Department of War Is Hell
(And Also Entertaining, In A Masterpiece Theatre Production)
MH and I watched season 1 of World on Fire, “an adrenalized, emotionally gripping and resonant World War II drama that follows the intertwining fates of ordinary people in five countries as they grapple with the effects of the war on their everyday lives.” Which is * exactly * how I was going to describe it to y’all, until Masterpiece Theatre’s website did it first and saved me the trouble of using terms like resonant.
The seven part series, which follows the first year of (the European experience of) WWII, left us looking forward to the second season (not yet available, but in the works). Moiself of course wants to see how the *intertwining fates of ordinary people* plays out; also, I’m curious to see if something moiself noticed, about the presentation of the series’ male and female characters’ personalities, continues into season two.
With the exception of an endearingly awkward, ethically decent RAF pilot and a shell-shocked WWI vet-turned-pacifist-activist, the male characters seemed rather and variously “weak” when it came to overall content of character, from their decision-making, treatment of others, and ability to act on – and modify, as circumstances dictated – their principles. In contrast, the majority of the female characters, no matter their economic, personal, and cultural backgrounds, displayed a certain ethical, temperamental and intellectual strength, despite the chaos and amorality of the war around them. I wanted to ask the writers and producers, was this gender character discrepancy intentional?
I’m thinking, yes…or at least, maybe…and that it is,at least in part meant to ironically highlight the strength of the women of that time and in those countries, wherein they were viewed as the “weaker” sex. In so many, many ways (ways that still are in place, around the world), women, indeed, were “weaker” than their male counterparts:
* Women were “weaker” in that being born female automatically assigned them to a lower status in their country, their religion, their own family;
* Women were “weaker” in that they had fewer (if any, in some cases) civil rights or personal, professional, educational opportunities as compared to men, yet they were subject to life-altering decisions imposed upon them by (male) politicians, religious and cultural leaders, as well as that of their own and husbands, fathers, and male kin;
* Women were “weaker” in that their opportunities for self-determination were limited, and if somehow they were able to take direct action they had to do so at the sacrifice of what was considered a normal life and risk incurring societal shaming and ostracizing;
* Women were “weaker” in that the personal life choices both men and woman made had very different consequences for women than for men (e.g. extramarital sex; bearing vs. fathering a child out of wedlock).
* * *
Department Of Talking Back To Someone Who Can’t Hear Me
Dateline: last week, circa 7:45 am on a rainy morning. Moiself is listening to a Fresh Air podcast during my morning walk. I’m at the end of the podcast, a slot typically reserved for a book, film or other artistic review. As book critic Maureen Corrigan begins her segment on “Need A Mental Escape? These Books Offer Solace In Troubled Times,” my mind begins to drift. I’m snapped back to the present when I hear Corrigan, speaking about who she thinks of when she thinks about her favorite food writers, say that she always thinks of:
“…the immortal Laurie Colwin, who died in 1992.
With only the raindrops splashing up from the street to hear me, I blurt out:
“Well then, she wasn’t exactly immortal, was she?”
* * *
Department Of Sometimes I Don’t Even Ask, “What?” (Or, “Why?”)
Sight of the week, spotted at the entrance to our cul-de-sac, while moiself is driving to the grocery store: An Older Gentleman (late 70s, I’d guess), is standing on our street corner, talking to a neighbor (they are a bit closer to each other than social distancing norms would recommend, and neither is wearing a mask).
As I round approach and then round the corner I see that the OG is holding a…gas dispenser nozzle? Yep, that’s what it is…in each hand. OG (consciously or otherwise) uses the nozzles to gesture as he speaks. Neither nozzle is attached to a hose, or anything else – they are just nozzles, no gas tank or gas station in sight.
* * *
Department Of Excuses In The Coronavirus Age
My late mother  was born and raised in the small northern Minnesota town of Cass Lake. A reserved, studious, compliant child, she was never what I would (nor she did) describe as introspective or particularly perceptive. Still, every now and then she’d share with me an anecdote from her childhood which demonstrated, even when it was not the point of the story, that she was paying attention to the world of grown-ups around her, and not always liking or respecting what she saw.
Mom was in her early teens during the WWII era. One time when I asked her to recount some of her wartime memories, the first thing she told me was how she’d noticed that so many of the townsfolk, from merchants to private citizens, used The War ® as an all-purpose excuse or evasion for their mistakes, oversights, and outright incompetencies.
Cass Lake was far off the national defense radar; the town was not a hub or conduit for anything of vital importance  for The War Effort. ® Of course, there was rationing of certain goods (e.g., gasoline, butter, sugar, canned milk) and shortages of others (e.g., automobile tires; shoe soles, and other rubber items), like in all towns across the country. Everyone knew this and adjusted their habits and expectations accordingly. But when your mother asked you to stop on your way home from school at the five and dime store and get a spool of (non-rationed) black thread and the shopkeeper told you he was out of black thread but would put in an order and he’d have it next Tuesday…then when you went to the store on Tuesday and there was still no black thread and you timidly inquired as to when your mother could expect it to be in, the shopkeeper would glare at you and dismissively whine,
“Don’t your folks know there’s a war on?”
War on- schmoron. You found out later (from a classmate who had an after-school job in the store’s stockroom) that the shopkeeper had written up his re-supply invoices just before closing time, that very day of your first visit – after he’d taken a late lunch (read: three whiskeys) at the tavern. He’d simply forgotten to include your order, as well as the orders of several other customers, who also found out on Tuesday that the ______ (shoelaces/spatula/salt mill/cornhusker’s lotion) they’d requested were not in because,
“There’s a war on.”
The town’s lone barber station was closed for four hours one Friday afternoon, during your father’s regularly scheduled 2 pm appointment. It was a sunny day; business was slow, and the barber wanted to go fishing during lunch and stayed at the pond later than he’d planned. The next day, when your father complained to the barber about leaving work and showing up for his appointment only to find that there was no one there to trim his hair, guess what he heard:
“Don’t you know there’s a war on?”
The one movie theater in town oversold their Saturday matinee. You and your friend bought tickets to the show but could find not one empty seat in the theater, and when you returned your tickets and asked for your money back, or at least tickets to a later showing:
“Don’t you girls know there’s a war on?”
Y’all get the picture.
Nowadays, we (allegedly) peacetime Consumers ® get the you-know-what excuses, most frequently encountered when we are put on hold during telephone calls (and we’re making more calls then we used to, what with sheltering-at-home and not taking our concerns directly to the businesses and organizations) to customer service lines.
First, there are the two customary/introductory lies which accompany our journey to the call waiting queue:
* “We’re experiencing a higher volume of calls than usual…”
(WTF, customer service voice dude!? This is your default/standard message, no matter what day/time of day I call – which means that since you are *always* experiencing a “higher” volume of calls, by definition you are experiencing just a normal volume of calls…which you can’t admit and so you feed me this bullshit line, trying to get me to imagine 500 people calling at the same time as moiself instead of admitting you don’t have the staff to handle a normal amount of customer calls.)
* “We thank you for your patience.”
(Ahem. I do *not* thank you for your presumption. We’ve never met; you haven’t even spoken with me, yet you are thanking me for my temperament, when I am not in fact experiencing anything resembling patience.)
Now we move on the Situation Specific Mendacity:
* “Due to the coronavirus, we are ______________
* “…taking extra precautions with your newspaper production and delivery…”
* “…dealing with customers who have extra concerns about our services, and we are doing our utmost to ensure that…”
Attention, companies: unless you are a health care business, you can’t use the virus as an excuse for putting us in the same holding pattern you’ve been using FOR YEARS.
No, no, and no – the coronavirus has nothing to do with ourcellphone family plan you altered with neither my request nor permission…. And people are not calling your newspaper’s customer service subscription info line to ask about COVID-19 symptoms…nor are they waiting to speak with a Target customer returns representative about how best to administer the Presidentially-recommended COVID-killing bleach enema…. The timeliness and accuracy, or lack thereof, of your responses to our concerns have to nothing to do with COVID-19, and your call centers/customer service department employees are perfectly capable of lying to us/not listening to our complaints working from home, so don’t be using this as yet another excuse for your ineptitude.
* * *
Department of The Corona Virus Playlist
The Weird Al Yankovic Edition
Moiself has listed some of Weird Al’s song titles which are IMHO, applicable to our social-isolating, transmission–paranoid, COVID-19 times, and which, in small groupings, imply a related story. If I were making a movie of these times, Weird Al might just be the person I’d tap to do the soundtrack.
I Can’t Watch This
Callin’ In Sick
The Saga Begins
Stuck In A Closet With Vanna White
I’m So Sick Of You
I Was Only Kidding
Livin’ In The Fridge
Girls Just Want To Have Lunch
I Love Rocky Road
Rice, Rice Baby
Snack All Night
You Don’t Love Me Anymore
Won’t Eat Prunes Again
Everything You Know Is Wrong
Dare To Be Stupid
I’ll Be Mellow When I’m Dead
Mr. Frump In The Iron Lung
* * *
Pun For The Day
Did you hear about the cross-eyed teacher who lost her job
because she couldn’t control her pupils?
* * *
Department of Epicurean Excursion Evolution 
And here’s what I made for ours, one day this week.
Featuring this week’s Theme Day and recipe…Never mind.
It was my and MH’s wedding anniversary. We got takeout veggie burgers and tots. 
☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼
Recipe Rating Refresher 
* * *
May you enjoy the petty pleasure of talking back to those who can’t hear you;
May you not accept “coronavirus” excuses for non-coronavirus issues;
May you remember to be mellow when you’re dead;
…and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 Late as in deceased, not as in chronically tardy.
 Except of course for the young men (and women) who joined the Armed Forces – thank you for your service (oh…yeah…they’re all dead now…it’s just a reflex, ya know?).
 Cajun spiced, okay?
* Abject Failure: I’ll make a canned wieners & SpaghettiOs gelatin mold before I make this recipe again.
* Tolerable: if you have the proper…attitude.
* Yep: why, sure, I’d share this with my cat.
* Now you’re talkin’: Abby the support Avocado ® approves.
* Yummers: So good, it merits The Purple Tortilla Chip Of Exclamation ® !