A Journal of the Coronavirus Year

                                             April 4, 2021

                                    MISBEHAVIOUR,

                           A FILM BY PHILIPPA LOWTHORPE

As I look over the list of Oscar nominations, I don’t see any for Misbehaviour the exhilarating film by director Philippa Lowthorpe, written by Gaby Chiappe and Rebecca Frayn, and starring Keira Knightley and Lesley Manville. It portrays the 1970 storming of the Miss World pageant by women’s liberation activists. The only reason I can think of for this Oscar oversight is that presenter Bob Hope, played by Greg Kinnear, is ridiculed to a wonderful extent. Thank you, Lesley Manville, for being so magnificent as Dolores Hope.

For me, Misbehaviour is the second best film of 2020, after Francis Lee’s Ammonite. Both deal with women’s issues and the struggle for equality in academia, in the work place, in science, and in the home setting.

Misbehaviour does a good job of balancing the prejudice faced by women from South Africa and Grenada, who want the concept of beauty to include black women, and the general notion that people should not be competing against one another based on appearance.

MIsbehaviour is also a funny film. There are few better movie scenes than the sight of feminists storming the Miss World stage with stink bombs, ink pistols, and bags of flour, all set to the music of Verdi. The thought that this incident was broadcast on international television is really heartening. I was standing! I was cheering!

Thank goodness women such as Lowthorpe are being allowed to make films. The struggle has been real. The fact that Misbehaviour is not represented at the Oscars is a sign that the patriarchy is still there, still fighting us. I could not watch Mank for more than 15 minutes, it was so misogynist.

I am thankful that Marco watched Misbehaviour with me as I streamed it for the second time. He joins me in fighting for equality.

                        A Journal of the Coronavirus Year

                                    March 21, 2021

                                    AMMONITE

The absence of Ammonite, the film by Francis Lee, starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan, from the list of Oscar nominations is a great mystery to me. I guess people just have terrible taste. The story of the British archaeologist, Mary Anning, and her contributions to the British museum, and her part in lifting us out of the Great Stupidity of the early 1800s, is, for me, the best film of 2020.

Francis Lee (who also directed God’s Own Country) imagines Mary Anning as gay, and fellow scientist Elizabeth Philpot as a former lover. This does not surprise or offend me. I merely see a wonderfully made film, with excellent acting and a dramatic love story.

From the historical records of the time, and from diaries, all we know about her sex life is that Ms. Anning never married. She was a brilliant scientist, without the benefit of a formal education. She made many groundbreaking archaeological discoveries and was much lauded for them.

The book by Tracy Chevalier, Remarkable Creatures, also fictionalizes Mary Anning’s life and adds an imaginary romance with a male fossil collector who refuses to marry her because of her lower social position. This scenario is totally unbelievable, even though the book, overall, is excellent. That same book treats Ms. Philpot as a spinster, with all the baggage and scorn that word carries.

Which interpretation is more far-fetched? .

Critics and artists seem fixated on assigning Mary Anning some sexuality rather than concentrating on her achievements as a scientist. Our society still forces us to do that.

But success is the best revenge. I choose the more artistic achievements of Ammonite. It should be nominated for numerous awards.

Tape Face:

            Marco had an appointment in Charleston to renew a passport, so I went along for the ride. Charleston has become one of my favorites, ever since an epic trip there last July when I visited the Gibbes museum, took a Gullah tour, and hung out with Marco’s Arab and Iranian graduate students. Hot damn! I understand why it’s such a huge tourist destination.

            EXITING THE HOTEL, WE WERE WAYLAID BY A BUNCH OF SPANISH-SPEAKING ITALIANS. “DOV’E’ L’UFFICIO POSTALE?”

            I wondered how dangerous it would be in the midst of the pandemic.

 Not too much.

            WE WALKED FOR AN HOUR.

            The only time I was afraid was while walking on King Street: a touristy street filled with plenty of Covid Mikes and Marys. We veered from there and headed across town to Saffron restaurant, taking some back streets and side streets and stopping at the Charleston Museum on the way.

            The weather was very fine, and we could walk alone along Mary Street and the like, checking out all the old side porch houses, many of which were getting repairs done. The paint colors seemed brighter than usual.

            The Charleston Museum was interesting with its archaeological view of history, old pottery, Native American stories, boots for mules, and skeleton of a 2-million-year-old crocodile whose remains were found underneath a trailer park.

            We were able to socially distance at the museum, and everyone there wore a mask.

            The idea of eating at Saffron was more intimidating. Marco and I haven’t eaten inside a restaurant since the pandemic began. We knew Saffron had outdoor dining, but when I saw how many people were eating on the back porch (around 10), I chose a table inside. We were two tables away from the next couple. There were never more than four people eating inside, the ceilings were high, and the air conditioning was cool and blast-y. We had a nice Russian woman as our waitress.

            It was an ace day, because at home I watched The Forty-Year-Old Version by Radha Blank. Hilarious, and believable. Now I want to rap.

                        A Journal of the Coronavirus Year

                                    SEPTEMBER 23, 2020

                                    NORMAL

         The death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg is sad, but it’s sadder that she is being canonized for acting normal. Expecting women to work? Valuing men as caregivers? Protecting women’s lives and health as much as men’s? These attitudes should all be normal.

            Instead we live in a human world that doesn’t achieve equality among the sexes as well as siamang apes, baboons, or penguins do. Our customs trap women into servitude. As a result we’re ruled by pointy-headed men whose egos far outweigh their insight. We’ve set a very low standard for ourselves. Look at any film from the 1950s to see women being treated like meat. Look at all the women who have been written out of history.

            We live in a world where a normal, short woman (standing on a mile-high stack of privileges) became a judge and championed everybody’s rights. She recognized that women were human. Duh.

            Men and women want the same things. Women want to have children and continue their lives. So do men. Women want to work at all the professions and earn money. Play sports. Run down a hill. Ice skate. Swim. Ride horses. Create art. Drive cars. So do men. We want ALL forms of birth control to be available under Medicaid, just as Viagra is.

            The best way to honor RBG is to act normal. Act intelligent. We should not let penguins surpass us.

            Get ready to march. The Stupidarchy is coming. We may see a different kind of woman In the Supreme Court: the kind who stands on a pile of privilege and uses her position to bring other people down.

A Journal of the Coronavirus Year

May 11, 2020

MARCO AND THE WASPS

Marco often gets attacked by insects.

Clara may remember a visit to one of the state parks years ago, and Marco’s encounter with bees. There was a sign leading to the watchtower that said, “Closed because of bees.” Marco said, “I’m going up there, anyway.”

“Don’t do it!” I said a couple of times.

Marco wanted to see the view. After climbing up, he came quickly down the steps, slapping at his head. When he reached the ground, he began running away and slapping. The bees found Clara and stung her, instead.

Last spring, Marco decided to remove a wasp nest near our front door. The wasps were buzzing around and building their paper house right under our front eaves. Marco knocked down their nest with a broom handle. Everything went quiet.

The next morning, Marco opened the front door, hoping to walk out to our mailbox for the newspaper. Immediately a wasp, either recognizing his face or his smell, zoomed directly into his forehead and stung him. Marco screamed.

He took some Benadryl and applied ice. The next day, Marco’s face was swollen and his eyes were as droopy and baggy as Woody Allen’s. I have to admit that I laughed.

This year, a WASP telephoned him in the middle of Mother’s Day. This WASP, a conservative friend (much less perspicacious and woke than, say, Chris Kendall) wanted some assurance that the new president of the University of South Carolina was doing well. This WASP (we call him “Bug” at our house) had read Sunday’s article in the Post & Courier in which diplomatic Marco was quoted as saying that although the president did not qualify for the job (he has no Ph.D. or tenure status), he has handled the coronavirus pandemic well. Anybody could, by reading the numbers. This WASP has no ears or eyes for anybody but himself. He seeks to destroy the integrity of the university and politicize it.

A governor should never be allowed to appoint a university president. Insects can be dangerous.

Murder hornets:

 

A Journal of the Coronavirus Year

May 11, 2020

MARCO AND THE WASPS

Marco often gets attacked by insects.

Clara may remember a visit to one of the state parks years ago, and Marco’s encounter with bees. There was a sign leading to the watchtower that said, “Closed because of bees.” Marco said, “I’m going up there, anyway.”

“Don’t do it!” I said a couple of times.

Marco wanted to see the view. After climbing up, he came quickly down the steps, slapping at his head. When he reached the ground, he began running away and slapping. The bees found Clara and stung her, instead.

Last spring, Marco decided to remove a wasp nest near our front door. The wasps were buzzing around and building their paper house right under our front eaves. Marco knocked down their nest with a broom handle. Everything went quiet.

The next morning, Marco opened the front door, hoping to walk out to our mailbox for the newspaper. Immediately a wasp, either recognizing his face or his smell, zoomed directly into his forehead and stung him. Marco screamed.

He took some Benadryl and applied ice. The next day, Marco’s face was swollen and his eyes were as droopy and baggy as Woody Allen’s. I have to admit that I laughed.

This year, a WASP telephoned him in the middle of Mother’s Day. This WASP, a conservative friend (much less perspicacious and woke than, say, Chris Kendall) wanted some assurance that the new president of the University of South Carolina was doing well. This WASP (we call him “Bug” at our house) had read Sunday’s article in the Post & Courier in which diplomatic Marco was quoted as saying that although the president did not qualify for the job (he has no Ph.D. or tenure status), he has handled the coronavirus pandemic well. Anybody could, by reading the numbers. This WASP has no ears or eyes for anybody but himself. He seeks to destroy the integrity of the university and politicize it.

A governor should never be allowed to appoint a university president. Insects can be dangerous.

Murder hornets:

 

 

[Shark Tank: The latest news from Laura Boccanfuso says that her spot about robots for schools will air on Wednesday, May 6, 2020 at 10 p.m. Do we believe her?]

SOUTH KOREA & NEW ZEALAND

Someday I want to visit Seoul, South Korea. Samantha Brown’s travel show first got me interested in this, because she pointed out the kim chi culture in that country. Most people have a kim chi refrigerator in their garage.

The second thing I want to explore is how people work together in that country. The South Koreans recently stemmed the COVID-19 pandemic by implementing widespread testing.

An NPR report from April 20, 2020 quotes South Korea’s foreign minister, Ms. Kang Kyung-wha:

“In mid-January, our health authorities quickly conferred with the research institutions here [to develop a test], Kang said. “And then they shared that result with the pharmaceutical companies who then produced the reagent [chemical] and the equipment needed for the testing.”

South Korea’s outbreak at the church began in February. By that time they had enough tests on hand to test everyone who even thought they might be sick. Testing was free and widespread. Those who tested positive could be quarantined. Anyone who was exposed to confirmed cases was quarantined. There was no need to close everything at once.

New Zealand reacted differently. This country of 4,500,000 people, half a million less than South Carolina, has experienced only 18 deaths from COVID. That’s eighteen!! This is because their wonderful Prime Minister, Ms. Jacinda Ardern, instituted a strict lock-down from March 25 to April 27, 2020, where residents and tourists who happened to be there, were not even allowed to go out for coffee. Schools and non-essential businesses were shut down. The beaches were closed. New Zealand did not avoid economic downturn, but it did stop a lot of people from dying from COVID – so far.

Watching on PBS the long lines of people being tested in South Korea, and the smiling faces of volunteers conducting the testing, I felt happy for South Koreans. In a country of 51 million people, they have experienced about 250 deaths from COVID-19. We have that same number of deaths in South Carolina, a state of 5 million people.

Americans need to learn from the successes of foreign countries.

RECIPE FOR KIM CHI:

Shred one large Napa cabbage;

Add 6 cloves of garlic, sliced;

2 sliced carrots;

green onions, sliced

1 inch ginger root, peeled and sliced;

3 tablespoons fancy salt;

2 tablespoons red pepper flakes.

Fill 5 or 6 mason jars.

Place on the counter, not refrigerated, for 4 days. Later it can be refrigerated.

If it’s mushy or salty after that time, it hasn’t fermented correctly.

If it’s firm and delicious and tastes like the best thing, ever, enjoy as a low-calorie snack, or part of a delicious potato soup. It will blow your head off!

 

 

HAIR ISOLATION

These days, everyone is worried about their hair. My hair, like my genetic code, could come from a wide swath of countries. It’s frizzy – and that means 4A to 4C on the scale of hair textures. Look it up on YouTube.

1. DANTE AND ME. Right now, the only one in my family who has hair like mine is Dante, 25 years old, and a big lug who plays the piano and trombone. Our conversations go like this, “Dante, get your hair cut.” Or, “Use this product.” When we go to the same hairdresser (Janna), things go well. But I can’t really discuss my problems with him. How often to shampoo. Once a day? How big to let it grow. Do we accept the Angela Davis look, or do we go for a curly mullet? Guys don’t care. Clara has curly hair – more like a 3A to 3C, which creates its own problems, I’m sure. Marco is bald.

2. HAIR HISTORY. I inherited my hair from my father, Larry. My mother and sisters all had straight hair. This meant that I had to figure it out myself. I figured it out while living in Durham, away from my family, between the ages of 22 and 27. Let it go, let it grow. Use conditioner. Straightening is out of the question. My grandmother did that – and it looked like shit.

3. TELEPATHY. When cleansing conditioner became popular, it was a revolution. I could actually wash my hair every day without soaking in a bunch of leave-in conditioner. My hair was not as dry. It was soft. Biolage made a cleansing conditioner that was perfect. Then, cleansing conditioner went out of style. I couldn’t even order it on Amazon. I was in the CVS on Assembly Street, desperate. My hair felt like coarse cotton. I saw a cashier, a handsome young black man who had wonderful hair. Not braided. Not shaved off. His hair looked natural and good. I wanted to ask him, “What product do you use on your hair?” but I was afraid of repercussions. This sort of thing has backfired before, like when a woman almost punched me at Immaculate Consumption for complimenting her hair. He might consider it rude.

Marco was with me. We went to check out. The young man asked the usual question, “Did you find everything?” “No,” I said. “I can’t find the cleansing conditioner.”

My eyes beamed a telepathic message to the cashier –Help. Me! My hair is dry. Lead me to the best product.

The telepathy worked. The cashier came out from behind the counter, ignoring a long line of customers. He led me to a cowash called “As I Am.” “Cowash,” he told me, “Is the same thing as cleansing conditioner.” He was right. It’s a miracle product. Who knew they had a mind reader working at CVS? Someday, I want to live in a world without so many false categories of humans. We need Hair Harmony.

She’s right. Each head has several hair types. https://youtu.be/-akyyxey8w4

Weird rules: https://youtu.be/VVAztnJiMrk

HAIR ISOLATION

These days, everyone is worried about their hair. My hair, like my genetic code, could come from a wide swath of countries. It’s frizzy – and that means 4A to 4C on the scale of hair textures. Look it up on YouTube.

1. DANTE AND ME. Right now, the only one in my family who has hair like mine is Dante, 25 years old, and a big lug who plays the piano and trombone. Our conversations go like this, “Dante, get your hair cut.” Or, “Use this product.” When we go to the same hairdresser (Janna), things go well. But I can’t really discuss my problems with him. How often to shampoo. Once a day? How big to let it grow. Do we accept the Angela Davis look, or do we go for a curly mullet? Guys don’t care. Clara has curly hair – more like a 3A to 3C, which creates its own problems, I’m sure. Marco is bald.

2. HAIR HISTORY. I inherited my hair from my father, Larry. My mother and sisters all had straight hair. This meant that I had to figure it out myself. I figured it out while living in Durham, away from my family, between the ages of 22 and 27. Let it go, let it grow. Use conditioner. Straightening is out of the question. My grandmother did that – and it looked like shit.

3. TELEPATHY. When cleansing conditioner became popular, it was a revolution. I could actually wash my hair every day without soaking in a bunch of leave-in conditioner. My hair was not as dry. It was soft. Biolage made a cleansing conditioner that was perfect. Then, cleansing conditioner went out of style. I couldn’t even order it on Amazon. I was in the CVS on Assembly Street, desperate. My hair felt like coarse cotton. I saw a cashier, a handsome young black man who had wonderful hair. Not braided. Not shaved off. His hair looked natural and good. I wanted to ask him, “What product do you use on your hair?” but I was afraid of repercussions. This sort of thing has backfired before, like when a woman almost punched me at Immaculate Consumption for complimenting her hair. He might consider it rude. Marco was with me. We went to check out. The young man asked the usual question, “Did you find everything?” “No,” I said. “I can’t find the cleansing conditioner.” My eyes beamed a telepathic message to the cashier –Help. Me! My hair is dry. Lead me to the best product. The telepathy worked. The cashier came out from behind the counter, ignoring a long line of customers. He led me to a cowash called “As I Am.” “Cowash,” he told me, “Is the same thing as cleansing conditioner.” He was right. It’s a miracle product. Who knew they had a mind reader working at CVS? Someday, I want to live in a world without so many false categories of humans. We need Hair Harmony. She’s right. Each head has several hair types. https://youtu.be/-akyyxey8w4 Weird rules: https://youtu.be/VVAztnJiMrk

 

GUILTY PLEASURES, (PG version)

 

These obsessions are what separate me from the outside world.

  1. 1. HOWARD STERN. The radio in my car is preset to Sirius Howard 100. When NPR becomes too dry, I turn to Howard and listen to the “shock jock” and his co-host, Robin Quivers talk about bodily functions. Shit, piss, sex. How to get it up? All of this is more interesting than COVID-19. There are great interviews (Billy Joel, Jude Law, Mike Tyson, Sylvester Stallone, Kathy Griffin). One memorable week, Howard forced his staff members to take an IQ test, administered by a psychologist, and then Howard and Robin bet on the results. It’s basically a show about male insecurities.
  2. HALLMARK CHANNEL MOVIES. This is the most embarrassing obsession of all. I look left and right before turning on the TV. During a Goomba lunch in the happy restaurant-filled past, one of the Physicists remarked that his wife, who is a well-known attorney, had sunk into depression since the election of Dump. “These days, she only watches Hallmark movies,” he sighed. Curiosity forced me to watch them myself. These things are addictively weird. No drugs. No sex. No alcohol. No Muslims or Agnostics here. The one Jew I saw was crazy about Christmas. The men, very unreal, (plastic hair, plastic faces) all love cooking and Christmas. Somewhere in the past, there’s a dead wife, who has left behind a man who is – READY FOR ROMANCE. Marco walks In and makes fun of the dialogue. “What are they saying?” Couples must be EXACTLY THE SAME COLOR).
  3.  KEY & PEELE. The world lost a comedy miracle when these two quit making their show, after five years, and descended into marriage and separate careers. Jordan Peele turned to making horror films. I hate them, but I had to watch them. Get Out! And Us. Key made some good films, including Don’t Think Twice, and a couple of series, including Friends from College. All good, but I liked them best as a team. Key & Peele episodes are all on Hulu and Netflix. They are in love with each other (lots of hugs, kisses, and trans dressing). They belong together.
  4. COMEDIANS IN CARS GETTING COFFEE. The Gods of Hollywood allowed lucky Jerry Seinfeld to make two great series. This is the second one. Jerry takes other comedians out for coffee in a fancy car, and they talk about how great their lives are. The first episode, with Jim Carrey, is one of the best. Jim climbs a brick wall, shows us his art studio, and hugs a large woman. The episode reminds me of my own work at the office. Chris Rock and Jerry get pulled over by the police. Jerry has the same taste in vehicles that I do. “It has to look like a toy.” Jerry is a fat ass, but he makes great television.
  5. RAP MUSIC. When life pulls me down, I listen to Ludcacris. “Move, Bitch,” is how I feel on the way to work. “Detroit” by M&M and Dej Loaf, among others, is a great pick-me-up. Anything by Dej Loaf conveys power. That’s what we need these days: power!

Key & Peele, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”:

https://youtu.be/Oqd84F6R33g\

“Slap-Ass in Recovery”

https://youtu.be/AQM2joP4fsQ

“Liberated,” by Dej Loaf and Leon Bridges:

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