Sunday, July 06, 2014

My Grandmother Voted for Hitler (but I cannot hold it against her)

Aunt Viola sent my mother some family items. If you've been reading my blog, you may realize that my grandfather was Austrian, and a prolific writer. (I've begun to write a book about him.) He wrote hundreds of articles, several books, and lots of personal memoirs, journals, poetry, etc. I am accustomed to certain types of writing from him, such as groundbreaking medical theory and descriptive personal reflection. However, with this batch of items, I read something surprising.

My mother and her family emigrated to the U.S. from Vienna in 1938, several months after the Anschluss (annexation of Austria by Germany.) My grandfather was a Jewish atheist, and my grandmother was a Catholic, excommunicated for marrying a Jew. (As an interesting aside, my grandfather had gotten a girl pregnant in his early 20s and been forced to marry her for the sake of propriety. He did not love her, but divorce was difficult in the Catholic country of Austria. So, he made her convert to Judaism. This was in the 1920's. She had quite a tough time as a Catholic who had converted to Judaism during the German occupation, and went into hiding with my half-aunt.)

Well, after emigration, my grandfather gave a two-page account (which I plan to copy to the internet) of certain events around the time of the Anschluss. In particular, he wrote a personal narrative account of his observations regarding the election of Hitler in Austria. He called in "98% for Hitler." (According to Wikipedia, the margin was even higher:)
"Although he expected Austria to vote in favour of maintaining autonomy, a well-planned internal overthrow by the Austrian Nazi Party of Austria's state institutions in Vienna took place on March 11, prior to the referendum which was cancelled. With power quickly transferred over to Germany, Wehrmacht troops entered Austria to enforce the Anschluss. The Nazis held a plebiscite – asking the people to ratify what had already been done – within the following month, where they received 99.73% of the vote. No fighting ever took place and the strongest voices against the annexation, particularly Fascist Italy, France and the United Kingdom (the "Stresa Front"), were powerless or, in the case of Italy, appeased. The Allies were, on paper, committed to upholding the terms of the treaties of Versailles and St. Germain, which specifically prohibited the union of Austria and Germany."

My grandfather told the account of a people that contained 200,000 Jews (or 600,000 according to Nazi race laws.)

Internet Footprints Disappear....a good thing???

Have 20,000 people really read this site? Why???? Well, I see that all trace of my life has officially disappeared. I googled myself and found that no traces of my former life (before kids) appear online. Only one does (and I won't say what it is) but it was a very minor project that I happened to peripherally take part in. Has my life really been this lame? A lot more job descriptions used to appear. Lately, I read that Google is now being sued in Europe because it keeps potentially negative posts about people online forever. It appears that they are cancelling things here, too. It was in 2005 or so that I was last rather prolific and would have appeared on more webpages. However, none of those appear online. More to the point: what the hell have I been doing? I have two beautiful children (not such a beautiful relationship) to show for my past ten years. Miraculously I have gotten by. I have taken care of an ailing parent. What will be left for me and my legacy?

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Not Working....

This is so depressing. I have to resist the urge to destroy my routine, stop getting sleep, and be totally stay up late...even to drink! I can't leave Lucas in his father's loving but incapable care. He's growing up and needs stimulation and also, hygiene in the morning, neither of which Daddy is willing to provide without lots of guidance and prodding.

The point is that something bad has happened to teaching contract hasn't been renewed. In hindsight, it had to be this way. Well, at least, one could easily have predicted it would be this way. My boss, who has many human traits, did reveal, in a kind of postmortem...."I knew, but I couldn't tell you." In retrospect, I see she has known for a very long time, longer than her innocent comment indicated, because she had long stopped asking me to attend the gifted ed pow-wow in CT which she had been touting in the beginning. (Good...I didn't know how I was going to pull that off with a one year old, anyway.) In the beginning, she put so much faith in me, but after just a couple of short weeks, she had left me almost entirely to my own devices. She revealed that her "outside evaluator of the program" had made the cold calculation that I didn't have enough experience in the field to be the optimal permanent candidate (which is probably true.) I was hired mid-year in a desperate attempt to fill a vacant position for which those with gifted qualifications were simply not applying. (Apparently, there were two women with small children who DID have gifted qualifications, but because they only wanted part-time hours, they were turned down. I guess what happened is I just kept the seat warm for one of them, while my own child suffered :( She also said she needs someone with more "expertise in math and science because that is the direction this position is headed in." I don't believe I was fired or terminated for cause, but it's true I've been sometimes very depressed about the direction of my job, which probably has showed. I used the postmortem discussion as a self-proclaimed "venting session," to complain about how hard it's been to coordinate with other teachers due to their own unwillingness or inability to hand me a lesson plan. Moreover, I've been depressed about not getting enough time with Lucas, about his development without me. I have also become addicted to my measly paycheck, and come to believe I need this stupid paycheck, even though it is clear that I cannot live on it, anyway. Finally, my ears have at long last become inured to the yelling of inordinately noisy middle schoolers (I mean, I have been sufficiently deafened to get through the day with eighth graders yelling in my ear), and I have come to believe that I actually enjoy the adventure of having hundreds of them around daily...well, students and other teachers (my neighbors.) I actually like the work, when I don't have to worry about Lucas (or self-flagellate for ignoring him), or worry about whether or not I am being negatively evaluated because of the absence of any feedback.

I was composed during the meeting about not renewing my contract with my supervisor and the principal of the school, but when my supervisor (whom I rarely ever even see anymore) and I returned upstairs to the lair where I conduct my business, I exploded with blubbering. She has always been a sweet and sympathetic ear when it comes to personal least, when she is not putting on the facade...

Boy, does this really ruin my spring break. For one thing, I might have justified spending money to actually go someplace before, if even to Massachusetts or North Carolina by car. But now, even the gas and the Hotwire hotel are going to be expenses I simply can't pay. Also, since Tom won't want to go, it will be tough by myself with Lucas, or worse yet, with my mother and Lucas (she wouldn't go, though.)

Tom will have to start paying for things again, by the way. I wonder what his job prospects are, really... especially when he is too depressed and unwilling to look!

Man, you know I really am getting depressed when I randomly google the string of name on my student's email address and come up with her myspace page, where she lies and says she is 19 years old. She's really 13. Ugh. What is life coming to?

Is it worth it to have "a life", i.e. a job and pseudo-purpose, if it is so clearly temporary and meaningless??? What is the point of considering a new way of existence, no matter how tempting, such as becoming a "gifted educator"? My supervisor/boss actually put the crux of it really succinctly when she stood in my doorway (for all around to hear) saying, "Boy, sometimes life just opens doors for you....and them slams them in your face!" (Was this meant to be comforting?)

I'm really crying over the job market for teachers as much as anything else. I am "damaged goods" and have been for a few years. What's more, new teachers are graduating with new requirements...ALL NEW teachers in Pennsylvania are now required to have special education certification, according to my supervisor yesterday.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Mostly, I switched to Facebook as my preferred medium of mindless self-expression! Well, it's become mindless, because my real self-expression now takes place during actual face-to-face encounters. This is because I have gotten A JOB.

Who was the wiseguy who actually liked my last post? It was a heartfelt post full of love for my baby, but I realize it was crap! So, that person is quite the joker.

Well, I could use a little more time to discuss my son. I have gone from maternal bliss to working 9 hours a day and keeping him in daycare, because his father is basically unable and unwilling to take care of him. Daycare is a very mixed experience. Diseases spread through it like wildfire. Between it and my job at a school, we have been continuously sick from January, when I started the job, till a few days ago, with about one week's respite. My son has even had to go to the emergency room for croup, and has developed chronic ear infections as a result of a constantly runny nose. He still has infected ears. The doctors are waiting a while rather than rushing to give an antibiotic. I go to the doctor's for him or myself on average once every two weeks to weekly.

I am too exhausted to stay awake....more later....

Monday, August 31, 2009

There's been so much happening that I can't even keep track. Since my last post, I was pregnant and had a child. He is the most amazing person ever. I am bad about keeping track of things.... video, photos, etc. (well, bad at organizing.) Where can I start? Today. We walked. I finally figured out a way to turn the Peg Perego Skate stroller backwards. That thing is a dream to operate but crappily made, and stuff sticks or falls off all the time. My son is so cute!!!

There's no way to explain. He just has the best smile, and he smiles a lot. He's got these amazing curls. He's clever and determined. He loves his toy doggie. He loves his Omama (my mother) and calls for her when we are in random places. He is strong, yet super cuddly. He is chubby but energetic and a great crawler. He is hypercurious and never forgets a thing he has learned. He's so stubborn that sometimes it's annoying, but overall it's great that he is self-protective. He can say "takoo" for "thank you" and though he can't talk to people, he always engages people with his bag of tricks...waving, sticking out his tongue, smiling, shaking their hand, or giving something to them as a present.

He is loving and loves to swim and play with his boat, his toys...and has a great imagination. He is fascinated by books and all kinds of stories. He craves love and is easily soothed.

I am preserving this online because I am painfully aware that computers are very vulnerable to breaking down, getting smashed, getting stolen, or getting viruses. More later.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

US Chess Championships a Demonstration of Mafia Mentality

This arrangement of the US Chess Championships in Oklahoma and low prizes are insulting enough to chess players. Then the Oklahoma chess mafia inserts their pals in the championship as qualifiers. The fact that the Oklahoma champion, not even a senior US Master, is a "wild card" while legitimately qualified player, International Master Bryan Smith, is passed over, is shameful. (I think Ron Burnett also qualified when Smith did, but I'm not certain.) Smith qualified through the US Masters Championship, which was supposed to have been a qualifier for the US Championship, at the time. Later, the single qualifier tournament (which took place in OKLAHOMA a few weeks ago) was proclaimed the only qualifier and the previous qualifier was ignored.

To think that a legitimately qualified player who actually wanted to play was passed over for the championship is very capricious by the organizers. The majority of top GMs who qualified by rating turned down the invitation, by the way. The reasons are thus: 1. the prizes are low and insulting, and may not even justify a trip to Oklahoma and over a week off work. 2. this championship will not be a qualifier for the FIDE World Championship Zonal.

To add insult to injury, Smith will have the opportunity to fight for his qualification one more way- through an online Tournament of State Champions (he's the champion of Pennsylvania)....but this tournament is determined by THREE MINUTE BLITZ GAMES. What genius came up with this format?

Last year, there was talk of bringing the tournament to Philadelphia prior to its having been sold to the chess mafia in Oklahoma. (That's what it seems like- a medieval fiefdom.) Proposed prizes were bigger in Philadelphia. Overall, the prizes, location, and format were much preferable to the championship which ended up taking place at a truck stop in a suburb of Tulsa. Pitiful. The US Chess Federation turned down the Philadelphia bid because the Berrys had cash in hand (about HALF the prize fund of the proposed Philadelphia tournament.) Sponsors had yet to be found in Philadelphia, but since the project had the Mayor's informal support, the success in finding a sponsor(s) was more or less assured. There was a time element involved...but who knows what else, or if someone's palms were greased. Goichberg was President of the USCF, and it's not clear where his allegiances lie, if he has allowed the above-mentioned travesties of chess to occur.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Dick Dawkins is a cool dude

I'm the "DEVIL'S SPAWN"... and joined Atheist Blogroll

That reminds me....the woman who started me out playing cello, Gladys Helland, was my orchestra teacher from fourth grade through high school. I remember particularly in about eighth grade (the time I wrote about below), those few bouts of my rebellion against repression appeared in the form of rebellion in orchestra class, because it was the one place I felt comfortable around others. I was the principal cellist and a star musician. Ironically, it was also the one place where I was also being judged by my teacher, for my combination of Judaism and naughtiness. In particular, one day I grabbed a bunch of water bugs from a sink backstage, and released them onto the stage during orchestra rehearsal! Ms. Helland called me a "heathen" and "the Devil's spawn"!!! She was a religious Lutheran from Minnesota, who was trained in music as an expression of her religiosity, not trained in religion in order to have an outlet to express her musicality (like I was, somewhat.)

I knew that Ms. Helland needed me in her orchestra, and I was not in the slightest fazed by her insults. They did not hurt me, because I was, in fact, an atheist. I marveled at her weirdness, because those statements revealed someone more religious than I had ever met. But, I didn't tell my parents, and even if I had, I am sure they would have sided with her. After all, I released bugs onstage during rehearsal!

My confidence remained high and the experience was in no way traumatizing, because Ms. Helland and I had a good working relationship through the years. I am sure she had forgiven me by the end of high school, when she awarded me a music scholarship. It's all just a frame of reference....we had a different frame of reference-- hers was religious, mine was not. Since then, I have become a teacher, and in a similar situation, I would have reprimanded a student, but not using such colorful language! I would have been a bit tougher, and probably gotten the student suspended! So, in fact, her words were quite harmless and amusing to me.

Yet, the hidden danger in this story is that rhetoric like "devil's spawn" comes to be interpreted so literally by some Christians. It's ideas like this, or calling Jews "heathens," which resemble the idea that Jews are evil because they killed Jesus, or so the story goes... It's ideas like this which cause violent tendencies of some religious adherents to express themselves quite literally against the objects of the insults. Witness what is happening in Iraq! I feel this is an expression of Christian paternalism and general self-righteous sentiment against "heathens," or non-believers in Christianity. Therefore, in this way, any such religious rhetoric is dangerous.

The focus of many of these blogs seems to be that religion is dangerous, because religions (like, say, Catholicism), will never freely admit hypocrisy. Clearly, my teacher, Ms. Helland, was a sort of hypocrite. Institutions which create policy and set a tone for their adherents are largely responsible for violence by members, whether by direct cause or by negligence.

Well...I joined the Atheist Blogroll....hence the list of fellow atheists' sites at right. Enjoy.

Saturday, March 29, 2008


I just sent an e-mail requesting to join the atheist blogroll. This is because I'm about as devout an atheist as you can get. The whole topic of religion has always fascinated me, and I believe that some people who are religious are actually good people. I am a good person....but I just am not religious, and never have been.

The Blogroll lists the Atheist Jew blog. That's not me, exactly, but sort of. I wasn't raised in a Jewish home. My father was Jewish (his family came here in the early 20th century from Germany), and my mother was a Holocaust refugee, who fled Austria for New York in 1938. She was half-Catholic, on her mother's side, so technically, I am not Jewish. The Atheist Jew blog defines Judaism: "A Jew is any person whose mother was a Jew, or any person who has gone through the formal process of conversion to Judaism." I would add that a "Jew" could be any person who would have been so defined by the Nazi race laws. There are those Jews that do not consider themselves Jewish, but would have suffered persecution nonetheless. That anti-Semitic persecution is very real to me, because I've experienced a minor version of it, and I am aware that my mother's family experienced the most intense version.

So, I have no problem with people that identify with a certain religion because, like them, I am not a practicing Jew but see value in identification with that religious group. In this way, to me, religion is mainly a social institution. All religions strike me thus. Even Fundamentalist Christianity seems like a fairly logical life choice if you live in a place like the Deep South, where there is better socialization for religious Christian people. Indeed, a lot of the dialogue and culture focuses on religion. So, if that were my whole frame of reference, I may have felt the same way.

That is the conundrum of religion. Religion provides the most banal, mundane social institutions for humanity. That is the dark secret of religion, which religious people rarely freely admit.

Growing up, I never regretted being an atheist, but I regretted not understanding the religion of those around me. I learned several languages by high school, and had traveled around Europe. I felt as though religious people were just like foreigners, whose culture was yet to be understood by me. This understanding was especially important to me because the great majority of those around me were religious Christians, at least to some extent. My friends and other peers were mostly nominally Christian. The idea that people like me were motivated by religion baffled me. I also felt excluded from social institutions, and wanted to understand how to manipulate them.

As a young child (like when I wrote the blogs below), I was musical. Church was a great outlet for my musicality. I actually sang in a Catholic choir at St. Catherine of Siena church. Church music has always deeply affected me, and it was exhilarating to sing in a choir. I frequently played cello in church musical performances like Messiah and Noah's Flood.

More later......