We All Become our Mothers (Mother’s Day 2022)

American Studies professor and champion cake baker. Making the world a better place.

My mother was a Force of Nature, whose personality was so strong that I still feel myself peeking out from her shadow. Even though she’s been gone for 25 years, I’m still not happy about it. Then I feel guilty.

Because that’s how mothers are. No matter how nurturing, no matter how much they represent your Past and your Home, mothers always make you feel guilty. And there is always something that your mother did well that you still can’t do.

Mom with my 1-year-old brother. About to get her doctorate, she was 8 months pregnant with me.

My mother was a larger-than-life character. When she was in her sixties, she had her picture taken posing as Eleanor Roosevelt in a famous photo. Of course, she then gave us large framed copies as a Christmas present. I thought it was really pretentious, but then she actually did meet Eleanor Roosevelt, as a college student on the committee to support the United Nations in 1950.

Eleanor Roosevelt and students for the UN, @1950. Mom with her back to photo.

She wrote her Master’s thesis on the propaganda in the speeches of Joseph McCarthy. This was in 1955, when McCarthy was still in power. I wonder what the university thought of that. She could have been black-balled from future jobs. Did they tell her to tone it down? Just don’t publish it anywhere? She was a rabble-rouser, in an every day way.

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I Do Not Consent to the Googles

Hmmm, I hope selecting this image for the post didn’t start a purchase. I am Not Paying For it!

“Why is my phone telling me the weather in Seattle? I didn’t ask for that!”

My long-suffering spouse looks at me, sighing, and says, “That’s Google Assistant.”

“I didn’t turn on Google Assistant. I didn’t give it permission. Why is it doing this?”

She shouts towards my phone, “Hey Google….” Nothing happens. “It must not recognize me.”

“Why would it recognize you? It’s not on.” Ignoring my own retort, I bark at my phone. “Hey, you Google…”

Nothing, of course, happens, other than a cheery notification that tells me what the baseball scores are from games that happened seven hours ago. The baseball games which I had already watched and could already tell you who scored what when with runners on base over which pitch count.

Off the Grid Is Impossible

I do not Hey Google. I respect you if you do, but I don’t believe in talking to objects. I don’t believe we should have robots listening throughout the house to our every activity. I don’t have seeing eyes peering out the front door to spy on mischievous-looking passers-by nor do I have glowing orbs in my bedroom, blinking to notify me that there might be a lost dog three miles away.

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Last Night I Dreamed of Algebra and the Taliban

Note: An oldie but even more relevant today. Sometimes history doesn’t repeat itself. Perhaps this time x= (order- fear) * the whole world is watching

From 2018…

The subconsciousness is a strange device. It’s our human CPU, running subroutines in the background. When we shut down for the night, it keeps running, energetically trying to solve all the world’s problems.  How the universe was formed. Whether there is life on other planets. What x equals. Why cruelty exists.

American Conservatory Theater production
From SF American Conservatory Theater production of Khalid Hosseini’s book, photo from Playbook.

A Thousand Suns… Some Not So Splendid

Last Thursday, I sat mesmerized during San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater production of A Thousand Splendid Suns. This play, based on the best-selling novel by Khalid Hosseini, is the story of women enduring the Afghanistan Civil Wars and the rise of the Taliban in the late 1990s. I choose the word enduring carefully because it is the core verb that women in the play use to express what must be done. Afghanistan under the severity of the Taliban interpretation of Sharia Law was as perilous a place for women as any; endure is what they must.

Learn this now and learn it well, my daughter: Like a compass needle that points north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman. Always. You remember that, Mariam….There is only one, only one skill a woman like you and me needs in life, and they don’t teach it in school . . . Only one skill. And it’s this: tahamul. Endure . . . It’s our lot in life, Mariam. Women like us. We endure. It’s all we have.
–Nana in A Thousand Splendid Suns

I don’t know if Hosseini read his Faulkner.

DILSEY.
They endured.
–Last line of The Sound and the Fury

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