Book Review: “Unbelievable” is Unbelievably Awful

Publication date:  September 2017

Review, short version:  Four skunks out of a possible four.

Long version:

reginald-01 croppedOne of the many tragedies of the 1992 Los Angeles riots was the near death of Reginald Denny, a truck driver who was in the wrong place and the wrong time.  Denny was pulled from his truck by several men and beaten with fists, kicks and bricks.

The beating was broadcast live from a freelance news team’s helicopter and was eventually seen all over the world, going viral before anyone had coined, or even conceived of, the phrase.

A tragedy for Reginald Denny – and a gold mine for that news team, Bob and Marika Tur, parents of Katy Tur, the author of Unbelievable.

And not just Bob and Marika – Grandma Tur got in on the gold mine, as well.  “At onegold coins point,” recounts Tur, Grandma “was flipping video of the Reginald Denny beating for five grand a use – helping to turn my parents into on-paper millionaires…We had a seven-figure helicopter, two Porsches, and enough extra cash for biannual ski vacations and a trip or two to Hawaii.”

Nothing like “flipping” a tragedy into some ski and beach time.

This is one background story from author Tur, a reporter for NBC News and MSNBC.  Perhaps she shares this story to explain why she “wanted to chase the news,” how she ended up becoming a TV news reporter, and covered the Trump presidential campaign for 500 days.

i'm a whiner croppedBut don’t know for sure – I stopped reading on page 123, and during that time I was too busy being overwhelmed by Tur’s whining.

Tur whines early, and often, starting on page three:

“More around-the-clock live shots, more airports…I can’t.  I just can’t…I’m never going on vacation.  I’m never seeing my friends.  I’m never getting my bed back…

But wait, there’s more.  Much more:

“I’m exhausted and cold and, at 5:30am, I’ve already been up for an hour.”who cares_01

“The last three months are a blur.  I have forgotten what sleep feels like.  In 120-odd days, I’ve been to more than forty-one different cities in at least nineteen states.”

Following a work-induced breakup with her lover:

“I’ve been too busy to mourn.  It will make me too sad and make this job too difficult.”

stop-whining1“Maybe I am just feeling burnt out.  Time off is getting harder to come by.  There is no such thing as a weekend.  I turned off my personal cell phone a long time ago.  The guilt was just too much.  I can’t face three hundred unread texts from people…”

Would suggesting Tur consider a career change be too obvious?

“Do people think we enjoy living out our lives on the road, dragging our suitcases behind [Trump] all over the country…we have faceless airports, cramped coach seats…every night we’re in yet another random, far-flung hotel…we finally make it to our rooms, exhausted and grumpy.  This job is hell.  On relationships.biggest_whiner_statue_1  On your body.  On your mind.”

I’ll declare a whine-free zone after one particularly articulate passage:

“For god’s sake, I can’t stand in front of a camera every hour until eternity!  It’s cold and it’s wet and – Fuck, I’ve lost it – Jesus Christ, people need to eat!!”

If this is what Tur does with the written word, I shudder to think what she does with the spoken word on TV.

bookNot that I’ve ever seen her on TV.

I’d thought a book with the subtitle of My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History would provide some insights, some insider’s knowledge.  Wrong.  I encountered nothing – up to page 123 – that I hadn’t already heard, seen or read about.

But, as is often the case, Amazon’s readers don’t agree with me – Unbelievable is running at 4.5 stars with 1200+ reviews.

Maybe Tur’s book will be her goldmine.

big-girl-pants

Rant: Our Jury Selection System Sucks

Dear Juror (the letter begins),

Thank you for taking the time to fulfill this important civic responsibility.

dragged_05
This guy REALLY didn’t want to go to jury duty.

Let’s dissect this first sentence in my recent summons to jury duty.

First, “for taking the time.”  I’m not taking the time – you, the court system, are taking it from me.  I’m not volunteering for this; you are demanding that I appear, or suffer possible consequences “pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 209,” which threatens me with being “placed in custody and/or fined.”

Second, “important.”  Maybe important to you, the court system, but not to me.

Third, “civic responsibility.”  Who decided that jury duty is my civic responsibility?  Paying taxes – that’s my civic responsibility.  Obeying traffic signals – that’s my civic responsibility.  But jury duty?  No.

You, the court system, without consulting the taxpaying citizens, decided that jury duty is we, the people’s, civic responsibility because you couldn’t get anyone to volunteer for jury duty.  You said, “Ah!  We’ll call it ‘civic responsibility’ and brainwash people into doing this onerous thing.  And if they resist, we’ll arrest and/or fine them.”

Here’s how it works where I live.  I show up at the designated place at the appointed time.  Many other people have done the same.  We’re all herded into a large room and the first thing I notice is, it’s cold.  When one of the herded comments to one of the court staff about the temperature, the response is, “We have no control over this.”

cold people
Huddled masses in our freezing waiting room.

Oh, really?  You have control over me, but not the temperature in this room?  I’ll bet you have control over the temperature in the court room, if the judge says it’s too cold.  I’ll bet you have control over the temperature in the judge’s chambers.  I’ll bet you have control over the temperature in the judge’s bathroom.

But no control for the huddled masses yearning to be warm, who don’t want to be here in the first place?

Now let’s talk about wasted time.

There are 134 schlemiels in the jury assembly room including me, and not waste time massiveincluding court staff.  For every one hour that ticks by, that’s 134 hours of unproductive time.  On that day we were stuck there for five hours, so five hours X 134 people = 670 hours.  Divide that by a 40-hour work week and it’s 16.75 weeks’ worth of wasted time.

That’s more than a month of wasted time.

cold man laptopOh, sure, there are a few fools tapping away on their laptops, but they aren’t being productive.  We’re freezing, remember?  And worrying about what’s not getting done at work.  And/or who’s going to pick up the kids from school.  And/or the appointment to get the furnace fixed that you had to cancel because you had show up for jury duty.

Plus we’re bored.

And pissed.

None of us is getting paid for showing up on this first day.  If I do get seated on a jury and the case goes to trial, I’ll be reimbursed the princely sum of $15 a day, plus mileage.  But get this:  The mileage is one-way only.  Now, where is the logic in one-way mileage?  Did those powers-that-be who came up with this plan decide, “We’ll pay people mileage to show up, but not to leave – whether or not they leave isn’t our business”?empty wallet

And suppose my employer is one of the many who don’t pay people who are forced to serve on a jury?  In my state, “employers are not required by law to compensate employees on jury duty.”  So if I want out, I can “fill in item #10 in the Request for Excuse section…and describe in detail how jury service will cause extreme financial hardship.”

Seriously?  What part of I’m not getting paid don’t you understand?

Our jury selection system sucks.

Wiser heads than mine – and there are many of them – argue in favor of full-time jurors, and I agree.

They’d be professionals, just like judges and lawyers are professionals.  They’d be trained in understanding laws and court systems.  They’d show up for jury duty because it’s their job, not because they’re threatened with arrest and/or a fine.  They wouldn’t be sitting in a jury box distracted by what they’re missing at work because they’re at work.

Jury jury asleep
Professional jurors vs… What we have now

Professional jurors want to be there.  They’re interested in the process and in being part blah blahof the solution.  They’re familiar with the law, so before deliberation begins, when the judge gives instructions, they understand what the judge is saying instead of hearing what the rest of us hear:  “Blah, blah, blah, now that you have heard all the evidence, blah, blah, blah, do not discuss this case, blah, blah, blah.

There are those who argue, “But Constitution says you have to serve on a jury!”  Wrong. wrong Article III, Section 2 states, “The trial of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by jury.”  The Sixth Amendment adds, “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury…”

Nothing about how juries are selected.

Nothing about forcing us under threat of arrest and/or a fine.

Nothing about depriving us of our income.

Nothing about one-way mileage.

And nothing about freezing our asses off.

Cold-Woman.png

An Envelope of Wisdom

blackened-salmon-cilantro-lime-creme-fraiche-seattle-relish-5-tif-670x405I’m a great one for saving recipes from the newspaper.  Not for actually making any of the dishes; just saving the recipes.

Especially if the recipe has a color photograph.  Just picture this in living color:  Rosemary Apricot Pork Tenderloin.  Baked Chicken in Lemon Sauce.  Blackened Salmon with Cilantro-Lime Crème Fraiche.  Oh, does that look good.

I especially like recipes with adjectives in the names:  Perfect Pot Roast.  Sprightly Potato Salad.  Sensuous Stuffed Mushrooms.  Oh, does that sound good.

Now if only someone would show up at my door with it all prepared and ready to eat.  Preferably with a nicely chilled chardonnay.

It was one such recipe – and color photo – that sent me to my own collection.  I use that Messy-Recipes_04word guardedly; I’m not talking about a recipe box or accordion folder with every recipe in its place:  appetizers, casseroles, desserts, fish, meat.

No.

My collection resides in an old, large white envelope that’s torn along one side, and the contents are in no recognizable order.  So when I actually want something, it means burrowing through a messy mound of newspaper clippings, recipes cards of many sizes, and scraps of paper in many shapes.  By the time I find it, I’ve usually lost interest in making whatever I was looking for.

So, back to that recipe and the color photo.  It was for Sloppy Joes, and it looked good, but I knew I had Mom’s recipe, and hers sounded a lot better than the newspaper’s offering.  So the hunt began.

Only this time, I did things differently.

Instead of a quick glance and on to the next clipping (or recipe card or scrap of paper), I actually spent some time visiting with my past.  And with the women who, over the years, have shared not only their recipes, but their wisdom, as well.

Mom_02 darkerFirst:  Mom.  She sent me lots of recipes, all in her familiar, beloved handwriting.  Mom knew I wasn’t much for cooking, plus I was single and lived alone.  She envisioned me, I’m certain, standing over the kitchen sink and eating out of a can, so recipes were her way of encouraging me to occasionally make a decent meal for myself.  Hence, “Dear Laura, Here’s a recipe that’s real easy.”

How well Mom knew me!

That contribution was her Spinach Fandango, but my collection also includes her Chicken Gabriela, Lemony Steamed Fish, Roast Pork Boulanger, the aforementioned Sloppy Joes, and many more.  As I sifted through them I realized I didn’t want to make any of them.  I wanted to be back in Mom’s kitchen, with wonderful cooking smells surrounding me and a homemade dinner headed for the table.  But Mom died 25 years ago, and you can’t go home to eat again.

Mom’s mom, my Grandma, was also big on encouraging me to cook.  Especially after I moved from Michigan to California and discovered a wonderful appetizer called “Potato Skins.”  I actually started making my own version, and told Grandma about it when I next went back to visit.  She nodded, somewhat indulgently – California was a strange place, after all – then asked what I did with the insides of the potatoes after I’d made Potato Skins.

“I throw them away,” I shrugged. Grandma darker

She was horrified at the thought of wasted food, and went on a quest to find something to do with all those insides of potatoes.  So as I searched through my recipes I encountered “Mrs. Streeter’s Cake” which calls for “two cups of mashed potatoes.”  Then there was Potato Fudge.  And Potato Candy Log.  And Potato Biscuits.

Starch, anyone?

Grandma’s recipes were also handwritten, hers on pieces of paper, her handwriting shakier in her later years.  But if her handwriting had gotten shaky, her brain had not, and she always included helpful hints along with the recipes:  “In case you already have a Bean Salad recipe, waste basket.”  “Put a dollop on top of the Fruit Salad.”  (“Dollop” was family lingo for “a copious amount of whipped cream.”)  “Try your hand at cookies,” she urged.  Then there was a chicken recipe that wasn’t all that complicated, but ended with, “Maybe I can explain when you visit us.”

How well Grandma knew me!

My mother-in-law made many contributions to my collection, most of them at my request.  She’d invite my husband and me over for dinner, and I’d ask for one or more of her recipes from that evening’s meal.  I’ve realized this is something of a ritual, to compliment a hostess by saying, “This is so good, I want to make it, too.”  I know this to be true, because I can’t think of anyone who’s ever asked me for a recipe.  When I do Mare Best darkercook, more often than not my husband and I will look at each other and say, “Well, I don’t need to have this again.”

Not so with my mother-in-law.  She was a great cook, and gladly provided any recipe I asked for:  Beef Stroganoff, Chinese Chicken Slaw, Hot Crab Dip, Red Clam Chowder.  She gladly provided, but she learned to stop asking if I’d actually made the Hot Crab Dip, or whatever.

I encountered other great cooks on my recipe journey:  my sister and her Frances’ French Chicken.  (“You can’t go wrong!” she wrote at the top.  HA!)   Aunt Max and her Cheesy Potatoes.  Two recipes from my husband’s boss’ wife.  Yes, I was complimenting the hostess.

OK, I was sucking up.  What are the chances I’m going to make Pickled Cauliflower?

Caesar Salad from one sister-in-law, Stuffed Mushrooms from another, Gazpacho recipes from my vegetarian friend, and Hot Spiced Cider from my alcoholic friend.

spinach_01 darkerIn fact, for years I’ve been around great cooks and managed to not become one.

Then there was a recipe from a cousin with a title I can only describe as scary:  Spinach Balls.  And as if that wasn’t scary enough, attached to it for the calorie-conscious:  Low-Fat Spinach Balls.

Balls, anyone?

And what’s with this recipe I’d obviously torn from a cookbook?  Torn from a cookbook?  Even I know this is not good etiquette.  Ah – it’s for Hot Fudge Pudding, and I can assure you that when it comes to fudge, there’s no such thing as larceny.Fudge_03 darker

There were a few recipes in my own girlish, very-young-20s handwriting:  Oven Fried Chicken, Dijon Chicken, Stuffed Chicken Breasts.  I must have had a thing for chicken.  Or maybe I thought, “Chicken!  You can’t go wrong!”  HA!  And recipes in my more mature handwriting:  Broccoli Stir Fry, Spinach Salad Dressing, and my Mom’s potato salad, which I’ve never been able to duplicate.

Of course not.  It was Mom’s potato salad.

As I reached the bottom of the pile, I realized for the first time what a presence was in that old white envelope:  my mother, grandmother and mother-in-law; my sister and sisters-in-law; my cousin, my friends.

And I have used some of their recipes – these are the few that are stained, somewhat wrinkled, somewhat faded, but treasured.  There are many more I doubt I’ll ever make.

But would I throw even a single one away?

Never.

women holding hands hands only_03

Do You Know Your Nyms?

Is English your first language?woman studying_04

Do you know someone who speaks English as their second language?

If you answered “Yes” to the first question, then you have NO idea how challenging it is to learn, in English, to speak, think, read, work on a computer and do myriad other things.

If you answered “Yes” to the second question, give that person a hug.  Or at least recognize their huge accomplishment in learning a language that sometimes makes nym wordsabsolutely no sense at all.  Even to people who grew up speaking it.

Take, for example, “nym” words.  That is, words ending in nym.  There are more than 50 of them, and good luck sorting them out.

Like ethnonym, “the name of a people or ethnic group.”  Ethnonym is related to, but not to be confused with, demonym, which has nothing to do with demons, and means “a proper noun used to denote the natives or inhabitants of a particular country, state, city, etc.”

Or how about those nym words that identify groups of words:

  • Antonym – a word having a meaning opposite to that of another word; wet is an antonym of dry.guy frustrated_01
  • Heteronym – one of two or more words that have identical spellings but different meanings and pronunciations, such as lead (to conduct) and lead (a metal).
  • Homonym – one of two or more words that have the same sound and often the same spelling but differ in meaning such as bank (embankment) and bank (where money is kept).
  • Synonym – a word having the same or nearly the same meaning as another word or words; Romeo has become a synonym for a youthful lover.

Come on, you remember these from grade school grammar, yes?

No?

Then you’ve got anonym, which means the same as pseudonym.  Well, why didn’t you just say that in the first place?

help_04And paronym, defined as “a paronymous word.”  That’s helpful.

How about metonym, “a word used in metonymy.”  Equally helpful.

And apronym, something to wear when you’re making a mess of nym words.

Are you getting numb from nyms?

Then I’ll leave you with hodonym and odonym.  Here’s a clue:  They mean the same thing.

And I gave you the answer earlier.

woman snickering cropped

Book Review: “Off the Cliff”

book jacketPublication Date:  June 2017

Review, short version:  Four roses out of a possible four.

Long version:

The movie Thelma & Louise came out in 1991, and while I remembered bits and pieces of it, what stayed with me was the ending.

The ending stunned me.  Flummoxed me.  And yes – disappointed me.

After keeping me thoroughly engaged throughout, Thelma & Louise, at the end, left me shaking my head and thinking, “Why?”  And then, “Why did I watch this?”

I admit – I’m a person who likes happy endings.  A bad ending to a movie, book, short story, any story, can spoil the whole experience for me.

But after reading Becky Aikman’s Off the Cliff, I realized the ending of Thelma & Louise wasn’t a “bad” ending.

It just wasn’t the ending I wanted – for Thelma, for Louise, for any woman who resists “the place they’d been dealt in society,” as Aikman puts it.

thelma and brad
Guess who got his big break in “Thelma & Louise”?

Off the Cliff tells the story about the creation, production and aftermath of Thelma & Louise on several levels.  One is a fascinating tale of an unknown – Callie Khouri – writing a screenplay (her first), for a movie unlike anything Hollywood had seen, and therefore unlikely ever to make it to the screen.  The behind-the-scenes recounting of how Thelma & Louise was made and who was involved would make a good movie on its own.

On another level, we learn more reasons why Thelma & Louise should have been a non-starter.  It’s a buddies-on-the-road movie but with two women instead of two men – TL with gunsunheard of in the 1990s (or 80s or 70s, etc.).  The women evolve, when the norm was male characters evolving while women remained window dressing.  There is violence – another no-no for chick flicks – some perpetrated against, and some by, Thelma and Louise.

Khouri and the handful of others who believed in the movie were vindicated:

T L Time right reasons
Cover of Time for all the right reasons…
  • It received a slew of awards, and was celebrated on the 10th, 20th and 25th anniversaries of its release. How many movies get all that?
  • Less than a month after its release, the movie was the Time cover story. That generally happens…nearly never.
  • Thelma & Louise stirred, and continues to stir, controversy – and how often are movies still debated a quarter century after their creation?

Aikman is a good storyteller, drawing, according to the book jacket, from “130 exclusive interviews with the key players from this remarkable cast of actors, writers and filmmakers.”  Her insights are an important part of Off the Cliff, especially those about

harvey Time for all the wrong reasons Oct 23 2017
…and all the wrong reasons.

how far women have – and mostly haven’t – progressed in Hollywood.

And the timing of the book is amazing, coming as it does in sync with the ever-growing number of stories about sexual harassment – and worse – by men in show business.  And elsewhere.

If you haven’t seen Thelma & Louise, see it.  Then read Off the Cliff, and you’ll see it even better.

T&L 20th anniv

Putting the Fun in Fungi

professional definition-01I was reading an article that mentioned a guy’s name, age and occupation.  I cruised right through the name and age, but his occupation brought me to a screeching halt:

“Professional mushroom collector.”

Whoa!  Really?

I didn’t know there was such a profession!  If only I’d known, I could have done that instead of spending every day doing boring old brain surgery!

OK, I’m kidding about the brain surgery, but not about being a professional mushroom collector.  Apparently the hills (and valleys and forests) are alive with the growth of mushrooms.  There are all sorts of professionals out there finding them, and all sorts of restaurateurs salivating to buy them.

But whoa, again.  Not just any mushrooms – chose the wrong fungi and the person who eats it could end up dead:

The Amanita virosa is so dangerous that its nickname is “death angel.” Death Angel
Just inhaling in the fumes from cooking Galerina marginata – Autumn Skullcap – could be your last breath. autumn-skullcap
And selling a restaurant some Lepiota brunneoincarnata – Deadly Dapperlings – will not get you invited back. deadly dapperling

But don’t get discouraged – there are all sorts of good mushrooms out there, and all sorts of good ways to find them.  Get started by reading the “Mushroom Hunter” job description at InsideJobs.com for tips including treading carefully across those hills:  “It would be a shame if you accidentally squished a whole crop beneath your boot.”

stink-bug-pest-id-card_frontNext, you can attend Michigan State University’s course offering “foragers necessary certification for selling wild mushrooms.”  That same website also offers a “related article,” Why and How to Report Sightings of Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs in Your Home or Business.  Related how, I don’t know.

Finally, to make sure your skills are top-notch, visit mushroomexam.com to test your knowledge about “key features of fungi” and “tree and fungi relationships.”

Before you know it, you’ll be tossing off terms like a regular mycophagist, including:

  • Kinfinanuthin:  What you say when you leave the forest empty-handed.
  • Quick walk in the woods, Honey:  A little white lie told to spouses by avid mushroom hunters.
  • Xcuse:  What you’ll give to explain being three hours late from a “quick walk in the woods, Honey.”
You’ll be sourcing that perfect mushroom-gathering bucket, man mushroom_02
donning those perfect mushroom-gathering clothes, Mushroom hunters huddle over a find during a mushroom hunting expedition.
and tramping around those hills (and valleys and forests) finding the perfect morels, chanterelles, and shiitakes. Chanterelle_Cantharellus_cibarius

Or, you could just go to the grocery store and buy them.

Whoa!  Really?

man disgusted_01 cropped