Monday, October 31, 2016

Master of the Game

Master of the Game
with Hillary Rodham Clinton and chorus of Democrats
From the tragi-comedy Les Déplorables (forthcoming)

Enter Hillary, wearing Armani and greeting chorus members

Welcome, my friends, sit yourselves down,
And meet the best fundraiser in town.
Clinton Foundation, not what it looks,
We’ll keep your favors off of the books.
Seldom will you see folks like Bill and me,
We grant you influence for your generosity—

Master of the game, I really have no shame,
Ready with a fake smile cause you’re all the same.
Schmooze a Saudi prince, butter up some banks,
Major donor access is how I say “thanks!”
Everybody’s favorite crony, doesn’t cost me to be nice—
In my administration, everything has got its little price.

Charge ‘em for the meet, extra for the greet,
Ten percent for sitting in a front row seat.
Here a little bait, there a little switch,
You have to pay to play till we’re all super-rich
Foreigners are more than welcome, Lincoln bedroom’s occupied,
Thirty thousand emails, none of which were classified (of course not!)

Master of the game, doctor of the spin,
Huma’s here to keep me on my Coumadin,
I had a little fall, it was nothing much at all,
Soon we’ll celebrate at the Inaugural Ball!
When it comes to wiping servers, there are lots of tricks I know,
But see that ol’ glass ceiling, soon you’ll all be reeling
Feeling how dang powerful I grow!

(Enter Anthony Weiner with laptop: he hands it over to FBI director James Comey, entering from opposite side. As this goes on, Bill and Huma whisper worriedly to each other.)

The Clinton body count, it might increase by one,
As long as no one finds me with the smoking gun,
Champion of the rich, nanny of the State,
All these revelations coming much too late:
I’ve already been anointed; early voting favors me!
It’s in my pantsuit pocket, soon I’ll be the master of D.C!

(full chorus, while Hillary suffers from coughing fit)
Master of the game! Doctor of the spin!
Stonewall for a few more days and then we’re in!
Everybody’s favorite crony! Everybody’s bosom friend!
Grant insider access, raise a buncha taxes,
(All these moral lapses short-circuit my synapses!)
I’m working like a demon and I’ll win!

Author's note: I saw Les Miserables on Broadway as a college senior in 1989; I supported George H.W. Bush in the 1992 campaign that gave us Bill Clinton. I was in the crowd on the WH lawn that welcomed President Bush home from Texas the day after the election. Somewhere between the Whitewater scandal and the Lincoln Bedroom scandal of the first Clinton administration, I became convinced that the Clintons were the Thenardiers, the corrupt innkeepers, of Les Miserables, somehow come to political power in America. This song is the long-incubating result. - Katherine Chapman

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Trump Book Reports

I discovered #TrumpBookReports or #TrumpBookReport last week after joining Twitter, and found myself having a great time parodying his unique style. As Juvenal said, "Difficile est saturam non scribere. (It is difficult not to write satire)." Here are mine, so far. (Never fear, I have every intention of satirizing Hillary very soon, but her piece is more extensive and requires a bit more revision.)

Moby Dick...believe me, only I could catch. Nobody knows doomed campaigns more than me. Captain Ahab...very low energy.

It's illegal immigrants like Curious George that are committing crimes...terrible crimes! And we've gotta deport 'em.

The Iliad: I fought very, very hard to keep out of Trojan War. Terrible. My personal Vietnam. But the horse was my idea.

Little Bilbo and the loser dwarves. I like people who aren't captured by orcs. They made bad trade deals.

That Socrates was one weak dude. Never apologize for anything, if he was so smart he'd know that. What a disaster!

Nice people, but always living in a little house wherever they went. The prairie, the woods. Sad. Bad real estate deals.

Macbeth: weak. I could kill Duncan in the middle of Scotland and people would support me. I have a golf course there now.

Mimi was a lovely woman, it's so sad. She always said nice things about me. But her friends were no good.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Political Tuesdays - The Year We Became Tribal

Trigger warning: I will be talking about 2016 politics in this post. I will not use foul language myself but I link to videos where Democratic operatives do. And I'm distressed enough about the election that I'm rambling a bit, so this is long and snarky. 

This past week I was finally driven to Twitter. I must admit, it's perky on the dark side, like a vast amphitheater classroom of ADHD students lobbing one-liners to celebrate the downfall of civilization. I felt quite at home, especially after adding RogueClassicist, MobyDick and Shakespeare to my feed. It's a better way of keeping up with the multiplex of October surprises than CNN or Facebook, and probably more accurate. For example, I found the epic Tweetstorm of Marybeth Glenn within my first day on Twitter, and found myself wishing I had written it.

Free the Delegates is actively pursuing parliamentarian efforts to remove Trump as nominee:

I know and respect Thomas Balch, and signed the petition without hesitation.

And today, links to the undercover videos of Democratic operatives engaging in dirty politics and of course, dirty language.  and video 2

All of this is fascinating but not exactly relaxing. I think the whole nation is suffering from election fatigue, and both parties have such execrable candidates that we are looking at both of them, deciding that they do not "spark joy," and trying to figure out what third world country we can donate them to. (Strange analogy? You try organizing your wardrobe this year without thinking wistfully of using the same techniques to dispose of unwanted politicians!) Failing that, I'm afraid we're stuck with Hillary. Trump was never going to win. I am more and more convinced he was the ultimate sock puppet candidate, either manipulated into running or intentionally running as a spoiler to ensure Hillary's election. Hillary has always had deep ties to special interests, especially fronts for the corrupt Chinese government. Trump seems to have a similar relationship with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin. If either one is elected, American independence suffers.

I've worked on losing campaigns before, but never when there was the added element of shaming via social media. It adds a bit of tribal warfare to dirty-politics-as-usual, and I can't help feeling that the American people are the losers. I don't see anyone emerging as a strong leader in this election cycle. Maybe that's a good thing, and maybe we need to be able to mock our Presidents rather than worship them. But I'm genuinely fearful that the next President will face challenges of a WWIII kind, and I don't see Clinton as wise and decent enough to handle them. And certainly, the American people are so fragmented over whatever slogan the most recent mob has whipped up that we have lost the ability to unite when unity is needed.

Also in the never-before category: I have a fairly simple, ethical rubric for choosing candidates, although up until this year it was pretty rudimentary. I voted for the pro-life candidate, which was almost always the Republican. (Pro-life Democrats went extinct at the national level in approximately 1988). If the candidate was, as I occasionally suspected, not terribly pro-life, I still voted Republican as the best way of bundling my vote's power with a larger group. I may not have supported the eventual nominee of my party in the primaries, but by the convention I was always convinced that this was a man who at least loved America and was committed to doing his best to govern in a wise way. But this year, I can't trust the nominee of my own party to be decent and sane... let alone keep his word about appointing pro-life judges. It's never happened before, but I have a very bad feeling about this... as if Trump is the Death Star of the Republican party... and there has never been a moment when I've felt the least bit that I could overcome that to vote for him. Sure, I sympathize with my fellow party members who feel differently, and I respect their right to vote their conscience, as all of us must do. I think it's a little as described in this essay. I do not blame anyone for following his or her conscience. But if it's truly a choice between two evils, say Tiberius or Nero, which is worse? In this election, I honestly can't tell... competent but utterly corrupt and cruel, or insanely narcissistic, given to bullying and sexual harassment and uninterested in anything but self? I choose neither, with the slim and vanishing hope that the GOP might replace Trump and lose with  honor rather than dishonor, or that Evan McMullin might force the election to the House. It's sad... like this parable.

So here's my analogy. I'm boiling mad at the inept leadership of the RNC that Reince Priebus has given. There were any number of chances to stop Trump: best would have been at the very beginning: "Sorry, Mr. Trump, but you haven't agreed to release your tax forms and agree to an investigation into your past to see if there are any scandals lurking there. You also don't agree with the Republican platform on a minimum of 75% of the published platform. You can't run as a Republican." Or at the convention: "Yes, grassroots Republicans DO have a say in the process, and we would never dream of shutting them out in the hopes of presenting a false front of lockstep unity behind this candidate that two thirds of the party can't stand." Now that those who have been #neverTrump all along have many occasions to say "I told you so" (but Priebus is still not listening), I feel like a door-to-door salesman (Trump oil?) has barged into my house and is now insisting he owns the place. Would you not be willing to fight tooth and nail against such an incursion? I've imagined it with other institutions I care about and helped to build up... the school I taught at for 16 years... say Kim Kardashian barged in and declared herself headmistress? Or my small OPC church... say the Hari Krishnas from down the street moved in and declared themselves the legal residents and owners. I can't imagine anyone involved in leadership at any institution just rolling over and playing dead in similar circumstances. If the GOP goes down in disgrace, Trump just goes back to living in a tower with his name on it, and the alt-right, which I'd never even heard of before this spring, becomes the dominant faction in what's left of the party. I want Priebus to own his failure to protect us all from the Trump Trainwreck.

No bellyaching about dirty tricks and rigged elections. You gave them the advantage by not protecting your grassroots. They would have steered you better. Indeed, they tried and you ignored them.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


For the first time in many months, maybe the first time all year, I'm linking up to Ginny's Yarn-Along, which is a great way to be inspired by other knitters' work and show and tell your own. I have not been knitting as much as I like this year, although it's still more than I've been sewing and quilting. I'm hoping that, with Fall weather here and having more free time since I'm not teaching anymore, I'll be able to crash out of my knitting slump and enjoy some creativity. So first off, here are the socks for Steve that I finished on Monday:
 The yarn is Online Supersocke, which I've never used before. It's a colorway that's supposed to make you think of butterflies, and it's a little splitty but a nice sturdy yarn to work with. I finished up the super-stretchy bind-off Monday evening while watching the last episode of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell with Steve. This is a book I read years back and it was fun to see it visualized. Now I want to read the book again.

Yesterday was my birthday (It's Hip to Be Square is my theme song for the year). But since I was born in Europe, I've always been able to take advantage of the time zone difference. Steve made my birthday Pad Thai Monday night, right before I had to dash off to volleyball class with Quarta, and then we relaxed in front of the TV for the rest of the evening. On my birthday proper, I decided to go for broke and cast on TWO pairs of socks in one day. I'm all about overcommitment. On the left is the toe-up start of Stashbuster Spirals, my favorite scrap sock yarn pattern. And on the right, another pattern I've made before, but this time I'm following the directions and knitting them top-down. Hermione's Everyday Socks in Three Irish Girls. I would have made more progress if I hadn't also looked up how to do a Twisted German Cast-on. So now I have projects for each of my two sock bags, and I just need to resurrect and finish some long-time hibernating projects on a larger scale. And maybe really start that T-Yarn rug I'm planning.
For the rest of my birthday, Steve and I left the girls to eat macaroni and we went out to Cactus Ya-Ya, a Mexican/fusion restaurant I hadn't been to in about 10 years. I had Baja fish tacos. Yum. And leftover ice cream cake when we came back home, and watched episode 2 of Designated Survivor. I'm ready for some binge-TV watching and knitting.

But lest you think I haven't been reading anything, my most recent books list follows: I've finished Spark Joy by Marie Kondo, The Survivor by Kyle Mills/Vince Flynn; currently working on SPQR by Mary Beard, The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan, Apollo: the Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan, Full Force and Effect by Mark Greaney/Tom Clancy. And my Latin project continues, as I investigate deponent and defective verbs for my latest installment in my completely unofficial series on the Duolingo forum. I still haven't found a better textbook for learners than Henle, and I'm aiming to work through the 3rd and 4th books of that while continuing free lessons. Yep, retirement is great so far. I might even get my house clean and tidy. And knit my entire queue. Just kidding about one of those.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

That Soup Recipe from Sunday

Full disclosure, this is NOT a picture  of the soup I made for Sunday's fellowship dinner. I never thought to take a picture of that until it was all gone and people were asking for the recipe. This is a picture of a Pumpkin and Mustard Greens Colcannon Soup I made five years ago, and it looks similar to what I made Sunday. So I guess you would call this picture a... wait for it... stock photo (soup chef's pun there).

Let's call this one "October 2 Soup" or "Fall Vegetable Potage" or just "That Soup." I'm just not getting the clever naming vibe today. It was the result of a need to make a soup for the church dinner and the knowledge of what I had a lot of in the freezer and the vegetable bin. Here's my recipe. All information is approximate and from memory.

2-3 T butter
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T minced rosemary
1 clunk chicken stock (about 1 quart)
3-4 C pumpkin puree (mine was frozen in a quart bag)
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
2 turnips, peeled and diced
2-3 C cauliflower, chopped
3-4 C frozen chopped mixed greens (or 6-8 C fresh)

Saute onions and garlic in butter; add rosemary. Add the stock (Peter invented the term "clunk" in his preschool recipe book for Mother's day, I presume because of the sound a container of frozen stock makes when it falls into the pan... and by the way, Peter's recipe for Potato Soup was actually pretty good, even at age 4) and then pumpkin, potatoes, turnips and cauliflower. Simmer until all vegetables are tender, then puree, either with an immersion blender or in batches in the blender. Add mixed greens (mine were probably beet, turnip, mustard, and Swiss chard, and I used kitchen shears to snip them down to more bite-size).  Transfer to crockpot. Add liquid to reach soup consistency, if needed (I had to add about 1 C water and then I added about 2 C milk. You could certainly use cream if you wanted it richer). Season to taste and cook on low until hot and ready to serve.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Randomday; Housekeeping, Substitute Teaching and Parties, Oh My!

 I like to have a clean house, but cleaning large spaces, like entire living rooms, overwhelms me. So I tackled the tall storage cupboard in the kitchen a week ago... the one that I hadn't touched in about 6 years. At the top are all the stamp collecting hobby supplies.
 If you save all the important papers long enough because you don't want to have to file them, they become unimportant and you can toss them. Genius! Now, as originally intended, there is a shelf for the stuff of each person still at home, and a place to charge our electronics, and a place for household organization, and I'm stowing some of my Latin stuff there too. I found Steve's lost headphones too, hiding in plain sight. If only all of my organizing jobs could be broken down into such relatively small bites.
 And here are some Latin cards, more than fifty years old. I thought I recognized my Dad's handwriting, but he had always pretended to be no good with languages and have a terrible memory. Which, I guess, is why he felt the need to make flash cards. I had had them with my Latin supplies all these years but never had time to organize them when I was actually teaching, but it was a fun way to spend a few days now that I'm not teaching. Here's how I organize my flash cards for Latin: alphabetically by category, and the categories are: 1st declension nouns, 2nd declension masculine, 2nd declension neuter, 3rd declension masculine/feminine, 3rd declension neuter, 4th declension, 5th declension, oddball nouns; 1st/2nd declension adjectives, 3rd declension adjectives; pronouns (my Dad had made cards for every pronoun, so I just alphabetized them); 1st conjugation verbs, 1st conjugation deponents, 2nd conjugation verbs, 2nd conjugation deponents, 3rd conjugation verbs, 3rd conjugation deponents, 4th conjugation verbs, 4th conjugation deponents, irregular verbs, special verbal constructions; adverbs, conjunctions, prepositions. As I have told my students countless times, it all breaks down into Nounland and Verbland, and if you organize yourself and review your vocabulary, perhaps following my 3x5 rule (3x per week, 5 minutes at a time), the greater part of your battle will have been won. Now I have a neatly organized cigar box full of Latin flash cards with a theological emphasis. Again, a small container to organize, but it took quite a bit longer than the cupboard.

Oh yes, and I also defrosted and cleaned the fridge last week. Unfortunately the icemaker is no longer working despite several attempts to reset it. If I can find a small, enclosed area to clean a few times every week, I might actually be able to have a clean house for the first time in years!

I substitute taught the 3-5th grades for three days this week. I had forgotten what the younger kids are like. I had fun with them and some of the 3rd grade girls even gave me hugs! Middle schoolers never do that. Even so, the sheer quantity of small bodies for which I was resonsible for three hours each day made me utterly exhausted when I came home, and each day I had to have a nap. This confirms two things for me: this was the right time to retire and not have to teach every day, and I am one of those people that Donald Trump would condemn as having "not enough stamina."

The 5th grade had some sentences in their assignment like "Puellae pueros amant." And this prompted the quickest students among the girls to gasp and say "ooh, gross!" I told them they could use "like" to translate it instead of "love." And one said, "But that's even worse!" I had forgotten what 5th grade is like.
Tertia's 17th birthday party was a success last night, I think. We sent her off to school with invitations enough for both special ed classes and a few extra. It was charming that some of her friends who aren't in special ed came, had lovely manners, and played Uno and Apples to Apples with her. Because mothers worry about these things, and it's nice to see she has genuinely nice friends of all abilities. We had Little Caesar's pizza and fancy cupcakes, and tomorrow I need to give her a lesson in how to write thank-you notes. Quarta pitched in to make the games flow nicely, and she's going to help her sister put together a costume for "fandom day" on Monday, which kicks off spirit week at River.