CSotD: 40 days more honored in the breech

(Grand Avenue – AMS)

(Joe Heller)

Start the day with a Juxtaposition, because tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, which starts the beginning of Lent, which used to matter to people a whole lot more than it seems to in the present day.

You can go back into history and find all sorts of ways people marked Lent centuries ago, but even in my lifetime, we gave up something we liked and adults fasted on Fridays and abstained from meat, which we did all year anyway.

Tomorrow, you’ll see smudges on foreheads here and there — including on the First Forehead — but I don’t know how many Catholics still cut back to one Lenten meal a day and they haven’t abstained from meat on Fridays outside of Lent for decades.

As for giving things up, some time ago people decided it was better to do something positive for Lent, which could mean being kind or something similarly amorphous that they should do all year long anyway.

Not eating meat on Friday had no meaning except that it meant remembering your faith, which often included a nudge in the snack line at a basketball game from a fellow-Catholic as you reached for a burger.

Dammit — Darn it — if you’re going to have a religion, remembering it isn’t a bad thing.

I had a friend who visited Morocco and discovered to her horror that she’d scheduled the trip for Ramadan, which meant her poor guides had to show her around in 100-whatever-degree temperatures with nothing but sips of water to sustain themselves.

But then the evening meal is a pleasant social event, and the end, Eid, is a true festival.

As the little boy said, “I’m so glad I’m home, I’m glad I went.”

Heller points out that we’ve sacrificed a lot over the months of the pandemic, and you can’t deny that it’s created a secular sense of community not unlike the sacred.

However, I’d suggest — and could cite a lot of cartoons today to make the point — that we’ve turned into a society that celebrates Mardi Gras without paying the price the next 40 days.

Though perhaps we haven’t fallen quite so far after all. Back in the 1890s, Mr. Dooley noted the failings of the flesh in regard to Lent.

This Matt Davies (AMS) cartoon has been sitting in the folder while I dealt with impeachments, but the scandal of potentially harmful baby food ought not to go unaddressed.

I say “potentially” because I’m not sure how it measures up to what the rest of us are eating. The actual report alludes to permissible levels and the gap found:

My concern is how much similar testing goes on with our regular food supply. And I’d note, too, that the House Subcommittee requested information from seven companies but only four responded.

In any case, perhaps the real crisis is our having been hornswoggled into the belief that babies need “baby food” in the first place.

In the back-to-nature days of the 70s, our kids ate what we ate, passed through a food grinder, made for the purpose and small enough to take along wherever we went.

Good choice, though the boys were in high school by the time Beech Nut got busted for selling colored sugar water as apple juice.

Speaking of the Olden Days, today’s Fastrack (KFS) reminded me of when my then-brother-in-law had appendicitis and his girlfriend rushed him to the hospital in the middle of the night, which brought up the issue of how she knew.

I would think that, even in the days of corded phones, they could have simply said he called her, but they came up with a ridiculous story about him pounding on the floor and her living in the apartment below his.

Then-mother-in-law played along, but got a chuckle out of it, since she had long been pretending to accept the fiction of them having separate apartments.

So I like the idea that Dethany and Guy’s main conflict was about letting their families know what families almost always know.

Which is related to young gay and lesbian people coming out to their families, who are relieved to no longer have to feign ignorance.

I can segue this: The connection is telling people things they already know!

Over at Monty (AMS), young Sedgewick is visiting an island set up for his personal enjoyment but populated by “natives” who may or may not be actors but have taken him and his butler, Jarvis, prisoner.

Aside from the joke itself, which is funny enough, there is the central conceit of an old story about Columbus getting out of a jam by predicting an eclipse.

So much of what we “know” about heroic Columbus is bullshit that you should generally discount more than you accept, and, in this case, not only is the timing extraordinarily dubious, but — and I’m factoring short life spans into this — it’s hard to believe the natives had never before seen an eclipse.

It helps to rely on the belief that pre-industrial people are idiots, a theory largely based on melanin levels.

Finally, and in the spirit of the day if you’ll give me a minute to get there, I’ve been meaning to plug Wayno’s blog, on which he discusses the previous week’s Bizarro, because the current week’s conversation includes some talk about Roy Lichtenstein who became famous by duplicating the work of comic book artists.

Which some people think is art, some think is an homage and some think is plagiarism.

The relevance to Mardi Gras being that this street sign was spotted on Bayou St. John, which put a very pleasant earworm into my head because that’s where Jump Sturdy did her thing, according to Dr. John, back in his gris-gris days.

I had the good luck to stumble onto his gris-gris show when he filled in for the Byrds on a bill with Linda Ronstadt and Tim Buckley and that was one helluva swap but one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to.

So here’s one Crescent City genius covering the work of another:

11 thoughts on “CSotD: 40 days more honored in the breech

  1. Memories of Lent (Byzantine Catholic version):

    1. It was longer by two days, started Monday, we didn’t do Ash Wednesday.

    2. Church on Wednesday night, Friday night Stations of the Cross, Sunday mass.

    3. The Hell of Holy Week: Palm Sunday Mass, Wednesday service, Thursday service, Good Friday service and placing of Jesus in the tomb.

    4. Vigil kept at the tomb, until . . .

    5. Saturday night Resurrection Mass.

    6. Easter Sunday Mass and blessing of the baskets (Easter dinner food).

    7. Easter Monday Mass. Easter Tuesday Mass.

    8. No television, radio, music (my one hour daily piano practice was excepted because it wasn’t pleasure) from Good Friday until after Easter Sunday mass.

    9. Meatless meals on Wednesday and Friday’s. No meat, fish or dairy products on Good Friday. And you had to give up something you really enjoyed for Lent, with parental enforcement.

  2. It’s called “Fat Tuesday” because you’re getting rid of the fat in the house, which is why pancakes became traditional. They used to fast from meat AND dairy for the entirety of Lent (the Orthodox still do this), so they wanted to use up all the milk and eggs,.

    And yes, the pandemic has felt like a year-long Lent. We should call it Trecentosexagesima.

  3. I feel like I’ve been commenting more than usual lately. Maybe it’s pandemic cabin fever. But today you just happened to hit upon a topic I was once an expert in: heavy metal analysis. Re: baby food, while I was never a biologist or pediatrician, I was a chemist who analyzed materials, including occasionally food, for elements such as arsenic, selenium, lead, cadmium, mercury, etc.

    The FDA’s “maximum allowable levels” are barely above the detection limits for those particular elements (using the technology I used 15 years ago; they may have improved since). False positives are common when you flirt around the detection limit. I lived in a city that used my company’s services, and for five years received a drinking water report from the city explaining that they had to report zinc levels now because they’d gotten a positive result one time, when I knew darn well that it was a false positive I’d given them. BUT: the reported levels of 91 times the arsenic, 177 times the lead, and 5 times the mercury are solid results that would have really caught my eye back in the day. When you have to dilute your sample just so it doesn’t blow out your instrument, you notice. Nobody should eat that stuff, especially babies.

    I researched the Columbus eclipse story for a book I never did, and by all accounts it was true, understanding that the sole source for the story was Columbus. You make a good point: any reasonably attentive people would have seen a lunar eclipse before. Perhaps it was less its novelty and more the fact that Columbus seemed to summon it at will that frightened the natives into giving him what he wanted? In any case, he was a monster by all accounts, even his own.

    Grandma and Grandpa went to Mass at dawn, got the forehead smudge, fasted, and kept dried palm fronds draped over a portrait of Jesus for the rest of the year. Mom got the forehead smudge and fed us fish sticks with mac and cheese. I figure noncompliance isn’t a sin if I genuinely forget to comply. And so it goes.

  4. Glad I was RC, though I remember the ponderous length of Good Friday services and the vigil that night.

    However, having been to a Russian Orthodox regular ol’ Sunday service, when someone from the East speaks of “long,” I take it seriously.

    Another thing I remember about pre-Vatican days was fasting from midnight before receiving Communion, which rule used to leave fainting adolescent altar boys strewn around on a regular basis.

    Though it also led to the after-Mass doughnut. My father met a girl in college at 10:30 Mass by following her to the coffeeshop and striking up a conversation. Which was lovely until they broke up and he had to start getting up early for the 8:30 to avoid running into her.

    Now, there’s a religious sacrifice!!!

  5. Brian, I happened to become a 24-hour expert on a related topic, back when 60 Minutes scared hell out of everyone over the use of alar — a spray for apples to keep them on the trees instead of on the ground. I happened to be a business reporter in a major apple producing community.

    I had to do some heavy, heavy digging. Turns out that alar was of doubtful harm, except for two things:

    One was that testing was done primarily with adults, mostly male, and, while female fat layers make a difference, the difference in fat proportions and size and everything else with babies is enormous.

    The other was that skeptics say, Well, yes, but you’d have to eat X-ridiculous amount, and, when it comes to apple sauce and apple juice, that about how much babies eat, relative to body size, given their tendency to become fixated on a favorite food and how often that is apple sauce and apple juice.

    Though, of course, if their parents buy Beech-Nut …

  6. Tintin once used the eclipse bit. I thought then, and still think, the local priest kept knowledge of eclipses and other celestial marvels to themselves, to build cachet. That’s why the proles were taken by surprise (prole-axed?).

  7. Twain knew the Columbus story and used it, almost verbatim, in “Connecticut Yankee.” And I’m sure Herge knew them both!

    Mike, your mention of “female fat layers” reminded me of my favorite bit from “Cheers.” Cliff the mailman’s girlfriend, Margaret, has gotten a new job in Canada and desperately wants Cliff to go with her.

    “But Cliff,” she pleads. “It’ll be so terrible. I’ll be so cold and alone. Who will keep me warm?”

    “You’ll do fine, Margaret,” says Cliff. “Women have that extra layer of fat.”

    Please note that in this post I am quoting Mike Peterson and Cliff Claven, not expressing any opinion of my own.

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