11-4-2015 National Cliché Day

The weather is easing into the fall weather- we still have the occasional day where it’s not bitchy cold, but over our omlets this morning we were looking at sweaters and stockings and flannel nighties in the Vermont Country Store catalog. Kat now wears long sleeved undershirts under her most frilly outfits, and Willow layers sweaters on sweaters while I love my long stockings and sheepskin lined boots.  We are New Englanders, we know that the best way to fight the cold is to not get chilled in the first place. (This has not stopped John from going outside barefoot occasionally, but when I was younger I was more cold resistant too.)
As we have our own little microclimate around here, we still have significant leaves and color, although much of it is gold and bronze now, less scarlet and yellow. I tend to think of November as brown and grey and cold, but when I wake in the morning, I’m still seeing ORANGE! I expect that by the 30th the trees will be bare. And I’m trying not to sulk about Daylight Savings, although I continue to consider it one of the more stupid things we do as a country. Could it be an experiment to see with just what level of inconvenient foolishness we’ll put up?

Kat in honour's gown    Halloween was sort of sad- I really enjoyed watching the president passing out candy (or was it packets of raisins? Could have been, I bet no one would dare TP the White House!) but we didn’t get any kids up here on Pinnacle Road. There was some discussion of going to the movies- apparently theres a new one with Tom Hiddleston in period garb and a creepy old house, Crimson Peak, so it’s right up our alley. Sadly, Willow was so tired that she finds it hard to even come down to dinner, much less going out on errands, but sadly not even to go do something she would enjoy. So not yet. They even thought maybe to go to the 10 pm showing of Rocky Horror, which would have been fun, but insufficient energy. Kat was sad because Halloween is her favorite holiday: costumes, sweets and horror stories. She put on the Russian gown Honour had given her (although she still needs to make herself an undergown, and a head-dress. I braided her hair up into a crown and she faked up a kokoshnik, well, sort of- not enough rigid sticking up part. It was fun looking up the style though.
I only brought down a few tablecloths and the halloween mugs this year- no decorations. I’d already decided to go to Lyrion’s Samhain over at the Covenstead even if the girls were going to the movies. We had dropped off our cars, serially, at Winkles to get them undercoated. Dropped Willow’s at 11, and mine at 4:30, because Steve only does undercoating on Saturdays, when it’s not raining, before the first snow, and after fall has set in, so this was sort of catching a last chance, and people apparently drop by to see if any of them are available for their private automotive emergencies. I am in no way implying that these aren’t real or important when I point out that they are a constant part of life, so I wasn’t really surprised that delays happened. Inasmuch as they did, I didn’t get to Lyrion and Raven’s until their Samhain Ritual was done, so I just got to participate in the eating and chatting. I brought a bunch of my sooth saying toys, but when I let on that I read palms, as happens when you do that, I spent the rest of the evening doing simple readings- and teaching about the technique. I’m never surprised when “muggles” (people without any background in parapsychology, psychic phenomena, etc.) don’t know about it (but are interested). But I am usually surprised when witches and pagans don’t. I suppose it’s an example of how we expect others who share some traits with us to share more of them. After all, there’s no reason someone quite competent in Tarot might have never learned palmistry. I suspect I’m a bit unusual in wanting to “know it all”.  Lyrion’s party lasted until about 10.
Last night I heard that the Aurora Borealis was going to be visible in southern New Hampshire, and I went out and looked but didn’t see it. I suspect strongly that it’s visible low down in the sky and we have too much mountains and trees, and too little “horizon”, so once again, even if it was visible, I didn’t see it. (Deep, self-pitying sigh!)
The girls went over to visit Doug and McKensie on Sunday- that was probably too much for Willow. She’s been so tired lately. I’m going to have to redouble my efforts to make sure they eat as much real meals as they can. They haven’t the energy to forage for themselves even in a stocked kitchen. I have to admit that I’m looking forward to getting past the con. It takes too much of my time and energy, even when I do my best to cut back.
Oh- the latest wrinkle- the hotel is closing the day that we leave. They’re shutting down the hotel. That would explain a lot of the stuff they’ve been throwing at us. (The restaurant is closed, no breakfast except coffee and buns. When did they know this?)

I continue to make “comfort food” pork pies, and well, lots of pies. I find having quiche in the pantry makes breakfasts really easy. I’ll have to make another soon- we’re down to one piece of pumpkin pie. The other night I was in a real hurry so made a Roast beef with yorkshire pudding poured around it in the pan. I wish I’d taken a picture, but at the same time, I have apparently (after ten free years) run out of the number of pictures allowed on LiveJournal without giving them money. Now I have to either start paying for their storing my stuff, or not put pictures up. I would guess that a lot of that space is taken up with the pictures I included when I was doing the holidays every day. Actually I haven’t taken any pictures this week (the one of Kat in her garb was from her posting on her Tumblr account). I’ll probably have pictures next week- at very least what the trees look like as the leaves start coming off. (As we were driving to Peterboro today I noticed that Greenfield looked very like I’d expect November to look: lots of grey masses of naked trees. I’m guessing we’re on the East side of the mountain and so protected from the winds that strip the trees.)
This week I’ve been listening to the Odyssey of the West IV Toward Enlightenment  started with Machiavelli and went on through art to the Reformation. I’m about halfway through.  I’m not finding it as fascinating as most of the earlier stuff, and it may get to be really tough going with V, but so far, one session at a time I usually find it interesting. I have to say, as this one was an audio course, which I usually turned on while washing dishes or otherwise working around the kitchen, I did keep going to the computer to google the images as the professor talked about the various artists. I don’t think a half hour of that is too much. This is of course, BSing myself. I do a lot more studying than an hour a day- usually more like four. I have been finding the book Nature and the Environment in the 20th century American Life gripping (and I keep just reading “one more” section). As a matter of fact one of the new things I learned was “La Grippe” which I’d always heard of, but never knew what it meant, was another word for the flu, so if you also didn’t know, now you do. It talked about the epidemic, but didn’t really cover the fascinating question of why people didn’t talk about it. I have often wondered if it isn’t a case of the way we just don’t think about things that don’t fit into our world view. If we haven’t got a category in our mind under which to file the experience, we just forget it. If you see a ghost or experience evidence of psychic phenomena, and either you file it under “that’s cool” or “I must have been mistaken”. I also have to admit that this book is not unlike a social studies textbook- the kind I probably detested as a child! I wonder if I couldn’t appreciate it because I had no context, nothing to attach what I was learning about to in my mind. I remember how boring it was memorizing the math facts, but I know it’s been really useful for the rest of my life. Memorizing dates or countries on a world map is similarly “stupid” when you have to do it in school, but one needs a framework onto which to plug in all the incidents in history, so you can understand how things work by their proximity to each other in time and space.  I know we learn about history in the SCA by sharing just the fun stuff with each other. Patri once described how you learn to negotiate the subway system. You use directions and get off at a place that’s just a name, go upstairs to the street and whatever shop or museum you wanted to go to. Then gradually, as you walk around you spread what you know about what’s above each stop in a widening circle; then the circles intersect, and suddenly you are getting an idea of what’s in the city. I think that’s what learning history is like. You learn about one bit- whether it’s a person, or an event, or a clothing style, then you discover what went before or after it, who that person knew, and others with whom who they interacted. Gradually you begin to understand how it comes together, how change happens.
Frankly, up until now, I’ve never been interested in the parts of history after men started wearing trousers and stopped using swords. I think interest has been generated by watching films and shows about different periods which point out how the period had real people in it, and how they had to deal with that world as opposed to this one (or what things are fairly similar). But somehow this century, this world that my first awareness of was from living in it, or hearing about what it was like when my mother or grandmothers were living in it provides the anchor for what I understand about recent history.
For example: as a child I read the Little Colonel books, which my mother had read and her mother had read when they were girls. Recently there’s been a lot of stuff in books and on the internet about when Halloween became the commercial, secular holiday it is today. Because I read this book in which the young girl carved a jack-o-lantern, and had a Halloween party with costumes, in Little Colonel’s Holidays) which was written in 1901, I’m not going to be convinced that they were invented in the 30s or the 50s or the 80s, although I’m willing to believe the push for snack size candies, and the huge explosion of decorations we’ve seen in this century is probably a reflection of the baby boomers having houses and money to do it, and enjoying the holiday, and hey “it’s all about us” and “why should we stop enjoying the holiday?” But still, no matter what some say- it’s clearly not a recent phenomenon. Actually while driving over to Lyrions I heard a description of Halloween pranks from the 30s on Prairie home companion. (and remember the old ladies passing out candy apples and pumpkins in Arsenic and Old Lace?) The holiday has changed- every generation has its own perspective, it’s own take on any holiday, but it surprises me when people come up with theories about the recent past which are so clearly divergent from mine.
Kat and I were talking about how people have such amazingly different perspectives on things- she talks with people from Texas who wonder where the BS in their textbooks come from, and how their grandparents could be so racist. (Is this a reflection of the current generation getting all their attitudes from the shows they watch? This doesn’t make us homogenous- some watch Fox “news”, some watch CNN, some PBS. We’re all going to have different attitudes, although we believe the news we’re watching is factual, even though it isn’t the same on all channels.) I think we all expect other people to be like ourselves, and are surprised when they aren’t. We look at things that make us feel more comfortable in our own world view. What is “obviously right” or logical, is only obvious because of our expectations. Kat was telling me that some of the text books said that Thanksgiving was created when the Pilgrims had had a great harvest and wanted to share it with their Indian neighbors who didn’t have anything but the deer they could hunt. (poor starving indians) I can spare some indignation for the assumption that textbooks should be as accurate as current knowledge can make them.
This week I read In the Heat of the Night, one of the books from Mark’s locker he was passing on. We didn’t quite make the goal of getting the locker empty by the end of the month, but it’s mostly empty now except for the metal shelving which is going to have to be dismantled. (6 or 7 boxes of SF to Ed, 6-9 bins of books to Osgkar, twice that much to the book repository, four of five of military and gaming books going to the Mensans) The last part of the job is going to be reorganizing the inner locker so Mark can actually get AT the stuff he’s storing there.  His example is inspiring, and I am now thinking fond thoughts of going through my own library- wouldn’t it be lovely to get it down to what would fit on the shelves! It’s hard though.  While I have been trying to resist the lovely books he’s been getting rid of, right now there are about two dozen books on the dining room table, waiting to find a place in my library and (I hope) to be read.  On the other hand, a highlight of the week  is that we have finally cleared all the cumulative junk off the kitchen table so we can eat there. I am going to have to get rid of some of the books in the library to fit those in.  I’ve also (with John’s help) moved the boxes of books from the living-room out into the great hall, (so now we can use the wii again- sadly it tells me I’m back up in the 260s again, probably all that comfort food).
Anyway, among those books I spotted In the Heat of the Night, and was not surprised that the story only marginally matched that of the movie, but what did strike me fifty two years after the book came out, was the casual acceptance of racism. In the movie the “slap heard round the world” was when a black man hit a white man back, in the book the big deal was that the police chief was willing to shake the black man’s hand. Once. He felt that he’d done it once, and made his point, so he didn’t have to do it again. So much hinged on a black man can’t look at a white woman, a black man can’t use a white rest room. And the whole book was about how this was NOT true everywhere in the country, and the people involved were aware of it, but clung fiercely to their prejudice. I suppose as they cling to the confederate flag, and the untruths (not lies, because they didn’t do it intentionally) their parents told them, about all the people who can’t seem to accept that you can be Christian and still accept scientific evidence for evolution. What things do we KNOW now that our grandchildren will wonder how we could possibly have believed?
I hadn’t read the book before, although I’d seen the movie (a looooong time ago). The character of Tibbs was much as Poitier portrayed him- I watched some clips on Youtube. I hadn’t noticed how stiffly he held himself- the image of a man balancing between maintaining his dignity and not offending those around him who would not hesitate to kill him if he transgressed their rules. I don’t think I had any idea of what that stiffness meant. I probably still don’t have any real idea of what it’s like to be black in the south. Movies- like The Help, or any of many others give the white audiences a glimpse.
At the same time, I’m seeing posts about the white slave trade, and how Native Americans are being killed more disproportionately than even blacks, why the hell can’t we stop being nasty to each other? We can be nice to people we like without demonizing everyone else! Why do so many people feel that nastiness is OK? On a more personal level, having given up posting holidays to save time to do more worthwhile things, I realize I’ve simply started reading more articles, from the Times, the Atlantic and other magazines on fb. Once again I need to cut back.
We are getting calls daily from pollsters. Recently my least favorites are the ones where they ask you “which of these statements will make you more or less likely to vote for this candidate?” I don’t so much mind the “which of these ISSUES are more important to you”, but while these are disguised as political polls, they are clearly doing research to figure out what the most effective spin is to put on their candidate. They call and ask for us by name, we’ve all had them- I think I’ve done the most. These poor guys have no idea that I’m probably really atypical. Still, it’s nice to point out that I think ecological issues are as important as economic ones. If the planet isn’t livable, our standard of living is not important. Today’s poll was about the National Debt. I really like Sanders, but worry that if he keeps talking about all the things he would like to do, he’ll be unelectable. He won’t be able to do them anyway, but if he could move us in the right direction it would be nice. Frankly the current front runners of the Republicans scare me. I was so pleased to see how well the Canadians did with their election. I hope we can do the same. As I read about the last century I think about Teddy Roosevelt and his Trust Busting. Oh, wouldn’t it be great if Sanders could do that? And why does he have to? I thought we’d settled that back then! I can understand how the architect of the Teapot Dome scandal could have thought that there were “infinite natural resources” back then, but now we know better! It seems like they’re saying “It’s too late to fix things, so as long as we’re going down, we might as well be on top while we make it happen.”  I think we CAN fix things, if we work together and be realistic. Constant economic growth is a pipe dream. In a human body we call that either obesity or cancer. What you want is a healthy balance. Unbalance is not good for an organism or an economy.
I was thinking about some of the changes I was reading about, the creation of factories, and moving people from farms- raising their food, to cities, making things, because, with modern techniques and machines, a few people can feed everyone, and so we can all have “more”. But in the old days if each man or woman made a chair, there’d be a variety of chairs depending on how skilled each person was, and what tools and resources he or she had available. But now, you get someone saying you take this machine and you make chairs, and you make food, and you make blankets, and in theory, we’ll all have better chairs and blankets and food. But somehow the guys who organize it are getting the fancier chairs, and sometimes the guy who are making them aren’t getting any chairs at all- or food, or blankets or whatever. It’s all a shell game. They can point to their numbers and say “we now have more chairs than people”, but that’s because there’s a huge pile of unused chairs waiting for distribution, or extras for the rich people, who after all, figure that since there are more, everyone MUST have plenty. Monday I wrote a blog post: The Tyranny of Numbers. When we change our criteria from the immeasurable to the measurable we have lost something really important. Yes, you can use measurable criteria to make decisions about things that are complex. You can’t say which child you love most, but you can say which is oldest, heaviest, tallest. But we need to stop looking for the certainty of the numbers when the real question isn’t about height but about how we can care for each other.
Things change. I am beginning to be able to wrap my mind around being different than my earlier goals had expected me to be. Let’s see if I can give up some of the stuff that isn’t appropriate for who I am now.
One thing I’ll need to decide is whether to keep doing the New Normal. During the show tonight we lost the studio for 10 minutes. I had Catherine Kane on talking about her book the Practical Empath. She had some really great ideas, especially as we are all at least a little empathic. For example, we seem to pick up emotions through our guts. If you’re getting stressed because someone else is stressed- turn your belly away from them, it reduces the amount of their energy you pick up. Showering or washing your hands helps too. These are really practical ideas. If you want to listen, when you hit the dead spot about 25 minutes in- just fast forward to about 35 minutes in and skip it.
While the girls were out last weekend I tripped over a movie, From Time to Time, based on the Children of Green Knowe books, and the movie caught it beautifully. (not that the books shouldn’t be read). I probably laughed more watching the new Tremors movie
a couple of weeks ago, but it was really sweet and fun. I’ve also been reading bits of the There and Then history books, and more of the Pern series in my kindle. Comfort food for the mind. I am really working at not being overwhelmed by the conference, but I’ve always been distracted by whatever I was doing at the moment.
If I don’t write next Wednesday it’s because Thursday we’re headed down for the conference and I may not be able to take several hours off that particular day to write a letter. So if I don’t don’t worry- the next week will be full of fun stories!

“Escapism isn’t good or bad of itself. What is important is what you are escaping from and where you are escaping to.”
― Terry Pratchett, A Slip of the Keyboard: Collected Non-Fiction