Sunday, October 2, 2022

It's coming on comfort season, and that's okay.

 I bet you thought I forgot about Mabon, didn't you? Well, you would be wrong.

vika-mermaid | Deposit Photos
(I wish I could say it was Tigs in this photo, but it's not. My cat would never be so cooperative as to pose on a plaid afghan with a carefully arranged book, leaf, and cup of coffee nearby, and he certainly wouldn't be so chill as to fall asleep while so artfully posed. Tigs will never be a model.)

Mabon -- also known as the autumn equinox -- was a little over a week ago. It coincided with a fairly abrupt change of season here in northern New Mexico of the sort that rarely happened when I lived in the mid-Atlantic. Today, the DC area is shaking off the remnants of Hurricane Ian -- the one that caused so much damage and misery in Florida last week. I remember what that kind of weather feels like: sticky and dreary. Here, monsoon season is just about over; we had a thunderstorm this afternoon, but the high temperatures are forecast to be in the 60s this week, and people I chatted with today complained about how cold it felt.

Maybe that's why I've been in the mood for comfort TV these past few days.

I've recently picked up the habit of watching television nearly every night, after decades away. It used to be that I'd turn on the TV only when there was something I definitely wanted to watch. My excuse was that after working for many years in broadcasting, I knew too much about how the sausage was made to watch TV for fun. 

But lately, I've been turning on the tube (although I guess it's not a tube anymore) even when I'm not looking for the latest episode of a specific show. Oh, sure, I'm keeping up with certain series; right now it's She-Hulk, Rings of Power, and The Great British Baking Show. And I'm eagerly awaiting the new seasons of several shows, most notably three Star Trek series: Discovery, Picard, and Strange New Worlds. Then there's Ted Lasso (I assume another season is coming) and season two of Good Omens. I've also watched a couple of series that didn't get such great ratings but that I'd like to see more of: Upload and Moonhaven, both on Amazon.

I dunno if you noticed, but there's not a lot of serious drama in that list. There's definitely nothing that counts as a thriller or a police procedural (okay, I did watch Dark Winds -- it bugged me). My list is also missing grimdark fantasy other than Rings of Power. I'm skipping House of Dragons -- I didn't watch Game of Thrones past the first episode, and I expect House of Dragons has the same charming features (sex and violence for the sake of sex and violence) that turned me off of GoT

I've been hunting up lighter fare in movies, too. Some have been pretty terrible. (There was this one absurd flick set in a ski resort town with a woman who falls into a job as a housesitter for a guy who turns out to be a European prince. Of course he abdicates for her.) But I've also watched Roxanne with Steve Martin and Darryl Hannah for the first time. And I saw a movie the other night that I'd never heard of: Elsa & Fred. It stars Shirley MacLaine, Christopher Plummer, Marsha Gay Harden, Scott Bakula, George Segal, and James Brolin, among others. Prime viewers gave it a 4.4, but it got just 32% on Rotten Tomatoes. Screw Rotten Tomatoes -- I liked it. It came out in 2014. What was I doing in 2014 that I missed it? Who knows?

Anyway, it strikes me that my chosen fare these days is what GoT creator George R.R. Martin has called "comfort TV". I don't think he meant it as a pejorative, and I'm not taking offense. In fact, I'm embracing the term. This is a good time of year for comfort TV, as we turn to the darker half of the year. It's maybe even a good time of life for it, what with the country's political mood and the continuing conservative sideshow.

That's not to say that politics aren't important -- they are. (Roevember is coming, y'all.)

But it turns out that these days, I'm okay with kicking back in the evenings with my knitting and watching some compelling -- and sometimes some completely ridiculous -- TV. 

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These moments of comfy blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay safe!

Sunday, September 25, 2022

A calming noise.

ifee | Deposit Photos

You've heard of white noise, I take it? Well, there are other colors of noise, too.

A couple of days ago, the New York Times ran a story about brown noise. I had never heard of it, but apparently it's been a thing for for several years. Like white noise, brown noise is a combination of every frequency that the human ear can hear. The difference between white and brown is that white emphasizes higher frequencies and has a hissing quality to it. Brown noise, by contrast, emphasizes the lower frequencies and is more of a rumble. Think of the sound of heavy rain, strong wind, or a waterfall. 

What's the deal with the colors? That's thanks to engineering. Somebody decided to base the hierarchy of these types of noises on the rainbow. Brown, which emphasizes the lowest frequencies, is akin to the red end of the rainbow; red light has the lowest frequency of light waves. On the sound scale, after brown comes pink, then white, then blue (which sounds like the static you get on an FM radio between stations). You can hear short samples of these different noises here. (The New York Times article also lists violet noise; there's a sample of that at the link in the second paragraph.)

White noise machines have been around for many years, of course. People use them as sleep aids. I've also seen them placed outside of therapist's offices, the theory being the white noise will drown out whatever confidential conversation is going on inside the office and keep people in the waiting room from eavesdropping. But the Times says brown noise is now becoming popular with those diagnosed with ADHD. Reportedly the rumble helps them focus.

The jury is still out on whether brown noise -- or any color noise -- can help alleviate anxiety. Some people may find that having such noise gives their brain something to do other than dwell on anxious thoughts. But others might find the constant background noise distracting or even irritating.

By the way, a survey done two years ago of scientific studies about the efficacy of white noise's use as a sleep aid found it's...not all that helpful. There's no harm in using it, but the reason it's helpful may be more about masking other annoying sounds that are keeping you up at night -- such as a significant other's snoring.

In fact, there doesn't seem to be any harm in using any of these types of noise on a regular basis. So if you believe it helps you sleep or concentrate better, have at it. I'm not really a fan of any sort of noise -- I prefer silence, especially when I'm writing. But if I had the choice to listen to either a rushing waterfall or FM radio static, I know which one I'd pick.

In fact, sitting by a waterfall sounds like a good idea any time. 

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These moments of noisy blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay safe! The pandemic may or may not be over, but Covid isn't leaving any time soon.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Speak up!

This past week, my friend Kim and I attended a presentation at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture here in Santa Fe. The speaker was Diane Bird, an archivist for the museum and one of the curators of the revamped "Here, Now and Always" exhibition. Since its inception in 1997, the idea behind the exhibition has been to explain to museum visitors that Native Americans didn't disappear when the Wild West ended -- they're still here, and their history and culture are way more interesting than those old Westerns ever let on.

Bird is a member of Cochiti Pueblo, and among her responsibilities during the revamp of the exhibition last year was to plan the portion dealing with Native survival, both in the past and today. Tribes and nations from across the Southwest were consulted in the creation of the entire exhibit, and they had input into what would be displayed. Several times during her talk, she mentioned that some of the Pueblos didn't want the Pueblo Revolt mentioned anywhere. 

kieferpix | Deposit Photos
Quick history lesson: Spanish conquistadores first came to New Mexico in 1540, searching for gold (which they never found) and causing a lot of trouble with the Natives who were already here. Coronado and his men eventually departed, but about 60 years later, Don Juan de Oñate brought settlers up from Mexico. Oñate put down a particularly bloody rebellion at Acoma Pueblo, killing or enslaving hundreds and ordering that all men of the pueblo who were 25 or older have one foot cut off. Missionaries came, too, and forced the Natives to convert to Catholicism. By 1680, the Puebloans had had enough. In that year, an Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo leader, Po'pay, led a revolt against the Spanish. It was coordinated by sending runners to each pueblo to give the leaders knotted cords. One knot in each cord was to be undone each day; when all the knots had been untied, it was time to attack. The result was bloody but successful -- the Spaniards were forced to abandon Santa Fe and retreat south to present-day El Paso. The Natives' victory lasted twelve years, at which point the Spaniards returned (how peaceful that return actually was is a story for another time).

Okay, back to the presentation last week. After the curator had said a couple of times that some pueblos didn't want any mention of the Pueblo Revolt, I asked her why. Why wouldn't they want people to know that their ancestors fought back against the invaders and won? 

Bird said it was because people didn't like to talk about it. That first Spanish occupation was a horrible experience; for hundreds of years, it was never spoken of. It wasn't until the pueblos began organizing an annual commemorative run in the late 1990s that Native kids began learning about the Pueblo Revolt.

Then another attendee spoke up. She was Jewish, and she said she was raised to never speak of the Holocaust for the same reason: because it was so painful and horrible and because so many people were killed. 

So many of today's ills are exacerbated by people not speaking up. From the burning of Black Wall Street in Tulsa in 1921 to incidents of domestic violence, heinous acts committed by humans against their fellow humans are hushed up. Sometimes it's deliberate -- those in power don't want the stories of their cruelty to spread. But too often, it's the victims who refuse to speak up, because of fear or embarrassment or pain. They don't want to relive the experience, so they don't. They try to forget. And so, succeeding generations never learn.

But as writer and philosopher George Santayana once said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." 

Humans have ugly impulses. We commit atrocities on a regular basis. 

It's so easy to forget that. We are routinely lulled into a false sense of security about how good and just and peaceful we are. 

But we can't fall for the lullaby. We should strive to keep all of humanity's behavior in perspective -- even the heinous parts -- and that involves a regular acknowledgement of how awful we can be to one another. 

Because otherwise it will happen again.

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These moments of bloggy remembrance have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay safe!

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Not everything is a sign.

 First, a couple of housekeeping things:

  • After I shared last week's post about Medicare, folks who've been through the gantlet reminded me about a couple of things:
    • Not everybody pays the same monthly premium for Part B. It's tied to income, so some folks pay more. But I think a majority of folks on Medicare pay the base rate, which is $170.10 for 2022.
    • It's a really good idea to shop for a Part D (prescription) plan every year. Insurance companies change their drug formularies at the drop of a hat, so the plan you have this year may not cover your meds next year at the same rate -- or at all, even. You can only change your Part D plan during open enrollment, which runs from October 15 through December 7 every year.
  • Today is the 21st anniversary of 9/11. If you're interested in reading (or re-reading) what I experienced that day, here's a link to the blog post I wrote a couple of years ago. (Linking to it saves me from having to type it all out again.)
Okay, onward.

PxHere.com | CC0

If you thought, by looking at the photo, that I was going to write about politics again, you're forgiven. I'm not, though.

A couple of nights ago, I attended a small gathering of fellow Pagans at someone's house. She's kind of out in the country, with a good-sized chunk of land around her house, and so she gets a lot of local fauna roaming through. She also has a permanent labyrinth set up just the other side of her driveway, which is a cool feature that I wish I had enough room to do myself.

We were sitting outside in lawn chairs, socially distanced, next to the labyrinth. And as we talked, various critters made their way around us. This has happened before; during our get-togethers, we've seen a lizard and a few types of birds. It's their land, too, right? They were here before humans got here.

This time, as we chatted, a tarantula trucked across the labyrinth behind us, making for a copse of trees on the far side. It was a good-sized critter, about the size of your hand with your fingers extended. Some of the women got up to get a closer look, but I stayed in my seat. (Now I wish I'd gotten a photo; if I had, I wouldn't have have to resort to a stock photo for this post. Hindsight is 20/20, etc.)

Here's the thing: Our host was convinced that the tarantula was a sign -- for her. She'd never seen one on her property before, and here it was, crossing her labyrinth. And during our meeting, too! She was both fascinated and kinda scared, I think. 

This group tends to talk about animal sightings and What They Could Mean anyway, so I'd brought along my copies of Ted Andrews's books, which I mentioned in a post not too long ago. I looked up tarantulas and found them mentioned in the section about spiders. Andrews says the bite of a tarantula is poisonous, but the effect on an average human is no worse than a bee sting. He also says tarantulas don't weave webs, per se. Rather, they live in holes in the ground and catch food that comes near the rim of their hole. Of spiders in general, he says, their keywords are creativity and the weaving of fate.

A few of the other women at the meeting told our host that autumn is mating season for tarantulas. The females stay in their holes, and the males go walkabout in search of them. They said there was probably a female in a hole in the copse, and our boy was just heading over for a little boom chicka wow.

But our host would not be dissuaded. That tarantula was meant for her. Never mind that there were nearly a dozen of us at the meeting, so it could have been for any of us -- except that it stayed well away from our circle.

As I said last time this came up on the blog, "The biggest trick...is to not read too much into what you're seeing." It was cool to see a tarantula in person. But given the season, I'd say this was a spider doing spider things -- not any sort of message from the Universe.

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These moments of spidery blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. The omicron vaccine is available -- get boosted!