August Monthly Gathering – WHAT is Happening in Russia???

(Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Michael A. McCoy/Getty Images, Contributor/Getty Images, Alexey Furman/Getty Images, Laurent Van der Stockt for Le Monde/Getty Images)

Russia’s war in Ukraine was supposed to be a quick and overwhelming invasion that would topple the western-looking Ukrainian state and bring it into line. Now, nearly eighteen months later, and with forty countries financially backing Ukraine, and Putin facing mutiny and the growing likelihood of needing to call up more reserves, it is difficult to see when or how the war will end.  

This talk will examine how the Russian state has portrayed and uses history to justify the war.  It will also discuss Putin’s perceived hold on power and Russia’s foreign policy objectives, both with its neighbors and with the west, and internal unrest, especially within the military. Finally, it will dive into the current state of the war and outline some possible outcomes for the war and the Russian state.  

Leading us in this discussion will be Dr. Aaron Retish, Wayne State Professor of Russian history. Dr Retish is a specialist in late Imperial and Soviet history with a focus on the social, cultural, and political history of the countryside. He is the author of Russia’s Peasants in Revolution and Civil War: Citizenship, Identity, and the Creation of the Soviet State, 1914-1922, as well as articles on violence in the Revolutionary era, local courts and penal reform and has broader research interests in law and punishment, gender and ethnicity in the Soviet era. He co-edits Revolutionary Russia, the leading journal in its field. He also serves on the Board of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives and is associate editor of its journal The Volunteer. Retish teaches courses in Russian, Soviet and post-Soviet history and politics, as well as world and modern European history. He received his BA from The University of Wisconsin-Madison and his MA and PhD from Ohio State.

Please note that this program will be presented live and on Zoom. You can attend the live presentation, for a chance to also mingle with your fellow Mensans and guests, at our usual location:

Northwest Unitarian Universalist Church in Southfield
23925 Northwestern Highway
Southfield, MI 48075

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. (EDT). The program begins at 7:00 p.m. (EDT). Admission: $4 for Mensa Members, $6 for non-Mensans. 

Following the presentation, please join us for dinner at Buddy’s Pizza, located at 31646 Northwestern Highway, in Farmington Hills, just northeast of Middlebelt Road.

If you’d prefer to participate on Zoom, you’ll need to pre-register by clicking on the following link: https://tinyurl.com/SEMM-0823-Gathering , The event’s Zoom URL and instructions for connecting will only be sent to those who are pre-registered. The Zoom room opens at 6:30 p.m. (EDT). for mingling. There is no charge for the Zoom presentation.

Please note that starting with the September monthly gathering, admission prices for the live presentation will increase to $5 for Mensa Members, $6 for non-Mensans. Checks will no longer be accepted at SEMM events.

June Monthly Gathering – Theocracy & the High Court: A Threat to Separation of Church & State

Recent New York Times articles have stated that since John Roberts became Chief Justice in 2005, the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of religious organizations in orally argued cases 83% of the time. That is far more than any court in the past seven decades. And that a recent series of decisions have allowed for a larger role of religion in public life, such as school prayer and funding for religious education. The ACLU claims that the Supreme Court has recently adopted an approach that would see the lines between church and state hopelessly blurred, if not eliminated altogether. Further, that the court has increasingly treated the Establishment Clause, the First Amendment’s guarantee of protection against governmental endorsement and imposition of religion, as a historical footnote, threatening the religious neutrality of the state. All this even though declaring the United States a Christian nation and ending federal enforcement of the separation of church and state are minority views among American adults, according to the Pew Research Center.

Our speaker this month, Professor Mike Whitty, will attempt to help us deconstruct all this, and offer some possible positive ways to reduce the rising tide of divisiveness. 

Professor Mike Whitty has taught at University Detroit-Mercy, Wayne State and Oakland Universities, University of Michigan- Dearborn, and several universities in California, Minnesota & Canada. He has presented before American Humanist Association Chapters, on topics dealing with the exploitation of easily targeted scapegoat groups. Dr. Whitty has researched and published extensively on American political extremism and the world’s human rights struggles.

Please note that this program will be presented live and on Zoom. You can attend the live presentation, for a chance to also mingle with your fellow Mensans and guests, at our usual location:

Northwest Unitarian Universalist Church in Southfield
23925 Northwestern Highway
Southfield, MI 48075

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. (EDT). The program begins at 7:00 p.m. (EDT). Admission: $4 for Mensa Members, $5 for non-Mensans. 

Following the presentation, please join us for dinner at Buddy’s Pizza, located at 31646 Northwestern Highway, in Farmington Hills, just northeast of Middlebelt Road.

If you’d prefer to participate on Zoom, you’ll need to pre-register by clicking on the following link: https://tinyurl.com/SEMM-0623-Gathering , The event’s Zoom URL and instructions for connecting will only be sent to those who are pre-registered. The Zoom room opens at 6:30 p.m. (EDT). for mingling. There is no charge for the Zoom presentation.

May Monthly Gathering – Tales of the Tooth Worm and other Oral Oddities: A History of Dentistry

Ever wonder what actually causes problems with your teeth? Once upon a time, “Tooth Worms” — miniscule, yet relentless pests — were thought to be responsible for this widespread malady. This belief has persisted since ancient times in cultures around the world. William Shakespeare even made reference to the baneful beasts in his play “Much Ado about Nothing”, where he said, “What, sigh for a toothache? [It] is but a humor, or a worm.” In 1713, Lady Wentworth, mother of the Earl of Strafford, sent her friends and family members wolves’ teeth set in gold necklaces, to alleviate their infant children’s teething pains. And the ancient Greeks used donkey’s milk as a mouthwash to strengthen the gums and teeth. (That one isn’t quite as popular today.)

So how did we get from these ancient superstitious beliefs to modern dental practices, like X-Rays, composite fillings, dental implants, and Hand Set Diamond Custom Grillz? (By the way, if you haven’t seen these, check out LeBron James’s Nike swoosh.) 

To help us learn more and about dentistry, from Tooth Worms to today, join us at 7:00 p.m. (EDT), on Saturday, May 20, when we’ll hear from Tamara Barnes, Curator of the Sindecuse Museum at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry. Ms. Barnes will help us to extract the history of dentistry, while filling in the ways in which the Sindecuse Museum makes its collection of more than 25,000 historical tools, furniture, memorabilia, and more, relevant to audiences today. She assures us that this will be an enjoyable educational experience for all, thus proving, once and for all, that learning does not have to be like pulling teeth.

Tamara Barnes has been Curator of the Sindecuse Museum since December of 2021, following four years as Assistant Director for Material Culture at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum, where she managed the exhibit and collections departments. She has more than 20 years of broad experience in museum management for arts, cultural and historical societies in Michigan, New Jersey and New York, among other locations.

The Sindecuse Museum of Dentistry is one of only a handful of museums throughout the world devoted to preserving and exhibiting the history of dentistry. Ms. Barnes manages all aspects of the museum, including exhibitions, programs, communications, collection stewardship and acquisition, research, and presentations. She also sets long-term strategy for the museum.

Tamara Barnes holds a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in history from Western Michigan University, as well as a Master’s of Arts in Museum Studies from the Cooperstown Graduate Program in Cooperstown, New York.

Please note that this program will be presented live and on Zoom. You can attend the live presentation, for a chance to also mingle with your fellow Mensans and guests, at our usual location:

Northwest Unitarian Universalist Church in Southfield
23925 Northwestern Highway
Southfield, MI 48075

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. The program begins at 7:00 p.m. Admission: $4 for Mensa Members, $5 for non-Mensans. 

Following the presentation, please join us for dinner at Buddy’s Pizza, located at 31646 Northwestern Highway, in Farmington Hills, just northeast of Middlebelt Road.

If you’d prefer to participate on Zoom, you’ll need to pre-register by clicking on the following link: https://tinyurl.com/SEMM-0523-Gathering , The event’s Zoom URL and instructions for connecting will only be sent to those who are pre-registered. The Zoom room opens at 6:30 p.m. for mingling. There is no charge for the Zoom presentation.

March Monthly Gathering — Flying for Air America, The CIA’s Covert Air Force

Zoom Presentation: 7:00pm (EST), Saturday, March 18, 2023

Southeast Michigan Mensa will be presenting a series of lectures via Zoom. Those wishing to attend will need to pre-register at the following link: https://tinyurl.com/SEMM-0323-Gathering . The event’s Zoom URL and instructions will only be sent to those who are pre-registered. 

Flying for Air America, The CIA’s Covert Air Force

In 1964, Captain Neil Graham Hansen embarked on a journey that was to be life altering.  He hired on as a pilot for the Air America- the CIA’s airline that operated during the Vietnam era and the ‘Secret War’ in Laos and Cambodia — officially neutral countries, but the scene of countless U.S. covert operations. He served as an advisor to the director of the 1990 movie “Air America” starring Mel Gibson and Robert Downey, Jr. Gibson’s character in the movie was patterned after Hansen’s “antics” reported in the Christopher Robbins book of the same name. 

Air America’s operations were unknown. Its schedules were irregular. Its pilots were shadow people, whose personnel Hansen says “cannot be filed neatly under anything resembling normal sanity.” It was the world of spooks, covert air ops and adventure! Even though he had already been a pilot for more than half of his life, including working as Teamster leader Jimmy Hoffa’s private pilot; Flying for the CIA’s secret air service was the pinnacle of Hansen’s career and a dream come true. But that dream eventually turned his life into a nightmare, with adrenalin addicted Hansen flying drugs for the Columbian cartels. 

Join us on Saturday, March 18, when Captain Neil Graham Hansen will take us directly into the cockpit, onto dirt mountaintop landing strips, into his most harrowing experience being shot down in Laos, flying the last plane out of Cambodia, just hours before it fell to the Khmer Rouge, down the road of self-destruction, and beside him as he regains a foothold on the path to integrity.

Neil Hansen is a native of Grand Rapids, Michigan. As a captain for Air America, He spent more than a decade in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War era, accumulating more than 29,000 hours flight time, 9,000 hours in a combat zone. Hansen’s book “FLIGHT: An Air America Pilot’s Story of Adventure, Descent and Redemption” was published by History Publishing Company. His writing has also appeared in various other publications and he has been a frequent guest on the interview and speaker circuit. He makes his home in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

The Zoom room opens at 6:30pm (EST) for mingling. The program starts at 7:00pm (EST). Please remember that all attendees need to pre-register by clicking on the following link: https://tinyurl.com/SEMM-0323-Gathering .