I’ve changed my mind about Tamal

by Andrea Elizabeth

and Paul Hollywood in The Great British Baking Show Season 3 because of Ruby in Season 2. I thought I’d seen that season a while back but I guess I’d just seen passing by bits on TV because I don’t remember much about it at all. I’ve got 2 more episodes left, so I don’t know who wins, nor much of their backstory so I don’t know if Ruby has daddy issues like Tamal did, but she’s definitely got a confidence problem. She cried in the first episode when her bake didn’t turn out, and she’s always focusing on the negative of her own stuff. Paul is obviously trying to build her up though. I think the difference with Paul, in addition to her being a cute girl instead of boy, is that she consistently doesn’t think she deserves it and is shocked at any praise or accomplishment. Tamal, like almost all the others gets a boost when they do well, and they think they can do it, then they get overconfident and slip up and end up back in the dumps. Ruby stays down, even though she has grown over the season to “not panic about it”. It has freed her up to focus on what she, who is a very smart philosophy student, considers good and beautiful apart from herself. And her little allotment cake with shiny chocolate bark shed with carmel praline roof, pastachio lawn and poppyseed garden with tiny vegies sticking out looked delicious and charming because the materials looked like their delicious selves as well as what they represented. Everyone else’s materials were of unknown origin and only looked like what they represented. Genius. Well done, Ruby!

cultural or species appropriation

by Andrea Elizabeth

Yesterday a conversation went from tattoos to species appropriation because I said if I had a tattoo – which I would neither like to have nor get because of the amount of skin invasion and how it makes an otherwise pretty and crisp design, which would be better suited on canvas or in commemorative jewelry, ugly and blurry – I would get one of a horse because the rationale for getting a tattoo is because it makes the owner happy whenever they look at it. Looking at horses makes me happy like no other species. When I was young, “playing horses” was just about all I wanted to do. I would go around like King Arthur in Monty Python before I ever saw the movie, and after which I wished I had had a coconut person to make it more authentic. But I was the rider and not the horse even though the rider has to do the horse’s gaits.

Nevertheless, as I thought about tattoos, since looking at horses makes me so happy, especially when they move, I thought of an extensive tattoo with hooves on my hands and feet, the head going down at least one side of my face, etc. It would be fun to imitate the movements and see if looking at horse features moving horse-like on my arms and legs would suspend my disbelief. Then I thought, wouldn’t it be cool to have my horse branded with a primitive shaped horse-head tattoo on my thigh or neck. The person I was talking to said, this is why you shouldn’t have a tattoo. I guess it was species appropriation. Not only would I think that ideal, I mean, four powerful legs unstead of two!, but regarding cultures, if I had to be a human, I would also like to be an American Indian, or an African. I like how natural and free tribal life seems. I heard a Native American talk about how in his childhood when you saw a rushing stream you believed you could cross it and you did. Nowadays people are so scared and think bridges are totally necessary. Yes, I feel kindred to that way of thinking, but I would take my Indian canoe or Eskimo kayak. I have thought about starting a canoe ferry business at state parks with lakes before. Wearing braids and feathers would add.

So nowadays “culture appropriation” and “species appropriation” are things, as is gender dysphoria and appropriation. So do cultural and species appropriators have their respective dysphorias? I wouldn’t think I was a horse but I would like to compare and contrast their gates to mine and be inspired by theirs, sort of like the new stable robot design is. And I would enjoy their prettiness on me. Maybe it would also be like how Indians get power from wearing bear skins. They don’t forget they’re human or think they are actually bears. Back to cultural dysphoria, I am fascinated however by stories of abducted white children who are raised by Indians and who prefer their way of life, like Cynthia Anne Parker and possibly Olive Oatman.

I know it is common for some people to feel alien in their circle. There are probably millions of  different reasons for this. One being autism, for instance. Or post traumatic stress. Or other psychiatric disorders. Writers often feel removed, or that there is a Golden Age where they would have felt more at home, like in Midnight in Paris. And what if you do feel more at home reading the words of people from 100 years ago, and that your circle’s language is learned just for practical navigation and not richness of true or deep expression? Was it better back then? I don’t know because things were harder back then. But they still ring truer. And I don’t know if I could have turned a blind eye to the suffering of animals and poor people who did the hard things machines do now. But the Indians didn’t have as hard work to do, but the raiding ones, I know I know… still.

Midnight in Paris

by Andrea Elizabeth

Owen Wilson was good in this lite writer time travel movie. It was a pretty escape to 1920’s Paris, but pretty stiff and very contrived. Still it was fun with a lot of cameos. 

As to whether any age is more golden than any other, I don’t know. Perhaps the demons you know are better than the ones you don’t.

Spoiler: the present he chooses is just as backward looking as he is. 


by Andrea Elizabeth

In my Duolingo Russian lesson the picture for “to work” was a painting of shirtless black men picking cabbage. At least cabbage isn’t grown in the south. 


by Andrea Elizabeth

George got his ancestry.com DNA results back Wednesday. I didn’t realize just how foreign he is. Not only are his immediate roots only in Yankeeland and mine are almost exclusively southern, but he is 40% Eastern European and 7% Eastern European Jew. I knew his name is Eastern European, but I thought it had been diluted. Turns out his grandmother was of Hungarian extraction. Additionally he is 7% Iberian Peninsula, of which I am none. All we have in common is his 37% European which in his case is almost equally thirded Great Britain, Irish, and Scandinavian. I am 99% European: 36% Western European (France and Germany) of which he is none, 32% Great Britain, 22% Irish (Happy St. Patrick’s Day!) and 5% Scandinavian. Of trace elements, he is 4% Italy/Greece, and I am 1%. We both have a little Western Russian, and I am <1% northern African.

I bet the trace Italy/Greece part is from the Roman Empire going north and west all those years ago.

This explains our opposite personalities, but at least we are both quiet introverts and don’t push each other too far beyond our comfort zones. He has almost no British sympathies, nostalgia, or homesickness, and I have a ton. I tribute this to both genetics and Yankee/Southern conditioning.

Great British Baking Show and dads

by Andrea Elizabeth

Having just finished season 3, I will offer my opinion. In the last episodes I thought Nadia, the winner, compromised content for style. On chocolate day in her showstopper, she was very light on chocolate and heavy on rice crispy treats and colored icing to create her ho hum peacock. You have to win over the judges with personality too and she had a lot of that, though I thought she was colder than Tamal, my favorite by far. Tamal got intimidated by Paul Hollywood. Judging from the family interview, it seems Tamal’s father was not in the picture, so he got flustered when Paul doubted some of his decisions. I’m not a technical perfectionist so I thought Tamal’s understated sense of humor and original way of thinking, ability to bounce back after pretty deep devastation, in addition to his flavor choices, and occasionally brilliant presentation made him the winner. I liked his final showstopper as I thought it probably summed up his time there emotionally. Not that the show was responsible for the emotional response. I think it brought out what it feels like to not have a father. One’s feeling of stability is very fragile, but that can make one a rare tight rope balancer. I don’t think Chaplin or Keaton had supportive dads either.

Beauty and the Beast

by Andrea Elizabeth

I didn’t expect to want to finish this 30 minute interview with Emma Watson, mostly about making Beauty and the Beast, but since she also talked about feminism, progressivism, and her new “sort of 1984” movie with Tom Hanks, The Circle, and since she’s so thoughtful, I kept going.

Firstly, the “subtle” gay nod isn’t ok just because it’s small and minimal. In the animated version, the immoral girls were viewed as cheap and tawdry. Wondering if a same sex person likes you that way is entertaining a sin, not expressing your legitimate identity.

What feminists love about the original is that Belle is an intelligent, bookish girl. This movie goes further to say that it isn’t because the other people weren’t interested in intellecutalism, it’s because girls were purposefully stifled. Which is worse, portraying the masses as dumb or as villains? Indeed women were educationally stifled 100ish years ago. But I don’t think it was all because people were dumb or mean. Life was so different back then that educating girls wasn’t seen as practical with 10 children needing labor intensive care. But it does seem that demons can be involved in keeping things from changing. That’s when the horns come out. And this may not all be bad either. People should be wary of change instead of jumping into who knows what unforeseen consequences.

I am disillusioned with education myself. Or organized education I suppose. Educators can cast whatever spin they want on the past and the players in any given situation. And they seem hell bent on destroying any notions your family and smaller community gave you. It’s not so black and white.

Another of her progressives ideas comes out in the interview when she talks about Bill Paxton’s character in The Circle who can’t get health insurance for a condition he has. Her character is his daughter and she buys into the bad corporation for its health benefits. This is all to point out how we need to change the traditional system so that people don’t suffer or have to sell their souls to the devil. This I suppose is socialized medicine. Well the government is a devil too.

The conservative answer is that people are better if they work for what they get and if they can’t work their family should take care of them. Churches should take care of those who don’t have enough family support. These Church houses did not have oversight. Liberals will point to the recently discovered evidence that a Catholic home in Ireland operated last century had mass unmarked graves. The movie Cider House Rules also talks about these “homes”. Charlotte Bronte didn’t have nice things to say about low income boarding houses either. And Charles Dickens highlighted what it was like for those raised in poor houses. He also pointed out the flaws in the parents who got them there though.

In other words, the devil is everywhere. So we pick which devil we want. Maybe the Romans found out the devil was everywhere as well and gave up on their empire building and let it all collapse. I do not propose this. Why do I like conservative demons better? The Progressives will say that it’s because I like it when minorities and other marginalized people suffer better than white males who may or may not take care of the women. I say that I believe it better when the Conservatives are prosecuting attorneys and the Liberals are the defense attorneys. The conservatives build things and the liberals make sure human rights aren’t violated.

I suppose this is a head above the heart distinction. The Orthodox may complain that we are supposed to put our minds in the heart, indicating the heart is supposed to be bigger. But I’m not willing to put practicality in the back seat. Let go and let God, they say. I just see too much delusion there. And maybe that’s my own fearful lack of faith, but still I’d rather an engineer make the structural decisions with the artist’s input. The engineer and accountants are responsible to make sure it can get built safely. The artist makes sure people are happy.

So does the Obama lite plan meet with the right combination? Neither side appears happy so far. Maybe it’s because the left needs to grow a brain and the right needs to grow a heart instead of stubbornly living in separate worlds. I really don’t know what the answer is. I’m afraid of all the entitlements. But I’m afraid of people suffering too. But I also lean towards hoping for universalism so maybe bad consequences for individuals is better than bad consequences for everyone as I’m not sure bad consequences for no one or just the rich exists. And if it does, is it right for the most effective people to suffer just because they are the most effective? I like voluntary generosity better than involuntary. And I also believe in the power of the camera and democratic social media to hurt their pride about public opinion. It’s a new age.

Happy Birthday Ben!

by Andrea Elizabeth

On this day 26 years ago my first child was born. A baby makes your dreams real instead of imagined. Ben has always been a loving bright light in my life. May he continue to shine in love and happiness.

what do you know?

by Andrea Elizabeth

Scientists say you can’t trust memory. Or luck. I say it’s better to believe in a faulty memory than nothing. And it’s better to believe that black eyed peas eaten on New Years will bring you luck than not to. I’ve never eaten black eyed peas on New Years because it’s one of the few foods that make me gag. But I’m so happy some people do. Maybe their good luck will rub off on me if I support them. I can’t find the quote, but C.S. Lewis said it’s better to believe in faeries than not to. At least your world is populated and alive instead of empty and depressing. But what do I know?

Skulls. Are skulls empty and depressing? No. They’re a remarkably permanent part of a human. Under the right conditions they can last forever. Thus they, and their associated life form, are immortal. My dentist office got a fancy new machine that I’m sure cost way too much money and drives up insurance premiums so that it’s impossible to have affordable healthcare. It takes a 3d view of your skull, teeth and sinus cavities. It was weird seeing my skull so realistically denuded, except for the balls of whatever taking up almost half of my sinus cavities. I wonder if they are why my throat is so hard to clear. My first impression was that it looked German. Like the Nazi in Raiders of the Lost Ark whose jaw is wider than the rest of his face. His is the most dramatically melting one at the end. I just googled skulls and all of them look that way. Sort of like Darth Vader’s mask.

Skulls and relics connect us to the afterlife where everyone is waiting for us. Does being connected to them make one wrongly morbid and a death wisher? One probably needs the right balance of connection to them and the living. It’s wrong to ignore either one. But I do have a special sympathy for the dead. Not that I feel sorry for them, but it seems to me they are silently calling out and are usually ignored. Not that they are upset about that.

What are the skulls saying? We still love you. We are warm, not cold. We are good, not hostile. Death makes us better than we were. We ignored you then, we misunderstood you then, but we see clearly now. A lot of stuff doesn’t matter, but you have to try to make things right anyway just because it’s a good habit. Habits are what matter.


Ode to Billie Joe

by Andrea Elizabeth

The 70’s were a weird time. It was when America started reflecting instead of progressing. A brief pause between the disillusioning but progressing 60’s and the computer driven renewed progress of the 80’s. Today I read about the singer, Bobbie Gentry, who also wrote “Ode to Billie Joe”. I saw parts of the movie when it came to TV in the 70’s because I had a crush on Robby Benson, the soulful eyed teen throb. See The Chosen and Ice Castles. I thought it was based on an older Ode. What I remember of it is the teen couple sadly walking down a red dirt road toward the Tallahatchie Bridge in Mississippi.

Bobbie Gentry grew up in the 40’s and 50’s before progress caught on in the southern hinterland, similar to how Dollie Parton grew up. As children they knew about scraping a living off the land like their grandparents did. It was stories like theirs and of their predecessors that were so popular in the 70’s like Little House on the Prairie, HeeHaw and The Waltons. Modernism was symbolized by the American Indian commercial where he stands over dumped trash with a tear rolling down his chiseled face.

The weird part is that Robby Benson, also born in Dallas, and I didn’t live that way. I immersed myself in these and horse stories, some western horse stories, some mid century farm stories. I completely identified with my Alamo Texan and southern back country roots, although both my parents lived in the city. My mother’s parents escaped what Bobbie Gentry wrote about. My father’s mother’s parents had other people doing the hard part, and his father’s parents were from Germany and worked in the city when they got here. I don’t know what they did over there.

What this does for you is make you city dependent, but old country nostalgic. Nostalgia is usually a longing for how you used to live, but we never lived that way. I don’t count my nostalgia as false though, even if I know a glorified, screened version of it. Reproductions still hearken back, but what you’re left with is the aesthetics. So when you visit a farm or other preferred back country, it’s like visiting a museum. You appreciate the beauty and quietness as an alien. They didn’t view their lives as tourist attractions. They were scraping a living. I suppose The Last Picture Show is a less glorified version. Peyton Place also sought to pop the myth. I bet the truth is somewhere in the middle. Nevertheless, I think 70’s reflection swallowers like me never really felt at home where we were. Home is where the heart is and so my home is watching someone else pretend to live in it. They say write about what you know, and so my best option is to write about liking the flavor of Bobbie Gentry’s and Dollie Parton’s however real versions. And since I have their people’s blood in me, maybe some of my sense of home is real too.