Thursday, September 8, 2022

Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor (1926-2022)

Britain's queen died today at age 96 at her 19th century castle in Scotland.

Her 70-year reign as monarch began in one era of the modern world and ended in a very different one, as The Washington Post noted:
"On the morning of her father’s death [in 1952], on the day she would become queen, 25-year-old Elizabeth was perched in a treehouse in Kenya watching a herd of elephants at a watering hole. Because of the distance and difficulty of communication, it took hours for her to get the news.

"On Thursday, in just one marker of how much the world changed during her 70-year reign, the news of her own sudden illness and death spread in milliseconds, via the royal family’s Twitter account. Flight tracking data revealed the paths of her children rushing to her bedside at Balmoral Castle. By the time the royal household staff posted the black-bordered death notice on the gates of Buckingham Palace, everybody knew. The BBC news anchors were already dressed in black."
The picture of Elizabeth II on this postcard was taken in front of Sandringham House in Norfolk, England. That's where George V and George VI died, and it's now owned by Charles III. The postcard was mailed from Edinburgh to Boston in September 1977 with a 10p stamp picturing the queen. The breezy note discusses apples and the weather.

The upcoming days will be filled with solemn pageantry and some reckonings, uneasy at best and veering toward fresh anger at Britain's bloody, oppressive past. Writes NBC News' Janelle Griffith: "While Elizabeth ruled as Britain navigated a post-colonial era, she still bore a connection to its colonial past, which was rooted in racism and violence against Asian and African colonies. There have been growing calls in recent years for the monarchy to confront its colonial past.

Longtime Washington journalist Stacy M. Brown added: "Elizabeth’s legacy isn’t necessarily complicated, but filled with enough ambiguity and action and inaction that it might be easy to understand why people of color might view her different that the adoring throng mourning outside of Buckingham Palace. The longest-reigning British monarch’s history on race will forever exist as part of her legacy."

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Letters 2022

Since March 2020, a large portion of my waking hours each day have been spent with letters and correspondence. There are the postcards and letters of the distant past and harrowing present. The email exchanges that come with Postcrossing and having pen pals. And then there's my job, which coincidentally has evolved into one that's primarily focused on assessing, editing and fact-checking letters written to the newspaper's opinion page. Some letters are insightful and eloquent, some are terrifying and unpublishable, and all of the letters are written from the heart, each one giving a glimpse into what we think of each other and our fragile world.

As a snapshot of 2022 for posterity, I want to share some lines from letters and correspondence in all of those categories. No commentary, and certainly no endorsements implied.
  • "The times are crazy. At least I will go to Ukraine on Aug 24 and hopefully see my friends and family."
  • "We live in a time of war, when the possibility of nuclear war in Ukraine is in the news. On all sides, trillions of dollars are going into armaments for the next generation of war. World War III seems to be our future."
  • "Allow gun owners to buy/own semi-automatics, but restrict them to HOME PROTECTION ... NOT to be carried around or licensed to hunt down anything, including people."
  • "Normally it's raining a lot where I live, but this year it's over 32°C (~90 Fahrenheit) and I'm suffering in my little flat under the roof [in Germany]. I'm half joking about moving to Sweden and half serious."
  • "Yes we have terrible heat, and lot of fires, it is not usual this situation! ... I hope here [Canary Islands] we don't rise [to] this temperature."
  • "I still dream of moving closer to the ocean or sea & mountains."
  • "What's the point of this never ending January 6th investigation hoax? Very few people care."
  • "Our history is painful for us, so we pay lip service to our painful eras and we move on, only looking back at what makes us feel good."
  • "Any system that gives you HRC and Donald Trump for Pres is by definition dead. ... America will collapse within five years. ... I'd have extra food, cash, water etc. Also, extra ammo for your AR 15s."
  • “We tell our children that school is a safe place. A place to make friends and learn valuable life lessons. One of those life lessons now involves how to huddle in a dark classroom, remain quiet and run for their lives if they need to."
  • "There is now only one major party that supports democracy, and that is the Democratic Party."
  • "The Democratic Swamp Creatures are coming for me & you. Stock up on your Ammo and have your guns ready. I'm ready. I have 12 Guns. Let them come. God Bless America."
  • "Peace."

Monday, September 5, 2022

A trio of cat postcards

With a little help from Bandit, here are three dandy cat-themed postcards I received in the mailbox via Postcrossing over the past week...
Above: This postcard is from Manon, a 24-year-old from Paris who loves cats. The black-cat illustration is by Th√©ophile Alexandre Steinlen (1859-1923). Manon writes: "Living with 17 cats sounds like a dream to me. I like them so much. I'm catsitting this summer for their very much welcome company." 

We're actually now down to 14 cats. Three of the 10-week-olds found their new forever homes last week and, fortunately, their mother (Orange) is adjusting fairly well to their absence. I think more adoptions, getting us down to 11 cats, would end up being our best "running speed" moving forward. But if it ends up being 12, 13 or 14, it's not a huge deal. They're just adorable.
Above: Rob from Canada writes: "17 cats wow. We have one hedgehog named Polo that is enough. :) For fun I have a YouTube channel called That Dad Guy. Stay safe."

A lot of Rob's YouTube videos involve Postcrossing and stamps, which is pretty cool!

By the way, if I had a pet hedgehog, I'd name it Spiny Norman. And I'd give one of our naughtiest cats the nickname Dinsdale. 

One of our 10-week-old kittens, by the way, is named Osmond Portifoy. That's because I fancy being able to wander around the house in my bathrobe, holding a brandy snifter and calling out endlessly for Osmond Portifoy. Yes, it's a weird kind of cosplay here.
Above: Alexandra from Germany, who has a pet turtle named Manni 007, writes: "This postcard is from a cat cafe. There you can sit and pet the cats which live there. Maybe it is an idea for you? I think it must be wonderful with 17 cats. Meow!"

The cat cafe is Zur Mieze - Katzenmusikcaf√© in Berlin. According to an English translation of its website, cats Gretta, Caroline, Ali, Jewels and Kenzo "find their home here and contribute to a quiet, relaxed and stress-free atmosphere in the middle of the big city. Our kitties were from the animal welfare association."

The tale gets even more heartwarming. The animal welfare association is Hand in Hand for Cats eV, which has been working throughout the year to help Ukrainian refugees, their pets and animal-rights activists who courageously remain in Ukraine. They accept PayPal donations, if you want to help them continue their necessary work.

OK, that's all. Bandit is all tired out.