Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The leftovers of childhood...

One of my favorite activities is reading.  A person would not be blamed for thinking that new technology, videos, video games, etcetera would usurp the place of reading in our lives.  Not only has this not happened but technology has come up with ways to allow us to read more easily.  You don't have to schlep to the library to get a book;  Just fire up your Kindle.

I often reflect on the set of books, from Disney, I owned as a child.  The club was called, "Disney's Wonderful World of Reading" and they often used old folk tales and other stories and "jazzified" them using Disney characters.  Each book was a hardcover and there was a plastic book holder to keep them all.

As this summer advances I think of all the wonderful summers I had as a kid.  We'd usually go to Arkansas to visit my grandparents who lived on a lake.  The days were filled with fishing, swimming, reading and fun.  Having lived through the depression my Nana and Grampa were frugal.  One of their traditions was having "musgoes".   Sometimes the neighbors were invited over for musgoes.  Musgoes was everything that "must go" in the refrigerator.  It was kind of like a poor man's smorgasbord.  Often it shaped up as quite a delight ... you'd get a bit of tuna casserole, some goulash, a dab of taco salad, a wedge of delicious canaloupe,  a smidge of green beans, cold fried chicken or potato salad.

I wonder how many people are denied this special throw-back feast in these days when families don't really cook enough homemade meals in a week to accumulate the leftovers required to dine on musgoes. I don't know if people are getting the kitchen skills required to take ingredients they find in a fridge and make "button soup" either.

Button soup, you say?  Yeah, I hadn't really thought about the term a great deal until a couple of months ago when I was with the family and staring into the fridge, arms akimbo, trying to figure out if there was enough there to throw a meal together.  I told my grandma I was going to make "button soup" ... and then I shared the story with her.

Of course I was sharing the Disney version of the book I had as a kid.  See, old Scrooge McDuck was parsimonious.  The whole Disneyhood knew him as a miser.  One day, Daisy Duck tells him that she can make some soup using only a button.  Scrooge is intrigued and tells Daisy to go ahead.  Daisy throws the button in a pot of water and relates to Scrooge that, "This button soup is delicious, but really it's even better if you throw in an onion ..."  She doesn't have an onion, but Scrooge gives her an onion for the button soup.  Daisy continues in this vein saying the button soup would improved with some ... celery ... maybe a soup bone ... some carrot ... etc.

In the end the soup is made and the community is enjoying it.  Scrooge exclaims that he can't believe such a delectable pot of soup was made with just one button!

Certainly the message here is that Scrooge McDuck is wealthy and selfish.  Once he has given everyone the soup, they love him and his image is somewhat improved.  This, while a clever tale, doesn't really represent any sea change on the part of Scrooge.  He was tricked.

It's just a children's book, right?  Well ... I did some looking and it has its roots in an old folk story about "Stone Soup."  Looking back at "Button Soup",  I think the message is a bit devious.

The wealthy guy is a penny-pincher.
His very wealth is the only relevant thing about his character.
He should be sharing his wealth with everyone.
Daisy Duck is very clever.
By telling Scrooge incrementally, just one more thing ... just one more thing, she's able to make a delicious pot of soup.
The soup is shared with everyone and they decide Scrooge is somewhat redeemed.
Scrooge is too stupid to realize that his ingredients made the pot of soup.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Writer's archive. Involuntary toxin purge, Coop, and the forest of thoughts.

Thursday night the family went out to shop and for supper and Friday morning I rose to bid adieu to my niece, who is going back into the bosom of danger for awhile.

About a half hour after she left my body said, "Whoa."  I mean my internals actually SAID "whoa"...and other burbled gurgles.  I spent a day pretty much in bed and the symptoms haven't entirely abated, but I feel better.  Feeling better might have to do with the fact that I ingested coffee today.

Time elapses more slowly when you're ailing and I've gentled it out for a couple of days reading the new book "Coop" by one of my favorite writers, Michael Perry.  It struck the perfect balance of escapist and grounding for me.  His writing tends to do that.  It is thoughtful but not brutal.  He's a midwest writer...so I have eyes for the topography and memories to buck up my mental picture of what he's doing his best to describe.  I'm almost through with the book and I'm procrastinating the ending.

The past week has been the forest of thought.  The national dialogue is grating on me.  We have murderers murdering and organizations attempting to place the blame on others than those who committed the acts.  Dissent doesn't mean shooting someone, but dissent was being lamented even BEFORE these guys opened fire.   Those who want to place blame ought to consider that condemning dissent might have, in part, played a role in the recent violence.

There's an idea that we are entering the post-American world.  There's a pressure to label the nation a post-Christian America.  If we're going to do that, can we logically throw in the idea of a post-racial America, too?  It's only fair.

There seems to be a rise in anti-Christian vehemence in the country.  Let's consider.  Seventy percent (conservatively) of Americans consider themselves Christian.  If you are one of those with the notion that a Christian nation is bad, do an experiment for me.  Go to the mall.  Now, consider that seven of ten people you encounter are Christians.  Does it oppress you?  Do you feel a sense of menace?  Do you think seven of ten people you encounter can't be trusted to do the right thing?

As for evil conservatives, I think there's a tendency to label as convenient.  When did conserving become a bad thing?  Most of the conservatives I know are concerned that some liberals want to fix things 'till they're broken.  I have to say, in all my internetical voyages, I never encountered a liberal who was ok with how things are going.  There's always danger around the corner...someone oppressing someone someplace...some injustice to be magnified into a cosmic grievance.  I know I'm generalizing, but please, you've all had ample access to the recent generalizations about conservatives that are floating around.

I think that sometimes it would be good to have a squaredance of the mind and appreciate what we have going.  In the recent past there are things I can point to as instances of when we started going off the rails.  When someone got money from McDonald's because the coffee was hot, that was a bad thing.  It was a death blow to responsibility and common sense.

When Hollywood decided it was a political action committee, that was a pity.  Right now, I've put "Far and Away" into the DVD.  I think grandma will enjoy it.  It was when Tom met Nicole.  It was directed by Ron Howard, when he was making pictures that celebrate the human spirit and American perseverence.  Before he made the political ad.

Grandma's sucking on a Tootsie Pop.  At 101.  So, I've had a couple of days to stomp through my forest of thoughts and enjoy some great writing and a good movie.  If you find yourself getting jaded, do what I do.  I guarantee that if you stop what you are doing and look around you...within 50 feet of you is a "good thing".  Not in the Martha Stewart sense.  It might be a tchotcke that reminds you of a pleasant trip.  It might be a picture of a family reunion.  It might be a 101 year-old grandmother exclaiming that her Tootsie Pop is "good!"

But there's something there that doesn't need fixing or changing.  It's, in fact, beneficial to conserve it in the form it takes.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Leaked email confirms that Miss Piggy is running for president!

Muppophiles and libertarians have long speculated on pork futures.

According to Pawker.com... Miss Piggy has sent an email to her ex-husband Kermit the Frog confirming that she intends to run for president.

The email was leaked to Porkliticususa...

"Dear Kermie,

I wish to tell you that all my oinks were real.  I have decided that I have a more important destiny to fulfill today.  As you know, the rise of radical Islam is a threat.  I can see no better solution to the horrid totalitarian ideology than to run my pork butt for president of the USA.  You might be wondering about my Vice Pork position.

I have chosen Beaker.  He can't be any worse than Joe Biden.

Kermie, you and I have shared much.  I hope that you will not make yourself a spectacle and that you will respect my intentions.

Thank you so much.  Mu-wah!

Miss Piggy.

Friday, May 6, 2011

We're tearing us apart.

We should have been together.  On the night Bin Laden was killed, we should have been together.

When I heard the news I spent a little time online but then I deliberately logged off.   Even Facebook quickly became political.  In that moment I just wanted to savor the news.  I didn't want to see punditry from left or right.  I didn't want the political spin...I just wanted to watch the news.  I was in spirit with those in front of the White House.  I felt a part of the crowd in Times Square.  I was glad he was dead.  

But that's me and, apparently, this is all about "us and them."

Left-wing and right-wing sites went to partisanship in the blink of an eye.   Quicker than you could politicize the Giffords shooting, the sentiments shifted from justice for the victims of terrorist attacks to who would score partisan points with what.  

"They'll never give Obama credit for this."
"They will never give Bush any credit for this."
"They might as well cancel the election."
"They are going to say this is the end of the war on terror."
"They won't celebrate because it looks good for Obama."
"They are going to milk this for political points."
"They couldn't do it, but we did!"
"They are going to have to stop hating on the military now."

Some of the usual suspects raced for their blogs.   They wanted to say things about "the right" and "the left" before anyone on "the right" or "the left" had even spoken.  Look, if you did not take some time to breathe deeply, absorb the news and maybe wait for more information before you wrote some hate screed indicting the political party you don't belong to ... you have issues.

Obama handled this masterfully.  I give credit to Obama.  The Seal team was the right way to handle it.  Can you imagine if we'd dropped a bomb?  


Pakistan saying it was an attack.  

The possibility of seeing photos of "alleged" bodies of children and claims that we hit a day care center that just happened to be surrounded by walls and barbed wire?  

The intelligence forces that gathered the intel deserve credit, too.  The methods for gathering this intel appear to be in question, now, but some folks worked very, very hard to make sure this tricky mission went down ... well not without a hitch, but successfully.

And Seal team...I want to buy you all a pizza.  I know I'll never be able to because you will remain hidden heroes.

Yeah, I read that MLK (misquote).  Certainly some of our happiness is tempered by the idea that "they" may retaliate.  Some of them were protesting while we were celebrating.  We are told that "they" aren't really like that, while we are also told that we'd better simmer down or we'll upset "them."  The larger Muslim world should really try to understand why we took to the streets.  This was about 9/11.  We were not burning anyone's flag, we were displaying our own.  We would have welcomed them joining us.  Some Muslims in the USA DID join other Americans in the streets.  But in some other countries ... including the UK ... it's disturbing to see so many of them upset that the witch is dead.   Some in other countries are claiming this was a "murder".

There's been a little too much, "we're no better than them" for my liking.  We weren't overjoyed about the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians...we were happy that the perpetrator had been brought to justice.   We didn't fly a plane into him or behead him on Youtube or wrap him in bacon and throw him into the Bay of Pigs, we shot him in the head.  Ultimately, we buried him at sea according to his religious tradition.

I don't need to see a picture of him.  I think the military would not have been complicit in a hoax.  Also, I'm not a "deather".  When did we become such a nation of conspiracy theorists?  

We should have been together.  Instead of days of increasing partisanship, conspiracy theories, indictment of politicians, pointing fingers at "the other side" ... we really should have been together.

People of all stripes should be allowed to be grateful, without being told, "You're not an Obama - supporter, so you can't be happy about this."  "You were upset about enhanced interrogation techniques ... and that's what led to this!"  Everyone should just chill out.

We're tearing us apart.  If we keep ripping on US, he wins.