The Parents Behind the Relationship

This cartoon from the New Yorker, posted on Facebook by a friend, and shared by the Vacuum County fan page had a caption saying: “Before we go any further, I should let you know that I have parents.”


Everyone, at one time or another, has had parents. Or parent surrogates, if the actual parents were not around.    But sometimes it is hard to imagine that someone we are having a relationship with also has parents.  Do the types of parents we have had determine the way we view love? Can we look at someone’s parents and learn more about their way of loving?

They say that what we experienced with our parents as children affects what we expect from a romantic relationship — that the sort of love we got affects the sort of love we expect to receive  — and to give —  in the future. Here in the video embedded below is the School of Life’s take on this issue.

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A salient excerpt from the video suggests that our first glimpse of  love was with a parent:

Our idea of what a good loving relationship should be like and what it feels like to be loved, doesn’t ever come from what we’ve seen in adulthood. It arises from a stranger, more powerful source. The idea of happy coupledom taps into a fundamental picture of comfort, deep security, wordless communication and of our needs being effortlessly understood that comes from early childhood.

At the best moments of childhood, if things went reasonably well, a loving parent offered us extraordinary satisfaction. They knew when we were hungry or tired, even though we couldn’t usually explain. We didn’t need to strive. They made us feel completely safe. We were held peacefully. We were entertained and indulged. And even if we don’t recall the explicit details. the experience of being cherished has left a profound impact on us. It’s planted itself in our minds as the ideal template of what love should be.

This conception or gestalt of what love consists of is by no means as universal as “The School of Life” would have us believe. But there is a certain segment of the world’s population that does hold to this view and that  can conceive of no other type of love.

Here are few properties of this kind of love: 1) It is one-sided 2) It’s a feeling of “satisfaction” with another’s perceived state of mind  and not the feeling of love for another, because  it’s the experience of “receiving”  love rather than the emotion of loving and 3) it involves having basic needs like food and shelter being met by someone else in return for nothing. There is the fallacy of the stolen concept here, because the satisfaction of being loved presupposes a   perceived love by another that remains undefined. But also, it’s an appeal to attachment love, as opposed to limerent love. 

There is a developmental fallacy inherent in supposing our first experience of love is of being loved by a parent, rather than loving that parent ourselves. Babies are born without a concept of self and other. When they first discover that the parent is not a part of themselves, they have still not yet worked out for themselves a theory of mind. So it is much more likely that the baby first loves the parent, before ever realizing that the parent returns that love. To feel your own love for another, it is not necessary to read another person’s mind. The raw feeling of  loving someone is directly linked to physical sensations from the reward center of the brain. To determine that someone else loves us is a much more convoluted act of abstract  inferencing, based on indirect evidence. A baby can experience preference for a particular caregiver’s face at about six months of age. Having a complex theory about another person’s feelings and thoughts does not happen until much later.So despite popular opinion to the contrary, we probably experienced being in love before we experienced being loved.

Even if we do get our first taste of a satisfying experience of being loved from our relationship with a parent, it’s not necessarily the nurturing, mind-reading all powerful being who took care of us in early infancy. It’s not always the one who held us peacefully and indulged our every need. That maternal, “unconditional” love that so many assume is the only “real” love gives way to other pleasures. There is the parent who threw us up in the air and excited, rather than calmed us. The one who encouraged us to test our wings, who engaged us in logical argumentation when we were only in preschool and corrected us when we erred, who when the other parent was trying to force us to cower indoors,  told us that, yes, we could go out walking alone at night, and here was a gun to protect ourselves with. There is the parent who treated us with respect, like a real person, while the other parent wanted to spare us all suffering,  stunting our growth.  In short, we could model our view of love on the typically more paternal parental role.

Not all mothers are nurturing, and not all fathers empower children toward greater independence. Sometimes the roles are reversed. Sometimes children have only nurturers and no challengers. Sometimes there is only the challenging parent, and not the nurturing one. But whichever way being loved is first experienced, our model for adult love should not be of an all powerful person who filled our every need and asked nothing of us in return. This is not because adults and children are so different. It’s because even chidren are not nearly as passive and dependent as this model assumes.

In our modern society, when people speak of love, they often have a skewed model of what love is, based on a misunderstanding of the parent/child relationship. Not only is the adult relationship nothing like the ties between a newborn infant and its mother, but also most of childhood is nothing like the helplessness of the newborn. Even at a few weeks old, an infant starts to give back to a caretaker and is not only and merely ever taking. If you’ve ever cared for an infant, you know it’s not all selfless service to a clueless, entitled being. They do give back first with smiles and teasing glances, but later with offering to help sweep the floor and wash the dishes, before they ever conceive of those tasks as a chore.  Toddlers long to grow up and be contributing members of the family. Unfortunately, in today’s society, children are seldom given a chance to make real contributions before adulthood. A parent’s ideal relationship with a child is not all giving and no taking. The more the parent respects the child, the more the relationship will be a two way street. Even when their positions are inherently unequal, good parents empower children to face difficulties and challenges, rather than fixing everything for the child so it goes smoothly.

The gestalt of love is not the same for everyone. Failing to define what you mean by love can lead to many misunderstandings.  There is great danger of miscommunication in assuming  that love is universally experienced as selfless provision of service by a being far superior to ourselves. This view of love creates an undesirable effect of turn-taking in adult relationships. Since adults are expected to give as well as receive love, lovers who conceive of love as selfless take turns being the “good, giving” partner, instead of giving and taking simultaneously based on the pleasure of  complementary, though somewhat asymmetrical sex roles. That is, such partners assume they can’t both be happy at the same time, and that one person’s happiness is at the “expense” of the other.

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The fallacy at the heart of this view of love is a misunderstanding of “taking and giving” as necessarily consisting of two separate acts. It is very difficult to give someone a hug and not get a hug back somehow. It’s not possible to touch someone and not be touched in turn.  Even in unreciprocated love, there is a great pleasure that comes from loving someone else. The idea that “getting” must involve exploitation of a “giver” is at the heart of this misconception.

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The selfless conception of unconditional love has ramifications well outside the family and sex roles. When people speak of universal love as a desirable goal for society at large, this can often be a shorthand for socialism and the nanny state. That’s why when someone starts waxing eloquently in praise of “love” and how all the world’s problems can be solved “by love, sweet love”, it might be a very good idea to ask them which kind of love they mean exactly. If it’s the selfless kind, ask them how they think everyone can sacrifice himself selflessly to everyone else and how any society could possibly function that way.


Reciprocity and Turn Taking in Love

Posted in Books and Authors, Child Rearing, Relationships | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Distinguishing Dogbane from Milkweed

When I was writing about the species of milkweed that is found in the Middle East, the Sodom’s Apple plant. I mentioned that I had spotted something that looked like milkweed in my pasture.

This is Dogbane. It is not Milkweed.

But it was not milkweed. It was dogbane — Apocynum cannabinum.

Dogbane buds before they bloom.

Dogbane and milkweed look very similar, before they bloom. They both have waxy leaves and both give a milky discharge if they are injured. Here are some tips for telling them apart.

Milkweed plants (asclepias) are bigger than dogbane and their leaves are broader. There is a slight reddish tinge to the vein that runs through the middle of the leaf, dividing it in two. The leaves are more “waxy” on the milkweed than the dogbane.

Even before the flowers bloom, the flower buds are bigger on the milkweed than on the dogbane plant, and they are placed much closer together, to make a composite flower. The dogbane cluster is looser, and there are fewer individual buds in each cluster.


When the leaves of the milkweed are injured, the white sap that comes out looks like Elmer’s glue.

The dogbane flowers, when they open, are usually white.

Dogbane flowers opening

In contrast milkweed flowers are more colorful. The can  be purple, pink or orange, depending on the variety.

Milkweed flowers have bright colors

Dogbane flowers are tiny and delicate. They are easy to overlook.

A tiny sweat bee is bigger than a single dogbane flower

A sweat bee when it lands on a dogbane flower entirely obscures it from view, the flower is so small. Large butterflies, like spangled fritillaries, can sit on milkweed flower, and still most of the flower is visible. Of course, those are composite flowers we are looking at.

Great Spangled Fritillary butterflies on purple milkweed

Even though the flowers are arranged in clusters on the  dogbane, too,  they don’t quite form a larger composite flower, as their stems are longer, and they each seem to be going a different way.

Each tiny flower in the bunch seems to be going its own way Dogbane florets are individuals

But even when in bud, the milkweed flowers form a collective, single entity.

The milkweed flower buds are bunched so closely together that they seem to act as one. Different bunches will form different composite flowers on the same plant.

By the time the flowers bloom, the difference between the the dogbane and the milkweed is unmistakable. But before we see the flowers, a closer examination of the leaves can help.

Copyright words and images 2017 Aya Katz

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Recognizing Milkweed

I  have been fixating on milkweed. Two years ago, I found  plenty of milkweed on my property. There was purple milkweed, with its pinkish blooms. There was common milkweed, with its less brilliant kind of purple. And there was even butterfly milkweed, which was sort of orange. But all the milkweed disappeared last year. And along with it went the butterflies that I used to watch feeding on the milkweed flowers.

This year there has been massive flooding in our state, and with the rain, there also came a lot of growth. In a completely different spot in my unmown pasture, a bunch of plants have come up that have leaves just like my old milkweed. Well, not exactly like my old milkweed, and they have yet to flower. So I am hoping they are milkweed, but I’m not sure.

Yesterday I trudged in the rain-soaked pasture in high boots to get a closer look. Those look like flowers developing in the middle, at the top if the plant.

Then today a Facebook friend, Dave McClure,  a Scotsman who lives in Doha, Qatar, posted a photo of a plant and asked what it was.

Photo by Dave McClure

Photo by Dave McClure

Anybody know what this plant is? The seed pods are about lemon sized and puffy to touch and the leaves are round and waxen. Obviously it likes hot climates or it wouldn’t be wasting its time in Qatar,” Dave McClure wrote on his Facebook wall.

 It looks like a plant I saw in Israel, I thought to myself. But then I also thought, no, the leaves remind me of milkweed. So Missouri Aya kept insisting it was milkweed, like the rain soaked plant in the pasture, and Israeli Aya kept thinking it was a plant she had seen in her arid native land long. long ago. I had split brain syndrome. But wait, could it be both?

Attribution: Wilfredo Rodriguez

I looked up “milkweed, Qatar” and here is what I found:

“Found only in Doha” the site said. But not really only in Doha.  That’s just if you are looking for it exclusively in Qatar.  The asclepias procera is native to “North Africa, Tropical Africa, Western Asia, South Asia, and Indochina.”

The plant is a milkweed. It is even called “Giant Milkweed”. But it also goes by a number of other names: “Asclepias procera, mudar, osher, Sodom’s Apple, stabragh, ushaar, ushar”. The name Sodom’s Apple comes from the Hebrew תפוח סדום. And the fact that it even has a Hebrew name is a pretty good indication that, yes, this version of milkweed does grow in Israel as well.

In his Biblical Researches in Palestine, Edward Robinson describes it as the fruit of the Asclepias gigantea vel procera, a tree 10–15 feet high, with a grayish cork-like bark called osher by the Arabs. He says the fruit resembled a large, smooth apple or orange, hanging in clusters of three or four. When pressed or struck, it exploded with a puff, like a bladder or puff-ball, leaving in the hand only the shreds of the thin rind and a few fibers. It is filled chiefly with air, which gives it the round form. In the center a small slender pod runs through it which contains a small quantity of fine silk, which the Arabs collect and twist into matches for their guns. From the Wikipedia

If you look Sodom’s apple up in the Hebrew wikipedia, you will find that the plant has another name: פתילת המדבר הגדולה. Which loosely translated means “great wick of the desert.”

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That just goes to show once again that everything is interconnected. All flesh is kin. And when your intuition says it’s a milkweed — no, wait, I’ve seen it in Israel! — the answer should always be: Why not both? It’s a small world.

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Sign That Petition, Donate To This Charity

There seems to be a petition for everything these days, and although many have merit, there have been some ridiculous ones as well. Remember the petition to deport Justin Beiber because of his antics drinking and driving a few years back? I cannot believe people even signed that. So for all the meaningful petitions that actually do some good, I wonder, are we ever going a bit far with petition signing. What does it mean when we share we signed a particular petition, or that we donated to a specific charity?  Are we better people because we share this information with the world? So I had recalled that in the Bible is specified we are not supposed to brag about charity, and I decided to scout out the reference to this. Here are a few references from the King James Version:

Matthew 6.1:

Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise, ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.

Matthew 6.2 

Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:

I am not telling anyone what religion to follow, but if you are promoting charity because of your faith or beliefs, this might be something to keep in mind. Even in secular society, we are made to feel the more exalted citizens volunteer for this organization, sign this petition, or donate to a specific charity. But lately I have been wondering, why is it in day to day life we are not more supportive of our friends or take more interest in what they are doing? I am not talking about doing this because you have to, but many people who boast about giving to charity or signing petitions do not seem otherwise interested the cool blogs or subjects their friends are writing about. People bump into each other and always say they should do lunch, but why just talk about it? There are many ways you can support others, and those doing it a bit more quietly because they want to just seem more authentic to me. I think giving to charity or signing petitions is cool if that is something you believe in, but in my attempt to broaden my scope of thinking in the last two years, I am just beginning to see sometimes it is not always black and white. Some charities and go fund me campaigns are not always what they seem, as well.

Posted in Opinion Pieces and Editorials | Tagged | 2 Comments

I’d Rather Be Free — A Song from THE DEBT COLLECTOR

Not everyone would rather be free. Even if most of us think we would like to be free, very few of us would be willing to pay the ultimate price for our liberty. Not everyone prefers death to loss of a little bit of freedom — or even a lot of freedom. In The Debt Collector, the conflict between those who prefer to be free over those who prefer to be safe is played out in a recurring song. Sometimes the song is called “I’d Rather Be Free.” But in more somber moments, it is called “I’d Rather Die Free.”

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Why would anyone need to own guns — especially assault rifles that are meant to kill other human beings? Why not just join the police force, if you want to fight crime? Or the army and Navy and Air Force if you wan to fight for the common defense? There are pensions and health benefits and you could still do the work you love, fighting for justice.

In the first scene where Blood sings “I’d Rather Be Free”, it’s by way of explanation for why he isn’t a police officer.

Blood does not want to be someone who just takes orders. He wants to be free to pick and to choose what foul foe he will fight. But Blood is not the only person in The Debt Collector who wants to be free.

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Carl Lark is the welfare father, who is facing a battle of his own. He does not want to work only to have his wages garnished. Siren, the social worker, is encouraging Lottie to divorce him, just so she can collect on child support.

Lottie, the children’s mother, feels the need to be safe much more strongly than the need to be free. But Carl would rather live free.

Meanwhile, their daughter, Sophie, who is being held captive, gagged and bound in the basement of a woman who wants to adopt her, would rather die free.

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There is only one person who could save Sophie from her predicament — and that is Blood, The Debt Collector. But when he is injured during the rescue, and Siren wants him to get help, he would rather die free.

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Since not everybody puts freedom above survival, it is very important that people who do love freedom work together with people who long for safety to create communities where relative safety is the result of freedom, rather than allow the enemies of freedom to get us all to trade liberty for their false promise of absolute safety. Otherwise, we will have neither freedom nor safety.

[The Debt Collector is libertarian musical, composed by Daniel Carter and written by Aya Katz. Performing in the demos are Kelly Clear as Blood, Kade Smith as Carl, Mindy Pack as Lottie, Katie Lobrot as Sophie, and Nate Ginsberg as Dexter.]

Posted in Composers, Lyricists, Music, Opinion Pieces and Editorials | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

How to Read My Books

You can read my books any way you like, in any order you like. It would be incredibly conceited and unrealistic of me to think I can tell you which way to read my books. But occasionally I meet a reader who has actually read one of my books and responds with a dazed: “I don’t know what to make of this.” This article is meant to help them.

Now, I am not talking about the people who just hated the book. That can’t be helped, and there’s nothing anybody can do about that. Somebody who really can’t stand a book usually puts it down long before it ends, and that’s perfectly okay. We can’t like every book we attempt to read. Some books are not for us. They are meant for a different audience, and not finishing them is the right thing to do.

But there are these other readers, who might actually be intrigued by one of my books and yet, even after finishing it, they have this feeling that the book was trying to tell them something, but they have no idea what. These are the people who I think might benefit from a little help.

Here is an order in which my books can be read that might incrementally get the reader ready to enter my world and to understand what I am trying to say.

  1. When Sword Met Bow
  2. Ping & the Snirkelly People
  3. The Few Who Count
  4. Vacuum County
  5. Theodosia and the Pirates (2 books)
  6. Our Lady of Kaifeng (2 books)

This is not the order in which I wrote them. It is not an order listing them in terms of their importance. This is an order that might enable a reader to master some basic ideas before seeing them applied in other more complex settings. It’s a developmental approach.

What we experience in an encounter with another person is not what they experience in their encounter with us. There is no mutuality of experience.

When Sword Met Bow is the story of how a little girl reacts to a new baby in her house. Yes, the baby happens to be a chimpanzee, but the story would be the same if he weren’t. What happens is universal. It happens in millions of households every day. What makes this story unique is that I address the issue of the development of consciousness directly, in ways that most do not.

There is a fiction that everyone we meet is a person, and that they must have been a person, in terms of cognition, since their moment of birth, if not before then.

But consciousness develops over time through experience. And different individuals are at different stages of that development when they meet. And in fact, we almost never meet others for the first time at the same time as they meet us. One of us  may even perceive the other while the other has yet to grasp that there is such a thing as self and other. This matters immensely!

From this follow some other very important lessons:

  • Just because you can see someone, that does not mean he can see you.
  • Just because you care for someone, that does not mean he cares for you.
  • Just because you have said something to someone, that does not mean that he has heard — much less understood — what you said.

If you do not grasp these lessons, then there is no point in reading any of the other books, because my other books build on these ideas.

 When you learn another person’s language and culture, this does not mean they learned yours.

There are many, many interactions that we can have with  people that can bring us to a better understanding of others. But it is important to remember that just because we have learned to understand another person better than we did before, that does mean that they understand us any better. It can be very lonely to experience this realization for the first time.

For some reason, the recurring fallacy among most people is that these “getting to know you” events are mutual. They are not.

When Ping acquires Olivia’s language and culture by total immersion, she is surprised to learn that Olivia has learned nothing about Ping the whole time. This creates an immense rift between the two girls, even though a “getting to know you” event has taken place. Some people will never get to know us, though we may  come to know them very well.

Not all people are the same on the inside, once you get past superficial differences. It is important not to give someone a vote who has no skin in the game and does not know what he is voting about.

The Few Who Count is the book in which I explain that limited liability for corporations is a violation of the rights of third parties and violates the principles of free enterprise. But the real crux of the matter is that if you allow stockholders who have nothing at stake but their paltry investment to vote on management of a business they know nothing about, the results will be bad, both for the business and for the economy at large.

We can talk about it as an abstract legal issue all day long, but that will not move people to change their minds about it — especially those who believe limited liability is good for business, because it gives incentive for investment.

But if we think of it in terms of consciousness — if we think of all the people we have met but who have been asleep and have never met us — then maybe it will be easier to grasp the principle that nobody should get to vote about something that is none of his business — not because people are malevolent, but because they are not even aware of what it is they are voting on, unless it directly involves them.

People in a community need each other to maintain their freedom against outside usurpers, but the contributions of each in the community are not equal and the responsibilities are not equal.

Vacuum County is my most critically acclaimed novel. People who do not see merit in any of the others have praised it. In that sense, it is possible that if you can only read one of my books, perhaps this is the one you should read.

But having read it, you might still not grasp what it is all about. You might think that it means little, outside of the story of one little lost college girl in a backwards Texas county. You might take it as a kind of “Beauty and the Beast” love story, whose plot it certainly resembles. But it you want to read it in depth, then ask yourself where it fits in with the other books, and what clashes of consciousness can be found in the story. What misunderstandings are there about who is what? How well do the people of the county really know each other? Is there a “getting to know you” event at the heart of this story? Is it mutual? Does that matter? If so, how much?

While war is necessary sometimes, those who pay for it should be allowed to wage it at their own expense. When war is publicly funded, that leads to loss of liberty for all. 

Should people who don’t pay for war — either by risking their lives or by contributing to the war machinery — get to vote about war? Should they get to vote when they literally have no skin in the game? That’s really what the two Theodosia and the Pirates books are about.

The story of Jean Laffite and his contributions to the Battle of New Orleans is a true story. The story of his founding of Galveston is also a true story. The life of Aaron Burr and his persecution by Thomas Jefferson is also history. I have linked these two true stories by a speculative thread involving Theodosia Burr Alston.

At the heart of this tale is a “getting-to-know-you” event wrapped up in a “getting-to-know-oneself” event. Is it possible sometimes that we don’t even know ourselves as well as we think we do, until we can see ourselves through someone else’s eyes? Can learning to know someone else ever help us to know ourselves?

Internally motivated people are rare. Most people conform to social reality, which is formed from their collective choices. This is why over time societies tend toward socialism.

What does it take to teach just one person a new language and culture? Total immersion. It’s what worked for Ping. She had to be separated from a social world where everybody looked and acted and thought like her and forced to live in another world, where she was the odd one out, and everybody else spoke Snirkelly. Anyone, if taken at the right age and forced through this experience, can come to understand others better, but the process is painful and not always reversible. And that’s just to get one person to change!

Most people are so immersed and assimilated into their own group that they can never stand apart and judge their culture and their norms from the outside. But into every society are born special people who don’t assimilate that easily. Those are the people who are called madmen and saints. They are the ones who don’t expect everything to be mutual. They can love without being loved in return. They can know without being known. That is the story of Marah Fallowfield.

In today’s world, if we do not assimilate well into our first language and culture, then that is called a developmental disability. If we do not assimilate well into a second language and culture, then we are just foreigners. But there are those who walk among us who are not exactly foreigners and not exactly disabled, who can see what other people can’t see, because they are not blinded by the collective consciousness.

The idea that we can vote about personal and financial matters involving other people, their bodies and their assets, presupposes that we’re all the same on the inside, and we can reason about things that are none of our business, because we are all the same. But in fact, our ability to reason is very much tied in to whether or not we have skin in the game. And we are not all the same on the inside. Each of us is very different from the others. Language and culture, when they are shared, give us the illusion of uniformity and mutual understanding. But on the inside, we are each different and very much alone.

Poetry and Song

So what about your other book?  you might be asking. What about In Case There’s a Fox? Well, that book is really just a poem. It should be read with my other poems, once I publish a book of my poetry. It also goes well with the lyrics of the songs in The Debt Collector, a musical with Daniel Carter as the composer. Here is a playlist of song demos:

Posted in Books and Authors | 2 Comments

Scrapbooking The Memories

It is enjoyable to start a scrapbook around holidays such as Christmas, but these volumes can be a great way to keep your memories year around. I like put photographs, my artwork, and cards in my scrapbook as a way to document my art journey, and to keep things organized in one place. You can always buy a more expensive scrapbook at the crafting store along with stickers and other embellishments, but I am happy with the simple one I found with heavy cardstock pages at the thrift store for around two dollars.

Awhile back I did purchase a scrapbook from the craft store, but I am kind of frugal and cannot see the point of spending almost thirty dollars on a simple book that did not even come with embellishments. As I said you can buy stickers and other decorations to dress a scrapbook up with, but I prefer to just put my own artwork in mine. Today, at the Dollar Tree I noticed they also sell stickers there, so there are many affordable places to purchase these. Also, when it comes to my website I see it as a digital scrapbook of sorts since I have decorated it with my drawings, so if I do not print out all of my pictures, I can still visit the online format. It is nice to have both a paper and digital scrapbooks to showcase your artwork and photographs.

Here I am adding black and white photos to my scrapbook. I used photo editing software to turn my color photos into black and white ones.
Here I am adding black and white photos to my scrapbook. I used photo editing software to turn my color photos into black and white ones.
Here is a print out of a tropical sunset painting I created back in the spring of 2009.
Here is a print out of a tropical sunset painting I created back in the spring of 2009.
I am gluing the print out of my painting and a print out of my cat illustration into my scrapbook. Often I scan pictures I draw and give to other people, which allows me to keep the image for future use.
I am gluing the print out of my painting and a print out of my cat illustration into my scrapbook. Often I scan pictures I draw and give to other people, which allows me to keep the image for future use.
Here I have glued my cat drawing and my flower drawing into a scrapbook. These used to be framed, but I change out my frames every so often, and decided to put these in a scrapbook.
Here I have glued my cat drawing and my flower drawing into a scrapbook. These used to be framed, but I change out my frames every so often and decided to put these in a scrapbook.

Sepia Scrapbook Images

One thing I enjoy creating for my paper based and my online scrapbooks are sepia images, which have a nostalgic old fashion look that I often crave.  There is just something lustrous about looking at old-timey images, and sepia conjures up memories of the past.  Here are a few of my colored pictures that I have turned into sepia pictures for my scrapbooks.

Sepia image of a picture I took at Waikiki Beach.
Sepia image of a picture I took at Waikiki Beach.
Sepia image of looking off the Rim of the World Highway.
Sepia image of looking off the Rim of the World Highway.
Sepia image of looking out towards the Pinnacles.
Sepia image of looking out towards the Pinnacles.
Sepia image of a large tree in the San Bernardino Mountains.
Sepia image of a large tree in the San Bernardino Mountains.
Sepia image of a sunset.
Sepia image of a sunset.
Sunset from a different angle.
Sunset from a different angle.
Sepia inspired sunset in the San Bernardino Mountains.
Sepia inspired sunset in the San Bernardino Mountains.
Car driving down a road near an orange field. This old fashion car and sepia imagery makes the picture look like it was taken before World War II, but it was really taken in July of 2009.
Car driving down a road near an orange field. This old fashion car and sepia imagery make the picture look like it was taken before World War II, but it was really taken in July of 2009.

Creating sepia imagery of Hawaiian vacations, sunsets, and orange fields are all quite inspiring for me.  I love to select special images that go in my paper scrapbooks.  Others go in my online scrapbook to share with the world wide web.

Brilliant sunset in the San Bernardino Mountains with snow that has not melted.
Brilliant sunset in the San Bernardino Mountains with snow that has not melted.
Sepia image out by the Pinnacles in the San Bernardino Mountains.
Sepia image out by the Pinnacles in the San Bernardino Mountains.
Sepia imagery of trees and a sunset in the San Bernardino Mountains.
The sepia imagery of trees and a sunset in the San Bernardino Mountains. | Source
Here is a sepia image I created of a few flowers.
Here is a sepia image I created of a few flowers. | Source

I especially have enjoyed creating sepia imagery of landscapes and flowers, which are some of my favorite things to take pictures of.   Give me landscapes any day!

Sepia imagery that I created of a morning glory.
The sepia imagery of morning glories.
Here is sepia imagery of sunflowers.
Here is sepia imagery of sunflowers.
Sepia imagery of a picture I took of a palm tree. I took this picture with my cell phone and cropped it, but I really love how it turned out.
The sepia imagery of a picture I took of a palm tree. I took this picture with my cell phone and cropped it, but I really love how it turned out. | Source
Here is a sepia image I created of a picture I took of Grass Valley Lake.
Here is a sepia image I created of a picture I took of Grass Valley Lake. | Source
Here is sepia imagery I created of a picture looking out towards Hesperia.
Here is sepia imagery of the view looking down on Hesperia.

I love to take spooky images for Halloween and turn these into sepia images to remember.  See what I did with a couple of my photographs below.  Oh yes, and I have also included a couple of images that I took out at the Pinnacles, which have been edited to have sepia effects.

Here is a sepia Halloween scrapbook image I created. The picture I took of the rising moon was perfect for this!
Here is a sepia Halloween scrapbook image I created. The picture of the rising moon was perfect for this!
The full moon look especially creepy in sepia, and almost like an image out of a scary black and white film.
The full moon looks especially creepy in sepia, and almost like an image out of a scary black and white film.
Here is another I took of the full moon where I used photo shop to a Halloween imagery. This would even make for a fun Halloween card to give for friends.
Here is another photo the full moon turned into a Halloween image.
Here is a picture I took in the San Bernardino Mountains facing out towards the Pinnacles.
Here is a picture I took in the San Bernardino Mountains facing out towards the Pinnacles.
Here is a picture that I took hiking out at the Pinnacles in 1988! I scanned my photo and used sepia effects to create this amazing image.
Here is a picture that I took hiking out at the Pinnacles in 1988! I scanned my photo and used sepia effects to create this amazing image.
Here is a picture I took looking out by the Pinnacles.
Looking out past the Pinnacles towards Hesperia.
Another breath taking image taken out on the desert side of the mountain, which is by the Pinnacles in the San Bernardino Mountains.
Another breath taking image taken out on the desert side of the mountain, which is by the Pinnacles in the San Bernardino Mountains.
Here is a picture I created of a sunset in the San Bernardino Mountains.
Here is a picture I created of a sunset in the San Bernardino Mountains.

You can use photo editing software to create you own amazing sepia or colored images for your scrapbooks.  I hope you have fun playing with pictures you have taken over the years.

Posted in Arts & Crafts | Tagged | 1 Comment

The Debt Collector: Three Songs for Blood

Blood  Samosude is the title character in the libertarian musical,  The Debt Collector. Blood not only makes his living  collecting debts, he is also  a true believer in the sanctity of contracts. Like a priest of justice, Blood single-handedly fights to uphold the property rights of Helga Hauser, the landlady, despite a legal system that seeks to thwart creditors.

Kelly Clear sings the part of Blood in the three songs embedded below. The first song is about his work collecting debts.

The Debt Collector is a libertarian play, and it deals with more than just property rights and fiscal responsibility from a libertarian perspective. There is a love story. And there is conflict between the sexes. And there’s the explicit issue of how to pick up girls. Got your attention, didn’t I?’

Libertarian men are known to be socially awkward. Part of that awkwardness stems from a desire to make conscious, responsible decisions about issues that nature intended us to settle in subconscious and non-verbal ways. When the thinking part of the brain tries to dictate to the limbic system what to do, the individual comes off as awkward as someone trying to dance using logic rather than rhythm.

Blood is an idealist. He is drawn to Siren the Social Worker, whose words he recognizes as being Marxist, but whose being is the embodiment of his ideals of grace, beauty and harmony. He sings about his mixed emotions in “When I’m With Her.”

If you are drawn to a potential partner and want to set up a liaison, what do you say? Most people will not come right out and say what they are thinking. But Blood, committed to honesty and mutual respect, blurts it right out, with predictable results. Along comes Carl, the Welfare Father, to give him a lesson in seduction.

Without violating another’s rights, how can one best go about propositioning someone and still not make it as awkward as legalese? The Non Aggression Principle would suggest a direct, explicit verbal offer, which can then be turned down or accepted in the light of cold, hard day. But how often does that work? In the song “More Perfect Contracts”, Blood sings about his romantic ideals.

Sadly,  politically correct respect and  cold, dispassionate disclosure  of intent is not something that is likely to work with Siren. Here is a song in which she expresses what approach does turn her on.


To see how things turn out for Siren and Blood, watch the entire musical or stay tuned here for more song demos. This uniquely libertarian musical touches on issues you will never see addressed anywhere else in musical theater.

Posted in Composers, Lyricists, Music | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Christmas Carol Revisited

A Christmas Carol Revisited: Analyzing George C. Scott’s Scrooge

[This article was originally published on Hubpages in 2010 and eventually de-indexed.]

A poster of George C. Scott's "A Christmas Carol"

A poster of George C. Scott’s “A Christmas Carol” Source: Wikipedia

An Excerpt from A Christmas Carol

“At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge,” said the gentleman, taking up a pen, “it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and Destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.”

“Are there no prisons?” asked Scrooge.

“Plenty of prisons,” said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.

“And the Union workhouses?” demanded Scrooge. “Are they still in operation?”

“They are. Still,” returned the gentleman, “I wish I could say they were not.”

“The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?” said Scrooge.

“Both very busy, sir.”

“Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,” said Scrooge. “I’m very glad to hear it.”

“Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude,” returned the gentleman, “a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?”

“Nothing!” Scrooge replied.

“You wish to be anonymous?”

“I wish to be left alone,” said Scrooge. “Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned — they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.”

“Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”


I’ve never really liked A Christmas Carol. Every time I’ve tried to read it, or have seen it performed, I kind of felt as if it was intended to be a direct slap in the face to me and my parents, and the values they taught me. “Don’t leave the light on. Turn the thermostat down. Don’t waste money. Don’t have a baby unless you can support it.” Those are the things I heard all my life. Scrooge embodies all those values, and when they knock him, they’re knocking me.

However, last year, because I was hard at work on The Debt Collector, I wanted to watch a performance of A Christmas Carol in order to experience first hand the kind of mentality I was up against. I was going to take my daughter to see the latest version at the local movie theater, but we somehow missed that. Also, a theatrical version was supposed to showing in the area, but nothing came of that, either. Finally, as a last resort, I went to Wal*Mart and bought two videos for the price of one, a sort of package deal. For the adults, there was George C. Scott in the starring role. And for children, there was some cheap cartoon version.

I asked Sword which one she wanted to see first. “Let’s watch the grown up one first,” she said. She was trying to be nice about it, since she imagined she’d probably like the cartoon better.

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Scrooge is a Model of Filial Piety

In A Christmas Carol, much is made of Scrooge’s miserable childhood. His mother died in childbirth, bringing Scrooge into the world. His father, who loved his mother more deeply than words can tell, was grief stricken and blamed the infant for the mother’s death. As a result, Scrooge knew neither the love of a mother nor the support of an affectionate father figure. The only person who showed him any kindness was his elder sister.

Now, in this day and age, most would roundly condemn the father’s cruelty. He would be blamed for every failure in Scrooge’s life. Scrooge would go into therapy and learn to speak knowingly of abuse and neglect, casting aspersions on his father’s good name, and dodging responsibility for his own actions. “I was abused,” he would be taught to say. “It’s all my father’s fault. I can’t help it.”

And yet when the Ghost of Christmas Past shows Scrooge his miserable childhood, and he is forced to relive all those painful moments, moments that are best forgotten, Scrooge never says one bad word against his father. “He was stern,” is the most he can manage.

This remarkable stoicism, this refusal to point the finger or shift blame, is something that immediately made Scrooge rise in my estimation.

No parent is perfect. Some are better than others, but everyone makes mistakes. To spend your life blaming everything on your parents, instead of taking responsibility for your own actions is counterproductive.

The virtue of filial piety and of tight lipped stoicism in the face of soul crushing adversity is seldom praised. But we know it when we see it, and Scrooge has it in spades.

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Scrooge is a True Gentleman in his Dealings with Women

Here is the short version of Scrooge’s love life: he hasn’t got any. The slightly longer version is this: he fell in love with Belle Fezziwig, and they became engaged. For years, he was satisfied with the engagement, but did not actually wish to marry. She, on the other hand, tired of waiting, called the whole thing off, and married somebody else. Scrooge, heart-broken, never stopped loving her, and he never took up with any other woman.

The evil spirits of Christmas that plague Scrooge accuse him of selfishness and greed. But let’s examine the facts here and see who exactly it was who was guilty of greed. Was it the man who asked nothing for himself, who enjoyed Belle’s companionship, but did not force himself on her body and soul? Or was it the woman who, the moment it was clear that Scrooge would never marry her, immediately went and found somebody else who would? Did she love Scrooge for himself, or only for the things he could give her: social position, wealth, sex, children? How great was her love? What was she willing to sacrifice to it? How great was his? What degree of self-restraint must it have taken of him not to make demands on her virtue? Don’t you think he wanted to sleep with her?

Keep in mind the back story. This was a man who was denied the love of a father, because his mother had died giving birth to him. His sister, also, died young, leaving a motherless boy. In those days, contraception was in its infancy, and a pregnancy often followed immediately after marriage. For all women, childbirth was painful and gruesome, and they often emerged scarred. Death in childbirth was not at all uncommon.

Did Scrooge refrain from marrying Belle because he did not love her enough, or because he loved her too much to risk killing her? At a time when sex, childbirth and death were so intimately intertwined, was it not the better man who preferred a platonic relationship over one that might very well destroy the object of his passion?

Scrooge, Charity and Government Welfare

Scrooge is needled for his stinginess, his miserly behavior and his risk aversion in general. He’s a party pooper and a loner and he doesn’t like Christmas. Who doesn’t like Christmas? His failure to support consumerism is a point of contention.

But the crux of the attack on Scrooge is his attitude toward the poor. When he is pestered by people soliciting for charity, he mentions that he already supports several public institutions whose purpose is to provide for the poor. Why should he contribute more, when these fine pillars of society already exist and are funded by his taxes?

The solicitors reply that many would rather die than go there.

So far, so good. Admittedly, Debtor’s Prison, the Poorhouse, and the Treadmill (whatever that is!) don’t sound very inviting. You might think that it’s because people in the nineteenth century were particularly cruel to others in unfortunate circumstances. But in fact, public institutions set up to “help the poor” are no kinder today. Social workers bully the people they are supposed to serve. Families under their supervision are broken up and destroyed. I have had clients who would rather become prostitutes than go on welfare.

The conclusion that logically follows from these all too true facts about public aid to the poor from the Dickens classic is that there should be no such institutions. However, this is not the conclusion that most people draw.


Paying for Love

It all comes down to love. There’s nothing more important than that.

Children are love. They are the greatest treasure that anyone can possess. The poor are sometimes quite wealthy, if we know how to look the right way. They are blessed with many children, but the thing to remember is this: these are blessings that they have bestowed on themselves.

Everyone, rich and poor, has the right to have children. Nobody, rich or poor, has the right to do so at somebody else’s expense. Love is a wonderful thing, and it’s okay to grab it when the grabbing is good, but there’s a price. Who should pay that price?

Should it be the person, like Scrooge, who didn’t allow himself to take the risk? Should he pay for somebody else’s love-making? Or should we each finance our own happiness?

Am I Scrooge? Not really. I have two children, one who is biologically mine, and one who is adopted. When I sit it in the dark and keep the heating costs down, I have them to keep me company, and we snuggle together. But I don’t have ten children. And it’s not because I wouldn’t like to have ten. I can’t afford them. And the earth can’t afford them, either. So I stick to the two I have.

Do you want to help others? By all means, do so. But don’t try to make other people feel guilty if they want to spend their money on something else. And if they don’t want to spend their money at all, then thank them kindly for the huge favor they are doing you. By failing to spend, they are enabling you to buy your Christmas pudding at a reduced cost, because the person who sells the pudding will have to lower the price, for lack of buyers.

If the moral of A Christmas Carol is anything, it is to “gather your rosebuds while ye may.” In other words: do not be risk averse, because tomorrow may never come. “Eat, drink, and make merry. Tomorrow we die.” But the moral that Scrooge urges on us is equally valid: “Make merry if you will, but don’t expect someone else to pay for your merrymaking.”


Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens Source: Wikipedia

The Dickens Bias

Every person has a bias. The Charles Dickens bias stems from his own experiences early in life and from his own choices later in life. Dickens came from a nice, loving family, but his father spent more than he earned, and consequently what should have been a happy, middle class childhood was cut short when the family was sent to debtor’s prison.

What may have made it worse is that Dickens himself was separated from the others and made to work in blacking factory, a lower class work place. And so it was that a pampered boy from the middle class got to see what life was like for those born under less fortunate circumstances. This experience was humiliating and very painful, and it was one of the formative events of Dickens’ life.

Scrooge is the Anti-Dickens!

Dickens had a warm generous nature and with it an insatiable appetite for life. Like his father, in his adult life he was a big spender, but unlike his father, he was able to make his income match his expenditures by writing long, voluminous works, for which he was paid by the word. Dickens was a hack, but a very good one.

Dickens hated the poorhouse, but he himself actually opened a home for unwed mothers, where he hoped to educate these young women to do what he considered “better”. For someone who hated institutions that looked down on people, it was odd that he would want to found a few of his own to do the same sort of thing. Why should an unwed mother be institutionalized at all?

Unlike Scrooge, Dickens had an eye for the ladies, and he didn’t keep himself from enjoying the pleasures of the flesh. When an early paramour spurned him, he did not pine away for her forever, but found a nice substitute to marry. His married life was stormy, and over time he lost interest in his wife, but not before she had borne him ten children! When tired, overweight, and too lethargic to match the vigorous Dickens’ energy level, the wife no longer suited, he replaced her with a young actress and went touring the countryside.

Dickens was a genuine family man who enjoyed children, but he left most of the details of his children’s upbringing to the many women who came to serve him: first his wife, and then her sister who came to live with them. He spent money on sumptuous feasts and cozy living arrangements, and then he tried to earn money to cover his expenditures. He was a hard worker, but he was not frugal.

I don’t mean to begrudge Dickens his pleasures, and when I write this, I don’t want to come off as a prude. Dickens was a man, like all others, and it was understandable that he had needs, which he sought to satisfy. If he had done all this in private and kept his own counsel concerning the behavior of others, then I would not even mention it. But a paragon of virtue, he was not.

The same extremism that characterizes Scrooge’s miserly behavior seems to be found in Dickens, only in the opposite direction. Where Scrooge was stingy, Dickens was generous, and not always with money he had ready at hand. Where Scrooge was chaste, Dickens was profligate. Where Scrooge kept a tight lip and did not speak ill of his father’s misdeeds, Dickens publicized his own father’s neglect of duty and insolvency. Where Scrooge strove to lead a life of quiet desperation, asking nothing of anyone, and taking only what was his, Dickens was loud and boisterous and constantly asking for sympathy and money and love. Scrooge is the anti-Dickens!

In A Christmas Carol, which is a piece of propaganda, if ever a literary work was, Dickens urges the public: don’t be like Scrooge, be like me, instead!

I think most of us would rather not be like either one of them. There is, after all, a middle ground.

George C. Scott as Scrooge

The genius of George C. Scott’s portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge is that he plays him as nobly as it is possible to do, within a script that is remarkably close to the original. I have seen simpering Scrooges and cowardly Scrooges, but George C. Scott’s Scrooge is a strong, brave, virtuous man, beset by the ghosts that all of us must face sooner or later. Does he have secret sorrows? Sure. Does he have regrets? Of course. Now that he is no longer young, does he maybe fear the cold, yawning grave that will swallow us all? Definitely. But he’s not spineless, and he isn’t evil. If you’re going to watch some version of A Christmas Carol this holiday season, I strongly recommend this one.

The movie came out in 1984, and has been playing on television for ages. Up until recently, this 1984 film classic was not available for purchase on videocassette or DVD, because George C. Scott held the copyright in his iron fist, and Scrooge-like would not let it go. But he died in 1999, and now you can buy a copy at Wal*Mart or on Amazon.

Our Personal Appraisal

I didn’t expect to like the movie as much as I did, but George C. Scott made a truly attractive, heroic figure of a Scrooge. He seemed so nice, that I could almost imagine being friends with him, and sitting in his dimly lit, unheated, inhospitable house, sharing a bowl of gruel and discussing the welfare state.

My daughter appreciated the movie more than I thought she would. She kept jeering at the ghosts throughout the viewing, asking why they didn’t just come in through the front door, like decent people. She also remarked early on, during the “bah humbug” sequences: “He’s just like grandma. She doesn’t like Christmas, either.” (And this is high praise for my mother, not a put down, by the way.)

The George C. Scott Scrooge obviously had Sword’s sympathy. The next evening, we watched the cartoon version. In the cartoon, Scrooge was portrayed as a mean, openly malevolent person who foreclosed on mortgages just for the pleasure of putting people out on the street, went out of his way to send the poor to debtor’s prison, and who spitefully threw things at Tiny Tim to make him sick.

Sword exclaimed: “Scrooge would never do that!” She had decided that George C. Scott was the real Scrooge, and she wasn’t buying the cartoon version at all. “Let’s not watch this,” she said. And so we turned it off.

(c) 2010 Aya Katz


Posted in Child Rearing, Opinion Pieces and Editorials, Politics and Philosophy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on A Christmas Carol Revisited