It’s finally fall! It was stupidly hot for most of this week but at least there are shorter days upon us. I don’t know exactly why I revel in this season so much—perhaps it’s an oppositional joy that comes from being a Californian.
I put up my Halloween decorations, such as they are. I made this bunting last year so now I have the joy of reusing it. Kirk noted that it’s early for Halloween decor, but it makes me happy and it’s decorative gourd season, so no one can stop me.
Here are some things I read, had anxiety about, listened to, or bought this week.
Last weekend I read Margaret Atwood’s new novel, The Testaments, which is a sequel to the more-popular-than-ever Handmaid’s Tale. As I read, I considered why Atwood would return to this story. In the past, she’s been pretty adamant about letting the work speak for itself and not saying definitively what “happened” at the novel’s end. The Testaments explores how and why an ordinary person might buy into a totalitarian regime that she is theoretically opposed to. One of the novel’s viewpoints is that of Aunt Lydia, regime loyalist and, from the view of The Handmaid’s Tale, oppressor. However, Aunt Lydia sees herself as a survivor, someone playing the long game to topple the regime. She carefully accumulates kompromat on the men in charge and tries to give the young “aunts” in her care enough knowledge to join the game. She does what she can to spare women pain, but limited by the society she’s a hostage to, this lesser torment is, well, still torment.
Through The Testaments, Atwood is both giving us hope and asking us a question. Hope because, as readers of The Handmaid’s Tale know, Gilead doesn’t last forever. The original story is framed as part of a presentation at an academic symposium, as is The Testaments. Even if our government is terrible, we know it can’t last forever. The question Atwood asks is, effectively: what would you do? Would you be an Aunt Lydia, working the system but contributing to overall suffering and legitimizing the regime in the meantime? Would you be an activist? A collaborator? These questions aren’t theoretical at this point, given the bullshit times we’re living in. Plenty of people have said things to the effect of, if you’ve ever wondered what you would have done during the Holocaust, it’s probably what you’re doing now. To me, The Testaments is making the same declaration. What would you do in Gilead? What would you do if your government were separating families? Separating children from their mothers? What are you doing now?
I’ve been talking about this so much that I decided it should have its own heading, at least sometimes. The big news in climate this week was, of course, Greta Thunberg addressing the United Nations. She is so raw and it’s agonizing. Her frustration resonated with me because it’s how I feel too. I sympathize with her though, and all the young activists that are sure to follow, because she just wants to go about her life. She doesn’t want to be an activist (who among us does?), but she is doing the most to wake people up to the immensity of global warming.
Of course, rather than engage with how incredibly grave global warming is, a lot of men on the internet have derided Thunberg for not being cute, cheerful, or any of the other “virtues” that are expected of women and girls. Fellow feminist killjoy Jessica Valenti captures these ideas neatly, along with similar recent incidents, in her article The Niceness Trap on Medium. Valenti has a knack for summing up why men are often trash, stating “There is a reason men resort to calling women ‘nasty’ or suggest we’re unpleasant when we try to hold them to account: They believe it’s a conversation ender. If we’re not sufficiently pleasing or deferential, we’re not really worthy of listening to.”
In climate … hope, I suppose, Kate Wagner, author of the ever-hilarious McMansion Hell blog, writes in A Green New Home about how a Green New Deal could impact our living spaces. This is an interesting perspective on climate change because we tend to think about transit and institutional changes, but less what a climate-friendly home might look like. I’m sharing this article to remind us (and myself) that change isn’t always bad. Some really innovative changes could come out of how we respond to the climate crisis—assuming we do it in time.
In a similar vein, I came across this Ask Polly entry on The Cut from a reader who is paralyzed by climate change. I won’t summarize it here, but I will say that the response is definitely worth reading.
What do you listen to when you need to calm down? A while ago, I started a Spotify playlist for myself called Anxiety Jams to fill with music that is just songs that help me take a deep breath, feel like I’m not alone, or make me laugh. This song, You Will Return by Quantic, really makes me feel good for reasons I can’t explain and I finally remembered to add it to the playlist after it came up on my shuffle the other day.
I bought a bag-full of candy to soothe my soul on Tuesday. I had to do an extra day of working in the office so on the way I bought some treats from Andy’s Candy Apothecary. I don’t know what to tell you other than their candy is delicious and you should go there. I bought a bag of pretzel chocolate caramels and a bag of peanut butter chocolate caramels. No regrets.
Making Things and Doing Stuff
In my Icelandic class this week, we had a discussion about books and reading. We’ve been working on the passive voice and part of my homework was to write about a book. So we got to talking and I told her I keep a list of what I read every year and I’m already over 50 books this year. She was shocked. She wanted to know how I have time to read so much amid all the other things I do. I told her, ég á ekki börn (I don’t have kids). I usually introduce this section bemoaning the dearth of things made and stuff did, but this week, I’ll let this anecdote speak for itself.
Are you dying for a pickle update? I was, so I convinced Kirk to try the pickles. He tried the pepporchinis first and said he wasn’t sure if he liked them or not (despite this uncertainty, he ate five). He sampled them again later and told me that, in fact, he did not like them and that they would perhaps be improved by using less vinegar. However, the pickles themselves were a success. He said they were really good and he would like me to make them again. He encouraged me to try one, despite my total hatred of pickles, and I did, much to my regret. I nibbled one brined nub, tried really hard to finish what I started, then admitted defeat and spat it into the sink. I cleansed my palette with a fat piece of bread with butter. Pickles are disgusting.
Don’t worry, reader, I also made foods for myself. I made a pizza on Sunday night and topped it with pesto, mozzarella, ricotta, and cashews. It was delicious. I also tried to welcome cooler temperatures on Thursday night by making chili in the crock pot, which I neglected to take a picture of. I made another batch of granola in the crock pot too and got a little container for it so it doesn’t take up valuable food storage real estate from my regular tupperware rotation.
Knitting and Crafts
I finished my hooded caplet today and I’m excited about it. It’s not completely done—I still need to block it and get some kind of fastener for the caplet—but the knitting is done and that is the hard part. This was my first go at cable knitting and I am looking forward to doing more. Behold!
Next on the knitting docket is … the same thing! My mom requested that I make one for her so I’m going to get started. Holiday knitting season is now happening.
Finally, here’s a cat picture for your nerves.