Sunday, December 31, 2023

Paganism as punching bag. | Deposit Photos

One of the disadvantages of blogging only on Sundays is that if something I'm dying to comment on happens on a Monday, my choices are few. I could: break tradition and post early; yell about it on Facebook; or save it for the following Sunday's post, when the news has become kinda old and stale. 

This week was a prime example. On Monday -- Christmas Day! -- The Atlantic dropped an outrageously ignorant article by David Wolpe entitled "The Return of the Pagans". This opinion piece so angered thought leaders in the Pagan movement that most suggested linking to the free version reposted by MSN, to avoid giving it any more traffic (and The Atlantic any more revenue from clicks) than it deserves. So my link above leads to that free version on MSN.

Wolpe is the Max Webb Chief Rabbi Emeritus of Sinai Temple, a visiting scholar at Harvard Divinity School, and a columnist for New York Jewish Week and the Jerusalem Post. Newsweek has called him the most influential rabbi in America. He may be an expert on Judaism, but it's clear he's no scholar of religion in general, other than his own and perhaps Christianity. If he were a religious scholar, he would have known better than to conflate Pagan beliefs with the worship of wealth and idols like Elon Musk and Donald Trump. If he were a religious scholar, he would have known better than to write such howlers as, "Most ancient pagan belief systems were built around ritual and magic, coercive practices intended to achieve a beneficial result," without acknowledging that monotheism is also built around ritual and magic -- and that Christianity in particular, with its drive to proselytize and convert everyone everywhere, partakes of far more "coercive practices" than any Pagan -- or pagan -- belief system ever has. 

There's a big advantage for me to waiting until today to comment on Wolpe's article: I'm batting cleanup, if you will. A number of those thought leaders in Paganism have already published rebuttals. Sabina Magliocco, chair of the Program in the Study of Religion at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, posted on Facebook her letter to the editor of the magazine. She covers a number of points I was going to get to, chief among them this: "Wolpe distorts the fact that non-monotheistic and Indigenous religions tend to see divinity as immanent as well as transcendent. In other words, all living beings hold a spark of the divine; the gods are manifest in each of us. This idea is intended to inspire respect for all life forms. Indigenous religions, in fact, place primacy not on the individual, as he asserts, but on relationality and community, broadly defined to include other-than-human persons."

Magliocco would also like to inform Wolpe that paganism is not relegated to the misty past; there are several million Pagans in North America today, and a whole lot of us believe things that put us closer to Indigenous belief, particularly the part about immanent deity, than the strawman Wolpe has concocted and dubbed "pagan".

Others who have made valuable contributions to the discussion (so I don't have to!) include Manny Moreno at The Wild Hunt; Jason Mankey on Raise the Horns at Patheos Pagan; John Halstead on Medium; and Angelo Nasios on Hearth of Hellenism at Substack (who is not Pagan but whose area of expertise is Hellenism). Several of them point out that Wolpe is not actually referencing today's Pagans in his piece; instead, he's using the folkloric concept of ancient pagans that's popular with monotheistic apologists when they want to elevate their own belief systems and prove that their religion is so much better than what went before. Except of course that that romantic view of pagan bumpkins whose lives were brutish, nasty, and short is a myth, at least as far as philosophy is concerned (see the Greeks).

Too, Wolpe falls into the trap of Western hubris that insists that the evolution of civilization -- including religion and philosophy -- is more or less a straight line, with each step an improvement. These folks swear that hunter-gatherers died out when farming took hold, that the Industrial Revolution made everyone's lives better by getting workers off the farm and into factories, and so on. Never mind that the archeological record doesn't bear out the first, and the economic and ecological evidence right before our eyes puts paid to the second. What's more, Indigenous thinkers have been criticizing the Western penchant for this feel-good bullshit for hundreds of years (see The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity by David Graeber and David Wengrow, which I included on my reading list a while back).

The longer the week went on and the more I thought about Wolpe's article, the more it seemed familiar. Then it hit me. Back in March, The Atlantic posted a similar piece, except that it was by a Christian apologist -- Timothy Keller, the pastor of a Presbyterian church in Manhattan. I even blogged about it at the time. Now, Keller's post isn't exactly the same as Wolpe's, but they do rhyme. Both authors believe that American society is going downhill; both blame it on the emphasis in popular culture on individualism; and both believe the solution is for everybody to turn back to some flavor of monotheism (in Keller's case, his).

So my response to Wolpe is the same as was my response to Keller back in March: The solution to society's ills won't be found in monotheism until you guys can acknowledge how and why your belief systems have alienated so many people. Once you've done that, come on back and we'll chat.* But in the meantime, quit punching "pagan" strawmen to make yourselves feel better.

And to The Atlantic: How about equal time for polytheists?


*A chat with Wolpe won't be happening any time soon. He says he didn't mean to insult modern Pagans (as if that makes it any better) and is declining requests for interfaith dialogue. 


And with that, we close out 2023. Here's hoping for peace and sanity for all of us in the new year.


These moments of punchy blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Happy New Year! Imbibe responsibly! Stay safe!

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Some holiday flash fiction for you.

I'm back home tonight after nearly a week on the East Coast, visiting my daughters for Yule. We had a great time together, as always -- but as always, it's great to be home again.

Today was one of those surreal travel days. I had breakfast in Alexandria, VA, just outside DC; barbecue for lunch in Kansas City (as one does); and leftover homemade chicken soup here at home this evening. That layover in Kansas City was so long that I had time to draft this year's ficlet on my phone and email it to myself. Ain't technology grand?

Actually, I kind of hope nobody reads this tonight. It's Christmas Eve, after all, and most folks ought to have better things to do. Regardless, I promised last week that I'd have a ficlet for you tonight. So here you go. This one springs from me watching way too many Hallmark Christmas movies this year. If you've read The Atherton Vampire, you'll recognize the main character; if not, why not head to Amazon and pick up a copy of the trilogy for your Kindle? The books are short and kind of fun.

That's it for the self-promo. Here's the ficlet. 


bigredlink | Deposit Photos

Callie Dailey’s head was whirling. Here it was, two days before Christmas, and she still had so much to do. But work had been crazy, what with her new job as morning anchor for Channel 10 Action News. She had adopted her producer's super-early-to-bed schedule because it allowed her to get up at ten p.m. and spend her evenings with Jerry before she went to work, but it had messed with her body clock something fierce. It was all worth it, she kept telling herself, to keep Jerome Atherton -- the city's celebrity vampire and her main squeeze -- in her life. 

But it wasn't easy. She was tired all the time. She had never had the energy to finish her shopping, let alone make the cookies she had promised to bring for the crew on Christmas Day. True, she could have been more productive in the afternoons, after work and while Jerry was taking his daily rest. But it seemed like all she had energy for was falling on the couch and watching dumb Christmas movies on Freevee. Now here she was, doing it again. 

She counted the tropes of the genre as they manifested on her screen. There was the old red pickup truck that showed up in every movie; there was the perky woman from the big city; there was the precocious little girl who just knew Mr. Perfect and Ms. Perky had fallen in love at first sight and just had to spend the rest of their lives together, after they saved Christmas or the town or something. The only things missing were the tree shopping and decorating and the obligatory kiss under the mistletoe…

…and there they were: the sales lot full of real trees, the little girl selling hot chocolate out front, and that damned red truck parked at the curb. Mr. Perfect got out of the truck and dropped a thousand-watt smile on her. “Here for a tree?” he asked.

“I… don’t think so,” Callie responded. He was adorable -- she had to admit that.

“But it’s Christmas!” the little girl said. “You have to have a tree or Christmas will be ruined!” She smiled winsomely. “Hot chocolate?”

“No thanks,” said Callie. “I’m just waiting for… for…” She frowned. “Wait a minute. What's going on here?" She took in the scene around her more fully. "I’m dreaming, aren’t I? I’m not waiting for anyone. My brain just conjured this up out of thin air…” She started to move away from the man and the girl. “I have to go. I have things to do…" 

“But you have to stay!” the girl pleaded, tears in her eyes.”You have to save our town! You have to save Christmas!”

“Besides,” the man said, “what have you got to go back to?”

The answer came instantly. “Everything,” she said. “My job. My friends. Jerry.”

She awoke to the credits scrolling up the screen of her TV. She'd slept through the movie.

Somebody had once told her that dreams were the brain's way of processing stuff -- that everybody in you see in a dream is actually you, or a facet of you. She rubbed her eyes as she thought about that. Apparently she’d been harboring some doubts about her life. Or she had a savior complex.

Or she’d been watching too many dumb holiday movies. Yeah, that was it.

She still had just two days to get everything done -- but there was no time like the present to start. “Those cookies aren’t going to make themselves,” she said, levering herself up off the couch.


These moments of bloggy holiday tropes has been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay safe and have a great holiday, whichever you celebrate!

Sunday, December 17, 2023

The hidden costs of redoing a kitchen.

I should be regaling y'all with a holiday ficlet today, seeing as how Yule and Christmas are both next weekend and Hanukkah just ended. It'll post one next week, I promise. 

In the meantime, let's talk about the things they don't tell you about when they're encouraging you to redo your kitchen.

Feverpitch | Deposit Photos
This is coming up, of course, because I'm kinda sorta redoing mine. That is not my kitchen in the photo, to be clear; mine is a smallish galley kitchen with zero room for an island. (Although it's about three times the size of the postage-stamp-sized kitchen I had in the apartment I rented when I first moved to Santa Fe. There, the oven was so tiny that my big cookie sheets wouldn't fit. And when you opened the fridge, you couldn't get to the sink.) Mine still has some the original '80s features: golden oak cabinets and ceramic tile countertops. It did still have the original '80s dishwasher, but I replaced that this fall. I also replaced the microwave with a microwave/convection oven this year. Somebody at some point redid the floors -- they're now Saltillo tile -- and the stove and fridge are about ten years old.

If you cruise the internet and talk to any kitchen consultants, they will give you all sorts of advice. I'm supposed to hate those cabinets; the only fixes worth talking about are replacing them, or putting new doors on them, or else sanding them down and painting them, preferably white. And any appliances over ten years old have to go. And you're going to need new countertops! And of course you want to tile your backsplash all the way to the ceiling...

It adds up in a hurry. The average cost of a kitchen remodel is about $26,000. But it could be a lot more -- maybe $41,000 or $50,000, or even more, if you're going to go really crazy. 

I am not going to go really crazy. I am not even going to spend the average, if I can help it. You see, after I thought about it, I realized I really like my oak cabinets. And it turns out that you can actually sand down the worn spots on solid wood cabinets, shove a little wood filler in any big cracks, and give the repairs a couple of coats of polyurethane, and they look great.

Why would the internet keep that info away from me? Well, just like everything else in our late-stage capitalist dystopia, you have to follow the money. Contractors and kitchen designers aren't going to be able to make a living if everybody knows they could rejuvenate their cabinets for a day's time and less than 50 bucks. (I also added fun pulls, which cost another $100 or so.)

I honestly think the whole new-appliances-every-ten-years advice is coming from the same place. See, back when I took macroeconomics in college, big home appliances were considered durable goods -- things that would last at least 20 years.  The ENERGY STAR program was expanded to include major home appliances in 1996; of course a newer model may be more energy efficient than an older one, but there's also an environmental cost to sending a working fridge to a landfill to rot, particularly if your fridge was manufactured before 1995. Back then, fridges used a chlorofluorocarbon refrigerant, which is a greenhouse gas. But the appliance sales folks don't want you to think about that. They want you to Buy Now, so you're not buying in a hurry when your elderly appliance breaks down and you miss out on features you'll later wish you had. Okay, sure. I think I'll live dangerously with my current stove and fridge for a while longer. 

The countertops, though -- those bug me. The ceramic tile is in good shape, but a tiled surface is naturally uneven. It makes it hard to roll out things like cookie dough. And items with narrow bottoms -- like spice jars and some coffee mugs -- sometimes kinda tilt when you set them down. It's unsettling. I'd like a flat surface, please.

So here we go, on another whirlwind trip full of expensive advice: The only countertop materials worth talking about, according to the "experts", are granite, marble, or quartz. Oh, there are other natural stones to consider if you're made of money: quartzite (which is not the same as quartz), soapstone, bluestone, limestone, slate, and so on. And there are, y'know, less desirable options if you have to cheap out: butcher block, laminate, tile, and solid surface (Corian is a brand name). But really, the choices that will get you the biggest bang for your buck at resale time are granite, marble, and quartz. And let's be realistic: granite and marble require upkeep. So obviously, your only choice is quartz. Everybody wants quartz, so you should, too!

Quartz countertop material is an engineered stone -- which is to say it's manmade. It consists of about 90 percent ground quartz (the other ten percent consists of resin to keep the ground stone together, plus some pigments). And quartz -- the mineral, not the manufactured countertop -- is made of silica and oxygen. 

Here is the thing that nobody selling kitchen renovations in the US is talking about yet: Workers who cut or grind quartz countertops are likely breathing in silica dust. And they may be getting sick. Silicosis is a serious disease. A lot of the people who work with engineered stone in the US are young Latinos. Some of them have died from silicosis. Others who have contracted the disease are disabled for life. 

The danger has been known for years, apparently, but it's only recently that officials are beginning to think about how to mitigate it. Australia is way ahead of us -- the government there banned quartz countertops last week

To be clear, consumers aren't in danger from having quartz countertops in their homes (unless the material needs to be cut or ground on site). But if it concerns you to have something in your house that may have made someone deathly ill, you have alternatives. Granite has about 45 percent silica content; marble, less than five percent. This site has a list that includes lots of other alternatives.

Conspicuous by their absence from that list are many of the less expensive options: butcher block, laminate, and solid surface. Solid surface material contains a chemical called aluminum trihydrate that can also cause health problems in people who manufacture it, but it appears to be a lot less dangerous than quartz. I had decided to go with solid surface even before learning about the dangers of quartz to workers, and now I'm glad. I'm hoping to have the counters done in the spring. I'll keep y'all posted.


These moments of bloggy home improvement talk have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay safe! And happy Yule!

Sunday, December 10, 2023

When your gut gives you a feeling, do you believe it?

So a friend who's an indie author posted a little story on his Facebook business page this week that gave me a *headdesk* moment. It was about a weird thing that actually happened to him several decades ago. The incident could have been a disaster, potentially with lives lost, except for some quick action on his part.

The *headdesk* moment? Here it is, with some edits: "Those of you who know me, know I am a cynic to all things supernatural. But, that day ... I heard a very calm voice say, "[Friend], get in the truck and drive it away ..." When I looked around, I was alone. To this day, I have no idea where that voice came from, but I heard it." Bottom line: He got in the truck and drove it away, a safe distance from a crowd of people. Shortly thereafter, the truck went up in flames.

Well, it's his page and he's trying to sell his books, so I restrained myself in my response. Basically I said I was glad he'd listened to the voice.

But this is my blog, and I don't have to restrain myself here. So here's what I wanted to say: "My gods, man! Even after that, you're still cynical about the 'supernatural'? How much of a sign do you need???"

The whole thing reminded me of an article in a women's magazine I read a few years ago -- I wish I could find it now -- in which the author was determined to discredit anything occult-related as airy-fairy twaddle. As part of her research, she received a Tarot reading that mentioned some things in her life that she wasn't happy about and even made suggestions for making them better ... and she blew it off. As a coincidence or something. (I really wish I could find that article.) The cards gave her useful advice, but she could not heed it because she could not break out of her preconceived idea that all of it was bullshit.

Christianity has a lot of answer for, in terms of how it has warped Western thinking. But one thing that really frustrates me is how it insists that there's only one real god, and anything weird is either a miracle or evil. That dichotomous model has so permeated Western culture that even people who aren't Christian, or who used to be but aren't anymore, employ it -- except for them, anything weird can be explained away by either science or psychology: Either the thing has a rational explanation, or your brain is playing tricks on you.

Apparently my friend has never rationalized away this incident, but also, apparently, he's not comfortable with saying he hallucinated that voice, either. So maybe those aren't the only two possible explanations.

Just as a thought experiment, let's consider what a third possibility could be. Now, alert hearth/myth readers know that I don't believe in the Good vs. Evil dichotomy; I've written about it at least three times. Y'all also know that I'm not Christian (I hope that's not a spoiler for anybody), and it follows that I don't believe in the Christian concept of the devil. So the third possibility I'm proposing has nothing to do with Satan or demons or Hell or any of that stuff.

Here's my third possibility: What if other entities exist in our reality? (This is a thought experiment, remember -- you're not allowed to laugh it off.) What if other beings exist here, or have access to our reality occasionally? What form might they take? 

How about a gut feeling? Or a Tarot reading? Or a calm, disembodied voice that gives us really good advice?

Did the thought of that give you the shivers? I would suggest it's because you've been conditioned to believe, by religion or society or both, that such an entity can mean you nothing but harm. But that can't be right. Modern Christianity actually has a name for a helpful entity: a guardian angel. 

Now, I don't believe in guardian angels any more than I believe in the Christian devil. I don't think any of us is important enough to merit individual attention from a supernatural being on a regular basis. But I do believe that gods and spirits step into human affairs when it suits their purposes, and I think our ancestors sometimes pass along their wisdom to us. And I don't think there's anything weird or scary about it. I think it's as real as biology or physics. It's just the way things work. 


Here's a further thought experiment: Why would someone want to convince you that messages "from beyond" are either scary or impossible? What would they get out of controlling your beliefs in this way? 

My answer to that, my friends, forms a big part of why I quit Christianity. Maybe I'll write about it sometime. 


These moments of supernatural blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay safe! And listen to your gut!

Sunday, December 3, 2023

The race to replace Twitter has been won by nobody.

si_nyam_nyam | Deposit Photos
It's been more than a year since Elon Musk closed on his deal to buy Twitter. As soon as he gained control and began changing stuff around to suit himself -- firing a bunch of people and rebranding the site as X -- users began beating feet for the exits. Somewhere, anywhere, the reasoning went, has to be better than what X is going to become.

But there wasn't really anywhere else on the internet like Twitter. 

Nor is there yet. It's been more than a year, as I said, and while a whole bunch of sites have taken up some of the slack, no single site is a winner. In fact, none of the sites that got the biggest anticipatory fanfare in the early days of X's implosion are showing much of a market share at all. 

This chart shows that the worldwide social media champ is still Facebook, with three billion active users per month. YouTube (owned by Google -- sorry, Alphabet) is next, with two and a half billion; WhatsApp and Instagram (both owned by Meta, which also owns Facebook) are tied at two billion each. TikTok has 1.2 billion, edging out Facebook Messenger, which has about a billion. You have to go pretty far down the list to find X; it's at a paltry 666 million active users per month. (That's more than Truth Social, which stands at about two million, but still.)

Those are worldwide numbers. In the US, in terms of social media platforms' share of total visits, Facebook had nearly half of them in August of this year. Next was Instagram; then Pinterest; and then X. 

Interestingly, nowhere in either of these lists are any of the sites that sprang up in the wake of Musk's purchase of Twitter. Here's a list of some of the wannabes with the biggest hype, and every single one of them has a major drawback. Bluesky -- created by Jack Dorsey, who co-founded Twitter -- has been in beta forever; if you don't know someone who's already in, good luck getting on the platform. Threads is kind of an offshoot of Instagram (which, you'll recall, is owned by Meta), so it's not really its own thing; it had ten million users at startup, but that number plummeted fast. Mastodon got a lot of attention when Twitter was first sold, but some potential users were put off by the complex sign-up process. TikTok gets a mention on this list -- apparently it recently introduced text posts -- but so does Tumblr, which has been around since 2007.

As for me? I'm on Facebook and the dead bird app, and that's basically it. I've joined some of the platforms mentioned above over the years -- Instagram, WhatsApp (purely for phone calls with the other condo board members), and Facebook Messenger, plus Post and Spoutible. But other than Messenger, I almost never go to any of them. I'm almost always on Facebook; then I check Twitter -- sorry, X -- to keep up with political news and a few friends who I don't see anywhere else. (I started the account on Tumblr approximately a million years ago to promote my books. I cannot remember the last time I was there.)

I'm leery of TikTok's possible connection to the Chinese government (I know it's unlikely, but I just keep thinking there must be a good reason that the US government has banned the app on employees' government-issued devices). As for Threads, I'm not enthused about the idea of restricting all my social media activity to the Metaverse (frankly, I'd quit Insta if Meta would let me).

Does that make me a modern-day Luddite? You tell me. And let me know how your own search for the new Twitter is going.


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

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." 

Lynne Cantwell 2023
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. 

Lynne Cantwell 2023
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
Lynne Cantwell 2023
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. 

Lynne Cantwell 2023
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!"

tonodiaz | Deposit Photos
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!