Banshees, Angry Octopuses and Free Lunch

To be warned of impending grief by grief, and other childhood obsessions

Banshees, Angry Octopuses and Free Lunch

What is it about November? October disappears like too little whipped cream on top of overheated hot chocolate. But November? November doesn’t melt. This week has been here so long, I can remember the start of it. And I know others have had longer weeks, like anyone who works at Twitter or the poor people counting ballots in Arizona.

Either way, I am very glad it is Friday. 

Riley had the day off work, so I pushed my work till later this evening. (Hi! It is later this evening!)  We got my glasses fixed. (I can see for the first time in six weeks!) And then we saw The Banshees of InisherinHave you heard of that movie? It’s about the end of a friendship. (Well…that’s one of the things it’s about.) 

I thought it would be dark! It’s set on the outskirts of the Irish Civil War and the preview is not…light-hearted. But I went into it expecting a Fargo vibe, I guess. And it is a much bleaker, knottier thing. I was so tense the whole time, my jaw can’t quite loosen up still. I really recommend it and also cannot recommend it, if that makes sense. (But you should see it.)  

The Banshees of Inisherin//Searchlight Pictures

It’s helpful to know about the Irish Civil War (and the centuries that led up to it) before seeing the movie. My piece this week about Derry Girls, colonization and conflict gives a bit of the background for the centuries part. And this from Alissa Wilkinson is a good start on the Irish Civil War bit. Knowing a little about banshees can’t hurt either.

Do you remember the first time you learned about banshees? For me, it was as a little tiny kid watching Darby O’Gill and the Little People. There’s a wailing banshee in that movie and she terrified me. And entranced me. 

I also was a four year old with an ENORMOUS crush on Sean Connery because of this movie.

I became so obsessed with wailing figure from Irish folklore. A banshee is a feminine spirit that you can hear keening the night before a family member dies. My biggest fear, even as a kindergartner, was the death of a family member. I thought hearing the banshee’s keening caused the death. So if you put your hands over your ears at the right time, your family member wouldn’t die. But how would you know when to cover your ears? It was impossible! Maybe it was best to keep your ears covered all the time. 

I understood the myth better as I got older. The banshee predicted the death, but she did not cause it. Her grief preceded what had to be. Gosh, that’s gorgeous and sad and terrifying. To be warned of grief by grief. When my dad died, I felt little again and I remember thinking, wildly, briefly - but I didn’t hear any keening last night.

Anyways, a few things worth reading this weekend. 

The Super-Skinny Ideal Isn’t ‘Back’ — It Never Left

Jessica Grose is doing some of the best writing on parenthood. This piece is no different. I love, love, love that Virginia Sole-Smith is quoted in the piece too. She writes Burnt Toast, one of my favorite newsletters. 

“The thin ideal has gone nowhere,” said Virginia Sole-Smith, who has written for The Times about eating and parenting and is the author of the forthcoming “Fat Talk: Parenting in the Age of Diet Culture.” Though she says there have been small steps toward mainstream awareness of anti-fat bias because of online discourse about it and the presence of highly admired fat women in popular culture, “it’s not like we canceled Kate Moss.” Sole-Smith added that high fashion has never really been size diverse, referencing a 2018 interview with Miuccia Prada — the designer and fashion scion after whom the label Miu Miu is named — where she said: “Size diversity, again, in theory I accept, but so far I didn’t have really the courage to do it.” Teenage girls in particular, Sole-Smith said, are “still under pressure to fit into this norm, and they’re exquisitely aware of how they don’t measure up.” 

This is another excellent exploration of beauty culture and bigotry from The Unpublishable.

The Beauty Industry Condemns Antisemitism' — But How? To truly counter antisemitism, brands must rethink the products, procedures, and standards they sell. 

“We don’t need Kanye West to remind us of the antisemitism that exists in the world. We only need to look to the economy of beauty.” 

I can’t wait to read The Grimkes by Kerri Greenidge. My copy should be arriving Monday. If you want to know more, I recommend this review from The New York Times, Slavery’s Indelible Stain on a White Abolitionist Legend

“The Grimkes,” by the historian Kerri Greenidge, provides a nuanced, revisionist account of an American family best known for a pair of white abolitionist sisters. 

Maybe it’s just some built up mid-term aggression, but I really, really loved this article about how there is a kind of octopus that throws stuff at their octopus friends. Sometimes this octopus is so mad it just wants to throw something. The article is good. The video of octopuses throwing things at each other is excellent. 

A study finds that the gloomy octopus — its real name — is in the small club of animals that toss things at other members of their own species.

That these octopuses apparently throw projectiles at each other puts them in an exclusive group. Animals ranging from elephants to antlions throw things, but only some social mammals — including, of course, humans — aim at members of the same species. Gloomy octopuses can now be added to this list.

“We know so little about the capabilities of marine animals,” Dr. Mann said. “These discoveries are important because they make people think about what’s going on just beneath the surface of the water.” 

While we’re still waiting on some results here in Colorado, I am overjoyed that some deeply important measures passed, in this very purple state - a state-wide tax hike to fund free school lunches for all school kids, decriminalization of mushrooms, fully funded Denver libraries and Denver taking responsibility for maintaining all sidewalks - a potential huge win for future accessibility. 

See you on Sunday. (Here’s to our survival.)