Saturday, January 31, 2009

Chinese zodiac animals

My husband and C have a long history of working together on assembling downloadable paper crafts: a shark, a taxi, some airplanes, a space shuttle, a rocket, a sailboat, etc. When we lived in DC, the models hung on fishing line from the ceiling of her room. My husband recently discovered that Hewlett-Packard has free downloadable models of Chinese zodiac animals. Today they did the pig and the tiger, using shiny photo paper.

UPDATE: I was just watching a youtube video that shows the speeded-up building of a Howl's Moving Castle model. It's longish, but if you like Miyazaki, watch the whole thing--there are some surprises toward the middle. You will not be disappointed.

C's covered wagon

The kids in C's class are making covered wagons as part of their study of pioneer days. I am not crazy about "projects," but they come infrequently enough that I don't complain. My husband ordered a $2 covered wagon download from Fiddler's Green and then printed it on shiny photo paper. Then he and C assembled it, using glue and cocktail sticks. C will need to present the wagon in class, explaining how she made it, as well as pictures of ten items that the pioneer should pack. C wrote out her list (she didn't need to), and I will reproduce it here.
  • Food because they Needed it.
  • Hats because they needed to keep dust out.
  • Pillows because they Would sleep.
  • Dogs to help
  • Books to read.
  • a loom to weave on.
  • loops to weave with.
  • Rope to pull people out.
  • alphabet chart to learn.
  • Guns to shoot.

New listing

There's a new listing for a 1950 house in the historic neighborhood I'm looking at. It's $185k for 2BR/2BA and 2000 square feet. 2 bedrooms seems too little for that size (could it be a mistake?), but I welcome every new listing under $200k. The exterior is very cute.


C is spelling out words for D with a set of magnetic letters and D just sounded out B-A-G.

Zillow dueling kitchens

Sometime in the distant future, people will treat the 21st century American kitchen with the sort of reverence and awe we currently accord to the great European cathedrals. For evidence, I give you Zillow's dueling kitchens:

A number of these would look not at all out of place if you set them down in a baroque church.

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Dining Room

One of my favorite house books is Good Housekeeping's The Complete Clutter Solution: Organize Your Home for Good. It is organized area by area (from kitchens to bedrooms to bathrooms to garages to laundry rooms), has lots of photos, and encourages readers to think seriously about the function of each room. I was thumbing through it recently, though, and came across a passage that I had circled and written "No" next to.

The dining room table is for eating, drinking, and socializing after meals. Homework and school projects should be confined to work areas in kids' rooms. Bill paying and work-at-home tasks should be done in the home-office area. Activities other than dining can scratch the table and often leave behind clutter. As noted in the box to the right, reinforce the singular purpose of this room by keeping the table set to one degree or another. The idea is to dissuade anyone from using the table for something other than dining.

And that, dear reader, is how you wind up with a museum quality dining room that no one actually ever uses and kids that you never see.

In our current very modest rental house, the dining room is functionally, if not geographically, the center of the house. I keep my professional library on a set of bookshelves there (cookbooks, kitchen appliance manuals, childcare books, mommy memoirs, housekeeping guides, glossy house books, garden books) as well as two shelves of blue and white china and whatever books I'm going to blog. Regrettably, about half to two thirds of the dining room table is taken up with incoming and outgoing papers, my housekeeping binder, my calendar, my laptop, as well as various receipts and letters awaiting my husband's attention. I spend most of my time in the dining room. I do my phone calls here, I send my emails here, C does her homework here, I can hear when the washer and dryer are done, I'm in a position to hear anguished yelping from any corner of the house, I can easily make myself a cup of tea, and the heating works best here. Meanwhile, a built-in desk with shelves in the living room serves mostly as storage. I never, ever work there. It's too far away from the kitchen and too close to the TV.

I would love to be able to completely clear the dining room table for meals, but I think that The Complete Clutter Solution's vision of the role of the dining room is too narrow, and that it contradicts Sarah Susanka's call to multi-use rooms in her Not So Big House books, as well as The Complete Clutter Solution's own focus on function. Both books ask us to think about how we use rooms and to adjust the rooms to our actual lifestyles, rather than thinking that we can remake ourselves to match our houses.

My long-term plan is that in our next dining room, I'd like to have a china hutch, bookshelves and a large desk (roll-top or armoire), and maybe a large banquette. C and I will still probably do most of our work at the dining room table, but I'll have a better set-up for filing incoming papers.

D on dragons

D: Dragon-drawn carriages are drawn by dragons!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

D's new school

I just finished up the paperwork for D's move to pre-kindergarten. In August he's going to be shifting from his current preschool to pre-kindergarten at C's school. It's going to be three full (seven-hour) days a week and he's going to be nearly four and a half.


My husband is telling C about Ugaritic.

Star Wars Episode I

My husband and C are finishing up Star Wars: Episode I in the living room. Young Anakin is the spitting image of my nephew B at that age.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Domino, RIP

I got notice recently that my beloved Cottage Living is defunct (my subscription is supposed to be finished up with issues of Southern Living), and tonight I learned that Domino is headed the same way. I don't subscribe to Domino (their target audience is younger and trendier than Xantippe), but I liked it and had just renewed a gift subscription for a younger friend. The design community online is taking it hard.

No school

C's school was cancelled today due to false predictions of severe weather. It was cold in the morning (24 degrees Fahrenheit), but it was a gorgeous and clear all day, and the temperature reached 40 degrees by the late afternoon.

I had my first visit with a fantastic dental practice this morning--very professional, detail-oriented, yet with a human touch. Inspired by my conversation with the hygienist, I tossed out the kids' candy stash. Their candy collection has been growing and growing thanks to the fact that local custom requires handing out hard candies and chewy sweets at birthdays, for Valentines Day, for Easter, for Halloween, for Christmas, after ballet, etc.

This being late in the month, we are gliding toward the end of the budgetary period. Fortunately for our house downpayment fund, gasoline is blessedly cheap, so we still have a slight surplus to cover necessaries. School tuition is up for C for 2009-10, and D will be in three days (?) of pre-K at C's school this fall, so we're going to be spending about $250 a month more than we used to for tuition (bearing in mind D's current preschool expenses). Sic transit gloria Starbucks.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Farmer Giles of Ham

C read Farmer Giles of Ham this evening.

Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

Last night, my husband made six dozen oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, two of them for school. He used the following recipe, minus the walnuts.

There is over twice as much oat as flour in the recipe, but a cup of butter. My husband showed admirable restraint by sticking to the recipe and not tossing in any whole wheat flour.

Sweet potatoes

Ever since Thanksgiving, the kids have been on a sweet potato kick. They ask for sweet potatoes, then wait patiently in their seats as I wash it, peel it, slice it, add water, sprinkle it with brown sugar and put it in the microwave for six minutes. It's the only vegetable that I can depend on both of them to eat.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Harry Potter III

C just finished the third Harry Potter book.

Venial sin

Father says that venial sin is important because it shows where your love of God ends.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Prisoner of Azkaban

After a long wait, the third Harry Potter book arrived in the mail yesterday. C has been pretty scarce.

Potty training update XIV

Have you ever noticed that a potty trainee exists in one of the following two modes?
  • "I don't need the potty!" (said very indignantly)
  • wet pants

The kids play on "the beach"

My husband looked into C's room and found she had spread out her comforter on the floor with the blue side up. She had also drawn and colored a bunch of sea shells and scattered them on the floor. What's more, both kids were in their water shoes. D was "swimming" on the comforter. My husband thinks the kids miss the beach.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Retro kitchens?

It being the end of the month (almost), I've been doing my usual thing of looking for books to save in my cart for later at Amazon. After seeing a lot of magazine kitchens that I liked labeled as 1930s and 1940s style, I'd really like a whole book devoted to kitchens or homes done in the style of either decade (the 1950s are getting a lot of coverage lately, so I don't feel like I need a book to get the idea). Unfortunately, I don't think I found a single book on home decor in the 1930s or 1940s. There is pretty good coverage, though, for cottage style, bungalows and country.

UPDATE: The internet, as always, is a girl's best friend. You can find images of 1930s-50s kitchens very quickly. I'd like a book, though.

I don't know if who created that image (I think it's from a 1951 publication of some sort called Sparkling Kitchens), but I think it's great. It's so warm, yet streamlined and businesslike. You could get a lot done in a kitchen like that without spending $60 per square foot on granite countertops.

There's a treasure trove of material over at:

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Why Does He Do That? II

I've often thought that "communication" is oversold as the cure-all to all relationship problems. When all is said and done, what if Spouse A wants Spouse B to do C, but (for whatever reason) Spouse B doesn't want to? Mere communication doesn't get you very far here. What if the core issue is that either spouse or both spouses is very selfish? And selfish is what all of Bancroft's male clients are.

Bancroft thinks that couples' therapy is counterproductive in abusive situations. Moreover, past exposure to therapy can actually arm abusers:

The more psychotherapy a client of mine has participated in, the more impossible I usually find it is to work with him. The highly "therapized" abuser tends to be slick, condescending, and manipulative. He uses the psychological concepts he has learned to dissect his partner's flaws and dismiss her perceptions of abuse. He takes responsibility for nothing that he does: he moves in a world where there are only unfortunate dynamics, miscommunications, symbolic acts. He expects to be rewarded for his emotional openness, handled gingerly because of his "vulnerability," colluded with in skirting the damage he has done, and congratulated for his insight. Many years ago, a violent abuser in my program shared the following with us: "From working in therapy on my issues about anger toward my mother, I realized that when I punched my wife, it wasn't really her I was hitting. It was my mother!" He sat back, ready for us to express our approval of his self-awareness. My colleague peered through his glasses at the man, unimpressed by this revelation. "No," he said, "you were hitting your wife."

Monday, January 19, 2009

Why Does He Do That?

I've been meaning to blog Lundy Bancroft's Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men. It's an excellent book, so I will do my best to avoid typing out the whole thing. In short, Bancroft's answer to the title of his book is the same as the answer to the question why do kids throw tantrums at the grocery store: because it gets them what they want. A good jumping off place is Bancroft's chapter entitled "The Mythology." He gives a list of explanations of abusive behavior which he thinks are myths:
  1. Is it because he was abused as a child?
  2. Hehad a previous partner who mistreated him terribly, and now he has a problem with women as a result.
  3. He's abusive because he feels so strongly about me.
  4. He holds in his feelings too much, and they build up until he bursts. He needs to get in touch with his emotions and learn to express them to prevent these explosive episodes. Bancroft disputes what he calls "The Boiler Theory of Men," pointing out that "Most of my clients are not unusually repressed. In fact, many of them express their feelings more than some nonabusive men." "They have an exaggerated idea of how important their feelings are, and they talk about their feelings--and act them out--all the time, until their partners and children are exhausted from hearing about it all." "It is not his feelings the abuser is too distant from; it is his partner's feelings and his children's feelings." Whoa! You can see why my temptation is just to type out the whole book.
  5. He has a violent, explosive personality. He needs to learn to be less aggressive. Bancroft says that in fact, "The great majority of abusive men are fairly calm and reasonable in most of their dealings that are unrelated to their partners."
  6. He loses control of himself. He just goes wild. Bancroft recounts the case of a woman who reported Bancroft's client as going into violent, seemingly uncontrollable rages--smashing things, throwing things, often valuable items. Bancroft asked Sheila "when things got broken, were they Michael's, or hers, or things that belonged to both of them?" Of course, during these berserk rages, Michael only broke Sheila's stuff.
  7. He's too angry. He needs to learn anger management skills.
  8. He's crazy. He's got some mental illness that he should be medicated for. Bancroft disagrees. "Their value system is unhealthy, not their psychology." "Much of what appears to be crazy behavior in an abuser actually works well for him."
  9. He hates women. His mother, or some other woman, must have done something terrible to him. Bancroft says that that's not how it works: "research has shown that men who have abusive mothers do not tend to develop especially negative attitudes toward females, but men who have abusive fathers do..."
  10. He is afraid of intimacy and abandonment.
  11. He suffers from low self-esteem. He needs his self-image shored up. Bancroft argues that this is a counter-productive approach. "The self-esteem myth is rewarding for an abuser, because it gets his partner, his therapist, and others to cater to him emotionally."
  12. His boss abuses him, so he feels powerless and unsuccessful. He comes home and takes it out on his family because that is the one place he can feel powerful.
  13. He has poor communication, conflict-resolution, and stress-management skills. He needs training.
  14. There are just as many abusive women as abusive men. Abused men are invisible because they are ashamed to tell.
  15. Abuse is as bad for the man who is doing it as it is for his partner. They are both victims.
  16. He is abusive because he has faced so much societal discrimination and disempowerment as a man of color, so at home he needs to feel powerful.
  17. The alcohol is what makes him abusive. If I can get him to stay sober, our relationship will be fine.

100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask

I've lately been cycling through my house books, and yesterday I was thumbing through Ilyce Glink's 100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask. It came out in 2005, which was the high water mark of the housing bubble in many places. I marked some quotes.
  • All lenders more or less follow the same ratios. They've determined that you can afford to pay between 28 and 36 percent of your gross income in debt service. (p. 121)
  • Because these companies are in competition with one another to purchase, repackage, and resell the largest amount of residential mortgages, they are continually developing new loan products to help more consumers achieve their homeownership dreams. At the beginning of the 1990s, for example, Fannie Mae decided it would extend the upper limit of the debt-to-income ratio from 36 to as much as 40 or even 42 percent. Freddie Mac quickly jumped in and created loans that do the same thing. On FHA loans (backed by the Federal Housing Authority), the upper limits on the debt-to-income ratios have been extended to as much as 43 percent. For special homeownership programs backed by C0mmunity Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds, the ratios can be even higher, with down payment assistance provided. (p. 121)
  • Before the 30-year fixed-interest-rate mortgages were invented (we're talking about the pre-Depression era), everyone who bought a home and didn't pay cash had a balloon mortgage. (p. 289) Glink explains that the initial period (from one to five years) was interest only, and then the entire principal was due at once.
  • As I explained earlier, balloon mortgages worked fine until the Great Depression, when folks lost all their savings and couldn't pay the interest on the money they borrowed, let alone meet the balloon payments. After World War II, the federal government began a program that offered returning veterans an opportunity to purchase a home and pay it off over 30 years. That was the beginning of the 30-year fixed mortgage. (p. 289)
  • Interest-only loans were fairly commonplace during the Roaring Twenties. When the interest-only period expired, homeowners, typically refinanced the loan to new interest-only loans. This worked out fabulously, unless the borrower's house lost value or he or she became unemployed and couldn't make the payments. Such a scenario happened en masse when the stock market crashed in 1929 and the Great Depression began. At that time, American banks stopped making interest-only mortgages (and most mortgages in general). Mortgage companies and banks began making new interest-only loans at the start of the millenium, some 70 years later. (p. 296)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Bleak House

I've been feeling unmotivated about the gym lately. 1) It's so dark so early. 2) I haven't felt very excited about my audiobook choices. I just got back from 76 minutes on the treadmill of giving Bleak House one more try, and it looks like I may have turned a corner with the book. Mrs. Jellyby (the Africa-obsessed do-gooder who neglects her home and children) has appeared, and the book is suddenly much more interesting. If motivation continues to be a problem, I will switch over to Lord of the Rings.

C and I go to church

C and I walked to mass together to the campus chaplaincy today, since D was sick. As mass started, C looked over at the choir and said to me, "They can play guitars in church?"


Yesterday, I came home from the grocery store with a half gallon of Kern's Horchata, which I had never heard of before. The package describes it as a drink "popular in Mexico and other Latin American countries." The Kern's version is basically milk, corn syrup, sugar, rice flour, and cinnamon, and they suggest either drinking it plain or with ice. It's pretty sweet. C and I had some last night with our store brand Mexican Chocolate ice cream.

I was just looking it up on Wikipedia (which is really helpful, no matter what people say), and I learned that the recipe is actually quite variable. For details, see

Potty training update XIII

D woke up dry this morning. He has done that several times in the past week or two. If he manages to be dry all day three days in a row, we're going to IKEA Smaland again.

UPDATE: D had one wet and one dirty set of underpants today, so that's a total of two accidents for the day.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Movie night

Last night, we showed Jonestown: Life and Death of People's Temple in our living room. Three graduate folk showed up, and we chatted until late. I think next month will be Juno.

Pool party

C and I attended a classmate's pirate-themed pool party today at the Y. We both suited up and went to the pool, where I discovered that the pool contained only kids and a couple of dads (one heroically tugged seven or eight kids around the pool at once). The moms were kicking back in street clothes poolside. It was a lovely warm pool, so I didn't mind. I paddled around and watched C, until it was time for my well-earned pizza and pirate cake.

It's at times like this that I ask myself--why don't I go to the pool more often?

Potty training update XII

D was dry all day today, despite running a fever.

Friday, January 16, 2009

No more naps

D stopped napping at home sometime during December, partly as a result of the potty-training regimen. I haven't missed it much, since he's a big boy and mainly does his own thing while C's at school. He does, however, still nap at school.

Speaking of schedules, I was looking at the pre-kindergarten schedule for next year, and I was very pleased by the fact that C and D will have the same drop-off time. D will get out of school in time to come home for lunch, and we'll pick up C 3.5 hours later. That's very civilized. I'll have to ask how much time the pre-kindergarteners put into academic stuff, and how much time they get for playground and centers. I'd be perfectly happy with 60 minutes academic out of the four hours.

A couple days ago, D was out of the blue spelling out "poop" and "pop" for me. I think C taught him.

The four hour pre-kindergarten schedule is enough for me to do two projects a morning from the following (not exhaustive) list of categories: major household task, outing to gym, nap, volunteer work at school (we're supposed to do 5 hours a term, which is harder than it sounds 50 minutes at a time). Right now I'm teetering on the edge of Caitlin-Flanaganesque-housewife-with-not-quite-enough-to-do, but I don't think I'm quite over the edge yet.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Texas Amish furniture

I was googling around for "Amish furniture TX" and it turns out that there are many websites for Texas-based Amish woodworkers. Who knew?

UPDATE: On examination, it turns out that a number of these outlets truck furniture down from Pennsylvania. Good stuff, though.

Potty training update XI

D was dry all day today. Of course, he was at preschool much of the day, but it's still a step in the right direction.

Vanguard Report

We got a report from my husband's 401(k) today. The bad news is it's down 34%. The good news (???) is we didn't have much in it.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The House Always Wins

I'm going through my recently-read books pile to see if there's anything bloggable. I recommend Matthew Sweet's Inventing the Victorians, which is devoted to the thesis that the Victorians were very much like ourselves. I'm not going to blog the book, but it has some very interesting chapters on advertising, sensationalism, serial killers, drug use, home decor, freak shows, the cult of childhood, gender, "adult" entertainment and Victorians' love of entertainment and spectacle. I don't think it's the last word on the Victorian era, but it is a corrective.

Marni Jameson's The House Always Wins is a chatty guide to decorating and home improvement. I'm definitely going to keep it for reference. Here's Jameson on the gender gap between her and her husband on whether or not they need to replace furniture:

Dan didn't see the need for replacements. To him, the chairs looked as fresh as the day they arrived. He's the same way with his shirts and shoes. I've come to see this as a positive trait in a man. I figure that if I look just as fresh to him as the day we met, well, I'm not messing with that.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Jim Jones XXIII

It just occurred to me that (without stretching the term at all) Jim Jones was a community organizer.

UPDATE: Bah humbug. I googled "Jim Jones was a community organizer" last night, and it seems a bunch of people have already said the same thing. Well, it's still true.

Financial Peace Revisited

We're supposed to read several chapters of Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace Revisited as part of our homework for next week. I prefer his Total Money Makeover, which walks you through the steps, but there's a quote here and there in Financial Peace Revisited that I like. Here's Dave Ramsey on the subject of financial education:

It is almost impossible to get out of high school today without knowing what an amoeba is--now there is a really valuable piece of information--but few high school seniors can keep a checkbook balanced. They are taught virtually nothing about the real world of money...We are not taught basic principles of managing and making financial decisions for our own family. Consequently, we come out of high school or even college and set up housekeeping. We don't have knowledge of cars and car financing, but we buy one and sign the loan papers. We don't have knowledge of the implications of credit cards and high interest rates, but we get five pre-approved cards in the first two years out of school and we use them. We don't know about the rule of 78s or pre-payment penalties, so we finance our waterbeds, stereos, TVs, and washers and dryers.

Now I'm off to google "rule of 78s."


I'm back. Bankrate says:

There are two basic types of auto loans: simple interest loans and pre-computed loans. The Rule of 78s can only be applied to pre-computed loans that are paid ahead of schedule. To understand why this is such a lousy deal for consumers, you have to understand how a pre-computed loan works.
With a pre-computed loan, the interest owed over the life of the loan is calculated using a standard amortization table. Once you sign on the dotted line for this type of loan, you're obligated to pay back principal plus the full amount of interest that will accrue over the entire term of the loan.
To sum up, interest on a pre-computed loan is calculated in advance and you're on the hook for every penny of it when you sign.
In contrast, with a simple-interest loan you're charged interest each day based on the balance you owe. So the quicker you pay down your balance the less interest you pay. A simple interest loan with no prepayment penalties rewards customers who pay ahead.

Potty training update X

D was wet this morning, but by the time I got C successfully out the door for school, D had changed into dry cotton underpants and vinyl training pants and had an armful of wet stuff for me to take charge of.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


This evening, I went to the first official session of the 13-week "Financial Peace University" course that I've signed up for. It was at a conveniently-located church, there were several dozen people there, and the pastor is the coordinator. There's supposed to be a video segment taught to a studio audience by Dave Ramsey, a discussion session with the people at your table, and homework to do (reading and workbook).

One of the reasons I'm taking the course is that I've been thinking about talking to my pastor and coordinating it at my parish, and I wanted to go through it first and see if there was anything that makes it unsuitable. So far, so good.

I should mention that we still have credit cards, which is a no-no to hard-core Ramseyites. I'd eventually like to go to cash and debit only, but it would probably make the most sense to wait until we buy our first house. Interestingly, when we were at IKEA, there was a small sign at check-out saying that you could get a 3% rebate if you buy with debit. If we get some major items at IKEA in the future, I'll definitely want to try that. And if other merchants went the same way, it would certainly make debit the way to go.

Our budget is OK right now. Our current challenges are to pay for out-of-pocket therapy expenses for C (over the next 3-6 months?), save a bit every month toward our big family ski trip (a year from now), and save a bunch toward our house purchase (in 17 months?). I think we're on track for all of these things. However, I don't like what I see when I start penciling out figures for after we buy our house. We'll have property taxes, insurance and maintenance, plus we'll need to be more aggressive about retirement savings and start college savings for the kids. We'll also be paying D's private school tuition. I don't know how our deductions will work out, but the current forecast is a $500-a-month hole even if the mortgage winds up being the same as rent. When my husband does the taxes, we'll have to run some numbers for different scenarios.

Potty training update IX

D was dry early this morning when he woke us with the announcement that he had used the potty. He stayed dry (with coaching) until probably around 6 or 7 PM. That's his best record yet--that's about 22 or 23 hours. He has been in cotton training pants for nearly a month now.

Harry Potter II

C is well into the second Harry Potter book, which we happened to have at home.

UPDATE: She decided to stop reading tonight at the part with the basilisk, on the grounds that it might give her nightmares. She thinks it's more suitable for daylight reading.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Harry Potter

C is almost done with the first Harry Potter book. She started this morning and was reading it all day.

We go to IKEA

For a long time, we've been promising D a trip to IKEA's Smaland if he is dry for three days. We decided to go today, anyway. D, for his part, stayed dry until we got home around 6 PM. At IKEA, we had lunch together and then checked the kids into Smaland. There was a bit of hemming and hawing on my part when the staffer asked if D were potty trained, but they let him in. They had earlier had to shut down for two hours and swap out all the balls from the ball pit because of some small child's potty indiscretion.

I left my husband with his Treo in the lobby near Smaland and cruised through IKEA's rat-maze. I've been an IKEA customer ever since my husband and I got married, and he's been one since he was a kid, putting together IKEA furniture with his family. At some point, I'd like to break free from the veneer-laminate-and-particle-board circuit, but the unfortunate fact is that even much more expensive furniture contains the same stuff. People complain that you can't move with IKEA stuff, but we've had quite the opposite experience (with a few small exceptions). Thanks perhaps to my husband's skilled craftmanship, ours won't break, no matter how much I would like it to.

We'll probably be in the market for some new furniture after our next move. Today I was mostly taking notes about which IKEA stuff would be suitable for a grown-up home. I'm very fond of the Ektorp sofa in chocolate leather ($700), and I also like the Ektorp armchair with a red corduroy slip cover. I like the look of cabinets with glass doors, but deep down I feel certain that if we got one, the kids would wind up crashing into it someday. They had some wool Persian carpets for $300.

I was especially interested in looking at their kitchens. I didn't like the cabinet doors (they feel cheap--which they are), but IKEA has obviously done a brilliant job with cabinet inserts. I liked the narrow pull-out pantries, the step shelves, and the cookie sheet dividers (for vertical storage). I'd seen all those things in magazines and books, but rarely in real life. I'm partial to stainless steel kitchen carts--IKEA has one called Flytta for $160. I didn't see any tables that I was crazy about. I've been on the hunt for a new dining room table for a couple years now.

I spent all of $3.01 on some kids' hangers and two kitchen funnels, but we had lunch there and we made our usual visit to their Swedish food store at the exit. My husband is passionate about IKEA's creamed smoked roe with dill. We also got some whole wheat crackers featuring the letters I, K, E, and A, as well as orange and elderflower marmalade and lingonberry preserves.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Jim Jones XXII

I've finished Tim Reiterman's Raven. The story of the end of Jonestown is very complex and requires a lot of detail in the telling. By the end of it, Congressman Leo Ryan and a number of his party had been shot and or killed while about to fly away with a number of Jonestown defectors, and over 900 people had drunk poisoned Flavor-Aid. In my previous posts, I've tried to pull out the details that were interesting to me or less known, particularly with regard to Jones' active role in politics and his theology, rather than give a chronology of the massacre. For a more detailed treatment, see either Reiterman's book or the recent documentary Jonestown: Life and Death of People's Temple. On the blog, I use bold for long quotes. All of the bolded material in my Jim Jones posts are from Reiterman's Raven.

Jim Jones XXI

One of the Temple leadership's last acts was to attempt to transfer their money to the Soviet government.

In the last hours, the Temple's financial secretary had been busy making hasty arrangements to transfer some $7.3 million to the Soviet Union government from Venezualan and Panamanian bank accounts.

A letter from the putative owner of the accounts ("a jovial and loyal seventy-year-old black woman born in Mississippi") explained that she was making the transfer

...on behalf of Peoples Temple because we, as communists, want our money to be administered for help to oppressed peoples all over the world, or in any way that your decision-making body sees fit...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Jim Jones XX

In November 1978, Reiterman, other journalists and some relatives of the Jonestown settlers flew with Congressman Leo Ryan to Jonestown. Jones was not eager to let them into the settlement, but they were eventually allowed in and given the usual Jonestown welcome, good food, and elaborate entertainment.

While performers from thirteen years of age to their seventies did song and dance numbers on stage, Jones said piously, "Ageism, sexism and racism have been eliminated and elitism is almost eliminated. Each of us takes our turn in the fields." But Jones and the white leadership around him, I noted, had indoor complexions.

Jim Jones XIX

According to Reiterman, the Georgetown staff was very busy with keeping Jonestown supplied:

They shipped everything from diesel fuel to underwear to the free Gideon Bibles that Jones ordered for toilet paper. And some staff also handled the logistics for smuggling contraband--guns, drugs and American currency--into Guyana.

Beginning in early 1978, Sharon Amos, Debbie Touchette, and other public relations people met with Soviet official Feodor Timofeyev to discuss sending an exploratory delegation to Russia, and later possibly relocating the entire Temple colony there. Amos and Touchette kept Jones informed via lengthy memos which made clear that Timofeyev heard more than he wanted to know about Jones's health problems, the "conspiracy" and past Temple troubles. The prospect of allowing a thousand dissident Americans into USSR began to appear unattractive.

The Jonestown settlers started having Russian language classes at their meetings, although they learned only a few phrases.

Inspired by the example of a settler who wrote a Maoist-style self-criticism letter, Jones ordered all the settlers to produce one within the week. "He wanted certain topics addressed: the eight-hour day, elitism, anarchy, nostalgia for the United States and thoughts of returning home--also, feelings about Dad, defending Jonestown, past waste of money or personal problems and feelings."

Many letters were barely literate, grim recitations of people's dreary lives before they met Jim Jones. Many simply told him what they thought he wanted to hear. They confessed sinning back in the States by spending money on Big Macs and other junk food, money that then went to corporations that killed babies and murdered Allende in Chile and Lamumba in Africa. They often repeated exactly what he had drilled into them, day after day, in his reading and analysis of the news: the world according to Jones.

Children who could not spell the word "elitist" admitted their elitism.

Thanks in part to heavy use of valium, quaaludes, uppers, barbituates, etc., Jones' behavior was growing more and more erratic. On September 25, 1978, he wrote a later to President Jimmy Carter, explaining in surreal and self-serving detail how it was that he had become the father of young John Stoen. (Not to go into to much lurid detail, but it was supposedly at the request of John's mother's husband.)

Drugs played a larger role at Jonestown. Jones

...established an ECU or "Extended Care Unit," for unmanageable people such as captured escapees. Their keepers sedated and drugged them under twenty-four-hour observation...Overseers at the eight-bed ECU had access to enough behavior-controlling drugs to equip the city of Georgetown. Among the drugs later recovered from Jonestown were: 10,000 injectable doses and 1,000 tablets of Thorazine, an antipsychotic; 20,000 doses of the pain-killer Demerol; 3,000 liquid doses and 2,000 tablets of Valium; 200 vials of injectable morphine sulfate; and thousands of doses of other powerful drugs, such as Quaaludes, Vistaril (for management of anxiety and tension), Noludar (habit-forming sleeping aid) and Innovar Injection, a tranquilizer normally used for surgery and diagnosis.

Jim Jones XVIII

Reiterman describes Jim Jones' bedroom in Guyana:

His bedroom was dominated by a large four-poster wooden bed with clothes drawers underneath. Wooden trunks held his personal items: hypodermic needles, alcohol swabs, liquid Valium, morphine, many other kinds of drugs, sugar substitute, laxatives, Maalox, cocoa, Allercreme, hair spray, and Miss Clairol hair coloring, used to keep his greying hair black.

Jim Jones XVII

In December 1977, Mike Touchette returned to Jonestown after a stint in Georgetown. Living conditions had deteriorated.

Instead of free time after work, there were catharsis sessions and long rambling discourses by Jim Jones three or four nights a week. Instead of the entertaining movies rented from Georgetown, they saw propaganda shorts on soviet life supplied by the Soviet Embassy and video-cassette documentaries about the abuse of old people in U.S. convalescent homes or problems of returning Vietnam War veterans. Attendence was mandatory, and everyone was tested on the programs afterwards.

Jones was soon running what he called "White Nights" every two weeks or so. The White Nights were defense/suicide drills that started with Jones screaming "Alert, alert, alert," over the loudspeaker, calling all to assemble at the pavilion. "His security guards would surround the pavilion with guns and crossbows. Usually the crisis began during the day and lasted far into the night."

There had been a staged poisoning/loyalty test of the inner circle long ago back in California, but Jones tried the routine in Guyana for the first time in the spring of 1978.

...Jones's rhetoric shifted suddenly from self-defense to self-destruction: "We're going to drink poison and kill ourselves." A large batch of fruit punch was brought forth and people lined up.

Once again, it was just a loyalty test.

Jonestown had degenerated physically as well as emotionally. Sloppiness was rampant. Buildings needed paint and fields were overgrown by weeds. Bureaucratic requirements became counterproductive, and needless paperwork consumed far too many hours.

Before Jones moved permanently to Jonestown, people had been able to take days off occasionally, even relax a bit or stroll to the "waterfall," a shallow creek with rapids about a quarter-mile from the settlement. Now that too had changed. Sundays were free, but people had to catch up on their laundry or sewing, or study for the quizzes on the news Jones read day and night over the public address system. And if people wanted to visit the waterfall or the bush, they had to coax a security guard to go along, ostensibly to keep them on the trails and protect them from snakes, tigers or mercenaries.

Reiterman quotes from a 14-year-old student's spelling notebook, which offers a disturbing look at the likely content of the school day.

1. Tim Stoen has hire mercenaires to come over here and destroy us.
2. Guyana has an alience with the Soviet Union.
3. Yemen has offered sancturary to the Red Brigade.
4. Albania is a non-aliegn country.
5. Dad wants us to use stradgy when we are in a crises.
6. We are jungle Guerillas.

The settlers "had been stripped of their valuables, passports and other identification."

Jim Jones XVI

Reiterman thinks that it was paranoia rather than actual enemies in the US that necessitated the Temple's exodus to Guyana. "Though they fretted about government investigations, government agencies in reality were uninterested in them." Meanwhile, the church's overreaction to media investigations fueled reporters' interest. Defectors began to come out of the woodwork and talk to reporters. Media reports led to official inquiries, but as of 1977 investigators weren't able to come up with much, particularly since by that time, hundreds of Peoples Temple members were leaving for Guyana.

Instead of small cottages, the Temple started to build cabins for 12 and five dormitories for 42, as well as a mess a mess hall.

Work would begin at 6:30 A.M. and continue until 6:00 P.M. seven days a week, with an hour for lunch--but "try to limit to one half [hour]," added Stoen's note. The nights were filled, too: on Sunday a meeting, Monday a movie, Tuesday free time or a meeting, Wednesday a meeting and socialist classes, Thursday free time, Friday children's night with wieners, Saturday farm night.

Jonestown wasn't ready for the newcomers. Quarters were crowded and settlers had to eat in three shifts at the mess. Contrary to Jones' promises, the local trees did not produce a fruit that tasted like ice cream.

Jonestown's workforce was comprised of about 950 Peoples Temple members, two-thirds female. Nearly 70 percent were black, 25 percent were white, and the rest a smattering of mulatto, Hispanic, American Indian and Asian. Nearly 300 were under 18 years old.

The settlers were making progress with their agricultural work. They were harvesting 2,000 pounds of bananas a month. The medical unit had an infirmary and drug dispensary and "a registered nurse was on duty twenty-four hours a day." There was a preschool and an elementary school.

In addition to the three R's, the students were taught physical and earth sciences, social science "with emphasis on Guyanese history and culture," socialism, arts, crafts and music. The high school provided vocational and technical education, stressing agricultural skills.

Interestingly, Reiterman does not mention scripture study.

For many of the several hundred senior citizens, Jonestown might well have seemed better than life in America, especially for southern blacks who came via the ghettos. Nearly two hundred seniors turned over monthly social security checks to the church, but in return they enjoyed a measure of security. All their needs were met, and they no longer had to fear urban crime. By and large, seniors could relax. Those not desiring to work on communal projects could tend small gardens. All could visit the library for books or watch videotapes. It was difficult for some, but they adjusted out of necessity to crowding, strange food and weather, and other negative conditions. Still, they shared a sense of community in Jonestown--and some believed that Jones was God. None was in a position to pack up and leave.

The community had comedians and musicians who performed soul, gospel, rhythm and blues and disco.

Above all, the pioneer spirit kept Jonestown alive. despite the hardship, this group of city people had carved a new life in the rain forests of South America. Most new arrivals felt a special sense of adventure. They also felt their experiment was significant: that they were building a model for socialism.

However, a number of the pioneers were losing weight rapidly on the high-carbohydrate low-meat diet served at Jonestown.

On a daily basis, Jones had to deal with the dashed expectations of the many settlers who recognized that Jonestown, their tropical paradise, really resembled a primitive jungle workcamp.

At last, he had people where he wanted them--on another continent, in a jungle with no law except his own. Their isolation was complete. Events in the world--and reality itself--would be filtered exclusively through him.

Jones told his people that after the imminent nuclear war, the US would be uninhabitable, so there was no point in going back. Jones was secretly shipping guns to Guyana. In August 1977, he spoke in code over the radio to order a shipment from San Francisco:

"I want you to go to the Bible Exchange at Second and Mission," Jones began. "They have a flashlight, the kind with black metal and it's twenty-four inches long. Do you copy?" The only "exchange on Second Street was the San Francisco Gun Exchange--"Bible" was the church code for "gun."

One of the residents of Jonestown was a boy named John Victor Stoen. His legal parents were two defectors, but Jim Jones claimed paternity. The struggle for custody of the boy was part of the impetus for the increasing militarization of Jonestown. Jones would not produce John, which made him guilty of contempt of court and subject to arrest by the Guyanese government. Over the radio, he told his wife Marceline in San Francisco:

"Well, we're going to die if anyone comes to arrest anyone. That's a vote of the people. We'll die because we've done no crime. I offered to go, to make that painful sacrifice, Marceline, but the people said no. The morale would not stand it."

Angela Davis spoke to the people of Jonestown by radio from San Francisco:

"This is Angela Davis. I'd like to say to the Rev. Jim Jones and to all my sisters and brothers from Peoples Temple to know that there are people here...across the country who are supporting you. I know that you're in a very difficult situation right now and there is a conspiracy. A very profound conspiracy designed to destroy the contributions which you have made to the struggle. And this is why I must tell you that we feel that we are under attack as well...We will do everything in our power to ensure your safety..."

After six days of mostly imaginary siege, a friendly Guyanese official returned home and the custody case stalled. However, Jones believed it was time to find a new haven.

On September 30, the Temple sent letters to the Washington embassies of more than a dozen countries, many in the Third World, asking their policies on immigration and cultivation of farmlands. The church got initial replies from the Ivory Coast, Brazil, Greece, Tunisia, Bangladesh, Malawi, Canada and others. The Temple also wrote the U.S. State Department asking about several countries including North Korea and the Stalinist state of Albania.

Jim Jones XV

In the fall of 1976, Jim Jones managed to be part of a delegation greeting vice-presidential candidate Walter Mondale at San Francisco International Airport. Later in the fall, the People's Temple helped fill seats at the dedication of the Carter-Mondale campaign headquarters, at which Rosalynn Carter appeared. Jones parlayed this into a 15-minute meeting with Rosalynn Carter herself. Despite the brevity of the meeting, "the People's Forum staff soon would ready photos of Jones and Mrs. Carter with the caption, "Rev. Jim Jones, by invitation, dines with Mrs. Jimmy Carter."" Jones was expert into making the most out of the most fleeting encounters with VIPs. Jones also hedged his bets with contributions to President Gerald Ford.

In September 1976, Jones hosted a testimonial dinner in celebration of himself. It was attended by California political luminaries from both parties. Willie Brown introduced him in the following terms:

"Let me present to you what you should see every day when you look into the mirror in the early morning hours..." he declared. "Let me present to you a combination of Martin King, Angela Davis, Albert Einstein...Chairman Mao..."

Jim Jones XIV

Starting in January 1976, the church centralized member dining in San Francisco. This was an economy measure to save money for an exodus to Guyana if civil war broke out in the US when Jimmy Carter was elected. All bookkeeping was also centralized.

The Temple would monitor and maintain control of every dime, paying rent, phone bills, and other allowable expences.

Joyce and Bob Houston, who were living with 18 other people in a single house, were miserable.

The ironies did not escape Joyce. The very day she handed the church an $800 pay check, she had to submit a request for $10 for the children's monthly birthday outing..."This is a rich organization," she told Jones in planning commission meetings. "So why don't our children have [even] the standard of living of kids in the slums?"

Jim Jones XIII

What was the People's Temple? Reiterman says:

In Indiana, the Temple was more of a church than a social movement or cult; in California, it was more of a social movement and cult than a utopian community; in Guyana, it would become a utopian community and in some ways the ultimate cult.

The most respectable and accurate label in the Temple's early years, even in California, was "church." To most people, the California Temple remained a humanitarian, activist Christian church. The Pentecostal style of the services and the conventional religious trappings kept religious people in a familiar theological sphere while moving them in other directions. However, in terms of the intimacy among members, the Temple most closely resembled a utopian community.

...In the end, Jones's people were subjected unwittingly and gradually to sophisticated mind control and behavior-modification techniques borrowed from postrevolutionary China, North Korea and perhaps from other cults.

Reiterman writes that although Jones allied with politicians like George Moscone as a defensive measure to protect the Temple, his real sympathies lay in a more radical direction.

The endorsement of the Temple by political radicals was a two-way bonding process. Figures such as the communist Angela Davis and Laura Allende, sister of the late Chilean leader, validated the Temple as a social movement to those on the Left, while their presence and support validated the Temple to its own members. Besides Davis, the church proudly numbered among its friends actress Jane Fonda, Black Panther Huey Newton, American Indian Movement leader Dennis Banks and others whose radicalism was to Jones's liking.

The Temple "participated in rallies" on behalf of Angela Davis and contributed generously ($20k) to bail out an AIM member and her infant daughter from jail. Jones orchestrated a somewhat tense "Spiritual Jubilee" in May 1976 as a "demonstration of brotherhood" with the Black Muslims. In attendence were Dr. Goodlett (the kingmaker), "Angela Davis, Lieutenant Governor Mervyn Dymally, not to mention Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley."

As SF housing commissioner, Jones was flying high. He "consistently took the side of tenants." During a tense stand-off in January 1977 at the International Hotel, "the Temple supplied two thousand of the five thousand persons chanting, "No, no, no evictions!""

In December 1976, Jones accompanied California Lieutenant Governor Mervyn Dymally on an official visit to Guyana. Jones and Dymally had a private meeting with President Burnham and the Foreign Affairs minister.

In a letter to Burnham, Dymally would call Jim Jones "one of the finest human beings" and later would say he was "tremendously impressed" by his visit to Jonestown.

Jim Jones XII

Jim Jones dreamed that Jonestown could be self-sufficient. Meanwhile, in Guyana, the settlers were working hard, but finding the jungle not as fruitful as the abundant natural vegetation suggested.

But from the start, Mike Touchette doubted the project would ever become self-sufficient. The soil was too poor. The high temperature in the jungle oxidized the organic matter, leaving the ground hard as concrete. In the ongoing quest for the right soil nutrients, the group bought hundreds of tons of commercial fertilizer and crushed sea shells to spread over one hundred acres of land. But each application of fertilizer lasted for one crop only, and was effective only if the weather was decent and heavy rains did not wash away the thin topsoil. Jim Jones told the settlers to keep experimenting. But it was costing a fortune.

The settlers were short of money for fuel and were sent junk when they asked HQ for heavy equipment. Jones visited Jonestown in November 1975 and was unsympathetic to Charlie Touchette's pleas for more money. "I'm bleeding for money," Jones told him. "I'm dying for you and you're just bitching about money, just throwing it around."

Instead of money, Jones brought his catharsis sessions with him. He thrived on the emotional upheavals the settlers had hoped to avoid.

After Jones ordered Mike Touchette to confront his uncle Tim Swinney during a catharsis session, Mike "got a glimmer that Father might be trying to keep people apart, rather than mend their problems."

In 1976, Jones visited his settlers only twice. While he was away, they lived almost autonomously, and more happily. Though there were still fewer than fifty settlers, many more organized activities were available.

They rented and screened Hello, Dolly!, Enter the Dragon, and Z. They worked from 7 AM to 5:30 PM.

Except for Sunday nights, people had the evenings free. They could read, catch up on their sleep, play cards and dominoes or watch movies. For Mike Touchette, it was a great life.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Jim Jones XII

Soon, Jones was boring into the heart of San Francisco progressive politics. Reiterman gives the following list of "future Temple friends and allies": Goodlett (a black businessman and SF kingmaker), "black communist Angela Davis," State Assemblyman Willie Brown, and "future mayor George Moscone."

In 1975, state senator George Moscone was running for mayor. Liberals needed to turn out the vote, especially in black neighborhoods. "Soon the Temple was being bandied about as one of the community groups needed to pull together a liberal coalition--and install the city's first liberal administration." Jones was more than happy to oblige with two hundred volunteers. Moscone won, as did two white liberal candidates that the Temple campaigned for. Jones grossly exaggerated the Temple's membership in his dealings with SF politicians, claiming to have eight thousand SF members and twenty thousand California members.

Politicians had wrongly assumed that any group which could turn out several hundred volunteers was huge; they failed to see how the Temple's communal and authoritarian structure meant Jones could produce a high percentage of his members at will. Through illusion, public relations, misrepresentations and exploitation of political greed, Jones expanded his influence.

After the election, Jones wanted his pound of flesh. "Seeing that the minister's pride had been hurt, Moscone decided to appoint him in March 1976 to the Human Rights Commission, an appropriate place for a liberal preacher." Jones was unimpressed--he had held a similar position years ago in Indianapolis. In October 1976, Jones was appointed to the San Francisco Housing Authority, which controls public housing.

Before Jones's arrival, Housing Authority meetings had been dull, poorly attended affairs. After Jones, the meetings became spirited public rallies. Jones bused in his own cheering section. They applauded him wildly, no matter what he said...Jones...soon became chairman...

Despite (or because of) Jones' energetic coalition-building, the NAACP stiff-armed him and future mayor Dianne Feinstein turned down the Temple's offer of security.

For Jones and the Temple, the fibers of his political network were unraveling almost as fast as they were woven.

However, their 1975 election efforts "established the church as a factor in local politics, as a force within the black community and as a potential ally for those with compatible political goals or the pragmatism not to care."

Even those politicians disturbed by Jones's personality problems, militarism or manipulation did nothing. First, who would want to risk opposing a church doing such worthwhile work in the community? Second, who would want to offend a machinelike political organization with friends in high places? Third, how could anyone speak against such a secretive organization with any certainty?...Where could opponents, skeptics or victims turn if Jones had friends or admirers in the state legislature and the U.S. Congress, the offices of the governor, the mayor, the police chief, the sheriff, and the district attorney, as well as on the leading black newspaper and the largest daily newspapers?

Jim Jones XI

Here's some more from Tim Reiterman's Raven, explaining what it meant to "go communal" for the People's Temple.

Communalism was no revelation to Jim Jones. The revival of communalism in the 1960s simply put that living style back in public consciousness. Using biblical justifications, Jones had practiced it to a very limited extent in Indiana with his extended family of about a dozen. but in California, the organization was sufficiently large to reintroduce it. Philosophically, Jones favored the communal life because it was a leveling and unifying experience. In a commune, all theoretically would have the same housing, use of communal transportation, equal sharing of food and even clothing. No one would own anything. No one would feel inferior. No one would lack parents, or children. Everyone would live under Temple rules.

Not all of the congregation lived communally, but the high-ranking inner-circle was expected to. The practical side of it was that it cut living expenses and the savings could go to the People's Temple.

The communal system was almost self-generating. The church converted houses and property donated by communards into new communal living units. Over thirty pieces of property were signed over to the church in Mendocino County alone. At least several dozen additional properties, including a rest home, were donated in San Francisco, mostly by black people who had worked all their lives to buy a home or build a business.

Reiterman says that "In the mid-1970s, as the Temple shifted to the cities, communes became important as a means of tightening controls and of improving church finances."

People signed over pay checks and disability, welfare and social security checks, receiving in return room, board, medical care and other benefits. Contrary to the stereotype promoted by the Temple and embraced by the news media and others, the masses of Temple members had not been ne'er-do-wells on welfare. They were hard-working black people who had been productive all their lives and often had maintained strong Christian church ties.

...[P]ooling resources meant all could live better communally, with companionship and brotherhood and people to care for them in their final years. Likewise, single parents were attracted to a lifestyle with religion, political activism, companionship and childcare. For all, the standard of living, while perhaps not comparable to white middle-class neighborhoods, was far superior to that of many urban ghettos. The diet was healthy, the shelter safe and adequate, the supervision of students and children good. And the environment was interracial.

Jim Jones X

After years of paranoia, Jim Jones was finally starting to acquire real enemies.

Between 1971 and 1974, Jim Jones had suddenly found himself challenged by three serious enemies--the press, Temple defectors and the Establishment, including law enforcement agencies.

The measures Jones took to defend his position were increasingly counterproductive. Starting in late 1973, he and his lawyer Tim Stoen began to prepare contingency plans for evacuation from the US. Temple researchers began to study Guyana, particularly its economic situation and extradition treaties with the US.

Why Guyana? For one, Jones had been favorably impressed back in 1961 during his stopover in what was then British Guiana. Its politics were socialistic and moving further left. It was the only English-speaking country in all South America and, perhaps more important, was governed by blacks. Besides, it was small enough and poor enough that Jones could easily obtain influence and official protection there.

Little by little, the People's Temple increased its presence in Guyana. With a great deal of toil, the pioneering group built their settlement in the jungle.

...Jim Jones exaggerated what was in reality a notable achievement. He could have told his Redwood Valley congregation that the Temple settlers were doing backbreaking work clearing the bush and trying to grow food in the middle of a jungle. Instead, Jones had to claim that Jonestown was a Caribbean paradise with ripe fruit bursting from every tree, that food was so plentiful you could just sit back and let it fall into your lap.

In Georgetown, Jones approached Fr. Andrew Morrison, "a Jesuit born in Guyana of English parents." Morrison was also the editor of The Catholic Standard, a small weekly that had started as a parish newspaper but eventually became the most reliable and independent source for news on politics in Guyana. Jones wanted to borrow Morrison's Sacred Heart Church for a service. In the spirit of ecumenism, Morrison agreed. He was horrified to discover Jones' advertisements for the event in the Guyana Chronicle, which read "THE BLIND SEE! THE DEAF HEAR! THE CRIPPLED WALK!" It was too late to cancel. Morrison attended the healing service, was displeased by the fact that Jones' main subject was himself rather than Jesus, and Morrison eventually discovered that those healed were coincidentally all members of Jones' group. Morrison was unable to find anyone willing to intervene, but he "decided to keep his on file on Jim Jones and Peoples Temple. It would grow substantially over the years."

Many inside the Temple were likewise disappointed by the healing service. Though tame by stateside standards, it proved that Jones was importing the same cheap, theatrical deceptions used in American ghettos. His settlers had hoped he would leave home the religion and concentrate on the church's social and political goals.

The healing service "became a public relations disaster," and Jones had to send teams all over Georgetown apologizing for it.

Jim Jones IX

The discrepancy between the rhetoric of People's Temple and the reality led some to defect.

Those in the church inner circle--mostly white--went to restaurants and movies routinely and took special privileges, while the rank and file--mostly poor and black--did without.

Meanwhile, Jones' creation of a harem within the community led to tension and jealousy among the women. Jones also coerced men of the community into liasions with him, partly as a method of control. Reiterman says a lot about this aspect of Jones' leadership of the community, but this is about all I want to say. In any case, Jones' "free love" was an instrument of control rather than liberation. It was used to loosen the bonds between husbands and wives, ensuring that a member's primary loyalty would be to Jones.

Jim Jones VIII

Jones drifted from preaching non-violence to adopting militant trappings. Reiterman writes:

By the mid-1970s, all the military elements were in place. The church had stockpiled almost two hundred guns; a security squad of a few dozen people had been trained; Jones traveled everywhere with bodyguards; there were procedures for searching all who entered Temple services, and Temple buses had armed escorts.

Jones faked a series of attempts on his life.

Most curious was the phantomlike ability of would-be assassins to vanish, of alleged bullets to penetrate a plywood anti-assassin screen without making holes, of Jones to know as though on cue exactly when the shots would ring out.

The first hostile press treatment that Jones received was after some healing services in Indianapolis. "CHURCH FILLED TO SEE "CURES" BY SELF-PROCLAIMED "PROPHET OF GOD"," read the 1971 headline in the Indianapolis Star. The reporter observed that "The people who were called upon in the evening [service] had a striking resemblance to some who were called upon earlier in the day." The Indiana State Psychology Board began to investigate Jones' claims of healing through "parapsychology." Indiana was becoming too hot and Jones sold off church holdings there. Meanwhile, an Indianapolis Star reporter contacted the San Francisco Examiner. A visit from Kingsolving (the SFE's religion editor) and a photographer showed that the People's Temple in Redwood Valley had become an armed camp. Kingsolving wrote a multi-part investigative series on the People's Temple. The People's Temple repeatedly picketed and tried to strong-arm the Examiner.

Jones was trying to recover lost ground. He was not ready to go public with the title "Prophet Jones," because it broke down the dual identity he had tried to maintain. Inside the church, or on fund-raising tours, he could bill himself that way for purposes of control and stature to attract crowds and money. But to the Establishment in Ukiah, and even more so in the big city of San Francisco, where he was cutting a toehold, he needed to uphold a purely humanitarian image.

Kingsolving's investigative series was seven articles long, but only the first four were published. The Temple was threatening to sue, and the final installments made accusations of criminal conduct and "were not well substantiated."

Kingsolving's unpublished articles delved into Temple internal affairs in a way that no other stories would until 1977. But though he had collected pieces of the mosaic, he had failed to form a coherent picture. He had put his finger on Jones's claims to be the reincarnation of Christ, on his predictions of nuclear doom and the secret cave, his visits to Father Divine, on Temple tithing, catharsis, socialist readings, survival training for children, on Temple political power in Ukiah and more.

The SFE ran a question and answer with Jones, with an insufficiently respectful introduction. That same day, acting city editor John Todd was besieged by phone calls at home.

And so the Examiner quit the story. A nobody named Jim Jones had worn down a big San Francisco daily. It would be almost five years before the Examiner embarked on a major effort to entangle the Peoples Temple story. By then, the stakes would be much higher and the target more elusive.

The People's Temple started a campaign against Kingsolving. They burglarized his home, taking copies of his newspaper articles and check stubs. Their letter-writing campaign to the newspapers that syndicated Kingsolving led to his being dropped by most of the newspapers that had previously carried his column.

By early 1973, no law enforcement agencies and no newspapers were investigating the Temple. The only people doing anything about the Temple were members of an informal Christian prayer group in Ukiah, a group run, appropriately enough, by Ross Case, Jones's onetime associate in Indiana.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Jim Jones VII

Jones alternated between preaching free love and universal celibacy and the People's Temple undermined both marriage and normal family life.

Marriage was one thing, but childbirth another, especially in the Ukiah days. There are too many unwanted and neglected little ones in the world, Jones would cry, perhaps lamenting his own childhood. Bearing children instead of adopting was construed as greedy. Some women in their childbearing years were clearly frustrated by this policy; others who went ahead anyway, like Grace Stoen, were showered with abuse.

Jones claimed to be the father of Grace Stoen's son, John.

For a while, he allowed them [Grace and her husband Tim] to live as a nuclear family with their beautiful, bright little boy...[W]hen John was only two years old, Tim announced it was time to move the boy out of their home and into the larger Temple community to be raised communally.

Jim Jones VI

The Peoples Temple played an active part in local politics, in both Republican and Democratic politics.

This little nation's dealings with the outside world were characterized by paranoia, pragmatism and, always, concealment of the Temple's inner working. For self-protection, Jones emphasized a good public image and warm relations with the news media and law enforcement officials. The Temple wanted to be seen as a purely do-gooder church with social services. But Jones's need for secrecy conflicted with his desire for power and notoriety. In relatively conservative Mendocino County, the church as a matter of strategy broke into the Republican power structure. It did the same in San Francisco with a liberal Democratic administration.

Despite the Peoples Temple's success in attracting elite whites, its core membership became Black Californians:

The church population had climbed from about 150 settlers to perhaps as many as 3,000 members by the mid-1970s. The racial makeup shifted from mostly white in the early California years to predominantly black because the Temple, as always, built its following on the revival circuit, and that circuit, in California's urban centers, was more black than white.

Jones entrusted a number of women with sensitive tasks. They brought Jones information that he could use in his amazing mind-reading displays, and "by surrendering moral reservations" they were able to "lure poor black people to the church and help strip them of their possessions in the name of liberating or saving them." These women went the extra mile, making commando raids on targets' garbage cans in order to collect information about them, and dressing up as frail old ladies and purchasing chicken livers, both for use in Jones' healing services. And yet they believed in Jones.

Jones' inner circle was known as the p.c. (or planning commission). The p.c.'s lengthy meetings were mostly devoted to what the communist Chinese used to call "struggle sessions":

Jones often targeted the victims and orchestrated punishments through his surrogates. It was necessary to strip away ego to become a good collectivist, he said. Sessions started with verbal sniping, slipped into verbal brutality that brought people to tears, and gradually plunged into the sphere of physical violence.

...Often the sting did not stop when the sessions ended. A person never could be 100 percent certain about his tormentors again. Friends, spouses, and lovers were divided by degrees.

Jim Jones V

The Peoples Temple continued to affiliate with the Disciples of Christ, although Jones made little effort to adhere to the Disciples' extremely loose requirements of baptism and weekly communion. Reiterman says:

Jones, like Father Divine, administered holy communion in the form of church dinners. He baptized people in the Temple swimming pool "in the holy name of Socialism."

The Temple combined at least two different demographic strands:

In the space of just a couple of years in the early 1970s, Temple membership and assets multiplied several times over as the church combined its old recruiting patterns among poor, blacks and the uneducated with assistance from an elite of college-educated, middle-class whites.

The church was growing by leaps and bounds and soon had 36,000 names on its mailing list. Jones was recruiting followers from across the US and "By late 1971, the voice of Jim Jones could be heard on radio broadcasts over much of the United States, Canada, and Mexico." It was too much, too fast.

...Jones attached a higher priority to building a strong organization than in making it a model of integration. Falling victim to his impatience, he reinforced the racism of the larger society. Because many whites came to the Temple with educational advantages and social skills, the pragmatic preacher drew a disproportionate number into his inner circle. His white elite in turn attracted even more well-educated whites, many of them from the Bay Area...

Jones preached reincarnation:

Jones promised essentially eternal life and protection. And he buttressed his promise with the concept of reincarnation. It helped explain the deification of Jones, the presence of a God-force in his body. It also allowed him to borrow from the auras of great historical and religious figures--pharaohs, Christ, Buddha, Lenin among others--and claim to be their reincarnation. But most significantly, he used the concept to comfort those members who might have to suffer and give their bodies for the cause. Death was not final, he told them.

"...[Y]ou can become your own God!" he promised...I came to show you that the only God you need is within you..."

After stomping on a Bible in front of his enthusiastic flock, Jones said:

"I want you to realize that you must be the scripture, that any scripture other than you and the word that I am now imparting is idolatry."

Jim Jones IV

Jim Jones was a restless man. Worn-out by the success of the People's Temple and fearing nuclear holocaust and vengeful racists, he traveled to Cuba, Hawaii, Brazil, Mexico and Guiana in the early 1960s. Jones was looking for a new location for the People's Temple, and for escape from his demons (hackneyed as that sounds, there is no other way to understand his constant, restless activity and frequent moves). After Jones returned to Indiana (following a long stay in Brazil), Reiterman says:

Step by step Jones was leading his people to the conclusion that he was a prophet. They had seen him Christlike feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, inspiring compassionate deeds; they had witnessed his miraculous feats through the Holy Spirit. The people trusted him and stood in awe of him; they compromised themselves by accepting his destruction of the Bible.

His loyal follower Patty Cartmell told naysayers within the Temple, "He's the only God you'll ever see." Reiterman interprets Cartmell as meaning "that there was no god except the force of goodness and love in each person."

Jones' departures from Christian orthodoxy made Indiana an increasingly unsuitable location for the People's Temple. In 1965, Jones led an exodus from Indiana to rural Northern California, just as he would ultimately lead his flock to Guiana. In California, the People's Temple built a church with a swimming pool and a kitchen for their potlucks. At the parsonage, Jones' room was

...furnished as sparsely as a college dormitory. On his bookshelves, he kept the Bible and books about religions; books on Hitler, Lenin, Marx and revolution; books on nuclear war and organized crime; books about psychology and mind control. In a closet to the right of his bed, he stowed a shotgun. In a vanity, he stored his medicines.

Located as it was on the periphery of the Bay Area, the Peoples Temple began to draw hippies and young professionals.

Rev. Jones avoided the piety that kept many people away from religious institutions; he talked about social issues more often than he quoted the Bible, and called his religion apostolic socialism--"apostolic" for the church-oriented, "socialism" for those with social goals and political objectives...These white children of the sixties were shown only the compassionate facets of Jim Jones's personality, and on that basis, they allowed the church to annex larger and larger portions of their lives.

The growing church consumed more and more of Jones energy. By the late 1960s, Jones was preaching (and practicing) free love. Despite the church's involvement in drug treatment, Jones

...reportedly had begun abusing drugs, taking stimulants, pain-killers and tranquilizers to suit his mood and purpose.

I'm not a psychiatrist and Reiterman doesn't label Jones' psychological issues, but Jones' symptoms are reminiscent of schizophrenia and manic depression--his paranoia, his energy, his insomnia. It makes me wonder if his drug use wasn't self-medication as much as recreation.

Happy Birthday!

We celebrated my husband's birthday today with a chocolate HEB cake. My gift to him was a small mortar and pestle.

Star Wars II

C has been watching Star Wars: Episode IV practically non-stop. She told her daddy that the droids are her favorite part. There's a pattern here: she adored Wall-E and she loved the Tin Man from Wizard of Oz so much when she was around 3 or 4 that we bought her a stuffed one.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Jim Jones III

Jones was impressed by the Methodist church's social creed of the early 1950s, their desire to fight poverty and embrace "a form of security for the aged; collective bargaining; free speech; prison reform; jobs for all." Jones became a student pastor at a Methodist church in a poor white neighborhood in Indianapolis and launched a campaign to create a rec center for local children.

Jones wanted to increase his numbers and take inclusiveness even further, by racially integrating his congregation. In visiting black churches, he concluded that Pentecostalism would help him on both scores. Unlike the old-guard Methodists, white Pentecostalists, with their healings and emotional services, were somewhat inclined to accept blacks of similar persuasion, and vice versa. Furthermore, Pentecostal churches and evangelists drew far and away the biggest crowds.

After a visit to the elderly Father Divine (who preached universal celibacy, communal living, and himself as the Almighty), "not-so-subtle changes crept into Jim's theology and behavior."

One day Mrs. Baldwin [Jones' mother-in-law] rebuked Jim gently when he came flying down the stairs, Bible in hand, declaring: "Mom, this Bible has got to be torn down! It's full of inconsistencies, and our churches are failing to carry out the great commandment to feed the widows and children and take care of the needy. 'The letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life.'"

...Jim had started reading his Bible again with great intensity, picking it apart with the vigor of a crusader; the list of inconsistencies he compiled would serve him for years. When he began speaking publicly about such things, however, he touched off a firestorm...Many could not tolerate such blasphemy and deserted.

...He picked up the volume, suddenly, to roughly quote the Bible: "And they sold their possessions and goods and imparted them to every man as every man had need."

Jones challenged his congregation to follow in the footsteps of the early Christians in Jerusalem. The People's Temple was now running a free restaurant and a free grocery and Jones and Jones had started to collect his "rainbow family" of adopted children. By 1960, the People's Temple joined the Disciples of Christ, which had few requirements for denomination membership: baptism and Sunday communion.

...Case [a future assistant pastor at People's Temple] had discovered that Pastor Jones was inclined to make theological blunders. For instance, Jones had got himself in hot water with his aides and the congregation by denying the virgin birth--and had to reverse himself.

Also in 1960, Jones was named director of Indianapolis's Human Rights Commission, on the strength of his role as "an advocate of the poor and blacks" and he and his lieutenants proceeded to vigorously integrate the city. Reiterman says that "At this time, the Jones family commune and the Temple itself took on a siege mentality." There were at least some genuine incidents directed against Jones and the People's Temple as a result of their integration efforts, but Reiterman suggests that many of them were bogus. "Over the years glass would appear in Jim Jones's food again and again." Jones "seemed to need to prove to those around him that he was not overreacting, paranoid or crazy--that, indeed, people were out to get him."

Jim Jones II

According to Reiterman's Raven, the young Jim Jones was precocious, chameleon-like, and as he moved into adolescence, prone to sudden violence and creepy pranks. His father was a WWI veteran who had been mustard gassed and was chronically short of breath. Big Jim was well enough to make it to the pool hall, but not up to either working regularly or taking care of young Jim. His mother worked a series of menial jobs, eventually divorcing Big Jim. Meanwhile, young Jim was left mainly to his own devices, making the rounds of the local churches before finally settling on the Pentecostals and becoming a boy preacher. Even as a street-preaching teenager in late 1940s Indiana, he preached racial equality.

Jim Jones kept a Bible in his desk at college and read it regularly, and sometimes talked of going to Bible school. Lemmons [his roommate], who had been attending Disciples of Christ churches all his life, found Jim's religious views incongruous and his knowledge of scripture full of holes. On one occasion, Jim might bend the Bible to support his own unorthodox views, and on another he might recite dogma in the most rigid of terms. His tendencies were secular and social, his rhetoric primitive and evangelistic.

Jones married sweet, sheltered Marceline in his late teens. Soon afterward, he started expressing "atheistic views" and demanded that his wife stop practicing her faith. He threatened to throw himself out the window if she kept praying.

He felt duty bound to tell her what he had discovered intellectually: that there was no God. He knew it from hospital experiences, from seeing the poor on city streets; no merciful God would allow so much earthly suffering. And no churches could serve mankind if they hypocritically screened people according to skin color.

Reiterman doesn't call it that, but this sounds like some sort of break-down. It sounds like Jones might have been bipolar, among other things.

It was ridiculous that people treated communism like a disease, Jim said, authoritatively. Later Jones would claim he had been an avid communist since childhood.

Jim Jones

We're going to be showing Jonestown: Life and Death of People's Temple soon, so my current reading is Tim Reiterman and John Jacobs' Raven: The Untold Story of the Rev. Jim Jones and His People (1982). Reiterman was shot by Jonestown cultists in the same attack that killed Congressman Leo Ryan, but Reiterman lived to tell the tale. I'll be posting the occasional quote from Raven. Here's one of the introductory quotes.

"I come with the black hair of a raven. I come as God Socialist!"
Jim Jones

I don't know what the context of that quote is, but I'm sure I will in a few days.

Potty training update VIII

D has had four successful potty trips today, and it's only 1 PM.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

15 bean soup and corn bread II

Predictably, the kids didn't like the 15 bean and ham soup (maybe the issue was the mountain of onions they saw me put in it?) and stuck to cornbread for dinner. We big people liked the soup, though, and now we've got enough in the fridge for several days of lunches. I think the lemon juice definitely does something for it--brightens it up somehow. It was my first outing with the lemon squeezer I bought last year, and I was very pleased with the results. (I think it's probably the Amco Enameled Aluminum Lemon Squeezer--the photo shows how it works. The sqeezer literally turns the lemon half inside out. I'm tempted to get one for limes, too, eventually.)

After dinner, my husband and C made Chocolate chipper macaroons from the reprint of Better Homes and Gardens 1955 Junior Cook Book for the Hostess and Host of tomorrow that P gave us (thanks P!). They used sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, shredded coconut and chunks of dark chocolate. The results were great. There was however, a glitch in the execution of the recipe that left us all eating our macaroons with waxed paper, but it was worth it.

15 bean soup and corn bread

Tonight's menu is 15 bean soup (with ham, onion, garlic, lemon juice, chili powder, and diced tomatoes) and corn bread. The beans are already in the Crock Pot. The recipe is from the 15 bean package, so I'm just guessing about how to properly adjust it for use in a slow cooker. This is my second try. The first time, the beans turned out al dente (not a good thing for beans). I think the issue was that some of the ingredients (tomatoes, lemon juice, possibly the salt in the ham) keep the beans from cooking if you add them too soon, so I'm going to hold off on adding them until the beans are soft.

I used to cook a lot more than I do now, but I never completely made the jump from special occasion/recreational cooking to dinner-every-night cooking. The closest I came was an austerity drive during which I was crockpotting dinner practically every day from when C was about 3-months-old to when she started crawling. We subsequently lived in-residence on campus for four years and the only cooking I did was couscous and chicken with Indian sauce from a jar, plus the occasional dinner or gingerbread baking event for the college kids upstairs (I had a number of excellent guest chefs to help with the dinners--I was mainly a gofer). On the other nights, my husband made crepes with ricotta filling or stir fry or we went out or ordered in (I had a couple of those phone numbers memorized). Then we moved to Texas and suddenly had to start paying for our own housing and utilities and bought our first car, paid off my student loan, our old credit cards, the car, and started saving for our first house. Most nights now, we eat at the cafeteria ($12 for all four of us). However, the cafeteria shuts down for a week or two or three every so often and our current budget allows for very few meals out, so we are thrown back on our own resources. Our family recipe repertoire is small, but I think that the kids are more motivated to eat something that they've seen being worked on and that we've talked to them about.

Star Wars

The kids are rewatching Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. I'm going to try to shield them as long as possible from the ugly truth about the existence of Episodes I-III.

Jules Verne

Our current car audiobook is Jules Verne's In Search of the Castaways, also known as The Children of Capitain Grant.

Friday, January 2, 2009


I picked up a package of Abuelita Mexican hot chocolate today at HEB. It turned out that instead of a cocoa powder, a package of Abuelita has several individually packaged cinnamony-smelling chocolate discs. You add one disc to four cups of milk and heat to boiling, stirring regularly with a metal whisk. Then you're supposed to add sugar to taste, but I thought it was sweet enough as-is. The cinnamon comes through very nicely, but I will probably stick to Chocolate Mexicano cocoa powder for everyday use and reserve Abuelita for special occasions.

Why don't they sell this at Starbucks?

C on tanks

C (while pushing her freshly painted tank around): I think the [local children's museum] ought to have a ride-on tank...For kids five and under.