psychosis

Of the season, and a milestone
art | beauty | business | errors | hard work | psychosis | redemption | Sabin Howard sculpture | WW1 Memorial

Of the season, and a milestone

My latest on Medium Online is “The End of the Beginning: Eight of Sabin Howard’s Doughboys Get Ready to Go Back to Europe.”

I wrote it to share–to celebrate–a milestone: Sabin and his stalwart team have finished principal sculpture on the first grouping of eleven figures from A Soldier’s Journey.

I’m so proud of our sculptors Sabin, Charlie, and “Raymond.” They’ve worked with focus and dedication through long hours and difficult situations.

I’m also terribly proud of our good-spirited models. They also worked hard over the last year, especially during the quarantine months. Everyone has made sacrifices and accommodations for the good of the project.

This achievement is hard-won. It’s sweet for us.

It makes it worthwhile, almost, to have to deal with the belligerence and incompetence of outside parties. They’re a necessary evil. Doesn’t make them easy to handle. I brace myself before every phone call, conference, meeting, and visit. I’m always relieved when contact concludes.

It’s true that I have a particular failing in not tolerating fools gladly. My shrink has been yelling at me for a decade about that. Regarding my lack of patience for a**holes and idiots: it’s not exactly ego syntonic, it’s just not exactly ego dystonic, either.

But back to the trolls. What’s the point of being an aggressive jerk with people who are working hard, in good faith, toward a mutual goal? It mystifies me.

We were actually threatened with a “bloody fistfight” because the global pandemic posed challenges for our shipping plans. Do you believe that? HELLO: THERE’S A GLOBAL PANDEMIC.

And we were threatened after we had formed a quarantine pod, lived together, and worked together, all toward this end: meeting our deadlines.

The “bloody fistfight” folks are petty and unhelpful. Then there are the incompetent folks: “Thank you for your patience while we slowly and belatedly attend to an important matter that you told us about two months ago and then again last week. That matter we assured you was well in hand a month ago.”

Grr.

And there’s the guy who actually tried to tell me what to write. I thought I managed that situation well. I explained that my diction could have been worse. I didn’t tell him to go f**k himself.

It’s frustrating. I’m frustrated. I surmise that everyone living within a 75 mile radius of Washington DC is some species of awful. People far from the Beltway incorrectly assume that one political party is awful and the other is okay, depending on their personal predilections, and which media they allow to them what to think. It’s actually far more widespread than that. The whole DC area is toxic. Political party doesn’t matter.

The sole exception is our brilliant attorney. But he’s from the heartland and he lived in Germany for a while. He hasn’t been spoiled with the DC power-lust.

And so this is difficult for me. And yet, and yet… Sabin and the team have completed the first 28% of A Soldier’s Journey, and it’s beautiful. Uplifting, gripping. My husband’s skill is amazing. I’m so proud of him and so proud to have served the process in my way.

Factual Error in The New Yorker: Is this how fake news starts?
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Factual Error in The New Yorker: Is this how fake news starts?

Factual error in the New Yorker: I write this post not just for myself, but for all women whose ideas were misattributed to a man, and who were told to leave it be and not to rock the boat.

New Yorker Factual Error

My husband Sabin Howard is making a national memorial, the National World War I Memorial.

He began with drawings. He drafted several iterations of a relief that would tell the story of the Great War.

One morning over breakfast, he was talking about the design and showing it to me.

“My goodness,” I said. “You’ve got Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey there.”

Sabin said, “Explain that?”

So I did. As a novelist, I’ve worked with Campbell’s ideas for years. For the purposes of storytelling, the beats of the hero’s journey are useful and important. I’ve been so entranced by Campbell’s work that I’ve talked about getting a PhD in it.

And so, with my explanation over coffee and scrambled eggs, began a critical and oft-repeated piece of the story around the WWI Memorial. The Hero’s Journey connection has been publicly broadcast, by Sabin and by others associated with the Memorial, including PR people.

This is my contribution to this worthy endeavor and I’m proud of it.

Sabin is an honorable man. He consistently credits me with telling him about Joseph Campbell. He says, “My wife told me about the Hero’s Journey…” in every public venue where he’s spoken–including at a meeting of the Commission on Fine Arts in Washington DC.

In the worlds of literature and academia, claiming credit for someone else’s work is called plagiarism. Sabin is well aware of that. He is extraordinarily brilliant, but I was the one who came up with the Hero’s Journey.

The idea is to give credit where credit is due. As a matter of integrity–don’t take credit for other people’s work. Sabin doesn’t. He’s honorable.

Then came a big opportunity: The New Yorker magazine decided to do a Talk of the Town piece on Sabin and his sculpture at the New York Academy of Art.

The publicist for the NYAA was happy and excited. She had done a great job! This piece would add luster to the NYAA, to Sabin, who was showing the WWI Memorial Maquette at the NYAA, and to the Memorial itself. This was a coup!

Sabin was happy. Despite the extraordinary–unparalleled–quality of his work, he has struggled for acceptance here in the New York art world.

“A prophet is not recognized in his home town,” I tell him.

The Talk of the Town piece went live online yesterday.

It contained a factual error:

“I realized, Oh, my God, this is like Joseph Campbell’s ‘the hero’s journey,’ ” Howard said. “It’s a very simple story that everybody in every single culture has experienced.”

Sabin was out when I texted him about the error. He stepped away from a meeting to contact the publicist at the NYAA and ask for the article to be corrected for factual accuracy.

Here’s where the story gets interesting.

The NYAA publicist was less than enthusiastic about the update. She forwarded the request to the writer at The New Yorker.

Then she emailed back, “Anna…consulted with the fact-checking department on the request, and they feel since the piece doesn’t go into “how” the realization was made, it should stay as is.”

This is disingenuous. Sabin was directly misquoted and asked for his words to be represented correctly. He always says, “My wife said, “This is Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey.”

The New Yorker‘s misquote creates a factual error in the piece.

Sabin and I continued to push for accuracy. Sabin felt it was an injustice that his words were manipulated and that he was misquoted.

The NYAA publicist responded with increasing unpleasantness. She even told Sabin, “The story wasn’t pitched to The New Yorker as a piece about you and Traci.”

I emailed her,

Adding the words, “My wife remarked…” certainly does not make it a story about me and Sabin. Three words could not do that in a piece of this length. It does, however, become factually correct. It gives the piece an integrity that it currently lacks. Whether or not the magazine is attempting to be vindictive, they are acting in a way that has become a sore point with the parties involved. The magazine has been informed of a misquote and has chosen, this far, not to correct the piece.

The publicist was so appalled that I would continue to stand up for myself and my ideas that she got the head of the New York Academy of Art to email Sabin to tell me to back down.

Is that how the NYAA chooses to behave: by attempting to bully women who are standing up for their contributions? By attempting to get an authority to squelch the quest for accuracy and integrity? Women applying to the New York Academy of Art: BEWARE!

Regarding The New Yorker, here are my questions:

Is this how fake news starts: with journalists twisting subjects’ words any way that pleases them, and being unwilling to correct their piece when told about the error?

If The New Yorker makes a mistake and doesn’t correct that error because of specious and disingenuous reasoning, how is this publication any different from the fake news outlets they descry?

It’s disappointing that a venue that lauds its own integrity isn’t showing its integrity.

And there’s one more wrinkle in this sordid story. That is, there’s a concern about vindictiveness. The NYAA publicist and the head of the NYAA wanted us to stand down for fear that we would alienate people who had “been on our side.”

The NYAA publicist wrote us,

No press will be inclined to write on Sabin again, because it appears that he goes and attacks press who cover him. In addition, “fake news” is very inflammatory language to use and the New Yorker takes accusations like that extremely seriously – they have to, because of their political journalism. Claiming that the New Yorker is publishing fake news will attract a lot of unpleasant attention to you.

It’s a craven concern, but a real one. In today’s world, with its emphasis on expedience, the press might just step away from a subject who insists that his words be accurately represented.

Sabin said to me, “The New York Academy of Art will never work with me again because of this.” In order to uphold his personal integrity, he himself has to make a personal sacrifice that directly affects his career.

And so…I write this blog post for myself, for all women whose ideas have been misattributed to a man and were told to leave it be and not to rock the boat, and–come to think about it–for all the wives who are the unsung heroes supporting their husband.

Sabin Howard and Traci Slatton

Sabin Howard WWI Memorial relief drawing

Snooty Rich Women Are Everywhere, Including New Zealand
dystopian | errors | psychosis | redemption | vulnerability | wholeness

Snooty Rich Women Are Everywhere, Including New Zealand

Snooty rich women are everywhere, including New Zealand

Places change but people don’t.

A recent trip to Wellington showed me the commonality of human traits, especially foibles. In a land where people pride themselves on being non-materialistic and friendly, I got to experience the same self-aggrandizing arrogance that I see in New York city.

Here in the Big Apple, my daughter attends an excellent school. Many of the students are the privileged scions of Masters of the Universe. Now, most of the kids are lovely people, and most of the parents are lovely and congenial. There are many kind, decent people who happen to be wealthy. Even enormously so.

And then there are the moms who’ve known me for the eight years since our children were in kindergarten together–and they still look at me every time they see me as if they’ve never met me before.

What makes them so special? It mystifies me.

An experience last fall illustrated this point. My daughter was doing a project with another girl at the girl’s house. I went to pick up my daughter. I stood in the entry foyer of the 20,000 square foot, marble-floored Park Avenue apartment, waiting. It became clear that the girls were finishing slowly. Reluctantly, the mom invited me in. She spent the next half-hour talking exclusively about herself. She didn’t pause in her self-recitation to ask one single question about me.

I walked out laughing, because, really, such enormous self-absorption is funny.

Cut to Wellington, New Zealand, where my husband worked for six months. Our daughter spent a month with him, attending school there. It was a great adventure for her to see how Kiwis live and to immerse herself in another culture for a month.

But people are people in all cultures.

My husband’s landlady had hosted my daughter every day for the month of August when she was there; she would climb 20 yards up the hill to their house and play with their daughter. The landlady and her husband, an enormously successful entrepreneur, hosted my husband for dinner twenty times. But when I arrived, they pretended I didn’t exist.

It is true that they, along with several other people in Wellington, were trying to break up our marriage. I overheard the husband on speakerphone dissing our marriage before we returned to New Zealand together for my husband to finish his work.

I spent some weeks with my husband in Wellington. No word from the rich folks up the hill who had been so inclusive to my daughter and my husband.

The last week, I bought a pastry and climbed the hill and introduced myself to the rich lady. I gave her the pastry and said, “I’d like to thank you for your kindness to my daughter and my husband.”

She spent the next fifteen minutes talking about herself.

I took my leave and climbed back down to the house my husband had rented, thinking I had found a snooty Park Avenue lady in Wellington, NZ.

I felt badly for my husband, because he had actually considered these people friends. Their treatment of me, his wife, proved that they weren’t. In the eyes of God and the law, he and I are one person. How people treat me is how they are treating him. He had a day of heart-ache about it. Then he let go of those snooty folks.

It is hurtful when people treat me badly. I feel pain and sadness when people are nasty to me.

Because of the 9000 mile separation, and because of other issues before he left to do the project, my husband and I had reached a dark place in our marriage. He had vocalized his upset to people in Wellington. In the short time he was there, he had reached out to many people and built a community for himself.

It was clear to me that his real friends were the people who welcomed me. The people who truly cared about him were the ones who said, “Fix your marriage. You’ve been nearly 20 years with your wife. You have a child with her.” These are the people who were able to take a nuanced view of what he said, the people mature enough to understand that there are two sides to every story. Those were the people who value marriage and who understand that a long marriage goes through long cycles, and that the imperative is to return to the marriage and to work at it until you fall back in love with your spouse.

It would have been wonderful–and I think correct–if the wealthy people up the hill had invited me for a drink within a few days of my arrival. It would have been kind and humane.

Of course, I know that how people treat me is a reflection of them, not of me. Their behavior reveals them. It’s not about me at all.

But I still felt hurt to be treated so shabbily. Wellington, New Zealand, left my heart with some scars that won’t heal quickly.

For the image for this blog piece, I have selected an image of myself. This was taken in Paris last year. A writing partner whom I love took this photo. It goes along with this post because in the picture, I am vulnerable.

Sociopaths
anarchy | criminal behavior | evil | psychosis | special | vulnerability

Sociopaths

A man I know got involved with a sociopath, woke up to it, and is finally divesting himself of this person. It’s not easy, of course. Those people don’t want to be divested.

By ‘sociopath’ I mean an empty shell of a person who uses flattery, cajoling promises, manipulation, deceit, backstabbing, and slimy, underhanded maneuvering to insinuate themselves into other people’s lives, all while accomplishing absolutely NOTHING and giving NOTHING back. This person is an energy vampire, the kind of bloodsucker who leaves other people feeling exhausted and debilitated.

This person stayed in our home and I was horrified at how this person sucked my energy.

This person’s entire game is to talk, talk, talk while NOT moving ahead. The image is of a car stuck in the mud. This person is standing by the car, watching the wheels spin uselessly–and then acting like a spider with a sticky web to catch people so they are forced to watch the tires spin, too.

It was debilitating to be in this person’s presence. Even when the flattery for me was spun, I was put off. I didn’t fall for it for one second. It was all I could do to keep a straight face–this person was a guest in my home, I was NOT going to be confrontational.

Months ago I said, “Don’t you see, this person uses flattery to get in and makes promises that fall flat? It’s all talk. It’s all bullshit. It’s all empty dreamy spin doctoring. Nothing is ever accomplished. Nothing ever comes through. It’s all failure draped in sweet dreamy words.”

I had my own experience with a borderline personality disorder/sociopath last spring so I was extra sensitive to the behavior. Unfortunately, the man used that experience to dismiss my concerns.

But I wasn’t the only concerned individual. A person who knew the sociopath personally and lives in the same community called the man. This person said, “Look, there’s stuff going on that makes me uncomfortable. I think you should be aware. I think this person is insinuating themselves into your business in unwholesome ways. I think this person wants to control your business. Be aware.”

Other people commented, noting the oddities and inconsistencies in the sociopath’s rendering of things. This person was clearly distorting conversations that pertained to the man, and was clearly using the man’s work as a means to ingratiate themselves into the good graces of well-known people.

It was obvious. And slimy.

But the man didn’t want to see it. Perhaps he couldn’t. One of this man’s best qualities is that he is a straight arrow: No games ever. No mental manipulation. No bullshit. What this man says he will do, he does–no more, no less. He is absolutely straightforward that way. There are no hidden agendas. What you see is what you get with him. He says what he means and he means what he says. There’s no guessing involved.

It was a great relief to me to deal with someone so straightforward after being married to a major game player. Life is too short for power hungry game playing that insecure people engage in as a means of pumping up their self image.

But this man’s kind of honesty has its pitfalls, too. Namely, not seeing when other people aren’t as honorable, aren’t as straightforward. A kind of childish naiveté that insists on believing that everyone else is as straightforward and decent as he is.

But then it became so egregious that even this man had to see what other people and I had been trying to tell him.

Unfortunately, the situation is ever more complicated. The sociopath is involved with a person who is making introductions for the man–and who obviously has romantic feelings for the (married) sociopath.

Life is complex. Dealing with these untrustworthy, underhanded persons isn’t easy.

Sociopaths

 

Citizenfour: The Most Important Movie You Will Ever See
anarchy | criminal behavior | dystopian | evil | freedom | horror | movies | politics | psychosis | review | special | terrorism | vulnerability

Citizenfour: The Most Important Movie You Will Ever See

I recently finished a WWII novel, and I’m still researching the era for another, very different novel set during the same time period. Since one of my closest friends is a Bavarian woman whom I know to be a person of integrity, heart, courage, compassion, and grace, I was curious: how did the NSDAP come to control Germany so completely that its citizens would commit atrocities? So that atrocities would be legalized?

Part of the answer lies in the fact that the NSDAP under Adolf Hitler legalized the illegal. They made laws to force their citizens to participate in the killing of Jews, Poles, the Romany, Socialists, Communists, and anyone who disagreed with the Nazi party. They made laws to enforce the killing and sterilization of children and adults with physical “imperfections” such as mental retardation.

So the Nazi party in Germany created a legal system based on hatred and killing. To enforce this legal system, they instituted a series of Party overseers, one in every community, to make sure that people remained “Loyal” to the party. This was the state police, the Gestapo. The Gestapo surveilled every German citizen, collecting vast files of information about German individuals. There was no “privacy” because the German State was everything.

Every dictatorship surveilles its population as a method of controlling its subjects. This is pointed out in CITIZENFOUR, Laura Poitras’ film about Ed Snowden.

Admittedly, from the beginning, I have considered Snowden a hero. There is no justification for the massive, George-Orwell-1984-Big-Brother spying on citizens in which the United States intelligence services participate. It is an outright breach and invasion of privacy, ethics, and all things good and true.

Our government, the United States government under Barack Obama, is participating in–perhaps perfecting–the exact same tactics employed by Hitler and the Nazi party: Watch every citizen. Scrutinize every private individual. Know what every single person in the State is thinking, saying, and doing. It’s all about information linking, you see.

I know this because I have been researching the Gestapo.

I happened to be at a showing of Citizenfour at Lincoln Plaza after which Poitras appeared for a Q & A. No, she doesn’t know if she’s been followed, but she expects that the US Government would use skilled personnel to follow her. She has been told that all her electronic communication “lights up like a Christmas tree” in the offices where electronic communication is collected and followed.

Poitras was composed, articulate, and expressive. She said that Snowden was exactly as portrayed in the movie: articulate and collected, trying to teach her, Glenn, and Ewan what was most important in the information he gave them.

Some people consider Snowden a traitor. Consider the White Rose in Germany, which consisted of students at the University of Munich and their professor. They had an anonymous leaflet and graffiti campaign to inform the German public of what was actually being done to Jews and to call the Nazi government to question.

Here is what Wikipedia says of them:

White Rose survivor Jürgen Wittenstein described what it was like to live in Hitler’s Germany: “The government – or rather, the party – controlled everything: the news media, arms, police, the armed forces, the judiciary system, communications, travel, all levels of education from kindergarten to universities, all cultural and religious institutions. Political indoctrination started at a very early age, and continued by means of the Hitler Youth with the ultimate goal of complete mind control. Children were exhorted in school to denounce even their own parents for derogatory remarks about Hitler or Nazi ideology.”

The White Rose was considered traitorous, too. So they were executed.

And “Ultimate goal of mind control” can only be the reason for the NSA’s total surveillance of the American population, including hundreds of millions of completely loyal American citizens.

How long before the US government insists on the same kind of control? All in the name of “protecting” American citizens from terrorists?

Just as the Gestapo was protecting German citizens from Judeo-Bolshevik enemies.

The most important concept in the movie was one that Snowden articulated: that the NSA’s actions change the balance of power so that it’s not elected-officials and electorate, it’s now rulers and those who are ruled.

See the movie. Think about the United States government, which is acting like a bully and a dictatorship.

Citizenfour

 

 

Supporting Sam Harris
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Supporting Sam Harris

I took a year of Arabic as an undergraduate at Yale. Along with the language, we also discussed the culture of the Arab world. This was the mid-80’s, so liberal sanctimony didn’t have quite the stranglehold on conversation that it now exerts–even at Yale. We were allowed to discuss things like the terrible oppression and enslavement of women in Islam. We were allowed to consider that oppression wrong.

At the same time, I was the only woman in the class. There were undercurrents of, first, curiosity: Why would a woman study Arabic? And then there was contempt: She must be an idiot to do so. I skipped class regularly, being unable to deal with it. At that time, being naive, I was unable even to articulate to myself how bad it felt to be the target of such jeering condescension.

I realized years later that I had taken the class because of an archetype whom I admire: Scheherazade, the resourceful and intelligent woman of unending stories. There was something in that archetype for me, who would one day be a prolific novelist. My final project was a translation from “One Thousand and One Nights.” I worked hard on the story and pulled off a “B” despite my spotty attendance record and near inability to speak in class because of the sneers I encountered.

Because I have a background in the topic, I understand what Sam Harris is saying: Many individual Muslims are good people, but the faith itself is based on a book and teachings that directly lead to intolerance, the demeaning and enslavement of women, and violence.

That’s my interpretation of Harris’ message. When he says, “…One can draw a straight line from specific doctrines in Islam to the intolerance and violence we see in the Muslim world” in his blogpost “Can Liberalism Be Saved from Itself?”, Harris is correct. He’s not acting in a racist, Islam-hating way. He’s witnessing a truth that must be uttered.

Now he’s written a post about the defamation campaign to which he has been subjected, “On the Mechanics of Defamation.” His words are being taken out of context and twisted to make him appear evil. It’s dreadful, and the people who are doing it ought to be ashamed.

I have some experience in what it is to be the subject of a smear campaign. Someone from my past has gone to a great deal of trouble to distort everything I have ever done or said to make me out to be a bad person. He is obsessed with his vendetta, and he carries it on while stalking my blog and reading my posts obsessively, at all hours of the night and day, from different locations.

So I have some sympathy for what Harris is going through now, on many levels. He’s telling the truth and being scorned, castigated, and defamed for it.

The thing is, there is no reasoning with malice. Harris is trying to present a rational thesis to irrational people: knee-jerk liberals.

I have never met more close-minded, self-certain, impregnable-to-logic people than knee-jerk liberals. Especially since Obama took office, their sanctimony and self-righteousness has become a bell jar bulwark against any kind of reason or logic.

I voted for Obama the first time. However, I grew disillusioned. I believe in women’s rights, reproductive freedom, gay rights, social justice, and gun control. So far, OK.

But I also believe in citizen privacy, supporting and encouraging small American businesses (not Wall Street and not Socialism), supporting Israel, accountability and oversight for multi-national corporations that function as sovereign nation-states, and getting the Health Insurance companies to pay for universal Health care (not the states).

I also find it extraordinarily hypocritical that Obama’s tactic is to rally people against “the Have’s” when he has taken more vacations, and more expensive vacations, and played more golf, than any president in history. So many of his supporters are the Limousine liberals of Wall Street, which may be why he bailed them out.

Whenever I have been asked by liberals, “Why don’t you like Obama?” I answer with the aforementioned reasons–citizen privacy, etc–the lengthy list of policies and presidential actions with which I do not agree. Inevitably, the liberals tell me, “You are racist.”

I provide a rational explanation that has nothing to do with the pigment in President Obama’s skin, but knee-jerk liberals can’t hear the logic. They reflexively answer with their standard dismissal of all criticism for Obama: “You are racist.”

Racism is a great social evil. It’s as bad as the misogyny in traditional Islam. I stand for the dissolution of racism and misogyny. Yes, I am equating them. Shouldn’t anyone who believes in social justice do so?

Back to Sam Harris. I support his intelligent, reasonable words and I support his right to speak them. I just doubt he’ll get anywhere with them. For one, traditional Muslims don’t want to hear what he’s saying. The many peace-loving, good Muslims are probably a bit ashamed of the intolerance, bigotry, and violence–and they perhaps feel at a loss for what to do about it. After all, the necessary end to an insistence on purity is terrorism, and Islam insists on purity.

For two, knee-jerk liberals can not hear or receive Harris’ message. They are closed and unavailable to discourse. They do not want to do the research and see truthful implications. They are just about solely interested in promoting their own ideology.

But I hope Sam Harris doesn’t give up. I hope he keeps defending himself and stating his views. I support what he says.

Sam Harris