Miss Pym and a Friend

Miss Pym and a Friend

Monday, February 5, 2018

Time's Been Up for Women who are Working Stiffs

Time’s Been Up, and this post is also on LinkedIn.
You’d have to live in a very, very subterranean cave to have missed the new stories on sexual harassment against women, particularly in the entertainment industry. Yet, some of us have been experiencing this type of behavior for years.  I’m not a movie start, nor am I a beauty queen.  Yet, I’ve had all kinds of negative occurrences with men professionally, or academically.  In junior high and high school, the pervading atmosphere was boys will be boys.  Complaining about being grabbed or having your bra snapped made you, well, “one of those.”  In fact, when I worked in California law firms, I was accused of being “one of those” because I complained another associate was looking down my blouse and making comments.  When I worked in the courts, I was starry-eyed and professionally impressed by the judges who were my superiors.  Then I found out about the behind-the-bench affairs taking place after hours.  My naïveté protected me; one of the younger, newer, good looking but very serious judges used to come down early in the morning to the law library, my workplace.  No one else was there yet, just me.  He said he wanted to talk about cases.  I found out later, well, that he was a case.  Marriage didn’t stop him from chatting up others in the court house.  He wasn’t alone, either.  
Then, of course, there was law school and graduate school.  We ended up having university rules about dating students because so many linked up with their profs. The rest of us actually had to study.  So, yes, the atmosphere of “romance” affected opportunities for me and the others who didn’t get invited to out of town “study” weekends, or who didn’t go to drinking parties that morphed into engagement parties. By the time I graduated, I had school mates who wanted to hook me up with one of our professors.  I declined, but many others didn’t.  It was one way to get a job, I guess.  We have legal clerkships and academic internships, while others have casting couches and auditions.
Back up a bit to college; another summer work study kept inviting me into his van.  I didn’t accept his invitation.  Thereafter, he was rude and standoffish. If I’d thought if it, I would have written a bad song.  Other men felt they had the right to comment about my figure, make up, clothes, ethnicity, “Greek girls are hot!” and my intellect.  I might have been an A student and in Phi Bet Kappa, but some subjects were too “hard” for me, especially in math and astronomy, or so one male co-worker explained to me. How very kind of him.
While I was a teacher, I had students who wrote strange love notes, some graphic.  I ignored them. If it got very bad, like the young man who followed me around trying to intimidate me over a grade, or the male stripper who kept grabbing his privates in front of me, I went to the dean.   I put off one persistent flirt with “don’t be weird.”  That seemed to work.  Colleagues were harder.  One young man had a reputation for asking out the women at the office, including me.  He also liked to pick up girls in bars. When he had a little too much to drink, he knocked them around.  We knew about his behavior; I complained one day.  He asked me to leave my office so he could go in to remove his pants. No kidding; he wanted to go roller blading in the middle of the day.   At least the senior partner took after him that time and chastised him, but that was rare.  The blue jokes were part of the office culture.  We also had one senior employee comment that the poster in the lounge explaining Title VII was “just the rule book.”  Later on, in schools, I had supervisors who would hunt out a woman to shout at whenever a man did something wrong.  Men were never screamed at or verbally abused, only women.  At reviews, we learned our paperwork had to be “sexier.”  Officers I knew and worked with made lots of fun comments about female victims in stalking cases and their dating preferences.  Men were allowed to demean women by calling them by their first names, even after the women requested they be addressed professionally, by their well-earned titles. Men were promoted over women unfairly; if a woman complained, she was told she was being too personal and emotional.  Male employees were allowed to touch and punch women.  One male supervisor, when confronted, stated we would just “have to get used to it.”   He also stated he liked hiring pregnant women because they looked so cute “waddling around.” Another male employee made comments about how many times women went to the restroom, or showed us pornographic photos on his phone.  We were told not to confront him; it might hurt his feelings.
These were the mild examples.  I, and the other women I worked with, suffered through more.  Others ended up in the news for domestic abuse and criminal assault cases and crimes all the way up to attempted murder and murder.
None of us had an agent or million dollar contracts.  The courts are full of cases dealing with sexual harassment on the job.  Ask me, and I’ll name some.  I would also recommend Larson’s treatise on Employment Discrimination if you want to read more. I have nothing against The Oprah, but all she did in her now famous TV diatribe was to state the obvious.   She was preaching to the Norma Ray choirs of women like me who have experienced sexual harassment and discrimination on the job and in the public sector for years.  When we complained, we were silenced, threatened, ignored, or forced to endure lengthy, expensive law suits.  We learned to deal with it, and to do our jobs.  I’m glad that light is being shed on this messy, painful issue, but it’s a shame that nothing really took off till a bunch of millionaires and billionaires became involved.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

The Subversion of Romance in the Novels of Barbara Pym

Romance can be delicious, or it can leave a bitter taste in your mouth.  And, what to wear through the dramatic scenes that must needs leave our emotions in tatters, but leave us looking like well-groomed, well-styled fashion plates!  The Subversion of Romance in the Novels of Barbara Pym answers those questions and more, in a critical, sometimes tongue in cheek study of Pym's novels and how themes of heroes, heroines, food, and clothing are treated in her work.  Read the book, and find the answer to the most important question of all, "where are the trollies of yesteryear . . . . . . ."Available from The University of Wisconsin Press.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Review; Memories of Midnight

Review: Memories of Midnight by Sidney Sheldon



Sing me no songs of daylight,

Fro the son is the enemy of lovers.

Sing instead of shadows and darkness,

And memories of midnight.




I was stunned that Sheldon, who also created TV shows like Hart to Hart and I Dream of Jeannie, got the title for his sequel to The Other Side of Midnight from Sappho.  I love Sappho; I titled my poetry chapbook, Sappho, I should have Listened, and my mother loved her and did research for her.  I loved her for the dedication she wrote to Artemis when she left her doll at the goddesses’ altar, “Despise not my dolls little purple cloak”, and I loved her courage and her passion. I even suffered for our art, hers and mine, when a fool who thought he spoke Greek publically tried to correct me at a poetry reading.  I was invited there to read from my book; he hasn’t published anything.  Dear Misha, how I wanted to call him a “Malakas,” and give him a good Greek tongue lashing, for I am a speaker of Greek first, and English second, but I didn’t do it.  I’m too polite. 


One can’t call Costa Demeris, the evil Greek Tycoon antagonist of both of Sheldon’s novels set in Greece polite. In fact, it’s hard to like anyone in this book, even sweet Catharine Alexander Douglas, who constantly plays mouse to Demeris’ cat.


In The Other Side of Midnight, Demeris gets even big time when his mistress Noelle Page and his pilot, Larry Douglas, husband of Catherine, betray him by falling in love, and well, doing the big nasty.  Catharine is meant to be a victim in the first book, but her book of victimology dictates she become a drunken shrew.  The sneaky lovers try to kill her of, but fail.  Only Demeris figures that out, and sequesters Catharine, who has amnesia after Larry and Noelle try to do her in.  Noelle and Larry pay with their lives before a Greek firing squad. 


Fast forward to Memories of Midnight.  Costa is stunned to discover Catharine is regaining her memory.  She’s a little stupid to boot.  It’s hard to feel sorry for her.  It’s also hard to feel sorry for Melina, Demeris’ long suffering wife, who is supposed to be smart and chic, yet takes insult after insult from him, and even though she knows he is a monster, stays because she “loves him!”  Seriously!  Not even in the 50s-60s atmosphere of the novel, the height of the Feminine Mystique, would real women put up with this!  Times up, Melina!  Her only way to get even is, spoiler alert, is to destroy herself, but she still fails.


Costa double crosses everyone, till he meets a Thelma and Louise ending with his lawyer, who must have influenced the villain in Stieg Larsson’s books beginning with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.


Also, I’d like to know what happened to the museum curator caught up in the Demeris’ smuggling caper.  His character is dropped like a hot potato.  Other interesting villains are introduced, but their character development is dropped.


Yet, this is a page turner, for all its flaws.  Sheldon understands plot twists, even if he uses too many of them, and he is that rare character, a male author who can create believable women, albeit, sometimes women that are a little stupid.  Catharine reminds me of the heroin of Valley of the Dolls for her naïveté. .


His Greek phonetics are very good; I wonder at how good he is with the language and Greek culture. 


I liked listening to his books on tape, but when I heard him read his own Sands of Time, it reminded me of Booboo bear reading to Yogi; Sheldon didn’t have the greatest reading voice.


He could write the” sweeping” novel as few could today, maybe Dan Brown is a close contender.


Meanwhile, I hope he is somewhere with Sappho, and my parents discussing literature in another dimension, somewhere on the other side of midnight.

ories of Midnight by Sidney Sheldon

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Some Comments on PW's "It's Still Complicated; A Review of Romance Publishing

 I am the author of a book that is a literary critique of romance novels and Barbara Pym's books called The Subversion of romance in the Novels of Barbara Pym (The Popular Press/U of Wisconsin Press, 1998). A good friend, J.R., herself an author, recently pointed me to this article from PW: https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/b.... Among other things, the article's theme is that rape and rape fantasy as depicted in romances now require consent, and the author talks about "the Weinstein" factor among other things. I'm also a romance writer at times, and my book The Wild Horse Runs Free is on Good Reads, and Amazon. I would like to say that novels of all type are fiction, and many genres besides romance depict rape, especially murder mysteries, thrillers, and horror novels. It is just that, fiction. We make it up. It doesn't mean we advocate anything. I personally don't write romance any more because I don't like writing sex scenes, but that's me. The First Amendment should still apply to art, which is what creative fiction is. Publishers and editors are among the last great censors; we get it. They may reject anything, and can often tell writers to write or not write, anything. But putting a "consent" clause in a romance novel where one element may involve depicting rape, well, I just don't know. This is an interesting and well written article, and food for thought. I read The Flame and The Flower in college, and later, as research for my dissertation. I took this and Woodiwiss's other novels and read the whole, not stressing on plot details. If found the plot to move quickly, and her heroines to have some depth and personality. Her research was always very good. That's all I have to say. Read the article if you are a fiction writer.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Solar Eclipse and Maria Mitchell

Image result for maria mitchell public domain
Maria Mitchell, Astronomer, Public Domain

The Solar Eclipse and Maria Mitchell

By Ellen Tsagaris

Popular Astronomy Club

Image result for solar eclipse 2017 public domain
Eclipse 2017 Public Domain


On March 20, 2015, the next solar eclipse will be visible.  NASA’s Solar Eclipse Page provides tables of past and future solar eclipses, along with graphics and other pertinent information. 


A solar eclipse takes place, of course, when the moon passes between the sun and the earth.  Once this occurs, the moon partially or totally hides the sun.  Then, the moon casts a shadow on the earth.


For a solar eclipse to occur there must be a new moon because the eclipse can only take place during the phase of the new moon, which makes it possible for the moon to cast its shadow on the earth.


Such an event has been billions of years in the making, truly awesome when one considers that since its formation almost 4.5 billion years ago, the moon has been steadily pulling away from the earth. According to Space.com, the moon has been moving away from the earth by about 1.6 inches each year.  Furthermore, the writers at Space.com point out that “right now the moon is at the perfect distance to appear in our sky exactly the same size as the sun, and therefore block it out. “


The Bible mentions a solar eclipse in Amos 8: 9, “I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the Earth in the clear day.”  Other references from Ancient China and Nineveh have also been documented. 


Most solar eclipses are very short, with some of the longest recorded at 7 minutes 31 seconds. During this time, the corona, the outer atmosphere of the sun, is visible.


The March eclipse will not be visible in the Quad City area, unfortunately. A total solar eclipse will be visible in Svalbard, Norway and the Faroe Islands, while a partial solar eclipse will be visible in Europe, northern and eastern Asia and northern and western Africa


The last solar eclipse was only a partial eclipse and occurred on October 23, 2014.


Celebrated astronomer Maria Mitchell (1818-1889) made the study of solar eclipses her specialty.  Mitchell was born to Quaker parents who believed in educating equally their sons and daughters.  She learned to love astronomy through helping her father, and one evening, she helped him calculate their home’s position by observing a solar eclipse. Mitchell became famous after she discovered a comet in 1847.  The King of Denmark awarded her a gold medal for her discovery of the comet.  In 1856, Mitchell became a professor of astronomy at Vassar College.


Maria Mitchell was an admired and beloved teacher who inspired her students and believed woman could achieve the same accomplishments that men did, if they could only be given a chance.  She believed creativity and science worked well together, and one quote attributed to her reads: “We especially need imagination in science. It is not all mathematics, nor all logic, but it is somewhat beauty and poetry.”