12/5/2013 St Nicholas Eve

Suddenly it’s December. Time seems to fly by these days, sometimes I have to look outside to remember what time of year it is (especially if I have been reading about another season). Last week was often below freezing, so this week with the glass at around 40º, it seems mild. Last week I shut the pantry window most of the way so the pantry wouldn’t go under 32º. I did not, however, close my bedroom window, because I have such a wonderful nest of furs and featherbeds that I am quite comfortable, smelling the good air and listening to the wind chimes.
There was one day it was very windy, and we lost power briefly- and a Lyrion and Raven lost part of their great tree at the Covenstead, Theofila. Theofila is huge! I think we’ve held hands around her and it takes six people- which is big for an evergreen over here on the east coast. The part that broke off was probably 3 feet across. Sadly, this was followed by Lyrion getting pneumonia and Raven getting bronchitis, so I don’t know if it’s even cleaned up yet. I’m also reminded of how in previous years we could lose friends from a bout of pnumonia. No wonder we have so many old wise people around now.
So we’ve had a fire in the kitchen wood-stove often. I wish I could regulate it better, sometimes it’s a bit too warm. We’ve been meaning to get to fixing the woodshed roof, (Dad always used to say “A job well dreaded is half done.” By that logic, I think it was about 90% done!), so finally I asked Wally to come do it. He has the tools and the skills and is used to working on roofs. He got started last week and finished up while we were gone. He also fixed the lights on the shed, and the changed out the ones by the front door. He tried to fix them, but they were too corroded. Oh well. I got some that look very similar. I’m also going to pay him to put up hooks for our Christmas lights. He’s SO much better on ladders than we are!

The other day Kat and I goofed with the wii-fit program. I’m not really under 250 yet, I hit that because I had been trying to guess how much my clothes weighed and now have decided to ignore that and just deal with clothing weight fluctuations the same as I do fluctuations because I’m on the wii at a different time of day. I’m still about 254 (although I’ve found I can drop that by shucking boots and skirt. Kat weighed one of her standard outfits once and it was over 10 pounds. I blame the boots.) So I got Kat to get on after I’d signed in, and the idiot thing just congratulated me for achieving my goal. How could it not say “Hey, you’re goofing me! You dropped 110 pounds in one day!” No, it said “Do you know that losing weight too quickly can cause health problems?” Ah well, one can’t expect the programmers to think of everything.
I think I’d mentioned that we had to drop Kat’s laptop at the Mac store after she spilled tea in the keyboard- luckily only the keyboard was hurt. Sadly it took a while because they don’t make replacement parts. Please be aware that I am restraining myself heroically here, because I’ve got a rant in me waiting to burst out about the way they stop making replacement parts and don’t make anything repairable these days. I really, really hate it that you have to replace not repair most things these days. I understand that it’s because labor is the biggest cost in making anything, but still, I find the waste reprehensible. (Speaking of labor costs, I just read that most bank tellers are paid so little that they are eligible for food-stamps, so it’s not just Walmart! I know our idea of what one needs-computer, phone, television, multiple baths is greater than it used to be where one could use pay phones, read papers, share baths, but the idea of being able to live on your wage is NOT ridiculous. I wonder if things like “you can sleep in the back room” is no longer an option because of liability?)
Willow’s computer died last week the day we brought Kat’s back. Her nemesis is viruses. She has a PC so hers gets hit more than macs. the worst frustration is that she does everything you’re supposed to do, and runs the anti-virus programs regularly, but every year or so she has to have it professionally defragged anyway, AND tell the guy that yes, she did this, and yes, she did that, and No, she didn’t do any of the things that you aren’t supposed to do, and the viruses get in anyway. Luckily she still has her computer downstairs, but she’s gotten used to hiding in her room. When she’s on her computer in the same room with me on mine and John on his, our subvocal (and occasionally not sub) responses are distracting and irritating to her.
I spend far more time on the computer than I’d like. First of all, I’ll admit that I get sucked into all the interesting things people share on facebook, but also I’ve spent far more hours working on forms for the conference than I’d have expected. I really have to get the forms for submitting proposals and getting registrations ready as soon as possible. Brian has been helping me. I’m very excited that there seems to be a system on wordpress to collect the registrations and put them onto a spread sheet for us, exactly what I’d wanted. Sadly, while Brian has shown me the wide array of options available, I still don’t get how it works and haven’t got the new form up yet. I HAVE fixed the glitch that happened when we moved the descriptions of this years’ speakers and workshops etc. to the archives.
My biggest frustration is that the printer has stopped printing legibly. Kat has gone over it and done all the diagnostics, I switched out the cartridges out and it’s OK for black and white, but won’t do pictures worth a darn, and I like putting pictures in my letters.

Last week was the lead-up to the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who. Since Kat is a big fan it was kind of a big part of our lives too. I entered a contest on-line and have won a specialty tea- I think something with coconut as a part of the festivities. We have been making and drinking a LOT of tea(s) with the cold weather. Actually, now that the anniversary has passed, I am waiting for the special to come out on DVD, and experiencing the feeling of loss or emptiness one feels when a major event passes. I know that as we make this huge build-up for Christmas- and then stop dead on the 26th, many people understand. I am especially annoyed by it as this should be Advent- a preparatory period, and the 12 days of Christmas, during which we have nothing but after-Christmas sales, is empty. they don’t taper off, it’s just build-Build-BUILD-BUILD! …drop. Something like they have boot camp to remake civilians into soldiers, but don’t have the equivalent 6 week program to help transition them back into civilian life. I’m sure there’d be a heck of a lot less PTSD if they’d institute that.
The Christmas brough-ha has started. I remember when I was younger you’d have a progression- the radios would play the occasional song in early December, perhaps one every couple hours, then more the next day and so on until on Christmas it was mostly all Christmas music. That works. I understand that things like Christmas fairs have to be several weeks in advance. Most of us start buying presents months before in order to fit it into the budget; but that’s practicality. We don’t need the carols and decorations on while we shop. Also baking is understood to need to be phased in. I’ve made Russian balls and a new variety of spice bars. I found a recipe that uses candied orange peel and rum and a tiny bit of cocoa I wanted to try. I hope to take pictures of the cookies as I do them and post them on fb.DSC00667
I also hope to get the house cleaned and make a couple of new skirts, as well as baking. We’ll see how that goes. I also want to get back to doing art every day, and

As the nights are longer and colder, we are hunkering in. John got a new winter coat- a London Fog with a removable liner. While shopping for fabric (retail therapy pure and simple), I got Willow a full spectrum light to go by her computer. I didn’t notice that it actually says “Happy Light” on it. We had a ham last week- first one in a while, so today I’m making pea soup. The kids don’t care for it, but I’m fairly excited. It’s lovely to have the woodstove going to slow cook things.DSC00678

That covers what I didn’t have time to write last week. I spent that Wednesday making the pies (and discovered I’m not as fast as I used to be), only pumpkin, apple, and cran-blueberry this year. We took a couple pieces down to Darkover with us, but I knew that whatever I made was going to be left with John.
Mark and Steve came over for dinner. Mark was up from Pennsylvania where he’s working this past year, and how could I not invite him when Turkey is his favorite meal? Wanting to leave plenty of healthy leftovers for John, I got a big turkey, so it looked good. On the other hand, part of the reason it looked good was the liberal wreath of curly kale around it decorated with cherry tomatoes. Under the foliage was minor devastation.
It was a 20 pound bird, so I was thinking- 30 minutes a pound if stuffed, if I want to eat at 1, I have to take it out at 12:30, so I have to put it in at 2 pm. Luckily, I checked the charts again, and it only had to go in at 5, and our oven has a delay start. (I DID set my alarm for 5:30 and go check to make sure the oven worked as projected, but it had, and I went right back to sleep!)DSC00671
So at 8 I was up peeling potatoes and carrots and squash and turnip…. (OK- I had to have Willow’s help with the turnip. I LOOKED for a small purple top turnip, but all I could find was a rutabaga. Rutabaga is fun to say- but hard to chop up. I was working at it, and finally Willow took the cleaver to it to get off a small piece to cook. Then it didn’t cook in time to eat it with the rest of the thanksgiving dinner. They are very like rocks, rutabagas, and it’s taken me about 60 years to learn to appreciate the taste- even with lots of pepper.) I have a problem in that my Thanksgiving dinner template was for 30-40 people. I can leave out the onions, and green bean salad, and a half dozen other dishes, and still have WAY too much for six people, but I don’t know how to trim it further. We MUST have the rutabaga! We have to have the squash, and the peas! I’m used to having both the whole wheat AND the cinnamon rolls. Maybe I wouldn’t be eating them, because I’m avoiding carbs, but they’re SUPPOSED to be there. (Sometimes your inner child needs a time out, eh?)
DSC00676I also felt an emotional need for traditional hors d’ouvres, especially the stuffed celery, but mostly we took those along with us as car snacks. I’ll admit that the tiny weiners in pastry were because I discovered that the package had fallen out of the freezer and thawed while I was bustling about, so we made the package of crescent rolls into those instead of the bacon cheese thingees.
I also discovered a tip in the Joy of Cooking that if you cover the breast with a loose-weave cloth soaked in butter, it will even out the cooking between the dark meat and light meat, so you don’t have to choose between one dried out or the other underdone. Since we have a good supply of cotton and linen scraps, this wasn’t hard, and I’m going to say that it seems to have worked beautifully. It even browned under the cloth. DSC00668

Anyway, about 11 I checked the bird again, and the indicator had popped, so I took it out, and let it set. But when I slipped the forks under and tried to lift it to the platter, the bottom of the turkey stuck to the pan and stayed. The whole turkey came up except the back, and the stuffing poured out into the pan drippings! It was ugly.
We took the poor bird and put it on the platter, rearranged the wings and legs back to where they should be, and I strained the stuffing out of the drippings. I hadn’t been able to put the whole batch into the bird, and had baked it separately, so I mixed the damp stuffing into the dry stuff, and rebaked it. It came out pretty good, not that I’m going to do that on purpose, but I might suck some drippings out with the baster next time and squirt them onto any other excess stuffing! Kat artistically hid the carnage with greenery, and it looked fine; but I had to laugh as I lifted the naked spine out of the bottom of the pan and chucked it in the trash.
I was rather appalled that when I put the drippings into the gravy separator we had about two cups of fat, and one cup of juices- maybe all the juices went into the stuffing! Anyway I made about two quarts of gravy, put it out in two gravy boats because don’t you always spend too much time waiting for the gravy to get around while your potatoes cool. The NICE thing about having so few people was that we could all get our plates filled pretty quickly and it wasn’t a production to get a refill on anything. I also really love having the covered dishes to keep the food warm until everything is collected!

We did actually sit down and eat at 1, and chased Steve and Mark off by 3, and got out by 3:30. Willow had mostly packed the van Tuesday, and finished in the morning, and added food bags, etc. while I disassembled the turkey. Mark was sweet enough to agree to bring over more cat food (as we discovered Thanksgiving morning that we were running out!) Smokey, the jerk, hid upstairs the whole time Mark was here, so he didn’t get to see him.
With a Thanksgiving dinner under our belts, we didn’t feel the need to stop on the way down, and got to the hotel in Timonium, MD before (just barely before) midnight, and were happy to go to “crash”.DSC00683 DSC00681 DSC00680DSC00685
In the morning, we went out to Tim Horton’s, a lovely family restaurant they don’t have up here, and had breakfast. We came back and set up our tables. Willow managed to fit her duffles of blankets in the car, and we tucked them into the corner by sliding the table back a foot. (She displays them in those snap together wire racks.) Our three tables made an L, and we put the silks in between our table and the next vendor (a con-friend Nancy, who sells message buttons). Lots of people made much of our socks, but not so many bought them. They’ll be sorry next year when we aren’t there!
Darkover’s Hucksters area is made up of large spaces with tables around the edge, leaving lots of room for the vendors to work inside, or twist their tables around using the space. I was especially amused at one point when Kat re-entered our area through the silk display- something like Lucy coming into Narnia. As usual, she was dressed beautifully; I’m sure that enhanced the fantastic effect.
I’d brought about a hundred flyers for CT-CW down to put in “Filthy Pierre’s” flyer display. He goes from con to con and fills it with the flyers for cons all over the country, so that’s free advertising for us.
Since I taught palmistry at CT-CW I figured I wouldn’t have to make more copies, and simply grabbed that box of handouts, but I was very low. Luckily while Charles had tried to schedule a series of palmistry classes, some wires had gotten crossed and only one got on the master schedule, so I had enough. I’ll have to print more before the next time. My other class was on the Afterlife in different Cultures. That was successful although it was somewhat attenuated, because the event before it was the Falling Stars Memorial ritual for those who have died in the previous year. Neither I, nor the people who’d come for the class could bring ourselves to try and rush the mourners. We waited outside for about 20 minutes where they could see that the next class was waiting, but they had work to finish, and one of the people found another room for us to adopt. I may have spoken very fast, but some how I managed to get through all my notes, and we had a good time.
Indeed, after the workshop I noticed that I was walking around with absolutely no pain in my foot. You may remember that I’ve been limping since June. We can’t figure out what it is, although I can tell by the feel that it’s not plantar fasciitis again. I suspected an emotional component and this seems to confirm it. Usually I notice it when I get up in the morning, so the next morning I stopped to recapture the feeling of elation I felt after the great class. Yup, it worked. Like Peter Pan I just need happy thoughts. Even for someone like me who is deeply involved in studying the body/mind connection, that is crazy-making. Happy thoughts. Really.DSC00688
Well, I’m not going to say no to it.
Other happy thoughts from the weekend: on Saturday Kat wore her steampunk outfit, and Willow wore the Sweet Lolly that Kat made her (sometimes dubbed “The Fluffy Pink Monstrosity”), and Brenna admired it, so since she and Willow are about the same size, they tried it on her. It looked so good that they gave it to her (although retaining the petticoats for another one). Every time we saw her that night she had a huge grin on her face, it was wonderful. I only wish I’d caught the look on Bambi (her mother)’s face when she saw Brenna in it. It is rare that anything can bring so much joy. But apparently Brenna’s always wanted a Sweet Lolly, and was thinking she’d have to go to Japan to get one.DSC00689
So Willow switched into her “Adventure time” cosplay, and we went down to the atrium for the Steampunk Promenade. This is where all the people dressed in Steampunk get together and look even more impressive because they are in a group. It was very cool looking, and then Kat took first place for the women! (She is good.) At one point she even took her lacy handkerchief out of the matching reticule she made last month, and dropped it, although I think she hadn’t meant to actually drop it when she did. The gentleman who won men’s was DSC00710doing a “cowboy” version (one of his hobbies is period shooting), and he had a badge, and a Tesla foil (looked like a two bladed foil, but sadly did not have arcing sparks), and a “lucky coin” he’d made by putting a silver dollar in the sand and shooting a bullet into it. That was so cool that it confirms that Kat’s had stiff competition.
She also had a happy moment because she got to hold some artifact from the Dr. Who universe who’s name I’ve forgotten.
After that we went to the Clam Chowder concert.

Friday night I’d caught a concert by On the Mark, a group who’d broken up DSC00717several years ago, but who came back for this last Darkover. The Clams are also done. They’d stopped performing many years ago, but kept coming to Darkover because they could do fund raising for a local Children’s Hospital. Since this is the last Darkover, this is the last concert for Clam Chowder, and I think many people came back just to catch them. They were letting people in one and two at a time near the end as they found empty seats, and there were were people sitting in the hallway outside listening. They raised over $7K for Children’s Hospital, and another $3k to help pay the medical bills for one of the Clams. As one of their songs said DSC00736 DSC00756“Not as young as I used to be”. They had two wonderful sets with many favorites including Simple Gifts, It’s Not our Fault, Lincoln Park Pirates, Twa Corbies, Witch of the Westmerelands, Windmills, The Mary Ellen Carter, The Band Played Waltzing Matilda and Christmas in the Trenches, Zen Gospel Singing, I hear the scream of the Vegetables, Cows with Guns, and of course they ended with Zombie Jamboree, where everyone gets up and lurches around the room like zombies, and Leave her Johnny Leave Her. I’m not sure how they managed to hit all my favorites, but it must have been hard to put together your play list when it’s your last show ever!
The whole fund raising thing started years ago when Cathy decided that since she had a baby (now an adult) she shouldn’t sing raunchy songs like “Bend over Greek Sailor” anymore. Someone offered her a bunch of money for her favorite charity if she could overcome that inhibition, and a tradition was born. The only other time they raised so much was the year one of them said he’d dress as Frankenfurter and sing (was it?) Sweet Transvestite (or maybe the Time Warp). I think that was before the 2008 recession started. DSC00722

Other ways (over and above just asking people to be generous) they raise money is auctioning off the “comfy chairs”- a couple of chairs right up front, and Clam Karaoke- the chance to sing with them. You may remember that Willow actually managed to win that one year when she’d written some Star Trek filk to one of their songs. Kat was really hoping to get it this year (of course, I’m sure many others were as well, since it was the last chance), because she figured a cute little girl singing “Bad Man’s Blunder” would be adorable. So we all pitched in, and she actually got it! I can’t include it in the letter, but Willow caught it on her phone (by dint of skooching up the center aisle, and getting carpet burned knees), and it’s on Kat’s you tube channel here. She was right- she was adorable! As she said “Something I can cross off my bucket list!”DSC00772
And after the concert we all went into the atrium and sang the Hallelujah chorus. There’s a LOT of music at DarkoverCon. There will probably be a lot of music at ChessieCon, which will be replacing it.

We won’t be going down again, it’s just too far. As we told Kathy the first time, we’d travel 4 hours for the con, and 4 hours to see Clam Chowder, so we could go the 8 hour drive at that point. Sadly, I kept thinking “next year…” (I want to bring a steam punk outfit, or we can try that restaurant) and realizing we aren’t coming back. We have learned one trick- if they close up at 4, we can be packed by 5 or 6, but we still have 8-9 hours drive, so we would end up in a hotel anyway, so a few years ago we learned to pack up, spend the night in the hotel at the con rate, and leave in the morning. Doing that we got a good night’s sleep, and got back home by 6. (We had to fight the GPS- it keeps wanting to take us through the Bronx, which can add an extra two hours! This time we thought we’d trick it, and asked to go to the Tappan Zee bridge. At the last moment, we realized it was taking us to the Tappan Zee VIA the Bronx! Sheesh!

Of course, we all went straight to our computers when we got back home. I realized yesterday that I’d neglected to line up a guest for the New Normal again. Cathy Kane had come through for me last week- she did a GREAT show on how to survive the holidays without going nuts. (You can hear it here, although you need to start at archives, then you have to search for 11-27-13 and look for New Normal. I keep asking the producer for a way to label each show with the name of the guest and topic, but so far he hasn’t gotten back to me.

Tonight I talked to Linda Grace about Dying, and that was a pretty good show too. It was kind of cool because Liz called in and she seems to bring the best out of my speakers. She would make a dynamite show host. I was actually thinking about not doing the show anymore, but then the producer called and told me he wanted to spotlight the New Normal as the Show of the Month for December. I haven’t seen it yet, and am beginning to wonder if he told everyone that….

You know how cold this past week has been? Liz decided she was going to get herself a dog, to keep her company and make sure she got out every day. But on the very first day, the dog got out, and stayed hidden (although it would come on the porch every night and wake Liz up). Every day there were search parties. They tried hav-a-heart traps, they tried everything. The dog apparently was being fed by some neighbors who couldn’t get that that was keeping the dog from being brought back inside. Anyway, she spent the whole week trying to recapture the dog. She’s finally called it Whitey Bulger, because it’s not coming back and it clearly is a troublemaker.
And on top of that, she lost power, probably during that windy bit: no heat, no phone, no TV. The power came back on, and she discovered that her pipes had frozen. She had to have her water pump replaced. She described it “dead house walking”. I think Santa needs to get Liz a generator for Christmas, certainly that would do her more good than a dog. (I also need to think about maybe getting a generator for our house as well. We lose power most winters too.)
But the good news is that she has a boy in the neighborhood that has decided that she is the cool old lady, and comes over to see her. He helped her put out her Nutcracker collection, and they watch the games and eat popcorn, and she makes him clean up after himself when they cook together and stuff like that. Sounds not too different than having a dog, except you can send him home to his mother.

I’ve begun to bring out my Christmas stuff too- put away the plates with leaves, and brought out the ones with holly. I am still trying to figure out where to put all my stuff because when we cleared the pantry, we sent a lot of stuff downstairs in boxes and it’s still down there, and the pantry shelves are full. It looks great, but I’m not sure it’s a net gain. I have to throw away a lot more stuff!

I am gradually learning some discretion (it’s only taken 60 years), but since Ekke shared his latest adventure on fb, I figure it’s Ok to tell you. Remember a month or so ago some punks tried to stab him, and pull him into a car, and he managed to toss a dying skunk in on them? Something similar has happened again. He theorizes that he’s a “Freak flypaper (and not the fun kind)”.

In his words:
“On the way home from the weekend’s activities, I stopped for coffee and got harassed by a jerk who was trying to impress his girlfriend. I guess they’d noticed the rainbow magnet on the trunk-lid. As I sat there, refilling my zippo this idiot gets out of a big shiny truck (after partly blocking my exit with it) and came over to the window and told me: “My old lady wants to know if gay-boys bleed red, or pink” with an axe handle in his hand. I still had the open bottle of lighter-fluid in my hand and grabbed a root-beer bottle handy and stuffed my bandana in the top and squirted some lighter fluid on it. Lighting it I tossed out the window to roll under his truck and said “Funny, I always wondered what color Dodges burn” He ran back to knock the (in his mind) Molotov out from under the truck, and I left, quickly. Didn’t think the Sube could smoke it’s tires.”
It’s a damn good thing he’s bright, and that his attackers aren’t.
There’s nothing like hearing about what my friends are going through to make me feel lucky!
This week I’m reading a new American Girl story. Sometimes you want simple and uplifting. If you don’t know what American Girl is, they are a company that sells really nice dolls, and their accessories. They started coming out when my kids were young enough for dolls, but we couldn’t afford them then. Eventually I got Willow and Kat each one. Each doll is from a different period in history, with the furniture and accessories to match. Beautiful stuff from beds and tables to musical instruments and lamps, and play food, as well as sleep wear, party wear and work clothes. Felicity is colonial, Molly is from WWII (I find it hard to deal with that because that’s when my mother was a girl- so it’s not “historical”! although I know it is.) I suppose they only add one every few years, but they’ve now got about 10 of the historical dolls. Each one comes with stories about them. They share a common outline: Meet N, N learns a lesson (with school stuff), N’s Surprise, Happy Birthday N, N Saves the Day, and they always finish with Changes for N. Usually there’s a Christmas story in there somewhere too- I think the stories are aimed at giving a frame for the stuff that goes with the dolls. But the stuff is cool!

I got rather tired of them when they were concentrating on the American Girls of Today, but their doll stuff is still wicked cool, and I wish I could get a bunch of it! Anyway, their latest offering is Caroline who’s in the War of 1812. They also have a pair from anti-bellum New Orleans. So far, nothing between the civil war and WWI, but sooner or later I guess they will. Anyway, the girls are all spunky and overcome their difficulties by being clever, brave and resourceful. My kind of story, and my kind of protagonist.
In contrast, I did watch Bad Lieutenant, the one with Harvey Keitel. As opposed to the one with Nicholas Cage, they didn’t try to explain how he’d gotten that way, the director just started from the premise that years of constant exposure to theft, rape and other assaults would damage the soul of any cop, and threw him into a situation where he sees a young nun who forgave her enemies, and wants some of that hope in his own life. He gets a miracle, gets a chance to do good, then, while he’s still in a state of grace, is killed. It’s a happy ending in it’s own way. The performance was incredibly powerful. Even so, personally, I’d rather watch dramatizations of American Girl stories. Give me a fairy tale any day.
I also watched a couple of old Gregory Peck movies, The Yearling, which I assumed I’d seen as a kid, but still don’t remember, and Spellbound with Ingrid Bergman. The Yearling was not, as I’d expected, a film for children, although it has a boy holding a baby deer as it’s poster image. It is mostly about the parents and their relationship to him, each other, and the world; it’s about dealing with an uncertain future, and what that can do to you. Perhaps when we argue about which party thinks we should have prescription benefits, or guaranteed living wages, we could remember that it was not long ago where a week of rain or a grazing deer could wipe out the food we had to live on, and who was to blame? God, or our own inability to protect ourselves from the troubles of the world. I think we can, at this point, afford to give people some basic level of sustenance, but I’m not sure most people can wrap their minds around the difference between the life we have decided is “normal” in our minds, and what has been normal throughout history and still is in much of the world.
Spellbound was a basic forties amnesia mystery, enhanced by the twist that the shrink was Bergman while the patient was Peck. It displays a pathetically simplistic view of symbolism and optimistic view of psychoanalysis, but I enjoyed it.
I also finally watched Pitch Black, the first of the Chronicles of Riddick. How many times do I need to watch something that has a “cult following” to discover that this doesn’t necessarily mean that I’ll like it? Still, if it is widely known, I like having the ability to be able to venture an opinion if it comes up in conversation.
I’m reading Prachett’s Long Earth. I find it fascinating, especially as “stepping sideways” is how I always described inter-dimensional travel in my own mind, when I do it in dreams.

I’m also reading The mouse that roared : Disney and the end of innocence. I haven’t gotten too far in it, but I’m already of two minds about the book. On the one side, I’m finding the arguments they use to disparage Disney’s “messages” twisted. For example, they complain that in Aladdin, appropriately set in the middle east, with all middle eastern characters, some are mean and some foolish. Should they have found some justification to insert some white people to be the bad or stupid guys? Heroines like Belle or Jasmine that they describe as being objects of men’s competition constantly reject that role, but the critics overlook that rather obvious fact. On the other hand, Disney represents a “Large system” and it IS appropriate to examine our response to what they do. Just as the Catholic Church was a monolith of the Middle Ages, it influenced everything, directly or indirectly, and no one thought to challenge it’s position. Disney and many other large systems in the modern world are so big, and influential that we often forget to examine how their influence works. I do look forward to finishing this book.
One system that is already influencing us is the internet. I noticed recently that even in bed, even when I’m asleep, I’m using computer type patterns in my mind- I scroll, I click, I change screens. Clearly computers have changed the symbols of how I use my brain. About a century ago, movies changed our relationship with images; five thousand years ago writing probably changed our relationship with language. Anything with a large impact must be examined.
There’s a difference between shared consequences and responsibility.
While going for milk today (I miss having goats), I heard that Obama is hoping to do something about income disparity. Part of me says that Income Disparity, like the poor, “will be with you always”. (The incredibly rich will be with you always?) I suppose there will always be folk with the ability to hold more than they can use, and justify it to themselves.
Currently lots of movies are about people who’s lives are turned upside down and they don’t know what to do, because there IS nothing that can fix whatever is wrong, so they learn to cope- and that’s as close as we get to a happy ending. The problem is that the people who actually make “enough” don’t realize how many people there are who don’t have enough to prevent hunger and fear and poor health. Isn’t that a minimum?
What is “enough”? I begin to understand why the usual response my parent s had to “are we rich?”, was that they would answer “we’re comfortable”. One can aspire to being comfortable. Being comfortable means that you don’t worry about paying the bills, that you don’t have to worry about your health, if you’ll be able to take care of yourself and those who depend upon you. That’s comfortable. That’s enough.

I’ve read far too many rants about how horrible the white middle-class/upper classes are because “we are the recipients of the benefits of oppressing” whichever group is under discussion at the moment. We were the slave owners, we were the rich, we were the invaders (not settlers, people going into the wilderness to attempt to get a better life by hard work and taking risks). We reap the benefits. Don’t glamorize the Middle Ages, because every castle was built by the labor of serfs, every gown is balanced by dozens or hundreds of children dying in the cold, every feast for the nobles represents starving peasants. Someone recently pointed out that our modern world with 1% of the people holding 99% of the wealth is very much like the Hunger Games. Not only do they not want to share, they want to keep it that way. Well, duh. In order to stay sane each of us tells ourselves that what we do isn’t wrong. It’s only a matter of scale. I doubt it occurs to them that people die of the stress of dealing with bills and working several jobs, or not being able to find work while trying. It’s easier to believe that if they were not already working they could find another job, if they were sick they could find help. And if they can “anyone” can. Discrimination isn’t a problem because they don’t discriminate. (They don’t realize that they don’t have to, they have people they hire to discriminate for them.)
I often have a problem when I trip over ads aimed for a different group of people- people for whom spending $75 or a hundred dollars for a scarf or a piece of jewelry seems reasonable. These ads are in magazines I get like Smithsonian and National Geographic. I don’t go to places where I’d encounter the people who can spend the value of my house on a piece of jewelry or art (I certainly don’t seek them out), but occasionally one hears a news story about some piece of memorabilia being worth millions of dollars. Something only is worth that much if someone out there is willing to pay that for it. If you have several million dollars, perhaps you can consider it worth the investment. I’m sure that if they encountered people who have so much less, they’d want to help, but they don’t- encounter them. I doubt they object to the idea that people have “enough”, but some of the people who surround them have fed them stories about “welfare queens” and people who scam the system, and they object to scamming. They don’t understand, and I’m not sure how we can help them understand.
If history repeats itself as it often does, there will be another economic crash and many of the very rich will lose a “lot” of their money. They may lose houses, and planes and boats and servants. Will they ever be hungry or scared? Do we NEED them to be? I don’t think so. I don’t think that wishing someone ill even as a learning experience does us any good. And we may be certain that no matter how much money they have, they still have health problems, they can’t fix, no matter how much money they throw at it. They still worry about whether their kids or their parents love them. They will still die even as the poorest do. They will be afraid and unhappy. That does not enhance the lives of those who are hungry and afraid at all.
Sorry, it’s late and I’m waxing philosophical.
Another thing that’s been bugging me lately is that my skin has gotten fragile. It looks like “old lady skin”, thin and dry. I think maybe I haven’t been taking my vitamins regularly enough. Or maybe it is a physical reflection of a psychological state- I’ve become thin skinned, and too easily hurt. If this makes me more sensitive to the needs of those around me, I’ll embrace it. On the other hand, I’ve also started being more careful about taking my vitamins, and have started using moisturizer.
The length of this week’s letter can serve as a reminder for me to make sure I get to writing every week!
“As we struggle with shopping lists and invitations, compounded by December’s bad weather, it is good to be reminded that there are people in our lives who are worth this aggravation, and people to whom we are worth the same.”
– Donald E. Westlake

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