TUESDAY, OCTOBER 31, 2023
Halloween delights: As we noted just last week, it's our favorite passage from Walden:
This is a delicious evening, when the whole body is one sense, and imbibes delight through every pore. I go and come with a strange liberty in Nature, a part of herself. As I walk along the stony shore of the pond in my shirt sleeves, though it is cool as well as cloudy and windy, and I see nothing special to attract me, all the elements are unusually congenial to me. The bullfrogs trump to usher in the night, and the note of the whippoorwill is borne on the rippling wind from over the water. Sympathy with the fluttering alder and poplar leaves almost takes away my breath...
The pleasure we take from the winter squash isn't quite that intense. But many neighbors in this neighborhood create displays of winter squash on their doorsteps at this time of year.
We imbibe delight from the winter squash every time we pass. We stop and look at them every time, these seasonal doorstep squash.
What is, or are, so-called "winter squash?" We weren't sure until we googled the term this week. The leading authority on the topic was willing to inform us:
Winter squash is an annual fruit representing several squash species within the genus Cucurbita. Late-growing, less symmetrical, odd-shaped, rough or warty varieties, small to medium in size, but with long-keeping qualities and hard rinds, are usually called winter squash...
Cultivars of winter squash that are round and orange are called pumpkins. In New Zealand and Australian English, the term "pumpkin" generally refers to the broader category called "winter squash."
According to the leading authority, certain cultivars of winter squash are known to the public as "pumpkins!"
Such cultivars are orange and round, and are perfectly fine. We're thinking to a larger degree of cultivars like the calabrazas:
Although winter squashes are grown in many regions, they are relatively economically unimportant, with few exceptions. They are grown extensively in tropical America, Japan, Northern Italy, and certain areas of the United States. The calabazas of the West Indies and the forms grown by the people of Mexico and Central America are not uniform, pure varieties but extremely variable in size, shape, and color.
The winter squash on local doorsteps are indeed extremely variable in size and shape and color. We stop to look at them every time. For one photographic representation, you can just click here.
Also, some local squash look a bit more like this; they basically look like blue pumpkins! We stop to look at them every time. As with Finch's mockingbird, it seems to us that they've agreed to look like that just to give us pleasure.
We've also been struck today by this report from Kevin Drum. It involves a personnel flap which has been underway at Cal Berkeley for at least several years.
Some graduate students got into the act before the start of last Saturday's Cal-USC football game. Drum reports the basics of the case, but we recommend that you read KQED's full report on this endless matter.
The dispute involves a tenured Berkeley professor (Isabella del Valle) who has acknowledged harassing a professor from Cal Davis (Joshua Clover).
What has this admitted harassment involved? Kevin quotes this part of the KQED report:
In an interview with KQED, del Valle acknowledged some of the behavior described in the investigative reports, including keying Clover’s car, vandalizing the area outside his apartment door, contacting his friends, posting an image of his partner online and leaving messages outside the home of his mother. Those messages included one that said “I raised a psychopath,” according to the university’s investigative reports.
....“I did write outside his door, ‘Here lives a pervert.’ I did that. And again, I’m not proud,” del Valle said. “If I had the opportunity to do things differently, I would do them differently.”
Drum doesn't quote this additional part of the (lengthy) KQED report:
Del Valle said since the suspension in the fall of 2021, she has not been teaching at UC Berkeley and has been living out of two suitcases because of the uncertainty around her future. She said she could accept an 18-month suspension UC Berkeley offered as a settlement, but has no plans to do so. If she doesn’t accept that outcome, the case could instead be brought before the university’s Privilege and Tenure Committee, and she could lose her tenure and be fired.
“My life is completely destroyed,” del Valle said. “I don’t want UC Berkeley to think that they can do this to a minority woman in order to protect a white, senior professor. It’s not acceptable.”
Clover has stirred his own share of controversy. He was widely criticized for a 2014 tweet saying he was thankful that all living police officers “would one day be dead.” He later advocated killing police officers, and suggested the easiest way would be to shoot them in the back. UC Davis’ chancellor condemned those statements in 2019 but said they were protected free speech.
Professor del Valle seems to think that she's being disciplined because she's a minority woman while Clover is an older white male. Some graduate students seem to believe this, and who knows? They could even be right!
For his part, Professor Clover has advocated shooting police officers in the back.
At Davis, the chancellor ruled, perhaps correctly, that this was protected free speech. Last weekend, a bunch of graduate students staged a full-blown "sit-in" demonstration on Professor del Valle's behalf.
Some winter squash seem to exist just to give visual pleasure. Again and again, some professors, chancellors and graduate students seem to exist for the principal reason of making the stars at Fox smile.
Is this personnel matter simply a crazy outlier? Or is it possibly, in some way, what our blue tribe is secretly like?
We think our tribe would be better off if we were able to come to terms with how crazy we can seem to be. Fox News is often (not always) dishonest and nuts. Then too, there are our own tribe's very occasional journeys off the rails!
Are we blues aware of that fact? Or is this a possible blind spot?