Monday, December 14, 2015

Boston Tea Party

Earlier this week, I heard something about the scheduled re-enactment of the  Boston Tea Party.  Hmm, I thought. That sounds like something I should check into.  Yes, yes, I know that the Boston Tea Party wasn't truly a tea party.  As we all learned in school, it was a rebellion against the tax that had been imposed on tea, in 1793.  Three ships owned by the East India Company sailed into Boston.. full of tea. The colonists wouldn't let the ships unload their cargo... and then they boarded the ships and threw the tea overboard.

But still ---  Tea Party.

So I quickly found my way to the website - and just as quickly discovered that the event is held on December 16th every year, and that for this year, the event was sold out.

You're kidding me.  A tea party -- and I'm not invited???

But before I could get too pouty, I found myself on a page with a short history of the tea party, and while I already knew what it was about, I figured I'd take a gander.

And I discovered that one of the captains of one of the ships had pretty much been caught between a rock and a hard place.  The colonists wanted him to leave, and he was ready to return to England and let the East India Company sort things out...  you know, one of those 'above my paygrade' sorts of things.  Unfortunately, the Governor had announced that no one was allowed to leave Boston Harbor, without his permission.  The captain who wanted to leave asked for permission, but of course the Governor turned him down. The entrance to Boston Harbor was protected by an armed fort, and it would have been impossible to sail out of the harbor without being fired upon. So there the captain sat, and the other two ships sat with him.

That was very interesting, and it added another layer to what I thought had been a pretty simple situation.

But still -- no room at the Tea Party for me?

And then I read on a bit further.  You know those colonists?  This was no hot-headed impulse sort of thing. They planned things out, and they had a number of meetings before they dumped the tea.  There were only about five or six hundred registered voters, but the organizers knew that they were due to get quite a crowd at the meeting, so they announced that the first meeting would be in Faneuil Hall - which would accommodate about 1300 people.  But as the time for the meeting approached, and the crowd grew well beyond expected numbers, the organizers quickly adjourned the meeting and reconvened at the Old South Meeting House. Estimates vary, but it's pretty clear that there were at least five THOUSAND people at that meeting, and the subsequent meeting were a bit more.

Oh my.  The fact that there was no room at the meeting to plan the Tea Party kind of trivializes the fact that there's no room at the Tea Party itself.

Still.  No room at the Tea Party for me?  I think I'll pout and go have a cup of tea.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Trump Solution

I just posted about Donald Trump calling radio stations and attempting to make his statements and present his views, without regard to what the program hosts wanted to do or what the format of the show was (Go to Break!).
And while I don't typically get political in my teapot musings, there's something here that I just can't keep quiet about.

We all know that Trump has expressed some very strong opinions about Isis, and Muslims, and immigrants, and a whole bunch of other topics.  And that's ok.  We want our aspiring politicians to let us know their positions. 
Quite recently, Trump was on a radio program - Morning Joe - and he was asked some questions, and he gave some answers.  
Now, I don't want to take things out of context, so I'm going to give you the background, and then  I'll quote part of the transcript of the show.  

Donald Trump has very publicly proposed a ban on Muslims traveling to the US, and he reiterated this position on Morning Joe. He said there would certainly be exceptions, that this would not apply to Muslims who are US citizens, or are here for sporting events, and that this would only be temporary. Willie Geist, one of the co-hosts of Morning Joe, asked Trump how the ban was going to be enforced. Willie had to ask the questions a couple times before he got an answer, but that's how politicians are. Willie pointed out that a passport doesn't reflect religion, and Trump agreed that questioning would need to take place.  And the discussion continued as follows:

GEIST: And a customs agent would ask a person his or her religion? 
TRUMP: That would be probably -- they would say are you Muslim? 
GEIST: And if they said yes, they would not be allowed in the country? 
TRUMP: That's correct.

OH    MY     GOSH    
How could we not have seen this before??  All we have to do is ASK people.  
When my TSA Precheck expires, I was going to apply for the Global Online Enrollment System.  Sure, the GOES costs $100, instead of  the $85 I paid for Precheck, but I thought it would be worth it -- clearly I was wrong. Because all I have to do is step up to the TSA counter and state "I'm a good person and I'm not going to blow up the plane."
We can get rid of all criminal attorneys and judges, because we just have to ask the accused "Did you do it?"  And we certainly won't need juries to try to figure out who's telling the truth, because everyone will tell the truth if you just ask them the question.
And I don't have to show my ID when I write a check or use a credit card, I'll just state that I am who I say I am. 

I'm feeling pretty foolish right now, because I would have assumed that a bad person just might consider lying, because - well - because they're bad.  Gee, it's really a shame that no one thought to ask Dzhokhar Tsarnaev if he was going to leave a bomb at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, or Adam Lanza if he was going to shoot twenty children at Sandy Hook. We could have avoided a lot of grief and suffering if someone had just thought to ask those questions.

I mean -- surely if you asked an Isis guy "are you a Muslim", he's going to say yes, right?  And then we don't let him in the US, and our problems are solved.  Too bad we didn't have the Trump Solution before, and thank goodness we have it now.

Oh.         Wait.

You know, I'm just not convinced that al qaeda  members are going to be truthful.  Or Isis members, for that matter.  Or Daesh members.  I mean, sure, the truthful, honest, reasonable Muslims will answer yes... and so we keep them out -- just temporarily, of course.  But the Muslims who are willing to lie (cheat, steal, kill).... we're going to let them in to our country, because they will answer No to the Trump Solution Question.

Gee, Mr. Trump.  Your solution is not one that solves any of my problems.  

I'm going to have a cup of tea, but I'm not going to invite Mr. Trump to join me.  You see... while I'm willing to listen to opposing views, I have no time for stupid people.

Go to Break!

I have something that I just have to share with you.  Actually, several somethings.  In fact, this was going to be one post, but it got far too long...  so this will be one of two.  And it's important, so pay attention.

MSNBC has a morning radio show called Morning Joe.  The program is hosted by Joe Scarborough, Mika Brezinski, and Willie Geist.  In the words of the website, the show "features interviews with top newsmakers and politicians and in-depth analysis of the day's biggest stories".  Yesterday, Donald Trump was on the program.  In case you haven't see the coverage of this, I want to tell you what happened.

First... one of the hosts asked Trump a question.  Instead of answering the question, Trump started trumpeting his own agenda.  Of course, we see this from politicians all the time.  But this time, after repeated warnings, Joe Scarborough went to commercial.

Wait, I see from the expression on your face that you don't get it.  So let me fill in some more information.  Trump was not an invited guest or a scheduled guest, he called in on his own.  Well, I suppose that's ok. His agenda certainly matches the show's programming.
And then he started talking. Well, that's ok too.  He is a politician, we expect them to talk.
But that's where things changed.

You see, one of the hosts asked Trump a question -- which is the typical format for the show.  Trump ignored the question, and continued with his own agenda.  The host tried to repeat the question, and Trump just talked right over her.  The host kept asking the question, Trump kept acting as if he'd been invited to say whatever he wanted.

And that's when the wonderful thing happened!  Joe Scarborough told Trump he couldn't just talk, he had to let the hosts ask questions... and Trump kept talking.  Scarborough threatened to go to break if Trump wouldn't quit talking... and Trump kept talking.  So Scarborough said to the director or whoever  - "Go to break".     He had to say it a couple times, but the show went to a commercial break!!

Woo Hoo and Hubba Hubba!!!!

Surely I'm not the only one who gets tired of watching debates and interviews where the politicians won't answer the questions and won't quit talking, and won't follow the rules.  These people are too old to be spanked... but some sort of discipline needs to be imposed, or we have chaos.  To go off-air, to go to commercial break, when a politician won't follow the rules, is an excellent form of discipline, in my opinion.  

I watch The Today Show most mornings, and I'm generally happy with the interviewing skills of the news anchors.  But on more than one occasion I've stood there and shouted to the television - 'That's not what he asked', or 'That's not an answer', or 'Quit interrupting her'.    Even the toughest interviewers can get walked on and pushed around by the person being interviewed.. and most often the pushy, non-cooperative interviewee is a politician.  Politicians have enough opportunities to present their own agendas  in their own ways.. when they are being interviewed, they should answer the questions being answered.

Yes, I know we had the recent incident where the moderator's questions were - well - really stupid, irrelevant and unimportant.  But we all  - including the politicians - know that most of the time, there's nothing wrong with the question.  It's just that the politician wants to put his or her own spin on the topic. And let's be honest, sometimes the politician simply doesn't want to answer the question.  

So let's get back to Morning Joe.  I don't listen to this program.  It's on earlier than I get up, and I don't listen to a lot of radio.  But I just might start.  Thanks to today's technology, I can access the broadcast of this show, any time I want.  I like the idea of somebody who insists that the rules be followed, and who shows that there are consequences to not following those rules.  I've seen the clip of incident with Trump a number of times, and I'm amazed at how many times Scarborough had to say "Go to Break" before it actually happened.  But I suspect that the person in charge of doing whatever happens to make commercial breaks, was caught off guard and was taken by surprise.  Or perhaps he thought Scarborough didn't mean it.    But Scarborough did mean it.  And the program went to commercial.  

Now, in all fairness to Trump, I feel compelled to point out that he hung around.  When the show returned to the air after the two minute commercial break, Trump was still there.  He responded to the questions that were posed (in a fashion), and he quit speaking over the hosts.  Not everyone would have done that. That doesn't mean he gets a free ride - I'm still going to hold him accountable for what he says (see my next post - The Trump Solution).

But I like the fact that this actually proves that Scarborough's approach was the right one.  The media has taken a lot of heat, more so every year, it seems.  But - all you media people - take note.  You can present information to the public, without allowing yourself to be bullied and walked on by the person you're trying to interview.

Hmmm, I wonder if Joe Scarborough is interested in running for political office?
I wonder if he drinks tea?  Well I do, and the kettle is whistling, so for now, I'm done.


Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Eye of the Beholder

We've all heard the phrase "Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder". During the Renaissance period, women were considered beautiful and sexy if they were somewhat plump.  In the 'Twiggy' era, extreme thinness was considered a sign of beauty. And today, we're mostly somewhere in the middle.  If you saw a Botticelli model walk by today, you'd likely think that she'd look much better if she lost some weight.

Whenever I hear the phrase 'Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder",  I think of  "Consider the source." When you really look at it, both phrases are saying the same thing, it's just that the one focuses on beauty, and the other deals with - well, everything else.  Just as you have to know the eye of the beholder, to know whether you're likely to agree with them, you can't blindly accept an opinion, without knowing who is rendering that opinion.

Let me show you what I mean.

I was recently at a barbecue, and someone offered me some of their cake.  "It's wonderful!" they said... "best cake ever".  I took a bite and had to work hard to not spit it out.  On the one hand, there was nothing wrong with the cake.  It was moist, and it was thoroughly cooked but not overcooked.  The problem was that the cake had a lot of coffee flavoring, and I don't like coffee.  The lesson, of course, was that I should have determined if the person rendering an opinion on the cake, shared my food likes and dislikes.. or at a minimum I should have been a bit more cautious before taking a big bite.

And of course this applies to far more than just beauty and food.  It applies to everything.

When someone asks me to recommend a book, I first ask them what sort of books they like.  As much as I enjoyed Lev Grossman's The Magician King, it doesn't make sense for me to recommend that to someone who mostly reads biographies.  And frankly, before they asked me for a recommendation, they should have asked me what I liked to read.  I've been doing some writing, and I'm looking for beta readers.  But for me to offer my writing to someone who doesn't read fiction, or only reads romance novels, would be a double waste of time.  My writing is fiction, and it is most certainly not romance.  It would be wasting their time to read it, because they wouldn't enjoy it.  And looking at their feedback would be a waste of my time, because their feedback would have no real value.  But there's a detail here that shouldn't be overlooked.  If you want a book recommendation from me, you shouldn't care what I write, you should only care what I read.

You don't have to be a beauty queen to judge a beauty contest  (I got that saying from my mother!), but I want to know what you consider to be beautiful.  You don't have to be a good cook, but I want to know what you like to eat, before I take your recommendation.  You don't have to make a good cup of tea... but that's because I'll make my own, thank you very much.  Some things you just have to do yourself.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

A post-Thanksgiving post

In case you hadn't noticed, Thanksgiving was last week.  I certainly noticed - but then, it's my favorite holiday of the year.  One of the family members who was with us this year commented that he didn't care much for Thanksgiving, as he's not really into the food -- and I was astonished.  Nope, not because he isn't into food, but because that's what he thought Thanksgiving was about.  Oh sure, there are some recipes that only get pulled out once a year... but I cook a turkey several times a year, I make cranberries even more often than I make turkey, we had sweet potatoes just last night, and the squash souffle is a winter favorite. I'm even able to persuade my husband to make his homemade noodles a few times each year.  So, for me, Thanksgiving isn't about the food.

And it's also not about the Indians welcoming the Pilgrims.  And frankly, it's not even about giving thanks, not really.

For me, Thanksgiving is tied in with my early memories of the holiday. The memories include extended family gathering together. There was lots of hustle and bustle throughout the day, generally focused in the kitchen, and the kitchen at my grandparents' house was a warm and wonderful place to be. And then after the meal, the kitchen was once again full -- this time, with everyone helping to clean up.  No dishwashers in those days, of course, so there was plenty of work for everyone, between washing, rinsing, drying, and putting away the dishes.  Except that it didn't feel like work, because everyone was laughing and talking, and enjoying being together.  Sure, we cooked the food together, and we ate together, and we cleaned up together, but the food was just the excuse. That's what Thanksgiving is about... being together.

A couple days ago, someone asked me how many people we had at Thanksgiving, and I didn't know what to tell them.  There were eight of us who sat down for the main meal.  There were four others who had been invited, but were unable to join us for the main meal; we were very happy that they were able to join us later for dessert.  But there were also two people who were too far away to join us in person, so we skyped them in.  Yes, that's right.  We set the laptop up on the sideboard, and they planned their meal so that they began eating when we did. We included them in our conversations, and while it wasn't the same as having them there, it wasn't bad.
And then there was my dad.  This was our second Thanksgiving without him, but he was very much in everyone's thoughts, and we mentioned him, often.  We have so many memories about Thanksgiving that involve him, that I don't think it will ever be possible to get through Thanksgiving without at least a handful of stories about dad.
And last but not least, it's not possible for me to go through a Thanksgiving celebration without my grandmother.  She is the major reason why Thanksgiving is so important to my family.  She always remarked how wonderful it was to have a holiday where the only purpose was to give thanks, and she passed her love of the holiday on to the rest of us.

So - how many people did we have at Thanksgiving?  A lot.
Is Thanksgiving about giving thanks, or being together?  And if it's not about the food, is it at least about the memories that are invoked as we prepare and enjoy the meal, and even clean up after the meal? Yes, yes, and yes.

And so, as I said at the beginning, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  I hope your Thanksgiving was a good one, whatever that means to you.. whether you enjoyed the food, or the company, or even the shopping.

And of course, each Thanksgiving creates new memories.  I think I'll have a cup of tea, as I consider this year's memories.