The Overstory tells about the lives of trees through the lives, eyes and deeds of nine seemingly unrelated people whose paths cross over time and over generations.

It deals with issues like climate change, evolution and deforestation. We get a glimpse of the lives of “tree huggers” and ecoterrorists.

Deforestation: a bigger changer of climate than all of transportation put together. Twice as much carbon in the falling forests than in all the atmosphere. But that’s for another trial.

Powers, Richard. The Overstory: A Novel (p. 281).

The Overstory won the Pulitzer Prize in 2019. It is a worthwhile and very interesting book, yet it’s a hard read. Some of the characters are easy to follow, but some of them didn’t make sense to me and, as far as I could tell, could have been left out of the story completely. It’s quite possible they contributed and were somehow related, and I missed it. Due to the number of central characters, I had difficulty following what was going on at times. After a character was introduced, but then was absent for a while, I forgot about the character, and when he returned, I didn’t remember him.

Overall, this is an excellent book with some serious “flow flaws.” The subject matter warrants four stars, but the execution of the novel is clumsy, so my overall rating is only three stars.

After reading The Overstory, I will never think of forests and trees quite the same way again. It has fundamentally changed my perspective.

Do I recommend The Overstory?

Definitely yes.

 

 

Reading The Overstory reminded me of another “book about trees” I read a long time ago: The Wild Trees – by Richard Preston, is an incredible book which I rated four stars at the time. I highly recommend it.

Here is a list of books about Nazis and their atrocities that I have read and reviewed in this blog. You can follow the links to the reviews.

Books about Nazis and their atrocities

Lale was a Slovakian Jew who was ordered by the Nazis in 1942 to go to a work camp. After days of travel in a cramped and filthy cattle car, he stepped off the train in the infamous Nazi concentration camp in Auschwitz.

Rather than despairing, he commits himself to survival. Because he speaks six languages, he is chosen to become the tattooist, the person who marks arriving prisoners with a number on their arms. He serves as the camp’s primary tattooist from 1942 to 1945. The position comes with privileges, like his own room to sleep in, additional rations, and the ability to come and go with much more freedom than the common inmates. Through his resourcefulness, he starts smuggling food into the camp, not just for himself to survive, but to help as many of his fellow prisoners as he can. One day, when he writes a number on a trembling girl’s arm, he looks up and instantly falls in love. Her name is Gita. Over time they develop a friendship and eventually a love that transcends the conditions in the camp and gives them both a reason to survive, and fight for their future.

This story is based on the true experiences of Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov, the tattooist of Auschwitz. Just last month I posted this story about three men who arrived at Auschwitz on the same day and had their numbers only 10 apart. Chances are high that we’re looking at Lale’s work.

I have heard people talk about how good this book is and that it’s a love story. I found that – yes – it’s a love story, but that is not the reason to read The Tattooist of Auschwitz. The reason to read it is because it illustrates life in a concentration camp and it shows the atrocities the Nazis committed, the murders, the mutilations, the humiliation, the forced starvation, the diseases, upon millions of innocent men, women and children. There are many books about Auschwitz, and this is one more, but in my opinion, you can’t read enough of those.

Fascism, and what it does to people, must be exposed, over and over again.

 

This book reminds me of many other books I have read and documented here that deal with the subject of Nazis and the atrocities they committed in the concentration camps. I have compiled them here in a separate post.

 

 

Maiden is a documentary about Tracy Edwards, a 24-year-old English girl who decides to make it her quest to sail around the world in the Whitbread Round the World race in 1989. The journey is grueling, going for 27,500 miles, from England down to Uruguay, then east through the southern ocean to Australia and New Zealand, then back round Cape Horn and up north through the Atlantic again. It takes about 9 months.

The entire sail-racing world is completely dominated by men, and no crew is willing to take her on. She decides she has to find her own all-women crew, buy a boat, get a sponsorship, train and – yes, sail. She is the laughing stock of the sailing world. Nobody takes her seriously. When she can’t find any sponsors, she mortgages her house and buys a second-hand boat that they first need to fix up.

Finally, against all odds, the starting gun sounds in Southhampton in 1989, and she sails off heading south. Nobody believed she would make it out more than a few days, or perhaps a couple of weeks, before failing and possibly perishing.

Maiden is a true documentary. Tracy herself and a number of crew members and skippers from other boats tell the story on camera. All the footage is vintage and original. Due to this, the pictures are often grainy and shaky, but they draw you in and you are on the boat embedded with the crew, experiencing the adventure firsthand.

The movie is a documentary of the Whitbread race of its first ever female crew, a testament to the human spirit of fighting against all odds and succeeding, and a validation for women all around the world fighting for their right to be treated as equal members of humanity.

Maiden is inspiring and eminently satisfying.

I am looking out the window and the trucks won’t stop coming.

This is the first sentence battered women use to identify the purpose of the call when they call Sadie for help.

Sadie (Olivia Wilde) was abused by her husband (Morgan Spector). He was a loner who took his wife and young son into the wilderness in the Adirondacks to practice living off the grid. They would park the car, cover it with a tarp and camouflage it with branches and leaves. They would hike into the mountains and live off the land. To prove toughness, he would break her arm and then reset it himself.

One day she has enough and musters the courage to leave him. When Sadie breaks away, their son gets killed.

On her own, she teaches herself martial arts, fighting and self-defense and makes it her life’s mission to help other women leave their abusive men by coming after the men with the same brutal aggression they have been using on their women. It is not an easy life. Eventually there is the final face off between herself and her former husband.

A Vigilante is full of graphic scenes of despair, terror and anguish. We see women in a shelter telling their stories to each other to try to get closure. We see how Sadie slowly transforms herself from battered wife to ruthless fighter for justice by her own terms. But none of it is credible and works.

The movie is disjointed and choppy. I found it difficult to make out where in the story I was at times, whether she was on a mission to free somebody, or on her own obsessive quest to come after her husband.

Light spoiler ahead:

In the final showdown, she finds her husband, and true to his self, he ties her up and breaks her arm just for good measure. She eventually gets away, and when he finds her, somehow, she kills him. The movie does not show how this goes down. This small woman, albeit trained as a fighter, with one arm broken and temporarily mended by herself with electrical tape, stands in front of the man, tells him she is going to kill him. In the next scene we see her choking him with her one working hand, he is on the ground, rolling his bulging eyes as he dies.

Then she dumps his naked body in the woods and moves on to save another woman.

The critics love this movie, which boasts 91 on Rotten Tomatoes. I differ greatly.

A Vigilante is not credible from the very beginning. It is trying to show the hurt and anguish of battered women, and it does so graphically. Otherwise it’s an unconvincing movie, depressing to watch, with huge plot holes.

Unsatisfying all around.

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