Thursday, December 21, 2023

Hello, I must be going.

UPDATE, 1/24: I am now blogging at Noodletoon:

Did  you see that my state, Minnesota, has adopted the blandest whitewash redesign of our old, racist state flag?
It's like the winner in the Race for Inoffensive.

Kinda puts me in mind of... IKEA?

Lt Gov Peggy Flanagan, a Native activist, said,

"Dare I say anything that isn't a Native person being forced off their land is a flag upgrade?!"
How's that for faint praise? "It's better than genocide!"

Yay, us.

Friday, December 15, 2023

Post #268: Welcome

 . . . One more post than last year!



Reading Wil Wheaton's memoir last night, I felt my loss of contact with creative thinkers and makers, seekers and healers over the years--partly the normal loss of friends through time; partly because of working a job where a lot of people all around me are undernourished in every way; partly fallout from the isolation of Covid and the stress of social turmoil.

Also, honestly, partly me being cantankerous and complacent--sometimes for reasonable reasons, perhaps, but, eventually, aren't they self-defeating ones?
I think I should take that in hand--not to force myself to be gregarious, ohgodno, but to reach out a little more to people, even, eek, to ask for help.

I not just only "should" do this, I admit I want to. My “reasonable” reasons not to include a heightened irritation with people arising from a kind of social PTSD, like many of us developed in Trumptimes and Life in the Time of Covid. Plus, for those of us up and down Lake St. in Minneapolis, there's a special flavored PTSD from having witnessed (second-hand, but on streets we walk on) state-sanctioned murder in broad daylight, and the explosions of people's anger and frustration afterward, met—not by the powers-that-be with empathy and attempts at reconciliation—but with more state-sanctioned strong-arming.

I remember the day conveys of armed US troops in camouflage rolled past me as I walked home from work--I stopped at the little garage-gym I was going to at the time and wept with the owner.
The next day, Asst Man said, "How do I explain to my kids why there are soldiers with machine guns on the corner?"
At work, I was on my knees cleaning up shards of windows smashed by legitimately angry and frustrated (and sometimes just opportunistic) people.

So, maybe I want to try again to get some help/ to talk about all that with someone who understands the complexities? 

Which, I am remembering, is what blog friend Darwi who lived as a teenage girl through the BOSNIAN WAR urged me to do…

I know there’s plenty better than that clueless therapist I saw once last year. Someone who doesn't gaslight me, brushing off my feelings and thoughts as "overthinking" or telling me that “everyone is doing their best".

No wonder I don't want to socialize when these are literally some of the responses I get from people.

My dear coworkers mostly operate in survival mode--a
grin-and-bear-it which can even be jolly and wise, in its way, but not what I'd call... healing? expansive?

This is a TINY door (2 inches high) in the outside wall of Dreamhaven bookstore. An invitation...
Welcome. Well come.

Thursday, December 14, 2023

laughter and tenderness

I had a fun day out, though it started with the nursing-home staff informing us that bink's mom has Covid after we'd walked into her room. She seemed well--up and alert. There was a notice posted on her door, but it was one of a couple pale Xeroxes crowded with print--I hadn't even registered it.

We were wearing masks, at least, and I expect/hope the exposure is nothing to worry about. An aide said we could stay and visit if we put on PPE, but we'd had time to say hi and to give her the little Xmas tree, and that was good enough. She clearly had no idea who I was--no flicker of recognition when I introduced myself, which wasn't surprising. She did light up when bink introduced herself though––"I'm your daughter...". (It can be good to remind people with dementia of who you are. Quizzing them, "Do you know who I am?"  may set them up for feeling they've failed.)

Then bink drove me to the grocery store, and I stocked up on everything to make holiday food. So nice to get a ride for heavy and bulky things like that!
The cashier was wearing a headband that dangled a piece of plastic mistletoe in front of her eyes, like those deep sea fishes dangle lanterns off their foreheads...

In the afternoon, I took the bus to the sci-fi bookstore Dreamhaven, where  a bumper sticker at their till made me laugh out loud:
STAR TREK: Woke Since 1966.
They weren't selling them--the owner had gotten it at a con--or I'd have bought one for my bike.

I bought the new Murderbot, another book as a gift, and Wil Wheaton's 2022 memoir Still Just a Geek [see, Wheaton's books website], an update-by-annotation of his 2004 Just a Geek.
I'd been one of "dozens of people" who'd read the original, by Wheaton's comical count and had "seemed to like it".

I'd never gotten into Star Trek: The Next Generation though, so I didn't know Wheaton's character, Wesley Crusher, well enough to have an opinion about him, much less to virulently hate him as many people did. Wheaton has written about how horrible it was for his character to receive so much hate and mockery. So I'd been moved recently to see Wesley appear briefly in the second season of ST: Picard (the season I loved best) in a cool and heroic, kind and wonderfully geeky way.
Yay, Wil, for bringing it home!

I've always admired how Wheaton has long chosen to be incredibly public, vulnerable, honest, and sincere on his blog, Wil Wheaton dot net--talking about his struggles with his "brain goblins
" (mental health), his survival of abuse and "emotional smog" from his parents, the doubt and near-despair after leaving TNG, and also, all along, boldly sharing his joys and bravery and gratitude and love. What a geek!

Also, he loves me. He said so in this speech!
"Are there any librarians here today? How about booksellers? I love you."
Revisiting his memoir after almost twenty years, Wheaton said, was "uncomfortable, embarrassing, awkward, but ultimately healing and surprisingly cathartic", which I think is true of a lot of the personal writing he has shared online for years. Of updating it, he said:
“Many times during the process, I wanted to quit. I kept coming across material that was embarrassing, poorly-written, immature, and worst of all, privileged and myopic.

. . . I physically recoiled from my own book. Those moments [of] privilege and [the] ignorance that fueled them filled me with shame and regret. They still do.”
I never did clean the apartment, but I'm not going to now--I'm going to read this book. Even as I'm thinking/writing lately more about Big Picture stuff on Earth, I never forget, I hope I never deny, that we each have our own tender selves to care for, and it matters that we do that. Otherwise, what's the point of being here?

So, yeah, just glancing at Wil's book was a good reminder. Everything connects, it's not always obvious how, it's not all going to resolve when you want it to (or, maybe, ever), but your life matters, you're a piece of the whole.
Keep 'er moving!

Fresh-Ginger Cake recipe

The fresh ginger makes this cake amazing. My tip: don't grate your knuckles when you're grating the ginger like I did last year...

Christmas Break

Some cheering seasonal stuff.
I rewatched "Philomena Cunk on Christmas, 2016", last night––she makes me laugh out loud.

Yesterday was my work's pot luck lunch. It was scattered and disjointed, but nice--just like us.

This morning, bink and I are taking a little Xmas tree I got at the store to her mom, who lives in a nearby nursing home. Her mom's dementia is pretty well progressed. I haven't seen her since before Covid--I wonder if she'll recognize me.

The tree is a bit squashed but we can straighten its wire branches.

After that, we're going shopping for Christmas supplies. I'm making pot roast as usual for Xmas Eve, and, this weekend, ginger cake. (Oh--I'll post that separately, as Kirsten requested.)

And then I'm taking the day to finish putting my apartment back in order--still half-pulled apart from when I moved my bookshelf a couple weeks ago. This afternoon I'll take a break and go to Dreamhaven books to treat myself to
System Collapse, the new Murderbot!

I think I'll also buy a replacement copy for the first in the series, All Systems Red, to replace the one I lent to mattdamon, who has vamoosed. I could get both books far cheaper online, but I love Dreamhaven and want to support my local sci-fi bookstore.


The Comfort of Confirmation

Also last night, weirdly cheering/calming to me, I read most of a donated book, published this fall, 2023--it's rare to get such a new book:
  “Trauma Sponges: Dispatches from the Scarred Heart of Emergency Response,”
by Minneapolis fire captain Jeremy Norton [MPR interview].

I bike past the author' firehouse on my way to work!
In his work as fire captain, Norton tends to the same people I see at the store. For me, having someone creative, smart, angry, and in the know say, Yes, this is happening, I see it every day too, is so, so helpful, its a balm to my scarred heart.

The book is not only about this event, but Norton's unit was called to the scene of George Floyd's murder––too late.

The book centered/calmed me because the way Norton talks about what happened on 38th & Chicago is exactly how I see it too, but closer up, plus he fills in gaps in my knowledge. 
Sadly he confirms my suspicions about what's happened since to improve the city's policing:
pretty much nothing.

"Hope is not an action plan" he says. Yes! It's not!
I think I'll write him a thank-you note.

But now I need to write a shopping list.
Have a lovely day, everyone!

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

First plant the sapling

I. Like a Turner Sunset

Isn't this photo beautiful, like a Turner painting?
"The finest sky, to my mind, ever put on canvas," written of a Turner sunset at the Tate.

You can see the movement of colors––dripping, blowing, bubbling–– some emerging,
some obliterating...

I took the photo as I was biking down the Greenway path this spring.

It's the remains of a fire
under a highway overpass, where people living outside were cooking or keeping warm.

There can be beauty in the breakdown, as it reveals new realities.  There's for sure discomfort in it.

II. Dissonance Reduction

I finished reading Collinson's Reformation last night.
When reality doesn't match people's beliefs and expectations,
writes the author, historian Patrick Collinson,
people don't usually change their minds, they (we) change how they see the reality.

What's the name for that? It's a reaction to cognitive dissonance...

*quick google*
Oh, here--it's called dissonance reduction.
Neat! It's the name for how we seek to reduce the unpleasant feelings when belief and reality clash––naturally, but probably not logically...

Even if we change our beliefs, do we change our actions?

Most of us will choose to keep doing what we're doing––
I had a hamburger last night––and, who ordered Christmas presents from Amazon?

III. First plant the Sapling

There's a saying in the Talmud,
"If you have a sapling in your hand and they tell you 'The Messiah is coming' first plant the sapling, then go to see him."

"From this moment despair ends and tactics begin"

Above: Banksy mural at the Marble Arch, London, April 2019, in support of Extinction Rebellion actions

I was thinking about that--how we choose our old beliefs & habits over new realities-- as I hear people complain about actions by the climate crisis group Just Stop Oil (an outgrowth of Extinction Rebellion).

I haven't seen such actions here in MN (yet?), but they involve people blocking gas stations, throwing paint on famous works of art, etc.
Their idea is to draw attention through nonviolent protest to the need to take drastic & immediate action to stop environmental destruction and social breakdown.

I see and support their point; I admire their guts;
but I'm not sure the tactics of these eco-activists will be very effective, given how we practice dissonance reduction.

Still, what the hell? What have you got to lose by doing something?
At least you can say you tried.

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Here in the future, Let’s build a yurt!

I have to go to work soon, but I want to blog briefly first. I'm aiming to blog every day for the rest of December for the silly? reason that I want my year-end count to be a bit higher than last year's--and it almost is. I feel sad when I see declining numbers of yearly posts on blog sidebars.

For my last three years, my number of posts goes:
379 [Covid/George Floyd year, 2020]
This year (2023) I've published 262 posts, so I can certainly bump it past 267!

"And, Fresca, tell us, will it be all heavy stuff you blog about?"

Maybe, kinda, sorta? But I always want to focus on What Helps, though. That's kinda cheering, isn't it?

And really--I am not resigned to an apocalypse or anything like that!
Star Trek always held (holds) that some smart science is going to rescue us from ourselves, and that is certainly not inconceivable.
As a good Trekkie, I am going to choose to hope for that!

I was just emailing a friend about how I feel like I live in different worlds in my one life.

I was comforted to read the quote,
"The future is already here. It's just not very evenly distributed"
––from William Gibson, whom the New Yorker called "the great prophet of the digital age."
(Author of Neuromancer, Gibson first used the word “cyberspace” in 1981.)

From where I stand, I could even say,
"The end [of empire] is here, it's just not evenly distributed yet."

And that's why I feel like I straddle different worlds, only a few miles apart---
from where people are living in tents to where people are living in luxury--because I literally am.
And it can make me feel a little crazy.

But really, I'm not crazy at all:
There ARE NO MAPS for this.
Of course there never are maps for the future, but in certain times you feel like you can see clearly ahead, even if that's an illusion, and other times, you're aware that every step is a step into the unknown.

Ya just gotta light out for the territory.

Mostly it helps if I focus on WHAT HELPS? here, wherever I am.

Like Mr Rogers's mother said, "Look for the helpers".
Or rather, as grown ups, we should look to BE the helpers.
It helps to see others being that.

I was cheered to run into Abe at the store the other day--a young man who used to work at the store, he now works with a local Harm Reduction (HR) group.

Harm Reduction folks  are among my heroes---along with sanitation workers! Shit is happening, they acknowledge. Drugs, homelessness, mental illness, mass incarceration, climate crisis--the whole rodeo!
Let's keep it from killing us too much.
Like, Abe's group is our source for the store's free Narcan (for opioid overdoses).

[Harm Reduction Principles] "Your Life Matters"
Logo ^ from Texas HR Alliance.

I asked Abe what he's up to, and he showed me a photo of HR's project BUILDING YURTS on empty land, to shelter people who are forced to live outside this winter.

Yes, we here in the future are back to nomadic practices. They worked  for thousands of years, of course.

These yurts are heated with a barrel stove in the center.
"One of my Lefty kombucha-drinking coworkers got the barrels donated," Abe told me.

"You could make a lotta kombucha in one of those barrels," I said.
A throwaway comment, but he laughed, and that made me happy because this guy is always so sad.

He went on to say, "People are mammals--we should know how to handle ourselves out of doors." And he added, rather sweetly, to be inclusive of me I guess, "Even white people."

It was my turn to laugh.
Abe is mixed, and I think the default image of "people" in his work/world is not-white people--like on a film negative, the reverse image from the world I've always lived in, until this job.

People should know how to handle themselves out of doors. Yes.
I'd said to Em that the people on the street are getting a head jump on surviving without fossil fuels, should it come to that (say, that we run out or lose access, and can't produce the massive amounts of electricity we're used to--which is not inconceivable).

"They will all die," she said, "because they're addicts."

"Well, yeah, they're dying now," I said. "True. But people like Abe who are building yurts are getting a head start on the apocalypse."

She agreed.

But really, the cool thing about Harm Reduction practices is, if you don't need them--great! They won't hurt you.

Yurts, Not Hurt.

Meanwhile, here's a PDF: Build Your Own Yurt. Print it out, in case the power goes out.

Monday, December 11, 2023

Ringing the Changes

I'd said I'd lighten up, but there's just too much to think about at this time in history that is not light in weight or wave length. Sometimes it is terrifying, but overall it is fascinating, don't you think?
And we are inside it.
What do we see? What do we do?

I did a Christmas thing!
Abby, the puzzle volunteer, is one of those people who is always going to events around town, scouring out free or cheap ones. I've always turned down her invitations because I don't generally like entertainment for its own sake, and she generally goes to entertaining things.

I accepted one to a hand bells Christmas concert, however, because I knew nothing about hand bells (which Abby plays in her church--one of her many civic engagements). It's not entertainment, it's education!

I went with her yesterday evening, and the bell playing really was fascinating, like watching a multipart organism:
fourteen bell-ringers at their stations = ONE musical instrument.
Besides ringing the bells, the players thumped them on the table, tapped them with mallets, and set them singing round their rims like Tibetan bowls.
It was cool to see the close coordination--the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Also, it sounded nice.

That was an effort to lighten up for the holidays.
The concert was in a Lutheran church in a rich suburb, Edina. (My mostly-quiet neighborhood drifts that way--that suburb is just a few miles from me.)
A respite, I thought.

But before it started, the mayor of Edina gave a little speech
, meant to be inspirational?
He told us that a few weeks ago, a man with mental illness had stabbed a local man to death at a bus stop.
"We have an epidemic of untreated mental illness and lack of services," he said, "so people ride public transportation to keep off the streets, and that's how this man came to be in Edina. We need to be more empathetic and address this issue..."

Merry fucking Christmas, ya'll!

The troubles I see everyday at work make their way into wealthy, white, supposedly safe enclaves like Edina too. Of course they do.
So I was thinking about that during the concert--
How do we live in times of enormous change?

How did other people live in times of enormous change?
Or create change themselves?
I didn't set out  to read about reformers, but it only makes sense that as I read more nonfiction, I'm encountering them. They make the news.

I'm reading a fantastic book now, The Reformation, by Patrick Collinson (Modern Library, 2004). I know only the scantiest about the topic--and what I know is mostly about Henry VIII and his six wives, which is a side branch.

Oooh--look at these good Dutch covers of Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall trilogy:

Collinson reminds me of Hilary Mantel in that, like her, he reminds us that people never know what's coming next––what now seems inevitable was in its time one of a swirl of possibilities ––
and, that the main players who created the modern world were not themselves modern people.

Theological niceties that are remote and seem ridiculous to us were as real to them as our debates about, say, Covid vaccines or the Confederate flag.

And, "It is the beginning of wisdom" he writes, "to understand that the Reformation was not, in its own eyes, a novelty."

Luther was not a Lutheran any more than Christ was a Christian. Luther amplified changes already in play, which would lead to the modern world, but he himself, says Collinson, had the mind of a late medieval Catholic.

Collinson is funny too:
"Ignatius Loyola, a soldier recovering from his wounds, was converted by reading religious books (there being nothing else to read) and this was followed by a series of intense religious experiences, out of which the Society of Jesus [the Jesuits] was born.
What if he had been killed in that battle, or had found some novels to read?" [ital. mine]
He's talking about historians in this quote below, but it's an invitation to anyone in history, which is everyone:
"It is not so easy to change the ... structures within which we historians operate, although they must not be allowed to become airtight boxes in which we cease to think."

As I fall asleep over the book, I am reminded that reformers (usually) have tremendous ENERGY.
Surely some bumbled into it sleepily though, like Ferdinand the Bull...

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Zombie Waif Girl; & "the mere things that make us Human"

As Emmler and I left the store yesterday, one of the corner girls approached us--one of the drug-blasted girls who wander the block selling their services--you see them emerging from bushes in Slob Knob alley, getting in and out of cars, doing tricks for the price of "something for the pipe".

They buy their drugs from the nest of vipers across the street from the store. I haven't mentioned our dear neighbors for a while, but they are
still very much there--all of us together in the armpit of Lake Street.

Are they ever there. A week ago Sunday, one of them shot another dead, and there was another shooting on Monday evening across the street. [News report: "7 shootings in Minneapolis in 24 hours".]
"It happened at 5:40," a coworker told me. "
We'd just closed--Big Boss was about to unlock the door to let me out."

"Did you hear it? What did you do?" I said.

"Oh, yeah!" he said. "I just waited five minutes, and then I left."

I tell ya. There are so many shootings, we barely register them anymore. Though it must be affecting us, we at work in the center of it remain remarkably intact, or most of us do... Perhaps partly through our ability to joke with one another about it. I suppose like MASH. Also,
for anxiety, a lot (most?) of my coworkers smoke a lot of weed. Dolls and bears are my anti-anxiety meds (not that I wouldn't be with them anyway).

This girl who approached Em and me was like the others: so blasted, with opaque eyes, robotic speech, and open wounds on ashy skin, they are like zombies.
You get to recognize them, like the feral cats in the alley. Like the cats, you don't see them
for more than a season or two.

"You know that nice girl who always used to steal from us?" Manageress will say. "She got stabbed."

Mostly you don't hear what happened to them though, you just notice you haven't seen them.

Once in a while, they get clean. One will come in with clear eyes, happy to shop for furniture for their first apartment in years--a crummy thrift store couch!
"How'd you get off the street?" I asked one.
"I don't know..." she said, genuinely puzzled. "God, I guess."

Anyway, this latest waif asks for money, always saying the exact same thing to everyone. It's as if she's a programmed AI:
"There are ten of us living in a house, with a lot of kids. None of us have eaten in two weeks... I'm in middle school." [She looks like she's thirty, but who knows.]

Em, who knows the scene, looked at her.
"There's too many extenuating circumstances in that story," she said to the waif. "I'd give you some cash, but I just spent it all on thrift. There's free bread inside, and there a lot of food shelves around.
Or just go steal some shit from a grocery store.
That's what I do when I don't have food."

Lol, I remain such a middle-class white lady: I NEVER THOUGHT OF THAT, stealing food! When mattdamon ran out of food one weekend,  I scrounged up some cans and gave him $20, but it simply did not occur to me to suggest he go steal some. Not like he couldn't have thought of it himself. But somehow, I don't think he did.

(Sadly, he has since gone away and not come back. I'd lent him money another time for rent too, but I don't care one whit about that––I just wish he'd given me back the copy of Murderbot I'd altered. Also, I liked him.)

Anyway, of course it's not food the waif is after. I'd told her the store would give her free clothes too, but she's barely wearing anything warm in the cold.
She doesn't seem to register anything incoming except cash, doesn't seem to speak except for her script, and she simply wandered away without a response.

Walking down the next alley, Em and I stopped to read aloud this graffiti poem on a garage across from a non-denom church [transcript below]:

Making a Mockery out
a soulful, intact, God oriented being
for the intertaiment (a shallow, unsubstancial, and a disease
        of the mind), So as to get a praise theft––)
that is unworthy in the eyes of God, and any fair, and rational person.

Luckly, this soul is held intact, by the mere things that make us
Human (–blood, flesh, bones and eys), which are made of 100%
DNA of the most high.

P.S. The vintage wood-handled fishing net sold yesterday.

Saturday, December 9, 2023

P. S. The Color of Bears

Having said in this morning’s post that white, pastel, & caramel stuffed toy bears far outnumber brown and black toy bears, I decided to do a count of the bears in my Toys section today. I’d say this collection is average.


13 white, pastel, or caramel; 

4 brown or black.

(6 white, 2 black) 


UPDATE: Good statisticians, of which I am not one, always factor in all possible factors (and never leap to conclusions). 

Emmler came and helped me at work this afternoon—so nice—and afterwards we went to her place so she could cut my hair. I’d showed her the bears lined up by color at work, and she’d  said, “Let’s dye the white ones!” which was also Julia-Happify’s response. 

At Em’s house I showed the bear photo to her boyfriend, and he said, “you’re a thrift store—maybe you get more white bears because people give those ones away more.”

Neat! I’d never thought of that! Lots of reasons people might give away more white bears, starting with the dirtiness factor.

I looked on Amazon, and at a quick glance I’d say pastel and honey-colored bears predominate, and the vibe I get from them is not of race but of the babyfication of nature. “It’s cute!”

Another friend raised the question of the difference between bears and dolls, which is also interesting.

Anyway, I’m excited to try dyeing them—Julia uses natural dyes like turmeric and black walnut. I used to restore stuffed thrift bears, now I will try rewilding them.


Above: Another Emmler look-alike. The teapot face wearing a cap lid was an Xmas present from me.