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The Good Old Days I’m Not Praising

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Department Of Not For The Reasons You Might Think

As in, the reasons why moiself  likes the 1959 movie, A Summer Place, which I recently re-watched.

Scrolling through summer-themed movie rentals several years back, I recognized the ASP title. I was familiar with the movie’s memorable instrumental theme: composed by the venerable Max Steiner, it was one of the few movie theme songs to spend weeks as #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and it is still featured on oldies radio stations. But I’d little idea what the movie was about, only that it was one of the many “classics” I’d never seen, and that it was a big hit for Sandra Dee.  I decided to watch it and, much to my surprise, it caught the interest of my (then) teenage children.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed ASP, despite – or rather because of – its many cringe-worthy depictions of Life Back Then ®.  The movie inadvertently became a teaching/conversational tool, as I tried to describe to my son and daughter the kind of world their grandparents (and even parents, to a degree) grew up in.

 

 

In case y’all are or were ignorant of ASP, here is Amazon’s plot summary:

Troy Donahue and Sandra Dee star as two young lovers whose relationship catalyzes the end of their parents’ marriages during a vacation on a Maine island, aka, A Summer Place. Young, innocent and in love on an idyllic island, Johnny (Donahue) and Molly (Dee) face the anger and guilt unleashed by the dissolution of their parents’ relationships after Molly’s father (Richard Egan) rekindles an affair he had with Johnny’s mother before either was married. Now, can young love survive as Johnny and Molly witness the enmity that has replaced the passion their parents once felt in this classic romance?

To declare that I like ASP could be seen a retro attempt at being hip.  But, it’s so…dated, one of my offspring commented. That’s kinda the point, I said.  Moiself defended the movie as an illustration of the strictures placed upon both young and old alike during the post-WWII/pre-“sexual revolution” era portrayed in the movie, and my children looked at me in disbelief when I said that ASP was actually considered daring for its time, because of its forthright treatment of adolescent budding sexuality, economic and social class prejudice, adultery, hypocrisy, and other “mature” themes.

Son K and daughter Belle were alternately amused and appalled by the “morality” portrayed onscreen – in particular by how Molly’s higher-class aspiring, monstrously prudish mother openly criticizes her teenage daughter’s developing figure and interest in boys.  Fortunately for Molly, her father is a kind, gentle, and rational ally, and assures his daughter that her body and her natural desires are healthy, not shameful.

But her father’s alliance is not enough to protect Molly from moralistic paranoia. Before Molly’s father leaves for a brief business trip he gives Molly and Johnny permission to go sailing around the island. Their boat capsizes in a storm, stranding them on a beach on the far side of the island, where they are rescued by the Coast Guard the next morning. Despite their denials that they were “good,” the islanders gossip.  Molly’s mother accuses the teenagers of being sexually intimate on the beach, and she sends for a doctor who, to Molly’s shock and horror, forcibly examines Molly to make sure she is a virgin.

My kids were outraged by that scene. This is good, I told them.  You should be outraged.  And, yep, that kind of thing used to happen.

 

 

We had a short but interesting conversation…it was difficult for my offspring to imagine the over-riding importance of propriety back then and out there – they tried to write off the movie’s portrayals the of stifling concern with “decency” as being a 1950s and/or East Coast thing. I assured them that although in general people in the South and East Coast tend to be more formal than us Out West ® -erners, people all over the country dealt with (and some still must contend with) the threat of what can happen when, in the eyes of others, you’re not being or doing what is “proper”  [1]   Consequences of alleged impropriety, particularly and especially for women and girls, could be dire, even life-altering. With that in mind, my kids agreed that Molly’s frenzied proclamations to the doctor and her mother that she’d been “a good girl” were the product of realistic fears rather than adolescent hysterics.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Life Is Tough But It’s Even Tougher If You’re Stupid
Chapter 1 in a series

“Florida Man….”

Even if y’all are not familiar with the meme, you’ve occasionally seen the headlines: :

* Florida Man Breaks Into Crocodile Enclosure, Leaves Behind A Pair Of Crocs

* Florida Man Dressed As Fred Flintstone Pulled Over
For “Speeding” In “Footmobile”

* Florida Man Caught In Child Sex Sting Claims He Just Wanted To “See It In Action”

* Florida Man Tells Cops Playing Basketball Naked “Enhances His Skill Level”

* Florida Man Denies Syringes Found In Rectum Are His

* Florida Man Attacks Wife With Taco Bell Lunch
“Causing Some To Go Up Her Nose”

* Florida Man Calls 911 And Demands A Ride Home “To Change His Underwear”

 

“Girls and boys, can you say, ‘I’d bet the farm and Grandma’s gator ranch that Florida Man is a tweaker?’  I knew you could.”

 

* Naked Florida Man Performs ‘Strange Dance’ At McDonald’s
Before ‘Trying To Have Relations With A Railing’

* Florida Man arrested for hanging on traffic light
and defecating on cars passing underneath

* Florida Man Proclaims He’s The First Man Ever To Vape Semen

* Florida Man Finds a WWII Grenade, Places It in His Truck, Drives to Taco Bell

* Florida Man Who Threatens Family with Coldplay Lyrics,
Ends Standoff After SWAT Promises Him Pizza

* Florida Man tries to use taco as ID after his car catches fire at Taco Bell  [2]

So, what’s with Florida Men and Taco Bell?

My favorite FM headline, for its sheer, pathetic, clueless narcissism:

* Florida Man Googles Self to Find Out Which Florida Man He Is

Anyway….

MH warned daughter Belle, a proud Tacoma resident, that Tacoma Woman might just be giving Florida Man a run for his money, after MH saw this headline when we were up visiting Belle last weekend:

“Tacoma Woman Sent To Hospital After Posing With Octopus On Face.”

The story really deserves its own department.

*   *   *

Department Of Trust Us, Lady. No One Is In Any Danger Of Thinking That
That Is Your Motivation

“I’m not here to, you know, try to make myself look good…”

(Tacoma Woman trying to explain why she thought the
“opportunity for an unusual photo”  was worth putting an octopus on her face.
The venomous cephalopod bit her chin,
causing her to be hospitalized with a painful, paralyzing infection.)

 

*   *   *

Department Of This Also Explains #45 Supporters

Aka, Quote Of The Week

Aka, Forget Behavioral Psychology and Neurology – This Explains So Much

“When you’re dead, you don’t know you’re dead. It’s only difficult for others.
It’s the same way when you’re stupid.”

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [3]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

 Forks Over Knives Flavor! by Darshana Thacker.

Recipes:
*Indonesian Peanut Sauce
* Basil Corn Cream

My ratings:

*Indonesian Peanut Sauce

* Basil Corn Cream

 

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher    [4]

*   *   *

May you appreciate the cultural anthropology opportunity
implicit in movies like
 A Summer Place;
May you never feel compelled to begin an explanation with,
“I’m not here to, you know, try to make myself look good…”;
May you never be the subject of a headline which begins,
“________ (your state of residence) Man/Woman….” ;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

[1] I have always loathed that term and its implications, and tend to have a not-always-appropriate, knee-jerk, negative reaction to situations where it is employed.

[2] After he got his taco order, Florida Man fell asleep with his foot on his car’s accelerator (while he was in park gear), and the car’s engine caught fire.

[3] 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.

[4]

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it

* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it

* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin, a 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.

The Ears I’m Not Growing

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Department Of Best Answer Ever To That Particular Question

Dateline: Wednesday afternoon, Tacoma, WA. The chef of a hotel/restaurant establishment had acquired a whole halibut, weight approximately 60 lbs.  My daughter Belle is his Kitchen Assistant/Assistant Manager.

Chef:  Do you think you can skin a fish?

Belle: “Let’s find out.”

 

*   *   *

Department Of I Need To Grow More Ears

It’s no wonder that the phrase “everyone has a podcast” has become a Twitter punch line…  podcasts — with their combination of sleek high tech and cozy, retro low — are today’s de rigueur medium…. There are now upward of 700,000 podcasts, according to the podcast production and hosting service Blubrry…. There is also a compendium, published by Podcast Junkies, titled “The Incredibly Exhaustive List of Podcasts about Podcasting.
(NY Times 7-18-19, Have We Hit Peak Podcast )

 

*   *   *

Department Of Why Terry Gross (Or Any Other Interviewer)
Is In No Danger Of Losing Her Job To Moiself

 

Good to know – now I can sleep at night.

 

Subject:  the Fresh Air  interview with TV critic Emily Nussbaum. In the interview, TG talks with her guest about Nussbaum’s recently released collection of essays, “I Like to Watch: Arguing My Way Through the TV Revolution.” The book includes a provocatively titled essay, described by TG as

…one of the most interesting essays I’ve read, that is about,
“What Should We Do With The Art Of Terrible Men?

 (excerpt from the interview edited by moiself for length, my emphases):

GROSS: So you make the point… decent people sometimes create bad art, and amoral people can and have created transcendent works. Was there a period where you just thought the answer was simple – judge the work, not the person?

NUSSBAUM: Yes….I’ve been thinking a lot about this because…when I was in college, I specifically had a strong sense of resentment at the idea of any kind of censorship…the feeling that I had about it was, you can’t tell me what I can look at.
And I had this general sense that I really wanted to expose myself to the broadest range of art – anything – even if it would shake me up or upset me or traumatize me....I feel like that shaped my attitudes as a modern person….

Now then.

Moiself realizes that hyperbole is the default mode for many writers and other artsy folk when talking about their work,  [1]   and that such people often take a license with certain words, especially when talking about their artistic sensibilities. Still, I kept waiting for TG to interrupt her guest, with at least some variant of the gut-reaction question that immediately sprung to my mind when I heard Nussbaum say that she’d wanted to expose herself to art which would traumatize her.

traumatize verb (trau·​ma·​tize | \ ˈtrȯ-mə-ˌtīz  also ˈtrau̇-  \ )

Definition of traumatize
: to inflict trauma upon.

trauma noun (trau·​ma | \ ˈtrȯ-mə  also ˈtrau̇-  \ )

Definition of trauma
: an injury (such as a wound) to living tissue caused by an extrinsic agent
: a disordered psychic or behavioral state resulting from severe mental or emotional stress or physical injury

Really?

I wanted to ask Nussbaum the not-quite-rhetorical questions which might have made her storm out of the interview in righteous indignation, due to their implied criticism of her word usage and comprehension skills:

“Uh…do you know what the word traumatize means?
Have you ever actually been traumatized – not just upset, but traumatized?  My guess is no, or you would not use the word so…unceremoniously. 

I mean, who in their right mind wants to be traumatized, for their personal artistic growth, or for any reason?

 

 

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?   I enjoyed the interview.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Things Every Podcaster Should Know
Aka, Reasons To Stop Listening To A Podcast

I frequently write about podcasts I listen to, and sometimes recommend certain episodes or a podcast that on the whole I find interesting, provocative, entertaining or combination thereof.  I get recommendations for podcasts to add to my feed from MH, and a few friends, and of course, the podcasts themselves. With 700,000 out there (to cite the NY Times article) I should have plenty of material to choose from, when, for example, I’m out of new episodes  [2]  but want to listen to a podcast when I’m exercising or doing some other kind of brain-dampening task.

Stuff You Should Know was one of those recommended podcasts (but, recommended how/when/by whom, I forget).   SYSK is produced by two of the writers from How Stuff Works – hey, I like knowing Stuff ®!  I figured it would be a match.

I tried it, over a year ago, for a couple of weeks, then deleted SYSK from my podcast feed. I just couldn’t get past the hosts’ voices/vocal mannerisms, interplay and attitudes, which I found too casual, too seemingly non-scripted, and just plain irritating. It was if the show consisted of two slacker dudes who’d stumbled upon some recording equipment, and “…Like, hey, we can do a podcast.”

A couple of weeks ago, on a day where I was listening to music while picking berries and also weeding the blueberry and raspberry patches, I decided I wanted to listen to a podcast..but, alas, there were no new podcast episodes on my phone (even podcasters, it seems, take summer vacations and play reruns).  Too lazy to do research to check out a new podcast, I thought I’d give SYSK another chance. For several days in a row I listened to a few SYSK  episodes, and realized I still found the hosts’ voices and general show construction to be annoying. However, such irritations could be overlooked, I thought, should the show’s content be interesting enough. And it was, for a few days.

Then came the episode, What Makes a One Hit Wonder?  How could that not be entertaining? A fascinating and nostalgia-invoking phenomenon, a One Hit Wonder classically refers to a singer and/or band, either newbies or long time musical veterans, who have one hit song, but without any comparable follow-up hits. The hosts were shambling along with their ruminations, including the psychology of OHW ( is it better to have had had a hit and then fade away and deal with the subsequent ego blows, or not have had a chart-topper at all…)

All fine and dandy, until they decided to apply the One Hit Wonder ® label to other genres. Like fiction writers…like, Harper Lee and J.D. Salinger.  Or, to use the SYSK hosts’ oh-so-literary introduction, “Uh, what about books?”

They proceeded to ramble back and forth about how Lee and Salinger were known for one great book each – respectively, To Kill a Mockingbird and Catcher in the Rye – but then (according to the hosts) those writers just kinda faded away, and no one knows why[3]

Both authors, Lee and Salinger,  egregiously mischaracterized by SYSK as One Hit Wonders, in fact left quite the public paper trail when it came to their respective decisions to remove themselves from the public eye.

I don’t know if anyone has an answer, why she never wrote again.
(SYSK host, on Harper Lee)

Actually, many, many people have “an answer” and “know why,” and you (SYSK hosts) could too, if you’d bothered to do the slightest bit of research instead of just pulling some book titles from your ass off the tops of your heads and essentially saying, These are the only books we know of by these authors, so they are examples of literary one hit wonders.

Although she wrote articles before and after To Kill a Mockingbird, the publicity-shy Lee refused subsequent publishing offers, famously saying that “she’d said what she wanted to say” (in a previous blog post, I wrote about my disgust when Lee was mentally incapacitated and a subsequent TKAM  book was published without her permission).  [4]

Both before and after the life-altering (and privacy-destroying) success of Catcher in the Rye in 1951, J.D. Salinger authored several novellas and short story collections. He was a prolific writer. His popular Franny and Zooey stories spent 26 weeks at the top of The New York Times Fiction Best Sellers list in 1961-62. One hit wonder? Pleeeeze.

Inexcusably sloppy “reporting.” Yo, Stuff You Should Know, here is some stuff you should really, really know: don’t pull something out of your ass as if it’s a fact, or if you think it illustrates another point you were trying to make, when you haven’t actually investigated it.  Do your research, or turn off your microphone.

*   *   *

Department Of Those Who Deserve Airspace

No surprise, I (once again) deleted SYSK from my podcast feed. And then, there are the podcasts which have earned my loyalty.  Including the entertaining if inaccurately titled, Nobody Listens to Paula Poundstone.   [5]

Moiself highly recommends the most recent episode (#54, on Writer’s Block). The Nobody… episodes always feature something to do with the title (Poundstone and cohost Adam Felber interview an “authority” on various subjects of interest to Poundstone), but my favorite parts of the podcasts are the recurring segments, such as Poundstone’s and Felber’s movie reviews, which consist of them recommending whether or not listeners should see a currently released sequel movie by reviewing the original movie (or a totally different movie that Poundstone declares has something in common with the sequel).

During the end of episode 54, host Poundstone and her cohost and producers and writers put on another of their recurring segments: the radio skit, Ken LeZebnik’s America, in which a squabbling family goes on a road trip to some obscure yet significant location in the USA. This week the trip was to Clayton, NY, home of Thousand Island Dressing ®  . The mother and father take turns enthusing and griping in the front seat, while their obnoxious kids Timmy and Nelly argue in the back seat.  After an unfortunate stop for some food covered in Thousand Island Dressing® , followed by an even more unfortunate drive on a curvy road…Nelly’s fearful prediction comes true, as her brother Timmy begins to upchuck. All. Over. The. Car  . [6]

The sound effects begin at roughly 1:03:12 and go to 1:03:40, increasing in over-the-top authenticity, which matched my increasing amusement.  I haven’t laughed that hard – until I cried, literally – since the last time I saw the trying-on-bridesmaids-dresses-after-getting-food-poisoning scene in Bridesmaids.

 

Wouldn’t you rather see a cute sloth picture than a boy getting carsick?

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [7]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

The First Mess Cookbook, by Laura Wright

Recipe:  this is embarrassing…I cannot remember the name of the recipe I made from the book…

 

 

…and the book is in another locale, so I can’t look it up.  But, uh…I remember I liked it (and can recommend the entire cookbook)!

*   *   *

May you enjoy a life-enhancing, “let’s find out” experience;
May you take petty enjoyment from hearing juvenile barfing sound effects;
May you seriously rethink any desire you have to be Podcaster # 700,001;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

[1] Which is why Fresh Air’s interview with writers – especially fiction writers, ahem – tend to be my least favorite shows.

[2] I don’t listen to every episode of every podcast, and sometimes delete without listening the episodes whose topics and/or guests I find uninteresting or “unworthy” in some other aspect.

[3] Not a verbatim account – I tried to find a transcript of the show (without forcing myself to listen to it again), but they offer no transcript on the SYSK website. When you have a rambling show, seemingly unscripted, I guess there isn’t much of a call for transcripts?

[4] Since the 1960 publication of TKAM, Harper Lee notoriously – and more importantly, consistently – refused to submit any of her other writings (or even admit that she had any) for publication. She said what she had to say on the subject, was her patient if terse response the few times she bothered to answer critics or fans who wanted “more.” If that wasn’t plain enough, she vowed that, “as long as I am alive any book purporting to be with my cooperation is a falsehood.”

[5] I listen to her, and, as Jesse Jackson would put it, I AM somebody!

[6] His vomiting is so wild and copious it cannot be contained in the roasting pan the ever-practical mother, voiced by Poundstone, brought along for just that purpose.

[7] 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.

The Dream I’m Not Forgetting

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Department Of Some Things Are Worth The Wait

The tag on the gift bag, written in son K’s distinctive script, read, “The incredibly late Xmas present.” And I remembered what I had long forgotten:  a promise, in the form of a preliminary drawing, of a creature-type mask or object K would make for me, as a Christmas present, to go on The Wall of Faces. ®

Lest that not seem self-explanatory to y’all, The Wall of Faces ® is a wall, in our home, upon which hang numerous objects d’art. Many are masks, but not all; in order to get a coveted spot on TWOF the art must be 3-D (e.g., not a painting) and must have something which (loosely or otherwise) can be construed as a face.

Welcome to the wall, creature of mystery.

*   *   *

Department Of Separating The Art From The Artist

In November 2000, Jim DeRogatis, then music critic at the Chicago Sun-Times, received an anonymous fax in response to a review of he’d written of R&B star R. Kelly….The fax read:
“I’ve known Robert [R. Kelly] for many years and I’ve tried to get him to get help, but he just won’t do it. So I’m telling you about it hoping that you or someone at your newspaper will write an article and then Robert will have no choice but to get help. … Robert’s problem — … that goes back many years — is young girls.
DeRogatis began investigating the allegations and…published a story…alleging that Kelly had engaged in sex with teenage girls…. DeRogatis expected the response to the story to be explosive, but instead it was muted….  In February 2002, DeRogatis received another anonymous tip, this time in the form a videotape purportedly showed Kelly having sex with and urinating on an underage girl. “It was horrifying,” DeRogatis says of the tape. “The worst thing I’ve ever had to witness in my life.

(From the Fresh Air, June 4 2019 interview with reporter Jim DeRogatis, who has covered the R. Kelly sexual abuse story for 19 years, “Reporter Who Broke R. Kelly Story: Abuse Was In ‘Full View Of The World’ ” )

Daughter Belle & I have had several talks over the years about the conundrum of separating the art from the artist; specifically, continuing to read/view/purchase superb (however you define that) art which, some argue, is  justified by the art itself, when the artist is known (or later revealed) to be a monster…or maybe just a deeply flawed human being whom you’d rather not throw your money at.

In our most recent conversation about the issue, which took place a couple of months ago, I remember that Belle thought it important to note that for some people even the mention of the “monster” artist’s name can be a trigger…while moiself thought it important to note that for some other people, the mention of someone having a “trigger” [1]  is a trigger for anti-trigger  lectures (“If you need a trigger warning, you need PTSD treatment.”)

 

And for some more of us, any mention of “trigger warning” has us visualizing the oncoming approach of a Roy Rogers movie.

I can’t say where or how every person should draw the line in every instance of Good Art/Bad Artist. I’m in favor of people drawing their own lines; mine are circumstantial and context-dependent. To wit: Woody Allen.  I loved much of his work in the 1970 -80s, even as I also found parts of it disturbing – e.g., the relationship between Allen’s character and the teenager played by Mariel Hemingway in Manhattan curdled my tummy way before I’d ever heard the name, Soon Yi .  My once well-worn DVDs of Annie Hall and Hannah and Her Sisters were consigned to the Goodwill pile several years ago. I just can’t go there, anymore.

Moiself is not a fan of judging the people of the past with the knowledge and standards of the present. If given the chance to see the Pyramids of Egypt I may do so, even as my appreciation of their majesty would be tempered by knowing that it was slave labor which produced them.

I do fully support (and hopefully/consistently practice) holding the contemporary art and artist to the ethical standards of the here and now. If the artist is active now and their art is obviously supportive of or relates to their “crimes” (e.g., racism, sexual assault, misogyny, plain bone-headed idiocy….), then no ick money from moiself.

For fans who are conflicted about the R. Kelly case: if you are too lazy (or fearful of what you’ll learn) to read the documented, two decades trail of R, Kelly assault allegations and their coverup, just listen to the Fresh Air interview (excerpted above) with the reporter who followed the story.  Listen to the reporter’s voice, and note how it breaks when he describes knowing what he knows, what he found out, about what happened to those girls, and how Kelly was protected because of his “art” – because of the money he made for everyone in his inner circle and record label.  You may not have known about this before; now you do, and there can be no excuses, no denying that your purchases of any R. Kelly product is buying into the protection of a deeply disturbed, serial sexual predator.

Or, on a related if definitely less gut-churning scale, consider my warning, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, to a college dorm buddy who was into Donny Osmond as an anti-cool/retro thing:

Do you realize 10% of your Donny & Marie album $$ goes to the Mormon church?

 

“I’m leavin’ it all up to you/you decide my tithe….”

*   *   *

Department Of July 20, 1969

I’ve been reading a lot of Where were you/do you remember what you were doing? stories as we approach the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.  My memories include serving my parents, my older sister and moiself little sherry glasses of Manischewitz Concord Grape – the only wine my parents had in the house (it was used for communion at the church the we attended; I think it was the only wine my parents knew about)  to toast humanity’s amazing achievement. I also remember walking outside, alone, later that evening, looking up into the darkness with a full and aching heart.

 

If it’s good enough for Lutherans’ blood-of-Christ stand in, it’s good enough for the moon landing

 

A part of me remembers it so vividly: the excitement…as well as the beginning of a kind of mourning for that which would not be – a feeling of bereavement which lingered long after I and the world began to take space travel for granted. Because up until that time and for years afterwards, my do you remember what you were doing? stories involved remembering how I was lying to adults, including my parents.

My parents watched every televised Project Mercury, Project Gemini, and Apollo Program space launch, and they’d wake my older sister and moiself up early for the former launches, so that we could witness the historic events. A day or so prior the launches, Dad would go to a local appliance store and procure a refrigerator packing box. He’d set up the box in the living room, about fifteen feet from our black and white TV set, and cut out “viewing screen” windows in the box’s’ front and side panels.  We’d watched the massive rockets launch, my parents sitting on the floor, softly talking to one another, while my sister and I piloted our cardboard spacecraft.

To be an astronaut was my secret ambition – my career wish that I kept hidden from everyone, including and especially my parents – from grade school through high school. The only way I can explain my obsessive secrecy about that ambition is the fact that I took the classic (if mistaken) birthday advice, re making a wish and blowing out the candles in your birthday cake, to heart:

If you tell someone your wish, it won’t come true.

So whenever I was asked the What do you want to be when you grow up question, I told my parents and the grups   [2]  who asked – and it was only grups who asked that question – my cover story: that I wanted to be a veterinarian. Which was not true.  [3]  But it was an accepted and even respected answer, so I stuck to it over the years.

My excitement at the moon launch was tempered with the fear and disappointment of the reality that stared me in the face with every news story about astronauts and every new spacecraft launch: a reality populated by men.  Space flight was a men-only club – and not just any men, but military pilot men.  As much as I dared to hope for the slim chance that women might be allowed to try out for the astronaut corps in the future, by the time I entered high school it seemed obvious that civilians of either gender could not be astronauts, as NASA was (at that time) wedded to the military. While in grade school I told myself I’d do anything to be an astronaut, but as the years went by (and the Vietnam War dragged on), I had to be honest with myself: joining the military, any branch, was the one thing I knew I could not bring moiself to do.

Decades after I’d given up my (still secret) astronaut dream, I raised another glass to toast Sally Ride, the Stanford-educated physicist who was the first (American) woman in space. It was groovy to the max when some radio DJs began playing the old Wilson Pickett song in her honor – Mustang Sally, with its beyond cool chorus, Ride Sally, ride!

 

 

I continued to cheer for Ride and other civilian crew members of those Space Shuttle missions, even as I kicked myself for my lack of foresight.  It. Never. Occurred. To. Me. to imagine, back in my school days when all evidence was to the contrary, that anyone who was non-military could be considered for space travel. I’d no idea that one day civilian scientists (“mission specialists”) would be not only “allowed” but recruited to try out for the USA astronaut corps.

DAMN.

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [4]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

 Dosa Kitchen: Recipes for India’s favorite Street Food,
by  Nash Patel and Leda Scheintaub.

Recipes:  *Classic Dosa batter; * Onion and Chile Dosa Pancake; * Green Chutney

My ratings:

For Classic Dosa batter:

 

For Onion and Chile Dosa Pancake:

 

For  Green Chutney:

 

Recipe Rating Refresher    [5]

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

May you carefully weigh your own good art/bad artist dilemmas;
May you appreciate the sublimity of a piquant green chutney;
May you get your groove on to Mustang Sally and consider, for fond memories
or for regret, your own misplaced ambitions;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] “something that sets off a memory tape or flashback transporting the person back to the event of her/his original trauma.” (Psych Central, “What is a trigger?“)

[2] Grown-ups. As every Star Trek fan knows.

[3] I loved my pets, always liked learning about animals, and obsessively read every wild animal/nature book I could get my hands on. But, to be a veterinarian involved working with people as much as their pets – I figured that out from a young age – and to me, people were often stupid and boring…but veterinarian seemed one of the few animal-related professions that adults approved of, which I also figured out at a young age.

[4] 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.

[5]

 * Two Thumbs up:  Liked it

* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it

* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin 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 Summers I’m Not Forgetting

1 Comment

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

Comments Off on The Style Points I’m Not Getting

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.

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