Department Of The Problem With Legalization
While I am oh-so-glad that smokers of the Stupid Sticks  no longer face criminal penalties, moiself is less-than-enthusiastic about the fact that so many of them feel free to share their rank-smelling exhalations in public. Read: yet another beautiful stroll by the beach, tainted by an redolence that can only be described as festering skunk piss.
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Department Of If Only The Cows Could Talk
Dateline: a rainy Saturday afternoon; Tillamook Creamery. MH and I are on the self-guided tour… I’m not all that keen on it, but he says he hasn’t been in years… And I find moiself looking at one of the exhibits and thinking, It’s enough to turn a mostly plant-eating person like me into a full-fledged vegan (I can’t quite get moiself to give up Tillamook’s pepper jack cheese…yet). I’m also somewhat surprised that animal rights activists haven’t defaced this audacious claim:
I know enough about the company and its history to respect Tillamook as a co-op business that strives to listen to both its customers and member farmers. But those “Good Start” fiction propaganda claims elide over the facts of what is done to dairy cows in order to get them to produce the massive amounts of milk (it takes ten pounds of milk to produce one pound of cheddar) needed for cheese production. And it’s not as if cows sign up at the creamery due to the above minimum wage salary and awesome health benefits package. They are forced into an unnatural life; cows evolved to make and suckle other little cows, not to provide humans with dairy and meat products.
This Good Start exhibit, the first stop on the self-guided tour, makes it sound like Man In His Infinite Wisdom® has improved upon Mother Nature – that heartless bitch who was stupid enough to evolve cows to live in groups, which is oh-so-risky for baby cows as they are in constant danger from “injuries from older, larger cows” which – what, suddenly topple over and crush the calves? When has that ever been a thing?
Anyway, so they take un-weaned calves away from their mothers and bottle feed – y’all read that correctly, they BOTTLE FEED MILK TO A (non-orphaned) CALF, whose mother and her milk are like, right there? Somehow, in moiself’s mind, that doesn’t add up to making sure the calves are “well cared for.”
I find it sobering  to consider that those (admittedly delicious) cheeses they make come at quite a cost to the animals (humans included; we are animals, too) which provide the cheese base material. Costs to human animals include the fact that cheese is loaded (saturated?) with saturated fat; also, consider the resources spent on raising and feeding these animals  and then trying to protect our remaining wildlands and water supply and atmosphere from the resulting methane and fertilizer and feces runoff pollution, and the dairy industry’s over-sized contribution to global warming: “In the U.S., every gallon of milk (produced) results in greenhouse gases equivalent to 17. 6 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.…” 
OK; off of my soapbox (milk crate?)…. For now.
Confession: the eleven-year-old in me loved looking through the creamery’s floor-to-ceiling windows and watching the cheese packaging assembly lines. In my grade school, when the teachers had report card prep or whatever else arose (or maybe when they didn’t want to teach), they put us 5th and 6th graders in the school auditorium and showed us factory documentaries, wherein the wonders of the Wonder Bread (or other mass-produced and packaged) product assembly line were revealed.
Something about the assembly line process – all the machines doing one specialized thing (“I’m the bottle filler!” “I’m the bottle capper!” “I’m the bottle label applier!”), and the factory employees in hairnets watching the machines, working together to assemble massive amounts of…stuff…. It was mesmerizing.
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Department Of Gratuitous Fart Jokes Can Be Found Anywhere
Particularly, in a cheese factory.
I hope they’ve invested in a heavy-duty ventilation system to protect their workers.
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Department Of Privilege, Celebrity Edition
Diane Keaton is one of my favorite actors. She’s also a good writer. I enjoyed her two memoirs (“Then Again,” and “Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty”) for her life and acting observations in general, and also for her specific recollections of decades-ago So Cal life that only someone growing up in Santa Ana (as moiself and Keaton both did) can appreciate.
I just finished her latest book, Brother & Sister. The book revolves around how her relationship with her brother devolved from childhood best buddies to somewhat estranged adults, with she and her sisters trying to be caretaker to their artistically-inclined, poetry-writing, alcoholic, mentally ill brother. B & S has been…problematic, I’ll say. Keaton writes with heartfelt simplicity, self-deprecating humor and candor, but this book is…missing something. It’s lightweight in ways that have nothing to do with its slim page count.
Here’s my problem. Keaton’s brother is alive today (although dying of dementia as I type this) because of a liver transplant he received 20+ years ago. It’s a problem I know about because Keaton is honest enough to include this detail in her book: she grapples (very briefly) with the fact that her name and credentials and connections (read: Hollywood movie $tar) – including a substantial financial donation to a foundation run by the hospital which did the surgery – enabled her brother to get the life-saving transplant he very likely would not otherwise have received.
Yep. Her brother was/is a schizophrenic? /bipolar? (he received many mental health diagnoses over the years) and an alcoholic. His mental illness(es) meant he would be unable to follow the stringent, life-long, after-care routines of transplant patients (ability to do so is one of the primary factors used to calculate a patient’s position on the transplant waiting list). He also was quite upfront about the fact that he did not intend to give up the prodigious alcohol consumption which caused his liver to fail in the first place. And yet this man got a liver transplant, ahead of others who had been on the list before him.
David Crosby, déjà vu? Musician Crosby’s drug and alcohol excesses were legendary, even among his hard-partying peers. Moiself recalls being surprised when I read of his receiving a liver transplant (“He’s still alive?”), then disgusted to hear how other transplant hopefuls remained on the list while a druggie celebrity vaulted ahead of them.
Crosby’s transplant raised a number of questions including: (1) did he receive a donor liver so “quickly” because he was rich and famous, i.e. is the system fair? (2) should someone whose organ has failed because of a previous “abusive lifestyle” even be eligible to receive a transplant in light of the current donor shortage? (3) just how does the system work anyway?
(“David Crosby liver transplant sparks vigorous debate on fairness of allocation system,” Transplant News, 11-30-94)
Keaton was upfront in her book (but quickly moved on) about the fact that the preferential treatment allotted to her brother was unfair, but, after all, she was just a loving sister doing what she could for her brother. Moiself, The Suspicious Writer Who’s Had Experience In Such Matters, ® can’t help but think that Keaton’s brother getting an organ transplant due to Keaton’s connections is somewhat parallel to the fact that Brother & Sister, a slim rumination on family relations, would not have been published if it had been written by another (non-celebrity) author.
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Department Of More Fun With Writers;
Sub-Department Of Yet Another Southern Border Crisis?
English novelist Anna Sewell, who was not a horse, wrote Black Beauty, a groundbreaking, “first person” narrative memoir of the titular stallion’s life as a London cab horse. Beloved by millions over the years, BB was influential in inspiring nineteenth century England’s animal welfare movement.
John Steinbeck was an educated, financially comfortable, native Californian, not an illiterate, dirt-poor “Okie.” Steinbeck penned Grapes of Wrath, arguably one of the masterpieces of American literature, his novel about desperate, impoverished Midwestern tenant farmers fleeing the Dust Bowl and economic hardship.
John Patrick Shanley is an Irish-American dramatist and husband and father. He wrote the screenplay for Moonstruck, creating Loretta Castorini, a childless, female, widowed Italian-American bookkeeper, as its memorable protagonist.
Ursula LeGuin was neither a dark-skinned androgynous denizen of an alien planet nor a Roman princess in Trojan war times, yet this American heterosexual white Earthling, managed to convincingly create the lives of these beings and more in books like The Left Hand Of Darkness, the Earthsea series, and Lavinia.
Stephen King, who was not  a shy, bullied 16-year-old girl raised by a fanatical, hyper-religious single mother, somehow managed to authentically bring to life that character and more in his first published novel, Carrie.
Boys and girls, can you guess which of the latest writing-outside-your-tribe literary controversies I am not-so-obliquely referring to?
American Dirt, in case you haven’t heard, is a novel about a Mexican woman and her son, the only survivors of their family’s murder by a drug cartel, who flee for their lives and head for the USA-Mexico border. AD was chosen as an Oprah’s Book Club selection (which almost guarantees a bajillion copies sold, plus movie options) and received glowing reviews, including from Latina authors and actors such as Sandra Cisneros and Julia Alvarez and Salma Hayek.…until someone pointed out that the novel about Mexican immigrants was written by a non-Mexican, and the cultural identity police dog-piled on.
The book’s author identifies as white and Latina and has a Puerto Rican grandmother, but that’s not Latina enough for some. Seemingly overnight the book went being reviewed as a captivating story that could “change hearts and transform policies” (Alvarez) to being “racist” and “filled with stereotypes.” Just as quickly, the author went from to literary prodigy to pariah…her publisher even cancelled book tour appearances because of “specific threats to the booksellers and the author.”
Education and history professor Jonathan Zimmerman wrote about how reaction to the book is emblematic of our cultural “shaming” and “mob mentality” phenomena. There are people attacking the book who don’t know anything about it except that it’s been declared “problematic” and that’s enough to get them to revile the author on social media platforms:
Mexican-American actress Salma Hayek admitted that she hadn’t read American Dirt before she hailed Oprah Winfrey for recommending it and for “giving voice to the voiceless.” But then Hayek heard a different voice — also known as a Twitter mob — and she changed her tune.
“I thank all of you who caught me in the act of not doing my research, and for setting me straight,” Hayek posted the following day, “and I apologize for shouting out something without experiencing it or doing research on it.”
Do you think Hayek read the book in the intervening 24 hours and came to a new judgment of it? Think again. Her “research” was of the social media variety, confirming that a lot of people were very offended by American Dirt. And that was all she needed to know.
A writer for the celebrity website Hola! congratulated Hayek for backtracking. “It takes guts to admit when you’re wrong,” wrote Robert Peterpaul, “but Salma Hayek is gutsy.” Really? How much courage is required to put your finger in the air, figure out which way the Instagram winds are blowing, and adjust your opinions accordingly?
( “ ‘American Dirt’ controversy scores another win for mob mentality,”
Philadelphia Inquirer 2-3-20)
Can a book be “good” or “bad” because of/in spite of what you think about the author’s personal characteristics, or their “qualifications” to write it in the first place? I’m not talking about textbooks, instruction manuals, or nonfiction – not talking about how, yes, you’d want a rocket scientist and not a manicurist to write a rocket science manual. But the qualifications for a fiction writer to write on any subject are a bit more subjective, and include interest, imagination, and empathy.
There are legitimate beefs being brought up in the AD brouhaha, having to do with the historical marginalization of “non-mainstream” voices. From talk show gag writing to movie directing, arts and literature are (still) fields rigged by and designed to favor white males. Many of these men are sincere allies of female/non-white artists; nevertheless, it is sadly apparent that they don’t understand that the playing field is (still) not level, as indicated by comments such as, that when it comes to voting for awards they “…would never consider diversity in matters of art. Only quality.” 
There are *so many* conversations to be had about the historic and ongoing dominance of the while/male perspective in the arts in general and literature in particular, including who gets to decide what is “quality” and who’s perspectives are publishable or award-worthy…and who gets a million dollar advance for their book.
Novelist Ann Patchett, pointing out that the AD author had received a seven-figure advance for her novel:
“I read the book and I loved it…There’s a level of viciousness that comes from a woman getting a big advance and a lot of attention…. If it had been a small advance with a small review in the back of the book section, I don’t think we’d be seeing the same level of outrage.”
( “Cultural appropriation, say critics. Sexism, defenders say of the criticism. How ‘American Dirt’ launched a publishing firestorm,” The Oregonian, 1-27-20)
The thing is, now that the caca has hit the fan, no one, from layperson reader to professional literary critic, will be able to read or review the book objectively without their reactions and opinions being viewed through the warped lens of identity politics. As I have written before and will doubtless write again, my main concern in these literary skirmishes is my concern for censorship (and worse yet, IMHO, self-censorship), in that a writer’s personal characteristics are deemed more important than their capacity for imagination, research, and empathy.
One of the most dangerous but effective kinds of censorship for a writer is when “they” get you to do it to yourself. I’ve watched with lip-curling disdain and alarm while claims of authenticity and charges of appropriation have seeped into the literary and publishing world.
The stench of the well-intended, silent-but-deadly admonition to “write what you know” has become “write what you are,” and the cherished ideals of imagination, empathy and craft are in danger of becoming subservient to identity politics.
In this write-what-you-know/are, A & A (authenticity & appropriation) world, an author cannot – or rather, should not – create or even write about certain characters unless the author shares what the self-appointed A & A police deem as those characters’ primary representative markers (hint: “race,” ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, dis/ability….).
(“The Comments I’m Not Making,” 9-27-19)
Yep, I’m quoting moiself. Because…I can.
“I often quote myself. It adds spice to my conversation.”
(George Bernard Shaw)
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Department of Epicurean Excursion 
Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:
Vegan Planet, by Robin Robertson
* Mahogany Eggplant
* Red Bean and Sweet Potato Curry
My rating for both recipes:
☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼
Recipe Rating Refresher 
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May you “play fair” in matters of life and death and organ transplants;
May you realize when the playing fields are and are not level;
May you eat less cheese (but tell more cutting-the-cheese jokes);
…and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
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 My old nickname for joints, because of the effect it had on those who, unlike Bill Clinton,* did* inhale.
 And it was the early afternoon and I was already sober.
 Although, with a Stephen King book, anything could happen….
 Author Stephen King made that Tweet, regarding the 2020 “Oscars-So-White-male” controversy. King, a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, gets to vote in certain Oscar award categories.
 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.
* Two Thumbs up: Liked it
* Two Hamster Thumbs Up : Loved it
* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin, a character from The Office who’d 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.