27 April 2013

Digging the Past

I know everyone's seen this already, but I just have to add to the internet traffic for this wonderful find: a 100-year-old time capsule from Oklahoma. How cool is this?

This is an example of why I love being a writer. When I research a story (like the 1930s novel I'm currently working on) I seek out old books, old movies -- sometimes old people -- to find out about the world of the past. In a way, it's like opening a time capsule of information that has not been read in decades, reveling in memories that have not been probed for ages, and bringing back to life (if only for a few minutes) the minutia of a world that has long since stopped existing.

The people of 1913 Oklahoma who created this time capsule did the world a great favor. They included art or their time, fashions, laws of the native peoples, letters written to descendants of families -- and even recorded their voices to be heard in the next millennia. I know a lot of people could not care less about the past. It's a shame, really, because as the saying goes, their past is our prologue.

You can read more about this find (and see photographs) here.

21 April 2013


I feel sad for all the people involved in both the Boston bombings and the West fertilizer-plant explosion. I feel empathy for the people who were killed, those injured, and even those who just happened to be in the area. Even if not physically affected, they are mentally affected -- which can often be just as bad.

Of all the people connected to these events, you know who I feel the most sorrow for? Ruslan Tsarni -- an uncle of the two Boston bombers.

I suppose this might come as a bit of a shock. Why don't I feel the most sorrow for the people who died? Or the people permanently injured?

Fair enough. But, put yourself in the place of the uncle:

You're sitting at home, minding your own business and you see a television report showing the suspected bombers and you recognize BOTH of the bombers as relatives. You are an immigrant to America, you love your new country as much as you love your heritage and here you are: faced with such a horrible action taken by people you know and are related to.

Tsarni could have stayed in his house, cowered in a corner for fear someone would find out that he was related to the suspects. What did he do? He appeared in front of national media, told everyone who he was and his relationship to the suspects and implored them to turn themselves in. He stressed that the suspects -- his nephews -- brought shame to their family, shame to their home country, shame to their status as immigrants.

Some have dismissed his actions as a clever public-relations ploy. Perhaps it was. But perhaps it was another example of one or two people bringing shame to an entire class of immigrants. History is replete with stories of immigrant parents disowning their children for doing something that brought shame to their nationality. This is nothing new. For many immigrants, it matters to them that they "do the right thing" as American residents or new American citizens. They want to prove that they are worthy of being an "American."

It took a lot of courage for Tsarni to put himself square in the public focus like he did. I sincerely hope all the other Americans who heard his pleas understand that the guilty are not "immigrants," they are not "Islamists," they are not "Chechens." The guilty are the people who placed the bombs that did the damage.

You can read more about Tsarni here.