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Thanksgiving 2011 | The Bleat.

I know I should change the rotating banner art; it’s done, it’s over, it was a million years ago. Now I’m back to this:

The snow fell steadily this afternoon, without haste or anger: the clouds were just making a delivery, that’s all. And that’s fine. Has to come sooner or later, and you cannot cavil about snow at Thanksgiving, what with all the Currier & Ives / Over The River cliches that attend the holiday. We all like Thanksgiving, right? It has something so few traditions have: it squats down right at the edge of the weekend and practically demands that you blow off Friday. Other holidays are all over the map, and most of the time they blow up the week; Thanksgiving has a 300-year fixed-rate mortgage on Thursday. This makes for a merry Wednesday, a lazy Friday, an odd Saturday that feels like you should be productive, and an exhausted Sunday where you’re eager to return to anything that feels like work. After last week. of course, I don’t feel overworked; I feel like I’m being borne along by events like someone in a crowd who realizes he can lift up his feet and be carried to wherever things are leading.

Be assured I am grateful for many things, but I dislike the obligation of forced piety, of recounting my blessings in public. The list always ends up being High and Low – you know, family’s healthy, Netflix streaming has an attractive interface on the Apple TV. I could go on forever. That’s what I’m thankful for, then: when it comes to toting up the things for which an American can be thankful, you can just go on forever.

Also grateful I’m not flying this weekend, but I would not refuse the scanners. This I do not understand. If everyone was having their groinal departments mauled I would be annoyed, but if you only get the blue-glove love after you’ve turned down the scanners, well, go through the scanners. Underlying the anger – of course – is the idea that everyone has to suffer indignities and suspicion because the TSA refuses to consider some people more likely to kaboom a Boeing than others. Add to that the suspicion that so much of the security check-through is just make-believe, and you have people who view the process of flying with fury and dread – the former because it TAKES SO FARGIN’ LONG, and the latter because you don’t think it works. The last time I went through Security, the TSA officer stared at my boarding pass for a long time, then made a mark with a green highlighter. Oh. Okay. I gather he had a cybernetic implant in his eye that could verify the authenticity of the barcode someone printed off on the ship. When we boarded the scanner didn’t read my wife’s pass correctly, and the boarding-gate clerk called out 23-Alpha, when she was really 24-B. So before we left they called her name and asked her to hit the flight-attendant call button if she was on board. That was all it took. Okay, wheels up.

I don’t know. I’m not fearful of anything happening, but I know something will happen, and it will be a white swan, too. That’s what annoys. The “Black Swan” theory, based on a dense and pretentious book of the same name, says that unforeseen events are like “Black Swans,” a creature no one had seen and therefore did not believe existed, but once they were glimpsed they changed everything. So 9.11 and the like are swans noir, and they change everything, but we’re reacting to an anomaly. To me, the Black Swan just underlies the fact that there are swans, period. I see white-swan opportunities everywhere. It doesn’t make me feel easy to know they haven’t happened yet. Don’t know what’s holding them back, to be honest. In the meantime we go along with the usual cheerful fatalism: probably won’t happen, but if it does, come what mayhem.

Anyway! I hope you’re all where you want to be today, safe and sound, ready for Turkey and pie. We’re having a good old-fashioned Thanksgiving at Jasperwood, and it will be grand. I’ll have the yams. Dad loved the yams; I could never bring myself to try them, because they just looked like potatoes mixed with melted burnt-umber crayons, but years later I discovered their secret: sugar! But no relish plate, as we had when I was young – the radishes (Lutheran jalapenos, to repeat what I said on a recent podcast) or empty celery or evil olives. Sorry, but I’m not an olive man. Olives have a taste that says: this is why you don’t like olives. When I see olive bars at the grocery stores I rear back in horror, as if there is something different about all those olives. They’re still olives. This may be due to the canned varieties we had in the Dakotas once upon a time, but there was still something inherently olivesque about those black wet nodules, and it’s instructive that no one ever has said to me “I don’t care where we eat tonight as long as there’s olives. I’m really in the mood for olives.”

But if all tomorrow had was olives, I’d be grateful for that. Have a fine day. See you tomorrow.


36 Responses to Thanksgiving 2011

  1. Douglas says:

    Here’s wishing you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving James.

  2. Medium Wave says:

    In re the TSA: As the late Conway Twittry sang: “It’s only make believe.”

    Happy turkey day to James and all the other Bleatniks!

  3. Irish Al says:

    Happy Thanksgiving.

  4. Frank Waleczak says:

    Must have been a fantastic meal last year. Like Rip van Winkle, seems I’ve dozed off and awoken just in time for Thanksgiving 2011.
    Everyone please enjoy your dinner.

  5. Bob Lipton says:

    I’m thankful, among so many other things, that I got up this morning and there was a new Bleat. Thank you, James, and enjoy your olive-free meal.

    As to Black Swans, there’s an anecdote in one of Hammett’s Continental Op stories in which a man disappears and is eventually tracked down. He had been walking downtown and a steel girder fell off a construction projection and and almost killed him. He left, wandered for a few years and then settled down in exactly the same circumstances as before. The Op said “First he grew used to steel beams falling from the sky, and then he grew used to them not”


  6. Chuck says:

    Like you I grew up with green cocktail olives containing a pimento and those nasty black things in the can. Like you I vowed to live an olive free life.

    Then I was served, in an Italian restaurant, on a relish plate I believe, Sicilian style cracked olives. These things are in no way like the green and black mouth destroyers. The wife and I buy a quart of these delicious morsels every 2 weeks at an Italian grocery. They are the perfect snack for anyone on a low carb diet (that’s us).

    I’m not saying you should try ‘em. Just…think about it.

  7. kc says:

    I give thanks today – and every day – for the opportunities and people in my life today. Since I usually learn more from the obstacles, I am thankful that God allows me to keep learning. Not too many years ago, that would not have been my prayer.

    Today is my day off so the kids can have time with the other grandparents. I’ll do the required turkey and gravy (I think I could skip everything else on the menu) on Sunday. What a beautiful life!

    To James and His Lovely Bride and Natalie, to all the Bleatniks everywhere – Happy Thanksgiving!

  8. Emily says:

    It’s funny that you mention olives on Thanksgiving. I know someone with serious dietary hangups who won’t eat any of the usual Thanksgiving stuff (turkey, stuffing, etc.), but insists on always having olives on the big day. Usually the main dish is lasagna. Needless to say, we always politely decline the invitation to join him for Thanksgiving.

    Holidays are always a bit weird for us with our families living across the country (mine are in MN). We plan to eat at an Indian buffet today. Heresy, I know.

  9. GardenStater says:

    @Bob Lipton: Agreed. I’m very grateful that there wasn’t just an old piece of advertising art at the top of the Bleat, and no column.

    And I’ve read all of Hammett’s novels, and remember that story (though I can’t recall the title). Great stuff–I recommend Hammett to anyone that’s never read him.

    Just finished baking the Red Velvet Cake, and mixing the icing (which contains 2 sticks of butter, a pound of cream cheese, and 4 cups of powdered sugar). Yeah, it’s not pumpkin pie, but it’ll be delicious!

    Happy Thanksgiving, Bleatniks!

  10. bgbear says:

    I am thankful that turkeys and not swans were plentiful in colonial America.

    If people are worried about the “naked image” they should release a bunch of images of TSA employees to show how unsexy they are. Also I would like to see how many people could recognize themselves.

    Local nuclear physicist Bill Wattenburg pointed out that the scanned image doesn’t have to look like a person to do its job. Software can flatten or distort the image and still indicate the dense objects they are looking for.

    I agree with Lileks, it is the theater,time and all guilty till proven clean that is really the problem.

  11. Julia says:

    I can sit and eat an entire jar of olives all by myself.

    Our Official leader of the Opposition is quoted in the paper today:

    “Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff also weighed in on the pat-down controversy Wednesday to defend airport screeners.

    “If you’re in my business, you live in an airport. And so I have people touching my private parts all day long,” Ignatieff said.”


  12. hpoulter says:

    Mmmm…olives. The canned black ones aren’t much use, except sliced on pizza, and the little greenies with pimientos are usually blah, but I can eat loads of the good ones. To me, an olive bar makes perfect sense. I like those giant purple ones and the teensy nicoise olives particularly.

    We had a cat who craved olives – you couldn’t leave a salad alone – he would jump on the table and steal the olives out of it. He only liked calamatas and other flavorful olives, as well.

  13. RJ says:

    I am thankful that nearly every day I can come here and read something that is amusing and thoughtful. Thank you, James.

    And I’m also thankful that CDC is not prolific.

  14. madCanada says:

    Thanks, Host, for a wise & cool Bleat today. Thanks, USA crossing guards, for a pleasant crossing & wishing me a nice visit. So far so good! Happy US-TG to all Bleatniks.

  15. Dan Holway says:

    “come what mayhem”. Dammit, that little phrase is so perfect that I am almost tempted to pass it off as my own. Alas, I’m doomed to use it and then admit that I swiped it from that Lileks guy.

    I, too, would opt to be scanned and viewed by some unseen TSA agent in a sound proof booth somewhere. That’s because I both have nothing to hide and just don’t care if I am seen naked by some stranger whose job it is to look for dangerous devices strapped under people’s clothing. HOWEVER, the fact that I don’t personally care about being seen naked does not mean that I am insensitive to the feelings of those who find the thought to be mortifying, even more mortifying than being groped. The images of the bodies on the screens do not look like much at first, but if a negative image of it is made…voilà…naked person. And if people think that none of these images will ever be saved and eventually distributed or sold by any secretly viewing TSA agents, then they are being extremely naive. All it takes is a tiny digital camera and enough motivation to risk getting caught. If I were an attractive young woman or if I had children, I’d find this all much more unnerving than I do.

  16. Aodhan says:

    Happy Thanksgiving, James.

    I tried downloading your last Diner to listen to on the road, but the .Mac page shut me out.
    http://homepage.mac.com/lileks/.Public/Diner10/Diner103110.mp3 gave me: “Forbidden Access denied by access control list.”

    Presumably because MobileMe shut off homepages…could you please rehost your diners soon, in your copious spare time. : ) They help brighten my day! Thanks!

  17. Moishe3rd says:

    “The ‘Black Swan’ theory, based on a dense and pretentious book of the same name,”
    How droll.
    This book or theory came up on a forum last week so, I referenced it and read the basic premise’s and replied that it was total tripe. “Dense and pretentious” are also good.
    And now that I Googled it, I have my answer – Of what import is it that this book is suddenly one the Net? There is a movie of the same name which is coming out in December… with Natalie Portman, no less. Yum. (I have a weakness for beautiful Israelis.)

    Okay. come what mayhem, the whole theory is still a ridiculous load…

  18. @Emily:
    We plan to eat at an Indian buffet today. Heresy, I know.

    Well, that’s sort of what they did at the first Thanksgiving (at least the one we tell the stories about) wasn’t it?


  19. “As God is my witness Travis, I thought turkeys could fly.”

    To which I can only add, with enough thrust turkeys fly just fine.

    Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!

  20. swschrad says:

    @MarkEHurling: that’s not flight, that’s ballistics. actually wild turkeys fly fine. it’s the domestic bird-pigs that have it bred out of them.

    for white meat. mmmmmmmmmm, good trade.

    could be worse. story is told of the farmer who spent his life doing genetics with chickens. he had in mind bringing all the savor of one breed with all the meaty goodness of another. and he wanted three drumsticks to boot.

    eventually he got there… three-legged chickens. stout, solid, took care of themselves.

    a reporter stumbled over the story, and went out to get it. “Tell me,” he said as they got to the last of the videotape, “how do those three-legged chickens taste?”

    “Damn if I know, they run so fast, we haven’t been able to catch any to cook.”

    enjoy what ya got.

    happy Thanksgiving.

  21. Mmmm, curried turkey with lentils and water chestnuts. I’ve had that dish and it’s pretty good. Strange isn’t it, that only the curry might be out place?

    Of course the whole thing does sort of remind one the ending to “A Christmas Story.”

  22. Dianne says:

    Well, I have a pacemaker. So I have to turn down the scanner. I guess I deserve what’s coming to me then. I’m a grandmother who’s now afraid to fly to see her own grand children for fear of being molested by my own govt.

    Maybe it wouldn’t seem so skecthy if they weren’t stripping 5 y/o American children and humiliating obviously blameless American people who are old and/or have medical issues.

  23. Gene Dillenburg says:

    Just got back from a lovely holiday dinner with the family, including 82-year-old Dad and a passel of nieces and nephews who wanted to play “Apples to Apples,” and the introduced us to the current grade school version of the Exquisite Corpse. Then I open my browser and get a lovely surprise — a holiday Bleat! I would have thought James would take the day off; I will add the fact that he did not to my grateful list.

    Alas, I see a nit, and am unable to leave it unpicked. Half the federal holidays are tied to Mondays; the movable feasts “blow up the week” only 3/7ths of the time.

    Black olives, green peppers and sausage: pizza toppings of the gods.

  24. maryjo meyer says:

    I love olives. As a child I had to fill the relish tray and more olives went into me than in the little dishes. As a young bride I was famous for my olive loaf made with olives,also knox gelatin, Hellman’s and some sort of meat(maybe tuna) Ready for the gallery of regretable food but it was good. Big shock! olives just off the tree although the olive groves of Greece at twilight with donkey bells in distance are great memories.


  25. maryjo meyer says:

    forgot to say thanks for the lovely postings and to our unforgettable host and family. MJ

  26. AnnaN says:

    Heh, olives. If I ever can’t find the husband in Whole Foods, I know he’s hanging around the olive bar. Hated them as a kid, love them now and I’m not sure why.

    Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday (I suppose I should be writing this under Friday’s entry) and that no one loses any toes should they choose to voyage out into Black Friday shopping. I only do so virtually from the comfort of my computer fending off a tubby cat from my keyboard.

  27. fizzbin says:

    @bgbear..your suggestion that TSA Officers display scanned images of themselves is genius, pure genius!! The displays could be poster sized with the caption “Hi, I’m TSA Officer….and this is my scan”. Not only would this relax most passengers, it would provide needed comic relief :)

    “blue-glove love” jeepers, I laughed so hard at that I almost squirted my Cream o’ Wheat breakfast!
    Alas, since I carry an NVA/VC memento of my Big Nam soiree in a certain spot (listen, I was running AWAY from the frag, OK!!), I always set off the Guardian of Forever thingie which means I get taken to the side to get wanded. I swear TSA’s magnetometers are set to detect a single iron atom in my urine. Anyway, I have to pull out my ID, 101st Airborne Association ID, service connected VA ID, give the TSA scanner the tickely-super secret agent-handshake (which earns me a slap from male TSA scanners, or a giggle and the statement “I’ll give you an hour to stop that, then I’ll whisper for help” from the female TSA scanners) before I’m cleared to board. This happens every. stinking. time. I’m glad I’m an infrequent flyer, heh.

  28. EricW says:

    @fizzbin: Would you put a fig leaf in the appropriate places or a walkie talkie?

  29. JBKauai says:

    Shouldn’t it be Thanksgiving 2010 instead of Thanksgiving 2011?

  30. fizzbin says:

    @EricW…I’m thinking more like blinking neon arrows :)

  31. Alfondso says:

    @ Mark E. Hurling:
    “Oh! The humanity!”
    Just priceless, I think of this ep every year at this time. ;~)

  32. jsallison says:

    I missed my dad’s passing this past thanksgiving because I refuse to be treated like a potential terrorist. I think 20 years honorable service in the military ought to cause someone (competent) to suspect that I’m not a jihadi. So much for that idea, you sorry bastards.

  33. Bill McNutt says:

    I’ve got to admit, I’m disappointed that you aren’t upset about the scanners. Submitting to a stripsearch, albeit a digital one, OR to a groping is beneath the dignity of a free man,and it needs to stop.

    Olives, on the other hand, you can hate all you like. It will leave more for me. Green olives, black olives, salt-cured olives, sugar cured olives, stuff olives, roasted garlic olives . . . It’s ALL good.


  34. Ben says:

    The only time you’ll ever find me craving olives is if there’s a martini under it.

    This year, I found something to be truly thankful for. My wife and I drove up to Minnesota for the week to visit family, and I also took the opportunity to visit some of my own friends, without the wife. Friends who like to stay out late, later than my wife’s family stays awake, and they lock the door when they go do bed. And I don’t have a key, or any other way to get in the house. So when I found out I wasn’t going to be able to crash at my friend’s place, I tried to get ahold of my wife to see if she could unlock the door, but no answer. Tried all the numbers I had, and nobody in the house was still awake, so the door remained locked and I had nowhere to sleep. So, I slept in my car in the Cub parking lot. That was Monday morning.

    Fast forward a couple days, similar scenario on Wednesday night, except this time I was prepared: I knew the access code to the garage door (or so I thought), and I left specific instructions to leave the door unlocked. Got back there, the door was locked, and the garage code wasn’t working. Called phones, knocked on doors and windows, tried the back door, tried variations of the garage code, and then sat in my car for an hour trying to figure out what to do.

    You don’t realize how thankful you should be for a warm bed and a roof over your head until you’re locked outside on Thanksgiving Eve at 3am when the temperatures are dropping fast. I thought about going to a motel, but I was worried that they might not be open at this hour, or maybe they would all be full due to the holidays. I thought about sleeping in my car again, but the temps were supposed to be brutal Thursday morning. I thought about going back to my friend’s place, but he had already gone to sleep and wasn’t answering his phone. I thought about driving around all night, and that was starting to seem like my best option.

    And then the front door opened, because the person who had inadvertantly locked the door (my mother-in-law) woke up and realized her mistake, and came to let me in. So the next day, as we went around the table mentioning things to be thankful for, I had a good one. A roof and a bed. And I was really thankful for it.

  35. Kevin says:

    I, too, assumed that there would be no Bleatage over the break, so I am way late to this party, but:
    The Hammett story was in “The Maltese Falcon,” not one of the Continental Op books.
    And yes, we have SO much for which to be grateful. I am corresponding by Skype with friends in a small W. African country, and compared with what they routinely have to put up with, my life is inconceivably blessed.

  36. Ryan says:

    My wife LOVES olives. And cannot fathom why I don’t. I can’t even get within 10 feet of the olive bar at the grocery store, the smell makes me ill.

    As far as the fancy scanner machine, I don’t really care of some TSA agent is seeing my nether regions in weird hazy detail… Although I *am* a little bit concerned that there’s been very little (if any) safety testing on the devices, because they’re not medical devices, even though they are basically x-ray machines. Not that it matters overly, unless you are going through airport security on a daily basis.

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