Bread Pudding and Circuses and the Demise of Google Plus (pt 1)

This one is a bit critical. You have been warned. The next one will have sugar added. But it is punctuated with frivolity to make things more bearable for the Reader with some of my favorite songs from the G+ era, and images from the Bussard Collector.

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Today while perusing international headlines I was reminded of the time I shared a photo and description of some bread pudding I made and was harangued by an English person because it wasn’t an example of early 1950s British post-war food rationing. BREAD PUDDING CANNOT HAVE ANYTHING FUN OR INTERESTING IN IT. I think there was an implication that if I was being “fancy” with it, I was insulting people who knew it only as desperation pudding. THERE IS A RIGHT AND WRONG WAY TO MAKE EVERY FOOD YOU GUYS. 


Whereas I was taught to take bread, milk, eggs, sugar, and build on that however I wished to do, not just as a last ditch effort at dessert, but maybe sometimes just that.

I’ve been even poorer than I am now, which is hard to reconcile, since things can’t be a whole lot worse and still hang together, but I do know about making a treat for the kids from Grape-Nuts and an old apple. Never, though, had I imagined being confronted with an admonition regarding The One True Bread Pudding. I mean, Google it? There are as many ways to make bread pudding as there are people willing to eat it.

Why am I sharing this? Well. Something important continually reinforced at Google Plus is that linear insular thought is by no means a “white American” phenomenon. My own insular view had been that there weren’t as many narrow thinkers as there really, really are. In every aspect of daily life, apparently. It grew exhausting, because it was one thing to realize people are politically naive or ignorant or lacking in context, but fully another to realize that no matter the topic, there were always going to be arguments about the One True Way of it all. Even by otherwise intelligent people.

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Some of the things people humorlessly and tediously argue over include: ketchup, daylight saving time, Marvel vs DC, and something I enjoy that you’d never try again because of that one time 20 years ago that you had a bad version of it so that’s all it could ever be, ew, the worst. 

And the lack of awareness about how other people live astounded me. The You Lot contingent drove me mad. What do you know about 325 million people hailing from every part of the world living across a vast geographically complex continent that you can blithely drill it all down to “You Lot Think XYZ?” 

Here on this vast expanse, we don’t even agree about what goes on a hamburger. And why should we? But this taught me that smaller countries that were previously very homogenous had a certain long time order to their lives that has really never existed here. And the remnants of that life still inform many of their views. 

Which is how some of you got the Brexit fiasco, and how we got to the point where 1/3 of people in our own space think their “way of life” is built on a zero sum mode of reality; if anyone else’s life improves, it is at the expense of their own, because they live according to a fairly narrow archaic train of thought; much like in some parts of India where people still live according to the caste their grandparents were born into. And so we have a president the rest of the world laughs at and despises, and no matter how awful he is on a daily basis, it never matters to his contingent, because they know that they know that they know how things ought to be.

But it isn’t only the people we think are on “the other side” who are like this. 

As much as the rest of us acknowledge the mutability of humanity, there’s a sizeable number of people who, liberal-minded or not, see things only according to their own light, through their own filters, and by their own train track logic. You might be one of them, though you are a busy bee online sharing the best activist memes and Thinking Well of People Who Are Different From You.

I realize this sounds mean, but I’ll distill it down to two things: 

1. Never assume the experience you’ve had or read about is the One. I bet, for example, if I visited Britain, I would not find that people eat only curry and chips and puddings made from cheap white sandwich loaf. Don’t be like Trump with his goddamn “Many People Have Told Me,” because it’s an invention of a narrow mind that needs to be The Correct Person At All Times. Yes, you. You were shown that the thing you posted about the other side was entirely fabricated, but because you can’t bear to be wrong, you made it about your “philosophies” instead of just admitting for once that you’d been had. I think you think you are in a competition 100% of the time, which, honestly, sounds completely exhausting, and not at all self-aware.

And if you, a person from Somewhere Else, visited Portland or Orlando or LA or New York, you have seen one city in the U.S during one season. That’s all. You are not an expert on any aspect of America because of that and a few exciting TV shows any more than I am an expert about The Correct Way to Make Pasties because I lived in Michigan for six years and also have watched Midsomer Murders. 

2. This matters so so so much right now, as the political atmosphere in many parts of the world is burgeoning with dangerous ideals, and most of us don’t realize at any time how much it matters because our daily lives have changed very little so far. Here we are on the internet talking about Umbrella Academy, right? “That’s how they get you.” It’s, nearly literally, bread and circuses. It is also, to mix metaphors, that we are frogs in water which is being heated to boiling point—nearly literally. 

So yes, I will miss Google Plus greatly. It was a good nearly eight years, and what doomed it was not the endless experimentation we were quietly put through, but the general attitudes people have about it and everything else: false perceptions, hasty judgments, impatience, and a sudden bandwagon rush to embrace Facebook that I bet a whole lot of those same people are now regretting. Hahahahahhhhaaaaaa.

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We could have had it all, and nearly did. 

But I won’t miss all of what we had; it was as riddled with the truth about humanity as anything could be: We have a whole lot of potential, but down here at the root level, we’re just well-dressed ants living beneath a decaying log. We don’t need to compete with each other to be the best at being poor or at being “open-minded” or anything else. We just need to keep from setting ourselves on fire.

PS: pretty soon, I promise, I'm going to write another one of these about how terrific G+ actually was, because it was, even though some of you who weren’t there having a good time with us enjoyed acting smugly like it was a random episode of Shields and Yarnell for you to make ignorant fun of, because: see everything I just wrote. 


The watching things kind of malaise, day one

Sometimes when I get the late winter malaise, reading doesn’t feel very good and so I watch things; either endless rewatches of Midsomer Murders or Inspector Morse or Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, or things I have overlooked that want some attention. Not usually foreign language things; at least not on day one, because I might shut my eyes for a bit and miss something.

Yesterday I started to catch up on Murdoch Mysteries, had two episodes of that, but it didn’t fit my mood. So I watched some movies. Clicking on the images takes you to a trailer.

First I watched Crooked House, from 2017, with an intriguing role played by Glenn Close. I have read the book several times; it was one of the first Agatha Christies I read, because I was a kid and liked the title. I wasn’t sure if they kept the original ending, but was willing to be either pleasantly surprised or mildly annoyed. Either way, the reviews and ratings for it were all over the place, and after watching it, I can see why. (Here's a review that liked it more than I did.) It was super stylish, and had a groovy atmosphere with some fun performances. But the P.I. office conceit was more air than there; a little more could easily have been made of it. And the rest was oddly edited. I felt like I was watching something that could have been really great. Instead it was…unbalanced. Well, the story is meant to set you off balance. Just probably not in the way that it did. I'm glad I watched it, though. 75/100

Next, I watched An Inspector Calls, from 2015. This is based on an old play I had not read or seen before. I had a rough idea of the story, but was not prepared for it at all, which is a good thing. I looked up a few reviews first; The Spectator haaated it, so I thought perhaps that was a promising sign. They didn’t even bother trying to understand the context J. B. Priestley was concerned with, at all, but that’s par for their course. And it was nicely eerie, well-paced, and David Thewlis was terrific in his role.

The movie is not perfect; the nature of styling a film like a play sometimes makes a viewer feel sort of remote, but stlll it was stylish, gripping and thought-provoking, and I’d recommend it to people who can enjoy a fairly static setting and mostly dialogue. 85/100

Finally, I turned my attention to exploring some Tom Hiddleston roles. Lately I’ve been fascinated by him. I didn’t really get the Loki love, though I do enjoy that character, but after I saw him in The Night Manager, I was intrigued. And he’s a very interesting person to explore on YouTube. (This is a smart 17 minute conversation about adapting that book.) I maybe have thoughts now, about someone far too young (video) to be having thoughts about (images.) But I realized I hadn’t seen him in anything (maybe?) besides that and Crimson Peak, so I chose three movies I knew little about, read up on them, and then began with Only Lovers Left Alive, from 2013.

I liked it a lot. I don’t know who else I know who would; if you ever describe things as “too arch,” definitely not you. I think three, possibly four of my six offspring would dig it. Tilda Swinton was terrific, but of course she was. The Detroit setting is perfect, and though I haven’t been there in 20 years, I recognized it, which is something I appreciate. There are some wide streets there with empty houses on them that are simultaneously tragic and beautiful, and make you feel like you are in the middle of absolutely nowhere instead of on the edge of a large city. I hear they’re working on that, guess I hope so. 

Only Lovers Left Alive is a slow-paced stylish dialogue about day to day existence, what matters in it: love, mostly what doesn’t: everything else. And that’s about all. But I found it rich viewing, and might watch it again after a two cocktail evening to reexperience the mood/trance music in an extra relaxed frame of mind. 90/100  

Thursday this and that

I woke up with this song in my head, the original version, but the Mel Tormé recording always pops into my head when I'm thinking about it. 

When I was little, and older vocalists who sang "standards" would try to score with pop hits, it made me so uncomfortable. Now I understand they were just trying to stay relevant in a world that no longer had teams of songwriters churning out [music by/lyrics by] for singers to eventually take and make their own. Little wonder they hated early rock and roll; it must have seemed so silly and ephemeral (as it largely was,) but later pop hits seemed like fair game at first, only they weren't. Even singing a banal Carpenters song took a certain light youthful touch most of them didn't have.

It feels sorta sad to realize that now. Most of those people were relegated to singing the same old thing they'd started with, to ever aging and shrinking crowds and during guest appearances on afternoon talk shows, prime time variety shows, and The Love Boat. And then all of that went away, too. 

Only a few of them lived long enough to see their music revived and appreciated again during the file-sharing years and nascence of YouTube. But here we are, fighting over the original goods at estate sales alongside west coast jazz and classic rock collectors. And we have room in our hearts for many more different styles of music than previous recent generations did.

this is too long. but I really appreciate the slow, slow tense build-up. eight minutes will do, though, to love humans for awhile.

Here is a conversation I had with someone my age about his first complete viewing of The Lion King. Of course if I'd realized he wouldn't have checked the connections before asking about the problem, most of it would be unnecessary. But then I was thinking this is something else we need to do a lot less often these days, and he just took his setup for granted. It's funny or alarming or I don't know, how quickly our patterns change. Screen Shot 2019-02-28 at 9.16.41 AM

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The Lion King is pretty epic, and it has sumptuous sounds and visual artistry, and I'm mildly disappointed in his reaction to it. Oh, well. I wonder what he would think of Marvel's live version of African landscape? He'd notice you enter Wakanda from it in a similar manner to entering Themyscira from the sea, but hopefully he wouldn't pick up on that note so singularly as to lay down the rest. 

Next, here is a blog post I wrote just about nine years ago. Gosh, nine years ago me was so young. And comparatively full of mental energy. It's incredible how much has changed since then. My sons are grown up, the daughter mentioned in it has her own family now, and that New Jersey garden is hundreds of miles away. But it was a sweet though brief time in my life. I will probably share some other posts like this one now and then for awhile.

Do you watch The Orville? It's one of a handful of current TV shows I am very happy with. People sometimes complain that all the nostalgia and pop culture knowledge in it is from mid-late 20th century U.S.A. I think that's a hilarious conceit, personally, but I also wonder if some specific future era will look back at our youth and find that time one of the most appealing, the way people are currently fascinated with (a highly fictionalized version of) 15th century Europe? It could happen. 

Hmm, not wanting to end this post on what is essentially a commercial, let me just say that I'm still thinking over what the space is best suited for these days, however, I like having it as a collection container for whatever happens to be on my mind, and can only hope a few other people like seeing what's there, as well. Let's find a photo in the Bussard Collector to finish the page! (Probably the whole blog could just be devoted to whatever I have saved on my hard drive over the past few years, tbh.)Addio-a-Gabriele-FerzettiThis is Gabriele Ferzetti. Wasn't he dreamy? Click on the photo to see a film clip featuring him with Monica Vitti; you see mostly her face rather than his, but, well. And then so. You should just watch this whole movie, L'Avventura, if you've never seen it. 

Monday Miscellany

I have 90% prepared a blog post on the letdown of hearing the top 50 songs of 1982, but it will keep. I’m going to cover the highlights of my day yesterday, instead. It will be interspersed with a few of the songs I have played in obsessive amounts that are from…THIS VERY CENTURY. 

I know. But I was informed I spend too much time on nostalgia. This is incorrect. All the nows are still now. I heard “Knee Socks” yesterday, though, and the beat is back in my head for awhile. The video here is a cool slightly stripped-down live version, but this is the album recording that can stay with me for days.

IT WAS SUNNY YESTERDAY! AND THERE IS SUN RIGHT NOW! I doubt that will last; two entire days of sun in Cincinnati in late February is not even a thing. But for now, I am soaking it in and getting things done. 

I was trying to clean the front room, where the TV is, and that involved taking apart the vacuum cleaner again. But when I reassembled it, the vacuumed dirt still didn’t reach the canister. As I had cleared every tube and opening, and shook out the filter, this was puzzling. 

I took my son to Meijer to pick up something he wanted and was disappointed to find no Meyer lemons. Later I had a conversation with another son, who is assistant manager of a Kroger produce department, and he told me he and the manager decided they would never order any because they just go bad. That was so irritating to learn, but he said the larger Kroger would have them.
amusing live performance of this song

Between those two things, I was rereading a comment someone made to me at Google Plus and thinking about how uncomfortable it made me. I’d told this person before to stop making personal comments like that, but he doesn’t get it. I talked to two people about it who both agreed my reaction was sound. Only the more I thought about it, the more upset I became, what with that and the vacuum cleaner and the lemons, so I stopped what I was doing and took some comfort measures.

I put on some Tom Hiddleston speaking in foreign languages videos on YouTube, and made some risotto. Risotto is a nice meditative thing to make, and I will show you how in my other blog later today. 

Did I doze off after that? Have you?

It was still sunny later in the afternoon after more things that actually matter got done so I turned my attention to the big canvas I want to finish painting on. Well, I turned my attention to finding an audiobook to listen to while working on it, but just as I got started, a threeway text conversation began about my son arranging all the oranges in the known world in order to win a Kroger produce department contest, and that’s when I learned about the Meyer lemons, and was mad again, but I did get some painting done. Paint
My son was home by then, the costermonger one, and we decided to drive together to gigundous Kroger for a few things. They had the Meyer lemons marked at $1.99/lb, because they do have a tough time selling them to these food heathens, and he paid for me to have three bags, also two bottles of Ommegang Three Philosophers, one of my favorite domestic ales, and then we went home to drink strong ale and watch The Lion King, which he didn’t remember ever seeing, beyond a couple song videos.

He was just blown away by the movie, and yes, the beer enhanced that, but anyway, we spent about three and a half hours watching it because we had to pause now and then to discuss 2D animation and so forth, and it was really a very rewarding time. Ale
Oh, but also, my other son took off the vacuum hose and found a bent bobby pin in it. No one here uses bobby pins, so that was odd. It did explain why I thought the hose was clear when it wasn’t, because the pin was wrapped around the inside perimeter, but that thing was causing most, though not all of the trouble. 


Friday Farrago

I keep a Text Edit document open and paste things into it, to look up, think about, or use later. Today I'm going to share some of what's on the current one. And random images downloaded to my phone.

Here's a list of famous people who have hazel eyes. I meant to look some of them up to see if they look like mine, but was too lazy so far. Kelly Clarkson, Brooke Shields, Kristen Stewart, Ben Affleck, Jenny Mollen, Olivia Munn, Jason Statham, Tyra Banks, Jeremy Renner, Dianna Agron, Steve Carell, David Beckham, Heidi Klum, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Jessica Biel, Jason Bateman, Demi Moore, Rebel Wilson and Angelina Jolie.

I just looked up a few and they seem to all have the blue/green kind instead of the yellow/green/brown kind, except Jada Pinkett-Smith, but all her photos seemed to have colored contacts, so whatever. Oh, here's one. 86305602

"being a grown-up, and your petulant fascism about the things you like" 

Probably a topic I wanted to address, because it often is. People are so weird, to me, about their tribal consumer preferences, and actually judging people who are not interested in them. But also people like to talk about how they wish to not be a grown-up, and I do not relate to that at all. I get that they just mean all the pressure and worry sucks, but being adults is our general life goal, and we get to drive cars, have sex (theoretically, anyway,) and drink cocktails, so. Dsc_3651_20367388613_o

Anyway. Like what you like, and pat yourself on the back for it being "nerdy," if that enhances your pleasure. None of it is a contest.

Avarice is enthroned as his bosom's lord, and assumes the style of the Great King; the rational and spirited elements sit humbly on the ground at either side, the one immersed in calculation, the other absorbed in the admiration of wealth. The love of honour turns to love of money; the conversion is instantaneous.  The man is mean, saving, toiling, the slave of one passion which is the master of the rest: Is he not the very image of the State? He has had no education, or he would never have allowed the blind god of riches to lead the dance within him.  And being uneducated he will have many slavish desires, some beggarly, some knavish, breeding in his soul.

--Plato, The Republic

That probably needs no explanation.

The United States has grown wary of impeachment. The history of its application is widely misunderstood, leading Americans to mistake it for a dangerous threat to the constitutional order. That is precisely backwards. It is absurd to suggest that the Constitution would delineate a mechanism too potent to ever actually be employed. Impeachment, in fact, is a vital protection against the dangers a president like Trump poses.

This is true, and I think it is a paraphrase of an essay in The Atlantic. The reason it is important to me is because it's yet another indicator of the world we're living in which is determined to ignore contextual logic in favor of hysteria, keywords, and short-sightedness. But I don't feel like repeating myself today.

palliative care for a non-viable fetus ≠ the execution of newborns. 


The press keeps trying to manipulate what people have said lately in a fervent attempt to stir up even more divisions between us. Let's just say no to that. No one is going around trying to "abort" healthy babies after they're delivered. Sunny

You were not a 1940s movie star or a major league baseball player. You certainly weren’t Jim Garner. You were not even Robby Benson.

Oh, I wanted to draw on that for a bit of writing on boys and their self-conscious need to assume if you were friendly to them you liked them and wasn't that icky? Whatevs. But also, Robby Benson. I'd forgotten about him. He turned out awfully well, too, which is nice.

Here's a link to a super terrible website about the village where my grandpa grew up.

It has a chicken salad recipe for some reason. My mom would have said they meant well. Montalbano

Finally, I made a list of shows that appear on American TV at varying times that I follow/am trying to follow. I think it's incomplete? Because there isn't a strict schedule anymore. I left out the ones you have to work to find in alternative places.

The Cool Kids
Criminal Minds
Doctor Who
Midsomer Murders
The Orville
Stranger Things 
Young Sheldon (way better than the show which spawned it)

But also I hope to see A Discovery of Witches, not because I was super keen on the series after the first book but because I just now learned Matthew Goode plays Clairmont, and I am ready for that. If I don't have to pay someone extra for it.

They're playing my song again

I was thinking about the nature of pop music and how it changes a lot from time to time, by which I don’t mean instrumental trends, or what kind of beat or who’s laying it down, but the formula itself, which changes less often than those little details. 

Bearing in mind it hasn’t been my primary form of music since I was a child, I still think, looking back over it all, that what I did sing along with in the 70s was not materially different than what my oldest daughter (again, briefly,) sang along with in the mid-late 90s. But when I overhear a “top pop” song lately, it’s something else altogether. I first noticed it when the neighbor next door would have on what seemed like a station that played only Disney Channel interstitials, while the kids were in the pool. The formula was even more basic and narrower in scope, and super artificial.

I would have accepted this:
But what they played is what kids around my youngest son’s age (20) on down to around 10 will have adapted their ears to, unless they grow up, as he did, never really hearing it at all. At least there’s a lot more variety for their parents to share with them and for them to discover on their own through the internet. Some will develop broad tastes swiftly, others wlll settle into one thing or another and stay there, at least for awhile. My son listens to: Radiohead, Interpol, David Bowie, and some classical music. But he’s pretty young, and might add in another band some day.

When a song comes along like “Funk You Up” did a few years back, everyone pays attention because they got it just right, combining new and old elements that most of us respond to; in this case it was nostalgic with a contemporary edge. But that isn’t happening very often lately. I don’t think that means it won’t anymore; this era is just not one of the…better ones for it.

My middle son listens to current alternative music and that has recently taken a rather banal turn, to my ears. (Sorry, Brendon.) That waxes and wanes, though. The youngest millennials, like him, probably take comfort in it. I’m waiting it out. 

Back to me! I listened to pop music most heavily from ages 3-13, and you know, during one of the best eras for it; 1968-1978. It would be silly for anyone to dispute that, so we won’t try. It had everything pop music was meant to have, and the best examples of it are still good to listen to now. The novelty songs from that time haven’t aged so well, of course, nor the ones meant for what were then called “teenyboppers.” I liked some of those at the time, because I was a child. They weren’t the ones I obsessed over, though. 

Here are some songs that I either craved hearing as much as possible, or that I did own and so I would put the record on and let it repeat for an hour or more, with brief explanations as I remember them now. Laugh as much as you like.

"Reuben, Reuben," by whoever…(but this is a hilarious version featuring Patsy Cline)

When I was 7, my grandma gave me a record player for my birthday, with a box of children’s records. It was a green and white carrying case, and you opened the lid to set it up to play records. I had it til I was 16. I adored the song "Reuben, Reuben," and played it over and over again. Also, "Buffalo Gals." Such fun to sing along to.

"Brandy," by Looking Glass (turns out the lead singer would have been cute if he got a proper haircut)
I think this is one of those deals wherein the band played something different from their usual repertoire, it hit big, and they had to suffer with it thereafter. Too bad. I related hardcore to this song at age 7 or 8, and pretty much all along for years afterwards. If I confess I also had a thing for "Delta Dawn," you might just feel sorry for me or think I was a strange child, and as that was established long ago, let’s leave it.* 

I grew up thinking I would wear a braided silver chain and mourn happily for the man who loved me briefly and then went away. I just now realized I’ve sort of written it into my NaNoWriMo stories about Lena Spano and Lily Palm. Hmm. Well, anyway.

"On and On," by Stephen Bishop (this was an okay haircut for back then; at least it framed the face well)

I had the album containing this song when I was about 12. But mainly I played this one song on an endless loop while lying on my white ruffled organdy canopy bed, thinking about what it would be like to go somewhere with a beach and be very alone and sad, alone in the middle of a vast space with an atmosphere that seemed just right for it. Also, it made me Sinatra-curious. It's a more clever song than you might have noticed.

You Should Be Dancing (live) by the Bee Gees (this is not the same recording, which was better; is contained in link below)
The live version from Here At Last…the Bee Gees Live, which I played while dancing on the stair landing in our house, with my neon disco light flashing that I earned through the junior high magazine (or maybe the wrapping paper) sales they forced us to do. The stair landing was about four or five feet square, so, you know, about the size of a real disco floor in some places, and it was my special spot. I snuck down to it to watch Carol Burnett when I was supposed to be in bed when I was 8 or 9, and it’s where I fell asleep with the new puppy, Monty Python, when we first brought him home when I was 11, and where I answered the phone when I won tickets to a Royals game from a radio station, which started me and Mom going to games regularly for about three years starting when I was 13. It’s likely I was listening to this song when I took the call, but I did love a lot of the album, and learned to love the rest of it later on.

"Anybody Wanna Party?" by Gloria Gaynor

I was about 14, and played this for an hour at a time on my parents’ cheap stereo in the living room, until my mom asked me to stop for awhile. It was the 12 inch “disco version,” and I’d dance to it at first, then lie under the speakers and just let it move through me. 


There’ve been other songs I obsessed over since then, but the last pop hit that caused "emotions" was about 20 years ago. I listened to it when I was alone in the car, and sang along until I was sobbing.
But now I’m back to thinking about what kind of man I’d enjoy loving from a distance while wearing my cool silver chain with the locket and serving up drinks to a mostly faceless crowd. I suppose it’s who I was always meant to be, at least until we get to have androids made to order. 


 *What in the...ugh, ew. Don't ruin this for me. Screen Shot 2019-02-18 at 11.00.03 AM

interstitially, on mustard and memories

Going forward, all my images have hover text. The news clipping has a link to more info.

Today I read a recipe for “Peruvian chicken,” in a British newspaper, which wanted me to use “American mustard.” I had to think about what that is. I remembered how much my mom loved mustard when I was growing up. She loved German mustard most, I think; the grainy kind that tends to come in round glass pots, on a hot dog with sauerkraut. 6f0102b774ad03e9ff0a2038809b5ee9
And there was English mustard, very sharp, French mustard, brown like German but smoother, Dijon mustard, mostly the same as French, to us, and then later there was a sweet-hot one that started to appear at delis. And “beer mustard,” of course, which I think people liked with pretzels. This was back in the 70s, before all the boutique flavors. 15428423934_e8305ebdbe_b

I concluded they must mean yellow mustard is American mustard. D97e520ee06c9a1893b97ce107ecfce5
If here (and apparently Canada) is the only place that’s sold, it makes sense. I thought I didn’t like mustard much at all til I had the sweet-hot kind, because I’d tasted only yellow and German and Dijon. The yellow was sort of briney (like if Chinese mustard was very mild,) and I didn’t like the texture of the German. Dijon was okay in a chicken dish. But these days there is yellow mustard here at the house; it’s okay with a hot dog or ham sandwich, and one of my sons likes it. He likes all mustards, though, like my mom, and now as an adult, I do, too, mostly. I also have champagne mustard in there, a beer one, and Dijon, currently. There might be a grainy brown one in there, too, but I never hear it called German anymore; just brown or "deli." I made some a couple years ago, and I think the recipe just said, "homemade mustard." I think I might try this recipe for spicy beer mustard next, cut down to size. 10.-Pittsburgh_Post_Gazette_Thu__Aug_25__1927_-1-768x900

So if you’re reading this from another country, in case you’re interested, we have many mustards, just like you probably do, since you also live in a culture that was created almost entirely through immigrant migration from every part of the world. And in one of the Carolinas, I never remember which because I guess I don't care enough being from Kansas City, they add it to their barbecue sauce. Barbecue sauce is different everywhere you go, but I’ve been to two decent restaurants that serve a good variety. One of the restaurants was near Times Square in New York, the other next to a motel in an industrial area of St. Louis, Missouri, 950 miles away (roughly 590k; two days into your six day driving trip across the country if you don't stop for anything but food and sleep, which would be silly.) I think it was this place. But barbecue, like mustard, comes in infinite varieties, for infinite personal tastes. Condiments are life. 8c5fad4af99405320c144d0f6ba75622
I think something everyone should realize is that what you see of our culture in ordinary grocery stores is usually just the cheapest and easiest to transport, and it's the same for what we see of yours. But if this is the only country (besides Canada!) that serves mild yellow mustard regularly, certainly that does make it American. At the same time, we have hundreds of different ones we can buy, in various regions. Jungle Jim's here in Cincinnati has a huge selection. And look: there is a National Mustard Museum!

On another note, I read that Dutch and Belgian people have an "American" sandwich spread which resembles steak tartare. The person mentioning it didn't understand why, because "Americans hate that." No, ma'am, they do not, at least, not all 300 million plus of them. They just don't see it as often as they did long ago, because trends come and go here, as they do elsewhere. My grandma used to make it for herself, having the meat ground at a butcher the same day, but I just get it at one of my favorite restaurants here in Cincinnati, as an appetizer. If someone still wants to make it at home, it just takes a bit of nice sirloin (from a good local butcher if possible, but not necessary,) partially frozen and diced by hand. And of course you need a delicious farm-fresh egg for the top. Tartare

Starting out, starting over, 16 years on

A. This post is mostly about uninteresting things, but I needed to get it all down, and maybe it's good for something for you, as well. Mostly, future posts will be only about half this long, or less, and I have an idea that I should strive to make them entertaining.

I was organizing various files and computer elements in recognition that Google Plus is ending after nearly 8 years, because you were too lazy to use anything but Facebook or Tumblr by 2011, unless you’re one of my Google Plus friends, in which case you weren't, but know just what I’m saying, and anyway, I decided it was time to freshen the blogs.

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I used them less, and less as I wanted to because of G+, and that’s my only real negative point about it, other than how people treated it who weren’t there every day enjoying it. There are two blog sites, and each one has a subblog. (When I first got them, there were reasons for that, too dull to go into.)

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So I have the main blog which is currently just a link page, more on that in a sec, and the poetry/writing page. Then I have the actual main blog where I write this stuff, and this has a subpage for talking about cooking and sewing and such things, which I hope to update more going forward.

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The main blog had posts going back to 2003, from when I used Dreamweaver and uploaded everything to an FTP server. Then I had Live Journal, Blogger, Vox, and finally Typepad. So the older posts were not all formatted well, and some of the images were lost, but I kept it all as a sort of History of Ridiculous Me.


In 2015 I wanted a fresh start, so I moved over to the second main page, but kept the first one as an archive. 

It’s not fine literature. Some of it is rather stupid. But I like looking back at Younger Me and saying, aw, you. And some of it is rather good, though I do say so myself. Better still, sometimes I was even funny, before life got to weighing me down so much. At least, I amused me, and that was fine.


I tend to pick up on certain kinds of things before they become trendy, and the old blog was a chaotic catalog of some of that, as well. But now here I am, starting over, a far different person in some ways at 53 than 37. Gosh, being in your late 30s is grand. Don’t take that for granted. Anyway, so now I’m going to switch to a new scene for a few minutes and tell Angela about the fire dreams, since I can’t just send her a link to what I thought was a hilarious denouement of a lifelong mystery. Skip way down to C. if you just want this to end swiftly.


B. I dreamed of fire as a child, nearly every night sometimes, with occasional rests, from ages…3 or 4 or 5, to 17. Less frequently after that, but I still do, a few times a year. Fire that burns and burns, but never quite consumes, or of a fire-ravaged aftermath. No one is ever hurt, there is never much drama, but I would wake up hot and terrified and certain that the electric wiring in the walls was slowing burning its way to the outside, or that lightning had struck a tree outside one of my three bedroom windows, or that the fire in the fireplace downstairs hadn’t been extinguished properly.

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I was terrified to leave my bed, so I’d watch for smoke under the door, and sometimes, after an agonizing wait, carefully go over to see if the door was warm. I can picture it now; when I was in kindergarten, we took a trip to a place called something like Santa Claus Lane, and I got a little Santa sticker I slapped on the middle of the inside of my door. It could not be fully scraped away later, and was always the first thing I saw when I woke each morning. So there was the little Santa, and maybe there was fire behind it, but I couldn’t hear anyone, and I’d call quietly for Mom, Dad, both, and raise my voice a little at a time til they either heard me, or heard me too loudly to carry on ignoring.

When I was a little older, I’d make it out of my room into theirs, because I just could not go back to sleep in my own bed, not knowing what might happen. Even though I knew nothing would. 

You know, I sleep in a huge bed, and I always say I’ll never give it up because I like the heater in it, and also the sheer extravagance of spreading out my books and things all over it. But Mom and Dad’s bed was also very large, and so I did fit between them, probably not all that comfortably from their point of view, yet we were not crowded against each other. I would lie as perfectly still as I could, to not disturb them further, but I would worry for hours, falling asleep at dawn. 

I sleep very well now, or would if the schedule allowed for it. And I do like all this space. Maybe, though, it feels secure, like that part of childhood.

When the dreams didn’t haunt me every night, something would trigger one; smoke on the horizon, a thunderstorm, things like that. But I never feared actual fire; it fascinated me. Fire is awesome when it isn’t destroying something we’d like to still have around.

Sometime I’ll write again and describe the dreams themselves, but one of them I had so often when I was a child seemed like the starting point, and I wondered for many years why I dreamed it. I concluded at some point I’d seen a scene like it on TV or in a movie, as my parents were just the worst at censoring scary or violent material from my young eyes.

(The truth is, they never intended to have me after the third and fourth pregnancies ended sadly, and they were not doing all that well with each other, though they kept trying, and so I grew up being both adored and “spoiled,” and left to my own devices, kind of in the way of what all the older people wanted to do or enjoy or brood at each other about. It was odd being taken to see The French Connection, but also being told I couldn’t stay up after 9 to watch Carol Burnett. But that’s enough digression.)

No one could remember any event that might have started this dream problem, though there was some serendipity to it initially that I’ll also rewrite some other time. 

When I was 17, my mom and I lived in a townhouse and our old house was featured on the TV news as it burned to the ground because of poorly stored paint cans and an abysmal volunteer fire department. I’ve had a few dreams over the years of wandering through it in a half-burned state.

Four years ago, I looked for the dozenth time for clues on the web, thinking maybe it had to do with a Night Gallery episode featuring that guy who played John Boy being a sin eater, and licking butter off his fingers as he consumed a meal laid out on a dead guy. I bet you didn’t watch that when you were 7 or 8, did you? But I did. And I never forgot it, Mom.


You know, it’s a good thing I found it then, because the way Google searches (don't) work now, I think I never would. 

The main scary dream involved a girl laughing at her mom in a bed as flames rose up around her and she could not move. That’s all the detail you need, but I can picture it still. Because it is in this disaster of a movie that apparently re-aired on TV when I was about three years old. Yes, the mom in my dreams was Zsa Zsa freaking Gabor. Laugh as you wish. It’s okay. But anyway, now you know why I never watched Emergency! when I was a child. I self-censored; someone had to. I never saw Towering Inferno, either, until a few years ago. Funny how that movie played out like my dreams, fire just slowly, slowly taking over. Anyway. Here we are. Here is the entire movie, if you want to watch it, and certainly you do.

C. I turned the original blog into a link page to reach this one and the other two, and my Twitter account. But now that I want to use them all more, I want to be funny again, and silly, and also sometimes serious, and yes, much less long-winded, generally. I haven’t figured it out yet, though; I could go in any direction, or just back over all the same topics again. Your thoughts on that are welcome, and you don’t even need to sign in to leave them. I just gleefully delete stupid or mean ones, so it works out fine. 

PS: I found the original blog post about figuring out the fire dreams. But it's kind of long-winded, even for me. It's more complete and more visual and I think it's interesting, but then, I would, wouldn't I? Read it only if you're, uh, completionist about the naval-gazing things I sometimes write. 

Talking to myself onscreen, pressing pause, a grey midwinter day

There are so many levels to our personal realities. For me right now, right here, some of them are too difficult to speak about, or even to think very hard on. But whatever I do write or share online is fully real, whether beautiful or messy. I can never be disingenuous; it would be like slapping my own face.

This is a little long, so I've broken it up in easy-to-digest chunks.

1. I’m back on some 3:30 am drives to take my middle son to work. He can drive. But he never gets enough practice to take the license test with its odd maneuverability portion that must be passed, which replaces the parallel parking portion found in places where that comes up more regularly. When I took my test many years ago, I was not required to pass that portion, and in fact I did not. But experience made a better teacher than the pressure of test failure, and so I’ve made out all right since then. 
Screen Shot 2019-01-23 at 1.12.39 PMthese things are collector's items now, with their big engines. that amuses me more than I can say. click the pic for details.

It’s this whole annoying thing, anyway, getting up in the middle of the night to drive him. Probably I would like the drive itself if it didn’t destroy my brain’s longstanding idea of how days and nights should work, and if I didn’t have to feed the dog and cat by 8 am. But anyway, I couldn’t find my lighter jacket this morning, and took an unclaimed one from the closet. I was concerned initially about the irritating sensation of fleece against my skin, but instead it had a slippery lining which, whenever I moved, sounded just like the noises that reside in my head. 

2. I’ve sometimes mulled over whether I'd rather lose sight or hearing, and as much as I've immersed myself in music, and love to hear certain things, like the way my son describes a customer at work, or the cat telling me the dog wants in, or like how French people list things, plus all the Sinatra, the Cure, etc. I'd still miss seeing more, at least from an emotional standpoint. I could still hear all those things in my head, but I think colors would be harder to retain, and I wouldn't get to smear canvas with thick bright paint anymore, or watch the tomatoes ripen. It’s only recently occurred to me how important color is to me, how much it speaks to me in my quiet hermitage and brief ventures out into the noisy world. I'd greatly mourn the loss of that.
étoile bleu, sarcelle et vertAnd maybe the noises in my head would stop if I couldn’t hear anymore. It would be one tiny benefit to a very sad circumstance. Oh! Plus imagine not having to hear the drone of electricity anymore. But I expect it would also be somewhat claustrophobic. 

3. Today I read in a headline what my doctor told me in 1978, when I was 13 and diagnosed with reactive hypoglycemia. He said avoid all the simple fast-burning carbs and have only complex slow-burning ones. Then you’ll process things better and so forth.
not even onceThat's a no from here.

Now, according to NPR and others, “science” says so, too. Science always did, you know, at least as far back as I can remember. It’s to do with how your body uses and stores energy, and how it converts different types of foods into it, and what it does with what you don’t use. None of this is new. But it is good to be reminded now and then. Something you might not read this week is that you’re more likely to get beneficial fiber from slow-burning carbs, and that’s better for your blood sugar, your heart, and your colon. Nature already knew this and has been offering you a bounty to choose from right along. 
a super food that actually tastes goodSweet potatoes are our friends.

The part that I think is most different for everyone depending on age, schedule, activity level and so forth is how often to eat and how far apart each day. When I was growing up, and when I was supporting babies, it was a certainty I needed several small meals throughout the day. These days I’m pretty sure I do better to just have a couple, in late morning and early evening, with only a small early or late snack if the scope of the day dictates it. So I’m working on that.

4. Okay, the subject I meant to cover first but have avoided is Smirking Kid. You should know (because people online are exhausting) as a disclaimer that one of my favorite casual restaurants, Frida 602, is in Covington, which is roughly ten miles from my house, in a really neat area called MainStrasse.  I love going there and immersing myself in the atmosphere, which isn’t as atmospheric as it would like to be, but is earnest in the effort.

A few blocks south of there, or maybe I mean west, you'll find several bourbon bars, and there’s a sign in the median there telling us about a woman who tried to cross with her family from slave-holding Kentucky to freedom in Ohio.* 
-visit_to_Covington_Underg-20000000005320662-500x375click on the picture for the story

However, the Cincinnati area is much more segregated than the areas in which my kids grew up, so I suppose if you’re a kid here in one of the little towns outside the middle, and your parents are not of the exploring variety like my kids’ parents or my own, maybe you are easily led into wrong-headed ideas about other people. But I can’t speak authoritatively on that. 

What I can say is this, in a much more broad sense. Pause before you hit send. Always pause before you hit send. I have a few friends who might not like me to say this, but they want to believe things are how they want to believe they are. My friend who believes zygotes are people is sure these kids aren’t the jerks they seemed at first. My friends who take up liberal causes the way my cat chases a stink bug are pretty sure they are. 

And while I know them to be clever good people who have more formal education than me, and thus know more about things I didn’t know to know, I think they are at times slightly emotionally irrational about issues laid before them. If what you believe about people is first dictated about what you want to believe about some issue or other, please press pause and think, very carefully, before you press send. Be fully honest with yourself; are you painting what you truly see, or mostly what you believe to be there? My friends are awesome at wanting the truth and so I see the wheels turning in their heads as they try to work this out. But some of you have rusty wheels that you need to oil. We have a lot of stuff these days that needs fixing, and this requires a higher degree of unity, not endless arguing and nitpicking and purity testing and all the rest. 
dementia or malignant narcissism: por que no los dos?
5. *It just occurred to me though not for the first time, how often I’ve lived near state lines. Right now I’m ten minutes from Kentucky and about an hour from Indiana. I lived in New Jersey for awhile, and at one point was about twenty minutes from Pennsylvania. Before that, we could go up to the beach and look across a long bay to Manhattan. 

Our first home in Michigan was about a half hour from Indiana, and on extremely clear days, once in awhile, you could just about make out the distant shore of Chicago on the other side of Lake Michigan. And I grew up in the Kansas City area, which straddles the Missouri-Kansas line. 

I like that. I suppose it’s the closest I’ll get to the idea of hopping borders from one country to another in Europe. Our states are made of different flavors, even just over the bridge from each other, some subtle, some more profound. But we’re still mostly all the same, as well.
this is a good set of people
6. Also, I was just reminded that without ever meaning to, I go through a period at the beginning of the year when I listen to virtually no music at all. Which is super weird to realize, considering what a huge part of my life it's always been. But this has happened for at least three or four years, during which the most noise I apply to myself is having a marathon of some old detective or crime show that just runs in the background like gentle rain on the window on a Saturday afternoon, or a bit of news or comedy on the radio. Is it that I get overloaded and need to tune everything down for awhile? I cannot honestly say. It does seem to correspond with my musings over what life would be like if I could not hear at all. I have two current physical quirks to monitor; one can lead to profound hearing loss, one to sight loss. But the odds of either happening are very low. I think? Odds are funny things, anyhow

My eventful uneventful Sunday, unwinding down

I’m not as efficient at planning as I once was, so last night when I went to bed around 11, I never really went to sleep, going over the variables in my head for driving Son 2 to work at 4 am. BECAUSE OF THIS WHOLE THING WHEREIN HE STILL HAS NO DRIVER'S LICENSE. We’d leave ten minutes earlier, at 3:30. We’d take the route with only one downhill stretch and curve, or we’d take the slightly longer one with only one steeper but less curvy incline. I’d need ten minutes before that to clear the car. Etcetera. And then I got back out of bed around 3.
Fortunately, the ice that fell before the snow wasn’t there long enough to form a real layer, so I was just driving in snow. Newfallen snow, too, so I could forge my own path as needed. I enjoy that. I got him there just before 4, got home about 4:25, only five minutes longer than usual. And I fell asleep around 5.

I woke up shortly after 9 but thought, it’ll be okay to have a little more sleep. Only I slept for two more hours. This gave me only ten minutes to let the dog out, and pull myself together to drive back to pick up Son 2 so he could make the bank deposit for his store. The roads were much worse near our house, having been driven on but not fully plowed. But I still got there on time. 
Only no one had shown up to work at 9, because of heavy snow somewhere, I guess, so he was alone in the store and couldn’t leave. A substitute was called in to work four hours early, but he never got there because his tire popped and all manner of other things were wrong. Then no one arrived at 2 for the next shift. Also heavy snow? Please. Between these hours, I listened to a radio show, drank some coffee, ate some Doritos, followed a great Twitter thread about being Gen   X, and nodded along with customers who didn’t understand why the newspapers were already sold out. (those are two different Gen X links above that demonstrate no one fully knows who we are, not even ourselves.)
A little after 2 I left to go home to Son 1, who needed to be at work by 3. I had to drive him there rather than let him take the car, so I could go back to Son 2. I got gas, and a tire was quite low, so I worked with a really terrible air machine to get enough air in to make the warning light go off. And I got back to Son 2 at 3:15. Someone else had arrived to take the place of everyone else who had not, so we could leave. The bank deposit was locked in a safe to wait for tomorrow. 

Son 2 wanted to go straight to his girlfriend’s house to nap there, so I dropped him off; just a few blocks from here, and went home to tackle the next silly thing. The neighbor to my left had his stupid big pickup on the street all night, so the plow went around it and thus missed most of the area in front of our driveway. It’s cold as Kelvin out there so the snow was freezing, and I had to clear the street enough that Son 3 can get his car in the driveway later, and then I put down some ice melt, which I am forbidden from doing, but I think the landlord had an old timey terrible for cement kind in mind, or so I hope. 
Things I have not done today include the following: most all the daily grooming, eaten anything from known food groups, cleaned anything at all except some road and a brief tidy of the candy bar section of Son 2’s store, the weekly quilt block I looked forward to since last Sunday, or let Son 3 know he’s picking up Son 1 after he gets home from work. 

And now at 5 pm after spending half an hour on this silly bit of ephemera, I have to go clear away whatever the ice melt melted. And it’s nearly dark again? I just spent nearly all the useful daylight time I had inside a convenience store/ice cream shop without getting paid for it? 
But that was a really good Twitter thread.