Episode 49: Me-Stew – Shel We Read a Poem?
British Voice: Shel We Read a Poem?
Russ: Hello all and welcome to Shel We Read a Poem. I’m Russ.
Lauren: I’m Lauren.
Russ: We should have been recording before we started recording because Lauren is wearing a shirt with a boob window.
Lauren: It’s not a boob window. It’s just sort of like my… I mean, it’s low cut, but it ends just above the boobs.
Russ: For any fans of Power Girl out there. It is a very good cosplay.
Lauren: I mean, if you like seeing a lot of…
Lauren: Clavicle. Both laugh. Ugh. I have not been feeling that well. And I’ve been brain farting on words a lot. I lost my first Wordle.
Russ: Oh, no. Today’s?
Lauren: No, it was a few days ago. The first day I really was like, Oh, I don’t feel well. I did not get that Wordle. That one was “whack.”
Russ: In so many ways. Oh, good. Now I have another person that I can send my Wordle results to.
Lauren: I don’t care what your Wordle results are. Oh, I’m sorry. You’re getting such a sad look.
Russ: You don’t?
Lauren: I don’t care what anybody’s results are.
Russ: Oh, but Frye [of Hey James, Watch This!] and I send each other results all the time.
Lauren: You can if you want.
Russ: What listeners might not know is we are generally… We record this on a Saturday and oftentimes we are both sort of co-drinking a cocktail as we’re doing it. And Lauren brought up a mason jar full of a nondescript yellow liquid. And I was like, “Ooh, mason jar cocktail.” Today to which she replied…
Lauren: It’s Emergen-C. Just Emergen-C. There’s nothing else and it’s water and Emergen-C. Actually, it’s not even Emergen-C. It’s off brand Emergen-C. CVS brand Emergen-C.
Russ: What’s the best cure for a head cold? That’d be gin and Emergen-C.
Lauren: Smells like vitamins.
Russ: As you said that the taste of vitamin C just like rushed into my mouth.
Lauren: Yeah, I think the B vitamins are the offensive tasting ones. C is just kind of sour.
Russ: Is that so? Because vitamins always have that vitamin taste. And I’m wondering what to attribute it to.
Lauren: Well, if you… A lot of energy drinks, I think, have that vitamin taste to it as well, which made me assume it was some kind of vitamin B that tastes like this.
Russ: I would learn oftentimes that when characters in movies are snorting cocaine, they’re actually snorting B 12.
Russ: Just a fun fact for all you people who care about poetry out there.
Lauren: I imagine that would give them some sort of effect.
Russ: Well, I mean, you can’t like overdose on B 12. Like you can have as much as you want. And it looks like cocaine.
Lauren: Yeah, it’s still B 12 up your nose, which…
Russ: I don’t imagine it feels great.
Lauren: No, I can… putting powder up your nose can’t feel great.
Russ: Now I definitely want to snort some B 12.
Lauren: Go for it.
Russ: Anywho what are we talking about today?
Lauren: Okay, so I’m going to start with a poem. “Me-Stew.” Russ gasps. Oh, that wasn’t the one you were going to do? Is it?
Okay, good. “Me-Stew.”
I have nothing to put in my stew, you see,
Not a bone or a bean or a black-eyed pea,
So I’ll just climb in the pot to see
If I can make a stew out of me.
I’ll put in some pepper and salt and I’ll sit
In the bubbling water—I won’t scream a bit.
I’ll sing while I simmer, I’ll smile while I’m stewing,
I’ll taste myself often to see how I’m doing.
I’ll stir me around with this big wooden spoon
And serve myself up at a quarter to noon.
So bring out your stew bowls,
You gobblers and snackers.
Farewell—and I hope you enjoy me with crackers!
And it is a picture of a person in a giant stew pot with a big chef hat and he’s just peeking over the top. You can just see his eyes and the bridge of his nose and he’s stirring himself with a big ladle. Not really that different to taking a bath, though.
Russ: Laughs. Oh, taking a bath is akin to auto cannibalism. Alright.
Lauren: So here’s why I’m bringing up this one today. So it was on Twitter today and I noticed there was this tweet by someone called @tricoter T-I-C-O-T-E-R. And despite having far fewer followers than I do, she was retweeted nearly 30,000 times. And I don’t even know if she took this picture but it was was a picture of a table of books in a bookstore with a sign that says “Pop Sugar 2020 Banned Books.” And on the table, including Fahrenheit 451, and The Lorax, is A Light in the Attic. And so Shel Silverstein was temporarily trending on Twitter, because of this being retweeted 30,000 times. And a lot of people were incensed that a light in the attic had ever been banned. And so, according to the National Coalition Against Censorship, the reason Shel Silverstein’s A Light in the Attic was banned: In 1985, it was banned at Cunningham Elementary School in Wisconsin, because the poem “How Not to Have to Dry the Dishes” was accused of, you know, encouraging children to break dishes in order to not have to do chores. So then another school in Wisconsin followed Cunningham’s lead about a year later forbidding the book over concerns that it glorified Satan, suicide, and cannibalism, and also encouraged children to be disobedient. So I don’t know. I don’t remember what poem in a light in the attic is encouraging cannibalism, but certainly “Me-Stew” is definitely like, pretty clearly like yum, yum, yum.
Russ: “Monsters I’ve Met” sort of has a vague depiction of what might be Satan. It kind of looks like your generic monster demon thing. And “Kidnapped” also has a child who is blindfolded and chained to a box of some sort.
Lauren: Yeah, that one is pretty freaky, that illustration.
Russ: Coming on the heels of… Our listeners should know that as we’re recording, this, Maus has just been banned by a very progressive and forward thinking Tennessee School District.
Lauren: Right. And that’s what’s prompting the conversation about banned books right now, is the people banning books about the Holocaust, which, growing up I never would have thought that teaching about the Holocaust would be controversial. But here we are.
Russ: You’d never think that the Nazis would be in charge again, though. And yet here we are.
Lauren: Here we are. Also Shel Silverstein is Jewish, which might have something to do with it. And the fact that he did illustrations for Playboy is something that people take umbrage with.
Russ: In Canada, we just we have the Freedom Convoy happening today.
Lauren: Oh I heard about that. For some reason they have those Confederate flags, even though there was no Confederacy in Canada.
Russ: And the Gadsden flags. It’s, it’s so beautiful, and so they’ve reached Ottawa today. And so the idea was they were going to truck across the province of Ontario to reach Ottawa to protest the vaccine mandate for truckers who are trucking into the United States. Nevermind the fact that the United States has exactly the same mandate. And so even if Canada were to acquiesce to these demands, it wouldn’t make any difference because the same mandate is in effect on both sides of the board.
Lauren: Right. Right.
Russ: Additionally, as these things often do, when you get Q involved, it is no longer about vaccine mandates, it is about everything and quote unquote, freedom, but that’s spelled Fre-dumb. So here’s the best part. The idea was, first off, it’s Saturday, so Parliament isn’t in session. And Trudeau, the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is currently isolating after a COVID exposure, and no one really knows where. And their idea was for him to like rescind the vaccine mandate, but also one of their demands is that he resign and instate a new government. So I’m not sure who would it be. Him that still has authority and be rescinding the vaccine mandate? Or would that be like his last last act? As he puts pen to paper, they just shoved him out of the chair? Or could it be that no one has really thought this through?
Lauren: Well, at least it’s not as bad as January 6.
Russ: At least not yet. It’s still happening. Like as of this moment, it’s still happening. So I haven’t gotten any reports that they’ve done anything silly, but I’m just kind of wondering, and as with all things, what’s the end game? I don’t know, maybe they’ll go somewhere else.
Lauren: Well, something we’ve seen with the January 6 and the insurrection is that there was more of a plan than we thought there was. That’s just that the crowd didn’t have a plan but there was plans to have alternate electors and such like that.
Russ: They plan to kill a bunch of people I guess if that’s a plan.
Russ: But I’m not sure who they would kill on Parliament Hill because no one’s there today.
Lauren: So are the truckers… The truckers that are coming through in the convoy, they are already vaccinated, right? Because they are trucking across the border.
Russ: No, no, the truckers are all Canadian.
Russ: Or unless, I mean, I’m sure there’s some actors in from other places, but if you’re unvaccinated, you can still take routes through Canada, which has a lot of truckers because Canada has a lot of empty space.
Lauren: You just can’t cross the border.
Russ: You just can’t cross the border.
Lauren: Okay. I have not been feeling well, this past week. And I had a PCR test and it was negative. And I took several different rapid antigen tests over a few days, and it was negative. And so all I can do is assume that I don’t have COVID. But it sure seems like that I have, you know, a mild I’ve-been-vaccinated version of it.
Russ: At this point, I just assume everything’s COVID.
Lauren: I know. But I don’t really know how I would have gotten it. I was an extra in a music video and couldn’t wear a mask for that. But they did test everybody coming in with a molecular test for COVID. So the chance of being exposed there was low. However, you know, they aren’t testing for colds or anything like that. So it would have been very easy for me to get a cold.
Russ: When you brought up “Me-Stew,” which is… When I was wee, I never knew what to make of that poem. That was a that was a strange one for me. But for whatever reason, Armin Meiwes popped back into my head, who I haven’t thought about in a very long time.
Lauren: Who’s that?
Russ: He was the German fellow who went to all of the prison, because he was convicted of murdering and eating a willing participant that he met over the internet.
Russ: And his story was, he wanted to eat someone, and thanks to the miracle that is the internet, he could meet someone who wanted to be eaten. Can you call it a fetish at that point, because you only get to exercise it once? Anyway, their paraphilias just happen to line up like beautiful, terrifying puzzle pieces. And so he ate the guy who wanted to be eaten. He is very much in prison.
Lauren: Yeah, it would make me think about Stranger in a Strange Land, Heinlein’s 1961 book, wherein at the end, the main… Spoilers!
Russ: Spoilers for 1961! Both laugh.
Lauren: At the end, Smitty, is killed by a mob, and then his followers eat him. And that’s, that’s how it was supposed to go. The meaning of the word in there, “grok,” is to understand, but it also means to consume. So to grok someone is either to understand them or to eat them.
Russ: You know, it’s funny, I’ve never read Stranger in a Strange Land.
Lauren: I read it when I was 15, I think.
Russ: The same thing happens at the end of Perfume by Patrick Süskind. The murderer is consumed by the people that he has just recently enthralled with the magical scent that he’s created. Man, Perfume is a weird book.
Lauren: I saw parts of the movie, but just walking in and out while my roommates were watching it. I don’t dislike the idea of eating someone after they’re dead in the form of ashes or something like that. And I think there are people who do consume the ashes of a cremated loved one.
Russ: I think it would be an odd ritual, but I wouldn’t have a problem with it. I’m the weirdo that would very much like to see what people tastes like.
Lauren: I don’t, cause prions.
Russ: Because prions. Not the brain matter. Like I don’t even eat the brain matter of shellfish and things, which is apparently popular.
Lauren: Right. But you don’t get Mad Cow Disease just from eating the brains of a cow.
Russ: You don’t?
Lauren: I don’t think so.
Russ: Hmm. I guess with like ground beef and stuff. It’s kind of just a big mishmash.
Lauren: Well, I don’t know. Maybe we should look this up. How do you get Mad Cow Disease? Do you have to eat the brain?
Russ: In humans it’s called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob.
Lauren: With kuru, do you have to eat the brains? I guess we should probably be looking at kuru.
Russ: Okay. According to this, it has to be near-ish to the brain.
Russ: Okay. Okay, so here’s kuru. So it can be transmitted by contaminated harvested brain products: corneal grafts, dural grafts, or electrode implants.
Russ: Wow, that’s very specific.
Lauren: Yeah, that is very specific. It makes me wonder how it got transmitted with electrical implants.
Russ: Okay, so this is talking about specifically kuru, as found in Papa New Guinea. This is the—I believe that’s pronounced Fore—people. While the men of the tribe ate the muscle tissue of the deceased women and children consumed other parts such as the brain and were therefore more likely to contract kuru. Stop eating people’s brains.
Lauren: So how do people get Mad Cow? Is it just contamination with brain matter? Because I don’t think people…
Russ: Yeah. And these days it’s not as common because —well, I mean, it’s not particularly common—because the beef industry has better screening methods. I think it came kind of to a head in the 80s. No. Man, this is what you call a Wikipedia rabbit hole, isn’t it?
Lauren: Well, a lot of people aren’t allowed to give blood even though we have this blood shortage because they lived in the UK at some point and may have eaten… They may have a prion somewhere.
Russ: Yeah. 100% And you’d never know until it decides to turn on one day. God prions are scary.
Russ: Oh, this is interesting. The first reported case in North America of Mad Cow Disease—or variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob which is Mad Cow in people—was December 1993, from Alberta, Canada. Hey, look at that. Oh, Canada.
Lauren: Was it from imported beef, or was it from somebody who had been in the UK?
Russ: The first known US occurrence came in December of the same year, but was later confirmed to be a cow of Canadian origin imported to the United States. And that cow was slaughtered on a farm near Yakima. The first fully domestic case of BSE was in Texas. Yay.
Russ: We’re number one.
Lauren: One of the interesting things about this freak out about Shel Silverstein getting banned is because a lot of people will remember the more delightful poems of Shel Silverstein. Russ laughs. “Invitation” and funny things like “Sick.” And I think this is true with us, too, that we completely forgot about all the rather creepy, grosser parts of Shel Silverstein’s work.
Russ: It’s very interesting to me that you have that feeling, because I think all of his poems are a little bit off.
Russ: Like even not even the quote unquote nice ones like “Invitation” or “Sick.” I think there’s, for me, at least, there’s dark tendrils. Like, the whole person isn’t a fleshy black, slimy morass, but like, they’ve definitely got some corruption creeping.
Lauren: You know, I have occasionally… When going down the Twitter feed of people talking about Shel Silverstein today, a few people will be like, “Am I the only one who found them really creepy? Not just the picture on the book, but found all his stuff really weird and creepy.” I’m like, “You’re quite accurate.” Everybody else is just remembering the sunshine and rainbows and none of the like, body horror and sense of impending doom. I could see why people would want to ban Shel Silverstein.
Russ: I can’t.
Lauren: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, I’m not saying… What I’m not saying is “I can see why somebody would have justification for banning Shel Silverstein.” I could see why somebody of a particular mindset would want to,
Russ: I wish I could put myself in that mindset.
Lauren: Oh! I have no sympathy for that mindset. But I can see it.
Russ: I can’t. To wake up in the morning—Here I am about to step in the shower—I get to look myself in the mirror and say, “You know what, I’m going to ban a book today.” I would hesitate before saying it, but I would call them subhuman. Like they’re not of the same species as me.
Lauren: But that person… Being able to see that doesn’t mean that I can see myself as that person. It’s more like I can create a virtual machine person that’s like… This person doesn’t really exist, but I can make a set of parameters that have this belief set and inhabit them for a moment to see what it’s like.
Russ: And I think that’s why you’re more empathetic and probably better than me.
Lauren: I don’t have any empathy for that person. I don’t feel anything good about that person at all. But it’s this theoretical person I can create and inhabit for a moment.
Russ: I’m glad you have that ability.
Lauren: Don’t you write fiction, sometimes?
Russ: But if I’m writing that person, I’m making fun of them.
Lauren: But you still set up a personality for them and a set of beliefs that they have and things like that.
Russ: But I have no idea what it would be like to feel that. When I when I have created that person, I was in a creative writing class, at one point. It was a poetry class, and we had to write a poem. It was like a personality poem, but we couldn’t use our personality. And so I wrote mine from the point of view of like a Bible thumping homophobe. And apparently—I don’t know if I just did a good job with it—but my professor publicly called me out in the class and was like, “You should be ashamed of yourself.”
Lauren: Oh no!
Russ: And I was like, I don’t actually think that. So like I was supposed to write from a personality. It was brutal. I wish I’d saved it but it was an online class. So it wasn’t like, but no it but it was like a public posting where you need to take a look at the mirror. And I was like, I’m not that! And so…
Lauren: Okay, so I think we’re doing the same thing. We’re just calling it by different words.
Russ: I think you still think of them as people.
Lauren: Theoretical people.
Russ: Laughs. I remember reading, it was a tweet and I would look it up now, but it lives on in my memory. It was students speaking before the school board, and they said something to the effect of, “I’m not sure where your head’s at. I’m not sure why you’re doing this because name me one time in history where a party has banned books and been on the right side of history.”
Lauren: Yeah, fair.
Russ: Oh, no.
Russ: My prettier half just sent me a text. It has a photo of Canadian geese on it. And it simply reads, “They’re back.”
Lauren: Oh, no. Canada geese. Well, we’ll be talking about them again. We haven’t talked about them in so many episodes.
Russ: Well, do you have any uplifting thoughts to leave our listeners?
Lauren: Wait! Wait. You haven’t read anything.
Russ: We went the whole time on one poem.
Lauren: Okay, well…
Russ: We’ve done that before.
Lauren: It’s true. It’s true. It’s true. Oh, have you seen… You probably haven’t. But have you seen Critical Role: The Legend of Vox Machina, the animated series they’re doing on Amazon Prime?
Russ: I have seen Critical Role. I’ve not seen this thing you’re talking about.
Lauren: Well, they have an animated series on Amazon Prime now. You should check it out. Because you might enjoy it. I’m curious to see what someone who doesn’t follow them religiously thinks about it.
Russ: Remember when D&D was exclusively the territory of basement dwellers?
Lauren: Yeah, they wouldn’t let me play.
Russ: Wow. And now it’s like a thing. Huh? What does it mean when nerdery becomes cool? How much nerdier do you… Maybe furries are just the new nerds.
Lauren: The new nerds?
Russ: Originally nerds were pariah and, you know, not worthy of being touched, and such like as that and you know that… Oh, that was another great one where, Texas… I can’t remember the school board in Texas.
Lauren: Oh, yeah. The litterboxes.
Russ: They had to issue a statement about how “No, we don’t have litter boxes in the bathroom.” God, I love Republicans. They are so stupid.
Lauren: If anybody hasn’t heard there was a rumor that because furries were furries they were demanding that their bathroom needs included litter boxes, and that didn’t happen.
Russ: But my fursona is a crow. So what would that be? Would I need like a stick to perch on in classrooms?
Lauren: That’s not fur! That’s feathers. That’s not gonna be a fursona.
Russ: That’s acceptable, though, right?
Lauren: I think it is. I think it’s a correct use of the term.
Russ: I think that’s more like the animal I would dress up as if given the choice. I think that’s different from a fursona.
Lauren: I wonder what I would do if given the choice. Maybe a red panda?
Lauren: You already have. You’ve been a cat? You were that Bojack Horseman character for that one Halloween.
Lauren: Oh, yeah. I mean, I have dressed as animals.
Russ: Carolyn. Princess Carolyn.
Lauren: But I don’t know. If I had to like choose one that I felt fit my personality. Eh, yeah, cat’s are pretty good.
Russ: I definitely be a crow.
Lauren: Cats are pretty good because they’re sometimes cheerful and loving and sometimes just like hissss!
Russ: And I’m just interested in shiny things and yelling at things I don’t understand.
Lauren: That’s pretty good too.
Russ: I can also make tools out of paper clips.