"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture
and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words. " ~Goethe

~ also, if possible, to dwell in "a house where all's accustomed, ceremonious." ~Yeats

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Age of Aquarius: It's a Sign!

A Sky Where All's Accustomed, Ceremonious
The Constellation Acquarius ~ The Water Carrier or Cupbearer
Photo from Astrology Zone

The Age of Aquarius is both an astronomical and an astrological event. A new age begins, every 2,150 years, each time that the Sun rises in a particular constellation on the morning of the vernal equinox. The transition is imprecise: some say the shift from our current Age of Pisces to the popularly anticipated Age of Aquarius occurred in 2012, while others set the year at 2597.

Looking up at the cold, dark January sky, I wonder about the prophetic words that echo down from the ancient texts and into the songs we sing today. For example, the popular yet melancholy "It Came Upon Midnight Clear," written by Edmund H. Sears in 1849:

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold:
"Peace on the earth, goodwill to men,
From heaven's all-gracious King."
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come,
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats
O'er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains,
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o'er its babel sounds
The blessèd angels sing.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The tidings which they bring;
O hush the noise, and cease your strife,
And hear the angels sing.

And ye, beneath life's crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!

Fans of Grey's Anatomy will remember Sixpence None the Richer's beautiful haunting rendition, so different from the usual arrangements by Richard Storrs Willis or Arthur Sullivan. Sadly, Sixpence doesn't include the visionary final stanza, my favorite:

For lo!, the days are hastening on,
By prophet bards foretold,
[or "By prophets seen of old"]
When with the ever-circling years
Comes round the age of gold
[or "Shall come the time foretold"]
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.

I'm similarly drawn to the line in "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing": Late in time, behold Him come [more on this hymn next year].

For now, I'll merely ask, How late in time? When shall this mystic, cosmic time come to pass? Must we wait until "the year 2525"? Or has it perhaps already come and gone, lost somewhere "in the mists of time"? The once and future dispensation. Or, as the kids used to say when they were little, once a time before.


A Song for Dawning

Aquarius / Let the Sunshine In
Sung by The 5th Dimension (1969)

When the moon is in the Seventh House
And Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars
This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius
Age of Aquarius

Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelation
And the mind's true liberation

When the moon is in the Seventh House
And Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars
This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius
Age of Aquarius
Aquarius, Aquarius
Aquarius, Aquarius

Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in, the sunshine in
Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in, the sunshine in


A Song for Evening

As Tears Go By
sung by Mary Ann Faithfull (1964)

It is the evening of the day
I sit and watch the children play
Smiling faces I can see
But not for me
I sit and watch
As tears go by

My riches can't buy everything
I want to hear the children sing
All I hear is the sound
Of rain falling on the ground
I sit and watch
As tears go by

It is the evening of the day
I sit and watch the children play
Doing things I used to do
They think are new
I sit and watch
As tears go by

Andrew Loog Oldham / Keith Richards / Mick Jagger


Whether or not the Age of Aquarius has arrived,
the zodiacal month (January 20 to February 18) certainly has.
Some of my relatives were born under this sign,
but I'm not naming names:

Click to see more of these astrological funnies,
including my own sign ~ Gemini

Next Fortnightly Post
Tuesday, February 14th

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT ~ Ornaments from Meg & Resolutions
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST ~ Barbara G. Walker on Christmas
my running list of recent reading

Saturday, January 14, 2017

"The wishes are old, old . . . "

Heading Home by British Artist, Darren Dearden
Picture on our Christmas card from Gerry's Auntie Jan

Vintage Poem & Calligraphy by Gerry's Great Aunt Pol

For this Fortnightly, I offer an assortment of New Year aphorisms to guide you in the formulation of your Resolutions for 2017. "How are they all connected?" you might ask. Here's how:

The priest tells Jackie that we humans are granted just enough -- enough whatever: curiosity, motivation, hope, responsibility -- to jump (or crawl) out of bed and get the coffee going.

Brian Andreas says to pour that coffee into the cup and hold close all that it represents -- a new day, a new year, a new chance, a renewed invitation to love.

Great Auntie Pol reminds us nostalgically that everything old is new again, and everything new is old.

Cousin Dan sums it all up in a sympathetic parable: for whatever is lost, something remains; for whomever we lose, many others remain on the path with us.

And speaking of that path -- Newsies offers a word to the wise: ours is not to run away, ours is to embrace!

Assorted Wisdom for the New Year

~ From Newsies ~

When you go somewhere
and it turns out to be the wrong place,
you can always go somewhere else.
But if you are running away, Jack,
nowhere is ever the right place.


~ From Jackie ~
Film Script @ Indie Wire
Priest [portrayed by actor John Hurt]: There comes a time in your search for meaning, when you realize -- there are no answers. When you come to that horrible, unavoidable realization -- you accept it. Or you kill yourself. Or you simply stop searching.

I have lived a blessed life. And yet every night when I climb into bed, turn off the lights, and stare into the dark, I wonder -- is this all there is?

Jackie: You wonder?

Priest: Every soul on this planet does. And then, when morning comes, we all wake up and make a pot of coffee.

Jackie: Why do we bother?

Priest: Because we do. You did this morning, and you will again tomorrow. God, in his infinite wisdom, has made sure it is just enough for us.

Brian Andreas says it this way:


And in conclusion,
A New Year's Meditation
from my nephew Dan:
So here's the thing, guys: We're all glad to see 2016 end. It was a hell of a ride; we lost so many talented people (and yet we still have Ted Nugent for some damn reason), had to watch Britain pass an utterly boneheaded motion to leave the EU, and then had to watch America top that with a glib "Here, hold my drink" by electing His Holiness, The High Cheez-It.

But is it all bad? I mean seriously, look at it objectively. There are plenty of indispensable people whom 2016 didn't claim: George Takei, for instance, or Nathan Fillion, or Buzz Aldrin, or or or or or -- I could go on, and we can all take comfort in the fact that if I did, it would be a REALLY long list.

As for political issues, I'm not exaggerating when I say that I've never seen so many people unite against a common enemy. (Scratch that; I've seen it once before, in the weeks following 9/11.) We've all gone out of our way to help each other out, to support our friends and family when they need it; and underlying all of that, there's been one simple statement: You are not alone. We're all in this thing together, and to quote Shepherd Book: "Only one thing is gonna walk you though this . . . Belief." We have to believe in each other, and in the simple idea that things can get better.

Yeesh, pull up your boots, it's gettin' deep in here. ;) Okay, enough of that. Happy New Year!

Next Fortnightly Post
Saturday, January 28th

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Irish Village Christmas

I haven't read this novel yet, but I love the cover:
An Irish Country Christmas by Patrick Taylor
Irish - Canadian professor and novelist

Last year around this time a literary friend and neighbor wrote from Ireland to share this poem for the season, observing that Patrick Kavanagh "is a generally wonderful poet and not as well recognized in the States as he should be." Now is the perfect time to rectify that literary gap with Kavanagh's Christmas reverie, reminiscent of Thomas Hardy's "The Oxen" and Dylan Thomas's A Child's Christmas in Wales (Firetrucks, Christmas Cakes, Ghost Stories). All three writers capture the magic of Christmas night through the hopeful vision of a six - year - old. As Kavanagh says, "I was six Christmases of age":

A Christmas Childhood
One side of the potato-pits was white with frost –
How wonderful that was, how wonderful!
And when we put our ears to the paling-post
The music that came out was magical.

The light between the ricks of hay and straw
Was a hole in Heaven’s gable. An apple tree
With its December-glinting fruit we saw –
O you, Eve, were the world that tempted me

To eat the knowledge that grew in clay
And death the germ within it! Now and then
I can remember something of the gay
Garden that was childhood’s. Again

The tracks of cattle to a drinking-place,
A green stone lying sideways in a ditch,
Or any common sight, the transfigured face
Of a beauty that the world did not touch.

My father played the melodion
Outside at our gate;
There were stars in the morning east
And they danced to his music.

Across the wild bogs his melodion called
To Lennons and Callans.
As I pulled on my trousers in a hurry
I knew some strange thing had happened.

Outside in the cow-house my mother
Made the music of milking;
The light of her stable-lamp was a star
And the frost of Bethlehem made it twinkle.

A water-hen screeched in the bog,
Mass-going feet
Crunched the wafer-ice on the pot-holes,
Somebody wistfully twisted the bellows wheel.

My child poet picked out the letters
On the grey stone,
In silver the wonder of a Christmas townland,
The winking glitter of a frosty dawn.

Cassiopeia was over
Cassidy’s hanging hill,
I looked and three whin bushes rode across
The horizon — the Three Wise Kings.

And old man passing said:
‘Can’t he make it talk –
The melodion.’ I hid in the doorway
And tightened the belt of my box-pleated coat.

I nicked six nicks on the door-post
With my penknife’s big blade –
There was a little one for cutting tobacco.
And I was six Christmases of age.

My father played the melodion,
My mother milked the cows,
And I had a prayer like a white rose pinned
On the Virgin Mary’s blouse.

Patrick Kavanagh (1904 - 67)
Irish poet and novelist

My own Irish Christmas story is not one of childhood, but goes back to another magical time in 1989, when Gerry and I visited the university town of Maynooth where he had lived for nine years before coming to the U.S. I had never been to Ireland before, and Gerry had not been back since his relocation to Indiana, over two years previously. Gerry likes to tell the old joke that whenever a plane lands in Ireland, things are so backward and behind the times that the pilot advises the passengers to set their watches back a couple of decades -- or even centuries, Brigadoon style. Haha. For me, however, this turned out to be a good thing, not regressive but nostalgic, just like the movies. You know, that cinematic nostalgia for a time that has never actually been.

We had driven straight from the Dublin airport in our rental car, parked at the curb on Main Street (yes, just like in America), and the moment Gerry stepped out of the car, someone dragging a Christmas tree down the sidewalk (purchased moments before from the local lot), called out "Hey, Gerry me lad" (or something like that; not that I know how to write -- or speak! -- with an Irish accent, but you get the idea)! It was exactly like a scene from any all - American Christmas movie that you might care to name.

We had shared our plans with only one family -- the friends with whom we were staying; so it's not as if the entire campus was expecting us, yet several other people came right over to greet us or waved and called out as they passed by. I could hardly believe it! Was it a set - up? We went in the pub -- The Roost, where Gerry had been a regular -- for some cheese sandwiches, and it was the same thing all over again: "Oh, have a seat here mate." Truly it was as if Gerry had never been away. You would have thought the last time he'd been there was maybe for lunch the day before. I couldn't help thinking of Cheers: everybody knew his name; they were glad we came! For one brief shining moment, the hazy scene on a glittery Christmas card came to life before my eyes, so quaint and true and unforgettable.

Happy Irish Christmas!
[See also Dublin & Dubliners]

Maynooth University in Wintertime

The Roost in Summertime

Next Fortnightly Post
Saturday, January 14th

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Cool Girl


“Los derechos de la mujer" / "The Rights of Women"
two slightly different versions
both by Colombian artist Debora Arango (1907 – 2005)
Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellin, Colombia

If you happened to read Gone Girl a couple of years ago when it was all the rage, then you know all about "Cool Girl," right?
Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.

Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they’re fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl. For a long time Cool Girl offended me. I used to see men – friends, coworkers, strangers – giddy over these awful pretender women, and I’d want to sit these men down and calmly say: You are not dating a woman, you are dating a woman who has watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who’d like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss them. I’d want to grab the poor guy by his lapels or messenger bag and say: The bitch doesn’t really love chili dogs that much – no one loves chili dogs that much! And the Cool Girls are even more pathetic: They’re not even pretending to be the woman they want to be, they’re pretending to be the woman a man wants them to be. Oh, and if you’re not a Cool Girl, I beg you not to believe that your man doesn’t want the Cool Girl. It may be a slightly different version – maybe he’s a vegetarian, so Cool Girl loves seitan and is great with dogs; or maybe he’s a hipster artist, so Cool Girl is a tattooed, bespectacled nerd who loves comics. There are variations to the window dressing, but believe me, he wants Cool Girl, who is basically the girl who likes every fucking thing he likes and doesn’t ever complain. (How do you know you’re not Cool Girl? Because he says things like: “I like strong women.” If he says that to you, he will at some point fuck someone else. Because “I like strong women” is code for “I hate strong women.”)

~ by Gillian Flynn
Or you can go with the one - sentence version
from the 1983 movie Terms of Endearment:
"You're my sweet - assed gal."

"Cool Girl" is a descendant of "sweet - assed gal" and a product of "raunch culture" as defined in 2005 by Ariel Levy. In Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture, Levy summarizes a constellation of troubling insights garnered from numerous interviews:
This new raunch culture didn't mark the death of feminism, they told me; it was evidence that the feminist project had already been achieved. We'd earned the right to look at Playboy; we were empowered enough to get Brazilian bikini waxes. Women had come so far, I learned, we no longer needed to worry about objectification or misogyny. Instead, it was time for us to join the frat party of pop culture, where men had been enjoying themselves all along. If Male Chauvinist Pigs were men who regarded women as pieces of meat, we would outdo them and be Female Chauvinist Pigs: women who make sex objects of other women and of ourselves.

When I asked female viewers and readers what they got out of raunch culture, I heard similar things about empowering miniskirts and feminist strippers, and so on, but I also heard something else. They wanted to be "one of the guys"; they hoped to be experienced "like a man." Going to strip clubs or talking about porn stars was a way of showing themselves and the men around them that they weren't "prissy little women" or "girly-girls." Besides, they told me, it was all in fun, all tongue-in-cheek, and for me to regard this bacchanal as problematic would be old-school and uncool.

I tried to get with the program, but I could never make the argument add up in my head. How is resurrecting every stereotype of female sexuality that feminism endeavored to banish good for women? Why is laboring to look like Pamela Anderson empowering? And how is imitating a stripper or a porn star -- a woman whose job is to imitate arousal in the first place -- going to render us sexually liberated?

. . . "Raunchy" and "liberated" are not synonyms. It is worth asking ourselves if this bawdy world . . . reflects how far we've come, or how far we have left to go.
(3 - 5)
Way back before reading Gone Girl or Female Chauvinist Pigs, I vented to a friend:

I've been obsessing all day after my unfortunate experience last night of watching the supposedly humorous British discussion show Eight out of Ten Cats, all male except for one woman on the panel, and Rachel Riely as mathematician / co - host. I hope it's not a favorite of yours. If so, forgive me as I rant about the embarrassing sex objectification, such as the opening joke that Riley is the reason that all men out in TV land have to watch the show with a pillow on their lap. I blushed in shame, but the men in my family -- and Rachel herself! -- just laughed right along with all the other male chauvinist pigs. Can you believe? I tried to point out that this kind of humor (such as the tasteless Churchill joke that I discussed last month) gives women in the audience three choices
1. be one of the guys, guffaw guffaw

2. assume that you too are a sex object, valued for your ability to give men hard - ons

3. know that you are in some other sub - category of women who are no longer -- or have never been -- considered sexually desirable -- so no worries, right?
I said to them that for any self - respecting woman, these are three equally uncomfortable choices, but they disagreed.

One son said that for the woman to laugh at the joke -- and, even better, to draw a picture of a penis on the chalk board when she was instructed to do so by the uncouth men on the panel -- just shows how confident she is in her sexuality -- not that she has somehow been duped into participating in her own prostitution or that she mistakenly thinks she's making an empowered choice to indulge in a little light - hearted sexism every now and then. On the other hand, a woman (such as myself) who does not find this funny must be lacking confidence in her sexuality.
Ariel Levy refers to this as "the current accepted wisdom that . . . The only alternative to enjoying [raunch culture] is being 'uncomfortable' with and 'embarrassed' about your sexuality. Raunch culture, then, isn't an entertainment option, it's a litmus test of female uptightness." (Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture, 40)
The other son insists that his extremely intelligent female peers (Cool Girls?) would find it just as funny as the guys do (can this be true?); and Gerry's response, "What's the harm?" I could almost cry non - stop in total frustration. Hopeless! How could I be such a total failure as a feminist mother of sons? This nasty culture that we live in is just sooooooooo much stronger than I am. These stupid British jokes are not funny! They are harmful! But -- oh no -- I just look like the humorless high - strung mousy midwestern bitch.

Well, maybe I am. Could that be it? It is true that I didn't really care for The Producers when it came to Purdue a few years ago. If our theatre friends would be shocked at my lack of savvy, just don't tell them that I hate this musical, okay? And if it's one of your favs, please forgive me; you know my failings. And don't worry -- I know it has some strong points.

Gerry told me the next day that the couple we went with "enjoyed it very much." Hmmmm. I could believe it of the husband, but not entirely of the wife. I've always had the feeling (from our child - rearing practices, etc.) that she is rather more conservative than I. Would she really enjoy an evening of women being pinched on the butt and leered at and guffawed at? Would she really consider that to be "satire," as some viewers and reviewers suggest. My only question was "satire of what?" Sorry, I couldn't see this as satire; I think it was the real thing (in frat boy manner of Jay Leno). It takes Colbert to provide the satire. If I remember correctly, satire means "poking fun with intent to change," not "poking fun with intent to poke fun" (or as one amazon reviewer wrote, making merry at the expense of women and gays). Ben heard me out as I complained about all the people who are ridiculed in this play -- the young, the old, the fat, and so forth. His response: "Mom, everyone knows about this show -- you just didn't do your homework. Besides, I didn't like the way it made fun of accountants." Okay, I had to laugh! See, I haven't completely lost my sense of humor, just nearly.

I have to keep in mind, however, that although the neighbor we went with may have been more conservative than I, she's also a better PR person (if not a Cool Girl). Her "reset button" (see below*), might allow her to say -- whether she meant it or not -- "Oh ah ha ha, wasn't that delightful?!" with greater ease than I could ever muster. I'm also feeling weird here about my use of the word "conservative." Isn't it actually because I'm more radical (i.e., desiring change at the root) that I find the Austin Powers blow - job humor offensive?
As Levy points out: " . . . If the rise of raunch seems counterintuitive because we hear so much about being in a conservative moment, it actually makes perfect sense when we think about it. Raunch culture is not essentially progressive, it is essentially commercial. By going to strip clubs and flashing on spring break and ogling our Olympians in "Playboy," [or watching a mathematician draw a giant penis on a chalk board] it's not as though we are embracing something liberal -- this isn't Free Love. Raunch culture isn't about opening our minds to the possibilities and mysteries of sexuality. It's about endlessly reiterating one particular -- and particularly commercial -- shorthand for sexiness." (Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture, 29 - 30)
In my experience, it's a conservative audience (both men and women) who still find those sexual stereotypes and allusions funny -- just say "bum" and you've made their day; or tell them British comedian David Jason's repulsive joke that he could "see a woman's point -- but only for a moment as she was getting out of the car" -- meaning that he looked up her dress, get it? Not that he grasped some intellectual point that she was making in conversation. Really? Adult women find this funny? Apparently some do. Others, of course, would have been offended out of prudishness and because of the impropriety. Yes, my distaste stems in part from those same mores, but from something else as well -- from a MS Magazine "No comment" sense of outrage; and from my New Woman's Broken Heart (in manner of Andrea Dworkin). I am well aware that unfortunately my stance of deep anger and profound sadness is often interpreted as merely prudish rather than political. Sometimes I hate living on this sexist planet. How long, oh Goddess?

In conclusion, my perception - affirming friend offered the following: "I hate the show, so no worries, and The Producers as a film was funny because of Mostel and Wilder but sexist in its premise of bilking women who need a fancy man and will pay for it. You're not a failure as a feminist mother -- how do we fight patriarchal culture and the bastion of testosterone? Never forget that the culture impacts us, that we're not simply moving through with clarity, no matter how intelligent or elevated we are spiritually. Why would your family be any different? You're right to have the rant. It's 2013, not 1973. That shit isn't funny anymore. Be the rebel. Speak out. It's not being conservative -- they don't come from a place of equality but of repression. Objectification isn't funny, and choosing it isn't independence."


* "He discovered his reset button early on & there were not many
things that bothered him all the rest of his days just because of that."

-- Brian Andreas, from StoryPeople
("reset button" = the "oh well" function
Needless to say, mine is often in need of repair!)

Next Fortnightly Post
Wednesday, December 28th

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT ~ Don't Look Up My Dress!
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading

Monday, November 28, 2016

Carriker Barrel

Cracker Barrel Ornament ~ It's what's for Christmas!

I have always liked that old - timey way of describing a homespun discussion as a "cracker barrel" debate. And I have always enjoyed breakfast with my family at the Cracker Barrel. In fact, we enjoy it so much that when we make it happen, and we're all sitting around feasting and debating, we call it the Carriker Barrel.

Here We Are, Carriker Barrelling
Younger & Older Brothers

Twin / Middle Brother with Daughters

Younger Sis Di & Big Kids (missing a few Littles)

Older Sis Peg & Fam

Way back in the pre - facebook days, one of my uncles wrote encouragingly as one of our e-mail debates drew to a conclusion: "One thing more I'd like to say. I firmly believe that the e-mail discussion / debate (call it what you will) we've been having should be the kind of talk that people all across America should be engaged in on a regular basis. Sure we don't agree on every point; but we're jarring one another's minds and belief systems. I am "sick to death" of people who won't take part in discussions about serious matters; I'm "up to here" with people who can't get into these kind of discussions without becoming insulting or making a personal attack on someone they disagree with. I'm "totally fed up" with the fact that Americans are afraid to challenge one another's beliefs anymore. What ever happened to the old cracker barrel discussion concept? Is that another thing we "threw away" over the past several decades? I personally want to thank every one of you guys who have weighed in on this discussion. If these kinds of discussions became more common we would have a better country."

Always one to facilitate our groupthink, Uncle Don once suggested that we all write essays using the word audacious or focusing somehow on audacity. My two sisters and I were quick to submit our entries (click to read: Peg ~ Di ~ Kit).

Another time, the suggested theme was "Remember When," and my brother Aaron wrote:
Wow! This became quite a deep subject after starting as a simple "nostalgic" email. I guess I'll add my .02 cents worth to the discussion.

I'm not trying to be a "yes man," but I think both Jerrod and Uncle Don make valid points in their arguments; however, I think Alicia hit the nail on the head. While I love technology (I mean, Harleys don't leak oil anymore!), I think it's a very sad statement on our society when we, as parents or grandparents, are afraid to let our children play outside, unattended. Or are afraid to let them ride their bikes to the city park for fear of some sick, sadistic individual preying on them. Or are afraid to let them come home from school to an empty house, without a parent being home. Did we (or our parents) have that same fear 30, 40 and 50 years ago? No! The biggest fear we had, as kids, was if we were going to get enough guys together to be able to play a decent game of sandlot baseball or football -- and in emergency situations, girls were allowed! In the event that we couldn't pull that off, we played "500" or "hotbox" or "smear the queer" or some other "politically incorrect" version of tag.

The point is -- if there is one! -- that we were "kids" and we played like kids. We couldn't wait to get our "chores" done so we could get outside and play. And if one of us would've said, lets watch TV -- all 4 channels of it -- instead, the rest of us would've looked at him like he was crazy! TV was for watching cartoons and baseball on Saturdays and football on Sundays. (Okay, there was "Dark Shadows," the best daytime TV ever!) But today's kids will stay up half the night watching TV or playing on the computer and then spend most if not all the next day in front of the same, watching more of the same or playing video games. And when they do get out, they go to the mall to buy more movies and video games.

I'm not a sociologist, so I don't know if "technology" is the cause or the effect of where our society has gone in the past 35 - 40 years, but I do know this. From a personal viewpoint of someone who grew up in the waning days of the "Leave It To Beaver" and "Andy Griffith Show" era, and saw the birth of the "technology age" and the very first video game, Pong, which Peg and Ron had -- Yes Jerrod & Dan, your Mom and Dad! -- I believe that children "back then" had a much more fulfilled childhood, with zero (or very little) technology at their disposal than today's children have with all their gadgets and gizmos. As someone has already pointed out, kids grow up way too fast and it really is a shame. So from a child's perspective, I wouldn't trade "the good old days" for all of today's technology.

Having said all that, I'm not saying I want to go back to living in a cave, but I do feel that technology has robbed us (and more-so our children) of a much simpler, slower paced lifestyle. We've become a society of immediate gratification (email vs. snail mail, pizzas in 30 min or less, etc.) and sometimes it's good to just slow down and enjoy the simpler things in life. That's one of the things I enjoyed so much back in the day when I was an avid backpacker. It really is gratifying to put a pack on your back, leave society and technology behind, and be able to live totally self-sufficient for a week or so at a time. (As I was typing that last sentence I realize that it can be seen as somewhat hypocritical, seeing that a lot of technology goes into modern, lightweight backpacking gear. . . oh well. . . ) So while technology has vastly improved our quality of life in some respects, I agree that it's also taken away from the more personal human experience.

Happy Holidays 2008! ~ Aaron

Now, in addition to all of the technologies of 2008, we have facebook, where my brothers Dave and Bruce are good to keep us on our toes. A few fortnights ago, I promised the continuation of one of our more recent Cracker / Carriker Barrels initiated by Dave. So, allow me to pick up where we left off, with insights from Cousin Nick:
Nick: Totally agree with the portrayal of smoking in movies. In real life, not that many people smoke. Of course, how real are the portrayals of any group of people in movies / TV? Hispanics are nearly 40% of the US population. Do you see anywhere near 40% of characters being Hispanic? Don't even get me started with the (nonexistence of) Asians. Homosexuals are far less than 10% yet (granted I only see certain shows from the U.S. here in Bangkok) yet almost every TV series has a homosexual couple. None of that lessens the effect of nearly every person in a movie smoking non stop and what that does to entice kids to start. Same with guns. People complain about all these guns, yet movies and TV support the wild west gun toting, shoot em up, gang banging myth/mystique. And we continue to go see these movies.

That said, if you don't have to breathe it, why does my health bother you so much? I smoke cigars and cigarettes, and had a GREAT night at Opa Carriker's house where we could smoke inside while comfortable. Thanks again, Dave. Never felt more welcomed and at home anywhere else. What happened to the "it's my body" battle cry? I know what you're going to say: but non-smokers are saddled with the medical costs of smokers. Ok. What about alcohol, wearing seat belts (minors, yes) motorcycle helmets (minors, yes), marijuana and other recreational drugs (in the privacy of your own house, not driving or dealing), sweets, fast food, junk food, unprotected sex, and a plethora of other "vices" and unsafe practices that don't hurt anyone but the do-er and their immediate family (grieving, caregiving)?

Why only cigarettes?

Kitti: Allow me to insert a quick answer here:
Not only cigarettes! I don't care for marijuana smoking
in movies either and all those stupid fake getting high scenes.
I take an equal opportunity approach:
both should be legal, both should be taxed,
and both should be omitted from movies.

Nick: And even more so, do you actually want to live in a society where others dictate your lifestyle to you? I don't.

Kitti: My answer is the same is yours -- no I don't!
I am not suggesting that prohibitions be imposed.
I'm not looking ahead 80 years to a world where no one
smokes because the laws are so harsh;
I'm looking for a world where people, of their own volition,
choose against smoking.

Nick: War? I'm with you 100%! Wish I could express my feelings as eloquently as you Kitti. I'm no war hero, never shot at or got shot at, but I was "locked and loaded" on many occasions and a soldier for almost 24 years. War is just so far beneath us as human beings.

Kitti: A poem you might like: "Life at War" ~ Denise Levertov
". . . nothing we do has the quickness, the sureness,
the deep intelligence living at peace would have."

Nick: Gender inequity? As a father of 4 daughters (who I believe are pretty "feminist"), I wonder what exactly are the improvements that need to be made to reach your target? I'm genuinely curious. It's not perfect but 1) men and women ARE different, so how can people be different yet equal? 2) women are/have run(ing) for president, have held most positions of leadership, can do anything they want in the military (but don't have to sign up for the selective service in order to get federal student loans, and drivers licenses), can decide to keep or abort a baby with no input or knowledge of the choice from the father, can apply for virtually any job (and get preference as a female).

What's left? I know it's not complete "equity," but seriously, I am GENUINELY interested in what you (plural) want / expect?

I thought we were pretty much there. I've got my bio-daughter on a free ride scholarship to Case Western Reserve University . . . majoring in physics with a world of opportunity before her. Another daughter is opening her own business. One is. . . starting college in the fall. And the youngest is a mathematical rock star . . . on the tennis, track, and basketball team (yeah -- basketball is segregated, you win), running the school's new TV station, probably at least student council VP next year, head of the yearbook...

What are their limitations?

Yes, not all girls are that lucky, but then you're moving into racial, or better yet economical bias or inequity -- which also sucks -- for lack of a better word.

I'm honestly interested in your answers Kitti, and I hope you're not offended by my asking. (I know you were an English major, but I 2- thumbed this on a small cell phone. Spelling, grammar, or punctuation mistakes are not an indication of stupidity on my part.)

Now, I'm going to go ride my motorcycle without a helmet, to my local liquor store to buy some more scotch, ride it back home (helmet-less), and go drink my scotch, while I smoke a cigar(s), in the sun with no sun screen, while snacking on fatty deep fried foods and sweets, and then have unprotected sex (with my wife of course, so that doesn't really count, but in a society where "bad" things are decided by the autocracy and can be made illegal, one could be forced to have only projected sex with one's own spouse because they could be cheating.

Have a great day / night!

Enjoyed reading everyone's posts - made me think. I like thinking. ~ Nick

Kitti: Nick, you needn't fear! Am I checking for grammatical errors? Nope! Am I offended? Nope! Did I answer all your question: I hope so!

A few closing thoughts on gender issues. You ask, "What's left? Aren't we pretty much there? What do women want / expect? What are the limitations?"

First, I worry about the role of women in a country soon to be led by a man who feels entitled to leer sexually, even at his own daughters. Despite all the men in America and in my family who love and respect the women in their lives, the acceptance of such lascivious public discourse defies belief and damages the position of all women. Until this kind of callous objectification is eliminated, we are not "there" yet.

Second, we are not "there" yet, as long as I can still attend a formal event and hear a speaker (male) begin his keynote address with a tired old sexist cliche --
“A good speech should be like a woman's skirt; long enough
to cover the subject and short enough to create interest.”

-- that relies solely on the assumption that women are for gawking at. I don't care if it is attributed to Winston Churchill, it is not funny; it's embarrassing. And I'm not talking decades ago at a bachelor party but recently at a holiday dinner on a university campus, where half of the guests were women.

This kind of so - called humor gives women in the audience three choices:
1. be one of the guys, guffaw guffaw

2. assume that you too are a sex object, valued for your legs, for your skirt, and for being stared at

3. know that you are in a some other sub - category of women who are no longer -- or have never been -- considered sexually desirable -- so no worries, right?
For any self - respecting woman in the audience these are three equally uncomfortable and insulting options.

Third, religion, has a long way to go before it is part of the solution rather than part of the problem. My son Ben has predicted the demise of religion (see below), but lets say that it stays around, then one of my required targets for gender equity would be to see the Catholic Church relinquish its opposition to female priests. I rank this as important whether or not I'm a Catholic because the Catholic Church has over a billion adherents worldwide and a great sphere of influence. Why not use that massive influence in the interest of including women rather than excluding?

Since I've already dragged in Ulysses S. Grant's opinion on war, here's Jimmy Carter's opinion on how the role of women in the church informs their role in society at large:

My brother Bruce once accused me of feminist revisionism -- guess what? Guilty as charged! Because I believe that one way to have a revolution is to fix the language! Because "Words matter. Words that we recite repeatedly matter even more. They shape us and change us in ways we can not fully understand." For more on this aspect of gender inequity, please see my previous blogpost of radical ideas for Bastille Day and everyday. I am sorely tempted to start repeating myself at this point, but I will forebear and bring this Carriker Cracker Barrel to a close with a quotation that I believe perfectly captures the spirit of Dave's original premise to imagine how we might improve the world for our future selves:

“I like the dreams of the future
better than the history of the past."
~~ Thomas Jefferson ~~

Next Fortnightly Post
Wednesday, December 14th

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading

Monday, November 14, 2016

Election Aftermath

"We live in a perpetually burning building,
what we must save from it, all the time, is love."

~~ Tennessee Williams ~~

The Burning of the White House, 1814
painted in 2004 by American artist
Tom Freeman (1952 - 2015)


Also on my book blog

A month ago, I shared some words of deep wisdom from my brother Bruce Carriker concerning the upcoming election. Now the day has come and gone, and in the wake of the event, I remain stunned that so many citizens aided and abetted in the election of a sociopath. I take no blame for that. And I dare them to look me in the eye without shame.

I resent the platitude going around that in the end we all share more similarities than differences. Guess what? No we don't! It's not just a difference of political opinion and we can now kiss and make up. This is utterly and absolutely abhorrent! This is about humanity vs inhumanity.

Every person who voted for Trump gave the message that it is acceptable to belittle women, to mimic disabilities . . . the list is so long, but I'll stop there. What more does one need? He showed us who he is -- believe him! I simply cannot fathom how anyone could condone his comportment. I'm dismayed to live in a country where nearly half the voters, both men and women, think that's okay. As my son Ben texted, as early as 10:30pm, when we began to see the writing on the wall: "What the actual f - - k?"

On the other hand, Ben also offered a ray of light: "The sky will sit a little lower, but it won't fall. America is robust to this sort of nonsense" (also, see comment from Ben below and click here for sobering and reassuring post - election thoughts from Bruce).

I still don't have an answer to the questions my friend Anna Loh asked: "How do we explain this to our children? How do we hold ourselves up as an example to the world? We just rewarded hatred, classless, bigoted behavior. . . . And please understand the message that the granddaughters of this country got last night. We'd rather have a hate filled, bigoted, angry man as president than a woman who has given her entire life to service."

Deplorable! That actually is the correct adjective, even though Hillary tried to apologize for saying it. Not me -- I will say it! Deplorable!

It has been a tough and tearful week.

In one of his recent articles, Tim Urban repeats a line that we have been encountering repeatedly to explain why people would vote for Trump:

"People vote for hope and change when they’re in pain."

What this comment seems to overlook or underrate is that for me and my friends -- and all those women who took their little daughters to the polls or voted in honor of their grandmothers -- a vote for Hillary wasn't a vote for the status quo -- it was a "vote for hope and change."

For now, I'm keeping the following passage in mind, because it seems to capture our collective broken heartedness:
"The world is violent and mercurial - it will have its way with you. We are saved only by love - love for each other and the love that we pour into the art we feel compelled to share: being a parent; being a writer; being a painter; being a friend. We live in a perpetually burning building, and what we must save from it, all the time, is love."
~ Tennessee Williams

An Ironic Post Script to this Post Mortem
Unbeknownst to us at the time, we foretold the future . . .

Looking through my damning emails, I came across a note from November 2012, asking a friend if she had attended an election vigil in neighborhood and telling her about the one at which I inadvertently found myself: "There were actual Romeny / Mourdock supporters in the room. Can you believe?! It nearly made me sick to my stomach. Why would anyone knowlingly invite mixed - party guests on election night? I felt so self - righteous but also obnoxious for putting my foot in my mouth before I realized -- and when I did realize, I felt as if I had been duped into attending. Even though Obama won, my soul is still shocked that the popular vote was so close, that we live in a country filled with so many deluded cold - hearted selfish greedy holier - than - thou asshats (and that I myself was at a party with some of them).

My eloquent facebook friend Michael Lipsey, also writing in 2012, expressed it so much better than my rant about being invited to a stupid party under false pretenses:

"I feel drained today; it’s been a perilous cliffhanger. Not that I think we’re about to embark on something great, but that we narrowly avoided something enormously worse that has metastasized out of greed, religious fanaticism & intolerance, and loony economic theory. The Republicans fought the New Deal, social security, unemployment insurance, Medicare, national health care, inheritance taxes for the rich, integration, equal rights for blacks, women, minorities, immigration reform, gay rights, regulation of banks and Wall Street, environmental protection, Clean Water, consumer protection — just about everything decent thing the government has ever done these bastards have opposed.

"Pundits are saying that this now virtually lily-white, aging party with a base of fundamentalists and bitter, uneducated, conspiracy - minded extremists clinging to the fringes of the middle class, is going to have to become more inclusive or be doomed to perpetual minority status in a rapidly diversifying and more highly educated America. Given their record and having driven every liberal and progressive out of their party, I’m not holding my breath. Let’s hope that Obama, with four more years and free of the burden of reelection, will be able to take his shot at greatness, as the more sensible members of the Congressional majority are licking their wounds and rethinking their mantra of NO to anything the least progressive."

Michael so accurately described their deplorable methods -- opposing all that's decent and saying "no" to anything progressive -- yet it worked out for them, and here we are four years later not even in the same boat, but in a much much worse boat.

As Gerry has warned me many a time :
things can always get worse!

Next Fortnightly Post
Monday November 28th

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading