Home

The Cheese I’m Not Cutting

1 Comment

Department Of The Problem With Legalization

While I am oh-so-glad that smokers of the Stupid Sticks  [1]   no longer face criminal penalties, moiself is less-than-enthusiastic about the fact that so many of them feel free to share their rank-smelling exhalations in public.  Read: yet another beautiful stroll by the beach, tainted by an redolence that can only be described as festering skunk piss.

 

Just wait until *I* start inhaling.

 

*   *   *

Department Of If Only The Cows Could Talk

Dateline: a rainy Saturday afternoon; Tillamook Creamery.  MH and I are on the self-guided tour…  I’m not all that keen on it, but he says he hasn’t been in years… And I find moiself looking at one of the exhibits and thinking, It’s enough to turn a mostly plant-eating person like me into a full-fledged vegan (I can’t quite get moiself to give up Tillamook’s pepper jack cheese…yet).   I’m also somewhat surprised that animal rights activists haven’t defaced this audacious claim:

 

 

I know enough about the company and its history to respect Tillamook as a co-op business that strives to listen to both its customers and member farmers. But those “Good Start” fiction propaganda claims elide over the facts of what is done to dairy cows in order to get them to produce the massive amounts of milk (it takes ten pounds of milk to produce one pound of cheddar) needed for cheese production.  And it’s not as if cows sign up at the creamery due to the above minimum wage salary and awesome health benefits package. They are forced into an unnatural life;  cows evolved to make and suckle other little cows, not to provide humans with dairy and meat products.

This Good Start exhibit, the first stop on the self-guided tour, makes it sound like Man In His Infinite Wisdom® has improved upon Mother Nature – that heartless bitch who was stupid enough to evolve cows to live in groups, which is oh-so-risky for baby cows as they are in constant danger from “injuries from older, larger cows” which – what, suddenly topple over and crush the calves?  When has that ever been a thing?

Anyway, so they take un-weaned calves away from their mothers and bottle feed – y’all read that correctly, they BOTTLE FEED MILK TO A (non-orphaned) CALF, whose mother and her milk are like, right there? Somehow, in moiself’s mind, that doesn’t add up to making sure the calves are “well cared for.”

I find it sobering   [2]  to consider that those (admittedly delicious) cheeses they make come at quite a cost to the animals (humans included; we are animals, too) which provide the cheese base material.  Costs to human animals include the fact that cheese is loaded (saturated?) with saturated fat; also, consider the resources spent on raising and feeding these animals   [3]  and then trying to protect our remaining wildlands and water supply and atmosphere from the resulting methane and fertilizer and feces runoff pollution, and the dairy industry’s over-sized contribution to global warming: “In the U.S., every gallon of milk (produced) results in greenhouse gases equivalent to 17. 6 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.…”  [4]

 

 

OK; off of my soapbox (milk crate?)…. For now.

Confession: the eleven-year-old in me loved looking through the creamery’s floor-to-ceiling windows and watching the cheese packaging assembly lines.   In my grade school, when the teachers had report card prep or whatever else arose (or maybe when they didn’t want to teach), they put us 5th and 6th graders in the school auditorium and showed us factory documentaries, wherein the wonders of the Wonder Bread (or other mass-produced and packaged) product assembly line were revealed.

Something about the assembly line process – all the machines doing one specialized thing (“I’m the bottle filler!” “I’m the bottle capper!”  “I’m the bottle label applier!”), and the factory employees in hairnets watching the machines, working together to assemble massive amounts of…stuff….  It was mesmerizing.

 

And much better than taking another boring spelling test.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Gratuitous Fart Jokes Can Be Found Anywhere

Particularly, in a cheese factory.

 

 

I hope they’ve invested in a heavy-duty ventilation system to protect their workers.

*   *   *

Department Of Privilege, Celebrity Edition

Diane Keaton is one of my favorite actors. She’s also a good writer. I enjoyed her two memoirs (“Then Again,” and “Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty”) for her life and acting observations in general, and also for her specific recollections of decades-ago So Cal life that only someone growing up in Santa Ana (as moiself and Keaton both did) can appreciate.

I just finished her latest book, Brother & Sister.  The book revolves around how her relationship with her brother devolved from childhood best buddies to somewhat estranged adults, with she and her sisters trying to be caretaker to their artistically-inclined, poetry-writing, alcoholic, mentally ill brother.  B & S has been…problematic, I’ll say.  Keaton writes with heartfelt simplicity, self-deprecating humor and candor, but this book is…missing something.  It’s lightweight in  ways that have nothing to do with its slim page count.  

Here’s my problem.  Keaton’s brother is alive today (although dying of dementia as I type this) because of a liver transplant he received 20+ years ago. It’s a problem I know about because Keaton is honest enough to include this detail in her book: she grapples (very briefly) with the fact that her name and credentials and connections (read: Hollywood movie $tar) – including a substantial financial donation to a foundation run by the hospital which did the surgery – enabled her brother to get the life-saving transplant he very likely would not otherwise have received.

 

 

Yep.  Her brother was/is a schizophrenic? /bipolar? (he received many mental health diagnoses over the years) and an alcoholic. His mental illness(es) meant he would be unable to follow the stringent, life-long, after-care routines of transplant patients (ability to do so is one of the primary factors used to calculate a patient’s position on the transplant waiting list).  He also was quite upfront about the fact that he did not intend to give up the prodigious alcohol consumption which caused his liver to fail in the first place.  And yet this man got a liver transplant, ahead of others who had been on the list before him.

David Crosby, déjà vu?  Musician Crosby’s drug and alcohol excesses were legendary, even among his hard-partying peers.   Moiself recalls being surprised when I read of his receiving a liver transplant (“He’s still alive?”), then disgusted to hear how other transplant hopefuls remained on the list while a druggie celebrity vaulted ahead of them.

Crosby’s transplant raised a number of questions including: (1) did he receive a donor liver so “quickly” because he was rich and famous, i.e. is the system fair? (2) should someone whose organ has failed because of a previous “abusive lifestyle” even be eligible to receive a transplant in light of the current donor shortage? (3) just how does the system work anyway?
(“David Crosby liver transplant sparks vigorous debate on fairness of allocation system,” Transplant News, 11-30-94)

Keaton was upfront in her book (but quickly moved on) about the fact that the preferential treatment allotted to her brother was unfair, but, after all, she was just a loving sister doing what she could for her brother.  Moiself, The Suspicious Writer Who’s Had Experience In Such Matters, ®  can’t help but think that Keaton’s brother getting an organ transplant due to Keaton’s connections is somewhat parallel to the fact that Brother & Sister, a slim rumination on family relations, would not have been published if it had been written by another (non-celebrity) author.

 

*   *   *

Department Of More Fun With Writers;
Sub-Department Of Yet Another Southern Border Crisis?

English novelist Anna Sewell, who was not a horse, wrote Black Beauty, a groundbreaking, “first person” narrative memoir of the titular stallion’s life as a London cab horse.  Beloved by millions over the years, BB was influential in inspiring nineteenth century England’s animal welfare movement.

John Steinbeck was an educated, financially comfortable, native Californian, not an illiterate, dirt-poor “Okie.”  Steinbeck penned Grapes of Wrath, arguably one of the masterpieces of American literature, his novel about desperate, impoverished Midwestern tenant farmers fleeing the Dust Bowl and economic hardship.

John Patrick Shanley is an Irish-American dramatist and husband and father. He wrote the screenplay for Moonstruck, creating Loretta Castorini, a childless, female, widowed Italian-American bookkeeper, as its memorable protagonist.

Ursula LeGuin was neither a dark-skinned androgynous denizen of an alien planet nor a Roman princess in Trojan war times, yet this American heterosexual white Earthling, managed to convincingly create the lives of these beings and more in books like The Left Hand Of Darkness, the Earthsea series, and Lavinia

Stephen King, who was not  [5]   a shy, bullied 16-year-old girl raised by a fanatical, hyper-religious single mother, somehow managed to authentically bring to life that character and more in his first published novel, Carrie.

Boys and girls, can you guess which of the latest writing-outside-your-tribe literary controversies I am not-so-obliquely referring to?

American Dirt, in case you haven’t heard, is a novel about a Mexican woman and her son, the only survivors of their family’s murder by a drug cartel, who flee for their lives and head for the USA-Mexico border.  AD was chosen as an Oprah’s Book Club selection (which almost guarantees a bajillion copies sold, plus movie options) and received glowing reviews, including from Latina authors and actors such as Sandra Cisneros and Julia Alvarez and Salma Hayek.…until someone pointed out that the novel about Mexican immigrants was written by a non-Mexican, and the cultural identity police dog-piled on.

The book’s author identifies as white and Latina and has a Puerto Rican grandmother, but that’s not Latina enough for some.  Seemingly overnight the book went being reviewed as a captivating story that could “change hearts and transform policies” (Alvarez) to being “racist” and “filled with stereotypes.”  Just as quickly, the author went from to literary prodigy to pariah…her publisher even cancelled book tour appearances because of “specific threats to the booksellers and the author.”

 

 

Education and history professor Jonathan Zimmerman wrote about how reaction to the book is emblematic of our cultural “shaming” and “mob mentality” phenomena. There are people attacking the book who don’t know anything about it except that it’s been declared “problematic” and that’s enough to get them to revile the author on social media platforms:

Mexican-American actress Salma Hayek admitted that she hadn’t read American Dirt before she hailed Oprah Winfrey for recommending it and for “giving voice to the voiceless.” But then Hayek heard a different voice — also known as a Twitter mob — and she changed her tune.

“I thank all of you who caught me in the act of not doing my research, and for setting me straight,” Hayek posted the following day, “and I apologize for shouting out something without experiencing it or doing research on it.”

Do you think Hayek read the book in the intervening 24 hours and came to a new judgment of it? Think again. Her “research” was of the social media variety, confirming that a lot of people were very offended by American Dirt. And that was all she needed to know.

A writer for the celebrity website Hola! congratulated Hayek for backtracking. “It takes guts to admit when you’re wrong,” wrote Robert Peterpaul, “but Salma Hayek is gutsy.” Really? How much courage is required to put your finger in the air, figure out which way the Instagram winds are blowing, and adjust your opinions accordingly?

( “ ‘American Dirt’ controversy scores another win for mob mentality,”
Philadelphia Inquirer 2-3-20)

 

 

Can a book be “good” or “bad” because of/in spite of what you think about the author’s personal characteristics, or their “qualifications” to write it in the first place?  I’m not talking about textbooks, instruction manuals, or nonfiction – not talking about how, yes, you’d want a rocket scientist and not a manicurist to write a rocket science manual. But the qualifications for a fiction writer to write on any subject are a bit more subjective, and include interest, imagination, and empathy.

There are legitimate beefs being brought up in the AD brouhaha, having to do with the historical marginalization of “non-mainstream” voices.  From talk show gag writing to movie directing, arts and literature are (still) fields rigged by and designed to favor white males.  Many of these men are sincere allies of female/non-white artists; nevertheless, it is sadly apparent that they don’t understand that the playing field is (still) not level, as indicated by comments such as, that when it comes to voting for awards they “…would never consider diversity in matters of art. Only quality.”   [6]

 

 

There are *so many* conversations to be had about the historic and ongoing dominance of the while/male perspective in the arts in general and literature in particular, including who gets to decide what is “quality” and who’s perspectives are publishable or award-worthy…and who gets a million dollar advance for their book.

Novelist Ann Patchett, pointing out that the AD author had received a seven-figure advance for her novel:

“I read the book and I loved it…There’s a level of viciousness that comes from a woman getting a big advance and a lot of attention….  If it had been a small advance with a small review in the back of the book section, I don’t think we’d be seeing the same level of outrage.”
( “Cultural appropriation, say critics. Sexism, defenders say of the criticism. How ‘American Dirt’ launched a publishing firestorm,” The Oregonian, 1-27-20)

The thing is, now that the caca has hit the fan, no one, from layperson reader to professional literary critic, will be able to read or review the book objectively without their reactions and opinions being viewed through the warped lens of identity politics.  As I have written before and will doubtless write again, my main concern in these literary skirmishes is my concern for censorship (and worse yet, IMHO, self-censorship), in that a writer’s personal characteristics are deemed more important than their capacity for imagination, research, and empathy.

One of the most dangerous but effective kinds of censorship for a writer is when “they” get you to do it to yourself. I’ve watched with lip-curling disdain and alarm while claims of authenticity and charges of appropriation have seeped into the literary and publishing world.

The stench of the well-intended, silent-but-deadly admonition to “write what you know” has become “write what you are,” and the cherished ideals of imagination, empathy and craft are in danger of becoming subservient to identity politics.

In this write-what-you-know/are, A & A (authenticity & appropriation) world, an author cannot – or rather, should not – create or even write about certain characters unless the author shares what the self-appointed A & A police deem as those characters’ primary representative markers (hint: “race,” ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, dis/ability….).

(“The Comments I’m Not Making,” 9-27-19)

 

 

Yep, I’m quoting moiself.  Because…I can.

“I often quote myself. It adds spice to my conversation.”
(George Bernard Shaw)

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [7]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:
Vegan Planet, by Robin Robertson

Recipes:
* Mahogany Eggplant
* Red Bean and Sweet Potato Curry

My rating for both recipes:

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher  [8] 

*   *   *

May you “play fair” in matters of life and death and organ transplants;
May you realize when the playing fields are and are not level;
May you eat less cheese (but tell more cutting-the-cheese jokes);
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] My old nickname for joints, because of the effect it had on those who, unlike Bill Clinton,* did* inhale.

[2] And it was the early afternoon and I was already sober.

[3] More farmland in the USA is devoted to raising meat-animal feed than food for human animals.

[4] “Cows vs. Nuts: Who Gets to Be Called Milk, and Are They Climate Friendly?”

[5] Although, with a Stephen King book, anything could happen….

[6] Author Stephen King made that Tweet, regarding the 2020 “Oscars-So-White-male” controversy. King, a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, gets to vote in certain Oscar award categories.

[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) once recipe from one book.

[8]

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it
* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it
* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin, a character from The Office who’d eat anything, would like this.
* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.
* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.
* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up .
* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.
* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

 

The War I’m Not Declaring

Comments Off on The War I’m Not Declaring

 

 

 

 

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

( Other than, according to your 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, forthright, 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 really, 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!

 

 

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.