To Hell in a Handbasket
(I'll have fries with that)
Assemble, lesser demons!
So the other day, I said to someone (probably about guns and probably after writing this essay) we’re going to hell in a handbasket.
And of course that instantly distracted me because it is such a weird thing to say.
I looked it up (here’s what I found).
Since that was inconclusive I started wondering if the phrase had evolved from something else. Turns out “going to hell in a handcart” seems to be a popular variant in Britain, and “going to hell in a bucket” is popular on the internet (as well as a wide variety of lame puns such as “going to hell in a Hummer” and “in a handbag”).
Far as I can discern, the phrase is most likely evolved from an old mining practice of lowering children down in baskets to mines through smaller shafts. Thus “to Hell in a Hand Basket” meant a fast plunge into danger/death. Make sense?
That said, other parts of the internet claim that “handbaskets” were used to catch the head as it was lopped off by a guillotine and was reflective of the uncertainty and chaos which surrounded the French Revolution when anyone could suddenly be put to death for just about anything and for seemingly no legitimate reason—but I personally think this is some overthinking essayist reading into history. My money is still on the miners.
Just to confuse things, “Handbasket” is also a term for the woven gondola which carries passengers below a hot-air balloon, and has been in use since 1783 in France.
I am devastated that the benevolent dictator of my writing group stepped down this week. I feel bereft. Amputated. And, sure, he’s been doing it for 19 years and wanted a break, but so does my left arm.
At the same time, I got the sad news that Miss Josephine Trueschler, who was my most influential undergraduate English teacher, passed away. She found the term “professor” pretentious and refused to allow anyone to call her by that term. We obeyed. She was formidable at 5’2” in gray tweed suits and sported a pixie helmet of immobile white hair that made everyone think she was a nun. She taught me the Art of the Essay, played tennis every day long into her 70s and more, and laughed a lot at my hijinks. I wouldn’t have ever called them hijinks, but I did like to amuse her.
The poem she gave me, I still have. I will always keep. It is Sonnet XXX by Wm Shakespeare. It seems fitting to share it again today in her memory:
In other news, I was invited to record an episode for Kaitlin Solimine’s new podcast (started in May), Postpartum Production. It was SO much fun to talk with her about productivity and creativity and life-challenges—her podcast just launched this May. Tune in this Fall for my lousy definition of postpartum and my brilliant definition of production. (Episode 11.)
An amazing moment of global goodness:
Ending the newsletter today with astonishing global news. So first of all there’s this Lithuanian podcaster who decided to try to get his fans to raise 5 Million Euros to buy a top of the line military drone—proven to be effective in eliminating Russian Tanks —and to send this piece of hardware to the Ukraine.
(warning this podcast is very long and it is in Lithuanian, Russian, English, and who knows if there are more languages)
During this podcast just before he hits his goal of 5 million, he introduces his audience to an unbelievably dull English-speaking guy - Ukraine’s Ambassador to Lithuania - who starts a monologue around 45:57 and somehow manages to make national death and desperation sound boring. At 51:42 the host asks a good question about budding partnerships between Ukraine and other nations and the ambassador manages to be even more dull and uncharismatic than before. He plods through tedious language without inflection for minutes on end. Comically - the telethon number is going to flip to 5 million so soon that the tension is unbelievable. The host encourages the dull speaker to start speaking again and we wait for the finish line to be crossed…. And at 59:00 they do it. The Lithuanians have crowdsourced enough money for a top-grade military drone. They hit their staggering 5 million euro goal and the host is holding back but he announces it and the ambassador DOES NOT FLINCH and continues speaking in the same completely dull tone of voice. The host can’t wait to get him off to joyously thank all the contributors (soon it switches back to English) — what an accomplishment. Crowdfunding five million Euros in an hour.
This changed the WORLD because hello - people buying military grade equipment to send to other countries to hopefully turn the tide of a war? This is actually quite a huge big deal and rather gorgeously globally democratic.
But that’s not the end of the story.
On Friday, the Turkish firm that makes these special military drones discovered that Lithuania was going to buy one to gift to the Ukraine with crowdfunded money and they DONATED the drone to the Ukraine. They told Lithuanians to use the 6 million euros they had collected for humanitarian aid instead. Here’s the article from Reuters. I am not used to feeling weepy reading about military equipment.
Guys. This is not a handbasket. This is a cornucopia of good will.