February 2007


So, here I am in the only place in the “downtown” area that has wifi after 6pm. (Yeah, some downtown).  So, it’s this place that is super-caj cafe by day (you order your sandwich/salad at the counter & they bring it to you) that turns into this town’s version of hip at night (candles on tables, hip music, table service, fancy cocktails, etc.)  Heck, even the downtown Starbucks closes at 6pm (unless there is an event at the local arts center it’s next to – I know cuz I called them this morning to ask if they had wifi & how late they were open).  Why am I here sucking up wifi?Cuz its DATE NIGHT.  Woot! 

Except for mr. jolt & me, we translate date night into him writing/researching (the bane of full-time academic work while pursuing a degree) and me either running errands or (now) writing this blog. Then later, say 8, we actually meet & have dinner & talk about our lives in a fashion not commonly permitted at the family dinner table. I couldn’t run errands today b/c my car is in the shop (to the tune of $395! Ugh! Ouch!) so had to plan to meet mr. jolt downtown since I work there.

So because this is the only place with wifi after 6pm and because the lights in my office building shut off at 6pm (yes, you can turn them back on, but they then automatically shut back off every half hour and it’s a pain, not to mention its a big massive building that exudes creepiness after hours), here I am.   And because I hate to be a bad customer I have had two key lime martinis – not bad actually – and two appetizers, and now I’m not even hungry, but am about to meet mr. jolt for dinner.  At which I will try to explain why I had two appetizers when I knew I was meeting him for dinner, so I guess I’ll watch him eat – how romantic.  Which in the overall scheme of things is so minor, so gnat-like in importance I am ashamed.

But, sheesh I’m pathetic.  I do, truly need to get over this feeling ‘guilty’ for being a solo diner.  Seriously, I have ordered desserts when I didn’t really want them b/c I felt bad about only having an appetizer.

I am pathetic.  I have had two key lime martinis, though, so take this whole post with a grain  of salt — or grain of crumbled graham cracker, since that is how they rim the glass for the two key lime martinis. Tasty!

No.  Not Gouda, not smoked Gouda.  Aged Gouda.  I’ve had regular Gouda, and its okay.  Once, I thought smoked Gouda was the bomb, and to this day it’s the one I’ll pick on those catered cheese & fruit trays because it’s better than the chedder & pepper jack cubes.*  And the brie on those cheese trays is always insipid.  So, the smoked Gouda has its place.

But.  Aged Gouda, which I had for the first time only a few years ago, is divine.  It is crumbly and has this odd grittiness to it, which probably doesn’t sound appealing, but trust me, it is.  It’s nutty with overtones of butterscotch and absolutely delicious. Gouda is traditionally made from cow’s milk.

To be honest, I have never focused on brands of aged Gouda, but I will look into it and provide a new post if I have particular recommendations.  If you have particular recommendations, please let me know in the comments.  In general, the longer it has aged (I’d go for 18 months at least) the stronger the flavor.   And strong, for aged Gouda, is not the pungent kind of flavor that is stinky or makes you say “phneh” (which is good in some cheeses), but simply a stronger impact of the nutty, buttery flavor.

It can reliably be found at specialty cheese shops and also online.

*The cheddar is always mild on those trays & thus disappointing; pepper jack is for melting on things, it has a good blending taste, but is lacking the oomph necessary for a solo performance, in my not so humble opinion.

A recent post by the superlative Twisty discusses, among other things, various aspects of religion & Famous Fighters of the Black Thing  set forth in Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time.   Reading her comments on the various religious allusions in the book reminded me of something I first noticed way back in college when taking a Survery of English Literature, which is that not having been raised in any religious tradition, the vast majority of religious allusions, metaphors and other literary devices went completely over my head.

This lack of cultural  commonality meant that my tenure as an English major was short-lived. (Also, the professor of the survey course was uninspiring unlike my poli-sci profs).   English lit, and a good portion of American lit is frequently suffused with religious allusions that, to those with understanding of those symbols, greatly shapes the way they interpret the book.   To people such as myself with no religious background, I miss and have missed the significance of various metaphors and events.

For example, I have a vague memory of my 9th grade English teacher (who rocked) explaining that in the Old Man and Sea, the number of times the old man stumbles on his way home corresponds with the number of times Jesus, as described in the Bible, stumbled with the cross on the way to his crucifixion.  When she described this, I remember being completely non-plussed.  Was this supposed to make the old man more mythic?  What was the point?  Would students with a Christian upbringing have picked up on this, even subconciously?

The lack of such exposure or understanding on my part limited my understanding of certain material in that I didn’t “catch” the references.  I’m sure in many ways I lost out on valuable understanding.  On the other hand, I think it allowed me to view the material more independently, unfettered by assumptions of the significance of a metaphor.  The logic of the metaphor, or the impact of the events (such as the old man falling) had to stand on their own without the support of religious allusion.

When I was in college there were rabid debates (I’m sure there still are) about the utility/necessity of Western Civ classes in ensuring that students were armed with enough understanding of the dominant culture to be able to appreciate/understand the various literary, philosophical, etc. canons.  I am only beginning to understand the magnitude of connections, etc., I missed out on (and that other non-religious, or non-Christian raised students missed out on) because I simply had no background.  I’m sure this is only one facet in how persons not raised in the dominant culture in this country (religion being only one aspect) fail to “catch” things that are assumed to be common knowledge.

At times, I have wanted to read the Bible (or at least read that series in Slate that summarizes it) just to have some better background for the vast majority of literature I read.  But then I think that I should also read the Koran, and similar central tomes for the other literature I read and the project becomes too overwhelming.  Which is why the only sections of the Bible I have actually read are a section of Genesis that was required in college, and the Book of Matthew, which I read in third grade because I had a crush on a boy named Matthew (no, I don’t get the logic either, but it made sense at the time).

But here is a question, how do readers/students who want to study literature or better appreciate it, but do not have knowledge of the dominant Christian paradigm that enfuses so much of Western lit learn this stuff?  Are there primers out there that give enough background that these connections & metaphors can be appreciated?  Are there similar things for people who want a better understanding of other cultures and religious backgrounds to better understand literature steeped in those traditions?

Also, how do we balance the need to convey this information with avoiding it making the dominant approach even more dominant?

votes-for-women-cartoon.jpg 

(click on pic to enlarge) The Library of Congress has a great collection of photographs, cartoons, etc. from the Suffrage Campaign.  Check it out.

BB, my older son, loves parachutes.*  It started with the little flimsy parachutes with the little plastic guy tied to it that you throw into the air.  He quickly got bored with these lightweight toys that tangled easily and wanted to make his own parachutes. 

Being only five, his preferred way to make parachutes is to find some item that he thinks will make a good parachute (a piece of paper, a piece of flimsy plastic, etc.) and beg me and/or demand imperiously that I tie string to it and then tie some mini-doll (aka action figure) to the parachute before launching it off the balcony that runs between the bedrooms upstairs and overlooks the living room.*

Most of these parachutes fail because the “sail” part of the chute is not shaped right or something.  My memory of high school physics is dim enough that I cannot adequately explain to BB why these will not work.  So I’ve looked at this as a form of experimentation.  BB is big into science, so why not let him test things out to figure out what works & what doesn’t, right?  Anyway, we recently acquired in our adventures*** a lightweight plastic bag – the kind that has plastic bars at the top with little snaps – that he decided to make into his latest parachute.  I got string and tied the little astronaut guy from BB’s space set between the handles of the bag.  Launch.  The bag went directly, though fairly quietly, to the floor.  Clearly, insufficient lift or drag or whatever they call it that keeps people who jump out of planes from killing themselves. 

Later that evening, mr. jolt and I are making dinner, there is a very loud BANG from the living room.  “What was that?” I call out.“Just a parachute,” BB says.  I walk over to the far side of the couch and spot the bag with the plastic astronaut lying there.  It looks oddly lumpy, so I pick it up.  Inside is one of those large Tonka fire trucks.  It easily weighs 4 or 5 pounds. 

Fortunately, both the truck, and more importantly, the floor, survived impact (the truck also  narrowly missed the table with about 2 dozen picture frames which is why BB has not been grounded for life).  Clearly, BB and I need to have further discussion of weight v. drag/lift before further experimentation is permitted.

*Oh my.  It was only when proofreading this post that I realized that I hope he never, ever, ever does the real parachute thing when he grows up.  Please, BB, have mercy & if you decide to take the plunge only tell me after you have successfully achieved it. 

**When we first moved into this house we had a strict rule – No Throwing Anything Off the Balcony – we have since caved to pressure from the younger demographic to allow parachutes & paper airplanes. 

***We went to a car & boat show.  There is nothing more entertaining for two little boys than to crawl in and out of five million cars and pretend to drive.  Actually, LB, my 3-yr old, likes to get in the backseat**** and have me pretend to drive.  LB preferred the boats, but they didn’t let us get on as many of those.  I wondered, while sitting on some of those pontoon boats, what is the attraction?  I’d far rather sit near a lake or river where it’s a short stroll to the bathroom or the refrigerator than out in the water far from a functioning toilet or icemaker.

****Does this suggest LB has either a too willing acceptance of the status quo of being passively driven around or an early predilection to backseat activities that will require necessary but awkward conversations about backseat etiquette before handing over the car keys thirteen years from now?

I heard on NPR this morning that Texas and other states are pushing back against Merck’s promotion of mandatory HPV vaccines for girls.

I completely understand if there are legitimate medical questions about ensuring safety prior to mandating vaccines and that Merck’s push of their product is not un-interested.  But as I’m sure others will detail around the femisphere today, if the vaccine is not mandatory then many, many girls will not ever receive it.  Either costs will be too high for many or parents will think that “their daughter” will not need it b/c of purity vows or similar views on teens (or unmarried women) having sex.  And how many girls get enough adequate information about reproductive health to seek it out themselves? Not enough.

About 3 years ago, I moved from a big, liberal city to a small city in a mostly conservative area.  Aside from the obvious changes in political atmosphere (and the sad paucity of yummy food of the non-fried variety) there have been numerous social ramifications.  Most of the time, I socialize with other ex-pats, i.e., other people who did not grow up around here.  We ex-pats have our various theories about how and why we bond together, but that is a subject for another post.

The subject of this post is the delicate issue of acquaintances I have, people I meet at work, at the kids’ school, etc., with whom I have casual conversations about family that I find mildly disturbing.  Specifically, this woman I know that I see frequently often chats with me about her family.  Her family is structured very traditionally in that, while she works outside the home, she does, as far as I can tell,  every damn bit of housework & childcare in her house and elsewhere that falls within her jurisdiction.  I never really know how to respond to her various comments about her husband, which paint a picture of a mostly immature, self-centered, manly dude. 

I can’t laugh at her comments, which sometimes appears to be what she’s looking for, in the “aren’t men irritating” kind of way because I am, quite frankly, appalled.  And I’m not willing to slam mr. jolt just to share in the casual, conversational male-bashing.  (Not that he doesn’t have his faults, but he is a great guy).  Now, to be clear, there does not appear to be anything at all abusive in her relationship, but sheesh, I just can’t figure out why this smart, nice woman is married to such a doofus.

When I find myself befuddled after conversations with her I try to remind myself that we never can truly know another couple’s relationship and what goes on inside of it. But.   The problem I have is that I don’t find his idiocies funny, but pathetic.  I think it’s sad that she has to do all the heavy lifting in the relationship.  I think the view of men as bumbling idiots is demeaning to them and to the women in relationships who put up with it – whether it be real ignorance (hah!) or the willful blindness variety.  And part of me wishes she would see how pathetic it is & do something. The other part of me wants to show her how pathetic it is, but I don’t really know her well enough to engage on that level.  So I sort of just say, “Uh, geez. Um, how frustrating for you.”

But the willful ignorance that some men profess in connection to housework and childcare in order to avoid responsibility does strike me as mirror image, of sorts, of the willing relinquishment of important decision-making made in the “male is god/head of family” type marriages found in certain evangelical christian communities. Only, of course, women get the short end of the stick on both sides.

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