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The Culture I’m Not Promoting

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Today’s theme – broadly interpreted (by this broad) – is Arts and Literature

That's funny! No, that's pathetic!

She’s funny! No, she’s pathetic!

*   *   *

Department of Things I Am Not Afraid to Confess

“Carefully orchestrated pandiculations follow a routine: Lips part, the tongue hunkers down, and muscles in the face, mouth and diaphragm engage as the head tilts back.”
(Laura Sanders, Science News, May 7, 2011)

I am a pandiculator; that is, I am one who pandiculates. And it has nothing to do with fantasizing after watching a certain Daniel Day-Lewis movie. [1]

You want to pandiculate. Admit it. And you already (probably) do, and don’t realize it.

Your cat pandiculates (just as you’ve always suspected), and so does your dog and your hamster.  Your snake?  Well, that might be stretching it (rim shot!).

Why do quadrupeds have all the fun?

Why do quadrupeds have all the fun?

*   *   *

Blast From the Past: The Domes Live On

“The trill of panpipes from a yurt wafted across the mulch hillocks of the Domes, a 1970s experiment in communal housing in which students live in igloo-like fiberglass domes….”

Thus begins Wednesday’s New York Times article about The Domes at UC Davis. I was surprised and pleased to see the article; I had no idea the domes still existed.

I was not a Dom-ie during my UC Davis years. My on-campus housing situation consisted of spending four quarters on the legendary 3rd Floor of Bixby, [2] one of the campus’ high rise dorms.  I had an acquaintance who lived in the Domes, and visited her there, once.  Although I admired the concept of the Domes I loathed the name students gave the complex (“Baggins End”). [3]

Still, they were – they are – kinda cute.

UCDDomes

*   *   *

Department of Theatrical Plays You Must See

We licked postage stamps…
we didn’t have answering machines, you had to call people back!

No one was more surprised than moiself to find moiself tearing up at a Christopher Durang comedy. Specifically, during Act 2 of Portland Center Stage’s production of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.

Vanya’s poignant, digressive tirade – prefaced by the apology/declaration Boomers feel is necessary when expressing a longing for something from our past – contained two comments/observations that made me catch my breath in recognition and sadness.  I found myself mourning the validity of Vanya’s comments, then, an hour or so later I wondered,  does even recognizing the validity of those comments mean that I’ve gotten old?

I’m NOT a conservative!… But there are things I miss about the past.
We have no shared memories anymore!

Regarding the latter, I realize that you can’t miss what you’ve never had.  Nevertheless, I’ve tried to explain to my (now young adult) children the collective consciousness of popular culture that arose from the post WWII era, that began to fade with the advent of cable TV, and that no longer seems possible in these days of 24 hour broadcasts of 758 channels (not to mention the plethora of internet media outlets). Sure, many of the shows were lousy or just plain dull.  But we all watched them, and thus had the same references.  We all watched the same lousy shows.

...and we could all sing along to the lousy theme songs!

We could all sing along to the lousy theme songs!

 

During the play I was seated next to two lovely [4] gentlemen, and struck up a conversation with them after the final curtain.  One of them has extensive experience in the performing arts and writes reviews of regional theatrical productions.  If you like live theatre, [5] check out his blog, DennisSparksReviews.

*   *   *

Department of, But, Really

Content warning: seriously petty snark ahead.

A known photo-phobic such as moiself has no right to criticize the unattractiveness of another person’s publicity shot.  That said, guess what I’m about to do?

It’s like this. I assume that when a musical group is taking or posing for a promo shot, they want to look “good,” whatever that entails for …well, for their individual egos, for the image the band is trying to project, for the fan base to which they are trying to appeal, their musical genre, etc. The elements that make for an “attractive” picture for The Dead Kennedys [6]

I feel pretty, oh so pretty....

I feel pretty, oh so pretty….

 

…likely are significantly different than those of the promo shots commissioned by The Portland Cello Project.

Do these ginormous violins make our butts look big?

Do these ginormous violins make our butts look big?

Different strokes – yep. I get that.

Still… I could search the universe of inhabitable planets, other worlds, other species, both virtual and speculative, and it is hard to imagine that I would find a sentient being with a more homely, less attractive hairstyle and overall “look” than that borne by the sole female member of The Decemberists, [7] who is featured front and center in the band’s just shoot me now I can’t believe someone approved this shot photo on the cover of The Oregonian’s arts & entertainment section last Friday.

Decemberists

 

The male members of the band fare a smidge better, if you go for the Awkward and Slightly Bored Bohemian Accounts Payable Clerk ®  mode. As for the lady boho, nothing says Hipper-than-Thou-Indie-folk-rock-Darlings like musicians who project all the free spirit vibe of a runner-up to the Miss 1919 Frumpy Librarian contest crossed with your dowdy Aunt Erva’s it’s-five-o’clock-where’s-my-Jim-Beam-tumbler sneer.

I’m trying to think of an excuse.  Was there no one there to look through the photographer’s lens and say, whoa, Betty!?  Friends don’t let friends photograph drunk.

*   *   *

Department of But What Matters in the End Has Nothing To Do With Your Hair
Aka, Books You Must Read

Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

 After reading this amazing, absorbing, provocative, compassionate, thought-provoking book, a certain thought kept coming to my mind:

When it comes to end of life medical care, safety – rather, the concern over/illusion of safety – is the enemy of happiness and purpose.

Anyone who has older friends and family members – or friends and family of any age who are facing mortal illness – should read this book. You who will, one day sooner or later, be older and in more frail health than you are today – you should read this book.

I think that covers it.

Well, what are you waiting for?!

What are you waiting for?!

*   *   *

☼   K Explains It All   ☼

“Do you know what this is?” I asked my son.

K had entered my office, attracted and bemused by the danger!-explosion!-chase!-pow!-kablooey! coming from my computer screen. I’d clicked on a video posted on a friend’s FB page – a trailer for an upcoming movie I’d never heard of, based on a book I’d never read.

“It’s like the Hunger Games, only shitty,” K sneered. “Another YA book about another dystopian future, where everyone is evil or in peril until they are saved by the one special snowflake character.”

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

BOOM

*   *   *

May your special snowflake be there when it matters (packing serious heat, of course, and a fetching hipster hairdo), and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] I will find you!

[2] Third floor Bixby had groupies – students living on other floors of Bixby, or even from other dorms, who came to our floor to hang out because we were way too much fun.

[3] There seemed to be no escaping Tolkien references in the late ’70s, which was torture for those of us who found the Hobbit/Lord of the Rings books and their cultish fans to be an interminable, that’s-so-junior-high snooze fest.

[4] I adore being able to accurately describe someone in that way. I’m using my Masterpiece Theatre typing accent, in case you didn’t notice.

[5] And if you don’t, you should. No pandiculating required.

[6] Whatever happened to Jello Biafra, one of the great band member names of all time?

[7] Some of their songs I live very much, as much as I loathe the Portland Special Darling status they have acquired with some local critics (a status certain members of the band seem to take seriously) .

The Orthodox Eyes I’m Not Polluting

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We now pause for a moment of rejoicing before the rants.

new kayak

The new kayak is here! The new kayak is here!

We now return to our station’s previously scheduled programming.

*   *   *

Department of WTF
Aka, One of the Saddest Things I’ve Read During the Past Week.

Yes, the terrorist attack in Paris was sadder.  And then, there was the article in the NY Times: Newspaper in Israel Scrubs Women From a Photo of Paris Unity Rally .

Angela Merkel and other world leaders and dignitaries were removed from the picture by the Israeli newspaper’s editors because the image of female forms are a temptation and presumed pollutant to an Ultra-Orthodox Jewish man’s eyes.

Got that? An Ultra Orthodox Jew’s eyes must remain “pure” – eyes that, because they belong to a Jew, would have been removed from history just a generation ago, if another group of orthodox fanatics had had their way.

So. Your Ultra-Orthodox (men’s) eyes will be “pure” – whatever the superstitious fuck that means – while your minds will remain ignorant, closed and prejudiced.  Pray on, brothers.

Does my bigotry make my butt look fat?

Does my bigotry make my butt look fat?

*   *   *

“The role of a cartoon is in fact to insult and ridicule and to attack and to defend against the overreach of people and institutions who, in the name of God or in the name of government or the name of whatever the particular institution it is, threaten the right and security of people to freely express their own ideas and live their lives.”

( Steve Benson, Pulitzer Prize winning editorial cartoonist for The Arizona Republic,
Ex-Mormon, eldest grandchild of LDS Church President Ezra Taft Benson,
interviewed on Freethought Radio, 1-10-15 )

Je suis Charlie.

Except that, of course, I’m not.

Last week I did not comment on the murders at French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.  I held my tongue [1] for a variety of reasons, from the principled to the pedestrian. The former would include my disdain for the instant analysis (read: lack of introspection) that seems to be inspired by the plethora of internet social media outlets. The latter includes the fact that I just hadn’t the stomach for it.

One week later, now I can claim distance, wisdom, and introspection?  Maybe just a steadier gut.

The following is not one of my legendary digressions.

You'll find the segue. I know you will, boys and girls.

You’ll find the segue. I know you will, boys and girls.

I’ve previously mentioned how fiction writers’ guidelines for certain literary publications [2] have made me both laugh aloud and cringe. Literary journals often flatter (read: embarrass) themselves by the pretentious, self-important and bombastic claims they make for the kinds of work they seek and publish.  What particularly frosts my butt are statements from journals that claim to seek work that is “brave” and or “risk-taking.”

Brave?

REALLY

I always make it a point to look at sample issues of journals whose guidelines make such claims, and have yet to find any story or article in them makes me admire – or even think of – the “courage” it must have taken to write it. A journal says it seeks stories that are “brave” and “risk-taking” – brave, how? I wonder, and risking…what…for what?

Ah, you dared to use non-standard grammar and punctuation; you had the courage to ignore standard plot conventions?  [3] You bold, heroic risk-taker – you penned  (yet another) another titty-ass nihilistic sex scene, that you wouldn’t have dared to do in your creative writing class or community arts center “memoir-ring your life” workshop?

We flatter (read: embarrass) ourselves for the most part – we North American writers – by even daring to think that we take risks that in any way require strength of character or some form of ethical bravery.

When I was submitting The Mighty Quinn manuscript I received feedback from several editors and publishers who directly or obliquely implied that the book would be a hard sell because:

* it featured non-religious, free-thinking children (and adults) as protagonists
*  although it had sympathetic religious characters, Quinn’s antagonist was a religious bully (and the son of an abusive preacher man)
*  without “toning down” the freethought- related themes, a publisher would risk negative reviews (or reviewer and bookseller boycotts) when word spread in the religious community.

Poor me.  How brave of me to keep submitting the manuscript.  Except, not.  Not at all.

burning book

Despite veiled intimations of boycott, TMQ eventually found a publisher. TMQ’s publisher’s (then) publicity director alerted me to one of the reviews of TMQ, written by a reviewer using the title Rev. _____. [4]  The review was generally positive, and also revealed the reviewer’s ambivalence for liking the book  (“…I was a little concerned with the handling of religion and the fact that the boy with the biggest problems was the son of a family that was religious. This could potentially open up lots of questions that should be primarily handled by parents…”).

Who knows what happened (or is still happening) re TMQ‘s reviewing and distribution status.  Silent boycotts and other kinds of subversion can be organized (e.g. a refusal to stock or review a title) without fanfare and opportunity to counter-protest. The book, while hardly biting satire, contains several thematic elements involving characters openly joking about/raise questions about religion. No one (to my knowledge) threatened editors or bookstore owners with vandalism or assassination if they considered publishing or stocking The Mighty Quinn.  But, if you are a European editorial cartoonist who satirizes religious fanaticism, you and your colleagues are at risk of attack and murder, as we’ve seen too many times in the past and now, in Paris.

Satire is a genre of literature, and sometimes graphic and performing arts, in which vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, corporations, government or society itself, into improvement.
Although satire is usually meant to be humorous, its greater purpose is often constructive social criticism, using wit as a weapon and as a tool to draw attention to both particular and wider issues in society.

(Wikpedia definition for “Satire”)

I assert that the right to hold all ideas up to scrutiny, the right – some of us say, the obligation – to mock that which is mock-worthy is as crucial to a functioning democracy as the right to peaceably assembly or cast a ballot.

“The only way to get even with anybody is to ridicule them.”
“After all the people that (Hitler) was responsible for killing and after utterly destroying half the world, I just thought the only weapon I’ve really got is comedy. And if I can make this guy ludicrous, if I can make you laugh at him, then it’s a victory of sorts. You can’t get on a soapbox with these orators, because they’re very good at convincing the masses that they’re right. But if you can make them look ridiculous, you can win over the people.”
(Mel Brooks)

Hitler

*   *   *

Speaking of the two hallmarks of democracy – freedom of the press, and the obligation to mock that which needs or deserves mocking – just as I collect (or, used to collect [5] ) pretentious and overblown writers guidelines, fellow writer/attorney friend SCM and I alert each other when we come across a really juicy Author’s Bio. I recently received this email from her:

I was interested in reading one of this woman’s novels…until I read her bio.

The best (read, of course: worst) author’s bios are always/obviously penned by the writer, and usually corroborate the dictum that the less professional and self-confident the writer, the longer the bio (in some cases, like the one SCM cited, they approach novella length).

I had to follow the link, and was so taken with the sheer self-aggrandizing, TMI, verbal diarrhea-osity of it I had to meet SCM for lunch to celebrate her find.  Also, I wanted to encourage SCM to follow up on her brilliant idea, to start a blog: Bad Author Bios. This blog will consist solely of links to…can you guess?  We discussed the possibility that, after a few weeks, she will be receiving so many links from readers the blog will practically write itself – except for the part where she will have to include screen shots as well as links. [6]

To past, present and future composers of authors bios: here’s what readers need to know. What is relevant about a writer is what you write and what you’ve written. Your mommy and daddy and your former grade school teachers may be interested in your lifelong love of hamsters, your current triathlon training and your name-dropping of Celebrity D list activists you brushed shoulders with in college.  The rest of us, not so much.

highhorse

Behold the Contributor Notes section of The New Yorker.  These writers are published in The New Yorker, FFS. They get one or two lines about their story or latest book.  Concise, and classy.

I understand that certain publishers or editors want more, and will sometimes ask their authors and contributors to “flesh out” a bio because…because it’s their policy, or whatever. I’ve been there. [7] But it’s unlikely they asked you to list the literary equivalent of your high school sports awards, the location of the births of your children, your academic scholarships and your devotion to your superstition religion.  When it is your choice, keep it short.

Speaking of which, in next week’s blog, I’m going to be recommending a book by an author who lists himself as First Name Last Name.  That’s it.  He is a physician, a highly educated and skilled and respected medical doctor, but does not bill himself as First Name Last Name, M.D.  So. If this accomplished person, who has written three best-selling books and articles for the New York Times and directs a center for health systems innovations and chairs a nonprofit organization which works to make surgery safe globally – if this person can be humble, you, who are just a writer and not also a doctor and a writer, [8] can cut the 90 paragraph bio, okay?

*   *   *

Don’t be humble. You’re not that great.

Golda Meir

*   *   *

 

May you be successful enough to have strangers enjoy (and critique) your bio notes,
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] “I held my typing fingers” just doesn’t do it, for me.

[2] Primarily located in the USA or Canada.

[3] “Speculative” fiction; i.e., you haven’t the talent to write a story that makes sense.

[4] Which indicates the reviewer wants you to know he’s an ordained Christian minister.

[5] It got so depressing I deleted the file one day…much to my regret. There were some gems in there.

[6] Writers who find out they’ve been shamed on the blog can, of course, edit their bios and attempt to cover their ego tracks.

[7] And made up silly stuff in an effort to be entertaining, if not personally revealing.

[8] Yeah, yeah, the petty part of me hates him for that.

The Toxins I’m Not Cleansing

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Department of Just Sayin’
Aka, Is It Over Yet?

I hate New Year’s Eve.  Always have. Correction: there have been breaks in the “always.”  Including the years my family celebrated with neighbor/friends, sharing a dinner-and-games night.  But mostly, it has always been a strange, awkward(t) kind of evening – an I should be having fun dammit/why am I not light-hearted and care-free kind of night. Instead, it’s a reminder of how quickly the last year flew by, what was intended and what fell through the cracks, one more reminder of dreams gone by/deferred, one more year closer to admitting dreams that were never to be realized….

Cry me a river. Pass the popcorn; it’s 12:24 am, is the last yahoo done banging the damn pot lids/setting off the mortars and can I go to sleep now and wake up and pretend it’s March already?

"Is it midnight yet? Have we had fun?"

“Is it midnight yet? Have we had fun?”

*   *   *

Happy New Year, Indeed

MH’s attention was drawn to a certain object on the dish air drying rack. I waited for the inevitable comment.

“What’s this?” he asked, with a Twinkle in His Eye ® . He picked up the object, turned it back and forth in his hand, and attempted to unscrew its top.

“It does not take batteries,” I smirked, “and no, it’s not what you’re thinking.”

a pestle without its mortar is like a fish without a bicycle.

a pestle without its mortar is like a fish without a bicycle.

*   *   *

Start the New Year clean with this “detoxifying” dietary supplement, transdermal patch, kidney-flushing herbal tea, colon cleanser….

The come-on email that somehow escaped my spam filter, caused me pause for a moment to consider the quackery that is not just particular to the holiday season.

“Detoxing – the idea that you can flush your system of impurities and leave your organs squeaky clean and raring to go – is a scam.
It’s a pseudo-medical concept designed to sell you things.”

“Let’s be clear,” says Edzard Ernst, emeritus professor of complementary medicine at Exeter University, “there are two types of detox: one is respectable and the other isn’t.”
The respectable one, he says, is the medical treatment of people with life-threatening drug addictions. “The other is the word being hijacked by entrepreneurs, quacks and charlatans to sell a bogus treatment that allegedly detoxifies your body of toxins you’re supposed to have accumulated.”

I generally hold and/or bite my tongue when otherwise seemingly intelligent (or obviously dense but well-meaning and nice) folks uses the Important-And-Sciency-Sounding-Poison-Language ©  with me.  The young man who, after finishing giving me a blissful foot massage advised me to drink a lot of water in the next few hours to help my body “flush out of toxins” stimulated by the massage?  I just smiled dreamily.  I was under the spell of the massage’s endorphin rush; I didn’t have the energy to mouth a simple, if sincerely incredulous, Dude, really? What are you saying, and who told you that?

Toxins? What, exactly, are these toxins?

WORD.

I often wonder if the purveyors of toxin-speak even know the definition of the word they use so heedlessly yet authoritatively?

A toxin (from Ancient Greek: τοξικόν toxikon) is a poisonous substance produced within living cells or organisms.

So, you’re saying, without blood test results or other evidence to back up your claim, that there is poison in my body?  What, someone slipped rattlesnake venom in my tea?

When I ask for evidence of specific toxins that are lurking, unflushed, in my body, [1] I receive analogies.  The toxin-believing crowd can’t exactly describe what the toxins are, nor what the detox process is, so they resort to analogies.  False analogies.  “Just like we wash our hair and brush our teeth…”  My favorites are the ones having to do with a machine:  “Just like we must periodically flush our car’s coolant system…”

That is incorrect; you forfeit the bonus round.

As much as it may seem to have a mind of its own, [2] your Honda Civic is not a living organism.  Machines have no way to clean themselves. The crucial systems of the human body evolved to do so.  The kidneys, liver, bowels –  the organs most frequently cited by the Toxin Touters – all are self-cleansing.  When they fail, due to disease or injury or abuse, medical intervention is necessary.

This is your liver.

This is your liver.

This is your liver on David Crosby.

This is your liver on David Crosby 

Like all fast fixes – from miracle diets to wrinkle creams – the idea that we can wash away our lifestyle transgressions with a pill, a drink, a gargle or even an “internal cleanse” [3] is an attractive idea to some, and much easier than making changes to nutrition, exercise and other lifestyle habits. [4] And most of us seem to hold some vague ideas that we are doing something wrong, or that our modern, technologically dependent life contaminates us with…well, with bad things. [5]  And we need to get rid of these bad things.

Harriet Hall, aka “the SkepDoc,” is a retired physician and former Air Force flight surgeon who researches and writes about medicine, so-called “alternative and complementary medicine,” and quackery and critical thinking.  According to Hall, the detox industry’s rhetoric is “… reminiscent of religious fasting and purification rites (Jewish mikvah, shamans using smoke, American Indians sweat lodges). It’s mysticism, not science.”

Our bodies come equipped with livers, kidneys, stomachs, intestines, enzymes and metabolic processes that deal with toxins efficiently with no outside help. When kidneys fail, we use dialysis.  In certain cases of poisoning with large amounts of heavy metals, we may use chelation therapy.  In addiction treatment, “detox” is achieved by simply abstaining from drugs or alcohol for a few days.  …..  there is no medical evidence to support any other methods or benefits of “detoxification.” [6]

 

detox

*   *   *

Department of Ch-ch-ch changes

As of January 1, 2015, Scarletta Press, publisher of my middle grade novel, The Mighty Quinn, is no longer Scarletta Press. The Publisher Formerly Known as Scarletta is now Mighty Media Press. And they have this to say about that:

Mighty Media Press delivers captivating books and
media that ignite a child’s curiosity, imagination,
social awareness, and sense of adventure.
Mighty Kids. Mighty Minds. Mighty Future.
Be Mighty!

Although I like the name change, I be mighty skeptical (if just a bit less mighty hopeful) as to how this will impact their promotion efforts for one of their Scarletta titles…even though, one might reasonably think, The Mighty Quinn, ahem, hello, can you say, “tie-in?”  I knew you could.

"The what formerly known as what?"

“The what formerly known as what?”

*   *   *

Department of Because It Works

Dateline: New Year’s Day.  MH and I, out for a walk.  MH asks if I’m taking him to Sports Look, a local restaurant/sport bar, for dinner.  “For dinner?” I am confused.  I know he’s referring to being able to watch The Rose Bowl game (it’s only being broadcast on ESPN, and we are the holdouts who don’t have cable), which is mildly important to us this year, lukewarm college sports fans that we are, because an Oregon team is playing a Florida team. But the game starts at 2pm, I reminded him, not dinner time.  Also, it’s New Year’s Day, and, remember, I always make Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day.

I picked up that tradition – serving black-eyed peas and rice, green and some cornbread concoction “for luck and prosperity in the New Year” –  from my Tennessee-raised father.  I maintain the tradition partially because I like my version of Hoppin’ John, and partially in memory of my dad.

Besides, I explained to MH, I want us to benefit from the folk wisdom of poor people who ate beans and rice every year, believing it would bring them good luck and prosperity, who then again the following year were too poor to serve anything fancier than beans and rice on New Year’s Day.

Remember how well it worked last year?

Remember how well it worked last year?

*   *   *

Department of Making My Daughter Groan

Driving home from lunch, Belle pointed out a rainbow grazing the horizon.  “Now, if there were two of them,” I wondered aloud, “would the first one be the rainbow and the other a rainbro?”

rainbros

*   *   *

An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.
(Bill Vaughn)

Happiness is too many things these days for anyone to wish it on anyone lightly. So let’s just wish each other a bile-less New Year and leave it at that.
(Judith Crist)

*   *   *

May the happiness you seek be bile-free, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] And I have done this, with those who have used the toxin jargon.

[2] Especially when piloted by teen drivers.

[3] It’s only two days into the new year and I just don’t want to type enema.

[4] Why give up my bi-weekly craft beer six pack & cheesecake fest when I can do a bi-yearly liver cleanse?

[5] I actually think this is likely true, but want evidence before I put any purported “cleanser” up my hoo-haw, an organ which evolved to expel, not intake.

[6] Detox Quackery (Harriet Hall, the SkepDoc, Skeptic, v. 14 #1 2008)

The Friend I’m Not Praying For

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“If you talked into your hair dryer and said you were communicating with someone in outer space, they’d put you away.  But take away the hair dryer, and you’re praying.”
-Sam Harris

prayer

I seeing miss my sweet, witty, intelligent, compassionate, bawdy, hugs & sloppy kisses friend, HUL.  She gets back here (she used to live in Oregon) to visit when she can, and although it seems like there’s no distance between us when we phone or email or text, she lives 1300 miles away.  And she is having surgery today.  I will be thinking of her, and talking to her after the surgery as I’ve talked to her before and after her cancer diagnosis, commiserating about the shitty situation and brainstorming treatment options, colorfully cursing the brusque and clueless medical personnel she’s encountered and lavishly praising the smart, kind and competent ones.

I will not be praying for HUL. Nor will I be

* burning special incense for her
* anointing her head with oil
* finding a faith healer to perform a laying on of hands
* doing a Wiccan or Tibetan healing chant
* performing a Haipule [1]or smudging ceremony [2]
* sacrificing a child
* using crystals to balance her energy
* casting a voodoo healing spell
* sending her to a Hakim (traditional Muslim healer) for Unani medicine [3]

Or singing her favorite soccer team’s fight song….or performing any of the rituals many human beings once somehow (and, sadly, still) thought might cause the gods/spirits/cosmic energies to look upon them with favor and cure their maladies.

What the heck. I could pick one of those things, or cover the bases and do ‘em all, as they have an equal likelihood of affecting the outcome of HUL’s surgery and subsequent prognosis.

HUL, righteously religion-free babe that she is, is not asking me, or anyone, to pray for her.

Not even moi?

Not even moi?

Her first surgery will be done in a Catholic-run hospital. HUL told me the only activity resembling praying that she might do is to beseech the friend who’s picking her up after surgery to refrain from vandalizing crucifixes and the like, should said friend spot any Catholibilia [4] in HUL’s room.

HUL will not be posting the news of her illness and surgery on any social media sites.  She wants to control access to this information and maintain a modicum of privacy.  She also wants to avoid the jaw-clenching, energy-sucking vibes produced by People Who Mean Well ® and who express their sentiments, even to those of us whom they know are religion-free, via the hackneyed expression [5] ,  I’ll be praying for you.

praying

She and I – and just about every atheist-agnostic-Bright-humanist-skeptic-freethinker on the planet – have commiserated over this phenomenon.  We realize the expression is a kneejerk, cultural/social, nicety response, and that not everyone who says “I’ll pray for you” literally intends to do so.  It’s similar to the way “How are you?” is used as a greeting – as a substitute or equivalent for Hi or Good morning.   If you take that “How are you?” query/greeting at face value and actually talk about how you are,  [6] you may be surprised by the WTF expression from the one who has greeted you and who now acts like they want to leave skidmarks as they flee from your discourse.

When it comes to being on the receiving end of I will be/I am praying for you, Those Of  Us Who Think About Such Things mostly grin and bear it, with various degrees of enthusiasm and anemia.  Here’s what we’re likely to say (even as this is what we’re likely thinking):

Well-Meaning But Ignorant Person:  “I am so sorry to hear about your upcoming hammertoe surgery! I’ll pray for you.”

Us: “Oh, okay. Thanks for thinking of me.” (You’re going to pray…uh…yeah, knock yourself out…but…really…WHY? Am I supposed to thank you for doing…well, nothing…when what I could use is a casserole, or for someone to mow my lawn while my foot is in a cast?)

I know, I know, IKNOWIKNOWIKNOWIKNOW.  People “mean well” (I’m trying to remember that great Lily Tomlin quote, something about thank goodness for kids, they never mean well).  But those of us who are fond of reality don’t just shelve it in times of crisis.  We we know about the efficacy [7] and therefore futility of prayer, to any one’s deities, for anything, and our bafflement at the announcement of the practice is often hard to disguise.

answered prayer

Skeptics more articulate than moiself have pointed out that while many religious people claim to truly believe that prayer can cure a variety of illnesses and injuries, they only pray for maladies that are generally self-limiting (and thus, they can attribute the cure to miraculous intervention).

I’ve never heard of religious believers petitioning their god to cause the boy with 3rd degree burns to grow new skin overnight (or even over the course of a few months), although I have heard them pray that the boy’s skin grafts will take.

An illness that gets better over time (and most do), a mood that improves, believers can and often do attribute these events to a “miracle” or divine intervention.  But hard physical evidence – the burnt, necrotizing flesh, the amputee’s stump– is a slap in the face to the “power” of prayer.

My theory is that deep down inside, even the most fundy believers have reality check neurons (besieged, but not extinct), which occasionally whisper to them, “Now, let’s not get carried away, you know this stuff is just mumbo jumbo.”

How else to explain the fact that, while believers fervently and publicly ask their god to heal the spirit and speed the recovery of the Iraqi war veteran whose leg was blown off by an IED, or of the diabetic who lost a foot to gangrene, they do not pray for their god to regenerate these sufferers’ limbs. In the case of Christian believers, their scriptures are filled with stories of “miraculous” events and healings performed by their god, including restoration of sight to the blind and movement to a paralytic, instantaneous curing of leprosy and healing of a soldier’s amputated ear and so on. Why should the production of new skin or a new leg be so difficult for an omniscient, omnipotent, responsive-to-the-heartfelt-petitions-of-his-flock deity?   Especially considering the fact that several species of our fellow animal inhabitants of our planet, including skinks, sea stars, conchs, and crayfish, can regenerate amputated appendages, and (presumably) do this without prayer.

"Oh great and merciful Poseidon, We beseech thee on behalf of our orange sister, that she be made whole again!"

“Oh great and merciful Poseidon, We beseech thee on behalf of our orange sister, that she be made whole again!”

Check out this site, for a more entertaining (and thought-provoking) examination of…well…of why this question is – or should be, to any sentient being – so important:  Why Won’t God Heal Amputees.

I get it; all of us who smite even the idea of prayer get it:  in times of adversity it’s often hard to know what to do or say.  Bad news makes everyone uncomfortable. You hear about someone’s misfortune, you care, you want to do something…but, think about it.  That “something” you do, if it’s praying (or just saying that you will pray), is more about making you feel better than about what prayer might actually accomplish.  Praying may provide you with the comforting illusion of having done something, but in fact you’ve done Absolutely. Nothing. Of. Substance.

If you really care, do something. Praying, or the secular version –  “holding a good thought for you” – doesn’t count.  Talk (and thought) is cheap; actions speak louder than – oh, don’t make me type it.

getwell

When HUL told me about her disease we cried and laughed and raged and cried and laughed some more. Here is what I will do for you, I told her, if you will let me, and if you need me to.[8] The list is a work in progress, based in part upon what other kind friends, neighbors and co-workers have done for me in times of need.  Like all such lists, it will and should be modified to fit the situation.

* Be there before, during and after surgery [9]
* Bring you healthful meals

"Get well soon, or more spam casseroles will be delivered to your  refrigerator."

“Get well soon, or more spam casseroles will be delivered to your  refrigerator.”

* Clean your house, hold your hand, feed your cats (and scoop their litterboxes)
* Donate to reputable, efficacious [10] cancer research funds
* Send you links to really bad jokes and visual puns and baby sloth videos
* Rent you some DVDs for a Daniel Day Lewis film festival [11]
* Encourage you to document what you are going through…

About that last one.  Although not a professional author, HUL is a pithy, articulate and entertaining writer, and I’ve urged her to record not only the logistics of her disease but her attitudes and reactions to it as well.  However, I have promised to refrain from referring to her dealing with cancer as if she’s on some kind of spiritual excursion.

I just can’t help it: when I heard phrases like, “Tell us what you’ve learned from your journey with pancreatic cancer,” it makes me want to kick Oprah in the ovaries.

 *   *   *

And Now For Something Completely Different

 Department of Making It All Better

When I serve a dish containing Brussels sprouts – to anyone, but mostly to MH and moiself – I also serve champagne.

sprouts

*   *   *

About Last Week’s Shirt

Receiving slightly less attention than the Rosetta mission’s landing of a probe on a comet was the PR meteor storm created by one of the project scientists.  This scientist dude chose “the most important day in spaceflight since Curiosity landed on Mars” – a day when he was slated to be speaking about the project on a worldwide live-stream – to wear a tacky bowling shirt covered in comic book-style images of half-naked women.

REALLY

Same dude also went on to describe the difficulty of the Rosetta mission: “She’s sexy, but I never said she was easy.”

facepalm

Read this, for one of the more coherent takes on this brouhaha, including the dude’s [12] apology, and the (surprise!) internet-troll backlash aimed at those people [13] who called out the dude on his astounding inappropriateness.

“If you think this is just a bunch of prudes, you’re wrong. It’s not about the prurience. It’s about the atmosphere of denigration….. If you think this isn’t a big deal, well, by itself, it’s not a huge one. But it’s not by itself, is it? This event didn’t happen in a vacuum. It comes when there is still a tremendously leaky pipeline for women from undergraduate science classes to professional scientist. It comes when having a female name on a paper makes it less likely to get published, and cited less. It comes when there is still not even close to parity in hiring and retaining women in the sciences.”
 (Phil Plait, Astronomer and “science evangelist,” from his Bad Astronomy blog)

Is that your comet probe or are you just excited to see me?

Is that your comet probe or are you just excited to see me?

*   *   *

May your choice of bowling shirts be workplace-appropriate and face-palm-worthy-free, may well-meaning folks have no reason to pray for your recovery, may your cruciferous vegetables always be champagne-escorted, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] A Hawaiian healing ritual.

[2] A Native American practice involving cleansing a person with the smoke of sacred plants.

[3] The use of food and herbs to reestablish balance, based on a theory of wet/dry, hot/cold humors in the body.

[4] Yeah, I made that word up, but you know what I mean: crucifixes, rosaries, framed pictures of Jesus and saints and John F. Kennedy….

[5] and seemingly obligatory Facebook response to bad news.

[6] Like many a bewildered newcomer to American culture has done, and discovered that the Howareyou supplicant  did not really want to hear about your latest triumphs and travails. Or, as one European traveler put it, “Why do Americans ask how you are when they don’t want to know? Why don’t they just say, ‘Hello’?”

[7] That would be: zero.

[8] Make sure your help is practical and actually wanted, and not yet another task for the afflicted to manage.

[9] HUL has friends lined up to help, and graciously deflected that offer…although she’s made me promise to fly out for her “Yay, I’m all better!” or “I need more treatment, so kiss my hair goodbye!” party – whichever one she throws.

[10] Check out any and all charities to make sure they are legitimate and use funds wisely (Charity Navigator and Givewell are just two of the organizations that provide such evaluations), and fuck the Susan Komen industry ’cause festooning your body with plastic pink crap made in China does not cure breast cancer.

[11] Do not underestimate the power of watching your favorite movies featuring your favorite, fine-looking actors – ’twas repeated showings of Last of the Mohicans, not the antibiotics, that cured my pneumonia, I truly believe, brothers and sisters (somebody say, Amen!).

[12] Nah, I won’t use his name. I don’t think he was evil or even (consciously) misogynistic, just incredibly puerile.

[13] Every sentient being with an IQ larger than their hat size and their heads out of the sand (and not up their asses) – which I assume is an accurate description for y’all.

The Riposte I’m Not Stifling

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Department of I Just Didn’t Want To Go There

Dateline: Tuesday, on my morning walk.  Three blocks from home, I turned a corner and detected the stench of tobacco.  Fifty feet ahead of me, holding a lit cigarette in his hand, a boy who looked to be about 14 years old was checking a curbside mailbox.  As I crossed to the other side of the street to avoid walking through his smoke, the boy turned around to look at me. He gestured at my Nordic Trekking poles and called out:

“Why are you ski-walking?” 

“Because it’s more fun than regular walking,” I replied.

I’d stifled the riposte that sprang to my petty little mind – Why are you smoking? – but as I continued toward home, I found myself wondering, what if I hadn’t?  What would have been his reply?

“Because it’s more fun than regular breathing.”

smoke

*   *   *

Diamonds Are Forever [1]
But Porcelain Crowns Last Twenty Years, If You’re Lucky

 Aka, Department of Causing Your Dental Hygienist to Declare
“In All My Years, I’ve Never Heard That Answer Before.”

For some reason, Sean Connery had entered the rinse-and-spit conversation [2] between the dental hygienist and moiself.  A brief discussion of James Bond movies ensued as we waited for the dentist to finish up with a patient in the adjoining room.  The hygienist said she liked the Connery-era films but was not a fan of Roger Moore in the role. I told her I’d never been a much of a Bond movie fan, until the easy-on-the-eyes Daniel Craig was cast in the role.

When the dentist entered the room we exchanged our usual jest-filled chit-chat before he lowered the exam chair and began his inspection of my cheap whiskey and fine Cuban cigar-stained chompers pearly whites. [3]

“So, how are things going?” he asked. “Any complaints about your teeth?”

I raised myself up on one elbow, grinned at the hygienist and said, “Only that Daniel Craig hasn’t licked them.”

"About those fluoride applications...."

“About those fluoride applications….”

*   *   *

Department of, If You Have to Ask…

Prologue:
So, what do you do?

I’ve never liked that question, when used as part of an introduction or conversation starter, and try not to ask it myself when speaking with a new acquaintance.  One of the many things I’ve noticed and enjoyed in my [4] travels abroad is that Other Peoples of the World ®  (i.e., not Americans) don’t care so much what you “do” – they’d rather hear about who you are in terms of where you choose to live, where you’ve been and where you’d like to be (travel-wise), and what you think about _____ (insert favorite political or cultural interest).

Also, there’s the published author thing.  If I answer the what-you-do question truthfully, I often receive some chunk of cringe-worthy (and totally unjustified) adulation –   “OMG, you’re an AUTHOR!” [5] – accompanied by obsequious expressions of admiration…or, worse, the “Really!? That’s fantastic; you know, I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Maybe you’d like to look at some of my story ideas?”

Friend/fellow writer SCM has suggested I answer the WDYD question with, “I’m an editor.”  Which would be a deflection but not technically a lie (I do edit my own work).

And now, the anecdote:

Last Saturday MH and I participated in an educational and tree-planting volunteer event at Jackson Bottom Wetlands.  Volunteers were divided into six units and given name tags stamped with a picture of our unit’s “mascot” – one of the many animals that can be found at the JB wetlands.  MH and I were sorted to unit #2, the Canada Goose group, which I accepted after some mild grumbling about the irony of having the mascot of the #2 group be the planet’s most prolific producer of…well… #2.

"You got a problem with that?"

“You got a problem with that?”

As we trudged over the muddy wetland trails on our way to the tree-planting area, a woman in our group made small talk with MH and I. She volunteered the fact that she is an OR nurse at a local hospital, then asked, “So, what do you do?”

Using my oft-times-literalist interpretation, I replied, “When?”

She looked at me blankly.

“Well, at this moment I’m volunteering at the….”

“No, I mean, as in work.  For money.”

I momentarily considered using my friend’s suggestion, but our fellow volunteer seemed nice and level-headed, and I bailed. “I’m a writer.”

Her eyes lit up like a venti-chugging lemur.

Kind of like this.

Kind of like this.

“A writer!? she gasped.  “What kind of writer?”

“Mostly fiction.”

“Are you famous?”

(Ay yi yi). “Are you?” I replied.

Her blank look resurfaced.

“You know – when you walk into the OR, do the other people there say, ‘I know her!’ ”

"If that woman is famous, the terrorists have won."

“If that woman is famous, then truly, the terrorists have won.”

*   *   *

Department of Bright Ideas

The Brights are an international internet constituency composed of individuals who have a naturalistic worldview.  This is the organization’s logo:

brights_icon_100x100

Their motto: “Illuminating and elevating the naturalistic worldview.”

I was stuck for pumpkin-carving inspiration this Halloween, until I got a Bright Idea.  I emailed a picture of my creation to the directors of The Brights, along with my best wishes for a “Happy Halloween from a Bright (if not so talented) jack-o-lantern carver.”

"Illuminating the natural world...and the porch, for trick-or-treaters."

“Illuminating the natural world…and the porch, for trick-or-treaters.”

*   *   *

My Work Here is Done

On Wednesday I received the following email from daughter Belle:

“Happy post-election day!
Don’t forget to set your clocks back 40 years in honor of the new senate!”

While we’re on the subject, the following is suitable for a few laughs, even if not quite SFW:

*   *   *

 

May your teeth be white and your celebrations Bright, and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] The last of the original James Bond films to star Sean Connery.

[2] As in, is he still alive, or what?

[3] Which, while neither whiskey nor cigar-stained, are not even close to being pearly white. In case you were wondering.

[4] Comparatively or relatively few (at least, compared to some people I know).

[5] Sometimes accompanied by squeals of excitement. Really. The squealing…it’s just…embarrassing.

The Bass I’m Not All About

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At first the man seated behind me (@ Portland Center Stage’s auditorium) spoke in normal, muted, waiting-for-the-play-to-begin tones to the woman beside him. I caught the phrases, “attempted to,” “many months,” and then…gulp…”decided to self-publish.”

If only these were earplugs....

If only these were earplugs….

Aye yi yi.

Unfortunately, that was when he began to raise the decibel  level.

“…’Below the Surface’ – I came up with the title when I was watching sea turtles….” 

He’d figured out something so authentic, so, like, deep – as in, below the surface – he felt compelled to share it with the world:

…you know, it’s that what’s underneath a person, the part you don’t see, is your authentic self, and you must discover this before you can find your authentic self and purpose, and until you do, every part of your life cannot be authentic [1] and you are doomed to frustration and annoying strangers sitting in the theatre waiting for Dreamgirls to start….

Amazing, isn’t it, that he’s going to have to self-publish – amazing, that no established, reputable publisher jumped at the opportunity to print his shallow commentary disguised as insights cribbed from every other self-realization/actualization help book published in the last twenty years profoundly authentic revelations?

WORD

*   *   *

The Department of How Many Copies Has This Song Sold?

Yes, I know I’m late to this particular party.  But really, I hadn’t heard the song until recently.  After a late afternoon workout session, I ejected my exercise CD. The media box reverted to TV mode, and lo and behold, the host of a popular talk show was introducing a singer/songwriter. S/S proclaimed that after she’d watched a certain segment of that certain talk show, S/S had been inspired to write a song about “body image and acceptance.” [2]

I’m somewhat suspicious about any song that is marketed as any kind of anthem.  I am really suspicious when the performance of an alleged anthem about body image and acceptance – or, as per the singer/songwriter Meghan Trainor, “female body empowerment” –  is accessorized by provocatively clad and twerking dancers and backup singers.

Yeah, that seems right.

Yeah, that seems right.

Gotta admit, I thought the song’s melody was catchy.  Then I made the mistake of paying attention to the lyrics, which included the affirming, anthemic, progressive, we-shall-overcome lines:

“Yeah it’s pretty clear, I ain’t no size two
but I can shake it, shake it, like I’m supposed to do.”

‘Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase
 And all the right junk in all the right places 

 Yeah, my mama she told me don’t worry about your size
 She says, “Boys like a little more booty to hold tonight.”

 You know I won’t be no stick figure silicone Barbie doll
 So if that’s what you’re into then go ahead and move along

 I’m bringing booty back
 Go ahead and tell them skinny bitches that…”

So, uh huh. Acceptance involves dissing other women – excuse me, stick figure silicone Barbie dolls & skinny bitches – while an empowering body image means thinking that shaking your ample boom boom that all the boys chase is not only what you’re supposed to do, but is a good thing because that’s what boys like….

REALLY

My junk musta been in the wrong place – ya know, me and my fellow skinny ass bitches musta been AWOL – when Gloria SteinemFlorynce Kennedy,  Letty Cotton Pogrebin, Barbara Ehrenreich, Susan FaludiPhyllis Chesler and other great minds of 21st century feminist thought collaborated on this particular Female Empowerment memo.

*   *   *

☼   Captured by the KGB   ☼

Aka, Masterpiece Theatre Presents Great Performances in Child abuse Child Management
(Setting: A Medical Practice near Stanford Hospital, circa 1988)

She was, simply and profoundly, one pest of a kid.  The girl was around eight or nine, obnoxious as hell…although her temperament should not have mattered.  A child should not brought to her mother’s medical appointments and left to fend for herself.  Woman, you either take your daughter in the exam room with you, or get a sitter. [3]

But This Particular Woman never got a sitter for her daughter. Four years in a row, TPW brought her daughter to TPW’s annual exams, each time assuring me and the rest of the OB/GYN practice’s staff that “she (daughter) is really quite mature and no trouble at all,” and each time following that patently false statement with the balls-out (so to speak) request, “If you all don’t mind watching her while I’m in with Dr. ___….”

Four years in a row, the staff told her in so many different ways, As a matter of fact yes, we do mind, and even if we didn’t mind we are WORKING and that work does not include babysitting, and this is a medical practice and there are hazardous instruments and chemicals and….

Four years in a row, TPW ignored us.

TPW resided in a tony Bay Area suburb. Given her address – and the vacations she bragged about taking with her husband – it was reasonable to assume she could easily have afforded to hire a sitter (hell, a 24 hour nanny service) for her daughter. [4]   But, noooooooooo.

She’d tell her daughter that if she needed anything or got bored to ask the “nice office ladies” for some help.  And while TPW was in the exam room with Dr. ___, TPW’s daughter would run around the waiting room, annoying other patients waiting for their appointments, and barge through the door to the staff area and pester the staff. [5]

Year five; TPW’s annual exam. Lather; rinse; repeat.  TPW’s daughter ignored the children’s magazines our office manager had purchased especially for the occasion, as well as the receptionist’s directive to remain in the waiting room. While the receptionist was on the phone retrieving lab results and the office manager was making a return appointment for an OB patient and I was readying an exam room for the next patient, TPW’s demon spawn bad seed daughter pushed past the waiting room door, banged on the receptionist’s typewriter, then prowled the hallway that led to the exam rooms.

bad seed

I exited the second exam room, carrying an instrument tray which had been used for an IUD insertion, and bumped into the kid, who nearly ended up with a speculum on her head.

That was that.

“Come with me,” I directed the girl. She followed me as I walked to our small lab room, dumped the instruments in the sink by the autoclave and stripped off my gloves.

“You’ve got quite an imagination, I can tell. Would you like to play a game?”  The girl beamed affirmatively.  “I gotta warn you, it’s a very special game and takes a smart, strong person to play it.  Not every kid can handle…”

“Oh-oh, I can! I can do it! Let me play!’

“All right.”  The office manager had left for her lunch break, and I pushed her empty chair to the corner of the staff work area, next to the copy machine. I instructed the girl to take a seat.  “The name of the game is, ‘Captured by the KGB.’ ”

KGB

“I am a KGB agent, and you are an American spy.  You have been blindfolded and tied to this chair, and are waiting for the head of the KGB to interrogate you.”  I showed the girl how to wrap her arms around the back of the chair, as if her wrists were tied together.

“All the other KGB agents” – I indicated myself and the receptionist, who gave me her Robyn, WTF?! look  [6] –   “are trying to get you to confess. But you are strong! You will not betray your country! And you do not say one word.”

The girl squinted shut her eyes and giggled as I pretended to fasten a blindfold around her head.  “That’s right!” she exclaimed, “I’m strong, and I…  ”

“Uh uh uh – not one word, remember?”

I returned to my work.  The girl was a brave little spy for a few minutes, then began to softly whine.

This is boring.

I reminded her that she had been captured by the KGB, and that there is nothing boring about espionage.  That bought me another two minutes.

I don’t like this game anymore. She opened her eyes, but kept her hands behind her back.

“You have been captured by the KGB.  They don’t care what you like, and they’ll gag you if you do not stay silent.”

Another minute passed.

I d-d-don’t wanna play this anymore.  I – I don’t like this game.  There was a catch in the girl’s voice, and her eyes filled with tears.

The receptionist gaped at me, her eyes widening – in astonishment or admiration, I couldn’t tell – just as we heard the distinctive squeak of exam room three’s door.

“Mommy!” The girl ran to TPW and buried her face in TPW’s skirt.

“She missed you.” I said to TPW, and flashed the most disingenuous smile ever to grace Dr. ___’s hallway.

crocsmiles

*   *   *

Epilogue:
The girl apparently said nothing to TPW (at least, not while she was in the office) about being captured by the KGB.

Epi-epilogue:
TPW did not bring her daughter  to her subsequent appointments with Dr. ___.

Epi-epi-epilogue:
The statute of limitations has passed, so don’t even think about reporting me to CPS.

*   *   *

May you be all about everything but your bass, may your behavior stand up to KGB agent scrutiny, and may the above-the-surface hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] And did I mention he seemed concerned with authenticity?

[2] Shame on you, Ellen.

[3] Nope, I don’t know why she wasn’t in school. Almost no one was homeschooling back then, and certainly not the wealthy.

[4] Why is it always the ones who can afford it who try to get something for free?

[5] TPW’s and her daughter’s behaviors were noted in TPW’s chart, as a warning for future staff members. TPW was the only patient who, when she called to make her appointments, was reminded to procure child care. And yes, the practice’s staff spoke to the doctor about the situation (he was reluctant to handle “patient behavior issues.”  Read: he felt that was not his problem, it was ours.)

[6] I’d seen that look more than once.

The Nose Hairs I’m Not Trimming

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Lovely Spam, Wonderful Spam

There is a certain beauty to these disparate messages in this week’s spam file – a mélange of subjects I find peculiarly compelling:

 * A scary number and an awesome cat
* Weird food KILLED my blood pressure
* John Kerry With Egyptians Over Gaza
* My hips went from a 40 down to a 35 in seven days
* Mail from CIA (Congratulation) !!!
* [SPAM] is NOT SPAM!
* Free Viagra for under $5!

And this, from a company that helps inventors turn their innovative ideas into branded product…this, to me, is the most poignant spam of all:

 * Tangled, messy garden hoses are a thing of the past

Please, say it ain’t so.

How will I ever convey to my offspring the contentment that can only arise from laboring to transform a tangled, messy garden hose into a straight and tidy irrigation tube, if the former no longer exists?

I swear, those entrepreneurs just want to suck the mystery out of life.

Mom, tell me again about the good old days, when everyone worked together to untangle the hose.

Mom, tell me again about the good old days, when everyone worked together to untangle the hose.

 *   *   *

Silent But Deadly =  Recuperative

Readers with such totally meaningless lives they must fill the void in their souls by reading my blog excellent memories may recall last week’s blog, wherein I mentioned the mini-strokes that have afflicted my mother.  Those Wacky Scientists ® may have come up with a non-surgical, non-pharmacological, totally natural treatment for her.

I am, of course, referring to fart-smelling.

As reported in The Week:

“A new study …suggests that exposure to hydrogen sulfide could prevent mitochondria damage….. Hydrogen sulfide gas…well known as a pungent, foul-smelling gas in rotten eggs and flatulence, it is naturally produced in the body and could in fact be a healthcare hero with significant implications for future therapies for a variety of diseases,”  a professor at the University of Exeter, said…. the study suggests that “a whiff here and there has the power to reduce risks of cancer, strokes, heart attacks, arthritis, and dementia by preserving mitochondria.”

I can’t help but wonder: is there is a corollary effect for gas emissions of the northern orifice; i.e., does listening to belching have mitigating effects for auditory or other sensory disorders?  In other words, any excuse to play this:

 *   *   *

Why I Never Ran a Lemonade Stand  [1]

Lawston 2

*   *   *

Apparently, my calling, where my true talent lies, is writing Amazon reviews. Such as the one I penned for my “manatee tea infuser.”

I love the way my manatee looks; I love the very concept, and I love the way she perches on the rim of my teacup, with her loose tea-laden nether regions soaking in the hot water, infusing the teacup with…well, with very little actual tea.

The holes in her silicon trunk are just not holey enough to allow for proper circulation. The only thing that comes close to the disappointed look on my face when I sip what I am hoping will be a freshly brewed cuppa, and taste instead a week mug of almost-nothing (hey, did I mistakenly order the homeopathic tea?), is the forlorn expression on the manatea herself. I think she knows what’s going on. She is a tea infuser that does not infuse; she is forlorn, bereft of purpose, just another pretty (if bewhiskered) face.

The review itself received several glowing reviews, and is currently listed as the most helpful review for the product.  I may now return to Antares with a clear conscience. My work here is done.

 manatea

“(Moiself) has written one of the most informative and creative reviews of any product that I have ever had the privilege to read. Thank you for a review that not only provided the information that I needed and also managed to be very entertaining.”

 *   *   *

Tonight is Hillsboro’s Bards & Brews.  Bards & Brews is a last-Friday-of-the-month literary event, co-organized by Jacobsen’s Books and hosted by the downtown Hillsboro restaurant/wine bar/retail shop, Primrose & Tumbleweeds:

Join us for a celebration of the written word! Local authors of every flavor will gather for Bards & Brews to share their works in a series of talks and readings, while you enjoy a meal or a beverage from the world’s largest collection of Oregon wines and beers. 

As I mentioned last week, I’d rather be home trimming my nostril hairs with a weed whacker than do author appearances, but since the nose hair situation is under control and my name is on the list, I’ve no excuse but to show up.  I’ll read a couple of passages from my featured book and be available to talk afterward. [1]  Here’s the slate (author and book title) for tonight:

 *  Robyn Parnell (The Mighty Quinn)
*  Caitlin Claire Diehl (First Daughter)
*  Tammy Owen         (House of Goats)
*  Paula Stokes            (The Art of Lainy)
*  Paul Gerald (60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Portland)

I hope to see your friendly faces (perhaps made even friendlier by the beverages?) tonight.  If nothing else, you may pick up some hiking tips from Paul Gerald (aka that Portland hiking guy).

 Bards & Brews, Friday July 25, 7 – 9p
Primrose & Tumbleweeds
248 E Main St.
in old town Hillsboro, one block north of the Hillsboro Transit Center

 *   *   *

Department of I Am So Not Making This Up

And the Golden Wingnut Award goes to….wanna-be nurse Sara Hellwege.

GOLDEN WINGNUT

 

I will really, really try not to refer to her as Sarah Hell-Wedgie.  So, please, erase the following image from your mind.

hellwedgie

 

Dateline: Tampa, Florida, where not-yet-graduated-or-licensed nurse Sara Hellwege  (not Hell-Wedgie) has apparently fallen out of the bounteously-limbed Tree of Illogic and Absurdity and hit every branch on the way down.  Despite the obvious signs that Hellwege is suffering from TBI ( theological bullshit instruction), she was able to apply for a job in Tampa medical clinic, and is now blathering “religious liberty violation” because she did not get the job after she said she would not be able to do the job.

REALLY

No shit. [2]

Sara Hellwege is a member of a conservative religious “medical” organization that believes, contrary to all medical and scientific evidence, that birth control causes  “the death of a human embryo.”  When asked by the clinic’s human resources director about her affiliation with the group, “Hellwege admitted she would refuse to prescribe the birth control pill to anyone who wanted it. She was summarily told that prescribing the birth control pill was part of the job and was not hired.”

All together now: Sara Hellwege does not want to prescribe birth control, but she applied for a job at a family health center where prescribing birth control is a job requirement.

Uh huh.

 "I'll prescribe that crazy bitch a dose of turn your brain and cough."

“I’ll prescribe that crazy bitch a dose of turn your brain and cough.”

*   *   *

Best. Vandalism. Ever.

Portland is just so, you know, Portlandia.  Eleven miles west, we Hillsborons [3] struggle to have any kind of identity, other than our unofficial city motto, [4] “Yeah, we’re not Portland, but at least we’re not Riverside.”

Oh, but that was then, and this is now:

 “In my 25 years in police services, I have never investigated or seen a criminal mischief involving pastries.”
- Lt. Mike Rouches, Hillsboro police spokesman.

It seems a Hillsboro neighborhood has been plagued – or blessed, depending upon your POV – with a unique form of vandalism.  In a kindergartener’s dream titled article, “Donut Caper Hits Hillsboro Neighborhood,”  The Oregonian reports that in the past six weeks, vandals have plagued Northeast Farmcrest Street and neighboring areas, “scattering doughnuts around” and other food, too, including red potato salad, “…But doughnuts have been the most common food found.”

And just in case you’re wondering,  I HAVE AN ALIBI FOR THE PAST SIX WEEKS.

Here the breaking news reporting gets more species-specific:

 “Maple bars smeared across cars. Two chocolate doughnuts with sprinkles sat atop the windshield wipers of one vehicle.”

DONUT

With sprinklesI love that this important forensic detail is mentioned.

As you can imagine, Hillsboro’s finest detective squad exists only in our dreams has been assigned to the details.  Read the article in its entirety, and you’ll shudder to think of the hypoglycemic sickoes behind these and other incidents:

On July 18, a Hillsboro sergeant found a box of Little Debbie Coral Reef Cakes strewn in the middle of Farmcrest Street. The dessert was the yellow cake with chocolate creme version, which is topped with brightly colored starfish and fish-shaped sprinkles.

 The next day, July 19, a woman told police that…she found doughnuts thrown around her yard…. Mysteriously, a “Twilight” book was also left in her driveway.

Now we’re talking.

Hello, CSI Hillsboro, do I have to spell it out for you?  Crimes of pastry side-by-side with one of the worst crimes against literature – this is no coincidence.

As one befuddled resident put it, “Can the world get any more cruller?”

*   *   *

R.I.P. James Garner

Murphy's

If you haven’t already, treat yourself to a viewing of one of the actor’s best (IMHO) if underappreciated roles, in Murphy’s Romance. I love this movie for so many reasons, including the realistic, well-written the role of a kid, where kid gets to be a kid and not a sitcom-ish sassy-talking, wiseass Hollywood version of A Kid ® . The chemistry between Garner’s and Sally Field’s characters is mahvelous; also, the movie has one of the best ending couplets [5] in cinema history (spoiler alert):

SF: “So, how do you like your eggs?”

JG: “I’m sixty.”

*  *  *

 May your Romcom dialogue be convincing,  your wedgies be heavenly, your neighborhood vandalism be hypoglycemic-neutral, and may the hijinks ensue.

 Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

[1] Cartoon by Mary Lawton. Her work is featured in many venues, including the aptly named Funny Times.

[2] Except for the batshit crazy kind.

[3] For some reasons, residents of Hillsboro have resisted my attempt to label us thusly.

[4] Hillsboro has no official city motto.  And since I’m about as unofficial as they get, I feel totally justified in coming up with an unauthorized slogan.

[5] I’m probably using this poetic reference incorrectly.  So, sue me.

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