Showing posts with label Eve Fisher. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Eve Fisher. Show all posts

26 April 2018

April Miscellaney

by Eve Fisher

Between April 14th and April 18th we got 22-24" of snow.  This led to a lot of eating, drinking, and calling April a drunk who wouldn't go home.  But now it's almost 70 degrees, and 99% of the snow has melted, and people are back out in t-shirts and shorts, and if you think we're all back in a good, trusting relationship with April you're crazy.  We're just humoring her until May gets here...

It did give me plenty of time to catch up on the news:

Don't you wish these baboons succeeded in their escape from a bio-medical research facility?  They baboons moved a large barrel, climbed over a wall, and ran for it:  (See  Baboon Escape).   Apparently, the facility has been cited "multiple times for animal welfare-related issues, including some deaths".   

Calling Caesar - it's time to show up and rescue.

Caesar, with a rifle and Nova behind his back, on a horse with the film's logo and "Witness the End July 14" at the bottom.And, while he's at it, if he'd take care of Mr. Slager, who is horrified to find out that he's in the middle of the first case of someone testifying at their own murder trial, in which a Woman Burned to Death.  (Well, not quite - there's a Renaissance Italian lady who did, but that's another story, for next time).  Anyway, Mr. Slager and his girlfriend, Judy Malinowski, were arguing on Aug. 2, 2015, when he doused her with gasoline and set her on fire outside a gas station in Gahanna, a suburb of Columbus. “I never knew that a human being could be so evil,” Malinowski said in a videotaped interview on her deathbed. “He just stood there and did nothing. God, please, please help me.”   I hope they hang the bastard. 

Domestic terrorists went on trial in the town of Liberal (you can't make this stuff up), Kansas, before an all-white jury.  The 3 militia members plotted to detonate a bomb at a housing complex in western Kansas where Somali immigrants lived and worshiped.  The men stockpiled guns and composed a manifesto about their anti-Muslim motives.  “Their rhetoric and their speech have revealed a hatred for Muslims, Somalis and immigrants,” an FBI agent wrote in affidavit related to the case, and that is an understatement, to put it mildly:  you can read some of it at the Huffpost Article here:  Domestic Terrorism.  None of it is fit to print.  Thank God, they were convicted.

The tragic part, the absolutely totally completely EFF-ED UP part of it is that they got all their ideas from conservative news:  Ben Carson, HUD Secretary, raving on Breitbart about "civilizational jihad"; Fox News' Monica Crowley raving about the same on The Washington Times; Ben Shapiro, Frank Gaffney, and John Bolton all have spread at least some of what got these men to decide that they had to blow up every Somali in sight.  (See Charles Pierce for further links here:  Right Wing Paranoia.)  And that's without going to the kool-ade crazy Alex Jones...

But there is good news:  The New York Times reported that on April 18, 1930, the BBC's evening bulletin was surprisingly brief: “Good evening. Today is Good Friday. There is no news,” and followed it up by 15 minutes of piano music.  (I'd wax nostalgic and all that, but I know what came next.)

No news was NOT the case for the United States on that date:

The BBC may have had no news on April 18, 1930, but The New York Times did.

Once the snow was melted enough to get out of the driveway, we took a few days off from the daily grind and spent the weekend visiting the kids and grandkids in Colorado.  We also left behind our cell phones, and totally ignored the news, on or off the internet.  It was great.  We played endless games of "Settlers of Catan", and I only won twice.  We went for walks.  We ate a lot.  We saw the sights.  And we talked, talked, talked, talked, talked.

That's what an early spring vacation, or a long summer vacation should be.  That's the way it was when I was kid, when we played Canasta, Sorry, Chinese Checkers, and Gin whenever it rained or got too dark to run around capturing fireflies in glass jars.  Even back then the news loomed large and seemed dangerous, but it faded over a couple of days, and we had time again to talk and run around getting mosquito bites and grass stains everywhere, and then back for more lemonade and beer (for the adults, of course) and more talk.

Very relaxing.  Days where nothing much happens, except you're there, together.

And now we're back, and I've caught up on the news.  Most of it is the same old wars and rumors of war garbage we've been dealing with since Cain decided that Abel was dissing him and his vegetables.  But there's also the shining moments:

Image result for duchess of cambridge

The Duchess of Cambridge had her baby boy.   Most of my friends are amazed that she walked out of the hospital 6 hours later in high heels and a dress, but apparently an entire team of hairdressers, make-up artists, and a maid were there to make her look good, and I suspect drugs to give her the ability to walk while feeling that most of her is inside out.  And I'll bet - and I don't blame her a bit - that she went home, handed baby to a nanny and had a stiff drink in bed.   

There's a great article on the NYTimes about "The Synchronized Swimming of Sea Monkeys". The video of them is absolutely hypnotic, but then my husband always dreads it when we go to the zoo in Omaha and I stand in front of the transparent jellyfish exhibit and watch them floating, up and down and up and down and up and...

And, from the NYTimes, this man saved God only knows how many lives at a Waffle House in Nashville, TN, from yet another mass shooter with an AR-15.

James Shaw, Jr., 29 year old electrician, saw the shooter, scuffled with him, and grabbed the rifle, and hurled it over a countertop.  He was grazed with a bullet, and the barrel was hot, and it burned his hand, which is why it's bandaged in the photo.

In classic asshole style, the shooter cussed him out.

Mr. Shaw:  “He was mad at me.  I was just trying to live. I wasn’t trying to get no money from him, I wasn’t trying to do anything from his standpoint. I just wanted to live, and he was, like, astonished, that I wanted to live.”

Typical:  the shooter couldn't understand why his victims wanted to (or should) live.

Wonderful:  Mr. Shaw was there to stop him.  God blessings, and a speedy recovery!  I hope you get all the electrician work you can handle in Nashville, and may you be blessed in your children and grandchildren forever.

Meanwhile, for those of you who are still tense, jellyfish. 














29 March 2018

March Miscellany

by Eve Fisher

Ah, March is almost over, and with it March Madness.  Look, I'll be honest, I'm not a basketball fan to begin with, plus, on PBS, it's also "Festival!", which really cuts a hole into some of my favorite viewing.  But - note to all ultra-conservatives who wonder why a GOP Congress never quite manages to cut all Corporation for Public Broadcasting funding?  Because out here in fly-over country, what station runs ALL the high-school and college basketball games, morning, noon and night, on all 3 PBS channels, for as long as they last?  Not to mention high-school track & field, and football playoffs?  PBS, not Fox News, CNN, or even ESPN.  You think people want to give that up?  No, they do not.  They want to see their kids, grandkids, and themselves on television.  The most conservative among them can easily ignore the PBS NewsHour in exchange for that, quilting, cooking, and travel shows, "Call the Midwife", "Father Brown Mysteries", "Nova" and Daniel O'Donnell specials ad infinitum.  Oh, and "Antiques Roadshow."

Meanwhile, we had volunteer refresher training at the pen this month.  This year we learned a lot about prison gangs and their tattoos.  We have a variety of gangs in the South Dakota Prison System, but they're not what they are on the east / west coasts.

Image result for gangster disciple tattoos
    Image result for white supremacist tattoos 88 boots
  • Up here the Gangster Disciples are mostly Native American.  Tattoos include Joker/Devil/Clown, 7-4, 612 (in Minneapolis), Devil with "C" handsign, upright pitchfork, Knight on a horse, and a few others.  
  • The Boyz / Wild Boyz / and Red Brotherhood are all also Native American, and rivals to the Gangster Disciples.  While they tattoo, they also do [bad] burns on the shoulder in a bearclaw pattern.  
  • There's the East River Skins, Native Americans, whose favorite tattoos are "ERS" and "Skins"
  • The Mexican Mafia, a/k/a Surenos use SUR 13, and others.  
  • And, of course, we have a wide variety and large number of White Supremacists.  Tattoos include:  Iron crosses, swastikas, German phrases, 88 (for "Heil Hitler"), Blood and Honor, SS lightening bolts, White Devil, crossed hammers with or without Confederate flag, 100% (for 100% white), White Fist, etc., etc., etc. 
Image result for gangster disciple tattoos
Hand signs made into
tattoos - many gangs use
the same hand signs

It's a whole language.

Speaking of language, I loved this "correction" of the New York Times tweet about the Austin bomber:

No automatic alt text available.  Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, text


I totally agree.  White boys/men who shoot up theaters, schools, or musical venues are all crazy, or quietly challenged, and/or from a broken home, and/or a good family, and therefore, there's nothing to be done except make all the white boys/men around us feel really good all the time so they won't shoot us.  (Or rape us - I'm still pissed off about Brock Turner getting probation because he was such a good swimmer with his whole life ahead of him.)  I call BS on that.  Simply put, anyone who's going around bombing random (or was it random?) American citizens, setting trip wires, etc., is a terrorist.  Period.  I don't care how "troubled" or "challenged" their life is.

Back in October, 2016, then candidate Donald Trump said “These are radical Islamic terrorists.  To solve a problem, you have to be able to state what the problem is, or at least say the name.”  Well, the Anti-Defamation League did a study and found that white supremacists killed twice as many as Islamic terrorists in America in 2017.  And that the numbers of white supremacist attacks are increasing around the country.  (ADL Report)   So, everyone, say it with me:  "Radical white supremacist terrorism."  Like 150+ years of the KKK.  (I can't believe that in this day and age I still have to say that the KKK and the Nazis are bad.)

BTW, ironically, as a Boston Globe article points out, being white doesn't protect you from white supremacist terrorism:  "The victims of white supremacist terrorism are often white....  the carnage of white supremacist terrorism should have been understood after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, where Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people of all colors. Fueled in significant degree by racial hatred, McVeigh was a devotee of The Turner Diaries, a white supremacist novel that imagined an American race war so grotesque that white women were hung for marrying African-Americans and Jews.  The carnage should have been understood after the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Colorado, carried out by Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris. The two teens adored Adolf Hitler and were reported to have routinely used racial epithets. Yet most of their 13 victims were white."

Language matters.  How something is said influences more than we know.

I read on Facebook a story about a guy who asked a girl out on a date at high school.  The girl said "No, thanks" and walked away.  The guy grabbed her by the arm and said, "Come back here -" so she turned around and punched him in the nose.  Well, everyone came running after that.  The principal wanted her to apologize and he was going to suspend her.  The girl told everyone there, "Look, my mother taught me to never put up with someone laying hands on me when I don't want them to.  That I have the right to say no.  And now you're telling me that this jackass can grab me to make me change my mind?  Fine, suspend me.  But what you're doing is tell girls that we don't have the right to say 'no'."   

I'm with the girl all the way.  Because, when you follow that logic - that the girl should have been nicer to the man who grabbed her without her permission - what can happen is this:

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, ocean, text and water  Link to story

"Lovesick teen" a/k/a "heartbroken homecoming prince" - kind of perpetuates the idea that a girl can't say no, doesn't it?  That a girl shouldn't say no, because... she might make him so angry that he shoots her in the head?  And somehow she's in the wrong, because he's "lovesick"?  That somehow he has the right to kill what he can't have because of his emotions?  Jaelynn Willy was 16 years old when this possessive bastard shot her in the head.  She died three days later.  (See Jezebel for a much less "romantic" telling of this story.)

Meanwhile, 55% of female murder victims are killed by their domestic partner.

Up to 75% of abused women who are murdered are killed after they leave their partners.

The majority of the victims were under the age of 40, and 15 percent were pregnant. About 54 percent were gun deaths.

Strangers perpetrated just 16 percent of all female homicides, fewer than acquaintances and just slightly more than parents.

“State statutes limiting access to firearms for persons under a domestic violence restraining order can serve as another preventive measure associated with reduced risk for intimate partner homicide and firearm intimate partner homicide.” An abuser’s possession of a gun greatly increases the risk of female homicide.

Still, loopholes in gun laws mean that abusive spouses and partners often can keep their guns, even if they can’t buy new ones. And the consequences of those loopholes, for women, can be deadly.

Especially in the hands of a "heartbroken homecoming prince."











15 March 2018

Babylon, Babylon

by Eve Fisher

Baker Banana.jpg
Baker - 1926
My husband and I have been watching Babylon Berlin on Netflix.   It's a guilty pleasure, not because of the sex, which is actually pretty unappealing.  (NOTE to future producers to broaden your audience:  most women aren't turned on by naked women being taken by big fat slugs in kinky and/or violent ways, i.e., raped or whored. Just a thought.)

No, my real problem is that it's so historically inaccurate. (Yeah, I think that way.)  For example, the video below (SPOILER ALERT - there is some nearly nudity).  My problem isn't with the girls in bananas - that's straight up Josephine Baker - but the people on the dance floor in the video, who are basically freaking line dancing.  I mean, it is a 1920's Berlin nightclub, full of smoke, alcohol, and opium, so there wouldn't be much coordinated syncopation going on, if you know what I mean.



Marlene Dietrich in her breakthrough role
The Blue Angel, 1930
Plus, like Cabaret, there's the constant effort to ram home (in more ways than one) how decadent 1920s Berlin was, but using modern Hollywood ideas of what kinky / sexy is.  Take a look at Marlene Dietrich:  that's her breakthrough role, as Lola in The Blue Angel.  That was the hottest, sexiest, kinkiest thing that had ever been seen on film in 1930's Berlin.  Well, let me assure you that, in Babylon Berlin everyone has been made up, eyebrowed up, thinned down, shampooed and conditioned, and generally made into someone entirely different than what was cooking in the Berlin stews of the 1920s.  They did the same thing in Cabaret.  Only in Cabaret, everyone's pretty clean cut - even Sally Bowles.

Liza Minelli doing Dietrich in Cabaret
Actually, you can tell that Cabaret's an American movie because it uses "divine decadence" to promote straight up family values.  Sally Bowles has Daddy issues, will do anything for money and/or love and/or attention, and is sleeping all over the place (I think it's the first movie where the word "syphilis" is used in a joke), even though she's "as fatale as an after-dinner mint".  But after she has an abortion, well, it's pretty obvious that Sally's going to end up on the skids, the streets, and the morgue.  In the same way, the menage-á-trois weekend with Sally, Brian and Max, is there to confirm how futilely, half-assedly decadent the German nobility was.  That's why, when the blue-eyed blond-haired youth starts singing "Tomorrow Belongs To Me", he seems like a refreshing change to the Cabaret Berlin Babylon.  And even after the camera has pulled back and shown the Nazi uniforms and swastikas - I'm not entirely sure that the director grasped that some people might still root for them.  Pauline Kael noticed in her review at the time that "Bob Fosse, the choreographer-director, keeps the period—Berlin, 1931—at a cool distance. We see the decadence as garish and sleazy." (Wikipedia).  In other words, we're observers, safely at a distance, and at a distance, the Nazis can look good:  At least they'll clean the place up.

But back to Babylon Berlin, which does not have THAT problem, but instead suffers from massive PCS, a/k/a Plot Complexity Syndrome:  No one is ever who or what they seem, to the point where you can't help but wonder where they're buying all those disguises, and what phone booth are they using to put them on.  And why no one ever recognizes someone's long-lost whatever by their freaking voice, which wouldn't change, even if everything else has had plastic surgery...  And of course, every twist has another twist that twists back on itself and then corkscrews.  And it would take a silver bullet from the hand of Dracula himself to kill some people off.  Shooting them, pushing them off tall buildings, beating them to a pulp - it just makes them mad.

The problem with PCS, in movies or in novels, is that the excessive plot takes up all space for actual characters.  Yes, we're given heroes and heroines, but they don't have time to actually, think about anything, or have more than four basic emotions, fear, lust, anger, and...  well, maybe just the three.  They're too busy:  there's sex, there's violence, there's the few moments actually at work, there's more sex, there's drugs, and they're always running from or to or after somebody or something.  That's another reason I call Babylon Berlin a guilty pleasure:  there's no there there, except for the plot, and that'll just give you a headache.  Stick with the visuals, kid, it's a lot more fun.


Pasqualino Settebellezze 1975 film poster.jpgThat cannot be said about my favorite of all "babylon" type movies:  Lina Wertmüller's 1975 Seven Beauties.

Seven Beauties is what they call a picaresque movie.  Episodic, and all revolving around our hero Pasqualino Frafuso a/k/a Settebellezze, i.e., "Seven Beauties".  He's called that because he has seven very unattractive, unmarriageable sisters, and his role as the man is to keep them all virtuous until marriage.  Meanwhile, of course, Pasqualino's doing every woman he can get his hands on.  Giancarlo Giannini is brilliant in the role:  Pasqualino is a self-obsessed dandy, a wanna-be Mafioso, and a fool - God, what a fool! - and we can't take our eyes off of him.

Here's the basic plot:  Pasqualino kills a pimp who's whored out his oldest sister.  That lands him in jail; he pleads insanity. That lands him in the insane asylum; he volunteers to fight in WW2. And that lands him in hell. He ends up in a German concentration camp, and how our hero survives that has to be seen to be believed.

How everyone who survives has to be seen to be believed.   (To the right is the clip shown at the Oscars.  While I couldn't find it with subtitles, I'm not sure that it needs it.)

Along the line, Seven Beauties expresses ideas about Italian manhood, womanhood, life, survival, and the long-standing difference... dislike...  sometimes war, between Northern and Southern Europe.  This shows up in everything European, literature, art, habits, war.  The Southern view of Northern Europeans is that they live so much in their minds and their jobs that they've lost all sense of nature, of humanity.  As Pedro, an anarchist in the concentration camp says:  
Pedro: But soon, very soon, a new man, a new man will be born. He’ll have to be civilized, not this beast who’s been endowed with intelligence and obliterated the harmony in the world and brought about total destruction just by disturbing nature's equilibrium. A new man… able to rediscover the harmony that’s within.
Pasqualino: You mean, put things in order?
Pedro: Order? No, no, the orderly ones are the Germans. No, a new man in disorder is our only hope. A new man… in disorder.
Meanwhile, Northern Europeans look down on Southern Europeans as a lazy group of hedonists who work only enough to get in a harvest and then spend the rest of their time eating, drinking, and screwing.  They're poor, and it's their own damn fault, they're like rats or sheep or...  Why do you think the Germans enjoyed putting the economic screws to the Greeks so much?  They deserved it.

Look, the real war between the North and the South is, at base, the war between the rich and the poor.  And the poor win because they will do anything to stay alive.  The Commandant of the concentration camp in Seven Beauties says to Pasqualino, "You disgust me. Your thirst for life disgusts me. You have no ideals. You have found the strength for an erection, that’s why you'll survive. All our dreams for a master race—unattainable.”  

Seven Beauties has all of the decadence, sex, and violence that anyone could want - plus a hell of a lot of humor that pushes the boundaries of everything and everyone.  But it also has a thirst for life - a sheer enjoyment of life - that no other "babylon" movie I've ever seen has.  

Seven Beauties, dedicated to:



The ones who don't enjoy themselves even when they laugh. Oh yeah.
The ones who worship the corporate image not knowing that they work for someone else. Oh yeah.
The ones who should have been shot in the cradle. Pow! Oh yeah.
The ones who say, "Follow me to success, but kill me if I fail," so to speak. Oh yeah.
The ones who say, "We Italians are the greatest he-men on earth." Oh yeah.
The ones who vote for the right because they're fed up with strikes. Oh yeah.
The ones who vote blank ballot in order not to get dirty. Oh yeah.
The ones who never get involved with politics.  Oh, yeah.
The ones who....  

Watch the rest of the opening sequence on the right and find out who the others are.

BTW - Lina Wertmüller became the first woman in history nominated for Best Director for Seven Beauties (and it didn't happen again until 1993, with Jane Campion's The Piano) and Giancarlo Gianinni was nominated for Best Actor for playing Pasqualino.
John Avildsen won that year for Rocky.  Lina was robbed.



01 March 2018

The Dark Keeps Rising

by Eve Fisher

It's March 1st, and there's been more than one trouble in River City, a/k/a the United States.  The Florida Parkland school shooting on 2/14/18 left 17 dead.  Back on 1/23/18, Benton Kentucky, a school shooting left 2 dead, 17 injured.  Back 11/7/17, Sutherland Springs, TX, a church shooting killed 26 people.   So much safety.  So much safety...

Many people long for a return to the innocent heartland of America - family farms, playing children, hardworking parents, country cooking, and family values!  And that's all true, along with feedlots (nothing like the smell of cow poop in the morning), lakes that are stinking green with phosphorus fertilizer runoff, and, sadly, home-grown terrorists:

Monson_mugscopy_WEB

The above five people were all arrested in Willmar, MN (pop. 19,610). Police search yielded methamphetamine, pills, cocaine, numerous firearms and ammunition. The firearms recovered included handguns, rifles, shotguns, and submachine guns. They also found homemade silencers, night vision goggles, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, and numerous items believed to be explosive. But wait, there's more! They also found books on incendiary devices and - my favorite item - a strap-on fake penis called a “Whizzinator,” sometimes used to evade drug tests. And yes, there was a concrete bunker and at least one minor child living in the home.  (Twin Cities Pioneer Press)

My favorite local blogger, Cory Heidelberger, looked these up people on-line, and found that Thomas Quimby of Willmar likes to express his Alex Jones, anti-Muslim, White Pride beliefs while Chad Monson likes to post lots of cute Minions memes about killing people.  (Dakota Free Press)  And they weren't fooling:  According to the criminal complaint, Monson had told someone that he had the addresses of a judge, a prosecutor and another attorney and intended to use explosives in or near their homes and vehicles.

Don't you feel safer knowing that this guy - THESE guys - had an arsenal?

636505918771903642 ARTIS KATTENBERG.JPGMeanwhile, our Willmar group isn't the only crazy around.  Meet Artis Kattenberg of Brandon, SD.  She and her son went to a church in northwest Iowa, where fellow churchgoers got nervous when they realized that the son was wearing a bulletproof vest and carrying a gun into the sanctuary.  Eventually a Rock Valley, IA police officer called her to ask about it, and she told him that her son was an "Ethan Bot" (video game, Call of Duty Infinite Warfare), and that "he'd have to get a hold of the secretary of defense."  There was also an intense encounter between the Kattenbergs and church elders, who asked them to no longer attend church.  A few weeks later, two of the church members were victims of drive-by shootings.  (No one was hurt.)
Some of the stash.
Courtesy Minnehaha County Sheriff's Office

At that point, the Iowa authorities contacted the Brandon Police, who paid a call on the Kattenbergs. They found a bunker, with 80 guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition. Some of the weapons were fully automatic. They also had tactile vests, and high end optics that included nightvision, infrared, thermal optics. Captain Jason Gearman of Minnehaha County said, "They've been purchasing $3,000- $7,000 worth of weapons pretty, pretty continuously for every three to five months."  

Now, being the naive young thing I am, I would have thought - I would have hoped - that buying that many guns and ammo every 3-5 months would have registered, somewhere, that something might be wrong...  But no....  (I'm going to get into the 1986 Firearm Owners Protection Act in a minute.)  My husband just asked, "where did they get all this money?" and so far no one's answered THAT question, either. 

Anyway, all were purchased legally, locally, at Gary's Gun Shop and Scheels.  The employees remembered the Kattenbergs, because they talked about being spies, hating the government, having microchips in their brain, and, of course, the fact that the son was actually a warrior from a video game.  You know, the usual stuff.  BTW, the guns were in the 16 year old's name.   (Argus Leader)  

And, of course, the neighbors never saw anything.  "They were inside most of the time. The only time we ever saw them was their truck coming in and out of the driveway."  

In case you're wondering, the charges against the Kattenbergs are: 2nd Degree Criminal Mischief/Aiding and Abetting, a Class “D” Felony: Reckless Use of a Firearm/Aiding and Abetting, an Aggravated Misdemeanor; and Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor, a Misdemeanor. Her juvenile son is charged with: 2nd Degree Criminal Mischief; and Reckless Use of a Firearm.    (Kiwaradio)  That's it.  That's all they are charged with.  

Don't you feel safer knowing these two had a bunker, loaded with guns and ammo?

How long, O Lord, how long?  


Meanwhile, if you need an AR-15 to hunt with, I hate to think what you're hunting.  And other Armalite manufactures.  Did you know that the AR-15 and AR-18 were the favorite weapons of the IRA during the Irish Troubles?  They even had their own song - "Little Armalite".  Believe me, if the Irish can disarm, or "decomission" as they called it, which they did in 2005, anyone can do it, even the United States of America.  (See "IRA Arms Decommissioned".)

Supreme Court Building
Anyway, to all those who claim that AR-15s are their constitutional right - well, they're wrong.  On November 27, 2017 SCOTUS refused to challenge Maryland's ban on assault weapons and assault-style weapons that included AR-15s, which means that SCOTUS agrees that none of these are covered by the 2nd Amendment.  (Reuters)  Nor does SCOTUS see open-carry as a 2nd Amendment right.  Not only that, but back when District of Columbia v. Heller gave individuals the constitutional right to own private handguns, Antonin Scalia, perhaps the least liberal justice to ever serve, said:
"Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the Second Amendment, nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms... 
We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. Miller said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those “in common use at the time.” 307 U. S., at 179. We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of “dangerous and unusual weapons...."  (Heller)
Sorry, guys.  No, I'll take that back.  I'm not sorry at all.  I'm ecstatic that they're not a 2nd Amendment right.  I just wish they were also illegal.  They were, you know: The 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, banned the manufacture, use, possession and import of 19 types of assault weapons, including AK-47s and Uzis. It expired in 2004. The NRA has since successfully kept it from being re-enacted.

Can we talk about how the NRA is registered as a non-profit organization?
Can we talk about how Wayne LaPierre makes $5 million a year?
Can we talk about how much lobbying the NRA is doing, have done, and plans to do?
Can we talk about the way the NRA sends out letters to politicians and judges, asking them to provide - in writing - their stance on guns and the 2nd Amendment, saying, "If you choose not to return a position letter, you may be assigned a “?” rating, which can be interpreted by our membership as indifference, if not outright hostility, toward Second-Amendment related issues"?  (Snopes)
Can we talk about how this is extortion, at the very least, and should be 1000% illegal?

Meanwhile, let's talk about gun laws.  Some people will tell you that we have plenty of gun laws, they just need to be enforced.  Yes, we do and they do, but the laws have also been either gutted or "allowed to expire" (See the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act above).

(1) There are laws that stop convicted domestic abusers from getting guns are strictly enforced.  BUT - there are loopholes!  Oh, let me count the loopholes.
First, stalkers, boyfriends get a pass (you have to have been "intimate" with the victim).
Second, there's no clause about taking the weapons they already have away from them, so if they're already armed, they stay armed.
Third, the law doesn't apply during the temporary restraining order period, which is when most women get killed by their abuser.
Fourth, there's the HUGE problem that military, police departments, and other groups somehow keep "slipping up" on registering people. The convicted domestic abuser who killed 26 people at a Texas church back in November 7, 2017 never had his name put into the national database that would have barred him from buying weapons.  The Air Force - which had courtmartialed him for fracturing his baby stepson's skull - failed to enter it.  And, after the furor about that, the Air Force realized it "forgot" to enter almost 5,000 names of people convicted of domestic violence.  (NBC News)

Looking through microfilm at the
National Tracing Center - GQ 
(2) There's a national registry of guns, and that should always be checked!  Oh, my dears, there isn't one.  The 1986 Firearm Owners Protection Act bans states or federal agencies from building gun registries. That's right, the National Tracing Center is not allowed to have centralized computer data. What they have is on microfilm, without any index. Nada. (Seriously, read the GQ Article, "Inside the Federal Bureau of Way Too Many Guns", and meet Charlie. "They can use pictures of paper, like microfilm (they recently got the go-ahead to convert the microfilm to PDFs), as long as the pictures of paper are not searchable. You have to flip through and read. No searching by gun owner. No searching by name."  Pretty effing useless, isn't it?

(3) Enforce the law felons don't get guns. Except - and you knew there'd be an exception, didn't you?Exception #1:  The 1965 amendment to the federal Firearms Act of 1938 allows felons who want to own a gun the ability to apply for "relief from the disability of not being able to possess a gun." Unsurprisingly in many states (ahem, ahem) they get them!
Exception #2:  White collar felons aren't included in the ban.  And, of course, if a felon get their felony expunged, pardoned, etc., they're good to go.

(4) Make sure the mentally ill don't get guns.  Besides the argument that it's toxic rage, not mental illness, that's behind mass shootings (and I believe this about 99.9%), in order to be banned from owning a weapon, you have to be involuntarily committed - but if your stay doesn't exceed 72 hours (no matter how many times this happens), it doesn't count towards your ability to buy / own weapons.  So you could be involuntarily committed 20 times a year and, as long as you got out before 72 hours, you're good to go.  And Donald Trump himself signed an Executive Order repealing the (admittedly small) attempt Obama implemented to keep people who were getting mental illness disability from owning weapons.

(5) Background checks, background checks, background checks. We've all heard about the Brady Bill requiring background checks.  EXCEPT there's a couple of major flaws:
First Loophole:  Immediately after it passed, the NRA launched lawsuits in nine states to declare the Brady Bill unconstitutional, and finally struck gold.  In 1997, in Printz v. The United States, the Supreme Court ruled that the provision of the Brady Act that compelled state and local law enforcement officials to perform the background checks was unconstitutional, so it's on a voluntary basis. 
Second Loophole:  Gun shows and other private sales - including sales over the internet - are exempt from the Brady Bill requiring background checks and complete forms, sales records etc., since "any person may sell a firearm to an unlicensed resident of the state where they reside, as long as they do not know or have reasonable cause to believe the person is prohibited from receiving or possessing firearms".  (Wikipedia)
Third Loophole:  Background checks only work one way.  Thanks  - again - to the 1986 Firearm Owners Protection Act, a firearms dealer can get electronic information about the purchaser, but the FBI and the ATF do not get electronic information in return to let them know what firearms are being purchased.  Or how many.  Or how often.  Which is why our local crazies Kattenbergs could purchase $3,000-$7,000 worth of firearms every three months and nobody got any red flags...

We have a lot of work to do to get sane gun laws back in this country.

And as for the idea of arming teachers...  Well, these memes say it better than I could:
Image may contain: 1 person, text  Image may contain: 1 person, text  Image result for meme teachers protect students don't get raises credit
Make that THREE deputies who froze.  Which is the point, because you don't know who'll freeze until it happens.
And the 18% is true.  See HERE
And if they arm teachers, will they have to buy the guns the way they have to buy classroom supplies? 
















Another major meme going around is that all would be well if we just restored prayer in schools.  Look, if prayer is going to do the trick, then how come that white supremacist punk shot up a black church AFTER sitting through their prayer meeting?  Or the November 7, 2017 shooting by the convicted domestic abuser in a Texas church which killed 26 people?  And don't forget the 2006 shooting in an Amish school which killed 5 Amish girls.  All of these were places of prayer.

I believe in prayer.  I do a lot of it.  But I also believe that we need ungutted regulations and laws, because the dark never stops rising, and we have to fight it all the time.

Anyway, that's the latest from South Dakota, where I WISH we were the only ones who talk like Mayberry, and act like Goodfellas while the crazy just keeps on coming.



 













15 February 2018

Older Than You Think

by Eve Fisher
"You, hear me! Give this fire to that old man. Pull the black worm off the bark and give it to the mother. And no spitting in the ashes!" - (Explanation later)
The New York Times ran a great article the other day called, "Many Animals Can Count, Some Better Than You".  I am sure that every one of us who has /had a pet can assure them of that.  (Try to gyp a dog out of the correct number of treats.)  Not only can they count - as a female frog literally counts the number of mating clucks of the male - but they can compare numbers.  (Read about the guppies and the sticklebacks.)

But where the article really got interesting was where they talked about that, despite math phobia, etc., humans have an innate "number sense." There is archaeological evidence suggesting that humans have been counting for at least 50,000 years.  Before writing ever came around, people were using other ways of tallying numbers, from carving notches (bones, wood, stones) to clay tokens that lie all over Sumerian sites and which often looked, for decades, to archaeologists like bits of clay trash.

But the ability to count and the desire to count and to keep track comes before tokens or notches, otherwise they'd never have bothered.  And language - blessed language - comes before all of that.  So get this:  they say that the number words for small quantities — less than five — are not only strikingly similar across virtually every language in the world, but also are older (and more similar) than the words for mother, father, and body parts.  Except certain words like... no, not that!  (Get your mind out of the gutter)  Except the words for the eye and the tongue. Make of that what you will...

Dr Mark Pagel, biologist at Reading University, said, “It’s not out of the question that you could have been wandering around 15,000 years ago and encountered a few of the last remaining Neanderthals, pointed to yourself and said, ‘one,’ and pointed to them and said, ‘three,’ and those words, in an odd, coarse way, would have been understood.”  That just gave me goosebumps when I read it.  


Evolution of the cuneiform sign SAG "head", 3000–1000 BC
Development of Sumerian cunieform writing,
Td k at Wikipedia

I admit, I'm fascinated by the past. (That's why I became a historian...)  To me, history is time travel for pedestrians, a way to connect with our ancient ancestors.  So let's zip around a bit, starting with jokes (Reuters):

Sumerian man,
looking slightly upset...
(Wikipedia)
“Something which has never occurred since time immemorial; a young woman did not fart in her husband’s lap.” - Sumeria, ca 1900 BC

“How do you entertain a bored pharaoh? You sail a boatload of young women dressed only in fishing nets down the Nile and urge the pharaoh to go catch a fish.” - Egypt, ca 1600 BC, supposedly about the randy Pharaoh Snofru

The earliest [written] "yo' mamma" joke, from an incomplete Babylonian fragment, ca 1500 BC:
"…your mother is by the one who has intercourse with her. What/who is it?"
(Okay, so it doesn't translate that well, but we all know where it's heading.)

And this riddle from 10th century Britain (for more see here):
"I am a wondrous creature for women in expectation, a service for neighbors. I harm none of the citizens except my slayer alone. My stem is erect, I stand up in bed, hairy somewhere down below. A very comely peasant’s daughter, dares sometimes, proud maiden, that she grips at me, attacks me in my redness, plunders my head, confines me in a stronghold, feels my encounter directly, woman with braided hair. Wet be that eye."
(Answer at the end and no peeking!)

Plot lines go very, very far back as well.  

Ancient Egyptian leather 
sandals (Wikipedia)
The fairy tale with the oldest provenance is "The Smith and the Devil" which goes back at least 7,000 years, and has been mapped out over 35 Indo-European languages, and geographically from India to Scandinavia.  (Curiosity)  The bones of the story are that the Smith makes a deal with the Devil (or death) and cheats him.  Now there's been all sorts of variations on it. In a very old one, the smith gains the power to weld any materials, then uses this power to stick the devil to an immovable object, allowing the smith to renege on the bargain. Over time, the smith's been transformed to clever peasants, wise simpletons, and, of course, fiddlers ("The Devil Went Down to Georgia" is, whether Charlie Daniels knew it or not, a variation on this very, very old fairy tale), and the devil occasionally got transformed to death or even a rich mean relative.  Check out Grimm's "The Peasant and the Devil" and "Why the Sea is Salt".

Enkidu, Gilgamesh's
best friend - his death
sends Gilgamesh in
search of eternal life.
(Urban at French
Wikipedia)
But Cinderella's pretty old, too, and just as universal.  Many people believe that the Eros/Psyche myth is the true original.  The Chinese version, Ye Xian, was written in 850 AD, and has everything including the slipper.  There's a Vietnamese version of ancient lineage, The Story of Tam and Cam.  And there are at least 3 variations of it in 1001 Nights.  (BTW, if you're gonna read 1001 Nights - and I recommend it highly - read the Mardrus and Mathers translation in 4 volumes.  Available in paperback or Kindle at Amazon.)

And, of course, many stock plots go at least as far back as Sumeria, including rival brothers (Cain and Abel), blood brothers (Gilgamesh and Enkidu), old men killing their rivals (Lamech, Genesis 4), the Garden of Eden, the Great Flood (complete with ark, dove, and rainbow), and the quest for eternal life (Gilgamesh).

BTW, most of the stories in Genesis come from the Epic of Gilgamesh, which makes perfect sense when you remember that Abraham is said to have come from Ur of the Chaldees, which was a Sumerian city.  

But back to words, which are, after all, our stock in trade as writers.  Remember above, where I quoted the NYT how you could communicate with Neanderthals by pointing and using number words?  And remember that sentence at the very beginning?  
"You, hear me! Give this fire to that old man. Pull the black worm off the bark and give it to the mother. And no spitting in the ashes!" 
According to researchers, if you went back 15,000 years and said that sentence, slowly, perhaps trying various accents, in almost any language, to almost any hunter-gatherer tribe, anywhere, they'd understand most of it.  You see, the words in that sentence are basic, almost integral to life, constantly used, constantly needed, for over 15,000 years, since the last Ice Age.  (It's only recently that we've lost our interest in black worms except in tequila and mescal.)

Due to the fact that we live on a planet with 7.6 billion humans and counting, it's hard to realize that, back around 15,000, there were at most 15,000,000 humans on the entire planet (and perhaps as few as 1,000,000).  They probably shared a language.  If nothing else, they would have shared a basic trading language so that when they ran into each other, they could communicate. Linguistics says that most words are replaced every few thousand years, with a maximum survival of roughly 9,000 years. But 4 British researchers say they've found 23 words - what they call "ultra-conserved" words - that date all the way back to 13,000 BC.

Speaking of 13,000 BC, here's a Lascaux Cave Painting.  Wikipedia

Now there's a list of 200 words - the Swadesh list(s) - which are the core vocabulary of all languages.  (Check them out here at Wikipedia.)  These 200 words are cognates, words that have the same meaning and a similar sound in different languages:
Father (English), padre (Italian), pere (French), pater (Latin) and pitar (Sanskrit).  
Now this makes sense, because English and Sanskrit are both part of the Indo-European language family.  But our 23 ultra-conserved words are "proto-words" that exist in 4 or more language families, including Inuit-Yupik.  (Thank you, Washington Post.  And, if you want to wade through linguistic science, here's the original paper over at the National Academy of Sciences.)

So, what are they?  What are these ultra-conserved words, 15,000 years old, and a window to a time of hunter-gatherers painting in Lascaux and trying to survive the end of the Younger Dryas (the next-to-the last mini-Ice Age; the last was in 1300-1850 AD)?  Here you go:

thou, I, not, that, we, to give, 
who, this, what, man/male, 
ye, old, mother, to hear, 
hand, fire, to pull, black, 
to flow, bark, ashes, to spit, worm

There's got to be a story there.  How about this?

"I give this fire to flow down the bark!  Who pulls the man from the mother?  Who pulls his hand from the fire?  Who / what / we?"

I was trying a couple of variations on these words, and then I realized that the ultimate has already been done:


"Who are you?" [said] the Worm.  


PS - the answer to the riddle is "onion".  

01 February 2018

Just Another January in South Dakota

by Eve Fisher

I don't know if this made the national news, but the South Dakota media was all over the story of a 72 year old SD man, Daniel Lucas, who snow-birded in winter to Arizona, and who never came back last spring and was missing.  Well, they found him.  He killed himself in his car, they say.  His head was in a box, and his body down in a canyon in Maricopa County.  So how did he get dismembered?  Well, apparently a homeless man, Mattew David Hall. found him in his car, dead, and rather than call the police, he moved the body but kept the head to prove that he hadn't killed him...  And kept it for a long, long, long time...  They say that Mr. Hall has mental issues.  Yah think?  I think the guy kind of looks like Nick Nolte, so there's casting if they ever make a movie of it.

Mattew David Hall


Moving on, we South Dakotans have our own Kremlin connection!  We're so proud.  Paul Erickson, of Vermillion, SD, is a long time Republican campaign operative.  He worked in SD for Trump, and in 2016 Erickson claimed he was on the Trump presidential transition team.  Which is why he sent an email during the 2016 NRA convention to then-presidential candidate Donald Trump with the subtle subject:  "Kremlin Connection":
Image result for paul erickson south dakota
Fun Fact:  Back in 1994 Erickson was an entertainment lawyer
who booked John Wayne Bobbitt
on a “Love Hurts," worldwide media tour.
Subtle, he's not.
"Putin is deadly serious about building a good relationship with Mr. Trump. He wants to extend an invitation to Mr. Trump to visit him in the Kremlin before the election. Let's talk through what has transpired and Senator Sessions' advice on how to proceed."
No one knows if that meeting took place:  Sessions told the House Intelligence Committee he didn't remember the request.

Okay, so Erickson is also connected to Russian gun rights advocate Maria Butina, who's worked for the deputy governor of Russia's central bank, Alexander Torshin, and who ran a pro-gun group in Russia supported by Torshin.  Erickson and Butina formed a limited liability company called "Bridges" in South Dakota in 2016 (I don't know if it was before or after the Kremlin Connection e-mail), which has an address in a Sioux Falls apartment building and no known actual purpose.  (Can't even find it on the web, dag nabbit.)  So - according to McClatchy news outlet, the FBI is investigating whether Torshin funneled money (thru Butina, thru Erickson?) through the NRA to help fund the Trump presidential campaign. The NRA spent $55 million on the 2016 election with $30 million of that going to the Trump campaign.
Gentle reminder:  The reason this matters is that it's illegal to use foreign money to influence federal elections.  (Thank you, Angela Kennecke for your investigation!)
BTW:  Check out this post from South Dakota's own Cory Heidelberger, with photos of Ms. Butina speaking all over South Dakota, including the Teenage Republicans Camp in the Black Hills, where a number of past and current South Dakota legislatures were counselors, or just there for the party.  Including Mr. Erickson...

Our South Dakota Legislature is back in session, and the legislation is coming out thick and fast, and piling deeper and higher.  Some of my personal favorites so far:

HB 1144, which makes it easier for city councils, county commissions, school boards, and other governmental bodies to do their business behind closed doors, especially if they're "Consulting with legal counsel or reviewing on communications from legal counsel about proposed or pending litigation or contractual matters.”  (Someone's trying to do something they don't want anyone to see...)

SB 107, which would repeal all regulations and licensing requirements for barbers.  Can't figure that one out to save my soul...
SB 109, which would repeal the licensing requirements for sign language interpreters.  Can't figure that one out, either...  

SouthDakota-StateSeal.svg
THE Official State Seal
HB 1102 started as a bill to require as much as a year in jail and a $2,000 fine for creating any replica of the Great Seal of South Dakota that did not include every detail specified by state law, including the state motto, “Under God the People Rule.” (See image to the right)

Well, the ACLU and most of us South Dakota smart-alecks had a lot of fun with that (google freely), and it's since been amended to ban renditions of the seal that are “greater than one-half inch in diameter and used for an official purpose or a for-profit commercial use” while at the same time making it clear that HB 1102 does not apply to “or limit any artistic or satirical use of the seal.”  More fun is still being had, because how can you resist shooting ducks?  (This is funnier up here, in Ducks Unlimited territory.)  Google freely.

State Representative Drew Dennert wants to make hunting, fishing, trapping and harvesting wildlife a constitutional right, that "shall be forever preserved for the public good" in HJR 1005, and make "Hunting, fishing, and trapping...  a preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife."  Still trying to figure out the "harvesting" part.  I can just see it now - hunters fighting against farmers in combines in the corn fields over the pheasants:
"I'm hunting!"  "But I'm harvesting!"  And shots ring out...

Meanwhile, a Mr. Levi Breyfogle of Rapid City has proposed a new Constitutional Amendment that would make all "victimless" crimes unchargeable:
"(1) A charge of a violation may only be filed by a victim whose person or property has been physically damaged by the defendant. If the victim is incapable of filing a charge of a violation, a family member may, but only if the victim does not object; and  (2) The damages must be physical, quantifiable, and have already occurred."
(Someone's done something they don't want anyone to know about...)

But enough of that, back to the news:

636523968955778979-DUUlef1W0AEUSO1.jpgLocal News:  On January 24th, in an improbably appropriate move, a woman crashed into the Billion Car Care Center.  Meth, not alcohol, and there were also 2 children under three in the back seat, who were unharmed, and are now "in the care of a family member."  Thank God.  BTW, here in South Dakota, if you get arrested, you get to do the walk of shame in jail stripes., which is then broadcast on the nightly news, and she looked shell-shocked, to put it mildly.  Whether it was the situation she finds herself in, or that she hadn't had any meth in over 24 hours, I don't know.

636004804435050121-aqua.JPG
The photo that launched multi-
million dollar investments...
The latest scam:  Perhaps because they saw the EB-5 and GearUp! rifling of federal dollars, Tobias Ritesman and Tim Burns (long-time Brookings developer) cooked up a new company, Global Aquaponics which was going to be a high-tech fish farm near Brookings, SD.  (check out their website here!)  They were going to grow fish and shrimp in tanks, and use the "nutrient rich" water to grow vegetables.

And apparently there were quite a few people who weren't bothered by the lack of experience in shrimp farming available in the High Plains, because they managed to raise a few million dollars. (P. T. Barnum was so right.) But a year later, while the ground had been (barely) broken, no tanks were being built, and there was no sign of anything but a nice office downtown in which Mr. Ritesman went slightly off his nut one day and wanted to know about Bitcoins while waving a gun in front of a tech consultant. Let's just say that everyone got ripped off, and Mr. Ritesman and Mr. Burns are facing federal charges.

In the "we should have known" department: Mr. Burns was involved in the EB-5 scandal. (Thanks again to Angela Kennecke at Keloland News)   And Mr. Ritesman claimed to have won the same "Entrepreneur of the Year Award" as Steve Jobs and Elon Musk.  He didn't, but apparently no one checked before investing.
(BTW, this proves that there's a reason why Frank L. Baum made the Wizard of Oz a humbug and a conman in his earthly life back in Kansas and other parts of the Midwest.)

National News:  So, no fish, no shrimp, no vegetables in nutrient-rich water.  But we do have radium, at least in Brandon, SD.  Radium, which is (1) radioactive, (2) killed Marie Curie, (3) can occur naturally, and (4) has been in the city's water for decades. It's also not uncommon across the country. An analysis by EWG (go here for an interactive map) found 170 million people exposed to radium from drinking water in 22,000 utilities nationwide.  Brandon's radium level doesn't exceed federal guidelines.  What's amazing to me is how much (and many) poison(s) you can have in your drinking water before it exceeds the guidelines  Look it up some time.  

Well, that's all from South Dakota, where we talk like Mayberry, act like Goodfellas, and the crazy just keeps on coming.

 

My husband just looked this over and suggested, "Sponsored by the South Dakota Tourism Department".





18 January 2018

Death by Fairytale

by Eve Fisher

A week ago, I posted this image on my Facebook page, and Paul Marks commented, "Eve, I think there's a SleuthSayers column in this":

No automatic alt text available.

And he's right, so here it is!

Traditional English folk songs can be history (a little mossy, a little mutated), myth retold (look, everyone really wants to go to Elfland, if they can just figure out a way to come out alive), news (remember when Alisoun got shot cause they thought she was a swan?), and the occasional unique idea (I'll let you know when I find one).  They're all sung in a minor key, and can be very haunting.  That's why they're still being sung.  And why I still listen to them.

But let's break down these categories a bit:

Most of English folk songs have people dying of a broken heart.  "Barbara Allan" is actually unusual, in that it's the lass that's hard-hearted (although she does die for her dead lover in the end:  "my true love died for me today, I'll die for him tomorrow").  Most of the time it's the lass that got knocked up on velvet green and was abandoned who dies of sorrow (and sometimes childbirth).  But there's a lot of broken hearts, and there still are.  For one thing, it's hard to get to a ripe old age and never have your heart broken once.  And sad songs are cathartic.  There's nothing like a good cry, especially when accompanied by alcohol and maybe a group sing-along in the bar...

The amazingly large number of deaths by drowning makes just as much sense.  Drowning was actually a major cause of death in the Middle Ages because:
(1) People drank a lot.  Beer in the morning, beer at midday, beer at night.  Granted, a lot of it was small beer, but there wasn't any caffeine in those days, and the water wasn't safe to drink and they knew it.  And even if it was, they were still going to drink beer.  Or wine.  And if anyone offered them some whiskey, well, they wouldn't turn it down.
(2) Almost every village and every city was built along water, because water was necessary for cooking, transportation (barges were the equivalent of modern semis), power (mills), and the occasional cleaning.  This meant there was lots of water to fall into while drinking, either from the banks, bridges, or well.  You combine drinking with darkness, and stumbling along home after a few pints at the pub could lead to serious injuries and more drownings.  And the Middle Ages were not known for their seating:  it was common to sit down on a bridge or the edge of a well and have a long pull at a noggin, and tip back, back, back...  Well, watch Oliver Reed in "The Three Musketeers" above...
(3) All that alcohol and water gave you a handy place to toss someone you were tired of, whether it was your spouse, your friend, or the occasional stranger.

Cruel wars...  Well, there's still, sadly, a lot of those.  Of course, back then men were often pressed into service at sea or land, against their will, or deliberately inebriated by recruiters and signed up, or ran off to join the wars, any wars.  Most of the sad songs are about peasant lads being pressed into service and never seen again by their own true love...   Sometimes the loved one goes off in search of her true love, but that rarely ends well, either.

NOTE:  The most amazing story is a real one:  "The Return of Martin Guerre" is about a peasant who went off to the wars, leaving his wife and family, and returned many years later and resumed his life as husband, father, peasant and all was well...  until the real Martin Guerre came back from the dead, years after that, and booted the imposter out and up onto the gallows.  The movie, starring a young Gerard Depardieu and Nathalie Baye, is magnificent.

Execution...  not so often, and usually NOT for being a highwayman or a footpad.  Although there are lots of serial killers, then and now.  And there are songs about the victims of said serial killers, such as "Reynardine", in which the lass is led over the mountains by a serial killer werefox cannibal "whose teeth did brightly shine". 

But most are about escaping Bluebeard types in the folk songs, legends, stories, and fairy tales:  a man who marries successive wives and kills them all, except the last who somehow figures a way out of it.  My favorite version is Grimm's "The Robber Bride".  I was fascinated as a child by the three glasses of wine the Robber gave his victims (one white, one red, and one yellow, which knocked them out), grossed out by the dismemberment (read it yourself HERE), and cheering when the Bride cleverly exposes him at the wedding feast, and he and all his band are executed.

Another version of nailing Bluebeard is a very old folk song called "The Outlandish Knight". Flora Thompson quoted hugely from this in her memoir "Lark Rise to Candleford", because she heard it almost every night from the local inn, as old David sang it to wind up the evening's drinking:



"He turned his back towards her  
   To view the leaves so green, 
And she took hold of his middle so small 
   And tumbled him into the stream.
And he sank high and he sank low 
   Until he came to the side. 
'Take hold of my hand, my pretty ladye, 
   And I will make you my bride.' '
Lie there, lie there, you false-hearted man, 
   Lie there instead of me, 
For six pretty maids hast thou drowned here 
  And the seventh hath drowned thee.'


"The Outlandish Knight" is a variation of "Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight".  (See Steeleye Span's version.)  There's a lot of songs about Elf Knights, Elf Queens, and elves in general, and all I can say is, you don't want to go there.

Except you do.  Because it's an incredible place, full of mystery, beauty, glamour, and as long as you're there you'll never get old.  And who knows?  You may be as lucky as Thomas the Rhymer, who returns with the gift of prophecy and poetry...

Nonetheless, it can end badly, unless your true love comes to fetch you, like in Tam Lin ...  Otherwise...  I'd stay home.

And now we come to the last two:

"Wandered off, lost in the woods, and died".  One variant is the Babes in the Wood, a/k/a Hansel and Gretel, who were either murdered or driven out to starve to death in the woods... and do.  (The frequency of these tales can make you wonder about human nature.  Then again, having just seen this on the news, maybe not...)

The other variant is Rip Van Winkle, who drank the wrong wine / ale given to him by ghosts / elves / trolls, falls asleep, and awakens a hundred years later, which means that all his generation thought he died.  While Washington Irving based Rip Van Winkle on a Dutch story, "Peter Klaus", it's a very old legend.  The first go-round apparently was when, in the 3rd Century BC, the Greek historian Diogenes Laertius told the story of a shepherd, Epimenides of Knossos, who fell asleep in a cave and woke up decades later. But it might well be older than that.  There are tales of long sleepers in the Orkney Islands, where a drunken fiddler meets up with trolls, in Ireland, China, Japan, and India.  The Babylonian Talmud tells a version of it.  Who knows?  There are probably some in ancient Egypt and Sumer.  This is VERY old stuff.


Also (imho) old, old, old stuff is "being mistaken for a swan by a trigger-happy hunter."  I totally buy this one.  For one thing, swans used to be eaten, in ancient Rome, in Elizabeth times, and on.  They were apparently a delicacy.  Anyway, hunting them used to be common.  And God knows it still happens, although they're not taken for swans anymore.  Back in November, 2017, a Pennsylvania woman, out walking her dogs, was shot by a hunter who mistook her for a deer.  (Newsweek)  November was actually an interesting month for mistaken shootings:  another hunter in New York shot a brown pick-up that he mistook for a deer, still another up in Hebron, Maine killed a woman on the opening day of hunting season, and yet another hunter in Oxford, Maine shot a man in the arm.  Personally, I'm staying away from the Northeast during hunting season.

Anyway, as you can see, the "Causes of Death in Traditional English Folk Songs" can all still be used today by the modern mystery writer.  Our victims can die of a broken heart, accidents, drowning, drinking (or drugs), execution, serial killers, escaping serial killers, Elf land (think cults of all kinds), babes in the wood, and hunting accidents.  The technology may change, but the ways, and the motivations, stay pretty much the same.

Related image

And you could do worse than to start with folk songs...