April Monthly Gathering – The United States of Paranoia

Until it is deemed once again safe to return to meeting as a group, Southeast Michigan Mensa will be presenting a series of lectures on Zoom. Attendees need to pre-register by clicking on the following link: https://tinyurl.com/SEMM-0421-Gathering The event’s Zoom URL and instructions for connecting will be sent to those who are pre-registered, about an hour before the presentation. The number of attendees will be limited, so please pre-register early.

From QAnon to COVID-19 to “stop the steal,” conspiracy theories seem to be all over the American landscape right now. But conspiracy theories have always been all over the American landscape — this is just the latest crop. From the colonial days to today, they’ve been popular not just on the far left and the far right but in the middle of the road; they’ve been embraced not just by society’s outsiders but by society’s elites.

Join us on Saturday, April 17, when Reason magazine’s Jesse Walker, author of The United States of Paranoia, will help us explore the history of conspiracy theories and its lessons for today. He’ll cover five primal conspiracy narratives that keep recurring in America. Along the way, we’ll look at the precursors to QAnon, the rumors that circulated during pre-COVID pandemics, and the 19th-century counterparts to the fellow who tried to rescue some imaginary sex slaves from a pizza restaurant’s imaginary basement.

Jesse Walker is books editor of Reason magazine. The University of Michigan alumnus has written the books The United States of Paranoia: A Conspiracy Theory and Rebels on the Air: An Alternative History of Radio in America, and he maintains a blog called The Perpetual Three-Dot Column. His articles have appeared in a number of publications, including The New York TimesThe Wall Street JournalThe Washington PostThe Atlantic, Salon, The New RepublicPoliticoL.A. TimesL.A. WeeklyChroniclesBoing BoingNo Depression, and the Journal of American Studies. He has also worked as a DJ, a dishwasher, and a miscellaneous office grunt. He lives in Baltimore with his wife and their two daughters.

The Zoom room opens at 6:30pm for mingling. The program starts at 7:00pm

Let’s Get This Party Started — Kicking Off Our New Gen X SIG

Are you an current member of Mensa around the SEMM area who was born between 1961 and 1981?  If so, we are looking for you! SEMM is starting up a brand-new Gen X SIG this spring. Beginning in March, we’ll be having a monthly SEMM Gen X zoom gathering so that we can hang out and have fun from the safety of our homes.  We’ll enjoy things like virtual escape rooms, ’80s trivia, and any other entertaining things we can think of.  Considering that we’re Mensans, I’m sure we’ll think of a lot. 

As the pandemic winds down and in-person events become possible, there’ll be lots of activities planned to bring us all together.  We’ll do things like dinners out, board game nights, card games, picnics, billiards, bowling and kayaking.  If you haven’t already completed the Gen X SIG interest survey, click here to fill it out and let us know where you are and what kinds of activities you’d like to take part in. It’s the first step in joining the fun. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions about the new Gen X SIG, send an email to semmgenxsig@nullgmail.com

The March SEMM Gen X monthly gathering is an escape room hosted by Tony Pak on Thursday, March 18th at 7 pm Eastern.  If you are an active SEMM Gen Xer and would like to attend, please see our announcement on Mensa Connect.

March Monthly Gathering – The Land of Oz, The Witch, and My Mom

Until it is deemed once again safe to return to meeting as a group, Southeast Michigan Mensa will be presenting a series of lectures on Zoom. Attendees must pre-register at: https://tinyurl.com/SEMM-0321-Gathering. The event’s Zoom URL and instructions for connecting will be sent to those who are pre-registered, about an hour before the presentation. The number of attendees will be limited, so please pre-register early.

The Land of Oz, The Witch, and My Mom
Ten Things You Might Not Know about “The Wizard of Oz” and My Mother, Margaret Hamilton

The Wicked Witch of The West was terrifying. Remember the first time you saw that green face? Margaret Hamilton will always be remembered for her role, in the 1939 film classic “The Wizard of Oz.” The movie holds up so well, it’s worth watching annually, or introducing to a young relative who is ready for the rite of passage, or maybe some friend who lived their life under a rock. 

The American Film Institute ranked Hamilton’s Wicked Witch, number 4 on a list of the 50 Best Movie Villains of All Time. And Hamilton’s iconic line: “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!”, is probably responsible for more childhood nightmares than almost any movie line. The film has thrilled and frightened, in a good way, fans of all ages for over eighty-one years! During that time, the film and Margaret Hamilton’s portrayal of the Wicked Witch, have become a part of our popular culture.

Originally a kindergarten teacher, brought up oh so properly in early twentieth century Cleveland, and a single mother to her son, Margaret Hamilton had a full life before and after taking on the role that defined her public persona. She appeared in 127 TV shows and movies, about 100 plays, and countless radio shows and commercials. An accomplished actress, she was also a classy, kindhearted person, who never lost her dedication to the care and education of children. Probably the only thing wicked about her, was her sense of humor.

So please join us on Saturday, March 20, when Margaret Hamilton’s son, Hamilton Meserve, will be with us via Zoom to share his personal memories of his mother, the making of “The Wizard of Oz”, (Including the scene that almost killed her) as well as events across the many ensuing decades. This will be a great event for all who love this classic motion picture and want to know more about it, and Mr. Meserve’s fascinating mother.

Hamilton Meserve is now retired and lives in Maine with Helen, his wife of fifty-nine years. He’s enjoyed a happily diverse career, working in international banking (opening countries in Asia and the Middle East for Citibank); owning seven community newspapers in New York’s Hudson Valley from the 1980s to the 1990s, and until 2006, working with Helen in Running Battle Antiques for which (from 1990 to 2006) they did up to twenty-five national shows a year. Hamilton is currently a County Commissioner in Lincoln County, Maine. In addition, he is president of Boothbay Harbor Rotary Club, and Treasurer of The Boothbay Region Land Trust and The Friends of the Harbor Theatre, which is, not surprisingly, devoted to classic cinema.

The Zoom window will open at 630pm for mingling. The program starts at 7pm.

January Monthly Gathering – Burn Before Reading – America’s Incredible Intelligence Failures

Until it is deemed once again safe to return to meeting as a group, Southeast Michigan Mensa will be presenting a series of lectures on Zoom. These programs are “members only” events, and not open to the public.  Members should consult this month’s newsletter to register.  If you are not a member, why not join us?  See how at the “Join Now” tab above.

Unbelievably screwed-up intelligence operations rarely make headlines unless people die or major political figures are involved. What screws up a carefully planned operation? Most of the time it is ignorance or personality driven guidance and direction from people who have attained senior decision-making positions without ever having spent a day “on the street.”

For example, a person who spent their entire career in signals intelligence (SIGINT) wearing headphones, listening to enemy radio conversations, or supervising soldiers wearing headphones, is promoted to lieutenant colonel, assigned to be a department chief, and suddenly has the responsibility of approving human intelligence (HUMINT) operations involving real people illegally crossing borders, to carry out clandestine activities. It is analogous to a TV repairman being asked to do open-heart surgery.

On the other hand, an experienced HUMINT operator, who served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam demands his subordinates use some of the same tactics and methods from those conflicts in post-Cold War Europe. When his subordinates question his guidance, they get fired, their operation goes down in flames, and the operator gets pushed into a dark corner until they retire.

In his thirty-three-year career as a multi-disciplined intelligence operator and analyst, our speaker this month, Robert Dukelow, participated in or provided support to several operations that should have been stamped SNAFU, maybe even FUBAR, rather than SECRET. Tales based on these operations have been fictionalized in Dukelow’s books, which were cleared for publication by the NSA and the Pentagon’s security offices. You should not, therefore, hear any currently classified information in this presentation.

Robert Dukelow lived 27 years in Germany. The fictional books he’s authored are filled with humor, spy stories, and strong women. After working 33 years as an Army counterintelligence special agent in Europe, Afghanistan, and the Pentagon, his German is superb. His Hungarian is marginal. His Spanish, Russian, Dutch, Turkish, and Japanese can get him in trouble. He now lives in Arizona, where he writes, gardens, teaches, hikes in the mountains, and says he’s having more fun than an old guy at his age should probably expect.

Join us on Saturday, January 16, to hear former Army Intelligence officer Robert Dukelow tell some of the astounding stories behind the stories of America’s intelligence operations. The Zoom room will open at 6:30pm for mingling. The program starts at 7:00pm.