Friday, June 28, 2013

Biscuits and Bigotry

The Paula Deen story has been all over the news.
You can read about it, and read Deen's deposition here.
I found it not one teensy eensy bit surprising at all.
In a way, I almost feel sorry for her.

Lemme there is too much, lemme sum up. :)

 Ok. Paula Deen is an icon. She is the unofficial queen of Southern cooking- an ambassador for her region, if you will. She comes off as that sweet old grandma type that invites you into her kitchen, makes you a sandwich, and a big old glass of sweet tea, and then sits and gabs with you on the front porch rockers while you eat. And this image that she was selling, along with her food and cookbooks, has made her a lot of money. But this was a brightly colored illustration of "Southern life." It was a dream that many Southerners want you to believe- that its a place of fireflies in the evening, of old white columned estates with ivy growing up the sides, of simple people who are generous and kind and maybe just a little sassy. How charming. How idyllic.

The problem is that like any sweeping generalization of an entire group of people, it is inaccurate. Sure there are fireflies and grand old estates, and there are people who embody that sweet stereotype of  a Southern lady or gentleman. But there are other, less friendly stereotypes about Southerners too, and Paula Deen's slip-ups have served only to reaffirm those ideas for people who are not from that region.

I lived in Georgia for four years. I lived in a small town, near the Florida border. It's about 90 miles from Albany, where Paula Deen is from. There were some very good people there. However, there are also some people who are die-hard racists. They are unapologetic about their views too. This was a heck of a shock for me, having moved there from the Midwest. Don't get me wrong, there is racism in "America's Heartlands" too, but I had never encountered it in such an in-your-face fashion.
Let me give you some examples:
 -My daughter came home from preschool one day, and asked me what a "toilet-n****r" was. I had to pick my chin up off of the floor. When I asked her where in the world she had heard such a thing, she told me a little girl at school had called another child that. Now, I grew up and went to preschool and up to high school in the Midwest, and I had never heard anyone utter the "n word" as an insult, let alone add "toilet" onto it. How appalling! And from a four year old!
-I started working at a restaurant, and was told by a black woman that worked there, "Don't bother talking to me. I hate white people." I was really taken aback by that, and I asked her why. She told me she had never met a nice one. Despite her initial misgivings about me, she eventually decided I was actually ok, and she told me more about the things she had been called growing up, and the things that white people had done to her. I was shocked at how many incidents she'd had to endure in just 20 something years.
-Even as a white woman, I was called a "Yankee" on several occasions. I was also told to "go back where I came from" simply because my accent was different.
And that's just a little sampling of things that I experienced in just four years.
And as of this point in my life, I have lived in six different states- spanning from the Midwest, to the South, to the West Coast to the Southwest.  But only in Georgia have I had experiences like that.

So when Paula Deen says that she honestly never meant to hurt anyone, and that she didn't know that what she had done was wrong, I believe her. Why would she think there was anything wrong with the jokes and the use of derogatory racial slurs? Why would she not find the idea of a plantation wedding, complete with all black servants tending to the guests, anything but charming? To her, this is just a Gone With the Wind romance. What I am saying is that, while racism is everywhere, in the South, it is ever-present and acceptable in many circles. Paula Deen is exactly a stereotype of what the South is believed to be, and unfortunately in many ways, what it still is. That's a shame for her, because it has cost her her contracts with Food Network, and now with Smithfield Foods. But it isn't surprising that she has racist views. Not to me, anyway, and probably not to a lot of minorities who live in the South. This is why many of them "hate white people." Because they have dealt with people like Paula all of their lives. Sure the white lady seems nice, but then you find out she has been calling you the "bun that stayed in the oven too long." And she doesn't even think that is cruel, she thinks she's just being cute.
Paula Deen, in an interview from last year, illustrated this perfectly. She even referred to her great-grandfather's slaves as his "workers." It is clear that she does not even begin to grasp how offensive she can be.

So yeah, in a weird way, I do feel sorry for her. She is a product of her time and her place. And her views are on the way out. Her jokes are socially unacceptable in the rest of the country. She just didn't know that because she is surrounded by people who haven't figured it out yet.

Racism isn't part of the charm of the South. It is the thing that holds you back. It is the reason why Paula Deen couldn't hack it on a wider platform for long. The cracks began to show, the truth behind that smile started to come through. Those biscuits come with a side of gravy and bigotry. And for most of the nation, that sours our appetite.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Mom, My Feet Are Melting...

As I have said before, I live in Tucson. It's kind of a desert. Ok, it is a desert. So, it's hot.
It's hot, it's June, the kids are out of school, and you want to do things with them, but it's the least pleasant part of the whole year here. Well, as it turns out, I do happen to have found a few things that are a lot of fun, and not outside in the scorching heat.

1. Tour something underground.
Underground the temperature stays in the 70s. It just so happens that we have a couple of places like this in the Tucson area.
One is Colossal Cave.

This is a lot of fun, especially if you have kids that enjoy nature, hikes, or learning about history. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes- no heels or even flip flops. It is easy to stub a toe in there. The tour goes about a half of a mile, with 363 steps (stairs), and tight spaces that you have to turn sideways to squeeze by (if you are a large adult). It is dark, but you will have a tour guide with a flashlight and there are lights along the path. No special equipment is necessary. This is a fairly easy walk, but know that you can't take a stroller inside. There isn't room, or ramps for that sort of thing. It is a cave. This is a good trip for older kids, or toddlers that don't get too fussy when they are expected to walk.

Another underground activity is visiting the Titan Missile Museum.
This is probably a good trip for middle-schoolers to high-schoolers. Again, you will have a tour guide. You watch a movie explaining the silo and some of its history, and then your guide takes you through the silo. You see where the people worked and the guide explains everything about the Cold War and why this was built. You can "turn the key and send the bomb" (pretend, of course...but they do a good job of driving home the impact of what that would have meant, if it had ever happened). And, of course, you can actually see a Titan Missile. It is big. What else can I say? That's a big, dang rocket. Kids who love science or history will get a kick out of all of this. My little nerdling (13 year old) had a good time.

 2. Do something up in the mountains.
This is the time of year when I like to find reasons to drive up to Mount Lemmon. It can be just for a picnic, or sometimes we go up to Rose Canyon lake, and do some fishing.

Often, since my family hikes, we go up to do a trail. My recommendation for that is to research each trail before you go to find out how difficult it is, how long it is, etc. - to see if it is right for your family. There are some nice, easy trails, but there are also some that are not for small kids or people who are out of shape. (That includes me) Here is a site that lists many of the trails, and has descriptions of them.

3. Find something artsy to do.
There are a good amount of art-themed activities in the Tucson area. I'm just going to mention two of the ones I am familiar with.

Color Me Mine- paint pottery, and then they will fire and glaze it for you. Pick up your creations in about a week.
And Creative Juices- paint a work of art in acrylics on canvas, and take it home that day! An artist walks you through the painting of the day, or you can just do your own thing. If you look on their site, under class schedules, there is a section for kids workshops. Also if you are looking for something for just mommy or daddy and some friends to do, the adult classes are fun and they serve wine and beer for those.  ;)

4. Do something after dark.

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum has "Summer Saturday Nights", and I've gone up for this a couple of times now. It is a lot of fun, you can watch the sunset over Tucson Mountain Park, see some of the wildlife at the museum, go visit the new aquarium exhibit, and see special programs just for the night.

The last time I went, there were telescopes out to view the stars, geologists discussing phosphorescence, biologists talking about the bats flying over our heads, and entomologists showing specimens of the various desert  insects. Great for kids of all ages. Wear comfortable shoes, bring a water bottle, and a camera, and do bring sunscreen for the few hours before the sun goes down.

And speaking of the Sonora Desert Museum, they have a Bat Bridge Discovery program I have been meaning to go to. Every Thursday, at dusk there are docents from the museum out to talk about the bats, and then you watch as hundreds of them emerge from the bridge to begin their nightly feedings. Cool. I have GOT to go do this.

Another program I have NOT done yet, is the Pima Air and Space Museum's Night Wings.  They open up from 5:00 to 9:00, to let you enjoy the museum at a more reasonable temperature. But only on certain evenings, so plan ahead.  It looks like these are scheduled for June 22nd, July 27th, and  August 24th. Sounds intriguing.

Well, folks, whatever your summer plans- stay cool, stay hydrated, and have fun!

All pictures in this post were taken by me, at the locations indicated.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Welcome Vamp Chix and Bite Club Members!

I just started helping out with another blog, Bite Club. They review all sorts of paranormal fiction, tv shows and films. This is right up my alley, as I already read and watch a lot of things from this genre. But they are also looking at doing some reviews of some other types of fantasy, sci-fi and horror, and that's where I'll be coming in. It looks like I'll be writing up some Doctor Who reviews, and maybe some for horror films. I'm currently reading The Looking Glass Wars- a dark take on the Alice in Wonderland story, by Frank Beddor, so I expect to be able to post about that soon.  Anyway, I'm excited to start writing with them, and I hope they like what I have to bring to the club.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

These Are a Few of My Least Favorite Things

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens can stay, but there are a few things that have been going around that I am just utterly sick of. Can we retire a few of these, please?

1. Mustache Everything

Don't get me wrong. Mustaches ARE cool. So are beards and goatees and chops. Grow them if you can. But the t-shirts, buttons, glasses with attached plastic mustaches, purses, earrings, cell phone covers, necklaces, and even tattoos, need to die. Donate it to Goodwill. You don't look clever in your "Excuse me, I mustache you a question" shirt. Less so in the glasses. If you tattooed yourself a finger-stache, cover it up with a caterpillar or something. It's facial hair, man, not a way of life. It was cute for 15 minutes. Move on.

2. Keep Calm, and Carry On
There are so many versions of this. Some of them gave me a chuckle...a year ago. Now? I'm struggling to keep calm, and I'm about to carry you over a cliff with all of your posters.

3. Bacon.
Not the ACTUAL food. I'll eat some bacon. Yum yum yum. But dear lord, people. There are other flavors. I don't need bacon-flavored toothpaste, bubblegum, breath mints, candy, soda, or cake frosting. (Cake frosting?? Seriously?) Nor, do I need matching bacon earrings to go with my bacon wallet, bacon shoes, and bacon watch. I like a nice steak too, but I wouldn't wear it on my arm, or floss with it.

4. Facebook Repost Guilt Trips
I care about cancer victims. That's why I'm on a Relay For Life team. Re-posting your guilt trip about how "95% of people won't re-post this re-post because they hate babies, kick puppies and and fart under the covers," doesn't cure cancer. It doesn't support the troops, stop autism, turn an atheist into a Christian, reverse global warming, or save a single animal in your local shelter. Furthermore, I have NEVER looked around at my Facebook newsfeed, and thought, "That Jessie girl never re-posts anything about Celiac Disease. What an a**hole."
Never. Once. In the history of ever.

5. Food Posts
"Here's what I made for dinner! Angel hair, tossed with snail mucous, kale, raisins and garlic, sprinkled with creamed corn and just a hint of nutmeg."
Why are you trying to make me vomit?
They are everywhere. Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Pinterest, My Space (does anyone still use that?)
Often, the food LOOKS gross, or they are describing the most god-awful  sounding thing imaginable. If you're lucky, it's a mediocre picture of a mediocre lasagna. Which is still just boring.
There are only a few exceptions. If you are a chef, or an author of a food column, ok. Just share the interesting or really awesome recipes on social media. Make sure you have a good photo of your food, and a mouth-watering description.
I cook a lot. Most of it tastes pretty great. Most of it looks fairly average. None of it is interesting enough to share with every single person I know.

6. Name a Thing Without This Letter
Have you seen these going around?  "Name a state without an 'A' in the name? I bet you can't!"
5 seconds later, I'm like -Wyoming. That was dumb.
"Name a band that doesn't have an 'S' in the title."
-The Who. Boooooooring.
What about numbers without an "e"?
Well, um....what about the name of a tropical rain forest mammal that eats only bees and sleeps in a cocoon made of hair, and doesn't have the letter "r" in its name?
-Ok, now I have to think for more than two seconds. Challenge accepted.

So, let's take these things and shove them in the canon. The one that we fire out over the ocean. Ok?
Yeah. That'd be great. Thanks.