Stories inside a Story

#Enough–The Story Continues

enough-national-school-walkout-protests-lawmakers-inaction-on-gun-violenceI had another article I was going to post today, but at noon I left my home office and drove to our neighborhood Starbucks for my birthday freebie.  While waiting for my drink to be made I stood by the newspaper stand.  The pictures of students protesting on the front page of the WSJ  caught my attention.  I bought the newspaper, grabbed my drink, and returned home.

I wrote a piece that addressed the Florida massacre back in February (“To Change Reality-Change the Story P3”).  I knew then this story was just unfolding and the story would gain momentum, and it has.   As of today,  the story is far from dying out, it was front page news on the Wall Street Journal, “Students Protest Gun Violence.”

Since the Douglas High School massacre, suggestions on how to deal with gun violence in schools has been discussed from arming teachers to passing a Stop School Violence Act.  I’m an educator, and have worked for 25 years in high schools.  As far as arming teachers, let’s just say, there are some teachers I wouldn’t want to see armed.  No, arming teachers is moving in the wrong direction.  There have been mass killings in churches, what would you say to a pastor or deacon holstering a gun?

980xOn the other hand, increasing the age, or making it harder to purchase a gun, is not the answer either. Cigarette Laws were passed to increase the age from 16 to 18, and now many state laws have 21 as the legal age to purchase a pack of cigarettes.  Under age children still are able to get a hold of a pack of smokes.

Increasing the price of guns won’t help.  When I was a kid, cigarettes cost .25 cents a pack.  Today a pack of cigarettes varies with Los Angeles and New York state pricing their smokes at around $4.35 a pack.  The laws and costs won’t detour smokers.  You must get rid of the product.

This is where the students have focused their movement on—removing the weapons.  According to the Wall Street article, “the students are demanding the ban on semiautomatic rifles and high-capacity magazines, and the expansion of background checks to all gun sales.”

ThompsonSubmachineAdInteresting enough, this was a similar argument used back in 1929.  Except the gun that the public wanted removed was the Thompson Submachine gun, and in 1934, the United States government enacted the National Firearms Act of 1934.  This made the sale of The Thompson Submachine Gun illegal for public sale, but could still be sold to the military.

The old adage, “Children should be seen and not heard,” is being shoved aside.  These are our future citizens and they are already becoming involved in our political process, and their voice is coming through Social Media as the tool for change, and it’s working.  The last generation to do this were the Baby Boomers, who became activists and politically active with everything from Civil Rights to United States involvement in Vietnam.  We kids couldn’t vote back then either!WT_May7_1970

Stories inside a Story

The Story Within the Story-Black Panther

Whenever I go out to see a movie, I don’t go because of the special effects, actors, cinematography, or great musical score; these are important elements that help tell a story.  But, what I must have when I leave my seat, in the end, is a good story.  The rest just enhances the story enjoyment.

250px-Black_Panther_OS_Vol_1_2I went out today to see Marvel’s newest release, “The Black Panther.”  I’m not going to critique the movie or actors, nor talk about the special effects or the music.  What I’m interested in–is the story.

The movie begins with a night scene of stars and a child voice asking someone to tell him a story.  I thought, alright that’s a good start.  As the narrator continues to tell the story, I began thinking to myself, “There is something familiar here. Where have I heard this story before?”

who-created-humansAccording to Sumerian legends, Enki, a son of Anu, king on another planet called Nibiru, lands on Earth, on what today we call Africa, to mine for gold to take back to save his planet.  There is something wrong with the Anunnaki’s planet’s atmosphere and gold is needed to repair it.  The Anunnaki are quite advanced in science and technology, and establish themselves on Earth mining the gold.

According to Sumerian tradition, it was the Anunnaki that genetically bred man into Cro-Magnon, which is who we are today.  The Anunnaki story is over 6,000 years old.

The Black Panther movie, on the other hand, seems to borrow segments from this ancient story.  It tells a story with advanced beings, living in Africa, who possess advance science and technology.  Don’t worry if you haven’t seen this movie yet I’m not giving anything away.  Story cannibalism is natural in the storytelling world.

Cs0FU66VMAAqBU_ “Black Panther,” is a new movie, but not a new story.  The first Black Panther story   originated back in 1966. It was part of Fantastic Four #52 (July 1966) during the Silver Age of comic Books.  Like Batman, T’Challa (Black Panther hero) has no super powers and must rely on his proficiency in physical training, science, and technology to battle his opposition.

the-black-panther-party-wishum-gregoryInteresting enough, another Black Panther story began in 1966. It was formed by two men, Bobby Seale and Huey Newton. The original purpose of this organization was to make sure African-American citizens were armed like militia.  In time, the FBI got involve and soon discredited the organization.  The Black Panthers received too much negative media and political attention, and  by the 1980’s, the organization was gone, and so was the name, “Black Panther.”

It was Michael Margolis who said, “The stories we tell literally make the world.  If you want to change the world, you need to change the story.”  I think the writers of the Black Panther are on that path.  Brandon Sanderson wrote, “The purpose of a storyteller is not tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon.”  I also think this story has the potential to make its audience do just that.


Finding the Hidden Story-Photographs

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, which might be true, if interpreted correctly!

eyck5When I have shown this painting called, “The Wedding of Arnolfini,” by Jan van Eyck, (1434), to my students and would ask what is this painting about?  What’s the story behind it?  Several students would reply that this is a shot-gun marriage because the woman is pregnant.

First, the woman was not pregnant.  In fact, she never would have any children.  It was painted in with the hope she would bear children.  The dog is a symbol of fidelity, the shoes on the floor, the mirror, rosary on the wall, a lit candle above them all indicate symbols of marriage that took place legally in a church with all its blessings–This is a 15th Century Marriage Certificate.

oldfotoNow, What about the picture to the right?  What are your initial thoughts?  What impressions and emotions are you feeling?  Do you think you have the story down?

What objects can you identify?  What do the objects in the picture tell you?  Every object in this picture has a story to tell, if you can remove yourself from 21st Century prejudices and bias.

When I talk of prejudices and bias I’m not talking about race but cultural boundaries that separate us through time.

I found this picture on a Facebook page that hosts old photos.  The question on this photo was, “What can we learn from the little girl who lives in a cabin with newspaper as wall coverings and smiles?”  “Why does she smile considering her living conditions?

When I did my research, I found out that the picture was made by Carl Mydans in 1936.  Carl Mydans was a photographer who documented the depression years.

The newspaper was valuable because that zeroed in where this little girl lived.  She lived in the Ozarks of Missouri.  The nearest town newspaper was the, “St. Clair County Republic.”  The newspaper indicates ads for the New Year.  So, this was probably either a December 1935 or January 1936 newspaper. The cabin has no running water or electricity.  The stove is the main source for cooking and heating.  There is a kerosene can next to her.  I would expect the bed to be behind the photographer.

It is true that a picture is worth a thousand words, but I have chosen to write only 500 words\blog.  A photograph, on the other hand, has many stories to tell, which are frozen in time for eternity, in a fraction of a second, in a person’s life.

Sherlock Holmes once said, “The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.”  In this 1936 picture, the initial question was, “Why is this poor little girl smiling?”  Of all the objects in the picture, the one obvious thing that would make this little girl smile is a new pair of shoes.  Compared to the little girl’s hat and dress, the shoes show no wear or dirt.  Observe the obvious.








































Finding the Hidden Story-Letters

I took a week off to direct a play I wrote called, “Boomer’s Legacy,” which just finished this past Saturday.  I was proud of the cast of dancers, actors, and singers who did a fantastic show.  Now, I’m back to continue where I left off–finding the “Hidden Story.”

On my last writing, [Finding the Hidden Story-Location, 3/5/18] I remarked that going back through time made location an important way of finding part of the story.  Today, I will talk about the importance of letters.


A hand-written letter is a tangible time machine to the past.  Letters were important to maintain communication with friends and family who lived long distances. Letters would have valuable information to family development and issues, upcoming events or visitations, and clues to their education.

The first thing to examine is the type of paper used.  Depending on the time, paper size and material could give us a glimpse into the importance of the communication.  Even today, we don’t use the paper from our printers to send out wedding invitations.  If a job interview is important we will buy quality paper to print out our resume or proposals.

HandsHandwriting style.  Was the writer right or left handed.  In addition, to the hand writer’s hand, graphology, the study of handwriting, can give us important impressions to the emotional state of the writer at that moment.  We also investigate words chosen, vocabulary, spelling, and how grammar was used.

Cursive writing or printing?  Cursive writing helps to also determine age, health, and education of the writer.  It can also give us information in justifying the period of the writing.   Today, we have so many fonts to choose from on our computers, but handwriting styles changed slowly through the decades.


Not all letters were delivered in envelopes.  Many letters were written on one sheet of paper, folded into an envelope format, addressed, stamped, and sent.  Envelopes were sealed with wax or glue.  Postage stamps and date stamps helped in determining where the letter came from and where it was going.  This is also good for determining location.

al-fingerprintDon’t discount digital copies.  Having the original letter is what everyone strives for, but digital copies hold all the information above excluding maybe the fingerprint.  Digital copies are also an asset in doing close-up examinations of the letter slants, heights, and valleys in the handwriting.  You can also use digital copies to compare other writings that might be related to your ancestor’s handwriting.

One last thought, diaries are important too!  Because diaries contain more than just the handwritten samples they include the personal perspectives, insights, and ideas of the writer’s thinking.  Letters and diaries provide new puzzle pieces to add to your ancestor’s picture.



Finding the Hidden Story-The Dash


I read of a man who stood to speak

At the funeral of a friend

He referred to the dates on her tombstone

From the beginning…to the end.

He noted that first came the dates of her birth

And spoke of the following date with tears,

But said what mattered most of all

Was the dash between those years?


dnaKitThe poem goes on but these two paragraphs pretty much sum it up.  Many people globally have gotten interested in their ancestors.  DNA testing kits can even be purchased at local pharmacies.  The test is easy, consisting of taking a swab and brushing it on the inside of your cheek.  This swab is then sent to the labs, where you will be sent in return, information on your family line and even families connections of interest.

However, being a genealogist myself, my research landed a host of names and dates, but lacked the important information that could fill in the stories for these individuals found.  I wanted more than just badges on a family tree.

MeatloafI recalled a story told me of a little girl who was watching her mother finish off a roast.  Before she put it into the loaf pan, she sliced a small piece off the end.  The little girl was puzzled and asked, “Why do you always slice off a piece of the meat?”

The mother replied, “I learned this from grandma, why don’t you go into the living room and ask her?”  The little girl went into the living room and asked, “Grandma, why do you and mommy always slice a piece of the meat off before cooking it?”

Grandma looked at her with a smile and said, “I learned this from my mom,” and then added, “Why don’t you go into the bedroom and ask Nana that question.”  The little girl went into the bedroom and proposed the same question to her great-grandmother.

Nana looked a bit puzzled and then said, “I don’t know why my daughter and granddaughter cut the meat, I did it because my pan was too small.”

eye-color-thumbThe color of our eyes, skin, and our health issues all have their family roots.  Even talents, interest, and skills seem to have their roots in the past.  The question at hand is how do we find those hidden stories?

Today, the word diversity and change are an understatement; however, as we go further back into time both terms become narrower in scope allowing people to find those hidden stories.  Many of those stories are hidden behind symbolism that the untrained eye misses.  Other stories are hidden behind cultural traditions that have been passed down and even watered down over time.

Stories can even be found from other people’s stories who either lived in the same time or location.  In the next set of blogs, I will give excerpts from my workshop on “Finding the Hidden Stories.”  I would also invite you to ask your personal questions of interest on this topic.