Our Friend Oscar

Watched the entire Oscar ceremonies Sunday night. Three-plus hours. Was it worth it? Who’s to say?

There is some pleasure in watching beautiful, famous people having a good time. And a couple of the musical numbers were exciting, especially the opening one where Janelle Monae and a score of dancers really put on a spectacular show.

This year we hadn’t seen a few of the movies that were competing for best film. We totally missed Parasite, for instance. which only played here in Paradise once, at noon on the day of the Oscar ceremonies, when I was under the weather and could not attend.

For somebody who has cut the cable cord and only streams their video, tuning in to the Oscar ceremonies is a bit of a shuffle each year. What you have to do is find a service, like Hulu, and take advantage of their “two weeks for free” offer for the night and then cancel the next day.

But when you come back next year, Hulu remembers that you took them up on that offer in 2019, and won’t let you do it again. I think that we are now out of options, having been through Hulu, SlingTV, YouTubeTV and others, unless something happens to change this picture. I have no idea why we “streamers” have to play this game, surely our numbers by now must qualify us for something better than third-class status.

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Over the years there have been all too frequent reports of nutritional injury to pets who are fed commercial foods of one kind or another. As example, a couple of years ago, there were warnings issued after many dogs died or developed heart damage through deficient foods. Last summer the FDA issued alerts regarding 16 different commercial dog foods that put pets at risk.

So where is this going? I don’t even have a dog! But I have been feeding a mixture of commercial dry and wet foods for the life of our pets, and I have taken to reading their labels. (There are almost none that don’t have vegetables and /or grains and soy as part of their makeup.) I have not fed any one of them as an only food because I have learned that in the veterinary world no one knows if there is one perfect food that a cat can eat exclusively without developing disease.

Except the cat. If they are out there running around, they eat no vegetables at all, but mice-y creatures (mice, gophers, voles, etc.) and small birds. Now, no one knows if soy, veggies, and grains are bad for cats, they have just not been tested over centuries. We don’t know about them.

What we do know is that cats in the wild are are pure carnivores. They have been that way for at least 10,000 years, and their digestive and biological systems are tuned to those food sources.

So, the upshot of all this blather is that I am making my own cat food. It’s a mixture of barn swallows, hummingbirds, and meadow voles … naw, not true, I lied. Each batch I make starts out with three pounds of chicken thighs and goes on from there.

The additions are some vitamins, oils, minerals, and taurine, an essential amino acid. The recipe comes from a level-headed veterinarian’s website.

I don’t have freezer space to make this the only thing my kitties get to eat, so I’ve compromised by feeding the home-made product in the morning, and commercial foods at night.

Poco loves the stuff, and has gained a good (and needed) amount of weight since we started feeding it.

Willow … can take it or leave it.

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Heard a song on the radio that made me want to run right home and look it up, so I did. It is Willow, by Joan Armatrading. From 1977. Lord, the music that’s out there is an endless treasure chest, just waiting for anyone to stir it around and find something new.

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Robin has discovered the joys of listening to podcasts. She also owns a pair of wireless earphones.

These two facts have led to a new scenario at BaseCamp. One where Robin and I are sitting in adjoining chairs, me jabbering away as she quietly knits. It’s only when I pose a question and there is no response that I realize she hasn’t heard a word I said. Looking closely I spy the tiny pieces of hardware in her ears.

But am I affronted by this? Nay, nay, say I. I am way too centered and mellow a person for such petty piques. Often, I am actually happy about the situation, because now I get to tell my story all over again, to a fresh audience.

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Awright – we all have some Neanderthal DNA in our genome. No matter where we came from on the planet. This news is making scientists around the world buzz. My take on this particular part of ancient biology is what’s the big surprise?

We all know how it could have happened. Let’s say there’s a party thrown by a bunch of homo sapiens. They’ve already discovered fermented foods, some of which produce alcohol and are being served in gourds around the cave. Everyone gets a little tipsy and late at night the guests wander away into the darkness.

Next morning, some of them look over at the spruce bough next to theirs and – whuh? – oh no, really? Is she from the village across the creek? Now how do I get out of this one? Maybe if I tiptoe quietly away, no one will ever know?

That’s it. I’ll sneak out into the savannah. Jeez Louise**, if any of my friends ever find out, I am so dead. Gotta cut back on my drinking … .

(**Yes, friends, the phrase Jeez Louise dates that far back.)

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Paul Simon’s wonderful album, Graceland, introduced many of us to the a cappella group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, from South Africa. Beautiful voices and harmonies.

1987: Joseph Shabalala at left, baby Paul Simon third from left.

The leader of that group, Joseph Shabalala, passed away this past week, and his obituary was in the NYTimes. The song Homeless is from that album, and displays the group’s distinctive style.

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L’Etoile du Nord

Robin and I watched the Democratic debates Friday night, and we stuck with it for two hours before fatigue set in. And since Friday morning a viral infection of some sort had exploded in my nose, I am thinking that I deserve special recognition for watching as long as I did … perhaps a presidential Medal of Freedom … now that President Cluck has cheapened that award by giving it to a man whose only claim to fame is several decades of homophobic, racist, and generally ugly verbiage.

But I digress. After the dust of the debate has settled, who is my candidate on this fine Sunday morning? Why, Amy, of course. And Friday night, baby, she crushed.

Solid, smart, sensible, and from Minnesota. Neither too old nor too young, a proven record of accomplishment, and did I mention that she’s from Minnesota, where children grow up strong and resourceful and a credit to their species?

And did I mention that I grew up in Minnesota?

(L’√Čtoile du Nord is a French phrase meaning “The Star of the North”. It is the motto of the U.S. state of Minnesota.)

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Our system of sharing the outside world with the slavering monster-cat next door is working out … sort of. On the even-numbered days when we can let our pets roam, we feel fairly secure, with only all the other hazards there are for outdoor cats to worry about. On the days when ours must be kept in, we put up tolerantly with their complaints, especially those of Poco, who is by far the most vocal.

It’s not perfect, but it’s a workable compromise for now. Of course, being a very small-hearted person, I find myself daydreaming about all sorts of mishaps visiting that nasty animal.

Like a collision with our recycling truck, or an unfortunate encounter with a coyote, or coming into contact with an unusually disagreeable strain of kitty-coronavirus.

In all of these scenarios I wish for the end to come swiftly, so perhaps I am not unredeemably bad.

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It took nearly six years, and I had almost forgotten how flat-out stupid South Dakota Republicans can be when in the herd. But I was reminded of all that when I read yesterday that the SD House recently passed a bill which would make it illegal for pediatricians and family docs to provide gender-affirmative medical care to children under 16 years of age. Fines and/or imprisonment await the physician who attempts to do the right thing for their patient.

Lord, lord, who dresses these people before they leave the house in the morning? Who cuts up their meat for them?

How in the world did a major political party become opposed to knowledge?

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I don’t do well with illness, even minor ones, like the “cold” I am dealing with right now. I am like a silent film actor, exaggerating my movements and expressions to obtain the maximum amount of sympathy from those around me, to the point of falling into a faint if that’s what it takes. (I have had the vapors too many times to count.)

Not for me the stoic and the long-suffering Norseman. I want people to know that my cold is the worst cold any human being ever had, and that a person with a weaker constitution would probably have already been put into that long pine box you’ve heard so much about.

Suffering in silence? Why, I ask you, why? Where’s the profit in that?

But say, while you’re up, would you move that box of tissues closer to my recliner? That’s a good friend. And the fruit in my bowl is starting to look a bit tired, could you be a love and freshen up the grapes?

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Pantry Hazards

Every once in a while you come across something that is just plain startling. Out of the blue. Completely unexpected. Such was the case this morning when I was shopping online for some additional pieces for the set of Fiesta Ware dishes we use every day. In my Google search this question popped up:

Is Fiesta Ware radioactive?

Huh? Radioactive? What the … ?

So I clicked on the question and received this answer:

Homer Laughlin, the maker of Fiesta, resumed using the red glaze in the 1950s, using depleted uranium. The use of depleted uranium oxide ceased in 1972. Fiesta Ware manufactured after this date is not radioactive. Fiesta dinnerware made from 1936-1972 may be radioactive.

Amazing. My head was spinning. How would we ever have suspected that our dinnerware was the reason that our family now glowed in the dark? Oh sure, it was handy sometimes, like when you entered a darkened house and were looking for the light switch. Or if you wanted to read late at night but didn’t have a lamp near the chair you were sitting in. But overall, it mightn’t have been that healthy for us to be walking night-lights.

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Once again the Grammys have come and gone without me. Except for “Old Town Road” I knew none of the tunes that won awards. I barely recognize the performers.

In fact, I am so far out of that loop that the Grammy committee now calls me and asks that I not watch the show. Apparently my profound ignorance and indifference leak backwards through my television screen and are off-putting to the people who are on stage.

So out of respect for the music I don’t tune in. It’s better this way.

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From The New Yorker

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The commedia dell’politico that is playing in Washington DC at the moment is bringing back John Bolton for encores. You remember him from the “W” administration, n’est-ce pas?

He’s the guy who has parlayed a large mustache and a cranky disposition into a long and undistinguished career.

Can’t wait to hear what he has to say, can you? The squeaking of yet one more rattus norvegicus who has left the listing ship of state.

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Monday it snowed lightly all the livelong day, and we ended up with about three inches of perfect whiteness in the village. Robin and I had planned to go to the Grand Mesa for a bit of XC skiing, but we turned back when the road up the mountain was too icy for comfort. It’s one thing to go up an icy mountain road, it’s quite another to come down one.

So we took a snowday. All four of us (kitties and humans). We’ve worked out a truce with the next-door neighbors who own an unprincipled cat that is bullying felines up and down our street. I’ve tried to tell these poor souls that their pet is a spawn from hell, but they remain unpersuaded.

Since they are reluctant to do the right thing and call in an exorcist, we’ve worked out a schedule with them: they can let their monster outdoors only on odd-numbered days, and ours can then enjoy a demon-free environment on the evens. Monday being an odd-numbered day, we were a quartet of shut-ins.

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Okay, here’s something that will make reading all the way to the bottom of this page worth your while. It’s Amy Klobuchar’s recipe for a hot dish, as reported in the NYTimes on Wednesday.

Having grown up in a home where the question “What are we having for supper?” was met 50% of the time with the reply “Hot Dish,” I can completely relate to this story.

Of course, “hot dish” could mean almost anything, since all you had to do was to add some protein to some starch and blend cream of mushroom soup into the mixture and you had supper. If you wanted to get frilly, toss in some frozen vegetables. Green peas were especially popular at our house.

All of this just gives me one more reason to consider Amy’s candidacy. Anyone that can serve this much melted cheese with a straight face deserves my vote.

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Memento Mori Department

Bob Shane, the last surviving member of the musical group The Kingston Trio, passed away this week. Younger readers might say “Who?,” and who can blame them, but at one time this trio was probably the most popular such group in the world.

Here are a couple of their early hits, Tom Dooley, and Scotch and Soda, both featuring Mr. Shane. In the photo, Bob is the guy on the left.

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An Apple A Day …

Thursday CNN posted an article on some behaviors by Apple that have annoyed me over the past decades, even thought I am a great fan of their technology in general. That behavior is an idiosyncratic one, whereby the company decides when they are done with something and then just take it away. Forever, in most cases.

My new laptop, purchased just under a year ago, still has a headphone jack. That’s gone in some newer models. But my computer has no regular USB terminal, no MagSafe charging cord (loved it), no hard drive of its own, and who knows what else I don’t have that I don’t even know about yet.

It’s what Apple does, and they don’t apologize for themselves. So I now have had to purchase a portable hard drive for more storage, a superdrive that can read/burn CDs and DVDs, and a pair of dongles so that I can use them with the basic machine.

The computer itself is slimmer and sleeker, but the bag of stuff that I need to carry along with me keeps growing in size.

But what do I know? Apple is one of the most successful companies in the world. Ever. And I am just one lonely fan that they can poke in the eye with impunity. One day they may poke me in both eyes at the same time, and then I’ll finally go over to the dark side and enter the world of PCs, but … not yet.

I love it when they hurt me.

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From The New Yorker

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Robin and I have a favorite Indian dish, saag paneer. Basically it is stewed greens containing chunks of a fresh cheese that doesn’t melt away. We’ve been successful in making the greens at home, and I’ve mentioned that recently, but the paneer (the cheese) was another matter. No one sells the stuff here in Paradise, and even though there are recipes on the web that tell me how easy it is to make for myself, so far my efforts had only produced a rubbery substance that wouldn’t hold together to save its life, but crumbled away at the touch.

Turns out I wasn’t squeezing it hard enough in the process of making it. Yesterday I made some passable paneer here in our kitchen using my tofu press to get that last little bit of fluid out and it worked.

Little victories, as the great philosopher Robert Seger has observed, can be among the most satisfying of all.

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Robin and I have been watching the series “Outlander” for the past couple of weeks. If you haven’t, it’s a costume drama about a woman who touches a special stone and through some strange magic finds herself transported back through time to Scotland in 1743 A.D.

Now she’s a resourceful lass, and after having a bit of a shock at the change in her circumstances, begins to make plans to return to her own time. That is, if she can figure out how she got there in the first place.

In the meantime she is regarded with suspicion by the highlanders who have taken her in, and suspicion also by the British who are occupiers of Scotland. Apparently people don’t just drop out of the sky (while wearing only a shift) into clan Mackenzie’s lands on a routine basis, and her explanations as to where she came from are vague, to say the least.

But even so, there are lots of bonnie laddies and brave lassies, enough kilts that each man has at least one to his name, and some exploration of the time and place that highland Scotland was way back when. And all was going well until last night, when nearly the entire episode was about a wedding and a bedding. A whole hour with little swordplay other than that which took place in the bedroom, if you take my meaning.

I felt betrayed! I’d been soap opera-ed once again! So I checked and there it was, the clue I’d missed, that the series was taken from a group of novels written by … a woman named Diana Gabaldon.

So now I suppose there will be more of this sensitivity and gentleness that I saw last evening. Where characters take each other’s feelings into consideration.

And I thought it was going so well … so burly and plaid and all.

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Ordinarily I am pretty lukewarm on the subject of mountaineering, not breathlessly following the exploits of climbers up one peak after another. It’s a very hazardous undertaking, lots of people die doing it, and in my parochial view, those deaths are very close to pointless.

Who cares, I say to myself, if yet another climber is swept away by avalanches or perishes in yet another storm? They were there by their own choice. And all this talk about “conquering” the mountain? Poppycock. All of those immense piles of rock are standing as they have always been, while tiny humans clamber up and down about them over the decades and are mostly forgotten.

But then I come upon a story like this one, told in a very visual way, and I am caught up in it. CNN took some pains with tale-telling-technology in informing us about a group of Russian women who died while climbing a peak I never heard of, in 1974. For a few minutes I care about those women, as I learn the details of their semi-suicidal struggles.

They were young, they were strong, and they were brave. Were there better places to apply that youth and courage and energy? For me, the answer is yes. But that story would not be nearly as dramatic. And perhaps that hunger for drama is the point that I keep missing about this whole enterprise.

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GUY FAWKES DEPARTMENT

Well, here’s a couple of interesting pieces. The first one poses the question: Is Anybody but Trump a valid way to decide how we cast our votes? It’s a mildly shocking perspective.

Anyone But Trump? Not So Fast by Bret Stephens

And next, does being middle-class mean that you’re also liberal in your thinking? Turns out that it’s not a given at all.

The Myth of Middle-Class Liberalism by David Motadel

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Story of Tito and Amanda

My friend Bill sent along a news clipping from Florida. I include it below:

The article speaks eloquently for itself, and I only have a couple of comments to make. First, some mental aberrations are much funnier than others. Apparently Tito and Amanda believed in their product, and they might make a case for police harassment of an innocent vendor. Maybe. And since it’s pretty common knowledge that when Jesus wants to meet up with someone he often does it behind a KFC, there is that.

Secondly, the article doesn’t mention it, but I strongly suspect that the purchasers of those golden tickets were some of those barmy evangelicals who support President Cluck so strongly. If they’ll buy him, they’ll buy anything.

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Let’s play with this a little longer. If there were planets made entirely of drugs, what would they be called? I have four suggestions to offer. Perhaps you have others.

  • Crackitopia
  • Morphinia I
  • Cocainatus Prime
  • Methamphorian

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The critics are not quite unanimous, but almost, in panning the new movie Cats. I think the Rotten Tomatoes rating was down below 20% at one time. But Robin wanted to see it no matter what and off we went.

We really liked it.

Not that there weren’t flaws, but there was also a lot of music and energy and some really appealing characters. Who cares if the cinematography looked like it was shot through a lens of strong coffee when you get to see Judy Dench strut her stuff, and watch Ian McKellen in cat-drag?

There were excellent dance numbers, especially a tap-dance number along a railroad track that was terrific.

Forget about plot. The original musical’s plot was always pretty hare-brained but you were able to forget about it most of the time, because … it was forever about the music and it still is!

Songs like Memory, Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats, and Mr. Mistoffelees, f’rinstance.

So nya-nya-nya and pish-tush to those critics who are unable to find the fun.

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Our fearless leader may have finally gone and done it this time. Those of us who have worked at keeping our wits in a witless era have known that when you have an immoral and foolish person as your president, eventually he will do something irretrievably stupid on a grand scale.

Ergo – assassinating a general and then threatening to blow up cultural sites if the Other Side does anything about it.

The Day After War Begins in Iran by Azadeh Moaveni
Congress, Stop the Rush to War by the NYTimes Editorial Board

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The Road To Hell Is Paved With Good Intentions Department

We had an old Canon photo printer that we hadn’t used for several years because it would no longer play with our computer’s OS. I thought: Rather than throw away something that had been working, we’ll take it to Goodwill and maybe there’s someone out there using an older PC or Mac that can make the thing fly again.

So I stuffed the printer’s power cords into a plastic bag that I thought already contained some unused ink cartridges for the machine, and went to the Restore where they gratefully accepted the donation.

After returning home I was dismayed to find the bag of ink cartridges still in the car … what in blazes was in the bag I left at the Restore? I asked Robin and after checking the car she told me that I had given away a brand new pair of exercise pants that she had purchased only yesterday.

Back I went to the Restore, where the I found that the administrative person who screens donations had decided that they couldn’t use the Canon after all, and it had been trashed. The young man who had helped me at my earlier visit then showed up and told me he knew where the cords were. Together we went outside to a gigantic dumpster, whereupon he climbed up to a precarious perch on the side of the beast, leaned way in, and retrieved the bag and its contents from the top of the pile.

I thanked him profusely and then drove back home, where I returned Robin’s pants, which seemed none the worse for their brief visit to the dumpster.

Memo to Myself: Always check the derned bag.

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New Year’s Eve

The snow piled up until we were able to do something that’s never been possible in the six winters we’ve spent here in Paradise. We buckled up and went XC skiing right from the door of our garage. There’s a biking/walking path starting there that leads to open fields a quarter-mile away. It wasn’t a groomed trail by any means, but our skinny skis had more than enough white stuff under them to make it fun.

Something we both like to do is read the animal tracks in new snow. Day to day we don’t see much of these creatures, like the foxes, raccoons, rabbits, and skunks, but they leave clear traces of their night’s travels in the snow.

We have a neighbor a few houses up the street who has a video camera scanning his back yard at night, and each evening he puts out a dish of kibbled food. I asked him yesterday if anything new or noteworthy had shown up on the video recording, and he said: “No, mostly it’s just trash pandas and a couple of feral cats.”

Trash panda is his name for raccoons.

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As I was musing the other day … musing being something that I do quite a lot of since it requires so little energy and I hardly break a sweat … I thought how much repair and maintenance the process of aging requires of us.

Each morning there are the bathroom rituals that we must perform so that when we exit that safe space into society we don’t look as muddle-headed as we feel. Many of those rituals involve hair. Not the hair atop our heads, which grows alarmingly thinner with time, but that which pops out of places it needn’t and in directions it shouldn’t. So some shaving and plucking is often in order.

Then those modified hairs, which are the fingernails and toenails, come into focus. During each day they look for ways to chip and fragment themselves, having become brittle and unreliable. If one doesn’t give them proper attention each morning they will go about their business of snagging on anything they can, socks and sweaters being regular victims.

Did I mention the slathering of ointments and creams on one’s integument to stave off that parched look? The swallowing of tablets guaranteed to reduce the chance of croaking before the end of the day by 0.124 %? And fiber – don’t get me started on fiber! Suffice it to say that the Metamucil years are in full flower.

I could go on. Actually, I already have, and since there is no end to this sort of dissertation, I will simply stop here.

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Our Buddha’s hat has been added-to. He remains serene as ever.

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Today is New Year’s’ Eve. The last time we threw a party on this date, not one person attending was still present at our house by midnight, all of them having already headed home for those beds that called so strongly.

At least I think they were all gone, because by 11 P.M. Robin and I were fast asleep. And that was nearly two decades ago. Somehow the fascination of watching the ball drop at Times Square has diminished. And looking at the crowds on television I no longer imagine how exciting it must be to be a part of that expectant throng, but instead I think: What a field day it must be for pickpockets.

As you can surmise, a party animal I am not.

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A New Year’s Eve recollection. I was a kid, staying at Grandpa Jacobson’s farm for the holidays. The day being a special one, I was allowed to stay up until midnight with the adults, listening to radio broadcasts of celebrations in New York City.

The heat in that small dwelling was provided by an oil burning stove in the center of the living room. A black pipe led from the stove to the wall and thence the chimney.

At the stroke of midnight, Grandpa would take a piece of blue carpenter’s chalk and write the number of the New Year on that pipe. That number would remain there until 365 days later, when it would be wiped away and the new one inscribed. The year I am remembering the number was 1949.

I’m pretty sure that by 12: 05 I was sound asleep.

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