hidden_figuresA little over half-way through the movie Hidden Figures is an onscreen date: May 5, 1961.

When that appeared, I practiced restraint. I wanted to elbow everyone down the row and let them know that that was my 7th birthday. But with the self-effacing control of a Catholic saint, I sat still.

I did not scream it out, but here’s the truth: Scott Carpenter became the first American in space on My Birthday!

I remember that day. One of the best birthdays, because everyone made a big fuss over me and gave me kisses and presents in the morning, before school. Then, when I settled onto a seat in the classroom, as we always did, gathered around our teacher and not at our desks, the teacher asked, “Does anyone know what happened today?”

She knew! Bless her, she knew with her magical teacher powers! My hand shot up, and as soon as she called on me I said, “It’s my birthday!”

That wonderful lady laughed and clapped her hands, as if there were no other reason in the world for her to have asked a question other than acknowledging me. She called me up for the traditional fake spanking and pinch to grow an inch. I’m sure I glowed.

Somewhere jumbled in that memory is her pronouncement that America had sent a man into space that day, my birthday, and this was an Historic Day. And I would always remember it.

I did.

I knew nothing of the science behind launching a man into space. Until this movie came out, it never occurred to me to wonder how engineers, etc. managed that feat, even though I worked for the aerospace industry in the 1990s, with a few men who remembered the Apollo program first-hand. That IBM computers might not have been available to them, or might have been less than perfect all the time, were not things I imagined.

And civil rights? The idea that Langley AFB was in a segregated state? The movie mentions Brown v. Topeka Board of Education and states an obvious fact that I truly was aware of: even though that Supreme Court decision was made in 1954, desegregation did not occur right away. Most of us rightly recall that happening in the 1960s.

But did I ever think of segregation affecting NASA? Of course not. Until now.

The movie is terrific, by the way. Lighthearted, even though it deals with very serious subjects. The fact that the three women in it are real, that you can google them and read about their accomplishments before or after seeing Hidden Figures, takes an edge off. You don’t have to wonder, “OMG, what is going to happen now? Is someone going to die?” There’s no spoiler here to say that all three women achieved great things and were recognized as brilliant in their lifetimes.

In contrast, I had watched The Free State of Jones a couple of nights before. Also excellent, also grounded in historical fact, also marked by extraordinary performances. But that movie was intense, with scenes that made you flinch and shut your eyes (I have a low threshold for gore and violence). As my friend pointed out, most of us can’t imbibe movies like that too frequently. We need time to process them, contextualize the lessons, and ponder how such violence stays with us, even into the 21st century.

Hidden Figures is not so intense.  Thankfully.  There is happiness; these women were wives and mothers and BFFs, along with being brilliant professionals.

So here’s my takeaway: I am not happy that hatefulness and bigotry occurred during my lifetime. I am not proud that people I loved in my childhood could not rise above their own prejudices; in some cases, they didn’t even try. But I can be amazed at how much has changed since 1961.

The movie drives home this point: every generation moves forward. The bigots of the 1960s are mostly gone now, and their descendant have largely rejected their blatant racism.

The older I get, the more I see this. We do what we can to solve problems, but a lot of the healing simply occurs as people take their lifelong mistakes to the grave and leave the world to more open hearts.

Mercury’s in Retrograde.

I looked it up: yes, Mercury went retrograde Dec 19 and emerges Jan 8.

But I really didn’t need to look. In the past couple of days, my Kindle stopped downloading, my phone has stopped working intermittently, emails (emails that I forwarded to myself from a different account!) are not being delivered — all weird little communication events that proceed seamlessly most of the time have just tied themselves in knots.

To top it off, I turned on New Year’s Rockin’ Eve last night, just so I could say I watched some of the New Year’s Eve programming, and saw Mariah Carey prance uncertainly across the stage, asking “what’s wrong, guys?” to the techie powers-that-be as her backup dancers improvised. She held the microphone over the audience so they could sing the song. It was a mess. Then another song started, with no better results. I turned it off; I see on CNN that she walked off the stage right after.

Mercury in Retrograde! Not even Mariah Carey is immune!

Whether you believe in astrology or not, there are times when devices just stop working. And the best thing to do is walk away and do without for a bit, then try it again a day or a week or so later. Usually, it works fine. It needed to rest. Perhaps you had negative vibes the first time you tried. Whatever.

The worst thing to do is to keep trying to make it work. You just get more and more frustrated as you move beyond your competency level. You’re liable to really break something then, and it may cost you more time and money. So walk away. Let it go. Have some brie and crackers.

 

 

vol2_cover_largeThis is a pleasant surprise: Chicken Soup for the Soul has included one of my stories in the second edition of their Guided Journal!

I just got a complimentary copy in the mail, and am very happy. Anything that gets my name into print and in front of people is good, right? The Guided Journal is available at bookstores and I guess wherever Chicken Soup books are sold, and on Amazon.

The letter that came with it points out that these Guided Journals are taking the adult coloring book trend to the next level, creating a journal with stories to to saved and shared. They call in a Bookazine.

My story is smack in the middle, and it’s called “Fun.”

 

Trump and Bill Clinton are sassing each other on Twitter. Who cares?

Well, apparently a lot of us. Among the 11 “Top Stories” on CNN this morning are these three:

2016-12-21

I love the second one: Opinion: Why Trump keeps tweeting.

Why? Because he gets three of the top 11 stories by doing so, on a world stage! Duh.

Which refutes the first story: Trump’s still going wrong on Twitter. Whose definition of “wrong” are we using? I think by Trump’s standards (and most celebrities would agree) whatever gets you in the headlines is not wrong, it’s right.

CNN, you’re silly.

I recall this time last year when everyone was saying, “Thank God, 2015 is almost over! Can’t wait for 2016! Whatever it brings, it’s gotta be better than this.”

Yes, and if you don’t remember that you don’t know my circle of acquaintances or live in my world.

So here we are at the end of 2016, and is anyone sorry to see it go?

Anyone

Maybe by December 2017, it’ll look good.

I sometimes amuse myself by going to psychic sites and reading what they predicted for this year, and what they’re predicting for next year. Some psychics predict pages and pages of stuff. That stuff includes an earthquake on every continent and in every country, a  plane crash, a terrorist attack in every city you can think of, serious health problems for every major star over 60, relationship difficulties for all the married ones, and contact from an alien race.

How can they go wrong?

I’m in the same place as I was in 2015 … mainly, behind. But I have sold some books and been to a few parties, so I’m not complaining about nothing. Except that my writing has been sporadic at best. I have posted on my other blog, HistoryLosAngeles, but not even much there.

I’d right now but I’d rather sleep.

attachmentOn December 4 and 5, The Boomer Book of Christmas Memories – Kindle version – will be absolutely free! That’s right, no cost at all. Why?

Because I’m sure that once you see the book, you’ll realize that it’s the perfect holiday present for every Baby Boomer on your list, and you’ll want to get print copies for all of them.

But there’s more! Once you’ve downloaded your free copy of The Boomer Book of Christmas Memories, you can pick up a few other freebies and get discounts to other books, including my historical novel, Death Speaker. 

If you’re a writer, you should know that the freebies include steps to creating a bestseller, ways to promote your book, and some great ways to save money. All the details are here.

So download it and enjoy!

il_570xn-820794337_f4vyAnother new post on the Boomer Book of Christmas blog!

All Girls Learn to Embroider … or else face the wrath of Grandma.

Trust me, learning to embroider was the better choice.

A new post on my Boomer Book Of Christmas Memories blog:
Bellbottoms on the Strip,” about 1966 and the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles.

So I pull my car up close to my condo, blocking a few parking spaces as we all do occasionally here, turn on my hazard lights, and run into the house for my little pushcart, filled with stuff for Thanksgiving dinner at my daughter’s house.

I get back to the car, and notice that someone has managed to pull into one of those parking places that I’m nearly blocking. A lady gets out and walks toward me as I’m lifting bags from the cart and putting them in the trunk. In the back of my mind is the half-formed thought, “She’s probably gonna yell at me for having my car in her way.”

I brace myself and pick up another bag.

She gets close. She’s half my size and about 10 years older than me. And she says, “Can I help you with that?”

I practically dissolve. I think today I met an angel.

 

On November 8, Donald Trump was elected president.

On November 9, here in California’s Westside, a bastion of liberal thought and acceptance, a friend-of-an-acquaintance was smashed in the face with a beer bottle, by a man who yelled, “We’ve got a new president, now, you fucking faggots!”

On November 10, my ex’s great niece, a teen, was followed near a mall in Chino Hills by two white men and a woman, who yelled racist slurs and threats, before catching her, slamming her into a wall, and tearing at her hair. By then, a couple of wiser men intervened, got the guys and woman to back off, and police were called.

The girl, raised here in Southern California, is of Filipino descent. She’s a California girl, has no accent and has never been discriminated against before. She’s a wreck, although I think she’s doing far better than I would under those circumstances.

Also on November 10, at the gym I work at, kids in high school were sharing stories of threats and racial slurs in the cafeteria and halls. You can hear about similar incidents on the news.

All have this theme in common: We’ve got a new president now, and racism and bullying have been green-lighted.

The people that I know who voted for Trump (I know a few) would not behave this way. I think – hope – they are as shocked as I am.

Is Trump shocked? I wish he’d say so. I wish he’d say so as passionately as he barks out his attacks. It might make a difference.

November 9 and 10th is the anniversary Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass. in 1938. That was the night when all the good Nazi’s, who were in power, went on a rampage and smashed storefronts and windows of Jewish-owned businesses and homes, set synagogues on fire, and beat up any Jews that crossed their path. The mother of all hate crimes, if you will.

It’s hard not to draw allusions.