Time for another…pointed statement


Okay, this past week has been an amazing one in US politics and US life in general. And some of that was amazing in a very good way. And some of it was amazing in a horrible way.

Here’s the thing that keeps on getting to me: I fought with several good friends over last years’ election. I may have lost some friends over it. I hope not. I know however that some friends have chosen not to see what I post because we disagree so strongly mostly about US politics.

I also know a number of people who thought or believed they were making the right choice last year when they voted for our popular-vote-loser –bully-thief- liar-cheat-coward-racist-misogynist-fake-everything-insult machine-ignoramus-unstable-hateful-fearful- potty mouth in the White House. They prayed over it. They fasted over it. And they believed his lies, all his cronies and the media’s constant, bone-grinding, sickening, sexist lies, or many of them.

And they were swindled and they were fooled by one of the most vicious political campaigns in our history, or at least in the history of the last one hundred years or so. 19th-century politics were pretty filthy too they just didn’t have the internet to spread that filth as pols do nowadays. And it wasn’t just Putin’s puppet, Putin’s asset, Putin’s useful fool who swindled all of us. No, it was the oligarchs, the white supremacists, the Neo-Nazis, the Klansmen, the Koch Brothers, the RNC and all the Republicans who spent MONTHS saying they would never vote for, much less support our un-elected coward in chief.

And it wasn’t just the Republicans. It was ALL THE LIARS, it was the trolls from all directions, it was the liars and the cheats and the sexist so and so’s who couldn’t STAND the idea of a woman President and who, for no sane reasons especially hated the idea of Hillary Rodham Clinton becoming President.  And sadly a lot of those liars and swindlers were in the mainstream media, and some still are; so they had and have a lot of power and influence and they used it, horribly. And it was insidious, and it was ubiquitous and it permeated all political discussions and debates and ‘news’ for a year and a half, from the time Hillary Rodham Clinton had the GALL to announce she would once more run for President of these United States.

They equated her with Bill Clinton, or with this or with that or with a whole raft of things they didn’t like that, in fact, she had little or no part of. They called her a ‘hawk’ and a right of center politician. They called her a warmonger, a rightwinger, a shrew, a bleeding-heart, and a LIBERAL AT THE SAME TIME! They said she was crooked. They said she was a shill for Wall Street, for Barack Obama, for Bill Clinton, and for whatever other wickedness they could invent. They said she engaged in pay for play and in wrongful uses of her flaming, freaking, frigging EMAILS! Heck, they even went back to the older lies about her sexual orientation, her affairs, Bill’s affairs, and the people she supposedly murdered!

Even some of the smartest, kindest people I know had already bought into decades of hateful lies about her. Even some of the most intelligent, most compassionate, and certainly most feminist people I know said they would reluctantly vote for Hillary Clinton if she got the Democratic nomination.

And I don’t blame them. The lies were ponderous and engulfing and unending, the lies went on for decades, and ALL OF that was BEFORE the Bully in Chief came on the scene, politically, again. [this wasn’t his first run, btw]

Well, they were wrong and so were 62,000,000 others. And so were the Electors in that infamous College. And I believe that many of them have come to see just where and when and how they were lied to, cheated, insulted, scared, trolled and bullied into the choices they made.

So I am here again saying, okay we made a terrible mistake as a nation. We’ve done it before and G-d knows we will do it again. And we HAVE TO RECTIFY IT, this year at every election in every town, every county and every single freaking state and territory. And I am going to do everything I can to help bring this country back to itself, which was flawed of course but already great in so many ways before.

Some people are already saying this year we face a fight for the soul of this nation and they are right. The heart and soul and framework and foundations of this country are under deliberate, greedy, selfish, unending attack, and may fall unless WE STOP THESE ATTACKS AND THE LIARS WHO MAKE THEM. WE ARE BETTER THAN THIS. WE ARE SO MUCH BETTER THAN THIS. WE HAVE BEEN THE HOPE OF THE WORLD. WE CAN BE THAT AGAIN.

IF THIS MAKES YOU MAD, okay, if you feel offended, okay, if you feel put upon, prodded, pushed and pulled out of your comfort zone, okay. I’m not gonna apologize for my rhetoric because I think its NEEDFUL NOW. I think we ALL have to get past our prejudices now and fight for what we KNOW is important.

And if what’s happened in this country, what’s happened in this country in the past year scares and sickens you, even better. It scares and sickens and angers a whole lot of us. And we are fighting back. And we will win this fight against hatred and greed, fear and apathy and cruelty and selfishness as we have won these fights before, in our own Revolution, in the Civil War, in all our fights against racism and sexism and abuse of power, against fascism and against totalitarianism, BECAUSE LIKE BEFORE, WE HAVE NO OTHER CHOICE, NONE. NONE AT ALL.


Why So Many Men Hate the Last Jedi But Can’t Agree on Why

Bitter Gertrude

leia.connix.leibovitz Carrie Fisher and her daughter, Billie Lourd, as General Leia and Lieutenant Connix, in a PR shot for The Last Jedi taken by Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair

NOTE: Many spoilers.

My feed (and yours, I presume) has been filling with people, mostly men, denouncing The Last Jedi for all sorts of reasons. Here are a few I compiled out of my own feed over the past week:

It’s too draggy and long
It’s too fast-paced
It is magically both draggy and fast-paced
It’s too much about one family
It’s not about family
The plot is terrible
The plot is fine but the acting is terrible
The plot and acting are fine, but the pacing is terrible
The plot, acting, and pacing are fine but the characterizations are terrible
It needed more humor
It needed less humor
It needed a different kind of humor
Not enough character development
Too much…

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The Work That’s Never Witnessed — “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

Gabriel Diego Valdez

by Gabriel Valdez

“So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

James 2:17

“Now, we are feeling what not having hope feels like.”

– Michelle Obama

After Donald Trump was elected, several people sought me out because of the work I’ve done in politics. They told me, “I’m willing to die opposing him.” I told them that attitude made them useless.

Show up to a march with the idea that you’re willing to die, and you’ll see everything that happens in that light. You’re so focused on the idea of a noble, meaningful, romantic act of sacrifice…that you won’t even think about protecting the person next to you. You become so obsessed with fighting something that you forget that you’re there to save something.

Who do you think builds something? The one there to nobly sacrifice themselves, or the one there who doles out water…

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“This is Not Going to Go the Way You Think”: The Last Jedi Is Subversive AF, and I Am Here for It

Bitter Gertrude

lastjedi John Boyega as Finn, Daisy Ridley as Rey, and Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico in The Last Jedi

NOTE: This post is full of spoilers.

“This is not going to go the way you think.” — Luke Skywalker

Star Wars has always had its finger on the pulse of the cultural fear of the moment. In the original trilogy in the 1970s and early 80s, it was The Man– an evil establishment that needed to be purified by a younger generation. In the prequels of the 90s, it was evil corporations secretly colluding with a corrupt government to create endless war.

Now, in early 21st century America, the villain is an unstable young white man who had every privilege in life, yet feels like the world has wronged him. Unbeknownst to his family, he finds and communicates with a faraway mentor who radicalizes him with a horrific, authoritarian ideology…

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Please, stop the language abuse!

Please stop the language abuse!

Abuse: Noun – misuse, misapplication, misemployment, exploitation. [Webster’s Dictionary]

I understand very clearly and in my own life that the abuse of living human beings and other living beings is far worse, and far more important than the abuse I’m talking about here. Human beings and other living beings are being destroyed in more ways than one by our brutally, constantly abusive culture, a culture that devalues those beings and in fact, as one writer put it, shows a ‘contempt for life that will destroy everything we hold dear’. And it is a wonderful thing to see recently when so many people are standing up against this horrid abuse.

And yet as a writer, I also understand that if we abuse the words we use to communicate with each other, considerable harm can also be done and is, in fact, being done on a constant basis in this modern, 24-hour-news-cycle, social platform, social media world.  And therein lies the point, language is meant to communicate with others, language is the way sentient beings communicate with each other. And it has been used to do that for longer than anyone knows because spoken and symbolic language was used to communicate between people since before there were any alphabets and therefore long before there were any written records.

And even before there were alphabets and written records, language had powers, amazing powers: power to move an idea, or a symbol from one living mind to another and another and another, power to forge understanding between people, even when they use different languages, because, sorry Machiavelli was wrong, translation is not treason, it is a miracle of human achievement, allowing us to go on trying to understand each other.  And what other powers does language have? Good question, glad you asked:  language conveys not only ideas but emotions, not only pictographs, not only cuneiform, not only hieroglyphics, but emotions, sensations, and wait for it, memories aka human histories, personal or national or continental or planetary human histories.

Spoken and symbolic and finally written language allowed human beings to share their lives, their knowledge, their skills and their emotions. Spoken, symbolic and finally written language allowed human beings from places thousands of miles apart to know and hope to understand what other human beings were doing, thinking, believing and feeling thousands of miles away and yes, thousands of years past, too. And speaking of believing, spoken, symbolic and finally written language has allowed human beings to reveal and to share their innermost lives, their spiritual lives if you will, and thereby to inspire and encourage the innermost lives of other human beings.

I don’t know if there’s a greater gift one human being can give or get from another, than that sort of inspiration. I don’t. But I know it’s a powerful gift and a healing one, or it can be. And human beings have been doing all these things and much more with language for longer, as I said above than we have the records to say. And we’ve done a lot of wonderful and a lot of horrendous things with language.

So, what’s language abuse? Glad you asked. It’s the use of language to harm others, to divide us from others, to degrade others for one thing. And its the misuse, the overuse and ultimately the dilution of the words we use to the point where they become meaningless and therefore useless. Because the power of language is the meaning it carries from one human mind to another and another and another. And I know as a writer than the worst thing a writer can know are those times when they fail to share the meaning they wanted and hoped and worked for their words to convey.  And I know that aside from the deliberate misuse of language the second worst abuse comes when words are used in so many contexts, in so many ways, and on so many levels that they lose meaning and thereby lose their power. And for now, I’m going to concentrate on on that second worst abuse, because the worst one needs its own ‘entry’ and very, very badly in these abusive times.

So, how can a word lose its meaning and thereby its power to share that meaning?  Sadly, its very easy.

All that has to happen is for people to use that word in so many ways, in so many contexts that the word and its meaning are weakened, and finally lost. Be patient, examples will follow. All that has to happen is for people to, innocently in most cases, apply a word where it doesn’t belong, where it’s meaning is too strong for the context. All that has to happen is for people to either confuse one word for another or, for people to deliberately misplace one word with another. That begins the process of diluting the meaning, and with enough time, even in this 24-hours-and-you’re-gone, throw-away culture we live in, the meaning is so watered down as to be useless, for the misused word to become literally meaningless.

Examples:   Phobic, which was the subject of another entry and so doesn’t need more exposition.

Alien, which started out to merely mean different, not harmful or evil.

Worthy, which used to mean, worth something or worth respect. Now it’s merely a tag for words it doesn’t belong with at all.

Terrorize, used to convey actions that created terror.

History [if you know me you know this one really ‘bites’,] used to mean what happened in the long past, now it seems to mean what happened yesterday or maybe the day before.

Evil used to mean the opposite of good. Now it seems to mean anything we don’t like or don’t agree with because if we don’t like them or don’t agree with them and they don’t agree with us, they can’t be good, right?

Love, what, are you kidding? No, I’m not kidding. This used to mean a feeling of profound affection of one person for another, or in some cases, one person for another living being, like a horse or a donkey or even an elephant, yes, even an elephant which can ‘never forget’ what should have been forgotten during that other word that history.  But now the meaning of the word love is so weakened, so diluted that it means what like used to mean – a mild affection or taste for something.

Hate, yeah you’re getting it now, aren’t you? Hate used to have a similarly profound meaning and power. Now it seems to mean, I ‘really’ don’t like that/them, it/him/her.

And here’s the word that got me started in so many, many ways I can’t begin to convey, and besides, you don’t have that much time. Really. For sure.

Bullying. Bullying used to mean a form of intimidation, a form of cruelty used by one human being against another, or a kind of coercion, [which by the way, legally is blackmail].

Coercion? Yeah, listen up, because this is where I get down to it:

Bullying means or used to mean acting and speaking against another human being in such a way as to put them in the wrong, or at least in the dreaded ‘minority’, to make them different and therefore alien, remember alien, to make them not-us and therefore not belonging wherever ‘we’ are.

Bullying means using words and sometimes using force to cause another person to do something or say something or go somewhere they otherwise would not, do, say or go. Or that’s what bullying used to mean.

Now, as seen over and over and over again on social platforms and social media, bullying seems to mean merely telling another person they are mistaken, they are mixed-up, they have their facts wrong or [oh horrors!] that you disagree with them.

Now bullying seems to be the catchword for actual bullies, which in and of itself is pretty weird, right? Now bullying seems to be the constant complaint of actual bullies, who are, in fact, wait for it, people with major control issues.

They can’t be wrong and especially not seen to be wrong in public venues. So if you say they are wrong or even simply mistaken, you must be wrong, you must be stupid, you must have misunderstood or misheard, or misread what they said, and therefore, you must be trying to bully them. Sigh. They are so locked into whatever it is they are locked into that they can’t even conceive of what used to be a matter of common courtesy, of respect, in human discourse ‘agreeing to disagree’ with someone.

Here’s a heads-up: If someone disagrees with you, or points out where you might be mistaken they are not a bully and you are NOT being bullied.

Oh yeah, there’s another word that’s practically invisible, practically underwater, these days, courtesy. – Can you see it? Can you find it? Can you understand the idea behind it? No, didn’t think so.

I am a writer and language and its use and abuse matter a great deal to me. And frankly, because of the power and majesty of language, I believe it matters to everyone, or at least to everyone who uses language. But maybe I’m wrong. [Working at not being a person with control issues, lol]

Enough for now, right?

Ronni Caitlin Gabrielle Sacksteder [Harper] [got married a year ago September]





About privacy, really

Probably another blog post, but not political this time.

I’m involved in a number of groups focused on one actor or another, and some that are focused on one show or film, or another. And both types of a group have been around a long time, in fact, some of them are still alive and kicking on Yahoo, so that means they’ve been around nearly twenty years now, which I understand is a long time in current usage.

And the reason for this entry is a phenomenon I’ve seen time and time again in these groups and pages, which I don’t and I never have understood for a minute.  And it didn’t start twenty years ago, more like, I’d have to guess, it started in the 1890s when tabloid newspapers were first established, mostly in the United Kingdom, and later in the U.S. Since those so-called newspapers are the starting point, I call the resulting behavior in groups and on pages involved with various actors, films and shows, tabloid behavior, springing from a tabloid mentality.

Let me give the most common example of this phenomenon before I get any further into this. This is something I’ve seen so many times I couldn’t tell you how many. An actor or actress, and especially if they have passed away, has a group or page devoted to their work as an actor. And while most of the people taking part in these groups and posting to these pages are perfectly satisfied to talk about the actor’s films and shows and if they did theatrical work, their work on stage, there are always people who want to delve into the actor’s personal life, their past, their schooling, their parents, their marriages, their divorces, their personal problems, or the lives of their children.

And this is what I do not and cannot understand for a minute:   I understand why tabloids ‘write’ about these things. They are businesses and they need to make money. I do not understand why people who say they are fans of this actress or that actor, of this show or that movie, and thus the other actresses and actors involved in them, insist on asking about the actor’s private lives? What does any of that have to do with their films or shows or so forth? Actually, nothing. Nothing at all. Nothing.

So why do people keep on demanding to know private things about actors or actresses, things those actors and actresses kept or keep private? Why keep asking about things that are and were separate from the actor’s work as an actor? And what I think is worse, and even more, to do with this tabloid mentality, why do people act and talk and post as if they had some right to know these private, personal matters? No one has such rights, unless the person whose life is being examined has released that information or agreed to its release. No one. Ever.

Privacy is a concept that seems to be on the endangered species list in these times and I don’t understand it. What does it matter to someone who appreciates an actor’s work whether or not they married or divorced or had illnesses, or had children or whatever? What does it matter?

This seemed to come to a pretty ugly excess last winter when a fairly young actress died unexpectedly and the tabloids and the media and the social networks went nuts, delving and digging and pushing and prodding into her private, personal matters, to a sickening degree.

And I still don’t hear anyone offering a reason for it. Why do people think they need or have some right to know the personal, private lives of [I loathe this word] celebrities? If you admire a person’s work as an actor, a director, a writer, a musician, a composer, a lyricist, a painter, a sculptor, a singer, why can’t you leave it at that?

There have been thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of creative artists, some of them performers, some of them not, in human history. If you love or admire their works, why do you need to know what they did when they went home and closed the door? Actually, you don’t. We don’t. It’s none of our business. Literally, none of our business.

Well, I will not participate in this tabloid behavior and tabloid mentality and I will not help it spread. If I love the work of a creative person, and there are many whose work I do love, I’m delighted to leave it at that. I have no need whatsoever to know what they do when they go home and close the door. And if I love the work of a creative person who is no longer here to speak for themselves, I will not stand for their privacy being ‘broken into’ by tabloid burglars or so-called fans, either. I have no need and I recognize no one’s need to know what they did when they went home and closed the door. I will give them and their memory that much protection. So don’t ask me to and don’t pop up on the pages or groups I manage to spread this egregious tabloid mentality. Just don’t do it. Just don’t go there.

Period. Amen.


Now, aren’t you glad I didn’t pick a political topic? Thought so.







I don’t want to call it a phobia

I don’t want to call it a phobia.

I don’t want to call what goes on with me a phobia; because with all the best will in the world, the word phobia is both overused and disparaged. And I think both are wrong. If you use a word too often and out of context, it loses meaning and impact in the language. And this has happened with the word and the concept of phobias. We’ve all seen it, where someone is as [fill in the blank]-phobic. Conversely, if you describe yourself as living with a phobia, you are as likely to be scorned in some way as you are to be helped, or at least sympathized with. I think it’s entirely possible that the above-mentioned overuse has caused the above-mentioned disparagement. That being said; It’s still possible I suffer from what is called either ocholophobia or enochlophobia- a fear of crowds.

What I know is as I grew older, but notably beginning in my forties, I began to have anxiety attacks that almost always surfaced when I was about to or supposed to go somewhere that there would be a lot of people.  Getting ready to leave the house I would abruptly lose a crucial item, like my door keys, or I would have internal physiological distress, or I would ‘just’ be extremely anxious. Before I retired, it was easier to overcome those moments because I needed to and I had an obligation to be where there were a lot of people. When you are needed, or you have an obligation, it is very helpful in that way. You just put your head down and you go or do whatever it is that is ramping up your anxiety. That being said; I became more and more aware of increased anxiety in any crowded or noisy situation.

Once I retired, the main obligation I had to go to such a crowded place was literally to go to the ‘marketplace’, the grocery. And I did. And it was good for me to do it. And for a while, I enjoyed doing it. And even so, I began to have anxiety attacks, much like the ones described above. The crowding and the noise levels of such busy public places gave me shudders and sometimes made me sick. I began to feel as if my phobic reactions were getting worse. They were. At a certain point, roughly two years ago, I stopped leaving the house, except as a necessity. And since then, I have been more and more aware that the idea, just the idea of going to a crowded place with lots of things going on and lots of people talking at the same time steps up my anxiety to the point that I just don’t want to do it. No, saying I don’t want to is too mild. The idea of doing that makes me extremely anxious.

But none of those things are my reason for writing this essay. That reason is the thought that like me, a lot of older, or relatively older people in our society either live with only one other person, usually their spouse or a sibling, or they live alone.  And I have learned what that’s like, over the past thirty or so years. Here’s what it’s like:

When no one else is there, you leave the television on for the sake of hearing other human voices and just for the sake of a low, and thus more calming noise level. It’s not a matter of watching anything in particular, it’s the low sound level. You leave lights on, especially at night, for the sake of, maybe making it seem other rooms are being used.  You don’t go to the door. You might not answer the phone. The noisy, crowded world is on the other end of that phone ‘line’, on the other side of that door. And when the other person is there, some of these things still apply, some of these behaviors still go on, maybe out of habit, maybe because they’ve become comfortable, if not comforting. And when people from outside that environment appear, they are swiftly included or excluded, they are comfortable or uncomfortable.

Obviously, the existence of the internet helps alleviate some of that ‘problem’. You can have the best of both worlds:  Quiet, comforting low levels of ‘stimulation’ and interesting, enlightening, companionable contacts with other human beings.  And G-d help us all if the power goes out or the computer goes to the great computer graveyard in the sky!

I don’t say this is a good or healthy, or a bad or unhealthy phenomenon. I’m just saying I see it in myself and others. And I wonder if we need a more open, public, noisy discussion about it. Because I don’t care for the word phobia.