celebrations, customs/rituals, Festivals, folklore, holidays

LET THERE BE LIGHT!

 

Along with the tens of thousands watching in person in NYC, I nestled in my NM comfy home recliner and saw the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. I felt the same awe that was reflected in the astonished faces the moment the lights came on.

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, 2017.

 

That’s what so magnificent about Winter. With its abundance of traditions igniting their special fires, we are privy to observe lighting rituals unlike our own.

First there is Diwali, the biggest and brightest of all Hindu Festivals. Diwali symbolizes the victory of good over evil, and lamps are lit as a sign of celebration and hope. This year it began on October 18 and lasted four days. Each day had its own tale, legend and myth.

 

Woman in sari next to burning Diwali lamps.

 

Beginning on December 12th, Jewish families will gather around the menorah to honor the miracle of lights. With its eight-branched menorah we commemorate the unexpected duration of burning oil that was supposed to last only one night. The holiday is celebrated with a nightly menorah lighting with special prayers and fried foods.

 

Lit menorah with pastel colored candles as it would look on the 8th night. Photo by Mariah Chase. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2017.

 

On December 26, African Americans will begin their observance of Kwanzaa, using their candelabrum called the Kinara (in Swahili). They light one new candle per night for seven nights to celebrate African American heritage and achievements. The holiday expresses reverence for the Creator and creation, and commemorates the past as well as recommits to cultural ideals.

 

Lit Kinara on the 7th day with black, green, and red candles. Photo by Mariah Chase. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2017.

 

Living here in Las Cruces, NM, one of my favorite light rituals is one that has been brought here from Mexico – the luminarias. They represent the illuminated passageway to welcome Jesus into the world. For me, the lit pathway represents my life’s journey.

 

Luminarias lighting the way to see the Christ Child as recreated in New Mexico.

Light warms us. It allows us to find our way out of darkness to inner awakening. And with our light we have the power to ignite the glow in others.

 

This little light of mine; I’m gonna let it shine.

This little light of mine; I’m gonna let it shine.

This little light of mine; I’m gonna let it shine.

Let it shine; let it shine; let it shine.

(old gospel tune)

 

And so, as we approach 2018, this is my holiday wish for you. May you take your inner light and shine it upon others.

 

Norine Dresser is a folklorist who enjoys the rituals of all ethnicities and religions.

Visit her Gallery of Folklore and Popular Culture: flpcgallery.org

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racism

WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?

 

THE RETAILER WHO PROMOTED AN ANNE FRANK HALLOWEEN COSTUME?

 

Anne Frank Costume, 2017.

 

 

WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?

THEY WEREN’T.

 

Disgraceful exploitation of the young Dutch Jewish girl who perished during the Holocaust brought condemnation from the public and Jewish organizations, as well. Consequently, costume distributors removed the young woman’s name from the description and renamed it a “Girls World Evacuee Costume.” It was a change in nomenclature but the same tasteless costume for young women compelled to flee their homes during WWII.

 

THE COMPANY THAT CREATED THE LION KILLER DENTIST HALLOWEEN COSTUME?

 

The Dentist who murdered Cecil the Lion Costume. 2017.

 

WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?

THEY WEREN’T.

 

Why would anyone want to emulate Dr. Walter S. Palmer, the Minnesota dentist who slaughtered Cecil, the Lion in Zimbabwe just to show off his hunting prowess? Not only that, but he and his local guides enticed the magnificent and beloved black-maned Cecil out of a protected national park by dragging an animal carcass tied to a vehicle. After the kill, the men beheaded and skinned the once-regal lion.

Four hundred protestors gathered in front of Palmer’s business, and one enraged animal rights supporter used a megaphone to protest outside his home yelling, “Murderer! Terrorist!” To avoid the public’s wrath, Palmer closed his office and left his home for almost a month.

Why would a costume company think this would be an appealing costume? Who would want to wear it? It’s baffling to contemplate such a loathsome party reveler.

 

ZARA CLOTHING DESIGNERS WHO CREATED AN OFFENSIVE SWEATSHIRT AND T-SHIRT?

 

Zara clothing line with two insulting pieces of clothing. 2016.

 

WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?

THEY WEREN’T.

My first speculation when I discovered these two highly obnoxious articles of clothing was that the designers were so young, they didn’t know about the Kent State Massacre (May, 1970). They may not even have been born yet when the Ohio National Guard opened fire on peaceful student demonstrators against the Vietnam War. The National Guard killed four and injured nine. So, whoever thought that wearing a faux blood-stained sweatshirt was an appropriate response to a crime?

And who possibly could not be aware of the symbolism of a yellow six-pointed star on a prison-striped shirt? Did that person not have knowledge of atrocities perpetrated against the Jews by Hitler and his Third Reich? Besides, ignorance is no excuse. And what about the bosses? Certainly, someone at the Zara company should have caught these insensitive creations before they were foisted on the public.

 

 

THE ENGLISH GIRLS WHO ATTIRED THEMSELVES AS THE BURNING 9/11 TOWERS AND WON FIRST PRIZE?

Brits winning prize for their costumes depicting the burning of the twin towers.

 

WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?

THEY WEREN’T.

In this situation, we can’t blame a corporation for such a tasteless representation of a disaster, only the two ditzy dames who dreamed it up. Did they think it was funny to play off the tragic death of 2,753 human beings? Even worse, they were awarded a prize for the best costume? No one was thinking about the feelings of the 9/11 survivors. Shame on them!

 

THE SAMFORD UNIVERSITY (AL) SORORITY THAT DESGINED T-SHIRTS FOR THE SPRING FORMAL DANCE THAT DEPICTED A BLACK MAN EATING WATERMELON AND SLAVES PICKING COTTON?

Offensive t-shirt depicting degrading images of African Americans.

WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?

THEY WEREN’T.

Despite disapproval ahead of time by a university official, the girls went ahead with their T-shirt production anyway. Later, Andrew Westmoreland, president of Samford, wrote: “I was repulsed by the image. I lack the words to express my own sense of frustration.”

That apology seems sincere, and I trust that appropriate action was taken against the sorority.

 

 

IN JAPAN, THE MANUFACTURER THAT PRODUCED A TAMPON IN ANNE FRANK’S NAME?

 

In Japan, the Anne Frank tampon.

 

 

WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?

THEY WEREN’T.

According to Alain Lewkowicz, a French Jewish journalist, to the Japanese Anne Frank symbolizes the ultimate WWII victim. The Japanese identify with her victimhood because of their own suffering after the Atomic Bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The reason they selected the tampon to honor Ann is because her diary reveals anticipation and excitement about her first day of menstruation. To me, it doesn’t quite add up: 2 + 2 = 5? I just don’t quite follow the logic. But then I believe cultural differences may come into play here.

 

SWISS COMPANY RECALLS 2,000 HITLER COFFEE CREAMERS?

 

In Switzerland, coffee creamer with Hitler image.

WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?

“IT WAS AN UNFORGIVABLE INCIDENT.”

 

This apology came from Tristan Cerf, a spokesman for the Migos company. He blamed internal controls for letting this image by that was created by a subsidiary in charge of  labels. Also scheduled but nixed in advance was a Mussolini label. That would have curdled the coffee even more.

 

THE TRAYVON MARTIN HOODIE WITH A TARGET IMAGE ON ITS CHEST?

 

Trayvon Martin Hoodie. Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia, Ferris State University, Big Rapids, MI.

 

WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?

THEY WEREN’T.

OR WERE THEY?

WERE THEY COURTING THE RACIST MARKET?

 

I discovered this disgusting piece of clothing in the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia on the Ferris State University in Big Rapids, MI. The sweatshirt was manufactured and sold by the Hiller Armament Co. of Virginia Beach, FLA. To make money off of this 2012 tragedy is unconscionable. We all know the story of the 17-year-old unarmed Treyvon Martin, carrying only a box of Skittles and a container of iced tea, who was fatally shot by George Zimmerman. He claimed to be threated by the lad. However, the jury found George Zimmerman not guilty.

If one buys a sweatshirt like the one above, what is the message? You’re jealous and wish you might have done it? You endorse Zimmerman’s deed? Note that it was an arms company that manufactured it. DISGUSTING.

 

THE ITALIAN WINEMAKER WHO PRODUCES WINES WITH HITLER LABELS ON THEM?

Hitler wine produced by the Italian company Vini Lunardelli.

 

WHAT ARE THEY THINKING?

THEY ARE THINKING PROFITS.

 

When challenged by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the family-owned winery (Vini Lunardelli) claims that their line of dictator labeled wines are historical and not propaganda. Their biggest seller is The Der Fuhrer line, accounting for 80% of the company’s sales. Labels show Hitler giving the Nazi salute, with his autograph, and a portrait with the motto that translates into “One people, one nation, one leader.”

Regardless of negative reactions, the winery continues with their plans glorifying other enemies of the people: Mussolini, Lenin, Stalin, Goering, Himmler, Eva Braun.

 

 

Finally, in China where the Ivanka Trump brand is avidly pursued, one manufacturer wants to name a sanitary pad after her.

WHAT ARE THEY THINKING?

Big bucks, no doubt, but I can bet that no woman, Chinese or otherwise, would have given a thumbs up to this idea.

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Every example is a disgusting commercial exploitation of innocents’ deaths and torture. They are disheartening illustrations of man’s inhumanity to man. How low must we sink to make an extra dollar or win a costume prize or sell extra tickets to the dance? This is sickening to contemplate because it demonstrates indifference to the pain of others. Are we somehow complicit in these horrendous acts? I don’t think so, yet I feel guilty, too.

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Norine Dresser is a folklorist who admits that never before has she punctuated with so many question marks. But never before have so many of her stories been so mind-boggling.

 

Visit her Gallery of Folklore and Popular Culture to discover remarkable multicultural artifacts, entertaining calendar corners, and amazing objects on loan from monthly visiting curators: flpcgallery .org

celebrations, folklore, health, vampires

Escapades of a Vampirologist — Now Retired

Pin replica of the USA Dracula postage stamp. Photo by Mariah Chase. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2017.

I never dreamed I would become a vampirologist, at least that’s what others called me. But now that Halloween approaches, memories of that unforeseen former profession flood my consciousness.

It began when an Associated Press science reporter called me for a folklorist’s opinion about a paper delivered by Canadian biochemist, Dr. David Dolphin, at the 1988 American Association for the Advancement of Sciences. Dr. Dolphin hypothesized that those who had been labeled vampires in the past (Middle Ages) might have been suffering from a disease called porphyria.

In brief, porphyria is a rare incurable genetic disease that can also be triggered by alcohol and sulfa drugs or environmental contaminants. In Greek, porphyria means purple and for many, not all patients, their urine turns purple after exposure to the sun or ultraviolet light.

Dolphin asserted that those porphyria patients whose faces were negatively affected by sunlight must remain indoors during the day. He argued that porphyria patients had a negative reaction to garlic. Most dramatically, he claimed that they had a need for blood, but in the Middle Ages since there was no technology for transfusions, they would satisfy their cravings by drinking the blood of others.

The problem was that the Dolphin’s proposition didn’t hold up clinically. In part, this was because there are eight different varieties of porphyria, each with its own symptoms and characteristics. Dolphin had lumped them all together.

However, as a folklorist, the correlations delighted me and the Associated Press quoted me saying that I thought the proposal was, “Wonderful. It proves there is truth in folklore.”

Who knew where my flip comments would lead?

Almost immediately, I received a phone call from France, inquiring if I would be a consultant on a vampire film. Of course, I said yes. That offer, like so many that followed, never came to fruition.

Still I was buoyed by the excitement. I was instantly perceived as a vampire expert. It took some boning up on my part but eventually I became fairly conversant about the disease, porphyria (known to account for the madness of King George); Vlad, the Impaler (a Romanian hero for staving off the Ottoman Empire); and the book Dracula by Bram Stoker, that has never been out of print since the first edition in 1897.

However, some horrified porphyria patients blamed me for linking porphyria with vampires. One woman complained how ashamed the association made her feel and how relieved she was that most of her friends couldn’t remember the name of her disease.

A young male patient in Santa Barbara, CA, disclosed he was frightened to walk around the local schoolyard during the day lest parents might think he was stalking their children. Indeed, so much sensational press surrounded Dolphin’s concept, even the grammar school newspaper, The Weekly Reader, had an article about it.

But my friends and family loved it and could hardly wait to participate.

Bela Lugosi, Jr. had been a USC law school classmate of my brother, Mickey. He gave Mickey a Dracula watch that my brother insisted I must have.

A gift from my brother, Mickey, after Bela Lugosi Jr., gave it to him. Photo by Mariah Chase. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2017.

My dentist, Dr. Rees Smith of Burbank, CA presented me with a custom-made pair of fangs. He assumed I would wear them on all the TV talk shows I was on, but I thought it would make me look to unprofessional.

Custom-made fangs by Dr. Rees Smith, DDS. Photo by Mariah Chase. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2017.

 

At my very first book signing of American Vampires, Forrest Ackerman, “Mr. Science Fiction,” showed up with one of the Dracula capes and rings worn by Bela Lugosi in the “Dracula” film. He let me sign some books wearing those treasured items. Additionally, he purchased 20 copies for celebrities. Imagine my thrill autographing a copy for Stephen King.

A film company invited me to Budapest, Hungary, to be in an international TV production, “Dracula, Live from Transylvania.” I even got to play a scene with actor, George Hamilton, who freaked out having to interview a real blood drinker. He turned that task over to me. I was pretty unruffled about it, too, until I asked one of the blood drinkers, “How much blood do you drink at a time?”

When she responded, “Half a glass.” I lost my cool.

“Half a glass?” I was incredulous as I visualized a glass half-filled with coagulating human blood. To the glee of friends and family watching in the U.S., I could not disguise my shock.

In 1995, I was invited by the Romanian Bureau of Tourism to attend the First World Dracula Congress. What a strange contingent of attendees: fifty international scholars (including me) and 150 members of the press from all over the world.

Upon arrival in Bucharest, my husband, Harold, and I were warmly greeted by Nicolae (Nicky) Paduraru, President of the Transylvanian Society of Dracula. But when Nicky began extolling my virtues in his Bela Lugosi-like accent: “No-rine, I love your mind; I love your brain…”, an irritated Harold demanded, “Leave the rest to me!”

I joined both the Canadian and Romanian chapters of the Transylvanian Society of Dracula. In 1997, in Los Angeles, we sponsored a celebration that drew thousands for the 100th anniversary of the publication of Dracula.

After that, my interest in vampires waned, but still I have my old contacts with new ones always welcomed. When Frankenstein Jones requested to friend me on Facebook, how could I say, “No”?

If you’d like to see more vampire memorabilia, visit my online folklore and popular culture gallery: http: flpcgallery.org. While you’re there, check out additional cultural artifacts: Day of the Dead skulls; Milagros for healing; Evil eyes and hamsas for protection; Political gags.

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Folklorist Norine Dresser is the author of American Vampires: Fans, Victims & Practitioners (Norton, 1989; Vintage 1990), nine other books as well as an award-winning column for the Los Angeles Times (1993 to 2001).

 

Portions of this blog first appeared in the October 2017 edition (Vol.22 No.10) of the Southwest Senior (Las Cruces, NM), pp. 1 & 5.

norinedresser@yahoo.com

racism

Svastika or Swastika?

Given the prominence of Swastikas in Charlottesville, VA, and the reactions it elicited, the history of this symbol must be explored.

The original meaning of the Svastika (well-being in Sanskrit) was an omen of good luck. For Buddhists, it symbolizes the feet or footprints of Buddha, and for Hindus and Jains it is the most widely used auspicious symbol. Witness the availability of inexpensive jewelry incorporating this beneficial sign that I purchased in an Indian supermarket in Los Angeles.

Indian bracelet incorporating the Svastika. Photo by Mariah Chase. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2017.

The Navajo commonly used this same motif in their jewelry and with positive meaning, as well.

Navajo ring with Svastika, turquoise, and arrowhead. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2017.

However, Adolph Hitler subverted the symbol’s connotation during his Third Reich. For the Nazis, it meant racial purity that called for the elimination of Jews and other groups deemed inferior.

In the 1960s, our family belonged to the Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles. During the overflow attendance at the High Holidays, we were sent to a welcoming Presbyterian Church across the street. Imagine my terror when I looked down at the floor and discovered a recurring abhorrent swastika design in the tile floor.

During that same time period, a friend of mine worked in an Indian sari shop in Beverly Hills. When an Anglo bride-to-be came in for a fitting of her Indian wedding sari, she panicked when, for the first time, she noticed a swastika motif in the border design. Her groom was Jewish, and she could not wear it.

Locally, New Mexico State University called their yearbook, the Swastika. It wasn’t until 1983, that they changed the name to the  Phoenix. And believe it or not, there were some university folks who couldn’t understand the reason for the change.

New Mexico State University Yearbook, 1947. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2017.

In an article by Steven Brower, “Protesting Racism and Hate with Political Art (Print, August 17, 2017), he presents an assemblage of posters demonstrating the power of Political Art. Here are two that specifically deal with the Swastika.

Design by Felix Sockwell in article, “Protesting Racism and Hate with Political Art.”

Trump 24K Gold Plated Poster, Designed by Mark Fox and Angie Wang (“Design is Play”) from the new The Design of Dissent, Expanded Edition book by Milton Glaser and Mirko llic.

However, I am partial to protests that use gross humor to combat racism. This headline appeared in the August 24, 2017 edition of The Guardian: Turd Reich: San Francisco dog owners lay minefield of poo for rightwing rally.

Peace Activists planned to fight the rightwing planned Patriot Prayer rally by covering Crissy Field, site of the scheduled rally, with dog excrement. They also agreed to pick up the dog poo afterward. However, the Patriot Prayer got cancelled and so did the Turd Reich. Do you suppose that the Turd Reich planned to clean up with these?

Donald Trump dog poop bags. Photo by Mariah Chase. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2017.

 

Norine Dresser is a folklorist who has a severe visceral reaction when she sees the odious Swastika symbol.

folklore, radio

ON AIR

Norine Dresser  recording her Multicultural Minutes for KTAL-LP. Photo by Mariah Chase. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2017.

YOUR MULTICULTURAL MINUTE

“No Molesta” [Duration: 1:57]

Station Identification:

This is station KTAL-LP, 101.5 FM in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Music: Introduction: “Ekoneni” (Mark Dresser)

<<FADE UNDER>>

Voice: Introduction –

Hello. This is Norine Dresser presenting, “Your Multicultural  Minute,” true stories about       how cultural differences can create miscommunication.

Narrative:

Each weekday morning, several moms on the block happily drop off their toddlers            at Rosa’s house. She is their Mexican baby sitter and takes excellent care of their       children.

One afternoon, Rosa’s 13-year-old nephew, Ernesto, accompanies her as she walks the children back to their homes. When they arrive at Emma’s house, her father, Fred, greets them.

Ernesto says, “Your daughter is very beautiful.” Fred thanks him, and Ernesto responds, “No molesta.”

A strange look crosses Fred’s face. Then when he sees his daughter kiss Ernesto goodbye, Fred becomes enraged.

¿Qué Pasó? What Happened?

Fred jumped to the conclusion that “no molesta” meant Ernesto didn’t molest her. But in Spanish, the verb ”molestar” also means “disturb.” What Ernesto was saying was, “She’s no trouble; she’s no bother.”

Music Exit: “Ekoneni” continuation

<<Fade Under>>

Voice Exit:

Thanks for listening, and if you have a cultural miscommunication story you would like to share, contact me at www.norinedresser.com. That’s spelled n-o-r-i-n-e-d-r-e-s-s-e-r.

XXXX

Hi Friends and Family,

I am very excited to announce that I’m ON THE AIR, with two-minute shows, “Your Multicultural Minute.” Yes, on July 26, 2017, Las Cruces inaugurated a community radio station called KTAL, the radio symbol for “¿Qué Tal?” that in Spanish means, “What’s happening?”

I have already produced numerous episodes like the one above based, in part, on Multicultural Manners stories from my books and award winning Los Angeles Times column.

Although we already have a public radio station here in Las Cruces, KRWG, most of their programming originates from National Public Radio. In contrast, KTAL aims to focus on local issues and events, especially, the arts.

This station has been a two-year dream of Nan Rubin, a community radio activist, and Kevin Bixby, Executive Director of the Southwest Environmental Center in Las Cruces. Thanks to them, their hardworking volunteers, and local support, that dream has come true. Now, I am proud to say, “I’ll see you on the radio.”

 

Norine Dresser is a folklorist who delights in announcing her affiliation with radio KTAL- LP, 101.5 FM in Las Cruces, New Mexico.