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Blog extra: The Pelicans I’m Not Praising

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An Ode to the Hesitant One in the Flock

 

Shall I go now?

Is it my turn?

Do we even take turns?

What if I misjudge the depth, plunging my beak into sand, and not crab?

From up here the surf is green and white, calming and safe.

There goes Polly – and now Philip, and Penelope.

Can I do it?

Can I do it?

The hell I can – I’m a pelican!

 

*   *   *

“Pelican poetry – phooey!”

“Don’t worry; I have it on good authority she’s not getting paid for writing this drivel.”

“Praise de lawd!”

“Not me; I’m an atheist.”

“Really? Myself, I’m an animist.”

“Whatever. Don’t stand so close to me, okay? You have morning fishbreath.”

The Summers I’m Not Forgetting

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Department Of My Daughter Is Better Than Your Daughter

Because your daughter didn’t hand paint these cooler-than-cool Vans high-tops for me!

Knowing of my fondness for cephalopods, and orange and purple, Belle designed and painted these, which I received in the mail this week as a belated Mother’s Day gift. Am I lucky – and is she talented – or what?

*   *   *

As I am writing this (Thursday afternoon), the second of the first round of the Democratic Party Presidential Candidate’s debates is just a couple of hours away.  Here’s my summation of the first debate, which was held Wednesday:

Of this Gang of Ten, there was just one candidate (whom I shall not name) who disappointed me: it was the guy who, although an experienced and seasoned politician, when the camera was first turned on him looked confused and a bit alarmed, as if he were trying to remain calm despite knowing that a weasel was crawling up his pant leg.

Other than that, I thought everyone had their moment(s) to shine, and that lesser known candidates, e.g. Hawaii military veteran Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, did particularly well.

So many people! So many ideas! So many white men ( I mean of course, so many men of pale color ) ! So much energy, and even smarts, and dreams and reality checks…instead of being frustrated by the sheer number of candidates I feel energized. There is a lot of passion and talent out there, whether or not it gets translated to The White House, I hope those people apply themselves in other areas of public service.

Moiself posted a version of these comments on Facebook, and although friends ventured a couple of guesses, no one has yet identified weasel up-the-pants dude.

My lips are sealed…which is a good thing  because my teeth are sharp. Now, point me back toward the podium.

*   *   *

I smelled them before I saw them, at a Manzanita Farmer’s Market fruit stand. I was in line for the black cherries; prior to that memory-inducing olfactory alert, I didn’t even know apricots were available. 

The Santa Ana (Southern California) home I lived in for the first 18 years of my life  [1]   was simple and small, but had a backyard which was a child’s summer paradise: a large, oval expanse of grass, bordered on three out of four sides by trees, trees, and more trees.

Is that reminiscence I smell?  Well, she is the driver…close your eyes and it’ll be over soon.

Behind the garage was a sticky-sappy pine tree, from whose hefty, needly canopy we could gain access to the top of the garage (which was a parentally forbidden, and therefore highly desirable, destination). Climbing even higher, we could spot the Anaheim Stadium halo which lit up whenever Jim Fregosi or another Angel ballplayer hit a home run, or see the fireworks show put on by Disneyland every summer night at 9:30. In the way back of the yard, by the fence bordering the fields belonging to “SAC” (Santa Ana College) were four apricot trees. Two more apricot trees grew on the east side of our backyard, and on the west side were a plum tree (also climbable and much less sticky than the pine tree), a lemon tree, and a pomegranate bush.

I grew up taking tree-ripened apricots for granted. My sisters and I would set up a croquet course on the backyard grass, and when I got to the rear stake of the course I’d reach up into the limbs of the nearest tree, find a ripe apricot, take a bite, and continue my turn.

Why fresh apricots have not become the go-to fruit for summer desserts has always been a mystery to me. Their flavor rivals (surpasses, IMHO) that of peaches and nectarines and other pit/stone fruits; apricots are both sweet and tart (“nectarous” as per one apricot-o-phile). Also, there is no easier fruit to work with:  [2]  you don’t have to peel them, and unlike peaches, the pit easily slips out when the apricot is ripe. Get your paring knife and just bisect the apricot along what I call its butt-crack line (or “clivage du derrière” as Julia Child would say),  [3] flip out the pit, and you’re good to go.

My birthday is in December; I never much cared for birthday cake but it seemed to be de rigueur –  you have a birthday and gawddammit, they’re gonna serve you cake.  One year, in one of her greatest feats of parenting, my mother surprised me by baking a “fresh” apricot pie for my birthday, made with apricots frozen minutes after she’d picked them the previous summer. She’d remembered something I’d forgotten – how, during that summer when she and I had made an apricot pie together, I’d gone on and on about how much I loved apricot pie and it was my favorite dessert and who made up the dumb rule that you have to have cake on your birthday….   Later, while canning apricots, she saved a batch of fresh apricots – she halved and pitted them and hid the plain, raw apricots in a couple of bags in the freezer (“I didn’t even know if that would work,” she said), and five months later I got my surprise birthday pie. From then on, it was apricot pie for me, every birthday…also a “homemade” Devil’s Food cake with vanilla icing  [4] – for the family members who just had to have cake.

I pity the fo – 

Yes…thanks, Mr. T, but as I was going to say, I pity the folks who have never tasted tree-ripened apricots, and who have only had access to the dried kind.

Apricots – which, BTW, my family pronounced using the long a version (APE-ri-cots) and which to this day sounds funny or pretentious to me pronounced with a short a (dictionaries lists both pronunciations as correct) –  are not a common fruit in terms of commercial availability.  Is it because they are difficult to grow – perhaps apricot trees are persnickety when it comes to climate and soil requirements?  To this day, even on the rare occasions moiself is able to find apricots in the grocery store or farmer’s market, I cannot bring myself to purchase them unless I can smell their apricot righteousness from three feet away.  Those undersized, rock-hard apricots found in most stores – which I once actually talked a stranger out of purchasing – are a pitiful substitute for the real thing.   [5]

Longtime observer of human behavior that moiself is. I am aware that my recollections of the delights of tree-ripened apricots is likely elevated by association with parallel pleasant memories. I can live with that.

The pot of gold at the end of my rainbow.

*   *   *

Department Of Writing Bad Jokes For A Good Stand-Up Comic

Not that that he asked me to do so, but…Ramy Youssef, are you listening?

Background: Ramy Youssef is an Arab-American (Egyptian descent), a Muslim, and a stand-up comic who plays a not-so-disguised version of himself on the hulu show, Ramy.

Dateline: Wednesday, circa 7:30 am, out for my morning walk; listening to a Fresh Air podcast. Host Terry Gross is interviewing Ramy Youssef; they are discussing a variety of topics specific to Youseff, such as being a stand-up comic who is an Arab-Muslim-American and, how, when he was younger, he realized his name is similar to Ramzi Yousef, one of the terrorists who bombed the World Trade Center in 1993

So, here’s my story for your next act, Ramy: you can riff on how, with your Arab-Muslim background, using the standard jargon for comics in, say, mentioning a previous performance that was not well received by the audience, could be a little dicey for you.  Specifically, you probably shouldn’t open your act by bounding onstage and saying,

“Hi, I’m Ramy Youssef, and last night I bombed in New York.”

You’re welcome.

It’s yours, Ramy, if you like. I’m expecting no residuals; attribution would be nice.

*   *   *

Department Of Natural Selection

Dateline: Monday morning circa 7:40 AM. I’m walking past a field and hear a rustling in the grass.  Looking down and to my left I behold a very excited/animated and scrawniest squirrel I’ve ever laid eyes upon. It is clearly alarmed by my presence, but instead of merely turning a few degrees in any direction and scampering away from me it runs in the same direction– it attempts to “flee” by paralleling my path. It turns its head toward me every few seconds, a look of terror on its scrawny face when it sees that I am still “following” it…then there is a small but audible thunk when, during one of those head turns, it runs headlong into a fence post.

The squirrel bounces off the post, careening toward a tree just behind the fence post. As it scampers up the tree I see it has the skinniest, most pathetic excuse for a tail I have ever seen on a squirrel.

Kinda like this, only worse.

Is it genetic, I wonder, or a disease, or maybe the result of being low on the squirrel totem pole (i.e. the tail has been “picked on” by more dominant squirrels)?

Feeling only slightly guilty for my laughter, I continue on my walk. Nope, I think to moiself, that one’s not gonna win the breeding lottery.

*   *   *

Department Of Is This The Sweetest Thing Or The Saddest Thing…Or, Just A Thing?

Dateline: Oregon coast, an early Friday evening.  I am walking up the main street of Manzanita. Walking toward me is a family:  a mother and six-ish year old daughter in front, followed by a father and middle grades-ish age son.  I catch a snippet of conversation as they pass me on the sidewalk: the mother leans sideways toward/speaks softly to her daughter, who has a crestfallen look on her face:

“I don’t know, sweetie, sometimes brothers get to be a certain age
and they just don’t want to hold your hand.”

 

This is why all brothers should be baby sloths.

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [6]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:
 Classic Indian Cooking, by Julie Sahni

Recipe:  Gobhi Moong (Mung Bean and Cauliflower Stew)

My rating: 

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher  [7]

*   *   *

May you cherish whatever is your equivalent of an apricot memory;
May you always want to hold your brother’s or sister’s hand;
May you remember that calmly dealing with weasels is
an essential presidential qualification;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Save for two years in San Diego (my kindergarten and first grade years), due to my father’s job transfer, which my parents knew was temporary; thus, we rented out and later returned to our Santa Ana house.

[2] Okay, maybe blueberries are easier.

[3] Okay again, that may be a lie.

[4] In our family, and in 99.999% of families in the ’60s and ’70s and ’80s, I’d wager, “homemade” translated into using a Betty Crocker, Duncan Hines or other cake mix. No one made cakes from scratch. Alternatives were “boughten” cakes,  which were found in in the grocery store bakery.

[5] Yep, I’m the nut who judges your produce selection.  The guy said he’d never had an apricot before and I didn’t want him to have a bad first experience, so I steered him toward a u-pick farm instead.

[6] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) one recipe from one book.

[7]

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it

* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it

* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin (a character from The Office who eat anything) would like this.  

* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.

* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.

* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up .

* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.

* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

 

The Conundrums I’m Not Scooping

Comments Off on The Conundrums I’m Not Scooping

Department Of If You Want To Make Your Head Spin, Think About This

HAL HERZOG: The New York Times actually wrote an editorial about it (the killing of an amusement park crocodile named “Cookie,” by its owner, after the crocodile drowned a 6 year old boy who had fallen into the croc’s enclosure)… the editorial writer wrote, killing Cookie made no sense intellectually, but it felt right emotionally.

SHANKAR VEDANTAM: And the reason it didn’t make sense intellectually, of course, is the idea that a crocodile would do what a crocodile does is hardly surprising.

HERZOG: (the croc’s) brain is smaller than a walnut. He is a creature, largely, of instinct, particularly when it comes to food. And he was… doing what crocodiles do. He was not a moral agent, you know, which I would argue is one of the biggest differences between humans and other species. We are moral agents.

VEDANTAM: So the interesting thing is that Cookie’s owner, in some ways related to Cookie as if Cookie was a person, that Cookie was a moral agent…which is, you’re assuming that the animal has agency and behaves or thinks or has human-like qualities and that you are therefore obliged or required to treat this other creature as if, in some ways, it had human-like qualities.

HERZOG: …This similarly played out in a bizarre incident that happened in Tennessee, where an elephant named Mary killed its groom while in a circus parade in 1916. And they hung the elephant to death…and to me that was…the ultimate example of where we’ve anthropomorphized animals – that we give it capital punishment in a sense for something that it was clearly not morally culpable.

(From “Pets, Pests And Food: Our Complex, Contradictory Attitudes Toward Animals,” Hidden Brain podcast 6-17-19)

The concept of moral consistency often times leads us astray in our interactions with animals.  This is just one of many take-aways from the most recent episodes of one of my favorite podcasts, Hidden Brain. In this episode, host Shankar Vedantam interviews Hal Herzog, a professor of psychology who has studied human-animal interactions for more than 30 years and the author of the book, “Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It’s So Hard To Think Straight About Animals.”

*   *   *

When I began doing my research on the comparative cruelty of cockfighting versus McNuggets…I just – I was absolutely stunned. And I realized…cockfighting should be illegal, but the casual chicken eater is committing a bigger sin in their own way than is the rooster fighter.
(Hal Herzog, Hidden Brain guest)

*   *   *

It has always fascinated me that every person I know or have read about who has chosen to alter their eating and other lifestyle habits in part or primarily due to their concern for animals – e.g., vegans, as well as other animal rights activists who are not exclusively plant-eaters – has pets. Yet one can make a strong argument that keeping animals as pets is presumptuous at best and “species-ist” at worst: you are keeping animals in captivity, away from their natural habitat, without their request or permission.

Moiself’s family of origin had a variety of pets over the years, including hamsters, cats, and dogs, and on a few occasions we attended events that featured animal “entertainment” (e.g., my parents took us to a circus, and to Sea World a couple of times.). MH and I and our two children have always had pets, including cats, snakes, rodents, fish, birds, and a bearded dragon. Our current fauna enslavement count is four felines.   [1]

I will never again go to an animal circus. Nor will I patronize a Gator World or Sea World type facility, which, unlike accredited zoos or wildlife preserves (which nowadays focus on education, conservation and breeding programs for endangered species), keep animals as moneymaking entities and train them to perform for human entertainment. I’ve also a “moral problem” with horseback riding, as much as I’ve enjoyed that activity in the past.

Watch the “Blackfish” documenary, if you don’t understand the Sea World reference.

As per my own moral consistency regarding the pet issue…let’s see how many metaphors I can mix….

IMHO, the barn door has already closed when it comes to removing/returning certain animals from/to their natural habitat.  That ship –  of cats and dogs – has already sailed, particularly with regard to dogs, which have been kept and selectively bred by humans for thousands of years. Domestic cats also have a long relationship with humans but have not been subjected as much genetic tinkering; thus, “homeless” cats can be seen, in our own neighborhoods and on city streets around the world, hunting and otherwise fending for themselves quite well – ’tis why we have a problem with feral “domestic” cats.  It’s hard to imagine dogs, especially those of wheezing, gasping brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds (e.g. pugs; French bulldogs, Boston Terriers) or toy breeds (Yorkies, Pomeranians, Chihuahuas…)  “make a living” without us.

At the time my offspring wanted reptiles as pets I insisted that any herps  [2]  (which eventually consisted of a corn snake, a ball python, and a bearded dragon) they acquired be captive bred.  I no longer think that is a good idea.  Considering their behaviors and interactions with humans, I think reptiles belong “in the wild”  (and as undomesticated as your adolescent child’s bedroom might seem to you, that doesn’t count).

Ditto for rodents, and birds.   [3]  And fish (really, people…keeping fish as “pets”? Just get a terrarium and watch the grass grow, for comparable excitement).

*   *   *

Hidden Brain’s host and guest discussed how humans’ attitudes toward and treatment of animals are shaped by how we anthropomorphize them. For example, the giant panda and the giant salamander are both endangered species native to certain regions of China, but guess which gets the lion’s (panda’s?) share of attention and concern?  You’re not gonna see the World Wildlife Fund put the pictures of endangered invertebrates on their calendars, coffee mugs, tote bags and other fundraising swag.

(more from the Hidden Brain interview, my emphases)

HEZOG: And the panda…in some ways, looks a little bit like a human.
But it’s basically a faker in the sense that it has these giant circles around its eyes, which ethologists call baby releasers. So we look at that panda and it basically logs on to that – jams into that maternal instinct that we have when we see creatures with big eyes and it impose on them that in some ways it reminds us of a human infant. So, for example, researchers have shown that one of the biggest predictors of whether or not people will give money to save animals is the size of the animal’s eyes. And pandas certainly have it when it comes to eye size.

But wait – if it’s round eyes you’re going for, how about the wolf spider, which has eight big fuzzy ones? Oh, never mind.

Am I cuddly, or what?

It – how some animals we “love,” some we consider pests, and some we eat – is a fascinating issue to consider. And if you, like moiself (and the podcast’s psychologist) think that the paradoxes of pet ownership are in some ways unresolvable, just wait until you start thinking about eating animals, or using them in “sports” for our entertainment.

VEDANTAM: So the more we think of animals as sort of members of our family, the more we think of them as being like us, in some ways, this raises a profound moral paradox: if we actually think of these animals as being like us, how in the world can we…in any good conscience, confine them to our homes, confine them to cages, treat them as if they were our captives to do with as we please?

HERZOG: I think that’s a great point… And I’ve really quite seriously been thinking about, is it ethical to keep animals as pets? If we really think of them as autonomous beings, what right do we have to take away all their autonomy by controlling every aspect of their life? – what they eat, where they go, when they go. And increasing, we’re taking control of their genes, which created its own problems.
To me, the logic of pet keeping is not that different than the logic of meat eating. I eat meat. And I know the arguments against it are good and they’re better than my argument for eating meat, which is, basically, I like the way it tastes. Well, I feel the same way about my cat. I love my cat, but she carries with her a moral burden. And it’s my moral burden. It’s not her moral burden. I’m the moral agent. I’m the adult in the room. And I’m the one that has to deal with thinking about this stuff. Although, most people conveniently repress it and don’t think about it.

 

 

Like most Americans, you are probably disgusted by the brutality of cock fighting and support bans on it and other animal “blood sports.”  And, like most Americans, you probably occasionally or regularly eat chicken, when dining out or at home.  Unless you insist on Certified Humane ® products from your restaurants and grocery stores, do you know which animal – the rooster raised for fighting, or the factory farm raised broiler which ends up in your McNuggets and Chicken Tikka Masala – actually has the “better” life (and less horrific death)?

HERZOG: (Gamecocks) live lives that are generally – compared to a broiler chicken – pretty darn amazing. They live, on average, two years. They’re not usually fought until they’re two years old. For a chunk of their life, they live in free range or they have way more room than a broiler chicken.

They’re fed incredibly well – a varied diet. They get plenty of exercise. If they win a couple fights, they will use them as a stud rooster. And what they’ll do is they’ll spend their life chasing the hens around. Not a bad deal.

On the other hand, the life of a broiler chicken is absolutely horrendous. Their life only lasts between six and seven weeks. They’re basically meat machines, which means that they put on weight so fast that their legs can’t really hold up their bodies… They’re jammed into giant broiler houses with 30,000 chicks in a broiler house, where they’ll never see the sun. They’ll never get to play on the grass. They’ll never get to peck at bugs. Their lungs will be burned with ammonia.  [4]   It’s an absolutely horrendous existence. And they will die a pretty lousy death. They’ll be crammed into a series of cages. They’ll be hauled, for miles, in an open truck, jammed into small little cages with their feathers flying down the interstate (to the slaughterhouse/processing plant), where they will be hung upside down by their legs, dipped into an electrified water bath to stun them. And then they’ll go through a carotid artery set of blades that will, hopefully, kill them quickly – although, oftentimes, it does not.

*   *   *

We human animals are inconsistent in how we think, feel, and behave towards non-human animals. No answers for y’all here,  [5]    just lots to think about…unless, like most pet owners and animal flesh eaters, you  prefer not to think about such things and would rather live with the quandaries…because to do otherwise might require sacrifices and lifestyle changes and, hey, you’re a busy person and it’s time to walk the quandary again….

If you do nothing else, please just remember to be a responsible moral agent: take your bag with you and pick up the, uh, conundrums your quandary drops along the way, okay?

*   *   *

Department Of Will Someone Please Do This Man A Favor
And Steer Him Toward Lessons In Basic Pronunciation?

Dateline: Tuesday am, listening to “How Earlonne Woods and Nigel Poor Create One of the World’s Most Fascinating Podcasts,”  a recent episode of the podcast Clear and Vivid. Clear & Vivid is concerned with how people communicate and connect with other people.  In this episode, host Alan Alda interviews two of the creators of Ear Hustle, a podcast produced from San Quentin prison, by prisoners.

Ear Hustle deals with the daily life of prison inmates, which gives cause for (now former) prisoner Earlonne Woods, during the Clear and Vivid interview, to use the term death row several times. “Clear and Vivid”…except that Woods consistently mispronounces death row as deaf row, which is not at all clear but which definitely brings a vivid image to my mind: of someone who, for whatever reasons, makes a group of hearing-impaired folks stand in a lineup.

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [6]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

 Chickpea Flour Does It All, by  Lindsey S. Love

Recipe:  Baby Chickpea Quiches with New Potatoes and Chard

My rating:

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher   [7]

*   *   *

May you consider the quandaries in your life;
May you be brave enough to consider said quandaries before your next meat-based meal;
May you never have to choose between death row and deaf row;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] MH and I have two, and our adult children each have one.

[2] From herpetology, the study of amphibians and reptiles.

[3] I realize that some kinds of birds, such as members of the parrot family, are more interactive with their human owners, even bonding with a human as they would in the wild with their mates…which presents a whole other set of logistical/care-taking and ethical problems.

[4] From the excretory fumes of their own and the 29,999 other chicken’s waste.

[5] Well of course I do have suggestions, such as adopting a plant-based diet.  If for whatever reasons you do want to eat meat, do your research find some farmers/ranchers who raise their animals humanely – they do exist!

[6] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) one recipe from one book.

[7]  * Two Thumbs up:  Liked it

* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it

* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin ( a character on The Office, who would eat anything) would like this.  

* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.

* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.

* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up.

* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.

* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

The Style Points I’m Not Getting

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Dateline: last Thursday, ~ 7:30pm, Trivia night at MacGregor’s Whiskey Bar, Manzanita. It is round two of three, and my neighbor/friend/trivia partner JK and I are in a fierce battle for first place.

The category is Greek mythology, and the question is, “Who was the wife of Hades, god of the Underworld?” When I call out, “Melania!” a competitor on another team suggests I should get at least two points “for style.”   [1]

*   *   *

Department of SEE – IT’S NOT JUST ME!

From the Chicago Tribune review of, Godzilla, King of the Monsters (my emphases):

“Key non-human players in “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” include Godzilla, whose head remains touchingly small for his body…

 

Godzilla, from the original movie.

 

Godzilla Shin,  from the 2016 film.

 

The latest. Why is his head shrinking?

 

*   *   *

Department of Complisults

Last week I hear the word used on a podcast, and it sent me down Memory Lane, so to speak: Complisult.

You know what it is, even if your first thought was that it’s just my spellchecker on vacation. You’ve likely had a complisult flung your way a time or two, by a frenemy [2]  or (more likely) a well-meaning, we-just-want-you-to-be-happy parent or other relative. They start out giving you a compliment, or at least saying something positive…which quickly morphs into critique, or even insult.

 

“So good to see you, my little sweetie! Let’s ask Mommy where your older, prettier, smarter sister is.”

 

Both of my parents, despite their otherwise loving natures, were adept at giving me complisults[3]  Two examples immediately spring to mind, even though these happened decades ago.   [4] 

Example the First

Dateline: unsure (the following conversation happened twice, once in person during a visit with my folks at their home, and once during a phone call.  Dialogue almost identical in both instances).

In answer to my parents’ How-is-it-going/anything new being published? query, I said I was happy to have a story of mine accepted for publication in a journal I’d long admired.

Complisulting parents: “That’s nice! Is it something we can actually find…how can we get a copy?”

Moiself (laughing):You should appreciate this – unlike my last six or seven stories, this journal has a national distribution, so you can go to a local bookstore that carries literary journals and ask….”

Complisulting parents: “Hey, did you that Connie Washington had a story in the Reader’s Digest? It’s so great that she’s writing for Reader’s Digest!”

“Connie Washington,” is the daughter of my parents’ neighbors.  I’ve known Connie since junior high school – she is also a writer, in a different field (journalism/nonfiction; mostly science reporting) from mine.

Like 99% of the pieces which appear in Reader’s Digest, Connie’s was an edited reprint, of an article she’d had previously published in a science journal. This is how RD has worked since its 1920s inception: its founder thought it would be a good idea to collect articles on different subjects from a variety of monthly journals, edit and/or condense them, and combine them into one magazine. The RD staff consists of editors; no writer technically “writes for” Reader’s Digest, as in, pens original material for them. No matter how many times I’d remind my parents of this fact, they never seemed to get it.

Moiself : “It’s great that her article is in there – I hear they pay well!  But, you do know Connie’s not actually writing for Reader’s Digest. As I’ve mentioned before, she’s currently a staff writer for Science Weekly and…”

Complisulting parents: “Well, now people will actually read what she’s written. Have you ever thought of writing for Reader’s Digest?”       

Moiself: “Okay; one more time:  no one writes ‘for’ Reader’s Digest. Also, RD doesn’t accept original short fiction….”

Substitute Saturday Evening Post, or other old timey magazines – or even Time and Newsweek – for Reader’s Digest in Have you ever thought of writing for Reader’s Digest?”

With every publication of a story of mine, my parents would offer congratulations, then find ways to remind me that the venues publishing my works weren’t a part of their world (translation: not important).

Complisulting parents: “You really should consider sending stories to Reader’s Digest. And what’s that big magazine we saw at the market the other day – with the glossy cover pictures – Omni or something? That looked interesting.”

My parents were the last people from whom I’d even consider seeking where-I-should-be-sending-my-work advice: their knowledge of the publishing world was bupkis, and their familiarity with literary fiction even less. Naturally, therefore, they were generous (surprise!) with unsolicited ideas as to where I should send my work, suggesting venues which were always inappropriate (and sometimes, unintentionally, amusing non sequiturs)…forcing me to reply with a never-ending series of reality checks:

“Uh…that magazine went out of business five years ago.”

“That journal no longer publishes fiction.”

“That magazine publishes genre fiction; you know I don’t write ____ (sci-fi; Harlequin Romances; vampire murder mysteries….)

“That journal only publishes staff writers or agented writers – no unsolicited material.”

“Holy crap for not paying attention  [5] – since when, as in, never, has US News and World Report  ever published fiction?!”

 

“Yes, honey, Winnie-the-Pooh is a nice story, but if the author was a real writer he’d have chapters of it in Reader’s Digest.”

 

Example The Second

I was a single adult for a long time (I was 31 when I married MH).  Despite having a couple of mostly great beaus along the way   [6]  I thought being a singleton would be my permanent state, which was fine by moiself.  When my parents observed that my goals in life seemingly did not include finding a partner in life, my father took every opportunity to mention to me that his marriage and children were his greatest joy and achievement.

Although they never directly criticized my remaining single, during our weekly phone calls it became evident that such a status – one I viewed as fitting and natural for moiself – was somehow seen by my parents as a loss (or even aberration).

Complisulting parents: “And what did you do this weekend?”

Moiself: “Saturday I went to the San Antonio Wilderness Preserve, and saw….”

Complisulting parents: “Another hike? That sounds fun. We saw Margaret Denton’s parents in church. Did you hear that Margaret and Tom Crocker are engaged?”

Moiself: “I didn’t; no surprise, though. Congratulations to them.”

Complisulting parents: “Have you thought of doing something different with your hair?  There were so many boys who admired you in high school….  [7]

My parents (of course), saw themselves as nothing but loving and supportive, and well-meaning…and they mostly were – moiself was fortunate in that regard, I know. Still, the doubts/insecurities inherent in complisults managed to lodge in a corner of my brain, and came back to haunt me in later years.

Is it something in the parental DNA, a gene for undermining one’s offspring? I imagine Vincent van Gogh   [8]  showing his parents his Sunflowers paintings:

Oh, Vinnie, how nice – so colorful…have you ever thought of trying this and sending it in – you could get into professional art school!

*   *   *

Department Of Firsts

Dateline: Tuesday 6-14-19, 2:41 pm. I got my first Mandarin (or Cantonese?   [9] ) voicemail on my cellphone.

Can you tell this has been an exciting week for me, or what?

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [10]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

Café Paradiso Seasons, By Denis Cotter

Recipe:  Rigatoni with arugula, broad beans, cherry tomatoes, olives and fresh cheese

My rating:

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher    [11]

*   *   *

 

May strangers offer to give you style points (but leave no Mandarin messages on your phone);
May your head stay in proportion to your body, should you become a monster movie star;
May your complisults be few, but memorable;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

[1] The correct answer was Persephone, which none of the teams got. JK and I took second place, losing by only one point….so those style points would have come in handy.

[2] “Frenemy” is a portmanteau of “friend” and “enemy” – an oxymoron noun meaning a person with whom you remain somewhat friendly, despite said person acting  competitively with you and/or cutting you down, betraying and/or insulting you at  any opportunity.

[3] I can’t speak for my other siblings, but I’m sure they have received at least a few.

[4] Seeing as how both of my parents are deceased, there are no recent examples. But if either were still alive and somewhat cognizant….

[5] Okay, I left that comment out.

[6] And one neurotic headcase… I thought I had escaped that fate which seemed common to so many of my peers, but it seems that there’s always at least one toad you have to kiss….

[7] Those mystery admirers remained unnamed, but I’ve little doubt that, in my parents’ mind, they included the ones who would telephone me in the early evening and have hour long conversations about how they had a crush on one of my friends.

[8] One of the most influential artist the world has seen, who sold only one painting in his life – and since it was his brother who bought it (this was so that van Gogh could honestly say, as per the requirements an art show he was trying to get his works displayed in, that he was a “professional” artist) that doesn’t count.

[9]   Where is my sister-in-law – a native Cantonese speaker – when I need her to translate?

[10] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) once recipe from one book.

[11]

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it

* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it

* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin (a character in The Office, who would eat anything) would like this.  

* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.

* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.

* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up.

* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.

* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

The X(Y) Factor I’m Not Ignoring

1 Comment

An Immodest Proposal   [1]

In the history of the fight for women’s reproductive rights there have been several proposals, by activists, publications and public figures, for both famous and unknown (as in, non-celebrity) women to state that they have had an abortion. Ms. Magazine made history when, during its inaugural issue in 1972,

… it published the names of 53 women admitting to having had abortions when the procedure was still illegal in most of the United States. Notable signatories included Billie Jean King, Judy Collins, Anaïs Nin, Gloria Steinem, Susan Sontag, and Nora Ephron.   The petition noted that roughly one in four American women had had an abortion, in spite of it being illegal in most of the country at the time….. the Ms. petition was inspired by the Manifesto of the 343 that had been published the previous year in which 343 French women publicly declared that they had had an abortion….
(Ms. Magazine, Wikipedia)

Ms. magazine is releasing its fall issue next week with a cover story titled “We Had Abortions,” accompanied by the names of thousands of women nationwide who signed a petition making that declaration.
(“Ms. Magazine names women who had abortions,” NBC news 10-5-2006 )

“…nearly 50 years ago, the actress Catherine Deneuve… joined…more than 300 women in signing Simone de Beauvoir’s Manifesto of the 343, a petition for France to legalize abortion…. In doing so, they not only began being referred to as one of “the 343 salopes,” the French word for “slut,” but also risked facing criminal prosecution; abortion was illegal at the time that they came forward to share that they were among the women in France—at that point, one million each year—who’d had the procedure.”
(From the article, “The Celebrities Who Have come Forward About their Abortions, and Why,” re actor and talk show host Busy Philipps’ recent Tweet urging women who’ve had abortions to share their stories: “many people think they don’t know someone who has, but #youknowme.”    (wwd magazine,  5-17-19)

The call for women to “out” themselves re abortion is strategically analogous to the tactic used by gay rights advocates in the 1970s-80s who began insisting that gays must come out of the closet  [2]   in order to claim their civil rights. The idea – which proved to be correct – was that anti-gay stereotypes would not only continue to exist but would flourish as long as a majority of heterosexuals could say, “Gee, I personally don’t know any gay people, so maybe what they (the religious right and other homophobic fear-mongers) say about the homosexual agenda is true.”   It is much more difficult to malign and/or discriminate against your colleague, your friend, your neighbor, your cousin’s son, your own daughter, than against those amorphous gay people – who are apparently out there, somewhere – whom you (think you) don’t know. 

In wake of the antediluvian legislative shit-show of the past few weeks (e.g. Alabama and other backwater states passing abortion laws to start the judicial crawl toward SCOTUS ), many reproductive rights advocates are once again calling for women who have had abortions to say so publicly (or, at least, to their own family and friends).

Moiself disagrees with this call. I don’t think it’s a bad thing;
rather, I think it doesn’t go far enough….

I am so very tired of beating my head against the wall re this issue.

The call for women to go public about their abortions ignores, once again and completely, what is arguably the most vital factor in the abortion equation.

Why is it so easy for our legislative bodies – and the grown-ass men and women who want to criminalize abortion – to ignore the XY Factor: the fact that girls and women don’t get pregnant by themselves? Aside from pregnancies terminated for medical reasons… [3]

Every Unwanted/Unplanned Pregnancy – Every Single One – Is Caused By
A Male’s Ejaculation Into A Female’s Vagina.

 

 

Thus, I propose the ICAPT! Movement.
(y’all can pronounce it Aye, Captain! for that certain, Star Trek or nautical vibe).

ICAPT! = I Caused A Pregnancy Termination!:

Every man whose wife/girlfriend/partner(s) have ever had an abortion due to an unwanted pregnancy should out themselves as having caused that abortion.

Gentlemen, your country needs you to enlist in ICAPT!

CALLING ALL MENFOLK

 

Men we gotta man up now!
She got pregnant, we know how!
Sound off, one two
Sound off, three four
One, two three, four
Won’t deny it – NO MORE!

 

But wait – there’s more! If you’re feeling particularly realistic courageous, every man who has had unprotected PIV   [4]   intercourse with a woman, wherein his intent was not to get her pregnant, should out himself – if only to himself – as having had the potential to cause an abortion.

Trust me, guys, y’all will find strength in numbers…and, moiself hopes, in the simple yet profound act of Doing The Right Thing ® and no longer letting women shoulder this burden alone.  You may know it as that quaint practice called, Telling The Truth.

Speaking of which, part two of my proposal is addressed to women who are considering going public in the latest We Had Abortions/YouKnowMe calls for action. This is going to be controversial, but moiself thinks it’s long overdue, especially since the likelihood of menfolk doing the right thing with respect to this issue is…like…zero.

Sorry, dudes, but y’all don’t have a good track record here. Maybe this’ll help you along:

CALLING ALL WOMENFOLK WOMEN WHO HAVE HAD ABORTIONS
AND ARE CONSIDERING SO DECLARING:

Name yourself if you must, but do not say, You Know Me unless you also say, OhYeahAndYouKnowHimToo. In other words,
name the man who fathered your pregnancy.   [5]

 

*   *   *

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [6]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:
Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook (9th edition © 1950), by…well…by Betty, of course.

I keep this cookbook in my collection for sentimental and cultural reasons.

Sentimental: the book is signed “To mother from Gwen.” The book was a gift to my maternal grandmother, Edna Gertrude Moran Hole, from her second daughter (and my middle name namesake), my aunt Gwen.

Cultural:  As George Takei might say….

 

From the book’s intro blurbs…

(“…let’s go into the gay Polka Dot Kitchen where appliances are tested….”

…to its illustrations

My culinary vibe is so inspiring, my stove vomits with anticipation when it sees me waltz into the kitchen!

 

…to its “nutrition” ahem and meal-planning tips

(hint: butter and margarine get their own Food Group)…

…to its inspirational prose

The poem below…expresses beautifully just what we would like to say…. [7]

An ancient rite, as old as life is old:
A woman baking bread above a flame…
wholesome as the summer sun
That has lit and warmed the fields that men might eat….

…to the recipes their presentation suggestions, such as this, from the section advocating serving appetizers before a meal

“The entire atmosphere brightens when food appears. It may be the simplest fruit juice cocktail – for a tired husband just home from work….”

…this book is a cultural artifact more (much, much more) than a cookbook.

The stated aim of my Epicurean Excursion ® is to make at least one recipe as-is (sans alternations/substitutions) from each of my cookbooks, each week.  As I declared when embarking on this excursion, I was not intending to write reviews, but would merely list the book’s name and author, the recipe(s) I made and the rating(s) I assigned to them.  But, here was the dilemma moiself faced after thumbing through every page of Betty’s book – I saw nothing I wanted to cook, much less eat.

In the book’s “Supper Dishes” chapter there is a recipe for Kaedjere, which Betty describes as an “American Indian version of a fish-and-rice dish from far-away India.” One of the recipe ingredients is a 7 oz can of tuna. Because, you know, cans of tuna and Indians, both near and far-away….  How many examples do you need?

 

 

I briefly toyed with the idea of making, Rum Tum Tiddy (“Often served in the Boston Athletic Club…this is a nice easy Sunday supper dish for busy mothers”), if only because then I could say I made a Rum Tum Tiddy.  Upon further reflection, it sounds to moiself like a term parents might use to get their reluctant toddler through toilet training: (“Ok, buddy, if you make a rum tum tiddy in the potty, Mommy will give you an M & M!”).

I went through the book a second time: yep, still nothing that looked remotely appealing to plant-eating pescetarians such as moiself who do not think butter deserves its own food group.   [8]   Vegetables?  According to Betty, you boil ’em (then slather in butter) – her main concern is which meats they go with. Seafood – bake or fry with mo’ butter. Oh, look, it’s a lovely (read: not) Salmon au gratin, sprinkled with grated cheese and then topped with WHEATIES (yes, in all caps).

Still. It’s a cookbook, in my collection. So, for my excursion, I’m going to make…

YIKES!  I’ve made it all the way through a third time, and I still can’t pick one recipe which I could make as-is (without substituting for the things I don’t or won’t eat).

Here’s one recipe I’m really not making. Translation: I’ll threaten MH with it, if he gets too cheeky (he took great delight in teasing me about my Betty CrockerEpicurean dilemma).  It is called, Wedgies.

Really; that’s its name (page 50, appetizers section). The recipe, in its entirety:

“Spread 4 slices of large bologna or minced ham with softened cream cheese seasoned with onions or chives and mustard, place slices together (like a layer cake). Spread cheese over top and sides, decorate with sliced olives. Chill. Cut into wedges. Now go kill yourself.

Okay; so there may have been an editorial comment inserted (ahem) at the end.

Recipes:  None. I didn’t make a damn one. Nevertheless, my rating:

 

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher   [9]

         *   *   *

Department Of What A Difference An o Makes

Posthumously, or post-hummusly?

I’d take the former, because, really, is there life (worth living) after hummus? And guess what the Betty Crocker cookbook does *not* have a recipe for?   [10]

*   *   *

May you stop urging women to tell their truths unless you are willing to tell yours;
May you never serve your (nor anyone else’s) husband a fruit juice cocktail;
May you find your own excuse to enjoy Betty Crocker’s Wedgies;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] With apologies to Jonathan Swift.

[2] And sometimes, controversially, outed their closeted gay peers who were reluctant to do so themselves.

[3] Pregnancies that, in many if not most cases, were planned and wanted by the mother and father involved, and the reasons for termination include but are not limited to saving the life of the mother and fetal anomolies that are not compatible with life.

[4] penis-in-vagina.

[5] IF it is safe for you to do so. I do NOT wish to burden the already burdened – rape/incest/abuse survivors (some of which do not know the name of their abuser). I also I realize my proposal gets into the tricky area of telling another person’s secrets, along the lines of people who outed closet days without the gay person’s consent (a tactic which is still contentious).

[6] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) one recipe from one book.

[7] Betty Crocker’s “signature” is beneath this intro to the poem.

[8] Looks like 1950s Betty has not heard of olive oil – the lone butter alternative is bacon or other animal fat.

[9] Recipe Ratings:

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it
* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it
* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin (as character from The Office, who would eat anything) would like this.
* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.
* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.
* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up.
* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.
* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

[10] And if Betty C. did have a hummus recipe, she’d somehow find a way to add butter to it.