The Economist on Bourdain

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  • Food made him happiest if he experienced it in a purely emotional way. It might be the company, the moment, or some memory it evoked: of his mother’s grilled-cheese sandwiches, or his mother-in-law’s meatloaf. A plate of piss-poor peasant food could become something sublime, like feijoada in Brazil.

The Economist Obituary, 16 June 2018

George Orwell, Visionary?

If large numbers of people are interested in freedom of speech, there will be freedom of speech, even if the law forbids it . . .  If public opinion is sluggish, inconvenient minorities will be persecuted, even if laws exist to protect them.

— George Orwell, “Freedom of the Park” (published Dec. 7, 1945)

Jenny Allen, Essay # 15: WOULD EVERYBODY PLEASE STOP?

Self’s favorite essay so far. She loves the motherly distress over the thought that her 13-year-old daughter receives dick pics from an acquaintance. The mother, a true Mama Bear, calls the boy (whose number she finds from an email on her daughter’s computer — Bad Mama for snooping! Bad!)

“Hello?” says the boy, “warily.”

“Hi! Who’s this?”

“M—-” he says, giving his name. Good Lord, this boy would probably follow a guy who said he had a hurt puppy in his car.

Anyhoo, the conversation never touches on the dick pic, and yet there is eventually a

Long pause. “Oh.”

And I think, he’s putting it together. He knows.

The mother does talk to her daughter about it, and succeeds in being very light. Trusting, you know. She lets it go. But inwardly, she can’t stop worrying. So, some time later, when she and her daughter are “on vacation in the country,” she brings it up again:

“Were you shocked when you saw the picture?”

“Yes.” She’s smiling, but she says ‘Yes’ in the same tone that she might say “Of course” or “Duh.”

“Well, what he did was send an assault, and that’s wrong, and — “

“Bye-bye.” She walks outside. She has always been a private person. She hates Talks.

And the mother is rebuffed. Again. And yet again.

The last image is of the daughter sitting on a swing: she “swings slowly, the wood making little creaking sounds like a sailboat’s mast in the sea.”

How lovely the image!

And a few sentences later, the piece ends.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.

 

Jenny Allen: Essay # 5

Isn’t it strange? You start out life counting the people you didn’t want at your birthday party, and you end it counting the ones you don’t want at your funeral. Maybe we don’t learn anything in between. Maybe we just go through life gathering grudges, and then we die. Oh, God, isn’t that so sad?

Thursday self brings her car to the mechanic because, as she was driving one day, smoke came out of the steering column. Since she was in motion when this miracle occurred, she stared at the smoke and wondered: What is smoke doing here? Go away, smoke!

In five minutes the smoke had gone but she couldn’t see her dashboard; the instrument panels — the odometer, the fuel gauge, the digital clock — were black as pitch.

She brought her car to the mechanic. He tested the dashboard lights and saw they were non-functional. He asked self if there was anything else that seemed “off” to her.

She replied that she’d seen smoke coming out of her car’s steering column.

The mechanic remained expressionless and intoned: That’s not good.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Essay # 3: Would Everybody Please Stop?

Dear Answer Lady: Before he slammed the door and moved out last month, my husband spent a year looking at me darkly and saying things like, “What have you done with the spoons?” Do you think he has a girlfriend?

I do.

2018 is SO 1461

  • In Renaissance Florence, a number of designated boxes placed throughout the city allowed citizens to make anonymous denunciations of various moral crimes — in 1461, for example, the artist-monk Filippo Lipi was accused of fathering a child with a nun.

— Claudia Roth Pierpoint, “Angels and Men” in The New Yorker (16 October 2017)

The article is a review of the Walter Isaacson biography of Leonardo da Vinci, called Leonardo da Vinci. One of the biggest surprises in the piece is the discovery that “one of the last remaining complete notebooks, the Codex Leicester,” is in the possession of Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Also: “Leonardo was illegitimate, gay, vegetarian, left-handed, easily distracted . . . ”

Dear blog readers, last year self saw the Mona Lisa. It was May or June. A Spanish woman asked self whether she knew where the famous painting was located. Then she asked a museum guard, and the two of us went looking together. And we found it. And she asked self to take pictures of her standing in front of it. And insisted on taking a few of self.

And here’s a wide-angle shot of the gallery housing the Mona Lisa and then self making a horrible face because, honestly, she dislikes having her picture taken (not when the humidity has done things to her hair) and the crowded gallery full of people aiming their cell phones in one direction was so disorienting.

 

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Words: Rosario Ferré

I write because I am poorly adjusted to reality; because the deep disillusionment within me has given rise to a need to re-create life, to replace it with a more compassionate, tolerable reality. I carry within me a utopian person, a utopian world.

— from the essay The Writer’s Kitchen, Feminist Studies 12, no. 2 (Summer 1986), translated from the Spanish by Diana L. Velez

A minute ago, self decided to google Ferré and learned she had passed away, 18 February 2016. She was 77.

Noooooooo!

DSCN9989

The View Across the Street From the Gallery Bookshop, Main Street, Mendocino, 21 April 2018

Stay tuned, dear blog writers. Stay tuned.

Maureen Dowd: Ivanka and Vodka, on the Rocks

“Donald Trump is the meanest man I have ever met.”

— former top Trump administration official, quoted by Maureen Dowd

So happy to be reading Maureen Dowd again. It’s been too long. In her piece in the Sunday, 24 June 2018 New York Times, she dissects the First Daughter.

It turns out Ivanka really does just want to please Daddy, which reflects the panic she felt when Trump left Ivanka’s mother for Marla Maples. Ivanka “called him constantly.”

When she became a model, her father “suggested to friends that breast implants might help her along. One friend recalled getting a frantic call from Maryanne Trump, Donald’s sister, urging him to talk Donald out of letting her get plastic surgery that young. It’ll ruin her, she said into the phone. When his friend confronted him about it, he denied that she was getting implants. At the end of the call, he asked, Why not, though?”

The poor girl. The poor, poor girl. She’s mastered the art of being Trump’s daughter so well, and now she’s nothing but a prop. A prop who can’t think on her own.

This prop is having a hard time controlling “the ultimate wild child. An authentic jerk trumps an inauthentic brand ambassador.”

Trump is “the all-consuming maw . . . an infinite pit of need,” according to Emily Fox, author of the just published Born Trump. He’s “a time-sucking vampire who fed off those around him to sustain his own vanity.”

“Nobody,” writes Dowd, “is buying her blond savior routine any more.” Rest assured, however, that she has inherited her father’s “preternatural ability to self-promote.” She can still make money, just not from touting her association with Daddy.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

So Ironic, on So Many Levels

Self decided to throw out all her New Yorkers that are older than 2017.

She had them as far back as 2011, there were stacks and stacks of them all over the place. Who was she kidding? She’d be dead before she got to read through all the piles.

Now, she pulls out the 3 April 2017 issue and reads a piece written by Andrew Marantz for the Talk of the Town:

  • A few years ago, after he starred in Transformers, the actor Shia LaBeouf seemed poised to become the next Johnny Depp; instead, he started behaving more like the next James Franco.

Despite that opening sentence, the piece is not really about Shia. It’s about 4-chan trolls, the “men whose main goal is to be the chaos they wish to see in the world,” who “turned Pepe the Frog, once a benign cartoon, into a neo-Nazi icon.”

They infiltrated one of Shia’s performance art events. The actor confronted them “and got arrested.” The Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, which was sponsoring the live event, “cancelled the project.”

The actor was undeterred and decided to continue his live stream from another venue, moving to Albuquerque, New Mexico. The trolls found him.

So Shia LaBeouf was actually one of the first people to tangle with the trolls and he showed plenty of gumption. He moved his project to Greenville, Tennessee. The trolls found him there, too. He moved to Liverpool, England, and the day after he resumed his live streaming project, “British trolls” found him and “the live stream went dark.”

They targeted the actor, and no one stood up for him. Not then. In the end, he simply ran out of energy (or money).

Who would have thought it would be Shia to become an early target. What this piece shows is that, even for someone with gumption and determination and resourcefulness, it is difficult to endure this kind of intense, organized hatred. Self is sure Shia was taken aback. As self was taken aback recently when someone on Facebook posted that the Red Hen owners had been visited by the Secret Service. She went over to yelp and saw that the restaurant’s reviews had been hijacked by hundreds of tweets bearing the Nazi swastika. Using the same tactics they used to call David Hogg, a Parkland school shooting survivor, a Nazi, these trolls were now calling the Red Hen owners Nazis.

And today someone in the GOP had the nerve to put out a hashtag called ‘civility’? Seriously? Our communities are under attack, our kids are under attack, and they want us to be ‘civil’? Trevor Noah was right: the way to deal with a lying, self-proclaimed martyr like Sarah Huckabee Sanders is to present her with an empty plate and say, there’s your order. She’d say, there’s nothing on this plate. The comeback would be to feign total shock and amazement and insist: There is. You’re just too simple to see it.

Because, no joke, Sarah Huckabee Sanders is on tape saying, “Let me try putting it into simple sentences, which is apparently all you can understand.”

A White House spokesperson actually said this to the White House press corps. And, maybe they were too shocked or something, because not one reporter took her to task for this insult. They just let it go.

It would be wonderful if, at the next White House Press Briefing, none of the press showed up. Sarah Huckabee Sanders would be left talking to an empty room. Let’s see what she does then.

She tweeted after she was turned away by the Lexington, VA restaurant, using her official (i.e. White House) twitter account.

There is not one single professional public servant in the current administration. They all assume a personal slight is a matter of national security. Oh please.

Let’s be clear: Sarah Huckabee Sanders earns 165k a year. And she resorts to Twitter knowing full well that trolls will descend and overwhelm the restaurant. She knew it would happen, and she used her official Twitter account. Is this not a horrible, horrible mis-use of public (official) twitter accounts? Yet Huckabee Sanders did it, which shows her vindictiveness and pettiness and meanness.

The President sends out tweets at 3 a.m. and rains insults on everyone. Is this not also a mis-use of a public (official) twitter account? Where is the respect for the office? No, Donald et. al. These accounts are not simply for your personal use. Your tweets may be entertaining but surely the American people have better things to worry about than your feelings of rejection.

Stay tuned.

The Writer’s Kitchen: How To Let Yourself Fall From the Frying Pan Into the Fire, by Rosario Ferré

Translated by Diana L. Velez

Feminist Studies 12, no. 2 (Summer 1986)

Throughout time, women narrators have written for many reasons: Emily Bronte wrote to confirm the revolutionary nature of passion; Virginia Woolf wrote to exorcise her terror of madness and death; Joan Didion writes to discover what and how she thinks; Clarice Lispector discovered in her writing a reason to love and be loved. In my case, writing is simultaneously a constructive and a destructive urge, a possibility for growth  and change. I write to build myself word by word, to banish my terror of silence; I write as a speaking, human mask. With respect to words, I have much for which to be grateful. Words have allowed me to forge for myself a unique identity, one which owes its existence only to my own efforts. For this reason, I place more trust in the words I use than perhaps I ever did in my natural mother. When all else fails, when life becomes an absurd theater, I know the words are there, ready to return my confidence to me.

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