Turning over a new leaf: Toxic Masculinity Tuesday

For a while I would note when various items posted over at bleedingfool.com, but I got out of the habit because they were becoming fairly common.

However, I'm making an exception because I've been invited to participate in a new features called Toxic Masculinity Tuesday.  The tongue-in-cheek title is a reference to the unabashed macho character of the films under discussion, and through a series of remarkable coincidences, I ended up penning this week's offering.

For those unwilling to take the click bait, I chose the 1991 Disney Beauty and the Beast, because it features multiple men who demonstrate strongly masculine traits, and these are taken as a matter of course.  Gaston is of course a bit over the top, but of all the Disney villains, he's probably the most liked by other people in the film.  He's actually a popular guy, he just takes things too far.

I intend to do deep dives in my entry, focusing on film noir and Golden Age movies.

Anyhow, it keeps me engaged in the absence of a new book project.

I'm thankful for a year of growing faith

The other day I was talking to one of my kids and we agreed that the last "normal" year for us was 2019.  Since then, it's been crisis after crisis.  Some of this is related to world events (such as the pandemic), but other aspects are functions of poor decision-making and what would otherwise appear to random personal events.

The upshot is that we take nothing for granted, and our family continues to deepen its faith. 

It's interesting how - to outward signs - we used to be more faithful because every Sunday, the bunch of us dutifully trooped off to Mass.  Now, it's a rare thing for everyone to go, but that's more a function of logistics and physical limitations that lack of faith.   Back then, the kids went because we made them.  Now they go because they want to.

No pressure was applied to get people to see the relics of St. Jude the Apostle.  Interest was keen and the experience was profound.  This in turn strengthened our faith even more.

That growth in turn renders us less troubled by events in the world.   It's a wonderful thing.

I hope you and yours have a wonderful, and faith-filled Thanksgiving.

An early end to my hunting season

Today was Opening Day for firearm deer season in Michigan, and I spent the day out in the woods, waiting for a deer to pass my way.

It didn't happen.

What did happen was that I learned a lot about how antiquated and broken much of my hunting rig was - some of it actually dated back to the 1980s!

This was a needed reminder that sometimes failure isn't a failure - it can be an important learning experience.

Despite my disappointment in terms of tasty venison, there is a lot to be said sitting in a glade and watching the shadows move across it.  I try to limit my screen time, but it took me a while to slow my mind down and focus on the movement of the birds, the light on the leaves, even the sound of the leaves hitting the ground.

While I didn't see a deer, a friendly mouse came into my blind, no doubt seeking a warm pocket to chill in.  I'm not fond of rodents, so I sent the creature on its way.

I also took the opportunity to say a Rosary, which is quite pleasant out in the woods.

All in all, a long day, but a worthwhile one.

Veterans Day as a civilian

A year ago I was preparing for my final Veterans Day observance in uniform.  I had a fresh haircut, shaved and showered, and played "Taps" at the Veteran's Memorial west of the state Capitol.

When I go today, I will still wear my field jacket, but it has a "retiree" patch added to it.  I will also have a beard.

My military retirement was not something I thought about much.  It always seemed over the horizon, something I would deal with when it got closer.  As I reached my 20th year of service, I realized that it was closer than I thought, and began to think about when I would leave.  I began some tentative planning, but the military's illogical (and illegal) reaction to Covid forced a rapid acceleration of my plans.

Hence the repeated applications.

I'm becoming used to civilian life.  I particularly enjoyed the lack of drill requirements during the summer and fall.   I finally cut my hair in September, and growing it out was partly a rebellion against grooming standards, and partly curiosity to see how much I still had left.  Turned out, it was more than I thought.

It was a strange sensation, and for much of this year I felt as though I had awakened from a long (and not entirely unpleasant) dream.  Retirement was something of a time warp - you get in as a young man and come out old.  My children have no recollection of me being a civilian and for the vast majority of our marriage, my wife has been a military spouse.

Almost a year later, we're mostly settled in to the new routine.  Today marks one of the last "firsts" in the retirement calendar, which is entirely appropriate.


Hunting finds strange new respect

I'm hoping to go deer hunting this year.  I'm not sure it will happen because I take nothing for granted.   I've got a plan, have lined up some dates, but one never knows.

I'm old enough to remember when there was a strong anti-hunting movement centered on the notion that it was a form of animal cruelty.  This was always a false.  All animals will die, the only question is how it happens.  There is no reason to believe that a lingering death by starvation or disease is better than being shot.  Highway collisions can likewise be instant or debilitating.  Last winter I saw a deer with three legs - the forelimb likely torn off by a passing vehicle.  It was ravenously hungry (eating shrubs the other deer left alone), and struggled to keep moving.

And then there are predators, who will not hesitate to start their meal before the prey has died.  Being eaten alive sounds a lot worse than being shot, no?

I'm increasingly seen people talking about hunting as a humane, sustainable and natural way to obtain organically-fed meat.  All of this is true.   Taking a healthy buck provides a bounty of nutrition, connects people with nature, and it opens space for the next generation of deer to grow.  Far from being Elmer Fudd, the modern hunter is acutely aware of proper safety techniques and is deeply concerned with shot placement and minimizing animal suffering.

I think people are also realizing that eating fake meat - made using energy-intensive processing techniques to create a strange simulcrum of animal tissue - is not the big environmental win it was assumed to be.  Every year a certain amount of game animals need to be culled in order to maintain the ecological balance.   Why let that nutrient-rich food feed people (removing pressure from production agriculture) rather than simply decompose on the roadside?

To date, I've taken one deer, and that was with a late-model sedan.  Here's to hoping for something more humane.

Halloween for adults

This year marks the first Halloween when there are no children in the house.  Everyone is now 18 or older.

Okay, that's not technically true - the grandchildren will be over, starting the cycle anew.  Still, this fall has been quieter than any in more than a quarter century - no back to school, no marking periods, parent meetings, report cards or dances.  It's very relaxing.

Autumn is a nostalgic season, and a year ago there was an air of reflection and memory.  This year, the emphasis is on looking forward, as the kids continue to discover the joys (and pains) of independence and the grandchildren being to find their voices and understand the world around them.  The elder has memories of last year, so she had anticipated this moment.  The younger is taking it all in for the first time.  Next year both will be veterans.

I'm looking forward to Mass tomorrow, which is itself a sign of my spiritual growth.  Candy, scary movies and costume parties are all fun, but in my case they have become a bridge to something far more profound.

Fort Fright: a new Halloween tradition?

Once again, I spent the first weekend of October in Mackinaw City, savoring the fall color and the fun of Fort Fright, an annual two day event at historic Fort Michilimackinac.

Last year's event was big, but this was even bigger.

The staff seems aware of it, and it is now possible to pre-pay for tickets, which cut the lines down considerably.  Another interesting development is that more people are showing up in period costumes, adding to the historical flavor.

For the park, the event is a big deal, likely the biggest weekend of the year.  While it has its amusing aspect (the entrance to the Demon Walk has signs pointing to "Demons" and "No Demons" so folks don't wander into the scare by accident.

Halloween is second only the Christmas in retail sales, and over the years it has been heavily secularized.  I think that is changing as people become more aware of the spirit world, which increasingly becomes the only way to explain what is going on in our world.  Other than the haunted walks, much of the event is simply sitting around the fire hearing the ghost stories told there centuries ago, many of which originated in rural France.

Just as last year, there was a presentation in the reconstructed church about funeral customs, though this year the priest (or person dressed as one, it wasn't clear), seemed to stress the changes in the liturgy from present practices.  I notice a lot of that lately, and certainly Pope Francis seems worried about it, all but banning the Latin Rite.

At any rate, next year I will be sure to book my hotel weeks in advance, as I sense word is spreading and accommodations may be harder to come by.

Halloween: the other most wonderful time of the year

As it customary, Chateau Lloyd put up its Halloween decorations at the turn of the seasons.  Halloween may be spooky, is certainly commercialized, but it is in the main a celebration of autumn, and it is rich with its symbolism.

While religious in origin, for most Americans it's merely about candy, costumes and varying degrees of schlock horror tropes. 

It is the second biggest "retail holiday," with Christmas still reigning supreme.  Unlike Christmas, it is less emotionally fraught because there are fewer associations with family gatherings and/or religious associations.  For the vast majority of Americans, it's about pumpkin spice everything, dress-up and trick-or-treat.

Autumn is my favorite season, no doubt a function of living in a state where the change of weather is welcome but fleeting.  The humid heat of August is yielding to the warm days and cold nights associated with early fall.  Later, the air will take on something of a bite, but stay above freezing.  Halloween itself has seen everything from balmy temperatures to snow flurries.  That's part of the excitement of this time of year.

There is also the brilliant display of color before the trees go bare.  Every year the cycle is a little different, which is why it is so special.  The older I get, the more I appreciate it.

I suppose it is no accident that J.R.R. Tolkien chose to set his epic tale against the arrival of fall.  I'm sure I won't be alone and re-reading his classic as autumn takes hold.


The (partial) death of the reunion

The triumph of social media has destroyed the old way of celebrating anniversaries.  In previous generations, the arrival of a significant date would be commemorated with some sort of reunion.  Because such things happened at intervals of five or ten years, people would anticipate them, and make plans for travel, etc.

Alas, in our benighted age, people think that 'following' on various social media platforms fulfills this function.  It does not.  Partly because of Covid, there was no 30th year reunion for my high school graduating class, and the 20-year festivities had abysmal attendance.  Easier to just send messages on Facebook or something.

The problem is that social media is not real life.  People inherently seek attention, and so they manipulate the information they share about themselves, inflating accomplishments to bolster their self-esteem or highlighting challenges to gain sympathy.

Either way, social media serves as a form of performance art, and is no substitute for human contact.

Indeed, it amplifies the worst aspects of human behavior.

Happily, there are still places where people gather to meet face-to-face, and yesterday I participated in one of them.  My exact contemporaries were few, but the fact that multiple generations gathered and could still share common experiences and relate to one another in terms of life rather than politics or a need to find scapegoats was wonderful.  Indeed, attendance was unusually high, particularly among the younger crowd. 

This gives me hope that perhaps people are realizing that online relationships lack the fullness of a personal touch.  Far better to spend a few hours talking face to face than simply clicking thumbs up  or offering commentary.

Human were built to be together - to hear, to see and to touch one another.  After the lockdowns, maybe people are more sensitive to his.  We can only hople.

Another lesson from the garden: bait squash triumphant

Six years ago I contemplated how my plans to cultivate raspberries completely miscarried, and yet ultimately succeeded beyond my wildest dreams.

I'm now experiencing a similar phenomenon in regards to my garden.

This year I planted three crops within the fenced enclosure: carrots, snow peas and green onions.  The green onions never stood a change, the snow peas produced a little but are now on death's door.  The carrots seem to be doing well, but I'm in no hurry to harvest them.

But there's another crop that seems to be flourishing, and that is yellow squash.  I planted this outside the fence to act as something of a buffer.  Squash plants have tiny prickers so having a line of them (I reasoned) would reinforce my defensive line.

I also knew that one of the first crops I planted was squash and it did really well, with trivial losses to animals. 

Thus the irony: plants that I had no real investment in are now the primary hope for a successful year.  They germinated late because of the drought and I'd actually given up hope on them but now they're just taking off.  Last time we had so much squash that I had to give it away.  I'd love to have the same problem this years.