Sunday, October 30, 2022

Samhain lights.

The Wheel of the Year turns, as ever, and so tomorrow is Samhain -- known as Halloween to most, and as New Year's Eve to many Pagans. Samhain is the final harvest, both of the growing season and of our personal goals for the year. 

I'm not sure why, but I find that I'm welcoming the encroaching darkness this year. I waited 'til mid-October to put up my Halloween/Samhain/Día de los Muertos decorations, and for some reason, seeing them in their proper places cheered me up immensely. 

I've added something new this year, too -- a mutant maple tree. 

Lynne Cantwell 2022
I thought about getting one last year, but thanks to the supply chain problems, the prices were just ridiculous. I'm glad I splurged this year, even though this poor fake maple tree has fake acorns and tiny pumpkin-shaped lights on the tips of its branches. Almost every tree around here turns yellow in autumn, so the red maple leaves add welcome bit of color. And I figure I can segue seamlessly from Samhain to Yule if I leave this tree in place until I break out the fake birch tree in early December. Last year I left the birch up through Imbolc (that's Groundhog Day to you non-Pagans), and I liked having that light on the porch so much that I expect I'll do it again this year.

So yes, lighting the darkness seems to be a theme for me these days. 

Back in September, I was chatting with a group of women and the topic of Zozobra came up. This is an annual Santa Fe tradition in which people pay to put a "gloom" -- a thing they'd just as soon get rid of -- inside a massive marionette, which is then set afire right before Labor Day. One of the women said she'd thought about putting in a serious gloom, but all she could think of was to ask to banish her shadow side, which she didn't want to do. 

Well, yeah, of course not. The idea is not to get rid of your shadow side, but to integrate it into a whole self. The way to heal is to shine a light on the stuff that you've hidden away in the dark. But it's not a bad idea, I think, to keep some of the shadowy parts of your personality in reserve. That way you can draw on them if someone crosses you or tries to take advantage of you. But first, you need to know those shadowy parts are there and what they're capable of; that's what the light is for.

And anyway, there are plenty of gloomy things you can have Zozobra burn up for you -- mass shootings, COVID-19, student loan debt, the war in Ukraine, homelessness, world hunger, and on and on -- without giving up any of your power. 

Now that's what I call lighting the darkness. 


I keep meaning to post an update on my fling with carbon steel cookware. Now is as good a time as any, I guess. 

I must have bought my carbon steel frying pan about a year ago, because that's when I first blogged about it. I'm still using it, but I'm not as entranced with it as I was when I first got it. First, I can't cook anything acidic in it or it'll take the nonstick patina off -- which means using chunky salsa as an omelet filling is a no-no. Second, it seems like the only way I can get the pan to be truly nonstick is by using bacon grease -- but actually cooking the bacon in the pan is a problem because the bits of leftover bacon in the grease stick to the pan. So I'm frying my bacon in a regular nonstick pan and pouring some of it into the carbon steel pan to make my eggs. Oh, and third, this particular pan has a hot spot in the center where it seems like stuff sticks no matter how much bacon grease I use.

Might eventually toss this pan and just get a frying pan without the nonstick coating. Or else resign myself to buying a new nonstick pan every year or two. 


These moments of bloggy illumination have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Blessed Samhain! Happy Halloween! Don't forget to vote!

Sunday, October 23, 2022

The problem might be in your TV, after all.

Here's that serious post that I was going to write last week but ran out of mojo. And in it, I'm going to admit that I was wrong.

maxxyustas | Deposit Photos

For the past six plus years, I've been banging the drum about how serious journalists shouldn't take sides. Report on all sides of the story, I've been saying, and let the audience sort it out. It worked for Edward R. Murrow, I said -- he reported dispassionately on Sen. Joseph McCarthy, simply showing him in all his Red-baiting glory and allowing his viewers to draw their own conclusions. When McCarthy realized Murrow was on to him, he targeted the journalist, as I noted in another post: "[T]he senator got mad at Murrow and accused him of being a Communist himself. Why didn't Murrow call him out as a liar? Because in attacking Murrow, McCarthy showed his true colors. Murrow didn't do editorials. He was a journalist. His method was to give McCarthy just enough rope to hang himself." It worked. Public opinion soon turned against McCarthy -- not before ruining a lot of lives, particularly in Hollywood, but it did turn.

I learned about Murrow and his role in bringing down McCarthy in journalism school in the 1970s. Journalism, we were taught, had a critical First Amendment role; it was the marketplace of ideas, where all sides aired their views. The lesson we journalism students took away from the Army-McCarthy hearings, as well as from the Pentagon Papers and Watergate, was that if journalists did their job and presented all sides objectively, people would figure things out on their own

I believed it. For decades, I believed it. I don't believe it anymore.

Margaret Sullivan served for many years as media columnist for the Washington Post. Her job involved critiquing the way the news media, including her own paper, covered the stories of the day, and in many cases how they could have done it better. She has a book coming out this fall -- a sort of memoir of her decades in the newspaper business. And in a piece in the Washington Post Magazine last weekend, she wrote about how the Trump presidency changed her view of how journalists should cover him. For many decades, she too believed in traditional journalism and the marketplace of ideas. But now she writes: "As [former President] Trump prepares to run again in 2024, it’s worth reminding ourselves of the lessons we’ve learned — and committing to the principle that, when covering politicians who are essentially running against democracy, old-style journalism will no longer suffice."

Journalists can no longer simply repeat what newsmakers say. Discernment was always part of the job -- if the sales manager asked you to do a story about his big account, you didn't do it unless there was an actual news angle. But at certain levels, particularly in day-to-day political reporting, the idea was to tell people what the guy said, and then tell what his opponent said, and your responsibility pretty much ended there. 

As Sullivan says -- heck, as we've all seen -- Trump saw how it worked and capitalized on it. He spewed endless bilge, and news managers covered every second of it because his bilge drew eyeballs for their advertisers. Journalists should have called him on his bullshit a lot sooner than they did. Even now, six years down the road, I see too many euphemisms in stories about the guy. Baseless claims. False this or that. Why don't they just come right out and say he's lying

I suppose one reason is that news organizations are skittish about being sued for libel. But another thing I learned in journalism school is that the first defense against a charge of libel is the truth. The lies Trump and his minions tell have been disproven many, many times over. It's clear they're lies -- not falsehoods or baseless whatevers.

Moreover, it's not like Trump didn't know the 2020 election results were legit. Many of his advisors told him so. So did members of his family. He even admitted it in private. And yet he has continued to lie in public that the election was stolen from him. Maybe it was because he didn't want to think of himself as a loser. Maybe he wanted to keep the grift going so his supporters would continue to send him money. Maybe both, and more.

Sullivan's point is that if Trump runs again, things have to be different: "I’m convinced that journalists — specifically those who cover politics — must keep a sharp focus on truth-seeking, not old-style performative neutrality. Does that mean we throw objectivity out the window? Of course not. We should be resolutely objective in the sense of seeking evidence and approaching subjects with an open mind. We should not, however, resort to taking everything down the middle, no matter what." Simply handing  each side a microphone isn't going to be enough: "We should be thinking about what coverage serves the public best."

She also criticizes traditional political coverage -- reports on the latest polls, stories based on "conventional wisdom", "campaign in disarray" articles, and the like -- as a distraction from the bigger picture that a chunk of one of our political parties seeks to end democracy.

That doesn't mean playing favorites or going soft on the other party, she says. What's required is for journalists to make a habit of putting their reporting in context: "They shouldn’t just repeat what’s being said, but help explain what it means."

Another thing I learned in journalism school is that every news story should answer six questions -- the famous five Ws and an H: who, what, when, where, why, and how. It's the why that Sullivan is addressing here: We need not just the facts, but the truth, in context. Trump and his supporters will howl about the unfairness of it all -- but they'll howl regardless. Journalists must do it anyway. Our democracy is on the line.


These moments of bloggy truthiness have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay safe! And get out and vote!

Monday, October 17, 2022

Weaving and reweaving.

I was going to do a serious post this week, but I'm a day late and anyway I'm not feeling sufficiently lugubrious today. So you get a crafty post instead.

Alert hearth/myth readers are probably sick of hearing that I've been volunteering this summer at El Rancho de los Golondrinas, a living history museum here in Santa Fe. I've talked about how I wove a rebozo and a sash for my volunteer costume. 

That sash has been a problem all season. I didn't make it long enough. I could just barely get it tied in a square knot, but it took a lot of pulling and tugging. So I decided to make a new one. And make it in a different weave pattern and at a different sett. All of that required more weft yarn than I had left, so I had to dismantle the old sash to finish the new one. But I think it turned out pretty well. Here's what the new sash looks like: 

Lynne Cantwell 2022
Here's a close-up so you can see the weave structure. The stripe on the end is a 1/3 twill; the rest is a 2/2 twill that's supposed to look like a zigzag, but owing to technical details, it's more like a chevron. The fabric ended up very dense -- stiffer than the old sash -- which to be honest is probably a good thing. 
Lynne Cantwell 2022
Also, I decided to go with twisted fringe this time. How does one make twisted fringe, you ask? Well, it so happens that I made a short video to show you the process. 

So there you have it. Now I have a brand-new sash that is not going to drive me crazy. I only have two more volunteer gigs this year, but that's okay -- it'll work fine next year, too.


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

Sunday, October 9, 2022

Another traumatic anniversary.


Alexis84 | Deposit Photos

This month is the 20th anniversary of the DC sniper shootings. An angry man and his teenaged acolyte drove to the DC area in a Chevrolet Caprice with the back seat and trunk modified into a sniper's nest, and began shooting random people. Over the course of three weeks, 13 people were attacked out of the blue by John Muhammad and Lee Malvo. The victims were doing normal things: pumping gas, crossing the parking lot of a big-box store, getting off a school bus. Ten of those shot were killed. 

It turned out later that Muhammad and Malvo's killing spree had begun months earlier on the West Coast. In all, they were responsible for 27 shootings, 17 of them fatal.

Muhammad was put to death for his crimes in 2009. Malvo, who was 17 at the time of the murders, was sentenced to six consecutive life terms. He could not be given a death sentence because of his age. He has since been denied parole.


I first realized it had been 20 years since the shootings when I saw this headline last week in the Washington Post: "The D.C. snipers terrorized a region. Here's what it was like." 

I skipped the article. Then, a few days later -- after I'd screwed my courage to the sticking place -- I went ahead and read it. It relays the body count and something about each victim, but it doesn't fully explain the terror. 

Keep in mind that 9/11 had happened just the year before, in September of 2001. The whole world focuses on the destruction of the World Trade Center towers in New York City, but the Pentagon was attacked, too; I've talked about my experience that day on the blog before. Also, just after 9/11, there was a rash of incidents in DC in which several media outlets and two US senators were mailed packages or letters laced with anthrax, a deadly poison. So everybody in the region was pretty much on edge in the fall of 2001, starting on September 11th and lasting through early October.

A year later, we were moving past the fear and trauma -- and then Muhammad and Malvo showed up and started shooting people. You never knew when or where they'd strike next.

And today, on the 20th anniversary of the sniper shootings, the whole world is still in the midst of a global pandemic.


Collective trauma is the term for the psychological impact on members of a society when a traumatic event occurs. That society can be as small as a family, or as big as a major metropolitan area -- or the world.

Sometimes I think that between political shenanigans and mass shootings, we as a society lurch from trauma to trauma, never really processing what we've been through before the next thing happens. Maybe that's just the nature of life: you deal with stuff as it comes at you. But when upsetting event follows upsetting event, how do you deal?

Some researchers say one thing that doesn't help is to forget about the traumatic event. Not only do we need a ritual or commemoration to put the thing behind us, but if we don't learn from history, we are at risk -- as the saying goes -- of repeating it. That's what happened after the 1918 flu pandemic: the disease became endemic and the survivors got on with their lives, and society retained almost nothing about behaviors that would help us cope when COVID-19 hit.

So I guess retrospective articles like the one at WaPo last week are a good idea. And I promise not to hide from them. Just please give me a minute before I have to read them.


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

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. 


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