Monday, November 14, 2016

Dictator Minute

Not enough people know about dictators, but Dictator Minute aims to fix that. Take a minute every day to learn something new about dictators. You’ll be glad you did!

3. Dictators Don't Like Treaties

After WWI, the Germans had this treaty they had to live with, the Treaty of Versailles?

Lots of Germans hated it. It crushed them economically and made Germany dependent on hostile foreign powers for its survival. It was humiliating and unfair, said many. They called the establishment leaders who signed the treaty criminals and backstabbers.

Hitler also did not like the Treaty of Versailles. He called it “the greatest villainy of the century” in Mein Kampf.

"The millions of German unemployed are the final result of this development,” he said in a speech in 1933. Hitler wanted to get rid of the Treaty of Versailles and, a year after he became Chancellor, he did!

Party Tip

Want to be a hit at parties? Read more about The Treaty of Versailles.


2. The Journalists Were Wrong

Journalist Dorothy Thompson initially thought that Hitler wasn’t a threat. She believed he wanted to be a dictator, but, c’mon. Him? In power? She called him “Little Man”; wrote that he was insignificant. She was convinced the public would see right through him.

“Imagine a would-be dictator setting out to persuade a sovereign people to vote away their rights,” she wrote in 1932.

When Hitler became Chancellor a year later, she changed her tune and tried to warn people. She documented the brutality and terror she saw as the Nazis consolidated their power. But it was too late.

Like most dictators, Hitler did not like to be criticized. In 1934 he revoked Thompson’s credentials and threw her out of Germany.

Party Tip

Want to be a hit at parties? Read more about Dorothy Thompson.


1. Don’t Underestimate Dictators

Germany’s leaders didn’t take Hitler seriously until it was too late. Establishment politicians thought they could appease him. They believed that if they named him Chancellor of Germany, he’d have no choice but to fall in line with business as usual. They told themselves that others in the government would influence Hitler and mitigate his power.

Instead, wily Hitler gave himself absolute power through the Enabling Act of 1933! Germany’s institutions failed to protect it from a dictator, as many had hoped. Hitler simply passed laws dismantling those institutions.

Party Tip

Want to be a hit at parties? Read more about the Enabling Act of 1933.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

My Other Hobby

If you think my hobbies are limited to reading about 1930s world history, writing poems to trade magazines, and thinking about maritime disasters, think again. I also enjoy cross stitching.

Here are some of my favorites.

This is the first in what I hope will become a series of safety-icon cross stitches. I call it "Corrosive."

 This one is called "Abu Ghraib." I did it back in 2003, when the story about torture at the notorious prison, where people were kept for years without charges, broke.

Maybe I was thinking something deep about persecution based on religion, but I think I was just struck by the form of the image of the man on the box, wires attached to his outstretched arms.

It seemed archetypal to me back then, like it referenced something more than what it was.

This one is called "Jesus," because it's an image of Jesus.

I'm very sad that I can't find the finished cross-stitch of this pattern.

The pictures and detail I left the same, but instead of the words you see, I substituted "Happen Is Happen" (above the blue flowers) and "Pee Is Pee" (above the beehive)

This was a sort of motto for me for a while. Sadie's dad was a cab driver in NYC for 13 years, and used to tell the story of an Indian cab driver he knew who, whatever befell him, would shrug his shoulders and say "Happen is happen."

If he got mugged? Stiffed? Splashed with filthy water? "Happen is happen."

Then, many years later, I took a rug into the dry cleaners to see if it could be saved. It had been stored in an outbuilding for years and was filthy. The Indian man behind the counter asked me when I brought it in, "Something has peed on this rug?"

"Yes," I said. "A cat." It occurred to me that I really had no idea what had peed on the rug while it was in the outbuilding. Why was I so sure it was a cat? It could have been anything. Would this make a difference? Like, with what kind of chemicals he might use to clean it?

"Actually," I said. "It might not have been a cat. It could have been a dog. Or even a raccoon. Does that make a difference?"

The man patted my hand so kindly and said "Pee is pee." I felt so relieved for some reason, like there was nothing at all to worry about.

So: Happen Is Happen. Pee Is Pee.

Finally, this is my favorite one. I call it "Doxology."

During the time that I was working on this one, I took my co-worker to get a colonoscopy (and it wasn't even Take Your Co-Worker to Get A Colonoscopy Day!).

I had about 3 hours to sit in a waiting room before my friend was done, so I pulled out this project and got to work.

With me in the waiting room were four elderly ladies, probably waiting on their husbands. They were in their late 70s, it seemed like, and as soon as they saw that I, a young whippersnapper, was engaged in a lost womanly art, they became very friendly and talkative.

"Oh, that's so nice, dear," said one of them. "I did not think any young people were interested in that anymore."

"Oh yes," I said. "I love to cross stitch!"

They cooed about this for a while and then another one said, "What is it?"

"The Doxology," I said.

This really got them going. Here is a young person at the gastroenterologist's office, and instead of snapchatting or planning to cohabitate with someone, she's cross-stitching the Doxology! Maybe the world will be OK after all! They all jumped up to come and look, and that's when things went awry.

I have and always have had letter-color synesthesia, a harmless condition where I "see" letters and numbers in color. Here are the results of my synesthesia test, if you don't believe me:

So, technically, I was stitching the Doxology, but instead of representing it using the letters of the prayer, I was doing the colors I see when I look at, think about, or sing it. Like this:

Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise Him all creatures here below
Praise Him above ye heavenly host
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost

Interestingly, two days ago Merrill was screaming and Sadie turned to me and said "That is such a blue scream." Huh.

That's it! I'll post more as I finish them.