What is culture for?

I am extremely cultured.  I know history and philosophy and I’ve read most of the classics (and can fake many of the ones I haven’t read).  I enjoy opera and theater (but not ballet or symphony, though my sister loves ballet) and old movies and classical music.  I can swim and play the piano and embroider and cook (though I was never able to get over my complete lack of artistic talent when it comes to drawing or painting or my complete boredom with ballet lessons).  #2 and I can trade Gilbert and Sullivan or PG Wodehouse jokes with ease.  I know which silverware to use at a fancy restaurant (pro-tip:  start with the outermost) and how to pretend I know what I’m talking about with wine.  Sadly I only speak two languages (English and Spanish), but I know enough French and Italian to get around as a tourist or to get most literary references without Google translate (ditto Latin).

I used to think that I had all this culture because my parents were sharing what they enjoyed, and culture was something to make it easier for me to entertain myself.  (And part of this is true– my father is a European immigrant who grew up in a fancy US coastal city, so his love of operetta patter songs is as real as his love for Jacques Brel or the Beatles.)

But a couple years ago I was rereading Penrod, by Booth Tarkington (free on Kindle).  In addition to being shocked by the casual racism and animal cruelty that I did not remember from my initial childhood reading (from my mother’s childhood hard copies), I was struck by a passage.  Penrod, who is established as having been from a middle- to lower-middle- class family, takes ballroom dancing and etiquette lessons.  A public school kid, this is the only time he rubs shoulders with the private school children of the town elite.  His mother wants to social climb.  His parents, I realized, are trying to help him advance.

Recent readers of the blog may also be aware of my current turn to regency romances.  In regencies (and in steampunk), women have “accomplishments”– somewhat useless entertainment skills such as embroidery or harp or watercolors that are class markers.  Wealthy tradespeople could send their daughters to finishing school so as to marry up into the aristocracy without embarrassing their impoverished future sons-in-law.

One of my mother’s refrains has always been, “to make you a more cultured person.”  And “to give you opportunities I didn’t have.”

I suspect that many of these skills and much of this knowledge that was poured into me may have been for the same reason we were pushed into math and science.  To improve our lot in life with the next generation.

But… Penrod was written in the 1910s.  By the time he was an adult, the parlor manners he resisted being taught along with the formal dancing would be archaic.  In Regency novels, the landed aristocracy of the early 19th century would be replaced with the age of industry and business would supplant tenant farming.  Eventually, stenography would be a more important skill for young ladies than the harp.

I always thought, growing up, that once I got to college I would meet people who were passionate about opera and history and so on.  (Note, this is one of the reasons that #2 and I hit it off right away in high school.)  But even though I went to a top small liberal arts college, that was not the case.  I would even occasionally have to explain literary references to professors in college and graduate school.  I did spread my various loves to my friends (especially those with cars!) and in return picked up passions for anime and Asian food.  High school also provided me with nerd culture in abundance adding, for example, the entire Monty Python library to my repertoire.

As an upper-middle class citizen approaching middle-age, I haven’t found my elitist skills to be particularly useful.  They still provide me joy, but to be honest, they are not shared by many people.  I don’t have much outlet for them away from the city.  When I am in a city partaking, I’m surrounded by professionally coiffed white hair.  These elite class markers are markers of a previous generation.

Times change.  Social class markers vary.  The approaching-middle-age elite who we rub shoulders with today are also first generation wealthy and formerly from the midwest.  They are not from East coast old money.  And so, my esoteric knowledge that my mother worked so hard to provide me with, those classics I was forced to read to “be a more cultured person,” were not as useful as the love of math and ambition that she also fostered.  In fact, I’m a bit out of place with them– elitist in many eyes.

But fortunately, even when it is lonely, cultural knowledge still provides personal entertainment.  It still makes jokes more funny and deepens appreciation of even modern media (since people in the film industry who direct and design are remarkably cultured themselves).  So maybe that itself is enough in this ever-changing world.

link love

Despite what the news wants you to believe, there are actually more important things going on right now than Donald Trump’s twitter “strategy” or his change in campaign managers.  Unfortunately, most of that news is depressing too.  Riots in Milwaukee, flooding in Louisiana, Zika spreading in Florida, wildfires burning homes in Southern California.  #2 wants to hear about these things just as little as she wants to hear about Trump.  However, these things are important.  I don’t know what to do about police violence in Milwaukee.  You can write your congressperson about Zika.  Wildfires in CA… write your congressperson about climate change?  But the flooding in Louisiana, that’s something we can actually do something about, and when I switched radio-stations so as to avoid the NPR in depth Trump twitter piece, our non-NPR station was doing an in-depth story on that and lamenting the fact that they’re not getting as many donations as previous major floods because the major news networks were too busy covering Trump.  That’s like the opposite of ironic.  So anyway, there are ways that you can help.  And, of course, since NPR isn’t all bad, the next morning they did a story about flooded schools that were already strapped for cash, which, of course, led me to one of my favorite charities, Donors Choose– they’re letting you pre-donate specifically to Louisiana teachers affected by flooding.  (Problem with donors choose– once I’m on the site, I end up spending more than I had intended!) Man, and August is supposed to be a slow news month.  Interesting times suck.

Texas wants women to die.

More F the police.  Also this one.

A woman escaping from messed up religious messages about sex

Why saying that Hillary Clinton has epilepsy is harmful

Ok, one little trump link.  This just in, WATER IS WET.

Meanwhile, across from Sarah Palin’s house

More cheerful stuff:  Death rates by state.

Not of General Interest discusses class and education and canning.  Looks like we tagged her previous post as well.

Family recurrence map

How Jessica Williams transformed The Daily Show

Why is Sara Benincasa so fat?

These pencils are awesome.  If only #2 used pencils or they made them in pens!

A rare example of a non-sexist article about Clinton.  Read it!  Because CNN needs to be encouraged to write more nonsexist stuff about HRC the candidate.

Everything is f*’d:  The Syllabus

Send gifts pls

Why we say eleven, twelve

Mental floss is a rabbit hole

Escapist fiction recommendations that aren’t primarily romances.

We need fluffy diverse books!

Books about books

This made me smile

 

Ask the grumpies: How to grow jobs in an area and general entrepreneurship

First Gen American asks:

My latest interest is around how to grow jobs in an area and general entrepreneurship. Anything around that topic would be interesting.

How to identify unmet needs
How to make a business plan
How to decide what to do
How to do the quick back of the envelope calculation on roi. (I’d have to sell how many ice cream cones to just cover rent!?)
How to take a risk without putting it all on the line and if that is even possible. (Many of my customers emptied their retirement savings to start their businesses. It was rough going for a while for many of them and I am only talking to the ones who made it.)
How to determine if a market is saturated. (I.e. Microbreweries)
Where to find businesses for sale.
How to assess the numbers and make sure they are real and not just lipstick on a pig.
Places to find resources for research. Like tax incentives for a region or female owned businesses, grants, etc.

Since my company, one of the major employers, is leaving the area, I also would like to focus on non service type ventures. (I.e. Jobs that don’t rely on the health of the local economy….a product that can be shipped outside of the region.)

Unfortunately this is all completely out of our wheelhouse.  We’re not even sure where we’d start asking to find out the answers to these questions (maybe Paula at Afford Anything, but she’s pretty focused on real estate, still, she might be able to 6 degrees of separation you to a good answer).

Grumpy Nation, any ideas?

Things that negatively affect my mood

Lack of sleep

Lack of a feeling of control/feeling overwhelmed/being told I have to do stuff or that I’m not doing enough stuff

Having future deadlines but not being able to work on them even though I planned to work on them because other people have dropped the ball and there’s nothing I can work on in the meantime while I wait because I already did it all or I would have to get into the mindset for a completely different project and I just don’t have that mental load and I know everybody is going to get back to me at the same time too close to multiple deadlines and I’m going to be stressed out.

Eating sugar or refined carbohydrates and sugar-crashing

Low blood sugar more generally

Mild tummy aches/headaches

impatient drivers behind me who want me to risk my life making a left turn across traffic

Sometimes hormonal imbalances

Whining (other people’s not my own, and literal whining)

Mansplaining

Did I mention people flaking out on me?

Grumpy nation, what harshes your buzz?

Dispatches from the library

… in which #1 sends #2 text messages during the work day.

#1: there is a large blue beanbag in the library here. Good news: it’s comfortable. Bad news: it’s carnivorous. I might have to live here now.

#2: She who lives by the beanbag…

#1:  I could use a nap like whoa.

#1:  [coworker] came by.  He covets the blue beanbag.

#2:  hahah.  It is Yours.

#1:  At least until I go home tonight.  (or I guess someone could steal it while I pee.)  But I think maybe I will stay here until I go home.

#2: heh

#1:  I think I am sinking.

#2: death by beanbag chair!

#1: the student aide at the front desk has been alerted by a kind colleague that she should check if I am still alive before closing time

#2:  hahaha

#1:  I think the only way out is to roll sideways onto the floor.

 

Grumpeteers, have you encountered a carnivorous seating arrangement in its natural habitat?

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We still think this is the polite way to go…

DC2 had another birthday.  The in-laws were extremely generous again.

Unfortunately, with DC2, unlike with DC1 (who is the oldest grandkid), they’ve been getting hir (grandkid #5/6) a lot of what we consider to be inappropriate stuff or just stuff zie doesn’t want.  When DC1 was younger, there was always too much, but it was generally appreciated.

We think this is because DC2 has a same-gendered cousin who is about a year older whose parents have, without going into detail, very different viewpoints about uh, bringing up children.  So DC2 has started getting things that DC2’s cousin loves but that DC2 is either completely uninterested in because zie’s not into that kind of tv show, or that we are not interested in because we teach the opposite of those values.

Initially we were just giving the former to DC2 because we were often wrong about what we perceived to be DC1’s interests, but in DC2’s case, we were right–those toys would be opened and played with once and then never again.  The latter we’d send back to Amazon if we could or put in the gift closet for future birthday party gifts if we couldn’t or if it wasn’t worth sending back.  Last Christmas they gave DC2 4 different versions of the same toy (all of which were displayed prominently on hir cousin’s amazon list) and all of which we gave to toys for tots because DC2 wasn’t playing with the figure zie already had.

This birthday when MIL asked what DC2 wanted, I made an amazon list.  DH told her that DC2 is really into Batman and My Little Pony and Powerpuff Girls and Bubble Guppies.  (But did not explicitly say, no, zie is really not into the shows that hir cousin is into.)  And some of those items made it into DC2’s haul this year, but so did unwanted items, and this time a couple of really expensive such items.

Since we make a lot more money than we used to, it no longer bothers me to get a $45 toy that is both age inappropriate and our-values inappropriate.  It just gets saved up for toys for tots come Christmas time.  [It used to get saved for birthday parties (though I’ve always felt a little embarrassed about that since these are things we would never buy for someone), but there’s been a lot fewer of those lately, and when they do happen they’re “no gift” or “give to this charity” parties instead.]

On top of that, when we remove the unwanted items from the gift pile, DC2 is left with a much more reasonable number of gifts.  So it’s not like we want replacement stuff instead of the expensive unwanted stuff.  Just, you know, less stuff.

We don’t know how to bring this up to the in-laws, so we don’t.  Beyond saying what DC2 actually wants, putting together an amazon list, highlighting gifts zie’s enjoyed and not much mentioning the rest, I don’t think additional feedback is really wanted.

How do you deal with extraneous or unwanted gifts?

link love

The courts can be forces for good.

It was only a matter of time before this headline popped up.  Because women can’t win even if they’re winning.  So much FFS with this election. More misogyny in political coverage. Here’s more.

Great news! You can vote for Hillary AND keep your dick!

heaven help us

ICYMI, here’s Trump calling for Clinton’s assassination

The desperate Russian/GOP/crazy guy line these days seems to be about HRC’s health, as if Tim Kaine wasn’t perfectly capable of stepping into office.

‘From the book summary:  “In a covetous quest to attain the power that men had, women were advised to work like men, talk like men, party like men, and have sex like men. There’s just one problem: women aren’t men. Instead of feeling happy with their newfound freedoms, females today are tied up in knots, trying to strike a balance between their natural, feminine and traditional desires and what modern society dictates—and demands—through the commandments of feminism. ”  The irony is off the charts with this one.’  (Not that she should have been harassed, but seriously, stop contributing to patriarchal oppression!  Even if you’re a victim.)

I think trump is more crabbe or goyle

If only

Why are more US women dying of childbirth?

Simone!

A Snowy Day.

Retirement plans for small companies

I don’t even like cooking for just myself

We did not go to Egypt.

Go for the John Scalzi links, stay for the cat pics

Where’s Charley?

At least this cool kid

Transportation agency attack haiku