Sunday, November 26, 2023

Second childhoods.

mitchdhutchinson | Deposit Photos
It's a holiday weekend here in the US, and that means the media are publishing a lot of evergreen stories -- features that can run any time, and in fact may have been written a week or two before they show up on your favorite news outlet.

One of the themes this year appears to be keeping old folks entertained.

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal ran a feature by Rob LaZebnik, who's a co-producer and writer for "The Simpsons", about how he's trying to avoid being boring, now that he's past 60. His friends and co-workers had heard all of his best stories multiple times, so he decided to try a bunch of stuff so he'd have new stories to tell. Several of the activities on his list I've already done ("set up a table at an autograph convention" -- check; "made a shirt" -- check; "bid at an art auction" -- check; "cooked dinner" -- what kind of rarefied life does this guy lead that he's never cooked dinner before?), but others I have zero interest in. "Attend a megachurch", for example, is not, nor will it ever be, on a challenge list of mine. (The rest of his list included going to a leather gay bar, taking a sound bath, making an announcement on an airplane, and going on a police ride-along.)

I suppose the idea is to come up with your own challenge list. But if that sounds like too much work -- and let's face it, at the end of a four-day weekend, almost everything sounds like too much work -- then toymakers are coming to our rescue. They're aiming at the senior-citizen crowd by retconning classic games and developing new ones. New "Generations" versions of games like Scrabble and Trivial Pursuit have bigger game pieces and larger fonts (which makes me wonder if there are ADA standards for such things, but I digress). These versions are also supposed to allow grandparents to play games more easily with their grandkids; according to the Associated Press, "the answer to a question in Trivial Pursuit about fitness can be Jack LaLanne or Zumba, depending on the player’s age." 

Jack LaLanne? Just how old an audience are these people aiming at? I would have said Jane Fonda, or even Richard Simmons. Jack LaLanne, really??

The idea of old folks buying toys out of nostalgia isn't new (it's called a second childhood for a reason...), but toymakers noticed an uptick during the pandemic, when isolated older adults began "gravitating toward plush animals and robotic pets as companions." (This clearly does not include me, as Flora is neither plush nor robotic.)

These toymakers are all benevolence, of course, only wanting to help this aging demographic's quality of life: the games give elder folks a way to interact with their grandkids. And puzzles keep your mind sharp, right?

Eh, not so much. Reseachers have found that while playing a lot of puzzles makes older folks good at doing those specific puzzles, it doesn't do much of anything for the types of skills that would help them keep working longer, for example, or allow them to live independently. Skills like, say, cooking dinner.

As for interacting with the grandkids, it seems to me that the prospect of playing a board game with Gramps wouldn't be much of an enticement to the cellphone-and-video-game generation. The robotic pet, though -- that might be a better draw.


Oh, speaking of retcons, I should update you on the pumpkin pudding tweak that I mentioned last week. Substituting brown "sugar" Swerve for regular brown sugar worked great. 

However, we are not going to talk about the recipe for keto pecan pie I found online and how I tried to tweak that today with the ingredients I had on hand. Nope! Not discussing it!


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

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Gobble, gobble.


SlipFloat | Deposit Photos
We are currently in the midst of Peak Eating Season, which I define as the period that starts when you buy the first bag of Halloween candy and ends after the leftover Easter candy goes on sale. The season kicks into high gear in the U.S. this coming week with Thanksgiving on Thursday.

A lot of people stress over Thanksgiving, and not just because all the relatives are coming (including the ones you don't like). There's also a lot of angst over how to cook the turkey, how much food to buy, which sides to have, and so on. Not me! I am one of those people who makes the same thing every year. I buy the biggest turkey I can*, stuff it with Pepperidge Farm stuffing, roast it in one of those plastic cooking bags, and serve it with mashed potatoes from a box, nuked whole sweet potatoes, a green vegetable, crescent rolls from the vacuum-packed can (nothing says a holiday meal at La Casa Cantwell like the explodey sound those tubes of dough make), and the jellied substance that my daughters long ago dubbed "canberry sauce". With pumpkin pie and chocolate pudding pie for dessert.

That is, that was the menu for many, many years. Then I went low carb.

Honestly, though, as a veteran of decades of dieting, I can assure you that of all the holiday meals, Thanksgiving is one of the easiest to adapt to whatever lifestyle change you're making. Granted, it's tougher for vegetarians and vegans because of the focus on meat (a problem that Thanksgiving shares with Christmas dinner). But for nearly everybody else, a few tweaks and you're good.

Take this low-carb thing. There's quite a number of carbs in my old menu, but you can lean on lower carb veggies for sides.

Take the stuffing, for example. A couple of years ago, I found a recipe online for cauliflower "stuffing". It is amazing. It 100 percent tastes like regular stuffing. And it's not just me saying it - other people I've served it to have said the same thing. (Pro tip: If you have a Trader Joe's nearby, skip the business about chopping your own cauliflower, carrots, onion and celery -- instead, stop by their produce section and pick up a bag or two of fresh riced cauliflower and a container of mirepoix.)

For rolls, I've made almond flour biscuits. The mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes? You could sub mashed butternut squash, but honestly, I just skip them and add another veggie. This year, it'll be acorn squash. It's not like there isn't enough other food on the table.

Turkey is already zero carb, but I always feel like I ought to put something where the stuffing usually goes. I'm going to try this recipe this year, which includes my cherished plastic cooking bag but doesn't require you to stuff the bird with bread.

The canberry sauce is a tough one, but in the past, I've made cranberry-orange relish with Swerve instead of regular sugar.

For dessert this year, I'm going to tweak a pumpkin pudding recipe that I've used for many years. It worked great when I was doing the regular kind of dieting, and I think all I'll have to do to make it low carb is swap the brown sugar for brown "sugar" Swerve. I'll report back.

Here's the recipe. I don't remember which newspaper I got it from, or I'd give them credit.


1 14 oz. can pumpkin puree (don't get canned pumpkin pie filling by mistake)

1/2 c. light brown sugar (I'm going to sub brown "sugar" Swerve)

1/2 t. nutmeg

3/4 t. cinnamon

1/4 t. ginger

1/4 t. ground cloves

(Of course, you could use 1 3/4 t. of pumpkin pie spice (aka "pumpkin spice") instead of the individual spices)

1 c. whole milk (or 2% or nut milk -- but remember that the less fat in your milk, the less creamy the pudding will be)

3 eggs

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Farenheit. Bring a large teapot full of water to a boil. In a medium bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, brown sugar/"sugar", and spices. Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the milk and eggs, then add them to the pumpkin mixture and whisk until smooth. Arrange eight ramekins in a shallow baking dish (about 2" deep) or lasagna pan. Spoon or ladle the pumpkin mixture into the ramekins. Place the baking pan in the oven. With the oven door open, carefully pour the hot water into the baking pan until it reaches halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Push the baking pan to the center of the oven and bake for 20 minutes; reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 30-35 minutes or until the pumpkin is set. Carefully remove the baking pan from the oven and remove the ramekins from the pan. Serve warm or cool.


* On the off chance that I haven't bored y'all with this before, here's why I always buy a huge turkey: It's cheap. This year, I paid 67 cents a pound for my turkey. And here's the key:

You don't have to eat the whole thing in one weekend. 

Once the big meal is over, I use a four container system for turkey leftovers: one for slices from the breast for sandwiches, one for the rest of the white meat, one for the dark meat, and one for the skin and the other stuff that nobody's gonna eat. The breast slices go in the fridge for eating that weekend, and the light and dark meat goes in the freezer. (The fourth container goes in the trash, or you can boil the contents for broth.) I can stretch those frozen leftovers for months: turkey rice soup, turkey taco filling, turkey this, turkey that. If you only have turkey a couple of times a month, you don't get sick of it. I swear to you it's true.


If you take away only one thing from this post, make it this: Don't make yourself crazy over a single feast. Bodies are adaptable. One day of breaking your diet isn't going to wreck your metabolism or your life. If you want the damn pie, eat the damn pie.


These moments of festive low-carb blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay safe, and happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Taking a week off.

 As promised, I'm taking the week off from the blog. See you back here next Sunday, November 19th.

Sunday, November 5, 2023

The time has changed. Again.

PantherMediaSeller | Deposit Photos
This graphic seemed appropriate for the day after the night before. I suspect that all of us in North America are spiraling a little bit today. (You Europeans ought to be all recovered from your time change a couple of weeks ago. Aren't you? Aren't you???)

Besides the usual chorus of "ugh"s and "not again"s, the most common reaction I've seen to reminders about last night's return to Standard Time has been, "I thought we got rid of that!" Alas, no. You're thinking of that parliamentary maneuver last year in which a couple of U.S. senators snuck through a bill to keep the country on Daylight Time all year. The House never brought it up for a vote, and so it died.

Congress has been dinking around with Daylight Time since World War I, but we really played around with it in the 1970s. I distinctly remember a year in junior high when we were all ordered not to change our clocks. Our school system got around it by not resetting the classroom clocks, but shifting school hours by an hour. (The time-change tussle was way more complicated in Indiana than I remember, according to this guy's blog post.)

Also, I was sure I remembered that we spent less of the year on Daylight Time back then, and it turns out I was right. Take a look at this chart. When I was a kid in the '60s and '70s, Daylight Time started at the end of April and ended at the end of October. Now it starts in early to mid March and ends in early November. Why did it change? Does anybody really know? Does anybody really care? (According to this article -- in Time, appropriately enough-- it was lengthened in 1986 to make recreational business interests happy. It gave folks more daylight hours in the evening to, y'know, spend money on having fun. It was also supposed to save energy consumption, but it didn't actually do that.)

To be honest, I think we're all just sick of of the constant disruptions to our circadian rhythms -- the older you get, the harder it is to recover, or so I've found -- and most people think we should just pick one time and stick with it. The science appears to be on the side of Standard Time; the Washington Post has a cute little story-with-graphics about it on its website today -- here's a no-paywall link, if you're interested in checking it out. But a lot of folks like Daylight Time because it gives them more light at their preferred time of day.

I tend to be a night owl, so I'm in the camp of more light at night. But I'm also in the camp of not getting up before dawn, and I don't have much control over that, either, now that I've gone back to work.

Maybe one of these days, both houses of Congress will take a stand against messing with our clocks. But in the meantime, we'll have to keep doing this semiannual dance.

I'm not yawning; you're yawning!


By the way, I'm taking next weekend off from blogging. See you back here on Sunday, November 19th.


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

Sunday, October 29, 2023

The Ushers' modern-day fall.


Stolen from the internet
I've been a big fan of Edgar Allan Poe's writing since I was a little kid. I thought I'd told this story here before, but I couldn't find it just now in a search, so here goes: When I was in elementary school, a collection of Poe's short stories was among the paperbacks my mom bought me. I loved a whole bunch of those stories, but "The Masque of the Red Death" was my favorite. I actually read it aloud one day to a bunch of my friends from the neighborhood in our backyard. (They were all younger than me. I had to kind of explain the part about how there was nobody in the costume.)

So when I heard that Netflix was doing "The Fall of the House of Usher", I was psyched. And I'm here to tell you that this show is definitely worth watching.

This production is not a modern-day retelling of the short story; it's more of an homage to all of Poe's work. There is a "house of Usher", but it's not a mansion -- it's the crumbling two-story house with a basement where Roderick and Madeline Usher grew up. In this version, the siblings are twins; their single mother was impregnated by her boss, an utter asshole who lives in a real mansion down the street and who never claims the kids as his own. Dad owns a company called Fortunato Pharmaceuticals. Eventually -- the turn of events is laid out in detail in the series -- their sperm donor dies and they gain control of the company. Then they proceed to manufacture an opiod painkiller that supposedly isn't addictive -- except, of course, it is, and lots of patients die. When the company -- and the Ushers -- are finally put on trial for their part in those deaths, they also start dying, and Roderick's six offspring are the first to go. Each one dies in a different way -- all gruesome, all with a reference to one of Poe's stories, and all orchestrated by a mysterious woman named Verna. We don't find out who she is until the last of the eight episodes, and even then, her exact identity is shrouded in mystery. Suffice it to say that the Usher twins sold their souls to some kind of demon to gain their success, and the bill has now come due.

Apparently the director, Mike Flanagan, is well known for turning out creepy stuff. I'm not much of a fan of modern-day horror, either movies or TV shows (I realize that's a weird admission, coming from someone who has written horror in her time), and so I don't think I've seen anything else he's done. But I may have to check out some of his other work now, because I really liked this series. It's a little gorier than I prefer, but none of the gore seemed gratuitous. It all made sense, given the plot.

Judging by a couple of reviews I've read of this series, I guess Flanagan uses a stable of actors in his work. I only recognized two in this show: Mary McDonnell, from the Battlestar Galactica reboot, and Mark Hamill. And I can't say I actually recognized Hamill. His portrayal of Arthur Gordon Pym, Esq. -- aka the Pym Reaper, the Usher family's lawyer -- was astonishing. If I hadn't known, going in, that it was him, I wouldn't have known who it was. That's how far from Luke Skywalker this character is.

Anyway, regardless of whether you're a fan of Poe, if you like creepy stuff, I highly recommend that you check out The Fall of the House of Usher on Netflix. And if you are a fan of Poe, have fun noting all the names and situations that have been borrowed from Poe's work. Either way, you won't be disappointed.


These moments of creepy blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay safe! Blessed Samhain and happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 22, 2023

The ruana saga.

Lynne Cantwell 2023

Time for a less controversial/uncomfortable post. I can now relate the entirety of the saga of the ruana.

A ruana is similar to a poncho. But while a poncho has a hole for your head, a ruana is basically two long rectangles that are sewn together along the long edges about halfway. You drape the unsewn-together ends over your shoulders and hang the sewn-together part down your back. There are other ways to wear one, I guess, but the point is that their construction is stupid easy: make two long rectangles and sew two long ends together halfway up.

So of course I had to make it complicated. I found a weaving draft in a pattern book for a couple of interesting twill patterns. Never mind the little boxes that look kind of like guitar chords; the crucial point here is that with this threading of a four-shaft loom, you can do either the chevrons or the diamonds. 

From The Handweaver's Pattern Directory by Anne Dixon.
I desperately wanted to do the diamond pattern because it looked so cool. The treadling was a lot more complicated -- 16 steps in the repeat instead of four -- but I had plenty of time to get it right. So I found a pattern online that gave me the dimensions for each rectangle (I did not do her double weaving) and warped the loom for the first one. 
This is actually the warping for the second rectangle. I can tell because of the wall color behind the loom. 
Lynne Cantwell 2023
That was Memorial Day weekend. I was in no rush -- I didn't need the ruana 'til mid October for Spirits of New Mexico at El Rancho de las Golondrinas. This annual event is a lot of fun -- it's at night, with the placita rooms lit by candles and fires in the fireplaces, and we volunteers wear ghostly face paint and pretend to be the ghosts of local folks long dead. Last year, I wasn't dressed warmly enough and nearly froze. So I knew I had a hard stop on October 21st to get this done. Five months! Plenty of time!

In June, I spent my free time creating my tote bag for the ranch. I still had plenty of time for the ruana, though -- almost four months!

In the first week of July, my upstairs neighbor's plumbing sprang a leak, and all of the water ran down into my apartment. The worst hit was my office/craft room. The loom itself wasn't damaged, nor was the warp on the loom (phew!), but the mitigation took more than a month, during which time the room was all torn up and the loom was under a plastic tarp. (Part of the mitigation was to repaint both the craft room and my bedroom. I blogged about the new and old wall colors -- you can see them here.)

It was now very late in August, and I had just about two months to go. So I started weaving the diamond pattern -- and I kept getting lost in the treadling, which messed up the design. I asked Mokosh (the Slavic goddess of weaving and spinning, among other things) for advice, and immediately understood that I needed to give up on the diamonds and do the chevrons, or I'd never get the thing done. I resisted for another couple of weeks, which was dumb -- when a goddess gives you advice, you really ought to take it -- but I finally admitted defeat and switched to the chevrons, which had a much less complicated treadling. And it worked. 

Lynne Cantwell 2023
I finished the ruana with about a week to spare, and I was able to wear it last night, as you can see in my selfie up top. Although I kind of didn't need it. It only dropped to about 60 degrees by the end of the evening -- which figures, right? But it's done, and I can wear it for this event from now on.

Next up on the loom will be a runner for the bathroom. Luckily, I have no deadline for that project.


These moments of bloggy snatching of victory from the jaws of defeat have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay safe!

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Welp, here we are again.

 There's a new war in the Middle East -- same as the old war.

lightsource | Deposit Photos
I wouldn't even be writing this post, except that I told a couple of people I would. See, I have no dog in this hunt. I'm not Christian, Muslim, or Jewish. The sources of my DNA go no further south in Europe than Czechia (other than the 1% or so that's African, but it's from the western side of the continent).

To clarify: I have no dog in this hunt except that I am a Person, as is each of the Persons, willingly or unwillingly, in this conflict. And as recently discussed here, I am an animist. I believe every Person deserves respect. 

So on that basis, I'm wading in. With the emphasis on wading.


In case you've been living under a rock for the past week and change, this live update story will bring you up to speed. But basically: a week ago yesterday, Hamas, a Palestinian group that the US State Department has labeled a terrorist organization, launched a surprise attack on Israel. More than a thousand Israelis were killed, and a number of people were taken hostage. There have been reports -- some now debunked -- of atrocities committed by the Palestinians against Israeli civilians.

In retaliation, the Israeli government, led by hard-line President Benjamin Netanyahu, has attacked Gaza -- where Palestinians have been living under Israeli rule for decades -- basically bombing it into oblivion. Israeli officials have warned those living in Gaza to get out, because they intend to launch a ground war to hunt down and destroy Hamas, once and for all. More than a million people live in the area, and they have had nowhere to go; Egypt now says it will allow Palestinians to cross into their country, starting tomorrow morning.


I spent some time, yesterday and today, acquainting myself with some of the history between these two peoples, and I still have only a cursory grasp of it. Here's the outline, though: this region is part of the Levant, which has passed back and forth from one ruler to another since ancient times. (For a while, of course, it was part of the Roman Empire.) About a hundred years ago, give or take, Britain took control of the region -- then called Palestine -- from the Ottoman Empire. In 1917, the British came up with the idea that there should be a "national home for the Jewish people" there. Please note that nobody asked the Palestinians what they thought of the idea.

This rejiggering of countries to suit colonial powers seems to be a theme throughout the first half of the 20th century. For example: At the end of World War I, the Habsburg Empire was carved up into various new countries. One of them was Czechoslovakia, a union of the Czech lands and Slovakia -- but it wasn't long after that when the Allies lopped off the Sudentenland and gave it to Germany in exchange for a promise from Hitler that he wouldn't invade Czechoslovakia. (Spoiler: It didn't work.) Another was the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, aka Yugoslavia. And of course Russia sucked up several nations, including Ukraine, when it became the USSR in 1922.

As I understand it, virtually all of this was done on paper by the winners of war, without taking into account the relationships among the various ethnicities in these new countries, or even, really, the way the people who lived there felt. 

And so it was with Palestine. Britain's declaration caused a lot of tension and not a few battles between Arab states and the British, but in 1947, the United Nations stepped in and set up these boundaries:

From Wikipedia
The idea was that the Jews would have their territories, the Palestinians would have theirs, and Jerusalem -- sacred to both Jews and Muslims -- would be a UN protectorate. 

That didn't solve anything. There was continued fighting between Jews and Arabs, with the occasional attempt at a diplomatic solution that never held. You can read all about that here. The bottom line is that over the years, more and more of what used to be Palestine has been handed over to Israel, to the point where Palestinians today live in just two areas within Israel, the West Bank of the Jordan River and Gaza, and Israel controls everything, from access to food and water to the number of work permits issued to Palestinians so they can have jobs in Israel.

Getting back to all that nation-building in the early 1900s, you may have noticed that virtually all of those cobbled-together nations in Europe have since split up. Czechoslovakia split into Czechia and Slovakia in the Velvet Divorce of 1992. Yugoslavia began to fall apart in 1980, when strongman leader Tito died, and officially split up in 1991, although it took many more years for all the new borders to shake out. The USSR also imploded in 1991 -- but of course Putin has been trying to get the band back together for a while now, as witnessed by Russia's incursions into Ukraine, starting with the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

And yet, the Israel/Palestinian mashup has endured. Until now, maybe.


To be clear, I'm not taking sides. I believe the reports that the Hamas attack was especially brutal -- but the Israeli government's scorched-earth response is brutal, too. I think the Hamas attack, whatever their rationale for it, played into Netanyahu's hands; for decades, he has wanted the Palestinians gone, and now he has a perfect excuse.

If I had my druthers, the Israelis and the Palestinians would both have their own countries. But nothing's ever that simple.

If I'm on anybody's side, it's the side of the people -- both Palestinian and Israeli -- who are suffering as a result of this war. Yes, the Palestinians elected Hamas to run Gaza, and the Israelis elected Netanyahu (again). But people make mistakes. We elected Trump, right?


There's a lot more I could say. I could talk about the reasons that the US supports Israel, both political and diplomatic. I could talk about the role of religion and whether it's more important as a cause of the strife than simple land grabbiness (TL;DR: I used to think it was all about religion, but I don't anymore). But this post is already super long, and I'd like to watch more of The Fall of the House of Usher tonight. So I will close with this: I really, really, really hope nobody decides this would be a good time to attack either Jews or Muslims anywhere else in the world. 

And please, you guys, take any report of any atrocities as rumor until independently confirmed. Think about the source of what you're hearing and what that source stands to gain from ginning up anger and fear, and then decide whether to believe it.


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

Sunday, October 8, 2023

A reading list for cooler days.


Lynne Cantwell 2023
With the weather turning cooler here in New Mexico, my thoughts are beginning to turn toward hunkering down before a fire with a glass of something warming and a good book. And since I've been blogging quite a bit lately about things like anthromorphism and animism and how Native Americans' concept of history and religion is different from Europeans' -- not to mention this idea that there's more than one god -- I thought it might be helpful to give y'all a short reading list. Just in case you're stuck for something to do, one winter night, and decide to find out why this crazy woman keeps saying the stuff she does.

But seriously, each of these books has stuck with me over the years. As I often recommend them to others, I figured I might as well put them all in one place on the blog. So here you go: some of the books that have shaped my current thinking. I'm not posting links because y'all know how to search Amazon and/or inquire at your local library.

Animism: Respecting the Living World, by Graham Harvey. Harvey has studied the way Native peoples throughout the world relate to beings that most Westerners think are devoid of life. I quoted from this book on my post about sentient balls of moss back in 2020.

The Wakeful World: Animism, Mind, and the Self in Nature, by Emma Restall Orr. I also mentioned this book in that blog post about glacial mice. Orr is a Druid and a philosopher; the text is denser than Harvey's, but her ideas about animism are intriguing, particularly when she talks about how trees must communicate, although clearly they have a different language than humans do. 

Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest, by Suzanne Simard. Speaking of trees communicating, Simard has discovered how they do it: via a network of fungi in the soil. She started on this journey of discovery when she began to wonder why seedlings planted to replace clear-cut forests often don't make it. The answer: old trees supply nutrients and other types of support to young and ailing trees, and when the old trees are gone, that support -- that wisdom -- is gone, too.

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants, by Robin Wall Kimmerer. Kimmerer is a botanist and a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. She writes beautifully, arguing that scientific knowledge could -- and should -- be enriched by indigenous wisdom. 

The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity, by David Graeber and David Wengrow. These two authors put paid to a whole host of ideas about human progress that were basically invented by Western Europeans to convince themselves that they -- we -- represent the pinnacle of civilization. For one thing, that timeline about how humans progressed in a straight line from hunter-gatherers to farmers? It's bogus. Totally made up. It's as true as the idea that "savage Indians" couldn't have been smart enough or advanced enough to build cities like Cahokia or Teotihuacan, or massive earthwords like those in Ohio, so they must have been constructed by aliens, or maybe one of the lost tribes of Israel.

The Mound Builders, by Robert Silverberg. Those Hopewell culture structures have recently been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which puts them on par for cultural importance with Stonehenge, the Acropolis, and the Great Wall of China. (This pleases me inordinately, as my Transcendence series features some scenes at the Newark Great Circle Earthworks.) Silverberg usually writes sci-fi, but this book is nonfiction. It doesn't get into the archaeoastronomy that's built into the mounds; instead, the author writes about how European settlers "discovered" them and how Western science finally got around to investigating who built them and why. 

God is Red: A Native View of Religion, by Vine Deloria, Jr. I read this book years ago. It's billed as the seminal work on Native American religious views and their relation to Christianity. I think it was the first time that I was introduced to the idea that Christianity, as a source of the belief in human exceptionalism, is responsible for so many of our culture's ills, including genocide and environmental damage. Deloria wrote the book in the early '70s. With climate change whacking us upside the head, it might be time for a re-read.

A World Full of Gods: An Inquiry into Polytheism, by John Michael Greer. If you're wondering why polytheism makes sense to educated people like me, read this book. It delves into the philosophical underpinnings of the belief system and demonstrates why polytheism is as rational a way of seeing the world as is monotheism -- or atheism, for that matter. I've heard that Greer has unfortunately turned Trumpy in recent years, but this book was first published long before, in 2005, and remains an excellent introduction to polytheistic thought.

So there you go -- eight books to get you through the winter. Enjoy. And if you read any of them, let me know what you think.


These moments of bloggy reading recommendations have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell

Sunday, October 1, 2023

Celebrating anthropomorphism.

The things you get to talking about with friends on Facebook. Or maybe it's just me.

This week, somehow I ended up in a several-days-long Facebook chat with friends from Kevin's Watch about religion -- which to be honest, isn't that unusual with this crowd -- but then I steered the discussion into animism. 

Niceldeas | Deposit Photos
I was primed for it: I'm taking an online class right now on Pagan metaphysics, and one of the modules is on animism. Here's what we've been taught: Animism starts with the idea that whatever it is that animates humans also animates everything else -- our pets, of course, and other animals, but also plants, rocks, rivers, mountains, our earth, other planets -- everything. But it goes further than that. It suggests that all these things aren't just alive; they are also persons -- persons with whom we can form a relationship.

I discovered some time ago that I'm an animist, partly through my Pagan studies, but also by delving into so many Native American myths. Many tribes have a different attitude from that of Western civilization when it comes to the land. We have historically seen the earth and its resources as Jehovah's gift to us, to use for our benefit -- even to exploit. By contrast, Native Americans generally see the Earth as our mother, and the animals and plants that live here with us as people in their own right, whose qualities are wisdom that we could do well to emulate. These Natives believe we are here not to exploit Earth and her resources but to be good stewards of them. Which is one of the attitudes that made Europeans think, when they first got here, that the Native Americans they met were uneducated and naive -- in other words, ripe for exploitation. (I hope I've gotten some of this across in my novels.)

Getting back to the conversation this week: It then took a turn into a discussion of how we're not supposed to anthropomorphize things. Say you hear one of your cats using the litter box, and then notice that one of your other cats is also paying attention -- and is actually lying in wait to pounce on the poor boy when he gets out of the box. He does, and she does, and he freaks out and dashes down the basement stairs, and she saunters away, her practical joke played. Oh, all right -- it was Pumpkin in the litter box and Squeaker who was the jokester. And the whole thing was hilarious. 

But when I recounted this some years ago, I was admonished by someone for anthropomorphizing Squeaker's behavior. I thought the concept was ridiculous at the time, and I still think so. But this week, in remembering this series of events, I came to a realization: Humans, in our hubris, have it backwards. It's not that we attribute human emotions to animals -- it's that every living thing has the same emotions. We know when our pets are happy to see us and when they're jealous of the attention another pet is getting. We know when a wild animal is angry or afraid. We are learning that trees take care of one another, feeding resources through a mycorrhizal network underground to an ailing neighbor tree. We recognize these emotions because we have them, too.

But we can't admit that to ourselves. If we did, it would make humans, Jehovah's chosen ones, equal to every other species on the planet, including the rivers and trees and mountains and the planet herself.

As an animist, I believe we are all equal. We are all persons. And every person deserves respect.

So I've decided that anthropomorphism isn't an actual thing. It's certainly not anything we should avoid doing. In fact, I think we should do it more often. Let's celebrate our similarities so that we're less likely to treat the Earth, and every person on her, as "less than human".


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

Sunday, September 24, 2023

New art in town.

Well, not new new. But it has a new home. The Vladem Contemporary Art Museum  -- more precisely, the New Mexico Museum of Art Vladem Contemporary -- opened this weekend. The original facility is right off the historic plaza downtown, and while it often shows contemporary works, it turns out they have a lot more in storage that they haven't had room to put on display. So several years ago, the state agency that runs the museum bought an old warehouse in the Railyard and converted it to this new facility -- thereby annoying local folks who objected to the destruction of a mural that celebrated Santa Fe's multiple cultures. The mural has been recreated inside the museum, but some locals are still ticked that you have to go inside to see a scaled-down work of art that you used to be able to see from the street.

Anyway, I stopped by the members' preview open house on Friday.

The inaugural exhibition is called "Shadow and Light". I'm not a huge fan of contemporary art, and frankly some of the work I saw in the downstairs exhibit space was terrifying (take a look at these pants made of straight pins!). Although maybe I was just hungry. After a stop at the hors d'oeuvres tables, I found some stuff upstairs that I liked better.

This, for instance. It's called Cu:C and it's by Susan York. It was actually commissioned by the museum for this corner. It's made of two squares, one graphite and one copper, and the description on the wall encourages the viewer "to ponder whether they interrupt space or are integral to the building." 

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To be honest, it was fairly crowded in the gallery, and I kind of wondered whether I could fit inside the squares and take a break from the crowd. Probably would have gotten thrown out of the museum, though.

This one, by Emil Bisttram, is called The Archetype. Bisttram was a theosophist, according to the info on the wall next to this work. I loved the colors and the way the artist worked in the mystical symbols. 

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My absolute favorite piece in the show, though, is this one, by Yuyoi Kusama. It's stainless steel and urethane and it's called, appropriately enough, Pumpkin
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The card on the wall says, "Kusama's polka dots, while playful and humorous, force viewers to negotiate between the real and the surreal as they experience the work." This is how contemporary art goes off the rails for me. It's a polka-dotted pumpkin, for crying out loud. Can't I just enjoy a bit of whimsy?

I mean, if reality is what you're after, the rooftop terrace offers a great view of downtown Santa Fe. 

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The Vladem is in the Railyard, right next to the Rail Runner station (the commuter train that runs between Santa Fe and points slightly south of Albuquerque). If you're coming to Santa Fe anyway, or if you're a fan of contemporary art, it's worth checking out.


These moments of artistic blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. (I mean, it's a pumpkin. Lighten up!)

Monday, September 18, 2023

"Pretend we're not home!"

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Oh hey, sorry, guys. I owed you a blog post last night, but I got to chatting with a friend on the phone and the evening got away from me.

One of the things we talked about is worthy of a blog post, though. (Which is good, because one reason I didn't rush off the phone last night was that I didn't have any ideas for a post.) We discovered that in both of our families of origin, it was not weird to show up unannounced on the doorstep of some relative or family friend. And they were always happy to see us. Always! They'd pull a coffee cake out of the freezer and make a pot of joe and make up the spare bed for you -- or if they didn't have a spare bed, they'd insist that you sleep in theirs.

Does anybody still do that? I mean, we visit friends and family, sure. But nowadays, we text or email first and make sure it's okay to come.

I know some of you younger folks are astonished. "So you'd just, like, show up? And they'd open the door and let you in? I know you didn't have email back in the Stone Age, but couldn't you at least call?"

Oh, you sweet summer child. Long distance was expensive. This Washington Post story from 2004 said that in 1920, it cost $250 in 2004 dollars to make a ten-minute call from New York to Los Angeles. By 1998, the cost for the same call had dropped to 50 cents. But the price didn't fall all at once -- it stayed up there for a long time. In cruising the web for some figures just now, I was reminded that there used to be tiers of long-distance prices -- daytime calls were the most expensive, evening rates were lower, and if you could stay up 'til the wee hours, nighttime rates were the least expensive. I absolutely remember waiting to make long-distance calls until after the rates went down at night. So no, you didn't just pick up the phone and call somebody. 

That 2004 WaPo article is reminding me how much the communications landscape has changed over the past 20 years. Remember the "Baby Bells"? The regional phone companies were created in the wake of the breakup of AT&T (once known as Bell Telephone) in 1982. AT&T used to have a monopoly on telephone service across the United States. But in '82, the behemoth agreed to end a lawsuit filed by the Justice Department by spinning off its local phone service into seven regional companies. A few mergers later, there were just four: Verizon, SBC, BellSouth, and Qwest. Not only did they own local phone service, they started selling their customers long-distance package deals. And they also owned chunks of the spectrum for the nascent cellphone industry.

With every innovation, long distance got cheaper. Now, almost everybody has a cellphone -- and with so many cellphone packages offering unlimited minutes, we're to the point where the term "long distance" has pretty much lost all meaning. Talk is cheap; texting and data are where the money is!

Anyway, getting back to my original point: I think it's more than the communications revolution that stopped people from making spontaneous visits like the ones we remember. While phone calls (and texts and emails) are cheap today, gas is a lot more expensive. Plus people today are just busier. We are not home a lot: we go to the gym, take the kids to sports practices and games, go shopping, have spa days. A day with zero commitments is a rare thing, both for the folks with a yen to get in the car and go visiting and for the folks who may or may not be home when they get there. Who wants to spend a ton of money on gas, only to find out you made the trip for nothing?

And I haven't even mentioned the complications of "don't come in -- the house is a wreck" and "shit, I never wanted to see this person again -- pretend we're not home!"

Not to mention how COVID put the kibosh on everything for a few years, and we're all still recovering from that. 

So was it better in the old days, or is it better today? I'm not sure. What do you guys think?


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

Sunday, September 10, 2023

When a book becomes the Foundation for a different story on screen.

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Does this keep happening to you? Because it keeps happening to me: A book you read and loved gets made into either a movie or TV show; you wait with breathless anticipation for the premiere; and when it finally arrives, you realize as you watch that the story isn't quite the way you remember it.

Silo was kind of like that, although it stayed truer to the Wool series than many adaptations I've seen. It helped a lot that the author of the series, Hugh Howey, was heavily involved as an executive producer of the show.

Dark Winds is a lot like that, as I blogged about a while back. Anne Hillerman, daughter of Tony Hillerman, who started the Leaphorn and Chee mystery series, is an executive producer and has written several books of her own in the world her father invented. And yet I didn't recognize much about some of  the main characters except their names. Would the Joe Leaphorn created by Tony Hillerman have meted out justice on B.J. Vines the way Joe Leaphorn did in the final episode of this season? I tend to think not (in fact, he didn't).

And so it is with Foundation, the classic multivolume sci-fi saga written in the 1940s and '50s by Isaac Asimov. I read the series some 30 years after they were first published and have never re-read them. Still, I remembered enough about the books to think about watching the series on Apple TV+. When Silo's first season ended, the second season of Foundation was about to begin, and I had time to catch up on season one before the second season finished its release.

So there I was, watching the first season, and thinking to myself, "Who is Gaal Dornick?" and "Wasn't Salvor Hardin male?"

Yes, indeed, Salvor was male in the books. So was Gaal -- and he was not a major character, which is why I didn't remember him. Then you've got Demerzel, the right-hand robot to the Cleons on Trantor, who's female in the series but male in the books (he was a sort of alter ego of Daneel Olivaw, the character who tied Asimov's Robot series into the universe of Foundation). And speaking of the Cleons and their weird way of keeping the empire all in the family -- that wasn't in the books, either.

So what gives? Are these people just trying to confuse me?

Nah. They simply updated the series for today: changing some characters' genders, throwing in some special effects, and -- to my delight -- imbuing the characters with more emotion than they had in the books. I've been known to say that Asimov was a brilliant man, but he couldn't write dialogue to save his life. I think now the problem is that Asimov didn't give his characters much emotional depth; it wasn't that his dialogue was wooden, it was that his characters were.

Anyway, late to the party as always, I am just now learning that Asimov's literary estate was one hundred percent onboard with all these changes. (Asimov's daughter Robyn is an executive producer of the show.) Showrunner David S. Goyer says, "Robyn Asimov and the estate completely embraced it. They said that Asimov himself would have embraced that and they were absolutely comfortable with that."

That's all well and good. But what about the fans who loved the books and wanted to see a TV show about those stories? Goyer makes the excuse that Foundation was written during the Cold War, so things needed to be updated. Except that didn't seem to trouble Peter Jackson when he made the Lord of the Rings movies; those were written during World War Two and the postwar years, and yet Jackson didn't feel the need to take as many liberties with Tolkien's story as Goyer has with Asimov's.

Does it sound like I'm mad about the changes to Foundation? I'm not. I'm enjoying the show. I guess maybe I'm in the sweet spot -- a person who remembers enough about the books to be interested in the show, but who doesn't remember enough about the books to be angry or sad or disappointed about all the changes. To me, it's kind of like this show is "the further adventures of Hari Seldon" or something. (Hari, by the way, was not nearly as much of an egotistical jerk in the books. That's one change I am disappointed about.)

I'm kind of getting to that spot with Dark Winds, too. I'm starting to think of the TV show as a story about people with the same names as the characters in these books I've read. 

At least that attitude saves me from feeling the need to throw things at the TV.


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

Sunday, September 3, 2023

The art quilt headboard.


Lynne Cantwell 2023
I did promise you a post about the creation of my new headboard. (I didn't start weaving the ruana this week, but I did get this project done last weekend.)

This is not going to be a detailed how-to. For one thing, there were about a million steps, and if I went into detail about all of them, we'd be here all week. For another, while I have a fair amount of sewing experience under my belt, I am not an expert quilter. So what I'm going to do is outline the major steps. I will also tell you a few things I should have done instead of the boneheaded things I did.

For starters, let's talk about the backing board. The vast majority of the DIY headboards I've seen online start with some version of, "get a piece of plywood and a circular saw". I mean, if power tools are your jam and you have the space to set up sawhorses and stuff, go for it. But you don't need to. You can use foam insulation board instead. It's readily available at your local hardware store, and you can cut it with a kitchen knife.

This is the second headboard I've made. For the first one, which was a different shape, I cut up a sheet of 2" thick pink foam insulation and affixed a shorter piece atop a longer piece with bamboo skewers. Voila, an instantly recognizable Southwestern design, which I covered with fake suede upholstery fabric and stuck to the wall with heavy-duty velcro.

This time, because I was going for a sort of Art Deco vibe -- and because I couldn't find that pink insulation for some reason -- I went with 24"-by-24"-by-1"-thick project boards. They're about seven bucks apiece. I bought four, and a 1/8"-diameter dowel rod. I cut the dowel into 2" pieces, give or take, and stuck them into the edges of the foam board pieces, then cobbled the foam together into a 60" wide rectangle. (If your bed is bigger than full size, your dimensions will have to be bigger. Just keep in mind that if you do an actual semicircle, the height of your headboard will be half its width. In other words, the headboard for a king-size bed would be pretty tall.) 

This leads to my first boneheaded thing: When you make your cuts, make sure the cut edges of your foam pieces are flat. I scored my foam board with a utility knife, front and back, then snapped them apart -- which seemed like a brilliant idea until I tried to glue the uneven surfaces together. I ended up using duct tape to stabilize the joins.

Next, I got some string and a Sharpie, pinned the string to the middle of the long side of the foam board, tied the Sharpie 30" from the pin, and drew a semicircle on my board. I scored the line with a utility knife, and then, having learned my lesson, I used a kitchen knife to cut through the board. I did have the presence of mind to put a cutting mat under the board so that I didn't wreck my carpet. 

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Now that the backing board was done, I moved on to the quilting. Quilting cottons are typically between 36" and 45" wide, so I knew I was going to have to piece something. I toyed with the idea of making a pie-slice-shaped pattern, but decided to go with simplicity instead: I took my 2-yard length of fabric, cut it into two 1-yard pieces, and stitched them together along one selvedge edge. Then I took my makeshift protractor and marked the fabric, adding several extra inches on all sides, so that I had enough to wrap it around the backing board (or so I thought). 
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The fabric, by the way, is a 100% cotton by Kaufman Fabrics. The design is based on the work of artist Gustave Klimt. The spirals are a shiny gold -- very Art Deco. There are several prints in this series; this one, with the shiny gold spirals, comes in several background colors. I picked the cream. I thought about using the gold, but decided that would be over the top. (As if this whole project wasn't over the top.)

My second boneheaded thing: I should have cut the backing board first, then used that as a template for cutting the fabric. Instead, I marked and cut them independently. A makeshift protractor is not at all exact, and I ended up cutting the fabric a titch too small for the backing board. Luckily I had enough fabric left over to cut strips for a facing -- if you've sewed a garment, you'll know what that means -- but using the backing board as the pattern would have eliminated that complication.

A quilt is basically three layers: the pretty top, the batting, and a (usually) plain layer on the bottom. I had envisioned just topstitching the quilt into pie-shaped wedges. But while I was at the fabric store looking for batting, I got inspired by another Kaufman Fabrics design in a shiny orange, along with some orange-gold topstitching thread, and decided to put a sunrise on my headboard. I cut a smaller, orange semicircle for the sun and some strips of orange fabric for the rays. The rays give the headboard that slices-of-pie appearance I was originally looking for.

Lynne Cantwell 2023
That ruler thing is amazing, by the way. I bought it years ago. It's called an O'Lipfa, and it basically acts like a T-square: You line up the edge of your cutting mat with the edge of your table, line up your fabric along a line of the cutting mat, put the lip of the ruler over the end of the cutting board, and your fabric strips come out even. It's a miracle, I tell you. If they don't make this brand anymore, I hope somebody is making something similar.

The next step was to position the sun and the rays on the shiny cream fabric and machine baste them down. My third boneheaded thing: I spent 12 bucks on a fabric marking pen with disappearing ink at the quilt store. It turned out to be useless -- it didn't show up on the right side of the fabric, and as my marks were all going to be on the back of the headboard anyway, I ended up using a regular fabric marker that I already had. The fourth boneheaded thing I did: I sewed down the raw edges of the sun and rays instead of turning the edges under and pressing them. I wasted time not only stitching the edges down, but pulling out those stitches before machine basting the pieces in place.

At last it was time to lay out the quilt! I was smart enough to use the backing board as a pattern for the batting, and this is the step when I found out that I was going to have to make the quilt top bigger. The white stuff showing around the edge of the quilt top is the properly-sized batting; I sewed the facings on after this.

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I also realized, when I took this photo, that I should have repositioned the rays on the left to be more of a mirror image to the ones on the right. That's when I decided it was an art quilt, heh. I also reasoned that it wouldn't matter that much in the end because the lowest rays would end up behind the bed pillows anyway (and I was right!).

Finally, I pinned everything together and sewed through all the layers with a zigzag stitch. I also zigzagged some rings into the sun and ran two rows of machine basting around the semicircular edge. And I poked a couple of holes in the backing board, ran some picture hanging wire through the holes, twisted the ends together in the back, and duct taped that sucker in place. 

Then I glued the quilt to the backing board, pulled up the machine basting to fit, wrapped the fabric around the back of the backing board, and glued all the edges down. If you ever need to glue fabric to foam, what you want to use is 3M Super 77 spray adhesive. You can find it at hardware stores and some craft stores; I bought it at an art supply store here in town. Adhesives like super glue will melt the foam board; this stuff doesn't. I was a little worried about using it because it's permanent, but it turns out you've got about 15 minutes before it goes from "sticky" to "stuck fast" -- in other words, you have time to reposition your work. The hardest part about this step was keeping Tigs off the porch while I sprayed the fabric so he didn't end up with glue in his fur.

Finally, I put a couple of picture hangers in the wall and hung my finished headboard. Total cost: $150, not counting that fabric marking pen.


Now to get busy on the ruana...


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

Sunday, August 27, 2023

An end-of-summer grab bag.


Indigolotos | Deposit Photos
I mean, we do have another week before summer's over, assuming we're using the traditional US end-of-summer metric: Labor Day weekend. Back in the day, school started the day after Labor Day, the first Monday in September. Now schools start in mid to late August, or even earlier, so that's hardly relevant anymore. It also used to be that you were only supposed to wear white between Memorial Day and Labor Day unless you were a bride, but that's out the window now, too.

And of course, the official end of summer for Pagans is the autumn equinox, which is September 21st or thereabouts. Unless we're talking about meteorological summer, which ends September 1st. 

But I'm sure I've banged on about all this before. And really, it hardly matters; after so many decades of considering Labor Day to be the end of summer for all intents and purposes, I just do.

And I'm glad to see this one just about done. 

It occurred to me last month that July has become the worst month of the year for me. There's always some crisis. In 2020, besides the pandemic, I found myself unexpectedly working an extra three weeks in DC while trying to pack and move cross-country. I finally got to Santa Fe at the end of July, but I didn't get my stuff out of quarantine until August. Then in 2021, I decided to buy the condo, which meant packing and moving in July and August for the second year in a row. Last year, I had cataract surgery in late July, and the recovery slopped into August.

This year, I warped the loom for a ruana over Memorial Day weekend, but I didn't get to the weaving in June because I was working on my tote bag for El Rancho de las Golondrinas. Then in early July, the upstairs neighbor's plumbing sprung a leak; I lost all of July and part of August to the repairs. I've spent the past two weekends setting my bedroom to rights. The loom somehow escaped the flood, but I have a lot less time now to finish the ruana before I need to wear it for the final event of the season at Las Golondrinas. Maybe I'll get the weaving done on the first half of the project this week and warp the loom for the second half over Labor Day weekend. That would be a nice bookend to this summer. We'll see how it goes.

So that's one of the things on my mind. Here's another: West Virginia University is drastically scaling back its liberal arts offerings. The school's board of regents has decided to cut 32 majors -- nine percent of those previously offered, including several foreign language programs -- and seven percent of the total faculty. WVU is suffering from a $45 million budget shortfall, hence the cuts. Students are livid. They staged a protest against the cuts this past Monday.

University officials say the problem is declining enrollment. That's exacerbated by the state's drop in population -- West Virginia is the only state in the Union that has fewer residents now than it did in 1950. But critics point to the administration's reluctance to ask for more state funding. Others complain that it's the liberal arts taking the brunt of the cuts -- that the university is more than happy to keep its business school functioning -- and it's particularly galling that it's happening in one of the nation's poorest states. 

WVU may be the first university to scale back on liberal arts offerings, but I doubt it will be the last. There's been a push over the past few decades to devalue a college education. A whole lot of folks have come to the conclusion that college is only for getting a better-paying job; basically, they say, it's vocational education for the professions. Many of these folks see no value in learning for the sake of learning. What's the point of studying literature or art or music, they say, if you can't make a living at it?

Speaking of vocational education, there's also the whole "not everybody needs to go to college" drumbeat. The folks who say that have a point: of course we need mechanics and electricians and plumbers. 

But I think there may be an agenda here. I think there are factions in this country -- conservative, authoritarian-leaning folks -- who don't want people trained to be deep thinkers. I think they regret allowing the middle and lower classes access to a college education in the past, because studying liberal arts in college taught us critical thinking skills. Essentially, we have the skills to call our leaders on their bullshit, and they don't like it. They can't re-educate us, but they can limit access to that kind of education for those who come after us. And I think that's what we're seeing here.

I hope WVU's actions don't become a trend, but I have a feeling they will.

Speaking of authoritarian types: We have a busy week ahead in the Trump indictment saga. Tomorrow, there's a hearing on former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows's request to move his RICO trial from Georgia state court to federal court. There's also a hearing in DC, where the federal judge overseeing the January 6th case plans to set a trial date; special counsel Jack Smith has asked for the trial to start January 2, 2024, and Trump's team has asked for the trial to be pushed back to 2026. I'm pretty sure the judge will laugh that 2026 date out of court. We'll see if she grants the special counsel's request or picks another date.

It's already becoming hard to keep track of all the former president's trial proceedings, or even to keep them all straight. I proposed on Facebook that we give them nicknames: the Georgia indictment; the classified documents indictment; the January 6 insurrection and riot indictment; and the porn star payoff indictment. Then somebody reminded me that he's facing a couple of civil trials, too, so I guess we need to add the Trump Organization fraud trial and the "I didn't technically rape her" trial.

My, my. He's going to be busy. When's he going to have time to run a presidential campaign? Maybe he should just free up his calendar now and drop out.

These moments of grab-baggy blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Buckle up, guys -- it's gonna be a busy fall!

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Put a pin in this.

First: My thoughts are with my friends and readers in southern California who, as I write this post, are weathering an earthquake and Tropical Storm Hilary at the same time. What a bunch of overachievers. But seriously, you guys -- hang in there.


I don't often go out on a limb with predictions -- my track record isn't great, plus it sets me up for derision when proven wrong -- but I'm going to make a political prediction today:

Donald Trump will never be president of the United States again.

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It's not just because of his many legal troubles -- which are substantial, don't get me wrong: indicted four times, for a total of 91 criminal counts against him, with three of the cases related to his actions while in office. Of the four, the most egregious abuse of power is the one related to the January 6th insurrection.

But it's not only because of those charges. And it's not only because of the conclusions some conservative constitutional scholars are drawing because of it. I'm talking about William Baude and Michael Stokes Paulsen, lawyers, and members of the Federalist Society (the one famous for promoting several Supreme Court nominees approved by the Senate under Mitch McConnell's leadership and led to decisions like the upending of Roe v. Wade). Baude and Paulsen have written a paper for the University of Pennsylvania Law Review that contends that Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment simply disqualifies Trump from holding office again. 

There's a pre-release version available for free, but it's 124 pages long and, to be honest, I haven't read it. I have, however, read a review and endorsement of the piece published in The Atlantic this weekend. The Atlantic article was written by Laurence Tribe, an emeritus professor of constitutional law at Harvard, and J. Michael Luttig, a retired federal appellate judge. If you watched the January 6th committee's hearings last summer, you'll remember Luttig -- he's the one who enunciated, slowly and carefully, his legal takedown of Trump's efforts to stay in the White House after losing the 2020 election to Joe Biden. Luttig is a conservative; Tribe is a liberal. They both agree with the Federalist Society lawyers that Trump is constitutionally barred from being president again. And they contend that's so even if Trump is never convicted; the mere fact that he exhorted his followers to attack the Capitol -- and sat, watching the mayhem unfold, for hours without trying to stop it -- is evidence enough.

The Fourteenth Amendment was ratified in 1868, as the direct result of the efforts of President Andrew Jackson (who took over after Lincoln was assassinated) to allow back into Washington the very architects of the Southern states' succession that precipitated the Civil War. Heather Cox Richardson, a history professor at Boston College, has a terrific piece at Substack that explains this history behind the this amendment -- how President Jackson made his moves to reseat Confederate members of Congress while Congress was in recess, and how immediately upon returning to Washington, members of Congress enacted the Fourteenth Amendment to keep the traitors out. Keep in mind that none of the traitors had been convicted of anything; it was enough that everybody knew of their traitorous acts. Just like in the case of Trump.

Baude and Paulsen basically say it's going to be up to local election officials to make this stick. Secretaries of state around the country could declare Trump disqualified and refuse to put his name on the ballot. If the Republican Party nominates him as its candidate anyway, it would mean there would be no GOP candidate for president on the ballot in those states. If enough states refuse to put him on the ballot, it could bar him from gathering enough Electoral College votes to win. If his supporters write him in, it would be effectively the same as their casting a ballot for Mickey Mouse; he's not eligible to hold office, either, although obviously for a different reason.

Of course there would be a legal challenge. But the conservatives on the Supreme Court claim to be originalists -- and the originalist reading of the Fourteenth Amendment is the one put forth by Baude and Paulsen: if you swear an oath to the Constitution and then act to overthrow it, you can't hold office again.

But even that's not the whole reason I say that Trump will never be president again. I'm reading the tea leaves, and I believe his support is eroding -- not among his rabid faithful, but among the GOP's big donors. The Koch-financed Americans for Prosperity has raised more than $70 million for political ads, and internal documents indicate they aim to tank Trump's candidacy. Some other big donors have also pulled their support from Trump. And the cash he has raised is largely going to pay for lawyers -- not just for his own representation in those many lawsuits I mentioned above, but for his co-defendants, too.

Granted, he's going to get a ton of free publicity every time he shows up at court for a hearing. But is that really his best option? And too, there's the threat hanging over him that a judge in one or another of his cases gets fed up with Trump bad-mouthing them and tainting the jury pool with a rant on Truth Social, and issues a gag order.

Republicans have been quiet for years while Trump has wreaked havoc on the country -- because he helped them get what they wanted: to stay in power and stack the judiciary with a bunch of conservative appointments. Now that they've achieved the latter, and now that Trump has cost them the last three elections, the powers-that-be appear to be ready to move on. 

He has been their useful idiot; now he's still an idiot, but he's no longer useful. That could explain why Federalist Society members are lining up behind Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Put a pin in this. We'll see how this election season plays out. But I think Trump is toast, one way or another. If I'm wrong, feel free to make fun of me in November of next year.


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