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The Official Party Business ® I’m Not Undertaking

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Department Of Why The Two Party Duopoly Has To Go, Reason #379

Republican, schmublican; Democrat, schmemocrat – both parties use the same sleazy-ridiculous tactics when it comes to fundraising.  As per the following which MH received in the mail – previewed by moiself to him in an oh-so-excited text:

MH, look what you’re getting!  It’s official party business!
It has official numbers on it!  Quick – find something to salute!

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Department Of I Guess You Had To Be There

Homemade yogurt joke:

 

“Whey! No whey!”

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Department Of You Need To Watch This Show Because I Say So

“Happiness is amazing. It’s so amazing, it doesn’t matter if it’s yours or not.”
(“Anne,” to “Tony,” at their regular meeting place – in a cemetery,
sitting on a bench which faces their respective late spouses’ gravestones.)

Last weekend Moiself watched all six episodes of the first season of.After Life – a Netflix series written and produced by Ricky Gervais –  and I recommend that you do, too.

A British black comedy, After Life follows Tony, whose beloved wife has  died and whose dementia-addled, elderly father is in a care facility.  Tony, struggling to deal with the irritations and futility of everyday life, considers suicide, then decides to live long to punish the world for his wife’s death by saying and doing whatever he wants, including telling the truth about the pointlessness of his and his colleagues’ jobs – working for a community newspaper no one reads. Tony thinks of this as his “superpower,” but his friends and colleagues persist in seeing through his gruff persona to the decent chap  [1]   he used to be.

Every episode had me on the verge (and sometimes over the edge) of tears, of both mirth and pain.  Keep the Kleenex handy for the laugh out loud, spit out your popcorn/iced tea/wine dialogue, interspersed with gut-wrenching displays of the depths of Tony’s love for his wife and grief at her loss.  Tony’s observations about humanity are cutting; his misanthropy can be obscene; his heartache is raw and palpable. And the supporting cast – from his colleagues at the newspaper, to a prostitute (“Excuse me, sex worker!”) he befriends, to the inept postman he taunts, to the nurse at his father’s care facility, to a widow he meets at the cemetery who becomes a kind of grief mentor – all are multi-dimensional characters, keenly written and well-acted.

Frankly, imagining moiself in his shoes, I think Tony shows remarkable restraint in many of his interactions with his fellow humans. For example, he goes on assignment with the paper’s photographer to interview yet another clueless couple who think their daft doings deserve media coverage – in this case, parents who think themselves newsworthy for  having “…a baby who looks like Hitler.”

Newspaper staff member:
Got a good lead for you: “Local baby looks exactly like Adolf Hitler.”

Tony, at the baby’s home, with the staff photographer,
looking at the Hitler-style mustache on the baby’s upper lip:
So is that a birthmark?

Baby’s Mother:
Oh, no, it’s eyeliner. We did it with marker pen at first, but it took ages to get off.

Baby’s Father:
Yeah, I mean, this way we can do it when we want then wipe it off if we need to.

Tony:
So hold on, it doesn’t really look like Hitler then.

Photogapher:
It does.

Tony:
No. I mean naturally. It wasn’t born with its hair combed forward
and a mustache, was it?

Photographer:
Nor was Hitler, to be fair.

 Tony:
What I’m saying is, it’s not a revelation, is it? I mean, to get in the paper. “Baby born that looks a bit like Hitler,” mildly interesting if it had a real mustache. But you can draw a mustache on any baby and it looks a bit like Hitler.

Father:
Not a black one.

Mother:
Not as much.

Tony:
I’ve got one more question. Why do you want your baby to look like Adolf Hitler? You’re not fans, are you?

Parents:
We’re not Nazis, no.  Just a bit of fun, innit?

Tony:
I mean – Yeah. Hitler’s the funniest thing to do, I guess.

 

Moiself, I prefer Hitler cats to Hitler babies.

 

Tony (like his creator, Gervais) is an atheist. I’m grateful for Gervais using Tony’s character as a foil with which to reveal and parry some of the absurd things people  say to non-religious believers, as in Tony’s meaning-of-life exchange with Kath, a co-worker. Kath, the newspaper’s advertising editor, is a haughty thorn in most of her colleague’s sides. She’s also a fervent fan of the American comedian-/actor Kevin Hart:

Kath:
 If you were atheist –

Tony:
 I am.

Kath:
 – and don’t believe in an afterlife –

Tony:
I don’t.

Kath:
If you don’t believe in heaven and hell and all that, why don’t you just go around raping and murdering as much as you want?

Tony:
I do.

Kath:
What?

 Tony:
I do go around raping and murdering as much as I want, which is not at all.

(a co-worker chimes in):
‘Cause he’s got a conscience.

Kath:
But if death is just the end, what’s the point? –

Tony:
What’s the point in what?

Kath:
– Livin’! You might as well just kill yourself.

Tony:
So if you’re watching a movie, and you’re really enjoying it – something with Kevin Hart in – and someone points out that this’ll end eventually, do you just go, “Oh, forget it then. What’s the point?” and just turn it off?

Kath:
No, ’cause I can watch it again.

Tony:
Well, I think life is precious ’cause you can’t watch it again.  I mean, you can believe in an afterlife if that makes you feel better. Doesn’t mean it’s true. But once you realize you’re not gonna be around forever, I think that’s what makes life so magical.
One day you’ll eat your last meal, smell your last flower, hug your friend for the very last time.
You might not know it’s the last time, so that’s why you should do everything you love with passion, you know? Treasure the few years you’ve got because that’s all there is.

(a thoughtful silence envelops the newsroom)

Kath:
I’ve watched Ride Along 2 five times.

Tony:
Well, you haven’t wasted your life, then.

Kath:
Definitely not.

 

Series Bonus: you know satisfying it is when you resolve a Where do I know this actor from?! feeling? By the last episode I was so happy when I figured out (without “cheating” – i.e., looking at the credits) that the actor who plays Anne, Tony’s cemetery buddy, is Penelope Wilton.  Wilton is probably best known to American audiences for playing Downton Abbey’s Isobel Crawley, the more liberal member of the family whose modern outlook is an irritant to the imperious Countess Dowager.

 

 

Anyway, if it isn’t obvious by now, I found the show quite entertaining as well as thought-provoking and mirth-inducing.  And if anyone else thinks they have a better philosophy of life (that can be proven) than Tony’s what makes life so magical speech (along with what his friend Anne says in the quote which opens this segment) – well then, to use a suggestion the Tony character would likely approve of,  go $#?! yourself.

 

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Department Of Words A Parent Lives For
(Sub-Department of My Work Here Is Done)

Earlier this week moiself ran into one of son K’s  high school teachers/coaches when I was out walking and she was out for a run.  So, wait a minute: did she run into me, or did I walk into her?

Move along, folks, nothing here to see.

 

I didn’t recognize her at first; it had been at least six years since I’d seen her.  She wore a running shirt emblazoned with the logo of the fitness club she and other coaches had started at K’s and our daughter Belle’s high school. I asked her about that, we chatted, I introduced myself, and she remembered K from his years on the Cross Country team and also from one of her classes. She will always remember K, she said, as being …very intellectual, and also kind, very kind.” Two more times in our conversation she used the word kind to describe him.

 

That’s my boy.

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Department Of One More Thing About Offspring

I found this while going through the file cabinets, looking for something which was in a folder adjacent to the folders in which MH and I keep old notes and sketches written by  Belle & K.  There is no date or attribution on it –  PARENTING FAIL!  [2]   I’m thinking it was done by K, due to the handwriting…but then, as MH pointed out, Belle was big on writing notes to us, so it could have been either one of them.   

 

 

Translation:

How to take care of children

  1. get in PJs.
  2. eat dinnr.
  3. let them have as much Desrt as they wont!

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Department of Epicurean Excursion   [3]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:
The Food of Morocco, by Paula Wolfert

* Creamy Fava Bean Soup
* Eggplant Zaalouk
* Berber Skillet Breads

 

My ratings: for the Fava Bean Soup and the Eggplant Zaalouk:

 

 

For the Berber skillet bread:

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher   [4]

*   *   *

May you appreciate (or at least tolerate) yogurt puns;
May a teacher remember your child – or you – with fondness;
May you rest assured that no baby is born looking like Hitler;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

[1] He’s British, you know.

[2] I always (or so I thought) wrote on the back of a drawing or note I saved, the name of its creator, and the date.

[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.”

 

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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 )

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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?

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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!

 

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[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.

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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]

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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 4th Of July Parade I’m Not Recovering From

2 Comments

Best Compliment Ever
Aka, My Work Here Is Done

“You’re my spirit animal!”
(Absolutely adorable/soon to be handsome 13 year old boy, to moiself,
after Manzanita’s July 4 July parade)  [1]

I think it was the Dali Lama – or was it Dolly Parton?  [2]  – who advised, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  Thus, the impetus for my participation in Manzanita’s July 4 Parade.

Manzanita’s annual parade is small town enough that individuals can just show up at the parade assembly grounds and participate. I’m a smartass cynic when it comes to such events, and this year I decided to force myself to join in. Okay, but…how?

When notorious parade loather moiself thought of parades in general and July 4th parades in particular, I decided I wanted to see something else among the usual procession of star-spangled, flag-waving

* kids on tricycles

*adults on bicycles

* politicians in convertibles

* golden retrievers on leashes

* T-Rex-costumed teens on roller stakes

* Civil War re-enactors on foot

*muscle car drivers on methamphetamines….

Not that there’s anything wrong with all the red white and blue on July 4….but it’s been done, you know? I knew there were people who would do the flag-waving thing far better than moiself; I also knew it was likely that no one would be willing to take on the role of Goodwill Ambassador to the Planet ® in the form of Orange Hat Women With Spatulas.

My outfit and participation had the effect I’d intended: smiles, laughter and shout-outs all around. I mean, really – who doesn’t appreciate a spatula?  It’s a humble kitchen utensil which unites everyone on the political spectrum (as I explained to some parade watchers who wanted to know, why spatulas?). 

Some folks looked bewildered at first, until they figured out what I was (the signboard I wore was easier for some parade watchers to read from behind; i.e., just after I’d passed them). You never heard so many calls of “Spatulas!  Yay!” in your life.  [3]   There was nothing to “get” – no greater, existential meaning. Just truth in advertising, so to speak.

One of my favorite reactions came from two elderly women – sisters, I like to think – who were sitting side by side in beach chairs on the sidewalk in front of the Manzanita Post Office.  As I passed by, one of them read my sign aloud, and her sister responded (both women’s piercing vocal volume indicated they were probably hard of hearing):

Sister #1:
” ‘ Orange Hat Woman With…uh…Spatulas?’  What does it mean?”

Sister #2 (slapping sister #1, then pointing toward moiself, who was wearing an orange hat with spatulas dangling from the hat rim, and waving two spatulas in each hand):
“What do you THINK it means ?!”

 

 

You made my day!
Spatulas, yee haw – I Love Spatulas, too!
You should win best costume!
You’re my favorite parade entry of all time!
Spatulas rock!
God Bless America, and spatulas!
(a sampling of the comments Orange Hat Woman With Spatula ® received, 7-4-19)

It is truly difficult to convey how enjoyable it was to be on the receiving (and producing) end of so much good will.

And so, I did it:  I’ve marched in a parade, and I don’t ever have to do it again.  Except that my neighbor and a few other folks afterwards urged me to consider an encore performance next year, with “more” of what they assumed was my theme…

You can add to your banner – tape a sign at the bottom which says, ‘AND WHISKS’ and then sew some whisks onto your hat, or hold some whisks along with the spatulas….OH OH OH – and then the year after that, you can add slotted spoons! And then….

*   *   *

Department Of A Good Story That Gets Even Better

Dateline: Wednesday a.m. Over breakfast, MH reads aloud a headline from the NY Times sports section (print edition):

“Olympic Swimmer Rescues Drowning Man”

“In record time,” moiself adds.

MH chuckles and continues to read. It appears that the swimmer came to the aid of a man on his honeymoon…

who had fallen off an inflatable swan.”

Say no more, I insisted. It just can’t get any better.

 

No man – don’t risk it!

 

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [4]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

David’s Vegan Home Cooking, by David A. Gabbe

Recipes:

* Miso Tahini Salad Dressing
* Millet Cornbread Muffins
*”Creamy” Cauliflower Soup

My ratings:

* Miso Tahini Salad Dressing

* Millet Cornbread Muffins

*”Creamy” Cauliflower Soup

 

Recipe Rating Refresher  [5]

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           Department Of Testing The Goodwill Of Strangers

Dateline Monday, July 8, circa 5:30 pm. Moiself is parked in a grocery store parking lot, sitting in my car’s driver’s seat, texting to MH and son K re our dinner options (ants have invaded our kitchen counters; no one’s in a cooking mood). I am just about to exit the vehicle when I am startled by an Out Of Nowhere ® rap on my car’s door.

I open the door, exit the car, and behold a Very Large And Friendly-If-Sheepish Looking Man holding a cell phone and gesturing toward my car’s rear bumper.

I was just talking a picture of one of your bumper stickers, VLAFISLM says, and thought I should let you know.

I reply that I don’t mind, and that he’s not the first person to do that – in fact, from what I’ve seen, it’s a frequent occurrence, in parking lots.

Oh, then can I take a picture of the others, too?

I laugh and tell him he can take as many pictures as he wants, as long as he doesn’t slash my tires.   [6]

Oh Yeah, ha ha thanks!  I just wanted you to know – I mean, I didn’t want you to, like, look in your mirror and think that there was some crazy guy taking pictures of your car.

But that’s actually what’s happening, isn’t it? I say, as I head toward the store’s entrance.

 

He told me his favorite was the one in the upper right corner (hard to make out in this picture), which reads:
National Sarcasm Society
like we need your support

*   *   *

May you be patient with the Crazy Guy In The Parking Lot ® ;
May you consider that whatever romantic or aphrodisiac properties may be obtained by riding an inflatable swan just might not be worth the inherent risk;
May you one day experience the indescribably joy of being a non sequitur parade participant;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] He then asked if he could take his picture with me, and I gave him a spatula.

[2]  It was a dolly/dali of some sort.

[3] Or, most likely, it was the first (and possibly last) time you’d hear such a call.

[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 (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.

[6] Several of the stickers poke fun at religion and certain political views…you never know who has a sense of humor about what, although I’ve yet to receive an in-person negative reaction.

The Next Year I’m Not Waiting For

Comments Off on The Next Year I’m Not Waiting For

Belated Happy 4th of July/Independence Day wishes to y’all.

As I  threatened promised last year, I walked in Manzanita’s July 4th parade yesterday.  Here’s what I wrote about the parade in last year‘s log post:

Department Of Saved By The Spirit Of America

I am a notorious parade-loather. I find parades, at both the conceptual and practical levels, to be…absurd, at best. Thus, unless a parade’s entrants and/or organizers acknowledge the inanity of it all  [1]  and try to be deliberately silly – anyone seen Pasadena’s Doo Dah Parade?   [2]  – you can count me out, as either a spectator or participant.

However….

The Oregon beach town of my dreams and my heart, Manzanita, has a yearly July 4th parade, which, I have been told, is just so low tech and small-town cutesy that even a parade-hater such as moiself would find it adorable (or at least tolerable).  So, I had an idea for my participation in this year’s parade. I had a banner made, and began gathering the beginnings of my parade “uniform,” much to the consternation of MH, who wondered aloud if he would attend the parade (or need to leave town afterward), should I be a participant, wearing and doing…whatever it was I would wear and do.

Moiself got herself to the Manzanita City hall website where, I was told, parade entry info would be posted the first week in June. And it was, and…

Damn you, Foul Crushers of Aspirations!

Manzanita’s parade apparently has a theme, which varies from year to year. This year’s theme is, The Spirit of America. My planned getup could be – very, very, verrrrrrrrry loosely – attributed to a certain, uh, independence of spirit, but it definitely ain’t yer red white and blue/flag-waving, lovin’ that good ole country of mine. What I have in mind holds no disparagement toward my country nor toward the concept of patriotism, but it would be a non sequitur, given the theme, as per this description from the parade’s participant registration form (which has a picture of a very serious-looking bald eagle, ready to pluck the eyes out of anyone who would mock its usage as a symbol of American Greatness ® ) :

Decorations required: All entries including autos must be decorated in a patriotic theme and/or in the theme of the parade. The theme is “The Spirit of America”.

I tried to clarify the parade registration form information. The city clerk told me she thought that the requirement to dress as per the theme might be only for entrants “who want to be judged.”

“Trust me,” I replied, “I’m judged all the time, whether or not I’m an official entrant of anything.”

Later that day, when I returned home (to Hillsboro), I reassured MH that he’d been saved by the (Liberty) bell, so to speak. My parade accoutrements will remain in my closet, in a bag protected by a sentiment dear to the heart of every perennial loser underdog sports team’s fans:

Flash forward, 2019: I confirmed with City Hall that parade entrants need not dress as per the parade’s theme unless they are “official” entrants – non-officials may simply show up at the parade’s starting area and be assigned a marching spot. Which I did.

As my blog deadline is actually the night before publication (when friends and I were doing our 4th of July celebrating), I shall have a brief recount plus Photographic Evidence ® of my public shame parade participation in next week’s blog.

*   *   *

Department Of Secret Identities Revealed

As per last week’s review of the first of the Democratic candidates’ debates:

…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 as if he were trying to remain calm despite knowing that a weasel was crawling up his pant leg.

It was Rep. Tim Ryan.  Doubt me? Watch the debate again, and look at Ryan’s face, the first time a question is posed to him – this was long before he got schooled on Taliban v. Al-Qaeda by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.

She let the damn weasels in; I just know it.

*   *   *

Department Of Pathetic Justifications
Aka, That’s My Story And I’m Sticking To It

“Welcome to Walmart!”

No one greeted me thusly. Nevertheless, I kept my sunglasses on when I entered in the store, as if I were afraid of being recognized:

“That’s her – the woman who swore she’d never set foot inside a Walmart!”

Indeed, it was my first time, ever, in a Walmart. I’ve boycotted them because of their history of sexism and discriminatory employment practices, and decimating small town retail businesses … But no other local business had what I needed.  I knew I could order it online, but if Walmart had it, at least that would keep a bit of the money locally (I was on the Oregon coast) vs. putting more dollars in Amazon’s pocket.… Yeah, that’s the ticket.

*   *   *

Department Of Apparently This Also Happens In Other Artistic Professions

“Would you please donate _______ (your mentoring time; your expertise; a photo shoot, pottery lessons, original oil painting; five copies of your book)  to our worthy cause?  We can’t pay you, but you’ll get plenty of exposure….”
(Requests heard and loathed by every artist/artisan, ever)

I saw a posting on Facebook from a photographer who, fed up with people asking for free photo shoots, decided to turn the tables, so to speak, by composing his own ad seeking free services from professionals. Like others working in a “creative” field, I am all-too familiar with the situation he lampooned, to the point that, many years ago, I had composed (but never sent to anyone, or posted) my own “employment ad.” Inspired by the FB post, I searched my files and dug up my fantasy employment ad. With all attribution/apologies to the photographer:

Writer Seeks Professionals Willing To Do Their Jobs For Free

I am a writer. All kinds of people ask me for my products and services, for free. They request that I:

* provide them or their group free copies of my books

* travel to their school or community group to speak about writing, and/or /give writing workshops, sans remuneration

* edit their or their children’s resumes, job applications, term papers….

I therefore assume that all kinds of people must also do their jobs and offer their services without expecting payment.

I need all kinds of people to provide all kinds of services for me.  Doctors; dentists, yard maintenance; grocery shopping and deliver; massage; auto repair; computer chip design; tax preparation; restaurant chefs and waitstaff; plumbers; college professors to educate my children – I will gladly and gratefully accept these and other services as long as I don’t have to pay for them.

What’s in it for you, you may ask?  Why, you’ll gain even more experience in your chosen field, and although you can’t take gratitude to the bank, you can bank on my gratitude: I’ll tell everyone I know how appreciative I am and what wonderful work you do. That’s, like, free publicity! This will likely bring you innumerable offers for unpaid work but also plenty of goodwill, and who can put a price on exposure?

So, if you have a job or service you provide, and will do it for free, let me know and I’ll gladly hire you!

 

(Don’t read The Oatmeal? You should.)

*   *   *

 

Department Of Honey, You *So* Did Not Have To Do That To Make Me Feel Better

MH texted me with the picture he took for his passport renewal, with the message:

“Here’s the guy that will accompany you on international trips.”

Moiself‘s response:

“We are so going to get pulled out of line for additional screening.”

This is highly unusual. Moiself is the one who takes the atrocious pictures, from family snapshots to passport, Costco, and other ID cards.  You know how at the DMV, when you go to the line for your driver’s license picture they hurry you through and you get one shot only because there are six people in line behind you? The last time I had my license renewed the DMV employee who took my picture looked at her camera screen, frowned, and called her supervisor over. The supervisor looked at the screen, then at me, back at the screen again, then said to me, “Oh, you really don’t want this one.” And they redid my photo. TWICE.

But, really, this passport photo of MH’s is…uh….oh, dear.  [3]

MH’s tresses are shoulder length, and he has a beard – both are dark and were apparently having a Bad Hair Day ® when the picture was taken.  He’s a friendly-looking guy, but they don’t want you to smile in a passport photo, and you can tell he wants to…but the overall effect…  Well, he looks like he’s about to scream, “Death to America!”

Also, I think the choice to wear a bistro napkin on his head was a poor one.

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [4]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking by Julie Sahni.

Recipes: Muttakos Sambaar (Hearty Blue Mountain Cabbage and Tomato Stew), and
Pachadi Vallerika  (Zucchini and Yogurt Salad)

My rating: for the Muttakos Sambaar:

for the Pachadi Vallerika

 

 

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher  [5]     

*   *   *

May your most hideous ID photo not cause you to get additional screening;
May you think twice, and twice again, before asking someone to “donate” their services;
May you never run for political office if you can’t control your weasel face;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

[1] A bunch of people sitting on street curbs, watching another bunch of people walk past them, or watching cars drive by slowly and horses poop while they are walking and then other people following behind scooping the poop.

[2] How could I not love a parade which introduced the world to the following Drill Teams:

* Synchronized Precision Marching Briefcase Drill Team
* Lawn Mower Drill Team
* The BBQ & Hibachi Marching Grill Team
* The Shopping Cart Drill Team
* The Men of Leisure Synchronized Nap Team
* Claude Rains & the 20-Man Memorial Invisible Man Marching Drill Team
* The Committee for the Right to Bear Arms, which marches while carrying mannequin arms.

[3] On the bright side, seeing it made me realize it is way past time for me to get my own shaggy hair trimmed.

[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 ( 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 Summers I’m Not Forgetting

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Department Of My Daughter Is Better Than Your Daughter

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

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

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I pity the fo – 

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

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

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

The pot of gold at the end of my rainbow.

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

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

You’re welcome.

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

*   *   *

Department Of Natural Selection

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

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

Kinda like this, only worse.

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

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

*   *   *

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

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

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

 

This is why all brothers should be baby sloths.

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [6]

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

Recipe:  Gobhi Moong (Mung Bean and Cauliflower Stew)

My rating: 

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher  [7]

*   *   *

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

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

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

[2] Okay, maybe blueberries are easier.

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

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

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

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

[7]

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it

* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it

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

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

* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.

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

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

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

 

The Conundrums I’m Not Scooping

Comments Off on The Conundrums I’m Not Scooping

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *

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

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *

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

(more from the Hidden Brain interview, my emphases)

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

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

Am I cuddly, or what?

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

*   *   *

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

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

*   *   *

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

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

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

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [6]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

 Chickpea Flour Does It All, by  Lindsey S. Love

Recipe:  Baby Chickpea Quiches with New Potatoes and Chard

My rating:

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher   [7]

*   *   *

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

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

[7]  * Two Thumbs up:  Liked it

* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it

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

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

* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.

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

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

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

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