More Observations

The midterms are over – or almost over. All the races haven’t been called yet. I am relieved that it wasn’t a red wave, and that Kathy Hochul will be our Governor. It certainly was not a complete victory. I am left wondering how Marjorie Taylor Greene was re-elected and why did Herschel Walker get enough votes to force a runoff? These two people are, as Dave Chappelle said about Walker on Saturday Night Live, “observably stupid.” If I think too long about people voting for such incompetent candidates, I get depressed. So I won’t. I will focus on the more reasonable results and breathe a sigh of relief that the Senate will not be led by Mitch McConnell.

I’ve been thinking about some other things related to the election. For example, why are polls reported on as if they are news? Polls aren’t actions and they are subject to misinterpretation, given that few people understand statistics. How do polls further the mission of the New York Times (‘all the news that’s fit to print’) or the Washington Post (‘democracy dies in darkness’)? Polls should not be considered news! And, I could make a strong case that hyping the polls the way that they do, is detrimental to democracy. It certainly doesn’t shed light on it. The actual election is the engine of democracy.

I understand the utility of polling for candidates and their campaigns. The polls can help them target audiences or messages (whether that is a good thing is another subject I would be happy to argue, but I’ll leave that alone). But, what purpose do they serve to the general public? Why are they covered as if something happened, as if there were new developments? They may or may not be accurate and until the actual vote is counted, they mean nothing. All they do is add to the anxiety, they create an artificial energy (whether you are on the ‘losing’ or ‘winning’ side) that fuels more spending. When you look at how much our political races cost, it is mind-blowing. Think of all the good that could be done with that money.

When I mentioned this idea at a family gathering, my niece pointed out that the media report it because people find it interesting – they respond to the horse race aspect of it – and the media is driven by interest/ratings. I believe she is correct. But does it have to be that way? Isn’t it a vicious cycle? What would happen if mainstream media just stopped reporting on it? It is possible that they could make that choice.

My son-in-law commented that he wished we followed the model of some European countries where campaigns are limited to two months. We had a short debate about whether that would lead to more focus on substantive issues, or whether the candidates wouldn’t bother and would just get right to the bullshit allegations and smear campaigns. It is hard to say how it might play out, but either way we wouldn’t be subjected to the onslaught of ads for months – and it would cost far less. After watching a program where each political ad was worse than the one before it, my husband said, “It makes me miss the drug company ads.” I had to laugh. That says something. Gary, the doctor, would rather be inundated by ads that promise relief from eczema.

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We have had some extraordinary weather. Two weeks ago, I lamented that with November beginning, we were entering the dreary part of fall. I was premature in my proclamation. We were given a lovely reprieve. It was great timing for my family in that we hosted several gatherings over the course of the weekend. Our newest granddaughter, just over 5 months old, came for her first visit to our home and we invited aunts, uncles and cousins to meet her.

As the weekend approached, we kept checking the weather forecast. I was hopeful we could gather outside to minimize the possibility of spreading Covid/flu or even a cold. I couldn’t believe that it was going to be that warm and it promised to be dry, too! The forecast held. We had a brief drizzle that wasn’t enough for anyone to move inside, so we were able to eat, drink and visit in our backyard. What a delight!

Then to top it off, we had the most amazing sunset. The sky was pastel pink – the air itself appeared to be pink. I have never seen light like that before. Though we didn’t have many leaves on our trees, we still had some lingering yellow ones. We also have a carpet of pine needles – in bright light they look brown, but in this sunset they were orange. This phenomenon of the light was brief, and I couldn’t capture it on camera. I hope I can keep the image in my mind’s eye – it was spectacular. What gift!

Another gift – a tree in our backyard

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Speaking of gifts, we are coming into the holiday season where we do a great deal of gift-giving. We don’t want to overdo it with our grandchildren. If there are items we know they need, we are happy to get them, but the truth is there isn’t much they need. We are very fortunate. With our older granddaughter, we are starting to focus on experiences, getting tickets to a show or performance we think she will enjoy. And we can contribute to their college funds – who knows how crazy expensive tuition, and such will be by the time they enroll.

They have enough stuff. The only problem is that it can be fun to pick out stuff – cute outfits, colorful toys, squishy stuffed animals can be irresistible. They can never have enough books, in my estimation, either. But, I will restrain myself. In the interest of our budget, and not contributing to needless clutter, I won’t overdo it. At least I will try not to. Plus I can channel some of that desire to give to others who are in need.

Random Observations (Some Halloween-Related)

Sugar is like a drug. Once I start having treats – cookies, Halloween candy – it is hard to cut it off. I wish my body didn’t respond to it that way. For folks who don’t have weight issues, is it that their body responds differently – they don’t continue to crave it? Or, is it a decision/willpower? I envy those who don’t have that trigger, though I am grateful that I don’t crave alcohol or other addictive substances.

I miss having a sense of smell. I lost it (not entirely, I perceive some scents) years ago after a couple of rounds of a virus. Yesterday when a trick or treater came to the door, she asked, “What smells so good?” I was mystified at first. Then realized, “I just made roast chicken, I think that must be what it is.” She asked if there was any left. That made me laugh. But it also made me wish I could smell it! I know sometimes you become habituated to a smell when you’ve been in it a while and if you step outside and come back in you perceive it again – but that is not what happens with me. Something has to be quite pungent for me to smell it.  If I had to choose to lose one of the five senses, I guess this one would be the least critical. But it does dull taste and it makes experiences less rich. Oh well.

One other Halloween observation. When I happened to be on the Upper East Side of Manhattan a week or so ago, I was struck by how elaborate the decorations were (see photos below). I also thought some were quite gruesome. Have they gotten more horrifying over the years? I like cute pumpkins and Caspar the Friendly Ghost type of decorations. I don’t actually want to be frightened. I particularly don’t enjoy scenes that feature blood. A standard witch is fine, depictions of graveyards are okay, too. If it were up to me, we’d just skip the really gross stuff.

It is interesting to me that some people love that – seek out entertainment that scares them. I heard a snippet of an interview with Stephen King where he said that since he was a child, he liked the feeling of being scared. I don’t. I don’t want to watch scary movies and I don’t seek out risky activities (I’m faster on cross-country skis going uphill than down). I wonder if people who like horror movies also like thrill rides? I’d rather ride a roller coaster than watch a horror movie. Our son-in-law posted a list of horror movies he had watched in the lead up to Halloween. I have seen none of them. In one way, I feel left out of a whole segment of cultural references, but I don’t want to watch those movies, so I guess I’ll just have to remain in the dark, so to speak. It’s funny but both of my children, who grew up not watching horror movies, married people who love them. I will leave it to them to negotiate that – maybe they will become fans, too.

We have passed that threshold from the beautiful part of fall to the dreary. This year I did take the time to appreciate the vibrant colors. I think we had an unusual number of sunny, warm days that allowed the leaves to shine. We had some magnificent sunsets, too, made even more beautiful by the glow of the leaves. Now I look out the window and see mostly bare branches. There is beauty in that, too. I love the look of the silhouette of the trees against the sky. But not so much when it is grey and damp. Also, the less daylight we have, the less energy I seem to have.

This may be a little specific, but when you find a sub for an activity you are committed to (let’s say tennis), and then the sub finds they can’t make it, who is responsible for finding another replacement? If I told someone I would fill in for them and then found that I couldn’t, I would view it as my responsibility to get another person. I was a bit annoyed recently when the sub I found punted it back to me. But maybe I’m wrong on the etiquette. Thoughts? This is the kind of thing I should spend more time thinking about – instead of fretting about our democracy.