Friday, December 31, 2021

When will women achieve true equality?

A post about gender stereotyping, criminality, and sexual perversion is kind of an odd way to end the year, but news reports kept yammering on about the verdict in the Ghislaine Maxwell trial. There seems to be a general feeling that the only reason she was charged was because Jeffrey Epstein is dead -- and, despite historic examples of digging people up to draw and quarter them, you can't try a corpse. So what's the next best thing when you can't put a cadaver in the dock? Charge his girlfriend as a "better than nothing." As a feminist, this pisses me off. Is it strange that it annoys me that this disgusting evil person isn't getting the credit she's due?

Is perversion the last bastion of gender stereotyping? Is there some rule that says women can't be evil, sadistic perverts who are equally as bad as their male counterparts? Why must Maxwell still be described as being essentially powerless, a tool who Epstein used as an enabler, a person who was basically a mindless minion just doing Epstein's bidding? It is gender stereotyping at its worst to assume that in a relationship between two rich perverts that the woman was the weaker one.

It's also a weird cultural contradiction. After all, women have been portrayed as temptresses, the people who lure men into sinning, for millennia so why does the media keep framing it as Epstein using Maxwell to help with his decadent life style and not vice versa? Or even as it being a mutual recognition of shared kinkiness and a perverted interest in adolescent girls? What if instead of Maxwell enabling Epstein, Epstein was enabling Maxwell? Witness reports make it clear Maxwell sexually abused the teens she recruited long before the girls found themselves giving Epstein special massages.

In any case, regardless of which pervert was the dominant sleaze in the relationship, it would have been nice to see Maxwell treated as a free agent, someone in charge of her own destiny and doing exactly what she wanted, instead of being framed as a poor dumb woman who let a manipulative dude exploit her.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

The road to Hell

The year is almost over, and as usual things did not go as planned. Or hoped for. I started off with every intention of doing more with this blog, writing more, being generally more ambitious. I set a reasonable goal: do more posts than I did in 2020. Translation: do at least 39 posts between January 1 and December 31. 

At this point, I don't think it's going to happen. Granted, I'm a mere four posts short of achieving that goal, but if I couldn't manage to write four posts a month for the past 11 and a half months what are the odds I'll crank out four in six days? 

In my defense, I was doing good until Summer happened. Once the weather turned decent I definitely lost interest in thinking. Or writing. Not that the two always go hand in hand. 

Maybe I'll do better in 2022. And maybe pigs will fly. Stranger things have happened.

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Vaguely missing the South

I have told the story before about ambling to the bus stop one morning in Atlanta and finding myself behind two good ol' boys talking about dining at an acquaintance's house. Topic of discussion was apparently the protein portion of the meal, a possum that allegedly resembled a cooked chihuahua. At the time I was intrigued, but not intrigued enough to intrude on their conversation and ask how it tasted. 

I had no idea then (and still have no idea) just how one went about acquiring a recently deceased opossum in a metropolitan area like Atlanta, although I suppose it was possible to trap one on the patios of the apartment complex. We had a possum visit our patio occasionally. I remember thinking back then that the beast looked like road kill without ever having been flattened out on Buford Highway. I felt no desire to terminate it, toss it in the crock pot, and slow cook the beast. I mean, possums eat ticks. Who in their right mind wants to eliminate a beast that vacuums up ticks?

So what has me thinking about cooked possums today? I've been working on a new exhibit at the museum, a nod to Hunting and Fishing in Baraga County. The exhibit will include a cookbook published by the US Department of Agriculture's Cooperative Extension Service in 1943. During the war, meat was rationed. Beef was hard to come by for the average cook so the Extension Service decided to promote Good Eating from Woods and Fields. 

Good Eating has recipes for various wee beasties one doesn't see front and center on the dinner table very often these days. Granted, squirrel is still popular at wild game feasts (an event many sport hunters' clubs hold occasionally as a fund raiser). It's also a traditional ingredient in Brunswick stew, although modern recipes usually don't mention it. Today's cookbooks (and Google recipe search results) usually list chicken or pork as the meat of choice. But when was the last time you heard anyone talk about roasting a woodchuck? (Not a bad choice, incidentally, if one is ever lost and starving in the wilderness. Woodchuck has a lot of fat so just like porcupine would be a high energy food.) 

According to the S.O., skunk is edible, too, if you know how to handle it. He occasionally reminisces about the time back when he was young, he and his father stopped to visit with some geezer living the carefree bachelor life in a shack that had been part of a lumber camp. The dude invited them to dine with him. The S.O. did not recognize the taste; his dad told him later it was skunk. Whether or not it was is debatable, but apparently it was a possibility. Somehow the Extension researchers missed skunk as a culinary delight; there is no skunk meat loaf or skunk goulash in Good Eating.

There is, however, raccoon meatloaf and raccoon goulash. And more. Raccoon can be used in multiple ways.  As it happens, I once knew a source for acquiring the main ingredient (one raccoon) for those recipes. Whenever we drove from Atlanta to Hemphill, Texas, to visit the Younger Daughter we'd pass through a town just west of Vidalia, Louisiana, where the proprietor of a retail establishment there advertised regularly that they had "fresh coon today." The establishment was one of those typical deep South gas stations/convenience stores/god knows what places that look like it hasn't been open for business since the Eisenhower administration but locals will tell you serves the best fried chicken in the county (or, it being Louisiana, parish). We never stopped. Another opportunity lost; somehow I doubt I'll ever see another "fresh coon today" sign board. 

Which means I've never done a test drive of the following recipe. However, if you happen to have a source for a recently deceased raccoon, the US Department of Agriculture believes (or believed, 78 years ago) that this is edible:

Fricasseed Raccoon

8 Servings 

Cooking Time 2-1/2 hours 


1 raccoon 

2 tablespoons salt  

1/2 teaspoon pepper  

1 cup flour  

1/4 cup fat 

2 cups broth  

1. Clean raccoon and remove all fat. Cut into 8 or 10 pieces.  

2. Rub with salt and pepper and roll in flour.  

3. Cook in hot fat until well browned, add the broth, cover and simmer for 2 hours or until tender.

Monday, December 6, 2021

WTF is wrong with some people?

Every so often this meme makes the rounds on Facebook. It's usually shared by people waxing nostalgic for the days when everyone's childhoods resembled Beaver Cleaver's or Opie Taylor's, at least in their minds. Not surprisingly, it usually gets labeled as the classic white racist boomer fantasy. You know, the elderly white guy's favorite "memory" -- the good old days when everyone's dad was a genial but strict clean cut dude in a suit, and women knew their place as well as doing all the cooking, cleaning, and catering to their men while dressed in neatly pressed cotton dresses,heels, and a tasteful string of pearls. It goes without saying all the neighbors were white. 

My response to the meme is usually to state I don't miss the good old days at all. I'm old enough that I remember polio, being quarantined for measles, and, when I was older, the gender stereotyping that steered girls into home economics and bookkeeping classes while boys got to take shop or advanced science and math.Why couldn't girls take shop? Because then the boys wouldn't be able to tell dirty jokes or use vulgar language. Shop was where boys could be boys; home ec was where the Future Homemakers learned how to set the table for a formal multi-course meal, right down to the fish forks.
Are fish forks still a thing? Did anyone ever actually use them outside dinners served by English aristocracy? Then again, on a less pretentious scale, exactly what is the point of having separate forks for the salad and the main dish? As far as I can discern, the main purpose of having a plethora of silverware on the table, all the various spoons and forks and knives, is to signal that you're doing well enough financially that you (or, more likely, your minions) can lay out an array of metal that will baffle any peasants present at your banquet. 

But, as I was starting to say, it hit me this week that I actually do miss the America I grew up in. I miss the days before the Internet and social media, the days back when stupid people were unable to form echo chambers where they can parrot each other's delusions. You know, the days when if someone was an asshole the only people who had to hear that person being an ass were people who actually knew him. The days when people might have been mean and petty but their meanness and pettiness didn't affect anyone other than the poor saps who were stuck with them through marriage or work. The truly dumb fucks did the bulk of their pontificating through letters to the editor of the local paper. The L'Anse Sentinel used to have a couple regulars who could be counted on to fill page space with their tinfoil hat theories. (For all I know, they still do. I rarely read the Sentinel.) Those people were generally mocked by the community as a whole. They functioned as a source of amusement and not as a symptom of an increasingly dysfunctional culture.

Now, of course, the tinfoil hat types clog up the Intertubes. They band together in cyberspace and encourage each other's lunacy. Worse, after encouraging each other online, they engage in behavior that not long ago would have been unthinkable. Crazy people living in Florida can inspire equally crazy people living in Idaho or Vermont to engage in aberrant antisocial behavior like issuing death threats against politicians or policy makers they disagree with. Harassing the families (including young children) of school board members or public health officials is a recent example. My news feed lately has had way too many stories about the hell school board members are being put through over stuff that shouldn't be issues at all: trying to prevent the spread of infectious disease, for example. There are depressingly large numbers of people deciding to not run for school board again once their terms expire because it's not worth the stress.

Or worse. One of the most disheartening stories recently was about the harassment directed at the school board chair in Hastings, Minnesota. The woman and her family experienced so much vitriol, including credible death threats, that she and her family had to move. And what inspired all the hate? She was the chair of a school board that had voted to require masks for in-school students as part of the school district's response to the COVID pandemic. (Other recent examples of nutjobs harassing school boards include freakouts over library books with adult content -- as if high school students had never heard an obscenity or knew what sexual intercourse is -- or demanding schools eliminate Critical Race Theory from the curriculum when CRT isn't there in the first place. The stupid, it burns.)
I keep thinking there are all sorts of things that in the past people might think but they'd never say out loud. Now they don't just say the crazy shit out loud, they rally others to be equally delusional or nihilistic. Social norms have become meaningless to them. You used to have to be drunk or certifiably crazy to yell obscenities at a school board or city council meeting, and for sure you had to be not in your right mind to phone death threats to a neighbor. Not anymore. Now you can do and say whatever horrible thing pops into your head and not only will you not pay a price for it, you'll have fellow amoral, cognitively challenged asshats forming a cheering section.