Friday

A Short Story About My Very Big Crush on a Very Dead Guy

He was drop-dead gorgeous. Spinoza was a hunk. Unfortunately, he was “temporally unavailable” in the same way that some men are “geographically undesirable.” This is because he had been dead for over three hundred years.

It was 1992. I was thirty-two and unfortunately still single. I was taking classes at California State University, Northridge (CSUN) prepping for a doctoral program at the University of Southern California.    

It was the first day of a CSUN class. I flipped through the course text, The Great Philosophers, perusing pictures of the dead blokes I would be studying that semester. René Descartes looked like a snarky know-it-all. “Got fried” perfectly described Gottfried Leibniz’s waist-length, overly curly wig. It appeared to have been blitzed by high tension wires. But Baruch Spinoza was the handsomest man I’d ever seen (in this particular portrait on page 103). In fact, he looked a little like my first boyfriend (singer Tom Jones), except for the shoulder-length curls.

I knew nothing about these so-called seventeenth-century “rationalists,” who believed that knowledge was independent of sense experience. Plus, I was not versed on the other great thinkers pictured in the book, such as St. Augustine, Nietzsche, and Wittgenstein. But I knew the professor would be taking us on an enlightening cruise through the waters of Western philosophy.

Two months later, we had not yet studied the hunk on page 103. In fact, I no longer remembered his name when suddenly the teacher outlined a theory on the blackboard, and I became as excited as the “class” that had finally located its “struggle.” I had found my ideological soul mate, and his name was Baruch Spinoza. Like me, this Dutch philosopher argued that the universe was determined and amoral and that humans were arrogant in placing themselves above nonhumans on the Great Chain of Being. It was only a matter of minutes before I reexamined the course book to discover that the hunk and soul mate were one and the same.

“Are you dating anyone?” my gal pal, Lynn, asked that night during our usual “girl talk” phone session.

“No, but I have a crush on a philosopher born in 1632,” I joked.

“Oh, that’s really funny,” she replied. “You have a crush on a guy who died in 1677.”

It felt like I’d been zapped by Leibniz’s electrical wire. I was in shock because Spinoza did, in fact, die in 1677.

“Why did you say that?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she said. 

Lynn had never studied philosophy or heard of Spinoza. I designated this as the first spooky experience of my life.

Before this, I’d considered paranormal experiences to be fraudulent, often the result of an overactive imagination. I’d placed great value on logic and evidence. But Lynn’s comment had changed my perspective. Suddenly I was unsure about it all. 

I vacationed in Europe a year later. I had never really fancied travel, but when I did go out of town, it was to visit someone special, such as a boyfriend or my birth parents or a particular VIP whom I didn’t yet know but hoped to befriend. I had never been one for tourist attractions or group tours. They felt like conformity traps. The error with this vacation was that I had designed it without a person in mind. It was an aimless wander from one foreign city to another. And for me, this was a recipe for boredom and restlessness. 

The good news was that when I hit Holland, I realized that I was visiting someone after all: Spinoza. He was the VIP whom I hoped to befriend. His aura infused every cobblestone street, delightful Dutch structure, and winding waterway. I suddenly believed I knew secrets about him. Somehow I’d inhaled his spirit. I was in sync. I seemed to understand the synapses in his brain. It was as if his essence was my essence. I had additional unexplainable experiences, and every clue suggested I was in the right place, at the right time, visiting the right person. 

It also felt as if I were being led from place to place not by my head, heart, or feet but rather by a mysterious ally called intuition. I came to believe that there is a secret drawer that goes ignored and untapped by most people, yet it holds powerful tools and insights. I came to believe that cause and effect operate on a more unobservable, immeasurable, and far-reaching level than I’d ever imagined. I was certain the tossing universe had secrets to which humans and science would never be privy.

After my Spinoza trip, I came to rely upon intuition. As a Realtor, I avoided two vacant houses that simply did not feel right. As a hiker, I abandoned a woodsy trail that felt dangerous. Maybe intuition saved my life. Maybe it didn’t. I will never know. My odd happenings and link to Spinoza also put me on a certain path within academia and led me to devise the unique animal rights philosophy I hold today.

Spinoza has cloaked me with a spiritual veil, forever changing the way I view things. He has shown me that while the forces toss and turn, there may be sneaky little dwarfs who whistle while they work. And he has taught me that I should have no fear, because in the end, the universe is just like Snow White: It always lives happily ever after.


“Spin”—the man I jokingly call “my husband in a future life”—has made a huge impact on this life. He will forever remain a part of my heart.

Tabs Parselle: Captured by the Nazis and a Witness to The Great Escape


We recently honored D-Day and it brought to mind the life of my father-in-law, who was on the run from the Nazis and eventually captured by them. His name was Thomas Alfred Boyd Parselle (known as Tabs), and he was a Royal Air Force (RAF) officer. Tabs was a brave and tenacious man who survived much of the war in a POW camp.

It all started in 1943 when my husband’s family received a letter stating that Tabs was missing and presumed dead. He had circled back from a raid on Dusseldorf, Germany when his Lancaster W5001 aircraft was attacked by enemy fire.

Tabs Parselle
The plane had been operating as normal. The eight-man, British crew had been bundled in thick jackets and gloves inside the cold and noisy fuselage. But suddenly at 2:08 am, Nazi canon shells bombarded the plane. The communication system went kaput and the port engines burst into flames. The plane split apart and plummeted toward the ground, eventually exploding 2000 feet above the city of Nijmegen, Holland. Aircraft parts fell onto the Dutch farmland, landing in gardens, in orchards, on rooftops, and in streets.

Only two men parachuted to the ground safely; the others perished. One survivor was Tabs. Although he had lived through the air attack, he had descended into dangerous Gestapo territory. There was no way for him to alert the military or his family that he was alive, and he immediately began a fight for survival.     

To avoid detection by the Nazis, Tabs slept in bushes and a hole in the forest floor. He was on his own; he had not come into contact with the other RAF airman who had ejected from the aircraft. Area residents provided Tabs with civilian clothes, food, a Dutch/English dictionary, and a little money. One man even put him in touch with the Dutch Resistance.

About this time, future actress and then-teenager Audrey Hepburn was assisting the Dutch Resistance. She lived only 15 miles from where Tabs’ plane had come down. She had suffered the trauma of seeing Jews corralled into train cars, and her home had been bombed. In order to raise money for the cause, she danced at concerts. In addition, she acted as a courier, delivering messages and money to on-the-run Allied airmen and she often sneaked food to them. It is unclear whether Hepburn met Tabs, but it is possible. 

Tabs’ contact with the Dutch Resistance led to his capture. There was a traitor named Prosper DeZitter who looked like a stereotypical villain. He had close-set eyes, bat-black hair, a pencil-thin moustache, gold fillings, a limp, and a missing a finger joint like the nefarious spy in Alfred Hitchcock’s play 39 Steps. DeZitter had joined forces with the Gestapo after serving prison sentences for rape, embezzlement, and fraud, and he was responsible for the capture of at least 70 RAF airmen. 

Tabs found himself in a safe house at Rue Forestiere in Belgium, but it was not actually safe. It was a trap devised by DeZitter. Tabs was quickly handed over to the Nazis and transported to a French prison called Fresnes where he was interrogated and tortured for a month.

The rough treatment and harsh conditions at the French prison were only the start of the arduous ordeal that Tabs would endure. He was transferred from one POW camp to another, sometimes hiking for miles through snow to reach the next destination. Death was on his mind; thousands of POWs perished in captivity during World War II. 

The 1963 Steve McQueen film The Great Escape describes the secret tunnels at Stalag Luft III and the POWs’ attempt to crawl through them on March 24, 1944. Tabs arrived at this camp on January 16 of that year, and he was informed of the digging efforts. He was also present during the escape although he was not one of the men who tried to flee. This was lucky because only three men reached freedom. Most were killed by the Germans. In fact, Hitler personally ordered Himmler to execute more than half of the attempted escapees in order to deter any future escape plans. A fellow RAF officer and friend of Tabs kept a diary of the horrors in that POW camp. The diary recently sold at auction for $17,827.

Stalag VII A was Tabs’ final POW camp. It was located north of Moosburg and known for its overcrowding and grim conditions. The structure had been built to accommodate 10,000 people, but when Tabs arrived, there were at least 80,000 prisoners. Bed bugs, fleas, and lice were common. Temperatures were often below zero, and many men had to sleep on the ground because there were not enough gunnysack mattresses. The daily food ration consisted of three pieces of bread, a few potatoes, and watery vegetable soup. There was only one water spigot in each building and an insufficient number of bathrooms. Although the surroundings were severe, Tabs was hopeful because he could sense an end to the war.

Nine days later, Tabs and the other POWs were liberated by the American 14th Armored Division of the U.S. Third Army. Tabs returned to England, but did not discuss his experiences with his family. He died of a heart attack in 1979. He is a hero who will forever be missed.

Published in Head Stuff on June 21, 2019.


Thursday

Sex, Hypocrisy, and the Bachelorette

See my article about sexism and the TV show, The Bachelorette, at United by Pop. June 20, 2019

The Diet of Distraction


I am not a diet guru, the czar of calorie counting or a member of the binge police. I don’t have a cookbook, weight-reduction program, or fad to peddle. In fact, I’d say so-called experts who push a single, one-size-fits-all, weight-loss approach are a few fries short of a happy meal or a few sandwiches short of a picnic. It’s disingenuous to think there is only one way to help the plump. 
I’m a big fan of my own creation—the diet of distraction—but I’m the first to admit it may help some drop pounds and lead others over the pig-out cliff.  Because we are all unique, a habit that fattens Jack Sprat may not faze his wife.  A new study substantiates this view; a person’s reaction to food is largely individualistic. There is no diet regimen that benefits all.   
The diet of distraction is based on two premises: forget about food and throw yourself into an activity that will propel you away from your gluttonous routine. In order to succeed, you must not weigh your food, mark your calories on a chart, or look up codes in a tiny book. How many times have you blurted out, “Oh no, I’m not allowed to have any more number threes (miniature puddings) today?” Then, all you think about are miniature puddings.
To calorie count or diary-keep is to think about food, and this is a no-no when you’re committed to the diet of distraction. Thinking about food leads to obsessing over food. Obsessing over food, leads to temptation. Temptation leads to overeating and never escaping the dreaded see-saw. 
I know a lot about see-saws as a former member of See-saws Anonymous. In my teens and early twenties, I could both lose weight and gain it back before a lemon torte defrosted. There were times when I fasted for 17 days with nothing but water—a feat I can no longer accomplish as an adult. Once, I refused to go out with a man for two months because I felt too fat. He thought I didn’t like him. Crazy men. Don’t they understand women at all? 
Then there were those nights of extreme exercise. I would leave my childhood home at 10 pm and run to my high school and back in the dark—a 24-mile journey—carrying a rock for protection and hiding behind trees when I saw oncoming vehicles. You never know who’s a mass murderer. At nine a.m. the next morning, you’d find me limping up my driveway, convinced I was suddenly skinny.
As I got older, I left behind the playground and the see-saw. I discovered some interesting tendencies in myself. I found that I ate very little when I vacationed, when I moved to a new place, and when I became immersed in an interesting project. Vacationing and moving were projects in themselves. I realized that my problem had less to do with overeating than it did over-thinking. The trick was mostly to forget about food and to stay busy.
Furthermore, the diet of distraction required me to grocery shop on a full stomach and to think very little about my purchases beyond making sure they were reasonably healthy. My rule was no meat products (including fish and chicken), no fried foods, and no sweets. I did not plan meals ahead or coordinate how rice and squash might go with a salad. That would, of course, be thinking too much.
I found it advantageous to refrain from buying my favorite starches, knowing that if I liked something too much, I might be tempted to overindulge. I never felt deprived, because my life was focused on projects, rather than food. When I dined at restaurants, I ate what I wanted, as long as it was vegan   
The tendency to overeat is one many of us have experienced. According to the National Institute of Health, more than 70% of Americans are either overweight or obese and obesity can be blamed for 300,000 deaths every year. In addition, 3.8 million Americans weigh over 300 pounds. 
Health is fulfillment, not just what you put in your mouth. Health means using your brainpower to realize your personal calling rather than to calculate caloric intake or weigh a slice of bread. Health means putting energy towards the positive rather than obsessing over the negative.
You might want to try the diet of distraction. It’s (not) food for thought.

Trump was right about Charlottesville but NOT for the reason he thinks: A Postmodern Argument


Charlotte Laws and Donald Trump at NATPE conference
The Charlottesville issue is a dragon that cannot be slayed. It is alluded to again and again in the media—a reminder that political correctness trumps truth; a reminder that the public sphere rewards sound bites; and a reminder that logic and common sense are often ignored within the marketplace of ideas.

When I first heard President Trump’s comments on Charlottesville back in 2017, I did not believe them to be controversial. I perceived them as a springboard which would spur a much-needed public debate about what qualifies as a “good person” or an “evil person.” I thought our country would soon be chewing on whether values are objective or whether moral absolutes are fairy tales.

I waited for this discussion. I waited for months, then a year. It never came.

I’d been naïve. I’d failed to realize that the political pundits, reporters, and establishment types rely on sound bites because they fit neatly into a headline, segment, or catchy quote. I had forgotten the importance of political correctness and that deviating from the norm can lead to the damage of a reputation or the loss of a career—risks that most folks are unwilling to take.

Trump had said something unforgiveable, according to critics. Although he’d denounced white supremacy, he’d said that there were “very fine people” on both sides of the Unite the Right rally or the Charlottesville clash. He later clarified that some on the far-right were simply against the removal of Robert E. Lee’s statue—a cue that he did not plan to plunge into the philosophical debate that I had hoped for.

But was he right in the first place? Were there “very fine people” on both sides? What does the phrase “very fine people” mean? Are most people “very fine” or is nobody “very fine”? Is the country split 50-50? Are only liberals “very fine”? Or conservatives? Or independents?

Morally judging others is a subjective endeavor. It is no different from evaluating a painting or a song. If one has a positive attitude, one is more likely to see the good in others and deem them “very fine.” On the other hand, if one tends to see the glass as half empty, one is more likely to view other people as half empty as well.

Is a person with a racist attitude automatically evil? If the answer is yes, then our country is filled with a whole lot of evil because research shows that the majority of Americans are racist. There are even studies that reveal the biases of minority groups in relation to other minority groups; and there are first-person accounts and opeds that bolster these findings.    

Of course, measuring a person’s level of racism (and propensity to spew racist rhetoric) could be viewed as a tiny fraction of the task at hand. In order to determine “true reprehensibleness,” wouldn’t we need to examine an individual’s other prejudices, such as his sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, religious intolerance, and speciesism (arrogantly believing humans to be superior to other life forms)? Speciesists, by the way, probably comprise 99 percent of the U.S. population. If Trump’s critics are going to say a racist is a “bad person,” shouldn’t they say the same about a sexist, homophobe, or speciesist? Are they prepared to write off 99 percent of America? 

Lastly, there are what I call “physical crimes” (apart from “thought crimes” and “speech crimes”). If Trump’s critics want to go down the misguided path of claiming some folks are outright “bad,” data would be needed about these folks’ pasts. We’d need to do background checks. We’d need to know if some of the Charlottesville protestors and counter-protestors have committed adultery, sold illegal drugs, raped, destroyed property, bullied, cheated on their taxes, shoplifted, visited prostitutes, posted revenge porn, slapped around a spouse, or committed other “objectionable” acts.  

Perhaps some of the rally-goers are even murderers. Of course, the term “murder” can be defined in different ways. Animal advocates would apply the term to the killing of nonhuman animals (and to eating meat) while anti-abortion activists would apply it to the intentional destruction of fetuses. Anti-war protestors might extend “murder” to include activities on the battlefield while critics of the death penalty might extend it to cover state-sanctioned executions. Do Trump’s critics want to call everyone “evil” who has been a soldier, eaten a hamburger, or had an abortion? 

Individuals and groups are not objectively good or evil. Some of their actions may cause pain to others; and it makes sense to dissuade, denounce, and sometimes outlaw such behavior. But it is a wholly different proposition to condemn individuals or entire swaths of people as “irredeemably bad” or “deplorable” (as Hillary Clinton might say). It is not only irrational to do so. It is arrogant and promotes an I’m-ok-you’re-not-ok mentality. It leads to a toxic chasm in society and a hatred of others.  

Trump’s critics wanted him to play God on the Charlottesville issue. They wanted him to get on his high horse and declare an entire group “evil” without knowing much—or in some cases, anything—about these folks. They wanted him to offer a sound bite, to be politically correct, to sidestep philosophical analysis, and ultimately to ignore truth.

But he wisely ignored them, not only for the aforementioned reasons, but also because he probably realized that he needs votes in the next election. If a politician is being honest, he will admit that he wants votes from everybody, Votes—even from prejudiced constituents—can elect a great leader who can make a country better.

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Friday

Charlotte Laws and Gloria Allred at Press Conference - Oct 2018


Charlotte Laws and Gloria Allred at press conference in Los Angeles. October 2018



Sunday

My Grandfather: Targeted by Racists and Killed by A Devil Worshiper




I love my grandfather. Although I never met him, I feel as though I did. I know about the menial jobs he took sweeping up a pool hall and carting vegetables to the grocer while studying to become a lawyer in West Virginia. I know about the times he got booted from law offices due to his Italian blood. I know about the threats made against him by the Ku Klux Klan and how they kicked him out of his home. I know about his murder.  

My grandfather was Tucker Moroose, a man loved by everyone except those who could not see beyond their prejudice. Back in the day, Italian Americans were considered “black dagoes” and were the target of the largest mass lynching in U.S. history, which occurred in New Orleans on March 14, 1891. That is why I chose that date (March 14, 2018) for the release of Devil in the Basement, my new book about my grandpa’s unforgettable life.

As an adopted child, I spent years tracking down my natural family. The Morooses—Tucker’s relatives and mine—are kind and hard-working folks who began in the coal mines and rose to become educated professionals (i.e. doctors, university professors, entrepreneurs, and in Tucker’s case, a lawyer with plans to run for the U.S. Senate).

My search also introduced me to the world of “black Satanism” because Tucker’s killer, Ernie Yost, was a believer in the occult. Ernie was consumed with jealousy, had wild mood swings. beat his wife, carved “Hell’s Half Acre” onto his steps, possessed a life-size satanic doll, reveled in “evil,” and was one of the first documented devil worshipers in the U.S.

On a woeful Wednesday in 1948, Ernie went on a crime spree, which the Fairmont Times called “the most bizarre set of tragic events ever to occur.”

Devil in the Basement reveals the unfiltered story in the form of a nonfiction novel. With this book, I honor my grandfather as well as the Italian Americans throughout history who faced prejudice and still fought to make America their home. They will never be forgotten.

___

Devil in the Basement can be purchased on Amazon, at Barnes and Noble or at your local bookstore.

Tuesday

A few photos from the Golden Globes 2018

Charlotte Laws at the Golden Globes in 2018

Charlotte Laws and director / producer Ridley Scott sitting ringside at the 2018 Golden Globes. A still shot from TV.


Christopher Plummer and Charlotte Laws at the Golden Globes 2018. As shot from TV.

Hugh Jackman and Charlotte Laws

Alicia Vikander and Charlotte Laws

Zan Efron and Charlotte Laws

Charlotte Laws at the 2018 Golden Globes to support the #TimeUp initiative and the #MeToo movement. She is wearing a black velvet and sequined gown.

Charlotte Laws carried her sign on the red carpet, promoting equality for women and deriding Harvey Weinstein.

Gayle King, Oprah Winfrey and Ava Duvernay with Charlotte Laws in the background (between Gayle and Oprah). She was at the table behind Oprah's sitting with Christopher Plummer, Ridley Scott, Nataline Portman, Michelle Williams and America Ferrera. Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern sat at the table for a little while).














Saturday

The Globe Magazine has printed a retraction. They had published false information about my relationship with Tom Jones in two separate issues: on June 12 and June 19. This is their retraction. It is on page two of the issue dated July 3, 2017.

Charlotte Laws reading and signing her new memoir at Book Soup on Sept 1, 2015 at 7 pm

Rebel in High Heels is a memoir about Dr. Charlotte Laws-"the Erin Brockovich of revenge porn"-who was voted one of the "30 fiercest women in the world." She fought a dangerous war against "the most hated man on the Internet" to protect her daughter and other victims. She was bombarded with death threats and computer viruses and targeted by a stalker who appeared at her home. 

But who is this woman that MSNBC calls a hero? In addition to detailing her gripping revenge porn fight, this book chronicles the first 22 years of Laws' life. Her adoptive mother committed suicide, her little brother was killed, and her father's only comment was he wished it had been her. Laws' first boyfriend was pop idol Tom Jones. She has hobnobbed with the rich and famous. Though not born with VIP access, she taught herself how to gate-crash any event, anywhere, anytime. 

Rebel in High Heels is about perseverance and looking beyond oneself. It is about fighting for ones dreams, while striving to better the world.

Date for event: September 1, 2015 at 7 pm. 

Event address:

8818 Sunset Boulevard
West Hollywood, CA 90069
Hope to see everyone there!