"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

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
("re - set 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

Friday, October 28, 2016

Urban Village

Victorian House Graphic from The Woodlands Website

If you're off to Philadelphia this morning,
And wish to prove the truth of what I say,
I pledge my word you'll find the pleasant land behind
Unaltered since Red Jacket rode that way.
Still the pine-woods scent the noon; still the catbird sings his
Still autumn sets the maple-forest blazing;
Still the grape-vine through the dusk flings her soul-compelling
Still the fire-flies in the corn make night amazing!
They are there, there, there with Earth immortal
( Citizens, I give you friendly warning ). .
The things that truly last when men and times have passed,
They are all in Pennsylvania this morning!

concluding stanza from the poem
"Philadelphia" by Rudyard Kipling

I never tire of writing about our days in Philadelphia (1993 - 2004), both good times and bad (well, never all that bad). One of my long - ago literary friends happened across a couple of these posts and left a quizzical comment -- "I don't know how you put such a nostalgic spin on it -- that made me think about some things that I've been meaning to put into words for a long time.

Living in West Philly was a mixed blessing. It was so unlike anywhere else I had ever lived before -- Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Indiana. Yes, it's true, we moved right into a beautiful historic home, but on a tough corner where it was not unusual -- day or night -- to find men you didn't know sitting randomly on your porch swing for a smoke, peeing on your flowers, digging up your evergreens (for resale), doing drugs on your back steps and leaving their crack vials behind, breaking into your car or your house, stealing your purse or your kids' bikes or the mail out of your mailbox. We witnessed house fires, domestic abuse in the streets, and some one - on - one foot chases.

But, no, we were never beat up, aside from the times my son was pushed over at school and called "white boy." Sadly, other neighbors were robbed at knife - point, mugged, apprehended and asked to surrender their bikes on the way home from work. It was challenging but also exhilarating because of the many positive trade - offs -- great neighbors, public transportation, communal gardens; lots of schools, shows, and museums -- all in walking distance.

The human density could be stressful but was also an enriching reminder of how far the spectrum of possibility can be stretched when the choices are multiplied. Over the years, our area improved, yet one by one many of us re-located to the midwest or upstate -- retaining our nostalgic spin, however unrealistic. As one of my best quote sources (that's you Cate!) wrote just the other day, " . . . thinking of West Philly, it really wasn't the Shambala we think it was, but it was so nice that we were in such good presence with each other."

Philadelphia: place we called home. Turns out the big city was actually more like Mayberry RFD than any of the small - to medium - to rural towns I'd lived in before. Why? Because the neighbors were neighborly. Why? Because we shared a common vision and needed each other to make that life come true. It took a village.

Such a beautiful view of our neighborhood,
looking from the third - floor down to 48th Street!
[Click for earlier views: 1994 & 2000]

Additional Comments From Friends & Neighbors

Cate: So very true. Now living in beautiful Perfectville, Ohio. I know all my neighbors, but have yet to have one in for coffee. So Midwest -- keep those fences up.

Joyce: The block has changed quite a bit from 2004. I frequently say I feel I live in heaven. There is still the occasional incident on the block, but they are rare. I may be the only one still using a Club, out of habit. Several neighbors find excuses to get together for breakfast on the deck or porch, a holiday meal, even game night. We take each other to our colonoscopies, recommend orthopedists for our hip replacements. The Baltimore Avenue Coop (Mariposa) is in a stunning new space a block west and open to all, meaning there is truly a place nearby to purchase most foods; new eateries appear, gardens are still tended, the Curio Theater is a hit in Calvary. I, and I think many others love the 800 block of S. 48th St.

Lisa: Great post, just spent the weekend with Robert Rosenthal, and we were re-hashing some of the good and challenging times living in West Philly.The good news is that there are many good people still there and it has become a Mecca for young people. My niece now lives there and loves it! I think the crack era was particularly hard. I am still inspired by the diversity there. All of America needs to learn how to be neighbors and citizens again.

Emily: Thanks Kitti. Your words help me remember some of the more urban moments. It was wonderful being a mom of young children together. We all looked out for each other and helped out so much. It's been a few years, still I want to thank you for being so open, helpful, and welcoming back then. Keep on blogging.

Many thanks to Tony, Cate, Joyce, Lisa, and Emily for their
heartfelt responses, leading to the assemblage of this blog post.

And to Ben & Cathleen for the photos
from their recent trip to the old hometown.

Gerry's old office window at the Wharton School

Staying at The Gables Bed & Breakfast

Rube Goldberg Ball Machine at the Airport

Next Fortnightly Post
Monday, November 14th

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

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

Friday, October 14, 2016

Pre - Election Reflection


I was just finishing up another post this morning, all ready for today's Fortnightly, when a note from my brother popped up: "I'm preaching on Sunday. Most of these words come from Christianity Today, Frederick Buechner, David Kuo, and Max Lucado, all of whom I will cite. Tell me what you think."

Within the first couple of paragraphs, I knew that this was one of the most insightful sermons I'd read or heard in awhile and that my brother had conveniently and coincidentally created a timely guest blog for me -- and made an excellent connection to a soul - searching article that we had been discussing only an hour earlier. Hopefully I can return the favor by widening Bruce's audience to include my readers in addition to his congregation.

Reposted with gratitude to The Rev. Bruce L. Carriker,
and his sources, Frederick Buechner, David Kuo,
Max Lucado, and Christianity Today:

We are really ready for this presidential election to be over. We’re ready for an end to the rancor and tackiness. Voters on both sides feel frustrated, even embarrassed by it all. There is great angst about the result, by supporters of both major candidates. What if the other one wins? There is a visceral fear, encouraged by the media on both sides, that if the wrong candidate wins, it means the end of the United States as we know it. And, it's that fear I want to address. Hear the words of Frederick Buechner:
“The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn't have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It's for you I created the universe. I love you.”
Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid. I am with you. Don't be afraid. I am with you.

Christians on both sides seem to have trouble hearing that message right now. Our country is bitterly divided, and more than simply reflecting that division, the Church EXEMPLIFIES that division. What we are doing is nothing less than putting the gospel at stake. The gospel is of infinitely greater importance than any political campaign, and one good summary of the gospel is, “Jesus is Lord.” And the lordship of Jesus Christ places constraints on how we involve ourselves, or entangle ourselves, with earthly rulers.

The Democratic nominee has pursued unaccountable power through secrecy. She exemplifies the path to power rooted in a rigorous control of one’s image and a calculated disregard for norms that restrain less powerful actors. Such efforts to avoid accountability put both the leader and the community in greater danger.

Because several of the Democratic candidate’s policy positions are so incompatible with certain Christian values, and because some in her party are so openly hostile to the expressions of the traditional Christian faith, there is plenty of critique, criticism, and concern over her possible election.

But, the Republican nominee raises equally valid concerns. In many ways he personifies the “earthly nature” Paul wrote of in Colossians: “sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry”. That he has been, his whole adult life, an idolater of this sort, and a singularly unrepentant one, should be clear to everyone.

Supporters of either major candidate have valid reasons for concern about the other candidate. But, we ought to be equally concerned about our own preferred candidate as well. These are two extremely flawed candidates. No Christian should claim to be supporting either one based on an appeal to Christian values. Measured against Christian values, neither of them deserves our support.

That is not to say “Don't vote.” By all means, vote. It's your duty as a responsible citizen. And you can support or oppose either candidate, based on very real policy differences – differences that get lost when the candidates and their campaign representatives engage in the vile, disgusting horror show that this election has become. Say you support Hillary Clinton because you believe she's more experienced and more qualified. Say you support Donald Trump because you think he'll do better protecting us from terrorist attacks. But, don't say you support either one of them because of your Christian faith.

When we, as Christians, ally ourselves with politicians, in an attempt to manipulate the levers of power in favor of our cause we support and engage in a form of idolatry . . . placing our faith in earthly kings and princes, at the expense of our dependence on God. When we engage in the same bitterness and vitriol that pervades political discussion today, in support of a human leader; we give our neighbors cause to doubt that we really believe Jesus is Lord. They see us as self-interested, self-protective hypocrites who will ally ourselves with anyone – even those who violate things we consider sacred – if we believe they may help us advance our agenda.

For too long we've held this hope that the right person doing the right things would make America better; eliminate poverty, wipe out crime, and expand opportunity to all our citizens. But, it hasn't happened. Our hopes have been misplaced and unreasonable; the bar set too high; and we've squandered our energy and our treasure in the deal.

Our political leaders, regardless of party, are just that – political. No matter their faith or lack thereof, they are just plain old people doing a plain old job. They can't save America. Maybe they can change things at the margin, here and there. But, ultimately, the job of fixing America is our job..and by “our” I mean both the American people and the church in America. And our faith must be placed where it belongs...not in politicians, but in God.

This year’s presidential election presents Christian voters with an especially difficult choice...AND IT'S NOT THE CHOICE OF VOTING FOR ONE CANDIDATE OR ANOTHER. It's a choice about how we are going to behave when this election is over.

As Christians, we are instructed to pray for our rulers, even those who directly oppose our welfare. If the Apostle Paul prayed for a Roman emperor who used Christians as human torches, can we not pray for our next president, whoever that may be?

I have a prediction. I know exactly what November 9 is going to bring. No matter who wins, God will still be God; and Christians will have a choice: We can wring our hands in despair at the result. We can continue the character assassination and politics of personal destruction. Or, we can behave like Christians.

When you get home today, circle November 9 on your calendar and, in very large letters, write these words: “God is still God and I will pray for our new President.”

“Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Do not be afraid. I am with you.”


[Click for further thoughts & Election Aftermath]


Or, as Dame Julian of Norwich expressed it
so many centuries ago (1342 - 1462):

"All shall be well
And all shall be well
And all manner of things shall be well."

But, as I always say: we have to do our share to make it so.

"What is so rare as a weekend in October?"

Next Fortnightly Post
Friday October 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, September 28, 2016

What a Wonderful World

"I hear babies crying, I watch them grow
They'll learn much more than I'll never know
And I think to myself what a wonderful world"

Sung so beautifully by
Louis Armstrong ~ Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwo'ole

The world is a beautiful place
to be born into
if you don't mind happiness
not always being
so very much fun
if you don't mind a touch of hell
now and then
just when everything is fine
because even in heaven
they don't sing
all the time

The world is a beautiful place
to be born into
if you don't mind some people dying
all the time
or maybe only starving
some of the time
which isn't half bad
if it isn't you

Oh the world is a beautiful place
to be born into
if you don't much mind
a few dead minds
in the higher places
or a bomb or two
now and then
in your upturned faces
or such other improprieties
as our Name Brand society
is prey to
with its men of distinction
and its men of extinction
and its priests
and other patrolmen

and its various segregations
and congressional investigations
and other constipations
that our fool flesh
is heir to

Yes the world is the best place of all
for a lot of such things as
making the fun scene
and making the love scene
and making the sad scene
and singing low songs and having inspirations
and walking around
looking at everything
and smelling flowers
and goosing statues
and even thinking
and kissing people and
making babies and wearing pants
and waving hats and
and going swimming in rivers
on picnics
in the middle of the summer
and just generally
'living it up'
but then right in the middle of it
comes the smiling


Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Earlier in the year, my esteemed eldest brother Dave suggested the following roundtable discussion for facebook friends and family:
I would like to present you all with a thought game and ask that you consider playing along. Here we go!

Dave: Today, when most people watch cartoons and comedies from the 30's - 50's, they find all manner of things offensive, i.e. portrayal of black people, smoking, how women are viewed and treated and so on. What many forget is that when these films were made, they were the societal norm. No one was particularly horrified or disgusted by the issues I presented.

We of course know when the changes took place, and we really old codgers can even identify specific events or trends that heralded them.

Now, you are surrounded by films, cartoons, comedies, etc. that are entirely normal and acceptable to modern society. That is and always has been the norm.

Last step! Imagine you are now living in your eighth decade and have seen huge changes over your past fifty years. What things will your children, grand and great grand children find repulsive, or disgusting when viewed through the lens of their young perspective. In other words, what are we doing as a society today that will be a thing of shame in the distant future; a shame that you will have to personally "own" by virtue of having lived it?

I wonder if this is a corner of our being that we care to examine?

My cousin Nick got us started:
Nick: I think by then the pendulum will have swung the other way and my great grandchildren and grandchildren will look at the early 21st century with disbelief and humor that we were so overboard with political correctness and kowtowing to the very smallest minority at the expense of the overwhelming majority. I can't imagine what's left for anyone to be offended about.

Maybe some breakthrough in transportation or power will come and that generation will look in horror and disbelief at our use of fossil fuels (which I believe do pollute).

Maybe by then the gay marriage movement will break way to polygamy, and they'll be amazed that (on paper) most people were monogamous.

Hopefully war will be looked on as the absolute final, disgusting choice to solve problems

Definitely I think they'll be disgusted at the amount of our waste, both organic (uneaten food), and inorganic (packaging particularly).

I also think they will be disgusted / amazed at our preoccupation with sex and sexuality; both individual and others, as a person's sexuality becomes as relevant as eye color. By then, not only will people be more accepting of others' sexuality, but minority sexualities, if you will, won't be flaunted and shoved in others' faces.

Bear in mind I live in Thailand and this is how we live here already so I know it's not only possible but also beneficial to society as a whole.

And then my sister Peg:
Peg: Rap music lyrics and current song lyrics in general; hopefully: our reluctance to go back to an active space program; our need for chasing the almighty dollar over spending time with family; our rising health issues with a failure to address the money spent on developing medications which are only band-aids on the problem and not solutions.

And niece - in - law Chantel:
Chantel: I think that we will have rationed food and water and such in the future. I think that the wastefulness of this era will be found obscene in the future.

Next to take the ball and run with it was my
inspiring millennial son Ben McCartney,
featured here in 1991, shortly before his first birthday,
trying to figure out how to make the world a better place!

Ben: This is a fun thought experiment. Thanks for posing it!

I'm going to lump my ideas in to one of two categories. The first are those issues which I think are going to continue to be issues for a long, long time, but will probably look and feel slightly different in 60 years. The second group is things which are going to, I’d guess, have some really stark turning point that makes them looks incredibly different.

Long time issues: gun control, race relations, privacy, and religion.

Gun control. The current policy is obviously broken. The murder rate in the US is just so much higher than literally everywhere else moderately developed that something has to give. But, as much as I’d like it, there’s not going to be a dramatic, overnight change in gun regulations in the US. I can see laws being stricter 80 years from now, maybe gun licenses will be harder to get, maybe people with convictions of violent crime won’t legally be able to buy guns. I can also imagine personal defense technology developing enough over the next century that guns in their current forms will pose less of a threat. Hopefully the 2nd amendment goes the way of legalized slavery and has its federal approval tag removed. But I’m not counting on the founders' f--k-up getting fixed any time soon.

Race relations. Clearly the biggest issue in the United States. Has been since its inception and will be for at least a while longer. The problems run so deep that I’m not even sure what change would look like. Hopefully it’s better in the future than it is now, and I imagine it will be. But change will be slow. Will people 80 years from now look back on 2016 America as a place where the problems between blacks and whites were amazingly bad? Yes, I’m sure they will, as we do now. But I’ve no idea how to go about fixing them in an overnight sort of way.

Privacy. The second biggest issue in the United States. What is the government allowed to know about us? What are they not? When can they search us? When can’t they? Can they see our internet search histories? What about our location at a given time? There will be a tug of war between personal liberty and security. No idea who’s going to have pulled farther over the next 80 years.

Religion. I’m surprised this is still a thing. I don’t really get it. But I’ve decided I’m just missing something. Too many people for too long have been so inspired by their religions that there must be something to it. I guess it’ll still be around in 80 years. But when it finally goes away, whenever that is, people are going to look back and roll their eyes.

Radically change: football, abortion, and driving.

NFL. This is going the way of gladiatorial fights. And it will happen quickly. Not exactly sure when, but the game in its current manifestation is short for this earth. “Wait, people wore what and hit each other how often and how hard? And half of them had dramatic brain injuries? And the majority rich, privileged owners traded and drafted these predominately desperately poor players to compete against each other?”

Abortion. Obviously a hugely divisive issue right now. But I think it will become a non-issue soon. Not because of any change in how readily or effectively people prescribe their moralities, but because of technology. Birth control is going to become so cheap, and so easy, that unintended pregnancy will go away. It really ought to be this way now; but, predominately conservative, obstructionism has kept birth control expensive. Technology will change, though, and birth control become less of a game-time decision (when people are notoriously poor decision makers) and less expensive.

Driving. “Wait, what? People drove these things themselves? But so many people have such bad coordination! How were they allowed to do this? 30,000 people died EVERY YEAR? What happened if people got drunk? What if people fell asleep? Wait, people agreed that they were so bad at this they all pooled money together to give to people who crashed into other things and other people and they DID IT ANYWAY?” Driverless cars are coming. And I can’t wait.

Vaccinations. The measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox, and polio. These diseases are devastating. But there’s tons of promising research into these things called vaccinations that make people who get them completely immune. We’re not quite there yet, but I think medical progress will be sufficient to completely eradicate these things and save more than a million lives per year soon.

And I brought up the rear:
Sorry to chime in late; I held back since I didn't think my answers would be a big hit. But everyone else's responses are so inspiring, so I'm going to at least try:

1. Gender Inequity -- is it ever going away? I've been waiting 40 years, and women older than I have been waiting even longer. As radical feminist writer Andrea Dworkin said when asked how she would like to be remembered: "In a museum, when male supremacy is dead. I'd like my work to be an anthropological artifact from an extinct, primitive society." How long is this going to take?

2. War -- is it ever going away? Again, please allow me to quote an expert; this time Ulysses S. Grant, who has been waiting well over a hundred years -- let alone 40 -- for his hoped for result: "Though I have been trained as a soldier, and participated in many battles, there never was a time when, in my opinion, some way could not be found to prevent the drawing of the sword. I look forward to an epoch when a court, recognized by all nations, will settle international differences." How long is this going to take?

3. Smoking -- is it ever going away? As Dave points out, it is no longer portrayed in children's cartoons; and it was legally eliminated from television advertising in 1971 -- 45 years ago -- and gradually disappeared from most television programming soon after -- but certainly not from movies, where it still retains its falsely glamorized status, and certainly not from real life, despite very well known and highly visible health hazards. 40 years ago, I incorrectly assumed, that anyone older than I who was still smoking would surely quit immediately, and that anyone younger than I would never start. But time has proven me wrong. How long is this going to take?

I'll be in my 8th decade in a mere 12 years and curious to see if much changes between now and then. Maybe it will take another 40 years beyond that, or another 80. Well, there's my three cents worth.

In closing (well, until next time) many thanks --

1. to Nick, who wrote a lengthy response to all of my concerns. I've been meaning to respond properly for months now and promise that I will do so very soon . . . like in time for my next blog post!


2. to Dave, who kindly relinquished all copyrights: "Anything I write on Facebook is in the public domain. So, no, I don't mind what you do with them. Question. comment, add content? By all means go ahead." [I hope that includes writing a Blog Post!]

I trust that everyone else quoted above concurs! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and hopes for the future of our wonderful world!

This Cracker / Carriker Barrel Discussion to be continued . . .

Next Fortnightly Post
Friday October 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, September 14, 2016

Ever the Best of Friends

Or, A Little Fortnightly in the Park With George -- and Celine!
A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (1884 - 86)
Georges Seurat, French Post-Impressionist Painter (1859 – 91)
@ Art Institute of Chicago
Echoing Seurat's masterpiece is this related painting, which Gerry and I were lucky enough to see while we were living in Philadelphia and able to attend some Barnes exhibits:
Les Poseuses (The Models) (1888)
Seurat's Companion Painting
@ Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia

In connection with last fortnightly's post on the birthday of my kindred spirit Celine Carrigan (August 29, 1942 - April 24, 1997), here are a few stories of her endearing and enduring friendship, and some fun times that we shared while in grad school and beyond. We did our best to observe all feasts and seasons and acknowledge all holidays and festivals, through the mail if not in person. The last Valentine Celine sent, in February 1997 when she knew she was very ill, was printed with the simple verse:
Heaven knows each heart, each name
Heaven sees us as the same

and Celine had added in her own elegant handwriting:

Whether we're
happy or sad
sick or well
near or far.
One happy time we loved to recall was the day we rode the South Shore Line from South Bend to Chicago to visit the Art Institute, stand before Seurat's magnificent depiction of A Sunday on the Island of La Grande Jatte (scroll up), and then see the Sondheim musical that was all the rage at the time, Sunday in the Park with George:

". . . staring at the water
As you're posing for a picture

After sleeping on the ferry
After getting up at seven
To come over to an island
In the middle of a river
Half an hour from the city
On a Sunday
On a Sunday in the park with...
George . . .

People strolling through the trees
Of a small suburban park

On an island in the river
On an ordinary Sunday

~ Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

We weren't using the greatest camera in those days,
but I treasure this fuzzy photographic keepsake of the day:

~ Kitti & Celine ~ Labor Day Weekend 1987 ~

The following semester, Spring 1988, Celine completed her Ph.D. and returned to Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. I was two years behind Celine, and didn't finish until August 1990. As scheduling conflicts would have it, we were unable to attend each other's ceremonies, despite having been through so much together. Instead, we celebrated over the phone and through the mail. Celine sent me two beautiful cloisonne bracelets from the Smithsonian and told me that they represented all the hoops that we had jumped through. You can see that -- like Emily Dickinson (whom she greatly admired) -- Celine was a master of the dash:
Dearest Kitti -

Am wanting today to have something very special to mark your graduation day, something which reminds me of the hoops one must jump through for the degree. I would lavish gifts on you, but most of all -- dear friend -- I send armloads of love. How I wish I could be there for you and with you! When I think of all this degree entails -- you deserve Congratulations Unending!

I'll be calling soon, and I look forward to seeing you, Gerry, and Ben whenever you come this way.

Peace, blessings, and always love, Celine

P.S. My Congratulations with a reminder that -- there are no more hoops -- only love that -- in the end -- lasts. Yours -- ever gratefully -- Celine
I had only rented, not purchased, my robe and doctoral tam o' shanter for the ceremony. Even so, I was allowed to keep the souvenir tassel at the end of day. But, alas, in all the excitement of traipsing around campus, picking things up and turning things in, I surrendered my tassel quite by accident and did not even think of it until late that night after a long drive home, as Gerry and I had already relocated from Notre Dame to Purdue -- and were the new parents of two - month - old Baby Benedict.

I called Celine the next day to share all the graduation details, including my disappointment about the forgotten tassel. We talked about the possibility of contacting someone in some office at Notre Dame and figuring out how to order a replacement, coming to the conclusion that, in time, this small crisis would sort itself out; though with tiny Ben to take care of, it might take me awhile to work through the red tape.

Celine, however, did not miss a beat. Although she didn't mention it to me on the phone that day, she had come up with a plan, even as we were speaking. She too cherished her graduation tassel but generously, and without dropping the slightest hint to me, slipped it in the mail the next day so that I would not have to be without. Imagine my surprise a few days later, finding a package from Celine in my mailbox, and inside such an unexpected and treasured memento!

That's just the kind of thing you do when you're "ever the best of friends" (our favorite phrase from Great Expectations) -- and when you are as kind - hearted as Celine. Somehow, in the end, we procured the duplicate, so we each ended up with our coveted tassels (for those who collect such things). In the grander scheme of an entire degree program, the tassel was only a small thing, yet the selflessness of Celine's gesture was huge. Reminiscing in 1993, she wrote to me:
Can you believe that it is 10 years since I began the Ph.D. at N.D.? How grateful I remain for you and your being there in those "good old days."
In Our Academic Regalia
Celine & Her Parents ~ Spring 1988 / Kitti ~ Summer 1990

October 1990
Taking Baby Benedict to visit Sister Celine
Benedictine College, Atchison, Kansas

The following year, we had another adventure at the Chicago Art Institute. We had seen each other every year or so in various locals since our departure from Notre Dame, but it had been four years since our South Shore Ride to Chicago to see Sunday in the Park, and we determined to meet once again in our favorite city.

This time, I was riding the train up from West Lafayette just for the day, and Celine was flying in from Kansas City with some colleagues to attend the M/MLA, held in Chicago in November 1991. Before her meetings began, we were going to enjoy the art museum. I arrived first and browsed the gift shop for awhile, then took a seat on a bench in the lobby. As I was opening my book to read, a receptionist approached and asked -- was I Kitti Carriker, waiting for Celine Carrigan? Remember, these were the days before cell phones or texting, but from a payphone at the airport, Celine had called the museum and asked them to convey a message, to someone of my description, that her plane was delayed. As often happens in these situations, one delay led to another; but Celine kept phoning in updates, all of which were delivered to me by the kindly folks at the front desk.

Not to worry. I knew Celine was safe and on her way. I had plenty of reading to do -- and some Christmas shopping:

At last Celine arrived, somewhat frazzled by a trip that should have been much simpler than it turned out, but ever her faithful and optimistic self. The ticket takers embraced us and said they were waiving our Art Institute admission that day, as a reward for being such loyal friends and so determined to enjoy our day together at the museum, despite gloomy weather and traffic jams. Whatever hours of quantity time we may have lost that morning, we made up for in quality time that afternoon, revisiting the Seurat, as well as Caillebotte, Cassatt, Chagall, Hopper, and O'Keeffe. Another unforgettable day in legendary Chicago.

After a cup of tea together, I scurried to catch my return train, and Celine hailed a cab to her conference hotel. Ever the best of friends.

1988 ~ "Ever the best of friends; ain't us, Pip?" ~ 1995

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