Michaeline: Let Us Give Thanks

TEXT: ILLUSTRATED CURRENT NEWS To Prevent Influenza! Do not take any person's breath. Keep the mouth and teeth clean. Avoid those that cough and sneeze. Don't visit poorly ventilated places. Keep warm, get fresh air and sunshine. Don't use common drinking cups, towels, etc. Cover your mouth when you cough and sneeze. Avoid Worry, Fear and Fatigue. Stay at home if you have a cold. Walk to your work or office. In sick rooms wear a gauze mask like in illustration.
From ILLUSTRATED CURRENT NEWS, October 18, 1918. At this time, the influenza pandemic wasn’t very old at all; it only reached Nebraska on October 3, for example. But the advice is much the same as the advice we get today. As the old folks say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. (Via HuskerMax.com, 1918 War, Influenza and football.)

It’s been a horrible year full of surprises and plot twists on the world stage. Late last year, COVID-19 made its first appearance, and by February, it had swept around the globe, and health officials were panicking. We learned about masks and social distancing, and those of us who could worked from home, and those of us who couldn’t washed our hands really well and hoped for the best.

The disease brought a lot of people to a standstill, and in that quiet time of reflection, a lot of things happened. I think a lot of the unrest in the US can be traced to people having time to do something about the injustices that have plagued our country for centuries (see my review of The Garies and Their Friends to see how much hasn’t changed since the 1850s for free Blacks). 

Unrest brought about reaction from people who had a lot of time on their hands to think and plan, and then came the election, which still isn’t settled as a done deal in every American’s mind.

Does it help to think that the world has been through similar circumstances before, and managed to get through the times of trouble and even thrive again? I think it does. During the pandemic of 1918, we saw a lot of the same scenarios play out – masks, mask-deniers; the

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Michaeline: Ghosts on the Brain

Okiku, a ghost from a well, at night. She's got a sad expression on her face, and she's blowing out a stream of cold air.

Okiku, the ghost rising from a well. Note how her body is made of plates . . . and she’s SO over 2020 and all its nonsense. Phew! (Image via Wikimedia Commons. Hokusai)

People are moaning and groaning that Halloween is going to be cancelled in North America this year, and others are vaguely annoyed by this attitude – mind you, I’m seeing this on Twitter, and most people are not even taking 280 characters to express their feelings about this, so half of what I report here may be my own imagination.

In Japan, Halloween has become quite popular, but mostly among the kids who go to English classes, and among the candy manufacturers. There’s a whole display of special orange, black and purple snacks for Halloween. Not bite-size candies to pass out, per se. And not really anything particularly scary. Just the candy company mascot dressed up as a witch, a vampire or a Munch’s Scream Guy. So, I HAVE been to a couple of Halloween parties in Japan, but they are mostly mass events where kids parade their costumes (95 percent of which are witches, vampires or Scream Guys), and then say in English, “Trick or Treat” at a booth to receive a small piece of candy.

I’ve hosted a couple of Halloween parties when my kids were small, but let’s face it. I’m not influential enough to change Japanese Halloween culture.

So, in Japan, anyway, it’s not going to be a big deal. They might have the mass events, with extra masks. It’ll be interesting to see if they tap into the horror of this year, and have more Zombie Nurses (2 percent of the costume parade) or COVID victims (obviously, this would be a debut costume), but I doubt it. Most people who celebrate will grab a bag of Scary Themed butter shoyu potato chips, and call it a season.

But anyway, I’ve got ghosts on the brain since July. August is when the ancestors are supposed to return home for a three-day holiday called Obon, and ghost stories are said to be a delightful cooling device when you don’t have an air conditioner – the chill down your spine during a session of evening stories is quite welcome.

For the first time, I’m thinking about Japanese ghosts. I have a modern story about Continue reading