Coffee with a Basque Transvestite

Would we drink coffee with… Catalina de Erauso

Kristy: Would I have un cafecito with Lieutenant Nun?  Of course!  If nothing else, I owe her as much for allowing me to spend part of my junior year reading a book titled Memoirs of a Basque Transvestite in the New World, which had got to be one of the best autobiography titles ever.  (I realize the legitimacy of said autobiography is in question–that doesn’t stop it from being fantastic.)  And regardless of how embellished said memoir might be, she was definitely a fascinating woman.  I think if most of us had spent our lives (from age four) in a convent our first response after escaping into the wide world would be to curl up in the fetal position.  Not to disguise our gender and embark on swashbuckling adventures.  And whereas many women in that time would have ended up dead or imprisoned for trying the crap she pulled, Catalina wound up getting rewarded with papal dispensation to dress however she damn well pleased.

So yes, I would drink coffee with Catalina de Erauso or whatever she’s calling herself these days.  She was clearly witty, and I like witty people.  Her memoirs indicate a sense of humor, which is always a plus.  And I would love a little help distinguishing fact from fiction.

Cammy: My decision to have coffee with her revolves around whether or not having coffee with her would result in her beating me up for any reason, because, yeah, I’m pretty sure she could.  I will admit that while I’ve heard Kristy speak of Catalina and that autobiography, I never saw a picture of her until I went to Wikipedia.  Holy crap, dude, it’s no wonder she got a papal dispensation to dress however the hell she wanted:  they were probably scared she’d kick their asses!

Aside from what I consider a very legitimate fear of her should she decide she didn’t like me, I’m definitely intrigued and might be willing to brave the fear to hear the kind of stories she’s got.

It’s Summertime! Feel the Burn!

So, as the mercury has crept upward and my wardrobe has shifted from sweaters to sleeveless blouses, I decided this summer, I have a goal: spend more time outside.  I’ve been so busy in the past, oh, decade, that being outdoors rather than in just didn’t happen.  I’m not really a fan of summer, but I decided that’s just because I haven’t made the effort to enjoy it properly in so long.  Time to change that.  Time to get out, plant the garden and enjoy the fresh air!

Time to get out and get reminded that pasty girls don’t belong in sunshine.

Oh, hello sunburn!  How have you been?  I’ve avoided you a few years, but here you are again.

We here at My TV, My Peanut Butter are pigmentally challenged.  Kristy moreso than me–I hide at least a few of my veins from view, unlike Kristy.  If either of us ever gets any color is one of three things:  a flush that will pass; freckles; a sun burn.  Please note that option 2 is usually a follow on to option 3.

And it’s not like either of us is ignorant of skin protection.  In my case, a mother and grandmother who both had skin cancer (for my grandmother it was melanoma and resulted in the removal of a chunk of her leg), ensured that I’ve been all but bathed in sunblock, stuck into floppy hats and made to wear outside shirts over tank tops when outside for my whole life.  I continued the practice out of a combination of habit and fear.  The great piss off is, that, as I experienced again yesterday, even when we-the-pasty obey the rules (sunscreen, liberally applied 30 minutes before going out, reapplied throughout the day, over-shirt, hat, sunshades), we can still find ourselves starting to sizzle and by the time we realize that, it’s too late to prevent at least 24 hours of some level of misery.

This is putting a significant kink into that whole “more time outside” plan.  Oh, sure, the garden will go on, but it will wait until later in the evening.  The idea of sitting out with a book will have to be moved under the shade of the trees in the back corner, and dining out on the patio will require the aid of an umbrella unless it’s later in the evening.  It’s still doable–but accommodation will be necessary.

Hmph.  Yeah, I don’t think summer’s going to be making up from the bottom on my list of favorite seasons.

Guilty Pleasure: Young Guns II

I have mixed feelings about historical movies “based” on a true story.  I’m not really a purist when it comes to adapting novels or comics to films.  But some distortions of history I can’t stomach.  Disney’s Pocahontas for example.  On the other hand, other distortions I rather enjoy.  Such as tonight’s guilty pleasure.  I’m no expert, but I’m fairly certain that the only similarity Young Guns II has to actual historical events are some names.  That doesn’t stop me from loving it.

Maybe it’s because I first saw it when I was too young to know better.  Maybe it’s because it’s not a period/geographic area of history on which I’m an expert.  Maybe it’s because it’s fully of attractive men.  … Yeah, that’s definitely a factor.

All I really know is there is something about this movie that’s like a can of cream cheese frosting in the back of the refrigerator.  I know it’s no good, but I can’t help myself.

I definitely prefer Young Guns II to the original.  Strange, I know, since sequels are generally regarded as inferior.  It might simply be because I saw the sequel first, but I suspect the real reason is Christian Slater.  He’s not in the first movie and that is a sad, sad thing.  I have a theory that nearly every movie can be improved with the addition of Christian Slater.  (An old roommate and I once came to the conclusion that the only thing that would make the Lord of the Rings trilogy even better would be if it had included Christian Slater as Aragorn’s skeezy roommate from college.  Think about the prospect and try not to smile.)  Much to Cammy’s amusement, I’m kind of in love with George Strait’s song about Arkansas Dave, just because it allows me to picture Slater’s character from this film.

But it’s not just Christian Slater.  This movie falls into a category with a handful of films (The Outsiders, School Ties, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy) for being so full of hot men that it’s almost painful.  Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Philips, Emilio Estevez, Balthazar Getty…  Look for Aragorn himself in a small part and Jon Bon Jovi in a bit part.  And they’re all riding around on horses and shooting things.  Could it be hotter?  Also, I love the score.  I mean I like the Bon Jovi music from and inspired by album, but I love the score.

How much do I love this guilty pleasure?  I own the DVD, the Bon Jovi CD was one of the first I ever purchased and I can sing all the songs.  I can recite Chavez’s entire speech about his family being wiped out (and I get misty eyed every time).

But yeah, I do it all with a bit of guilt.  Because on some level I do recognize that this is not really a good movie.  But that won’t keep me from watching it.

Avoiding the Funny Looks

I am loving my little local library right now.  Finally, they have found a way to alleviate one of my greatest library anxieties:  The Judging Librarian.

Now, I know I shouldn’t care what the middle-aged woman behind the desk thinks of my borrowing choices, but I can’t help it.  One too many times I’ve endured that look.  The one that says, “Really?  There is no way this girl is going to read these.”  Occasionally they make comments.  “Oh, well, don’t you have an…..interesting….variety here.”  And by interesting, they mean freakish.  It’s happened enough that even though I’ve had plenty of ladies who really didn’t bat an eye, every time I go up to that counter, I have this moment where I freeze, catalog what I’m carrying and prepare myself for what kind of reaction I’ll get.

I’m pretty sure if I came up with 4 romance novels, and a Mediterranean Cook book, I’d be perfectly normal in their eyes (of course, I’d have to overcome my own difficulty to actually check out a romance novel, but that’s another story).  But I don’t.  I come up with 2 books on physics, a biography of a Supreme Court Justice, a murder mystery, a collection of HP Lovecraft stories, a book on Jacobean embroidery, a book on “green” construction techniques, a Tejano music CD and a DVD documentary on Tibet.  Separately, these items are in no way bizarre, but when you check them out all together at once?  I’ve had some of these women look at me like I just procured all the ingredients to start making explosives in my bathtub.

But today.  Today I was able to grab my books with no fear of the look, no fear of the comments and no need to even see a librarian.  Yes, my local library has tapped into the culture of the retail store and given me a self-check.

I’m sure plenty of you have already had this luxury in your libraries, but I haven’t, so allow me a moment to bask in the bliss of getting to zip my books through the barcode scanner at a counter all alone with no one to know, let alone judge, how eclectic my borrowing choices are.  Sure, this keeps me from having to face whatever bizarre self esteem issue puts me in mortal terror of not living up to whatever expectations the librarian has set for me, but I’m totally okay with that.

And as a bonus?  I no longer have to stand in line as the one librarian at the counter is painstakingly checking out the entire grocery bag of Harlequins.

Are you Smarter than a Time Vampire?

Today’s time vampire of the week just sucked up a significant portion of my evening, thus preventing me from writing about something else.  It was a trivia book my ten year-old nephew brought over to the house based on the television show Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader? (which I have never seen).

Long and the short of it (if this book is to be believed), is that I’m not.  And we have some extremely intelligent fifth graders running around in this country, which as a former college professor makes me ask, what happens between fifth grade and high school graduation?  Most of my students couldn’t even tell you where the US won our independence, but this book would have you believe that fifth graders know which US President was the first to be born in a hospital (Carter) and what the various parts of the brain control.  And the meaning of the word “dendrochronology”.  Okay, I just threw the last one in because I was the only one in the house that knew it and it made me feel smart.

Okay, so I’m not buying that fifth graders know this stuff, but it didn’t stop me from quizzing myself and the rest of the family with endless questions.

The point here is:  I *heart* useless trivia.  Want to know about the evolution of ketchup in western cuisine?  I can tell you all about it.  The full name of the city of Santa Fe?  I got it.  About the Shriner’s convention that was in Memphis when Elvis died?  For that you have to ask Cammy; she’s the one who told me about it.

So yeah, I’m *that* girl who perpetually annoys those around her by telling them random facts.  If I could have persuaded my nephew to leave it here I’d still be flipping through that book, looking up the answers to random questions, gaining all sorts of completely useless knowledge.

Since Time Vampires usually have an internet component, I should add that if you google “useless trivia” you will come up with a wealth of websites that can satisfy your cravings, assuming you suffer from the same trivia addiction that I do.  This post would have been up several hours ago if it weren’t for said sites.

Cheap Green: My New Favorite Ex-Foliator

I’m not radically green.  I can, however, say without a doubt that I’ve been green a lot longer than a lot of the newly-environmentally-aware people I know, who are all about their organic cotton and trendy metal water bottles and reusable stuff.

See, the thing was, we used to just call it “cheap” when you were up for using things multiple times and growing your own tomatoes and making things yourself and hanging clothes out on the line.

But, whatever tag you attach to it, I’m enjoying the proliferation of cheap/green instructions out there.  One of which led me to a suggestion for a face and body scrub that is my new favorite thing ever:

Coffee grounds

Olive oil (a tablespoon or so–this isn’t an exact science

Tiny bit of tea tree oil (a few drops)

I actually read about the coffee grounds all on their own.  I tried it and it worked all right for me.  Nothing spectacular, but nice enough to use for the occasional ex-foliation.

Then someone on a message board posted something suggesting adding some olive oil.  Since I consider olive oil a somewhat magical thing, I was down for trying this.  The tea-tree oil was my own addition since I tend to use it on my skin anyhow as I’m prone to acne.  I tossed it all together and decided to give the new-and-improved version a try last weekend.

Oh my.

It’s been 5 days and I still find myself petting my own arm because it’s never felt that soft.  Yes, petting my own arm.  And my knees.  Holy crap, I never knew how rough my knees were until I found out how soft they could be.

This is a miracle substance, at least for me.  The raving and amazement I’ve heard from others about this product or that recipe, but never managed to experience myself?  Now I’ve got it.

The only downside is application.  The ideal way to use it is in the shower, but I hesitate to wash coffee grounds down the shower drain too often–I have to clean the hair out of the drain often enough without adding other bio matter to it.  But, if I can find a handy way of rinsing into a separate container, not only can I spare the drain, but I can take the whole mess out to the compost bin for use number 3 as future fodder for garden growth.

Just another way to reap the benefits of green, the new cheap.

Bring me the Funny!

Today we explore an important, commonly used phrase in the My TV, My Peanut Butter lexicon:

“To bring the funny” (verb phrase)

Definition:  To amuse us.  To include humor.  To entertain.

Etymology:  While I cannot say with any degree of certainty that this was the origin of the phrase in general, the phrase was first introduced to Kristy and Cammy through The West Wing episode “Seventeen People.”  Incidentally, this was the episode I used to convince Cammy that she did, in fact, love The West Wing and that she wanted to continue watching it obsessively with me (Ainsley Hayes was my secret weapon).  In this episode the phrase is used as a critique of a speech written for the White House Correspondents’ dinner which was apparently less than entertaining.  The writers “forgot to bring the funny” and one of the plots of the episode is a large portion of the cast attempting to “find the funny” in order to make the speech successful.

Cammy and I frequently use this as a critique of television episodes (or fanfics.  Don’t judge) that fail to amuse us the way we want to.  Such episodes “forget to bring the funny” or “don’t bring the funny.”  When West Wing kinda sucked for a couple seasons, it was largely because it forgot to bring the funny.  Incidentally, the phrase “the funny” can occasionally be used as a stand alone phrase to mean “that which makes something amusing.”  My good buddy Russell once insisted that a missing nuclear submarine qualified as “the funny” but I’m still less than convinced.

A particular character may be praised for “bringing the funny.”  Cammy likes her almost namesake on Bones because “she brings the funny.”

It is important to understand that neither Cammy nor I tend to watch comedies.  I would never say “How I Met Your Mother brings the funny.”  It would not be incorrect so much as unidiomatic.  “Bringing the funny” is something that happens mostly in otherwise serious situations; it is a technique for creating levity which helps us process and cope with said situations.  The aforementioned West Wing episode is a great example.  The major plotline of the episode is heavy and ominous, but it is balanced by “the funny” of the speech writing and Ainsley/Sam, Josh/Donna banter.  (I’m being deliberately vague since one of our five readers has just finished West Wing Season 1 and I don’t want to spoil the brilliance of this episode).

Anyway, the long and the short of it is that if you want My TV, My Peanut Butter to enjoy something, it definitely helps to bring the funny.  And if we are able to bring the funny, even a little bit, here on our little blog, well that makes us extremely happy.

Coffee With….Jadwiga of Poland

Coffee With….Jadwiga of Poland….Aka St. Hedwig, Patron Saint of Queens and a United Europe

Cammy:  Normally, the Catholic angle is up to Kristy, but in this case, I had to nominate this gal for a kaffee klatsch.  Jadwiga was the King of Poland.  No, that’s not a typo.  She was actually crowned “king” at a time when queens who were sovereigns in their own right were rare (and because, at the time, Poland had no provision for this kind of thing).  So when a queen just isn’t enough?  Call ‘er a king and move on.  Gotta love a quick solution.
Amusing title changes aside, there’s also the multi-lingual angle.  The gal (allegedly) spoke 6 languages:  Bosnian, Serbian, Hungarian, Polish, German and Latin.  That would certainly make for an interesting communication effort over coffee.  My late 14th century German is more than a little rusty.  I say the onus is on her to catch on to what I’m saying–if she knows that many languages she can figure it out, right?

History of the time being foggy, it’s tough to tell exactly how much power she actually wielded when she took the Polish throne at 11.  Regardless of how much of it was on her, she was the instrument through which Poland united with and wound up shoe-horning Christianity into Lithuania via her marriage to Lithuania’s King Jagiello (I have no evidence, but I sort of suspect, he may have been a bit of putz, but that’s purely my opinion).  She was involved with negotiations with the Teutonic Knights–which even if she wasn’t the power negotiator is still kind of awesome that those guys had to talk to an pre-teen girl.  She also revamped the University in Krakow, which, you know, as a nerd, I appreciate.

Purpose of coffee with her?  Just for the hell of it.  Like so many of our post-life coffee with guests, it’s about getting the information we couldn’t get out of a book (or even Wikipedia).  And who would turn down a chance to say they had coffee with a multi-lingual, female Polish King turned Saint?
Kristy: I’m not going to lie, when Cammy threw this one out my first reaction was, “Who?”  After some quick internet research, however, I’m game.  She sounds like a really interesting lady and I’d like to know more about her.  Particularly the kinds of things that don’t get written in historical documents.  Who was really the force between certain actions?  How much say did she really have during her reign.  That kind of thing.

Also, supposedly I’m related to her through her great-grandfather Charles Martel.  And while I’m not completely convinced of my royal ancestry, it still helps pique my interest.

:  Hey, Kristy, should we do a side of pierogis with this coffee thing?

Virginia did it first, Virginia did it better

So May marks the establishment of the first permanent English speaking settlement in the Americas at Jamestown.  Now I realize this is a weighted anniversary for many reasons, mostly that permanent European settlements created more and more difficulties for the Native Americans who were nearly wiped out by smallpox and military action.  There’s also the minor detail that the Spanish got to Virginia first, but got themselves killed before setting up anything permanent.

But for today, I’m going to focus on the positive!  Sort of.

You see, there’s a conspiracy in this county which I was not fully aware of until I worked in a Virginia museum.  Most history textbooks in the United States are published in the Boston area.  Which means that the history most American school children learn is heavily skewed towards Massachusetts.   This is why most people know the story of Plymouth better than the story of Jamestown and think that most of the work towards gaining independence was done in Boston and Philadelphia.  People from Massachusetts have a lot of pride in this and they don’t like to be told that other states contributed to American history too.

And this is why I’d like to take this moment to celebrate the many contributions that Virginia has made to US History:

–First permanent English speaking settlement at Jamestown beat Plymouth by thirteen years.  Eat the dust of the Old Dominion Miles Standish!  Focus on Plymouth has also helped create the idea of that most colonists arrived seeking religious freedom (something that wasn’t even entirely true about Plymouth, much less the colonies in general).  The fellas at Jamestown arrived seeking the one thing that is possibly more American than freedom (and high fructose corn syrup): money.

–Charles City claims that the first Thanksgiving celebration actually took place there.  I see no reason to argue with them since this suits my purposes.

–First public university in English speaking North America.  Go Tribe!

–First law school.

–First school of international political economy (I swear it’s more interesting than it sounds)

–President of the first two Continental Congresses:  Peyton Randolph.

–The movement to propose independence at the Second Continental Congress came from Virginia.

–The Declaration of Independence was written by a Virginian (Thomas Jefferson).

–The decisive battle of the American Revolution was fought and won at Yorktown

–Much of the text of the Constitution was written by a Virginian (James Madison)

–Much of the Bill of Rights was written by a Virginian (George Mason)

–First President of the United States:  George Washington.

All things considered I think we can agree that Virginia is fairly important.  And it is with an eye to this that I recommend the new slogan for the Commonwealth:  Virginia:  We did it first, we did it better.

Reality TV Killed the Video Star

I want my MTV.  Or my CMT.  Something, anything.  I haven’t seen an actual music video in, oh geeze, probably years now*.  Sure, it’s beating a dead horse but what the hell happened to MTV? And VH1?  And MTV2? Or even CMT, the country version.  Do any of them actually play music videos at all?

At some point, reality TV became the dominant force.  I’m not sure exactly how, but I’m going to blame MTV’s The Real World, which these days is about as “real” as the Tooth Fairy.  Yes, beautiful 20-somethings, hand selected to live in unattainable properties in large cities with cameras in their faces 24/7 is truly realistic.  It’s now, basically, the only thing I see on MTV when I hit the guide button.  From the pregnant teenagers, to people doing other random, stupid shit on film, to people from New Jersey bringing embarrassment to their fellow Garden State citizens-why do they even keep the “M” unless it now stands for “Miscellaneous.”  And how is this supposed to be more entertaining than watching crazy dudes in red-lego-esque hats singing “Whip It”?  Theoretically the audience lives in reality–we don’t live in a world where we get a zombie uprising like “Thriller.”

For a while, the country music version of MTV was holding out, still playing videos even as MTV slipped into that realm where the only videos were Carson Daly’s Total Request Live.  But now even that genre has lost its outlet–CMT was playing MTV’s 16 and pregnant, last I checked.  I think they do slightly less reality, though.  For example, right now?  I’m watching Footloose.  Yes, because an 80s move about ROCK AND ROLL fits so well on COUNTRY music television.  But it’s a long way from the days of the mini-epics like “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” or that extended video of “The Thunder Rolls.”

Are people even making music videos?  And where do you see them?  I mean, I know I’ve looked for old videos on YouTube, but  are there new ones?  It was such a unique medium.  From the poorly made early videos that threw together stock footage and images of the performer, to those really high-budget numbers involving dialog and scripts, it had to be a great creative challenge for a director.

Or am I just too old to get that the music video medium has died and mourning it just shows my age?

*At least not a real, legitimate music vid, but, well, that’s a topic for another post.