OP: News & Views


"I'm not old - I just have been here a long time."  ~ Eileen Kramer
Eileen Kramer, 109, published her memoir, Life Keeps Me Dancing: 108 years well lived, grounded in creativity, adventure and love (Pan Macmillan Australia) in 2023. A dancer, choreographer, artist, and author of four other books, Kramer is often called a Renaissance woman. She has danced around the world, meeting many celebrities, and especially liked Louis Armstrong, who taught her the twist. She resides in Australia and is busy writing and making art.

A favorite quote: "To dance is to take part in the cosmic control of the world"  ~ Havelock Ellis state.

People to Remember: Principal of Perry High School (Perry, Iowa), Dan Marburger, 56, passed away on January 14, 2024, at the Iowa Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines, from injuries sustained in the school shooting on January 4. He was a husband, father, and grandfather and is praised for his brave actions. The shooter, Dylan Butler, 17, a student, committed suicide. The incident left three dead, including the shooter, and four injured. The motive has not been established. Reportedly, he was bullied in school.

"Dan courageously put himself in harm's way to protect his students, and ultimately gave his own life to save them. He will forever be remembered for his selfless actions."  ~ Iowa's Governor Kim Reynolds


The Lost Sofa
We needed a new sofa for our family room and ordered a relatively pricy sectional by a major brand. The display model looked great. However, the workmanship (made in China) of the one we received was shoddy and should never have passed inspection. We had a section redone, which turned out even worse, and the store would not take it back.

Meanwhile, the movers "lost" our gold velvet living room sofa. Although decades old, it was in good condition and so comfortable. How could they lose a sofa? After 18 months of hassles, they suddenly found it after we presented the prices of comparable sofas. Unfortunately, it had been trashed, and we filed a complaint with BBB. Although we had bought the mover's insurance, they compensated us with only a fraction for all the items lost - and there were many, including  documents - and none for the sofa.

Now we also needed a sofa for the living room but could not find a similar one - Heritage had gone out of business. And our previous experience with the sectional made us leery about ordering again. So we decided to have the Heritage sofa reupholstered and shipped it to Custom Upholstery in Des Moines, IA, wondering how it would turn out. They did an outstanding job, restoring it exactly to its original state.

People to Remember: Artist, designer, and writer Rebecca Obethier Winn, 66, died from cancer in Dallas, Texas on August 25, 2022. She founded the landscaping company, Whimsical Gardens; won over 300 horticultural awards; wrote an inspirational blog, drawing 585,000 followers; and authored the book, One Hundred Daffodils: Finding Beauty, Grace, and Meaning When Things Fall Apart.

When her husband of 25-years asked for a divorce out of the blue, it stunned and devastated her. Felling alone, she found inspiration in her garden, connecting with flora and fauna, and realized the importance of objectively looking at herself and others. And she enjoyed a happy and active life. Then cancer struck. I knew her from the Authors Guild's writers' board as somebody who appreciated beauty, has a sense of humor, and was willing to help others.


Visiting the Republic of Georgia
The Republic of Georgia is a beautiful country, with the cities Tbilisi and Batumi and Caucasus mountains popular tourist attractions. Historic places include still functioning monasteries established in the 9th century or earlier and are open to the public. Georgian cuisine has a unique flavor. I love their roasted suckling pig, hajapuri, gingali, and pastries (which are not overly sweet such as often in the US).

An old Georgian tradition is to hold Supras, sumptuous feasts where a great variety of dishes and lots of wine are laid out on a long table. A Supra toastmaster, the Tamada, stands up to offer a series of toasts, the first to God and then to Georgian historical heroes, motherhood, friendship, and other themes. After drinking the toasts with wine, never beer or vodka, the Tamada calls an alaverdi - the designation of another man at the table to offer toasts to the same themes. Although women attend Supras, the toastmasters are always men.

People to Remember: Primatologist and conservationist Dian Fossey, 53, was beaten to death with a machete in her cabin in Rwanda on December 26, 1985. Her murder remains unsolved. One theory holds that government officials killed her to prevent her from exposing their links to poaching and gold smuggling. She dedicated her life to the study of mountain gorillas and is credited with saving them from extinction.


Are Major Pro Sports Losing Fans?
Americans love sports and reward athletes with enormous salaries and adulation. However, according to March 2022 news reports, the NFL, NBA, and MLB have suffered significant losses in viewership. Numerous explanations are offered, among them COVID-19 changing viewers' habits, too many commercials, the teams' political stance (disrespect for the national anthem, support for China, etc.), competing sources of entertainment, and the sports' culture of sexism that is found unacceptable by a growing number of people. While some believe the loss of interest in major pro sports is a temporary phenomenon, others view it as an irreversible trend and point to the declining participation by youths ages 7 to 17 in football, basketball, and baseball over the past 15 years.

People to Remember: Actor William McCord Hurt, 71, passed away from prostate cancer on March 13, 2022 in Portland, OR. During his 45-year acting career, he won the Oscar for Best Actor and other awards. His best films include The Big Chill, Children of a Lesser God, and Broadcast News. Hurt showed compassion and kindness to one of my long-time friends who was critically ill, frequently contacting him to offer hope and uplift his spirit.

Fake news about William Hurt includes various AP photos of him with Catherine Karnitis at the 2012 Golden Globe Awards and depicts her as his second wife Heidi Henderson. A decade later, The Daily Mail, March 16, 2022, also incorrectly named Karnitis as his second wife. If something so basic is repeatedly misreported despite Hurt's attempts to correct it, then one wonders what other claims about him are false.



The Devil's Drugs
In 2022, two dangerous drugs are playing havoc in this country - fentanyl and meth. The former drug showed up in the autopsy reports of singers Prince and Tom Petty. Six West Point cadets overdosed in March on cocaine laced with fentanyl while on spring break in Florida. A woman in Tennessee almost died in July after picking up a dollar bill laced with  fentanyl. According to CDC, this drug - the deadliest drug to sweep the US - has spiraled into the leading cause of death for Americans aged 18-45, and the numbers are expected to increase. While P2P meth is not as deadly, it is extremely addictive and destroys an addict's mind, soul, and body, turning them into zombie-like creatures. And it continues to devastate our communities.

The Least of Us: True Tales of America and Hope in the Time of Fentanyl and Meth by Sam Quinones (Bloomsbury Publishing) reveals how the use of these drugs spread like wildfire across the country and created many problems such as homelessness and breaking up families. Quinones blame China, Mexico, and the Big Pharma that gave us OxyContin, calling the present times our Gilded Age where big businesses discard moral and ethical concerns to the pursuit of profits.

In spite of the bleak picture, Quinones sees rays of hope. His suggestions included strengthening communities, jailing addicts for petty crimes to save their lives and promote recovery, and exercises/gym memberships for recovering addicts. Although he doesn't discuss our open borders, he leads readers to conclude that tight controls would significantly alleviate the problems. This timely, insightful, and well-researched bestseller is a must-read and makes one wonder why our government and the media show so little concern over what some have dubbed the devil's drugs.

People to Remember: Mount St. Joseph University's basketball player, Lauren Hill, 19, passed away from brain cancer on April 10, 2015, in Cincinnati, OH. While stricken with the fatal disease, she raised $2.2 million for cancer research, and her exceptional courage and leadership inspired many to "never give up." She received the Pat Summit Courage Award, was runner-up for the 2014 AP Female Athlete of the Year, and made the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame. She was a beautiful person, and her story brought me to tears.



Loss of Choices
For several years, I have searched for a new Christmas tree in stores and online - ours is way past its expiration date. But I can no longer find a similar A-shaped tree, the options far fewer than two decades ago. This is just one example of the decline in choices in consumer products.

It troubles me that the diversity and quality of our food continue to slip. Bluefish hasn't been available for decades. Also gone are black pumpernickel wrapped in foil, Entenmann's Black Forest cake, and Gevalia's excellent Café de Oriente, to name a few. I used to love tomatoes, but those sold now in grocery stores are disgusting. And chocolate-flavored yogurt disappeared from the shelves last year in my neighborhood. Many outstanding ethnic bakeries and delis have gone out of business as has my favorite restaurant that served poached salmon stuffed with apricots. There are a few exceptions to this trend, among them the variety of bread as demand for alternatives to white Wonder Bread gained traction.

In the 1960s, sociologist John F. Cuber ("Man in Mass Society"), British correspondent Patrick Goldring (The Broilerhouse Society), and others predicted a decline in our quality of life as we lose choices - and not only regarding consumer products - and argued for reversal of this trend.

People to Remember: Rock music icon Meat Loaf (born Marvin Lee Aday), 74, passed away on January 20, 2022, from complications from Covid-19 in Nashville, TN. He appeared in over 50 films and TV shows and won a Grammy, and his Bat Out of Hell is one of the top ten selling albums of all time.



Looking Back on 2021
The year 2021 saw the successful launch of the James Webb telescope from French Guiana on December 25; the end of America's 20-year occupation of Afghanistan on August 30; growing inflation; and a three-fold increase over 2020 in Covid-19 cases and deaths in the US, according to UN News.

Severe natural disasters struck, and crime rates soared, the following among the worst:
Marshall Fire started on December 30 and raced through two towns in Colorado, driven by wind gusts that reached up to 115 mph. The fire destroyed or damaged around 1,100 buildings, placing it among the top ten most expensive fires in US history.
Quad-State Tornado, consisting of 68 tornadoes, hit Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, and Kentucky on December 10-11. It killed at least 93 persons, destroyed over 1,000 homes, and caused widespread power outages. People were left homeless, their irreplaceable possession and livelihood gone. Mayfield, Kentucky was particularly hard hit, looking like a war zone. Also other destructive tornadoes erupted, making this month the deadliest December for tornadoes in US history.
Christmas Parade Massacre, Waukesha, Wisconsin on November 21, horrified the nation. A career-criminal, whose rap sheet includes sex crimes, murdered six people and injured around 60 others. To create maximum damage, he drove into the parade in a zig-zag pattern. Among the fatalities were eight-year-old Jackson Sparks, who marched with his baseball team, and three members of the "Dancing Grandmas."

People to Remember: Actress, comedian, and author Bette Marion White Ludden, 99, passed away on December 31, 2021, from a cerebrovascular accident or stroke in Los Angeles, CA. She was the winner of multiple awards, an animal welfare advocate, the first woman to produce a sitcom in the US, and an inspiration for young and old.

Memorable Commercials
TV commercials are often annoying, condescending, misleading, and/or absurd. In one ad, a woman goes into wild ecstasy over a box of processed food, motivating me to change channels. Scores of ads, notably those pushing beauty products, make misleading claims. Some commercials cling to your mind, and you find yourself humming the tune or recalling the images. Top six of the most memorable commercials that viewers find hard to forget even if they aren't interested in the product (nonscientific compilation) are:
Geico's "Caveman Airport" & "Spy Mom" - my favorite ads. Humor makes them stand out and reveals that commercials can be entertaining.
Lucky Strike's controversial "Be Happy, Go Lucky," 1939-1959 - a catchy tune.
Marlboro Man, 1954-1999 - references to the brand continue in the media.
HLN​'s "Scarborough Fair" - the singer (I couldn't find his name) and images combine to create the creepiest commercial I have seen. One writer described it as "mesmerizing."
Honorable mention: Pizza Hut's commercial featuring Mikhail Gorbachev, Soviet Union's last communist ruler.

Two of the ads on the list, both deemed highly effective, involve cigarettes. In case anybody wonders, I do not smoke and have never been a smoker.

The Strange Case of Ashley Turton
Ashley Turton, 37, lobbyist for Progress Energy and mother of three children under four, died in a car fire in her garage on January 10, 2011. She was a former staff member of Nancy Pelosi and the wife of Daniel Turton, the then White House deputy director of House legislative affairs. According to the autopsy report, a contributing factor was "acute alcohol intoxication." Allegedly, Turton dresses, descends the stairs, and gets into her BMW to drive to work at 4:45 a.m. - all this while alcohol-impaired. The car bursts into flames, and she makes no effort to get out. Dismissed as an accident, the death received little media attention even though it involved a Washington power couple, a beautiful victim, and a weird death. And she was reportedly "likely involved" with her company's merger with Duke Energy. It's not surprising that this case has attracted conspiracy theorists.

Events to Remember, 2020
Covid-19 Pandemic. The virus unleashed death and destruction worldwide. It caused businesses to close, loss of jobs, and changes in our life-style. Even though the statistics appear inflated, it poses a serious problem. For some, it feels like a scene from science fiction. Dean Koontz's 1981 novel, The Eyes of Darkness, has created widespread buzz, some viewing it as prophetic regarding this pandemic.
Middle East Peace Accord. I recall discussions for decades about achieving peace in the Middle East, many stating that it won't happen. Even last year, few would have predicted the historic signing on September 15, 2020 at the White House of the accord between Israel, United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain. The memorable event received enthusiastic responses from around the world - a monumental step toward peace. Comments on social media included, "I never thought I'd see this in my lifetime."
Falcon 9. After the U.S. space shuttle program ended on August 31, 2011, NASA relied on Russia to take our astronauts and supplies to ISS (International Space Station). May 30, 2020 turned into a historic day as NASA launched astronauts (Bob Behnken & Doug Hurley) for the first time in nine years using an American rocket, Falcon 9. Financed by Elon Musk's SpaceX, it opened a historic new age of commercial space exploration.

Tom Dempsey, an NFL Legend
Former NFL placekicker Thomas John "Tom" Dempsey, 73, passed away on April 4, 2020, in New Orleans from complications caused by COVID-19.

His life provides a moving story of overcoming adversity. He was born with half of his right foot missing and no hand at the end of his right arm. Thus, he wasn't expected to ever become an athlete, much less make the NFL. Yet, he excelled at multi-sports in college - lineman, wrestler, and shot putter - and was hired as kicker by the New Orleans Saints. In 1970, they trailed the Detroit Lions 16-17 with two seconds left in the game. In an NFL classic moment, Dempsey kicked a 63-yard, game-winning field goal, beating the record by 7 yards, and became a football legend. His record wasn't tied until 1998 and was broken 43 years later by Matt Prater's 64-yarder.

While the kick, thought then as impossible to make, brought him fame, it also led to criticism and ridicule. False rumors were spread that he had inserted iron plates into his shoe. Jokes circulated about his handicap, and some Detroit players tried to disparage the kick. The president of the Dallas Cowboys at that time called him a cheater and claimed that his special shoe gave him an advantage. And he wasn't the only one to push these accusations. An investigation, however, revealed the shoe was a disadvantage because it had less kicking surface.

​Dempsey went on to an 11-year career in the NFL, playing for five teams. Later, he coached high school football and managed a car dealership. He kept his sense of humor even when Hurricane Katrina destroyed his home in 2005. He is survived by his wife, three children, a sister, and three grandchildren. His family saddened that they couldn't be with him at the end because he had to be quarantined for coronavirus.

Tasha Tudor - A Renaissance Woman
Author/illustrator Tasha Tudor (1915-2008), winner of numerous awards and honors, felt her soul belonged in the 1830s. Imagining herself as a reincarnation of a sea captain's wife living in Connecticut from 1800 to 1842, she immersed her family in that era. She raised her four children in a seventeen-room farmhouse without electricity or running water, always dressed in the style of the early 19th century, excelled at spinning and weaving, milked cows, and arranged marionette shows and flotillas of cakes with lighted candles floating down the creek. Her replication of a long-ago lifestyle drew an international following, notably in Korea and Japan.

"She was ahead of time, but lived in the past," said her friend Jill Adams-Mancivalano.

​Tudor's stories and activities, such as Sparrow Post for dolls, expanded children's imagination and promoted an interest in books. When my daughter was two, she asked me to read A is for Annabelle and 1 is One over and over again. She discovered in grade school that Tudor took food to forest animals at Christmas. This inspired her to hang strings of popcorn & cranberries on the trees in our backyard for the birds when snow covered the ground. And A Time to Keep made her list of favorite books.

When Tudor passed away at age 92 at her home in Vermont from complications of a stroke, bitter disputes broke out among the heirs, and her three estranged children contested her last will. She had left them only token amounts, reportedly feeling rejected by them and several grandchildren. The bickering became so contentious that the judge had her cremated remains divided into half to be buried in two different locations. Now her legacy is kept alive by her son Seth Tudor, his family, and the Tasha Tudor Society.

Burning of Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral
On April 15, 2019, fire consumed the 850-year-old Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral, a horrific tragedy that had people in tears around the world. The cathedral represented "romance, danger, and transcendence" in the words of Dee Chadwell at American Thinker. This fire followed a spate of burnings of historic churches across France and the growing vandalization of houses of worship, notably synagogues, in much of Europe. While in US the burning of churches has declined since 1980, they still continue unabated, many of the incidents accorded little if any media coverage. In Louisiana, three historic African-American Baptist churches and one white Pentecostal church were burned in just a ten-day period between March 26 and April 4, 2019.

The fate of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow provides hope that someday Notre-Dame will emerge in its former splendor. During the Soviet era, Communists demolished countless churches, works of art, and historic sites. These included Christ the Savior, which was dynamited on Stalin's orders, the site eventually converted to the world's largest swimming pool. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Putin ordered the rebuilding of the cathedral. Private donation mostly paid for the project that lasted from 1995 to 2000.

Several billionaires promised substantial contributions for restoration of Notre-Dame. President Emmanuel Macron vowed to rebuild it within five years. One expert, however, estimated that full restoration will take ten to fifteen years. One problem is that France no longer has trees big enough to replace the Beachwood beams.

In 2021, reports surfaced that the Notre-Dame Cathedral will not be restored to its original medieval splendor but instead will "reflect contemporary issues," and UK Telegraph used to words "Christianity for Dummies" to sum up the plans for this historic church. I hope this will not happened.

I wonder how the restorations are proceeding. The reopening of the cathedral is set in time for the 2024 Olympics in Paris. Reports in May 2023 indicate the outside will be authentic. But I remain worried about the inside.

IMG_6431 3
Metekhi St. Virgin Church, Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia.
Metekhi St. Virgin Church, Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia.
Georgian Supra, 2015.
Georgian Supra, 2015.
In Georgian countryside, bread is baked in large clay pots with hot coals on the bottom.
In Georgian countryside, bread is baked in large clay pots with hot coals on the bottom.
Cross-country running is one of several sports gaining popularity in the U.S. and is the 6th most popular sport for girls.
Cross-country running is one of several sports gaining popularity in the U.S. and is the 6th most popular sport for girls.
Christmas 2021: Our artificial tree has lost needles, and many branches are bent. We tried a new artificial tree, but the ornaments didn't fit well. So we decorated this old tree one last time.
Christmas 2021: Our artificial tree has lost needles, and many branches are bent. We tried a new artificial tree, but the ornaments didn't fit well. So we decorated this old tree one last time.

My Little Golden Book About Betty White, ages 2 to 5, made bestseller lists.

Sixth century Jvari Monastery overlooking the town of Mtskheta, Republic of Georgia.


Top: Bay window of Casa Battlo, Barcelona Spain, by architect Antonio Gaudi. Below: Scene from the fascinating Bada Bagh in India, a popular tourist destination. They stand in stark contrast to modern buildings with their cold perpendicular lines that some label Neo-Nazi architecture.


Cathedral of Christ the Savior under construction, Moscow, 1998.

Haunted Places & Living History: Travels in Virginia
Virginia is replete with fascinating historic, scenic, and allegedly haunted places. One place embodying all of these traits is Old House Woods, sometimes called Black Forest, a 50-acre impenetrable pine forest and marshland in Mathews County near Chesapeake Bay, now privately owned. A green mist hovers over the trees, some visitors claiming they were chased by a green light, and the temperature is ten degrees cooler than in adjacent areas. During the Revolutionary War, it was a thriving port bustling with soldiers and pirates. It has witnessed wars, murders, and dark deeds and provided refuge to moonshiners, fugitives, and runaway slaves. Countless legends and sightings continue to circulate about bizarre happenings, encounters with ghosts, and buried pirate treasure. Dubbed "one of the most haunted places in America" and "the most haunted forest in the world," it attracts paranormal investigators and served as an inspiration for Out of Orion (Ox3)'s music album, Haunted Forests.

In the 1970s, John Lennon and Yoko Ono bought the Auburn Plantation, one of the haunted houses near Old House Woods. Ono feared ghosts and had the basement filled with sand in the belief that sand will keep them away. After Lennon's murder in 1980, she sold the house, and the new owner faced the costly task of removing the sand. The house is said to be still haunted. ("Haunted Houses in Mathews" by Greg and Lori, owners of the charming B&B, The Inn at Tabbs Creek, innattabbscreek.com)

My husband and I plan to visit the Old House Woods area in the near future as well as the Great Dismal Swamp, which is less than two hours away, and Monticello (designed by Thomas Jefferson who also designed UVA). Located outside of Charlottesville, Monticello is the only home in America designated by the United Nations as a World Heritage site. A few years ago, we went there at the height of tourist season, and the lines were long.

During our latest excursions around Northern Virginia, we visited the restored gristmill at Aldie Mill Historic Park, Red Fox Inn in Middlebury, a county fair near the Blue Ridge Mountains, Skyline Drive, and Civil War reenactments, and events sponsored by the Mosby Heritage Area Association. We have previously visited those sites and find the traffic getting worse every year, especially along I-95.

Football at the Horseshoe: Visiting Friends in Columbus, Ohio
Although the football game between The Ohio State Buckeyes and Oregon State Beavers on September 1, 2018 was lopsided, the day was far from dull. Excited crowds, tailgate parties, and vendors at the OSU stadium, aka the Horseshoe, created an electrifying atmosphere. Lightning, thunder, and a downpour struck during the middle of the game, sending fans scurrying and delaying the game by over an hour. A fun after-game party with friends followed.

Signs of the campus undergoing changes were widespread. Too many changes, in the opinion of scores of alumni who decry that unique structures are demolished and replaced by blandness, the past erased. This trend began creeping up decades ago and has escalated during recent years. Long gone are the student bars Heidelberg South (known for its spare rips) and North Heidelberg, the art museum, and other places that held memories for the alumni. Of the original football stadium, only the arch and two towers at the open end of the Horseshoe remain visible as the new stadium ensconced the old one. Mirror Lake is one of the spots left unscathed so far.

One change we noticed was the campus police patrolling in an armored vehicle and wondered if rioting was expected. Riots have broken out at OSU during losses as well as victories, such as on January 2015 when the Buckeyes defeated Oregon Ducks to win the National Football Championship in Texas. Afterward, a mob of around 8,000 rushed the empty Horseshoe, many breaking inside the stadium to tear down the goal posts. Cases of arson, assaults, and breaking-and-entering were witnessed. Police used pepper spray and tear gas to control the mob and later were criticized for an ineffective response.

Death of a Reenactor
RIP: Popular Medieval knight reenactor and retired lieutenant colonel in the US Army, Peter Barclay, 53, of Woodbridge, Virginia, died on October 6, 2018, during a reenactment event in Kentucky where he accidentally impaled himself with his lance. A skilled equestrian, he had partaken in these reenactments for 30 years. He is survived by his wife Deborah and daughters Amy and Taryth.

The 30,000-member Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), which specializes in recreating Medieval warfare, has always been concerned with safety and is investigating this tragic accident to prevent it from happening in the future. The only other death during historical reenactments in recent years that I am aware of happened on September 14, 1997. Union reenactor Timothy Landacre, 48, of Bridgeport, West Virginia, died of a heart attack during the reenactment of the Battle of Antietam.


Top to bottom: Monticello, Aldie Mill, and Red Fox Inn.


Reenactments vs Live Action Role Playing (LARP): Controversies and Murder
Reenactments are a type of role-playing that involves the recreation of a historical event, often a battle, or daily life with emphasis on accuracy. They are educational, entertaining, help to preserve the past and our heritage, and allow people to immerse themselves in a bygone era. Right: photos from a reenactment in Northern Virginia. ABC News (April 8, 2022) reported that Civil War reenactments have grown in popularity since 2020.

Controversy revolves primarily around authenticity and safety issues. Reenactors are divided into three categories based on level of authenticity: farbys, mainstream, and progressives. Farbys make little effort to achieve accuracy. In Civil War reenactments, for example, they may wear a Rolex watch or drink a latte from a McDonald's cup. Being called a farby is considered a major insult. The mainstream - the largest category - strives for authenticity but does not go to extremes to achieve it. Progressives (aka hardcore or stitch counter) try to create near-total authenticity, such as in speech patterns, the material and construction of tents, and even the stitching of their clothes. A progressive stated that he withdrew from his unit because the physical characteristics of the members didn't meet his image of people of that era, one of his complaints being that they failed to have a "hollow-eyed look."

Safety concerns have once in a while drawn controversy within and outside the reenactment community. One freak accident that received national coverage occurred in 2014 during a Civil War reenactment in Utah where a spark from a cannon landed on a pouch containing additional explosive charges. The resulting explosion injured three children.

Some six incidents involving non-fatal injuries to participants occurred between 2009 and 2018 when the cardinal rule of reenactment was violated: no live ammunition. In 2015, for example, two people were shot during a gunfight at O.K. Corral reenactment in Tombstone, Arizona and one reenactor was slightly wounded at a western reenactment by Myers Marauders in Hartsel, Colorado because real bullets were accidentally used. An international incident occurred back in 1998 at the Battle of Gettysburg reenactment, which drew over 15,000 reenactors, when Christian Evo, 52, a Confederate reenactor from Murat, France, shot Clinton Epps, 22, of Virginia, not realizing the Civil War replica gun he had borrowed held live ammunition. Evo was arrested, paid a fine, and was allowed to return to France.

In live action role-playing games (LARP), people physically portray their characters in a fictional or semi-fictional setting that may be historical, contemporary, or fantasy/science fiction. The goal can be therapeutic (group therapy), educational, and/or for entertainment. A great variety of games exist worldwide, and their popularity has grown over the past decade. In Russia, for example, Tolkien fans jump-started the movement in the 1980s. Some claim that today Russia has the biggest and most varied LARP subculture.

While many games are wholesome and safe, some are not. Controversies include concerns for emotional and physical safety, consent-based play, post-LARP event depression, and "adult" content. The most widely reported controversies centered on Dungeons and Dragons during the 1980s, which have now faded. They involved numerous lawsuits concerning copyright and accusations that the game promoted Satanism and suicide.

In rare instances, a role-playing game has included real-life murder. The homicide of Robert Schwartz, 57, in December 2001 in Leesburg, Virginia made national headlines since he was a renowned scientist in the fields of biometrics and DNA research. His daughter Clara Jane, then a 20-year-old college student, used the fantasy role-playing game, Underworld, to orchestrate his murder, apparently for financial gain. She received a 48-year sentence. Her three fellow players whom she enticed into the plot received respectively life without parole, eighteen years, and one year.

In two incidents, both occurring in Brazil, role-playing games reportedly required for the loser to actually die. In the 2005 case, two men, ages 21 and 22, confessed to the murder of a physics student and his parents, stating that they had agreed the loser and his family would be killed. In the 2001 case, police reported that a woman, 18, was stabbed to death after playing a game for more than three days that required the loser had to die.


Women in Civil War Reenactments
The main activities for Civil War reenactors are scripted reenactments of actual battles and Living History (parades, educational events, and encampments). Regarding the former, choices for women vary by unit. In many units, they can adopt a civilian impression, such as a camp-follower. Women then served as vivandières, sutlers, and nurses, and it wasn't unusual for a wife to accompany her soldier husband from battle to battle.

Women can also adopt the impression of a soldier. The number of Confederate and Union women who fought in the war disguised as men is unknown - estimates vary from 240 to 1,000. Some of them accompanied their husband, brother, or father, while others struggled on their own to keep their identity hidden. Today, an increasing number of women are creating impressions of male soldiers. This entails altering their mannerisms, voice, facial expressions, and learning how to apply facial hair. The acceptance of these reenactors depends on the unit. Most units welcome them if they can pass as male from 10 yards away.

​Individual motives for participating in reenactments cover a wide range: fun hobby, camaraderie, to keep alive our history, fascination with the Civil War, connecting with another era or an ancestor. For some, it involves a spiritual component. One reenactor told slate.com that she was born into the wrong time period and would have joined the fight had she lived back then. Infoplease.com concluded, "Living like a person in 1863, if only for a few hours . . . would surely sharpen your skills as a historian, actor, and citizen."

A forthcoming documentary, Reenactress by the filmmaker J.R. Hardman, will explore the history of female Civil War reenactors. Advice for those interested in engaging in this hobby can be found on the Internet, such as the article "How to Get Started as a Lady Civil War Reenactor" by Sarah Lynn 1863, hobby lark.com, April 22, 2020.


Sarah Emma Edmonds Was a Great Pretender by Carrie Jones, illustrated by Mark Oldroyd, ages 6 to 11. Sarah, a Canadian, disguised herself as a man to fight in the U.S. Civil War.

Serial Killer Larry DeWayne Hall
Larry Hall was a car enthusiast and Civil War Union reenactor. He joined the reenactment unit Company A, 19th Indiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment of the Federal Army of the Potomac, aka the Iron Brigade, and appeared in the films Glory and Gettysburg. Although photos show him wearing a Union uniform and he joined the Iron Brigade, two writers listed him as a Confederate reenactor.

He is also a sadistic serial killer, something that he denies. While attending auto shows and historic reenactments, he would cruise back roads at some distance from these sites in search of victims to kidnap and locations for the killings. He confessed to killing Jessica Roach and was placed in the area because people remembered his muttonchop sideburns and his presence at "the wrong war" - he showed up at the nearby Revolutionary War reenactment in a Civil War uniform. His only conviction is for kidnapping Jessica - not for murder, and he is serving life without parole at a federal prison in Butner, NC. Several detectives have speculated that between 1979 and 1994 he murdered over forty girls and young women. In spite of the evidence implicating him, some of his acquaintances continue to support him and believe he is innocent. (Source: Urges: A Chronicle of Serial Killer Larry Hall by Christopher Hawley Martin, Alembic Research)


Police photo of Larry DeWayne Hall.

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