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The War I’m (Still) Not Declaring

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Department Of Life Is Tough But It’s Even Tougher If You’re Stupid
Chapter 2 in a series

“The idea of a “War on Christmas” has turned things like holiday greetings and decorations into potentially divisive political statements. People who believe Christmas is under attack point to inclusive phrases like “Happy Holidays” as (liberal) insults to Christianity….
“Christmas is a federal holiday celebrated widely by the country’s Christian majority. So where did the idea that it is threatened come from?…
“The most organized attack on Christmas came from the Puritans, who banned celebrations of the holiday in the 17th century because it did not accord with their interpretation of the Bible….”
(“How the ‘War on Christmas’ Controversy Was Created,” NY Times, 12-19-16)

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Department Of If Something Seems Familiar, That’s Because It’s Time For
My Annual Holiday Traditions Explained ® Post

What do vegetarians, vegans, non-meat and/or plant-based eaters do on Thanksgiving?

( Other than, according to  Aunt Erva, RUIN IT FOR EVERYONE ELSE. )

The above question is an existential dilemma worthy of Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher, who wrote eloquent discourses on the subjective and objective truths one must juggle when choosing between a cinnamon roll and a chocolate swirl  [1]

 

*   *   *

Department Of I’ll Take Those Segues Where I Can Find Them

A week from today will be the day after feasting, for many of us. It sometimes seems as though just when you’re recovering from your last leftover turkey sandwich/quiche/casserole/enchilada-induced salmonella crisis and really need to get outside for some fresh air, here comes the Yule season. You dare not even venture to the mall, lest your eardrums be assaulted from all sides by Have a Holly Jolly Christmas, Feliz Navidad, ad nauseum.

This observation provides a convenient segue to my annual, sincere, family-friendly,

Heathens Declare War on Christmas © post.

 

Department Of Did You Know…

…that the Reverend Increase Mather of Boston observed in 1687 that, “the early Christians who  first observed the Nativity on December 25 did not do so thinking that Christ was born in that Month, but because the Heathens’ Saturnalia was at that time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those Pagan Holidays metamorphosed into Christian ones.”   [2]  Because of its known pagan origin, Christmas was banned by the Puritans, and its observance was illegal in Massachusetts until 1681.   [3]

 

 

“Do you celebrate Christmas?”

We Heretics/apostates non-Christians Happy Heathens often hear this question at this time of year.  The inquiry is sometimes presented in ways that imply our celebration (or even acknowledgement) of Christmas is hypocritical.  This implication is the epitome of cheek, when you consider the fact that it is the early Christians who stole a festival from our humanist (pagan) forebears, and not the other way around.

Who doesn’t like a party, for any reason? And we who are religion-free don’t mind sharing seasonal celebrations with religious folk– sans the superstition and government/church mumbo-jumbo — as long as they accept the fact that the ways we all celebrate this “festive season” predate Christianity by hundreds of years.

Early Roman Catholic missionaries tried to convert northern Europeans to the RC brand of Christianity, and part of the conversion process was to alter existing religious festivals. The indigenous folk, whom the RC church labeled “barbarians,” quickly discovered that when it came to dealing with  missionaries, resistance is futile. The pagans intuitively grasped the concept of natural selection and converted to Christianity to avoid the price (persecution, torture, execution) of staying true to their original beliefs.  But they refused to totally relinquish their old celebrations, and so the church, eventually and effectively, simply renamed most of them.  [4]

Pagan practices were given a Christian meaning to wipe out “heathen” revelry.  This was made official church policy in 601 A.D., when Pope Gregory the First issued the now infamous edict to his missionaries regarding the traditions of the peoples they wanted to convert. Rather than try to banish native customs and beliefs, missionaries were directed to assimilate them. You find a group of people decorating and/or worshiping a tree? Don’t chop it down or burn it; rather, bless it in the name of the Church.  Allow its continued worship, only tell the people that, instead of celebrating the return of the sun-god in the spring, they are now worshiping the rising from the dead of the Son of God.

( Easter is the one/odd exception – the pagan celebration was adapted by Christians without a name change. Easter is a word found nowhere in the Bible. It comes from the many variants (Eostra, Ester, Eastra, Eastur….) of a Roman deity, goddess of the dawn “Eos” or “Easter,” whose festival was in the Spring.)

The fir boughs and wreaths, the Yule log, plum pudding, gift exchanges, the feasting, the holly and the ivy and the evergreen tree….It is hard to think of a “Christmas” tradition that does not originate from Teutonic (German),Viking, Celtic and Druid paganism.  [5]  A celebration in the depths of winter – at the time when, to those living in the Northern Hemisphere, the sun appears to stop its southerly descent before gradually ascending north – is a natural instinct. For thousands of years our Northern Hemisphere ancestors greeted the “reason for the season” – the winter solstice – with festivals of light and gift exchanges and parties.  The Winter Solstice was noted and celebrated long before the Roman Jesus groupies pinched the party.

 But, isn’t “Jesus is the reason for the season”?

The reason for the season?  Cool story, bro.  Since you asked; actually, axial tilt is the reason for the season.  For all seasons.

 

And Woden is the reason the middle of the week is named Wednesday.   [6]  My calling Wednesday “Wednesday” doesn’t mean I celebrate, worship or “believe in” Woden.  I don’t insist on renaming either Christmas, or Wednesday.

 

Now, go fetch me the sheisskopf who took the Woden out of Woden's Day!

“Now, go fetch me the sheisskopf who took the Woden out of Woden’s Day!”

 

The Winter Solstice is the day with the shortest amount of sunlight, and the longest night. In the northern hemisphere it falls on what we now mark as December 21 or 22.  However, it took place on December 25th at the time when the Julian calendar was used.  [7]   The early Romans celebrated the Saturnalia on the Solstice, holding days of feasting and gift exchanges in honor of their god Saturn. (Other major deities whose birthdays were celebrated on or about the week of December 25  [8] included Horis, Huitzilopochtli, Isis, Mithras, Marduk, Osiris, Serapis and Sol.)  The Celebration of the Saturnalia was too popular with the Roman pagans for the new Christian church to outlaw it, so the new church renamed the day and reassigned meanings to the traditions.  [9]

In other words, why are some folk concerned with keeping “the Christ in Christmas” [10]   when we should be keeping the Saturn in Saturnalia?

 

*   *   *

Whatever your favorite seasonal celebrations may be, I wish you all the best.

May you have the occasion to (with good humor) ruin it for everyone else;
May you find it within yourself to ignore the Black Friday mindset;
May you remember to keep the Saturn in Saturnalia;
…and may the fruitcake-free hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Damn right I’m proud of that one.

[2] Increase Mather, A Testimony against Several Prophane and Superstitious Customs, Now Practiced by Some in New England (London, 1687).  See also Stephen Nissenbaum, The Battle for Christmas: A Cultural History of America’s Most Cherished Holiday, New York: Vintage Books, 1997.

[3] Stephen Nissenbaum, The Battle for Christmas: A Cultural History of America’s Most Cherished Holiday.

[4] “Paganism in Christianity.”

[5] “Learn not the way of the heathen…their customs are vain, for one cuts a tree out of the forest…they deck it with silver and gold…” Jeremiah 10:2-5

[6] Wednesday comes from the Old English Wōdnesdæg, the day of the Germanic god Wodan (aka Odin, highest god in Norse mythology and a big cheese god of the Anglo-Saxons until the seventh century.)

[7] The Julian calendar, adopted by Julius Caesar ~ 46 B.C.E., was off by 11 min/year, and when the Gregorian calendar was established by Pope – wait for it – Gregory,  the solstice was established on 12/22.

[8] The Winter Solstice and the Origins of Christmas, Lee Carter.

[9] In 601 A.D., Pope Gregory I issued a now famous edict to his missionaries regarding wooing potential converts: don’t banish peoples’ customs, incorporate them. If the locals venerate a tree, don’t cut it down; rather, consecrate the tree to JC and allow its continued worship.

[10] And nothing in the various conflicting biblical references to the birth of JC has the nativity occurring in wintertime.

 

The “Women And Children” I’m Not Protecting

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Dateline: Tuesday. Confidential to the woman who exited the grocery store ahead of me:

 Dear Multiple-Scented One,
Unless you began your day by bathing in the effluence of unaltered male ferret musk, dried off by rolling in a pile of festering, freeze-dried lutefisk, then gargled with a puree of 50 raw garlic cloves before heading out to your day’s errands, your body’s unmasked odors could not possibly have been worse than the plethora of perfumed potions with which you doused yourself, thus fumigating every public space you visited.
Please, for the sake of the ozone (and the mucous membranes of my nostrils and lungs), consider going au natural when it comes to the fragrances.

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Department of Veteran’s Day Reflections

Dateline: Monday, 1-11-19. I made a spur of the moment decision to see the movie “Midway,” to mark Veteran’s Day.  Moiself left the theater feeling rather pensive, thinking about a trope I’d grown up with (although of course it wasn’t called that at the time) which was often used as a justification for war or as a motto to inspire our military’s fighting men:

We Must Protect The Women And Children.

One of the reasons cited for excluding women from the military and/or serving in combat (“the front lines”) was that the Women and Children ® must be protected. (We now know that, throughout history, women *have*served in the front lines and in combat – just not “officially” as in, getting credit – or in some cases, permission – for doing so).

Here’s the thing: those vaunted women and children supposedly being protected by the menfolk?  In any and every war, civilian/non-combat-related casualties have always outnumbered military casualties.  [1]  And during wartime the civilian population is largely – altogether now – women and children.  When I was a young girl I remember thinking, whenever I read or heard stories of war, that I’d rather have the opportunity to fight if my country or village came under attack, rather than passively die in a bombing raid or via disease or starvation or any other of the many ways that civilians being “protected” die during wartime.

 

 

In WWII, Admiral Doolittle‘s raid on Tokyo shattered the Japanese Imperial Army’s notions that their revered capital city was impenetrable.  Doolittle and the 79 other B-25 bombers/flight crew members did not have enough fuel to return to the aircraft carrier from which they’d launched; thus, they deliberately glided as far as possible after their fuel ran out and (crash) landed on the (Japanese-military-occupied) Chinese mainland.   [2]   Sixty-nine of the airmen, including Doolittle, escaped capture or death, many due to being helped by Chinese civilians.

In retaliation for the Tokyo raid and the help offered by the Chinese to the American airmen, the Japanese military occupied, ravaged and then torched many Chinese cities and villages, killing over 250,000 – yes, a quarter of a million –  civilians:

“(An American missionary) observed the result of a Japanese attack on Ihwang:
“They shot any man, woman, child, cow, hog, or just about anything that moved, They raped any woman from the ages of 10 – 65, and before burning the town they thoroughly looted it…. the humans shot were…left…on the ground to rot, along with hogs and cows.”
The Japanese marched into the walled city of Nancheng…beginning a reign of terror so horrendous that missionaries would later dub it “the Rape of Nancheng.” …
Over the summer, Japanese soldiers laid waste to some 20,000 square miles….
(Civilians who were suspected) to have helped the Doolittle raiders were tortured…. soldiers forced (civilians) who had fed (Doolittle’s airmen) to eat feces before lining up ten of them for a “bullet contest” to see how many people a single bullet would pass through before it stopped. In Ihwang, (a man) who had welcomed an injured American pilot into his home, was wrapped in a blanket, tied to a chair and soaked in kerosene. Then soldiers forced his wife to torch him.”
(Excerpts from “The Untold Story of the Vengeful Japanese Attack
After the Doolittle Raid,”  Smithsonian.com )

Give me a death on the battlefield any day, over that.

 

( “Women in the American Revolution,” from American Battlefield Trust )

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Department Of Another Fitting Movie For Veterans Day

Do you know who was the first woman to lead an armed expedition during the Civil War? Go see the movie about the amazing freedom fighter/escaped-slave-turned-abolitionist,  Harriet Tubman, if you haven’t already.  Or read up/refresh yourself on her story…on second thought, don’t be content with just that.  It’s a really good movie. Then ask yourself why is Harriet Tubman’s name and image not on all of our currency?

 

 

Harriet, the movie, is directed/co-written by actor/director/screenwriter Kasi Lemmons.   Cinema buffs may know Lemmons for giving us the luminous Eve’s Bayou, and also for playing Ardelia, Clarice’s fellow FBI special agent, in The Silence of the Lambs.

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Department of Epicurean Excursion   [3]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

The Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home, by The Moosewood Collective
Recipe:  Tunisian Vegetable Stew

My rating:

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher    [4]     

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Department Of Well Duh

“…(a computer scientist) describes how he examined cloud-computing services from Google and Amazon Web Services that help other businesses add language skills into new applications. Both services failed to recognize the word ‘hers’ as a pronoun, though they correctly identified ‘his.’ ”

 

 

Something that should come as no surprise, but still is disheartening to consider: The process of “training” AI (Artificial Intelligence) devices  to know what we know – e.g., by having them scan/download the sum of human writings, both fiction and non-fiction – will also imbue said devices with our historical and cultural biases, thus fostering the continuation – even propagation –  of prejudices and preconceptions.

“….while researching a book on artificial intelligence, computer scientist Robert Munro fed 100 English words into BERT (Google’s new AI language algorithm): “jewelry,” “horses,” “house,” “money,” “action.” In 99 cases out of 100, BERT    [5] was more likely to associate the words with men rather than women. The word “mom” was the outlier.

“This is the same historical inequity we have always seen,” said Dr. Munro…
Now, with something like BERT, this bias can continue to perpetuate.”

And if that doesn’t depress you enough, these biases – surprise! (read: not) extend toward cultural and ethnic discrimination (my emphases):

Researchers have long warned of bias in A.I. that learns from large-amounts-data, including the facial recognition systems that are used by police departments and other government agencies as well as popular internet services from tech giants like Google and Facebook.
In 2015, for example, the Google Photos app was caught labeling African-Americans as “gorillas.” The services Dr. Munro scrutinized also showed bias against women and people of color.


BERT and similar systems are far more complex — too complex for anyone to predict what they will ultimately do.
Even the people building these systems don’t understand how they are behaving,” said Emily Bender, a professor at the University of Washington who specializes in computational linguistics.

( All excerpts from, “We Teach A.I. Systems Everything, Including Our Biases:
Researchers say computer systems are learning from lots and lots of digitized books and news articles that could bake old attitudes into new technology.”  NY Times, 11-12-19 )

“What Brave New World shit is this?”

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Department Of Ok, That Was Depressing…Back To The Movies

The Cinematic Count So Far

As mentioned previously in this space, in the past few years I have vowed to see at least one movie per week in an actual movie theater. In 2019, with 7.5 weeks to go, my movie count is 47. From Welcome to Marwen (early January) to the most recent, Pain and Glory, my favorites of the bunch include:

On the Basis of Sex; If Beale Street Could Talk; Captain Marvel; Us; The Aftermath; Hotel Mumbai; Booksmart; Late Nite; Once Upon a Time In Hollywood; The Farewell; Blinded by the Light; Ad Astra; JoJo Rabbit; Harriet; Parasite; Pain and Glory.

My walk-out count (i.e. movies moiself walked out of, due to a combination of disgust/boredom) is, fortunately, only two:  What Men Want, and Little.

Winner of Best Speculative Review Before Having Seen The Movie:  why, that would be moiself, when son K told me he was off to see Lighthouse with a friend.  I make it a point to never read a review of a movie before I see it; I do see a lot of movie trailers because I’m in a movie theater every week.  I’d seen one preview for Lighthouse, which gave away next-to-nothing about the plot and made me skeptical as to whether or not I wanted to see it.  [6]  Before K left for the theater he asked if Lighthouse was on my must-see list.

MoiselfI dunno, it’s, what – a movie about two men in an isolated lighthouse?  So, 90 minutes of masturbation and farting and snoring and peeing and pooping and arguing…?

K’s first comment to me when he returned from the theater:
HOW DID YOU KNOW ?!?!?

*   *   *

May you realize that artificial intelligence can never override natural stupidity;
May you and yours never have to bear the label, civilian casualty;
May y’all see at least one movie a week before the year’s end;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] In the cases where a country is invaded.  Our country’s most recent wars have not been fought on/in our country; rather, we’ve shipped our fighting overseas.

[2] Sixteen B-25s launched; 15 crashed in China, and one made it to Russian territory.

[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.

[5] BERT (“Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers”) is Google’s neural network-based technique for natural language processing (NLP) pre-training. 

[6] Which I eventually did.

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.

 

 

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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 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]

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

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.

Blog extra: The Pelicans I’m Not Praising

Comments Off on Blog extra: The Pelicans I’m Not Praising

An Ode to the Hesitant One in the Flock

 

Shall I go now?

Is it my turn?

Do we even take turns?

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

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

There goes Polly – and now Philip, and Penelope.

Can I do it?

Can I do it?

The hell I can – I’m a pelican!

 

*   *   *

“Pelican poetry – phooey!”

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

“Praise de lawd!”

“Not me; I’m an atheist.”

“Really? Myself, I’m an animist.”

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

The Conundrums I’m Not Scooping

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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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