Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Truth and Nothing but the Truth

Today's good thing is that my daughter got safely home from a two week trip to Shanghai -- where she contracted bacterial gastritis and had to make two trips to the ER for IV fluids.  We were so worried, but now she's back home and feeling better.

I have a little rant today about "The Butler."  We went to see it last weekend because it was reviewed very positively and, as history buffs, we thought the life of a man who had been a part of the Whitehouse staff through five administrations would be fascinating.  Even more interesting, he was a black man seeing the civil rights movement from a privileged place inside Washington politics.

What we saw was a rabble rousing indictment of how this man had been oppressed as a black man in a white culture.  The story opens as he picks cotton on a Georgia farm.  The overseer openly rapes his mother and when his father speaks a word in protest, the overseer shoots the father in the head in front of the entire group of workers.  There is no punishment for the overseer, but the lady of the house takes pity on the traumatized son and teaches him to be a house servant.  

Over the course of time, he marries, has two sons of his own, and works his way into a job as a butler at the White House.  His older son is a rebel and becomes part of the civil rights movement, marching with Dr. King and spending a lot of time being beaten and thrown in jail.  In fact, much of the movie's focus is on this older son.  The younger son is dutiful and home-loving, so he is sent to Viet Nam, where he tragically dies.

The only white people who are nice are Ron and Nancy Reagan, who invite him and his wife to be guests at a state dinner.  But this is also portrayed as a token gesture meant to make the Reagans look egalitarian to their other guests.  He and his wife are embarrassed and ill at ease.

At the end, he resigns from the White House staff and goes to join his elder son in a protest that lands him in jail. The son later becomes a congressman.

At the very end of the movie, Barack Obama is elected president and the theater erupts in applause and cheering.

We left the theater thinking, wow, what an amazing journey this man has had.  They made it clear that it was based on a real life person, so I went to the Internet to find out about which parts actually happened.  Was his father murdered?  Did his son become a congressman?

It turns out that ALL the horrible things were completely fictious.  His father wasn't shot by a lecherous overseer.  His older son, the civil rights worker, was COMPLETELY made up.  He only had the one son and that son returned safely from Viet Nam.  One true thing is that he and his wife were invited to a state dinner by the Reagans, which was one of the happiest memories of their lives.

Why make this stuff up?   What's the purpose except to sow dissension between people?  This man knew five presidents intimately.  Wasn't his life interesting enough without making it into a racist pile of propaganda?!  Even if his integrity prevented him from revealing personal information about about the presidents, surely his unique perspective would be interesting and there would be some interesting stories over the course of thirty years.  But no.  They hung a fictious and inflammatory story on this guy's life and most of the people leaving that theater will forever believe that it actually happened just as it's portrayed.  

I think that's irresponsible film making and it only hurts understanding between the races.

That's my two cents.  

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Dog Days

Today's good things are dogs playing joyfully together and Trixie Koontz's book "Life is Good."

This morning when I let the dogs out, our neighbor's dog Ginger was in the front yard.  She's a large reddish dog -- maybe a golden or setter mix -- and I wasn't sure how the dogs would react to this stranger.  After some cautious investigation (and sniffing), Pepper and Ginger began to play and it was such a treat to watch.  Tiny Pepper would jump at Ginger saying "chase me!" and then run at top speed in a big circle around the front yard.  To Pepper's delight, Ginger was just as excited about the game as she was.  Poor Sam hasn't been much of a playmate for her -- although, once they got going, even Sam joined in to the chase game for a few rounds.  Ginger chased Pepper and Pepper chased Ginger and they had such fun.  They ran and jumped and Pepper would lap Ginger and come up behind her.  I wish I could have filmed it, but I was afraid they'd stop if I went to get the camera.

One interesting thing happpened -- and I don't think I was over-interpreting their behavior -- but Pepper got a little tired on one of the rounds and took refuge behind me.  When Ginger pursued, Sam gently moved between the two dogs as if he were protecting Pepper.  Maybe he was protecting me, but it seemed like he was protecting Pepper -- which is very interesting since he generally seems to regard her as a bratty little sister.  Pepper has recently taken to gently licking his face and ears and paws and I think it may have formed a bond between them.

The second good dog thing is that my copy of "Life is Good" by Trixie Koontz arrived.  Trixie was a golden retriever who lived with the writer Dean Koontz.  She wrote this book because, as she described it, she is unhappy for about a minute and a half each day -- for thirty seconds after her food bowl is emptied three times a day.  Humans, she observed, seem to be unhappy for a much larger portion of the day.  So, she shares her doggy wisdom about joyful living.  I haven't read it all the way through yet, but here's a representative sampling:

"The poet Homer (not a dog) wrote 'Sleep is the twin of death.'  Get me a blue doodoo bag.  That Homer stuff is a pile of poop.  Sleep is just life slowed down.  So you can rest.  So you can dream about bacon.  And chicken.  And sausage.  And cantalope.  And peanut butter.  And about buying a fancy convertible and driving around the U.S.A., pee-marking territory till it's all mine."

"Water is restful.  Swim in water. Play in water.  Never pee in water.  Only fish pee in water.  Fish have excuse, are never out of water and are very dumb.  No offense to fish, but is true.  No fish ever wrote book like this.  Lassie saved Timmy every time he fall down well.  No fish ever saved Timmy or ever could."

Life with dogs is good.  

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Summer Sunday Morning

Today I feel like I have a lot of blessings.  First and foremost, Sam is still getting along okay.  He's not showing any acute signs of disease -- he just seems to eat less and less every day and he's getting boney.

This morning after my meditation I felt led to take my coffee out to the new patio.  I let Charlie out in the exercise pen and Sam and I enjoyed the morning air.  There's a young rabbit who frequents our crabapple tree and eats the fallen apples and it was out there investigating the planter and chairs under the tree.  I wonder if I could tame it like Annette has tamed Pip but, with the dogs around, I don't think I'll get a chance.

Sam was alert to the rabbit and watched it carefully, but he didn't really get preturbed until a lousy chipmunk came down the hill.  That was simply too much and he took off up the hill after it ... almost as fast as he did in younger days.  After running the chipmunk underground, he sniffed around on top of the hill and then decided to take a tour of the neighborhood.  Ever since we've had patio and drainage construction, the invisible fence has been torn up and non-functional, so Sam -- who usually stays close to home without the fence -- was free to roam.  I saw him sauntering around the neighbor's yard and then lope out to their front yard.  I followed him there and he knew he was busted and came home.  It's good to see that he still has some life and adventure in him.

Another joy was seeing Charlie binky all around the exercise pen.  He hasn't been out in a few days and he was thrilled with the opportunity.  One reason he hasn't been out is that last time he discovered a way out of the exercise pen and went on a romp of his own.  I wasn't sure how he was doing it, but I watched him this morning and I think I blocked up his escape route.

Yesterday was peach day.  We've been overrun by fruit flies, so I decided to cook up all the peaches we had and get them out of the kitchen.  I made peach jam and peach cobbler and both are delicious.  Die, fruit flies, die!!!

Three tips for making peach jam.

  • First, put the peaches in boiling water for minute and then allow them to cool a little before peeling them.  You're going to cook them anyway, so it doesn't matter if they cook a little. The peels will come right off with very little effort.  
  • Second, use a melon baller to remove the bits of coarse fiber that are right next to the pit.  I've never seen this suggested before, but I thought of it yesterday and it worked like a charm.  It's probably an old trick, but I prefer to think I'm a genius.  
  • Third, mix the pectin with 1/4 cup of sugar before adding it.  This will prevent it from blobbing up or making little gummy balls.  

I like jam with a strong flavor, so instead of the four cups of peaches the recipe required, I started with six cups and cooked it down into four cups before adding the pectin.

The results of my peach jam experiments have been very satisfying.  I think I may try some other jams and/or jellies.   

Monday, August 5, 2013

Home Comforts

Today's good thing is my velvety full length teal bathrobe.  I love the color and the soft velvet of it. It's not too bulky but it's cuddley.

This weekend we made peach jam, just like my Mom used to.  Kate bought a bunch of lovely peaches at the farmer's market on Thursday and on Saturday she helped me peel and prepare them.  We ended up with seven and a half 8 oz. jars of luscious peach jam.  It has been a long, long time since I had made any jam and I was afraid it either wouldn't jell or it wouldn't taste like anything -- but it turned out beautifully and was delicious!!!  We've already eaten one jar!

Thursday, August 1, 2013


Today's good thing was brought to my attention by a friend's facebook post.  She works at Chase Law School and posted a group picture of the graduating class of 1921 with the following observation:  When the two women pictured above started law school in 1919, it was illegal for them to vote.  Imagine that!  

What extraordinary women they must have been.  I wonder if they were supported by their families -- they certainly weren't supported by their culture.  I wonder what their friends thought.  They took the bold step of studying for the legal profession and yet they were forbidden to take part in the political process. And this was less than 100 years ago.

I remember learning about the fight for women's sufferage when I was a teenager and eagerly asking my grandmother, who lived through it, what it was like.  The answer was disappointing.  She didn't really pay attention to things like that.  She was more interested in nail polish and romance novels.  I expect there are a lot of women like her -- then and now. 

I'm hardly an activist myself.  I think politics is a dirty dirty business and I stay as far away from it as I can.  It's hard to support any politician when you make the assumption that ALL of them are lying to you and are ultimately working for their own interests.  

At heart, I'm a Libertarian.  I don't want anyone to tell me what to do and I don't want to control anyone else.  Live and let live as long as you don't hurt anyone else.  Government regulation and the tax code have become tyrants that overshadow everyone's lives.  Government surveillance and misinformation remind me, shockingly, of what I was brought up to believe were the characteristics of the Soviet Union during the cold war.  

So, I guess I do have strong feelings about politics.  Maybe I need to be more like the women pictured above and act on my beliefs.