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The Munchies I’m Not Curing

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It’s unanimous (and it rarely is, in my family):

K, Belle, MH & I agree: the 2014 Nobel Prize in Economics should be awarded to Danielle Lei, the Girl Scout who decided to sell cookies outside a medical marijuana dispensary.

 On my honor/I will try/to help all people/ cure their medical munchies...

On my honor/I will try/to help all people/ cure their medical munchies…

 *   *   *

“Fifty was a shock, because it was the end of the center period of life. But once I got over that, sixty was great. Seventy was great. And I loved, I seriously loved aging. I found myself thinking things like: ‘I don’t want anything I don’t have.’ How great is that?” 

( from This is What Eighty Looks Like  by NY Times op ed columnist Gail Collins )

Gloria Steinem turned eighty this week.  I’ve always thought of her as timeless if not ageless, and so it was strange of me to ponder, as I did upon hearing her birthday news, that Steinem is only five years younger than my mother.  Chronologically, Steinem belongs to my parents’ era…although, in comparison to most of what would be considered her peers, Steinem’s forward, forthright thinking and activism would mark her as belonging to another planet,  rather than to their generation.

GLORIA

Among Steinem’s many talents, she’s always been quick on the verbal draw.  One of my favorite Steinemisms came from her reaction [1] to an announcement by the New York Times.  Background: women’s rights advocates had long objected to the practice of designating women by their marital status (“Mrs.” or “Miss”) while men were identified by the status-neutral “Mr.”  The Times, a bastion of conservatism when it came to acknowledging linguistic evolution, had refused to allow the use of “Ms.” in their articles.  When in 1986 the Times editorial board finally announced a change in editorial policy, Steinem quipped,

I will no longer be referred to as “Miss” Steinem of Ms. magazine.

 Steinem has always been adept at using humor to highlight the politics of injustice and the absurdities inherent in social and societal gender disparities…

If men could menstruate…clearly, menstruation would become an enviable, boast-worthy, masculine event: Men would brag about how long and how much…. Sanitary supplies would be federally funded and free. Of course, some men would still pay for the prestige of (purchasing) such commercial brands as Paul Newman Tampons, Muhammed Ali’s Rope-a-Dope Pads, John Wayne Maxi Pads, and Joe Namath Jock Shields—”For Those Light Bachelor Days.” [2]

…and she was never far off from sharing yet another click!-moment [3], the kind of observation that makes you gasp aloud, in one of those-truth-telling/recognizing moments:

“If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.” [4]

GLORIAAGE

Happy birthday, Gloria. I hope you have your cake and eat it, too.

 *   *   *

Oh, you gotta love this.  In the spirit of truthiness and other stunt words, may I present, courtesy of Republican senator and “Tea Party identifier” Ted Cruz (or his publicists), a new phrase, that, IMHO, is worthy of  the coveted Picard Face Palm.

From the introduction to Ted Cruz to the Future – Comic Coloring Activity Book, from Really Big Coloring Books (no, I am not making this up)  (my emphases):

In a continuation of the company’s popular series Tell the Truth – Tell it Often – Tell the Children…Really Big Coloring Books®, Inc. turns complex challenges or issues into a relevant format with an emphasis for youth. The Cruz to the Future book is a non-partisan, fact-driven view of how Texas Sen. Cruz became a U.S. senator and details…his ideas for what he believes will help America grow…..

Fact-driven view.”

facepalm

The book about Cruz does not claim to present “facts,” nor even to be “factual,” but it will present a “fact-driven view” of Cruz’s agenda. [5] Kinda like the idea of using a fact (“Our solar system has a sun”) upon which to justify any lunacy view you can then refer to as fact-driven (“The sun revolves around the earth because that’s what my Iron age twaddle holy scripture tells me, and oh yeah, I can see the sun go around the earth, ’cause I’ve seen it set and rise, every day. Fact!“).

But seriously, Ladies and Germs. The intent of the coloring book is, of course, to instill extremist conservative viewpoints in young children.  And as always, the Internet strikes back, in the form of brutally funny reviews posted on the book’s Amazon page (including one by yours truly…can you spot it?).

"Look kiddies, it's the Tree of Life – er, I mean for conservative-approved political freedoms, not that crazy evolution stuff."

“Look kiddies, it’s the Tree of Life – er, I mean The Tree of Conservative  Political Freedoms, not that crazy evolution stuff.”

*   *   *

Are We Having Fun Yet?

There are a smattering of for-profit corporations that, citing special instructions from their imaginary friend religious objections, want to refuse to provide some (or all) of the 20 contraceptive methods approved by the FDA in the health plans these corporations offer to their employees. Because there is nothing else to do during the first week of spring, the SCOTUS [6] began hearing arguments from these company’s lawyers, including the hired guns of Hobby Lobby , one of the leading arts & crafts retailers in the USA.

PROTEST

Hobby Lobby’s CEO, founder and SRDOTUS [7] David Green openly espouses Southern Baptist, conservative “Christian” values, and proclaims that his corporation is committed to “Honoring the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with biblical principles….We believe that it is by God’s grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has endured.”

Really.

REALLY

Yes, Really.

Check out the company’s “mission statement” on their website.  Hobby Lobby asserts that its god, this same deity who remains deaf to cries for help from its believers who endure horrific assaults in rape camps around the world, [8] somehow keeps itself busy doling out its “grace and provision” to an American craft vendor.

Once again, I digress.

Hobby Lobby wants to get out of providing full health care coverage for its employees;specifically, HL want to not cover forms of contraception it  mistakenly [9] believes are abortifacients, and argues that the ACA’s contraception “mandate” forces them to violate their religious beliefs.

UTWERUS

Let’s check in with someone more articulate than moiself; i.e., someone who is less likely to out-and-out use the term bullshit, but whose know-how on the issues at stake (e.g. tax laws, insurance coverage and what the ACA actually says) enables him to refute such bullshit nonetheless (my emphases):

 There is no contraception mandate.  Hobby Lobby is not legally required to compensate its employees with health insurance at all. The regulations imposed by the ACA are on insurance plans, not on the corporations per se.  What is erroneously described as a “mandate” simply means that if corporations choose to take advantage of the tax benefits for compensating employees in health insurance rather than wages, the insurance has to meet minimum coverage standards.  As is often the case with specious religious freedom arguments, the corporation wants it both ways, to get the tax benefits without providing the full benefits to employees.
(Scott Lemieux, professor of political science at The College of Saint Rose)

It might be interesting for y’all, no matter where you stand on the ACA/contraceptive coverage brouhaha, to consider the fact that majority of Hobby Lobby‘s inventory comes from China.  Thus, I ask my faithful flock to meditate upon the irony if not the blatant hypocrisy of today’s homily:  Hobby Lobby sells goods they import from China, a country that not only provides abortion on demand but has also coerced and forced women to have unwanted abortions[10],  China’s policies and the forced abortion incidents are well known by international human rights organizations and religious communities, and yet, such knowledge has not induced Hobby Lobby to refrain from profiting off of the cheap, slave-wage-factory-produced crap inventory they import from China.

CHINESE

One last thought on this issue, courtesy of a business owner’s musing (on a Facebook posting):

“I am Jewish; can I withhold the amount of money from my employees salary’s that they use to buy
pork products and Christmas decorations?”

JEWISH

 

*   *   *

May all of your personal and political inventory be politically correct (or at least justifiable), and may the hypocrisy-free hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

[1] Quoted in Newsweek, June 30, 1986

[2] From Steinem’s “If Men Could Menstruate,” Ms. (Oct. 1978). You really need to read this, if you haven’t.

[3] A term for the moment of truth, in which the need for feminist consciousness raising – on both a world-wide and personal level – becomes irreversibly clear.  Jane O’Reilly depicted many “click!” moments in “The Housewife’s Moment of Truth,” (Ms. magazine preview issue, 1971); e.g., as a hostess and female guest finish washing the day’s dishes, a male houseguest enters the kitchen, asks, “How about something to eat?”, then waits to be served. “Click!” The hostess replies that they both work all week, and if he wants to eat, he can make himself something and then wash up.

[4] Steinem, in an interview with The Humanist, attributed that remark to an older, Irish, female taxi driver she and feminist activist Flo Kennedy encountered in the early ’70s.

[5] Hint: Tea Party friendly, pro-gun, anti-choice, anti-equal rights….

[6] Supreme Court of the United States

[7] Spewing Religious Doofus of the United States

[8] This assertion is (surprise!) not part of Hobby Lobby’s mission statement.

[9][9] As per the science behind how such methods actually work.

[10] Chinese officials claim forced abortions are not official policy, yet documentation of such incidents, enforced by local government officials as part of China’s One Child policy, have been verified.

The Book I’m Not Stealing

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“The first duty of a revolutionary is to get away with it.”
Abbie Hoffman, Steal This Book

A long long time ago in a galaxy far far away….

Okay, it was 1971.  American anti-war activist Abbie Hoffman wrote and published Steal This Book.  As intrigued as I was at the time – by the “counter culture” and social activism of the late 60-s – mid 70′s in general, and by Hoffman’s cheeky chutzpah in particular – I declined to pilfer Hoffman’s prose.  Stealing anything was not something I was inclined to do.  I also did not buy his book, because how in good conscience could I lawfully purchase a book that was, essentially if puckishly, advising me not to do so?

Thirty-three years later I find myself wondering:  who, if anyone, bought that book?

STEAL

*   *   *

Spam question of the week: Why is “Nicholas Cage” sending me these emails: Your nasty herpes gone forever – the cure released. 

Nic, it’s over. Thanks for releasing the cure; now, please release yourself from this obsession.  I’ve moved on.

SAD NIC

*   *   *

The evil illness infecting me (mentioned in last week’s thrilling post) has moved on to MH and Belle. I find myself reflecting upon the classic advice to the rhinovirus [1]-afflicted.

afflicted with a rhinovirus

afflicted with a rhinovirus

affectionate with a rhinoceros

affectionate with a rhinoceros

GET PLENTY OF REST AND DRINK PLENTY OF FLUIDS

Not possible, in my experience.  Rest or fluids; you must pick one to plentify.  If you drink plenty of fluids your plenty of rest will be interrupted by plenty of pee trips.

TPHEAD

*   *   *

The Cerebral Discourse Continues

UPS delivered a sturdy, large, thick, cardboard shipping box from a pet supply company. Printed in bold, black, TAKE ME SERIOUSLY letters on the outside of the shipping box is this instruction/warning:

DO NOT OPEN WITH A SHARP OBJECT.

The box is heavy, massive, and contains cases of canned cat food –nothing even remotely possible of being considered fragile. I don’t think my dullest butter knife is going to do the trick. What non-sharp object do those-who-printed-such-inane-advice think will open the shipping box – a spatula?  A shoehorn? A banana peel?

BOX

*   *   *

Belle leaned against the doorway to my office, respectfully but insistently reminding me that I’d agreed to donate copies of two of my books (my short fiction collection This Here and Now and The Mighty Quinn) to her friend A’s senior project…and…uh…A needs those books, now.  Up in the attic, searching for a box for the books, I remembered I had copies of another book of mine – “mine” in the sense that my writing was in it, even if my name wasn’t on the cover – to donate.

FEMPARENT

Feminist Parenting: Struggles, Triumphs and Comic Interludes (The Crossing Press, 1994) – has it really been twenty years since its publication?  My contribution to the anthology was an essay [2] wherein I juxtaposed the naming of my soon-to-be firstborn, K, with how I chose names for my fictional characters.  I was honored to have my contribution included along with a variety of essays, stories, and poems – selections from literary luminaries like Robin Morgan and Anna Quindlen [3] and literary ordinaries like…well, like me.

The publisher-arranged publicity for the book consisted of readings by the anthology’s contributing writers, held at select locations throughout the country.  There were enough contributors from the Pacific Northwest to do a reading in Oregon, which took place one stormy January evening in Eugene, at the erstwhile vanguard of independent feminist bookstores, Mother Kali’s. [4]

May I recommend some light reading-perhaps a political satire or a wacky historical romance?

May I recommend some light reading-perhaps a political satire or a wacky historical romance?

MH, sitting in the in audience with our son K on his lap, later noted that I was the only one of the speakers F-parenting in what (used to be) the normative child producing/rearing relationship:  I was a woman married to a man with whom I was raising our child.  There were four of the anthology’s contributors present: One lesbian mom, two divorced/single moms, and moiself mom.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

*   *   *

Related to my previous musings re Abbie Hoffman’s book: In my ongoing if intermittent effort to understand and contextualize the zeitgeist [5] of my formative years, for the past few months I assembled and viewed my own film festival, of sorts.

Selections ranged from the absorbing, insightful, thought-provoking 2002 Academy Award-winning feature documentary, The Weather Underground [6] to the pedantic and flat out boring docu-interview-athon, Underground; from historical, archival footage-enhanced documentary (Berkeley in the Sixties); to a fictionalized political thriller (The Company You Keep) and a mildly amusing but ultimately inconsequential “home movie” of the times (F.T.A.) … and a few things in-between, including

* The Times of Harvey Milk
* All the President’s Men
* Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst
* The U.S. vs. John Lennon
* Wounded Knee

 The Weather Underground came from my own collection; the rest were courtesy of Netflix and PBS.  My incisive, four-part review of the festival:

(1) everyone should watch The Weather Underground (I think it should be required viewing for high school civics/government/US History classes)
(2) no one with a pulse should watch Underground [7]
(3) fans of The Grateful Dead and/or Lawrence Welk might enjoy F.T.A.
(4) you think I’m kidding re (3)? Get a load of Lawrence and the gang groovin’ in all their yellow sunshine [8] sartorial splendor:

  

*   *   *

May your pastel polyester pantsuits be bad-trip-free, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Fancy-pants word for the most common viral infective agents that cause, in humans, the common cold.

[2] “What’s in a Name?  Ask My Pal, Barry.”

[3]  I particularly enjoyed Quindlen’s essay, “What About the Boys?”

[4] I know, I know.  The bookstore was named in the 70′s, okay?

[5] A German term, attributed to the philosopher Hegel, for the historical horseshit  intellectual, cultural climate l influencing the popular culture of a particular period in time.

[6] About, wait for it, The Weather Underground.

[7] Save for hopeless insomniacs, who might find it a side-effects-free substitute for Ambien.

[8] A certain type of strong LSD.

The Virus I’m Not Defeating

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I do not do well with fevers. My own, that is (I have no problem with yours). This may be your brain on drugs, but it’s mine when my temperature rises above 100.º

BRAIN

 I woke up Tuesday morning and promptly wished I hadn’t.  Fever, congestion, cough-sneezing and sore throat.  I’d felt something coming on Monday, uttered those famous last words (it’ll go away) to myself, and tried to rest most of the day, in order to fulfill my March 5 World Read Aloud Day commitment.  I was scheduled to read excerpts from The Mighty Quinn to two classrooms: Tuesday eve at 9 p Pacific Time (which translates to 10 am March 5, Pakistan time) to a classroom in Karachi via a Skype call, then on Wednesday to a classroom in Seattle.

I tested my Skype connection, practiced (whispering, to save my increasingly hoarse voice) my excerpts and set my phone alarm for the evening, so I wouldn’t sleep through the call from Pakistan.  I assumed the fact that I looked like something the cat dragged in – and we have four cats, so that’s a lot of dragging – would be attributed to the computer connection.

oh, poor widdle yuppie model, pretending to be sick - dude, never have I looked this good, even at 98.6º and even when...not a dude.

oh, poor widdle yuppie model, pretending to be sick – dude, never have I looked this good, even at 98.6º and even when…not a dude.

The call from Pakistan never came.  My attempts at connection were for naught, as the teacher remained offline.  Then, the next day, when my fever rose, I had to cancel the WRAD session with Seattle, when I realized that being conscious (not to mention vertical) for 30 minutes was not an option.

Wednesday eve I told pathetically whined calmly articulated to MH how in the last couple of days, the most exercise I’d gotten was putting my socks on when I got chilled and then taking them off five minutes later when I was feverish and overheated.  With all due spousal support and sympathy, MH told me I seemed to be taking a Karate Kid approach to my convalescence.  Socks on; socks off….

wax on...wax off....

wax on…wax off….

 *   *   *

While cleaning my office last week I found a CD I’d purchased in December, buried under a stack of scratch papers.  So, this means that, for more than 8 weeks, I have been unmindful of the thereabouts of my “Mindfulness: An eight week plan for finding peace in a frantic world” guided meditation CD.  Does this mean I’m ahead of, or behind, the plan?

DOGOM

Wednesday eve my son sent me a link to a draft of his undergraduate research grant proposal, with the request that I give it a “proof.”  I’d warned him about my fever brain, and said I’d try to get to it…whenever.

Thursday morning my temp dipped to under 100º – yay!  (and then slowly rose as the day went by – boo.).  I took a copy of my son’s paper and my Red Pen of Proof ©   upstairs, figuring I could take a crack at it every fifteen minutes or so, between sleeping through whatever horrendous shows were on the Overheated Brain Pacification Device (TV).  Scratch that – my convalescent viewing was to alternate bouts of consciousness while playing my recently acquired, used-but good condition DVDs of the first season of Once and Again).

But I digress. The research paper. Working title: Investigation of the activities of MalA, a maltase from the predatory bacterium Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus.

Imagine my surprise, to find that sentences such as

GH13 enzymes are known to display a wide variety of hydrolase activities such as α-1,4-glucosidases, as well as isomerase and glucanotransferase activities. GH 13 enzymes specifically act on molecules containing α-glucoside linkages. GH13 enzymes employ the retaining mechanism, meaning that their product’s anomeric carbon will have the same configuration as their substrate’s anomeric carbon

 are somehow less intimidating to me when I have fever-brain. Instead of, WTF? my reaction is, wow, man…this is so true.

Oh, and to my amazing son, K:  Honey badger may not care if it’s your birthday tomorrow, but I do. Happy 21st to my guy!

Oh, and K – your sister has the best present for you, in the making.  Like all true works of art it won’t be done overnight, and I’m hoping she (and you) will let me post a picture of it here, when it’s finished.

*   *   *

 ҉    Let us pause for a moment to consider another one of life’s mysteries     ҉    

Nasty for any reason:  a paper cut.
But worth it:  when said cut is procured while opening a box of Lindt 85% cocoa Extra Dark chocolate.

Can you tell I minored in Philosophy? [1]

PIX:CHOC caption: just what the doctor ordered

 *   *   *

May your all fevers be fleeting, all your thermometers be oral, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] That’s a lie. Further proof of illness: only one footnote?

The Politician I’m Not Hosting

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 The host will be happy to seat you now…
In our special chair reserved for fanatical spew-mongers

OUCH

Duff-mouth demagogue (“some refer to him as Virginian State Senator”) Stephen H. Martin, who apparently thinks oratorical douchbaggery is tax deductible, recently referred to a pregnant woman as just a host for a fetus.  Martin’s misogynist disgorgement thoughtful reflection came in response to his receiving a card from a reproductive rights group asking him to protect reproductive health options in his state.

“… once a child does exist in your womb, I’m not going to assume a right to kill it just because the child’s host (some refer to them as mothers) doesn’t want it.”

*   *   *

Stand back – I’m going to try science

double down on this, dudes

double down on this, dudes

Thanks to the data obtained by the Kepler space telescope, NASA announced the discovery of 715 new planets outside of our solar system.  This discovery almost doubles the number of known planets!  Such a finding is worthy of doing the Happy Dance, for oh-so many reasons, including the fact that these planets are going to need identification.  In other words, they are going to be named.

HAPPY

The planets’ ids will be assigned by the International Astronomical Union, aka The Organization That Does Such Things When It Comes To Objects  d’ Cosmos. Most of the planets will probably be assigned numbers, noting distance from or proximity to stars and other objects.  But I want them to have names.  The magnanimous part of me hopes that NASA and the IAU realize the PR potential of holding 715 planet-naming contests, which could be a boon for sparking the-universe-is-cool-let’s-study-it interest among schoolchildren. Another part of me wants to name them.  By myself.

oh oh oh – pick me!

oh oh oh – pick me!

Really, NASA, I want to name those planets.  I want to give them names of heavenly bodies (sorry) popular during the 1950s, for some reason.  I want to name them all Jayne, Marilyn, and Betty Lou. If you still want to assign numbers, we can work that out.  Betty Lou M31, Betty Lou M51….  [1]

*   *   *

MUM

My dear Swenadian [2] friend SS called to let me know she lost her mother last night.  With true Canadian affection and style, SS always referred to her mother as her “Mum.”  Mum was 90 years old and had been battling round three of pneumonia, which is no picnic at any age but especially vexing to someone also afflicted with ALS .  SS’s mum died in her sleep –  the kind of passing we all wish for, eh?

The mums are for SS, and memories of her Mum.

*   *   *

JOHNNYTREMAIN

Coming attractions:  March 5 is World Read Aloud Day . WRAD is the brainchild of LitWorld, a nonprofit organization promoting…wait for it…worldwide literacy. [3]

The purpose of WRAD is to “call worldwide attention to the importance of reading aloud and sharing stories.”  I and other writers will be celebrating WRAD by making a video/audio “visit” to classrooms.  Thanks to a certain software applications (rhymes with “hype” – this is not a commercial endorsement), I’ll be reading excerpts from The Mighty Quinn to two classrooms: one in Seattle and one in Pakistan.

I have fond memories of being read to, and hope that you do as well.  Mrs. Solomon, my 3rd grade teacher, read the Winnie the Pooh books to her class every day, for fifteen minutes, following lunch recess (and ever since then, I cannot hear any version of Eeyore with substituting her voice).

I remember derisive snorts from a few classmates when our 7th grade social studies teacher announced she would open the class by reading to us. [4]  Every day, she read aloud one chapter of Johnny Tremain.  The skeptics soon changed their tune, from, “I’m sure, reading aloud to us, like we’re third graders,” to, “Don’t leave us hanging – please go on to the next chapter!”

Next Wednesday, March 5, find your favorite read-aloud-book and a willing audience.  If no such audience is to be found, you have my permission to annoy delight and entertain strangers at a bus stop or coffee house or other public venues by reading aloud – to yourself, if not to them.  Simply remove a book from your coat pocket, backpack or purse, and softly but enthusiastically, go for it.

Here is Edward Bear, coming down the stairs now, bump bump bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin…. .

POOH

And, of course, let the hijinks ensue.

 Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Five paragraphs without a footnote?  This is wrong, just wrong.

[2] Canadian, married to a Swede.

[3] Or, is it an organization promoting worldwide arson?  Touch call, given the moniker.

[4] Move along, no footnote here to see, folks. Stay behind the tape and move along.

The VD I’m Not Celebrating

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Valentine’s Day.  I always thought that Hallmarkification of that day was a sexually transmitted malady, and thus enjoyed its abbreviation, VD.  But nowadays we have STDs, not VDs.  The new-fangled acronym spoils all the fun.

Anyway.

I know it’s a corporate conspiracy to make single people feel lonely and miserable, and make those who are coupled, happily or otherwise, feel pressured to spend big bucks and Do Something Special.  Still, if you can stand it, Happy VD, y’all.

CAGEpng

*   *   *

Oh no, the family moans, the Winter Olympics are here.

Summer or Winter games, I like ‘em both.  For two weeks, when the Olympic Games are televised, I have to fight the urge to nest on the family room floor and watch every event.

Some urges are easier to fight than others.  For instance, I don’t care to watch the luge, for several reasons.

1.  The name of the event, Luge, sounds to my eternally-amused-by-a-nine-year-old’s-sense-of-humor portion of my brain has something to do with boogers.
2.  It’s probably a blast to do, but it’s a rather passive sport to watch.  The riders hop on, and you watch them either hold on or fall off.
3.  The inward turned leg position a successful luge (there it is again!) rider must hold atop the booger-sled luge reminds me of salmon steaks.  And while I adore salmon in most any form, for some reason, I do not like the cut of salmon steaks. [1]
4.  Did I mention boogers?

LugeSALMON

Salmon steak, or luge?  Can you spot the difference? 

*   *   *

Tuesday morning I emailed friend LAH, another member of the <!–aAWWAF (Adult Women Who Adored Their Fathers) club.  L’s father, Jesse, died a little less than two years ago.–>

I wondered why I woke up thinking of you and Jesse.  Then I looked at my calendar: Chet died 5 years ago today.  Hmmm.

I also subsequently had  this email exchange with friend SCM (and daughter P):

My calendar says my dad died five years ago today, which seems at once bizarre and yet, “Oh, yes, it’s been five years.” 

One of the things-I-never-got-around-to-doing with him was to take him out for sushi.  Being both a seafood and soy sauce loving man, and willing to try anything (if his daughter recommended it), I think he would have liked it. If you & P are available I’d like to take you to sushi lunch, in Chet’s honor. 

Has it been five years? Damn. I am so sorry you never got to take him for sushi. Maybe it is a Kentucky thing, but ______ (SCM’s husband) will eat anything at least once. Or maybe it is a military food thing.

I think it may be a southern/poverty thing – they’ll eat anything at least once, because growing up dirt poor like my father did, I got the feeling he had to eat anything…and often more than once.

We met for lunch, at a sushi spot in Portland.  I took one of my most cherished pictures to show P:  of my father astride his Palomino stallion, “Stardust.” P was suitably impressed, and SCM said Chet was quite the handsome dude in his cowboy days, and also, that she saw a resemblance between my son K and his grandfather, something I’d never thought of before.

.chet on stardust

*   *   *

Happy Belated Darwin Day (February 12 [2]).  If you don’t already have this on your calendar, mark it for next year.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Our Darwin Day dinner celebration included Primordial Soup:

Primordial Soup (serves 3-4; soup is vegan friendly if you lose the dairy garnish)

-1T EVOO
- one medium white or yellow onion, chopped
-1/2 green and ½ red bell peppers, seeded and diced
-4-5 garlic cloves, minced
-1 small celery stalk and 1 peeled carrot, sliced
-1 generous t ground cumin
-1/2 chili powder (chipotle, if you have it)
-pinch of cayenne pepper
-2 c no or low-salt vegetable stock
-1/2 c frozen organic white corn
- ~ 2c cooked black beans or black soy beans
-chopped fresh cilantro and/or Italian parsley for garnish
- (optional) sour cream, Greek yogurt to garnish

1. In a Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat, sauté onions in EVOO ~ 8 m, until just starting to brown.  Add celery, carrots, green peppers, sauté for 2 m.
2.  Add garlic to pot, stir until fragrant (30 sec – 1 m).
3. Add remaining ingredients (sans garnish), bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover pot & simmer for 25 m.
3.5  Ain’t no step 3.5  You could do the prep dishes while the soup simmers. Better yet, floss your teeth (they probably need it) Since that won’t take 25 m, floss someone else’s teeth, too.
4. Let soup cool a bit, transfer to blender or processor and puree it, then transfer soup back to the pot.  Better yet, use a hand blender if you have one – and you really should have one if you frequently make soup – to puree the soup right there in the pot. More fun than watching a luge race!
5.Taste for seasoning: add salt, pepper, more cumin, whatever you’d like to taste.
6. Serve garnished with fresh herbs, and a spoonful [3] of cream or yogurt.
7. Wait for the complex organic polymers to arise.  Or, just enjoy the soup.

primordial soup

*   *   *

My son K’s FB message to me re the Bill NyeKen Ham debate:

ended up watching more of the bill nye debate.
man I want a sample of whatever ken ham is smoking.

There were those who thought Nye lost the debate just by showing up; that is, by legitimizing creationists’ whackadoodle alternate reality  [4] as being capable of rational debate.  Then there was the post-debate, informal poll on the website Christian Today, in which a whopping 92% of respondents – presumably, people who even know there is a website called  Christian Today — said that Bill Nye won the debate.

I suppose it comes down to how you define win.  Bill Nye got to do his geeky, sincere, Science Guy presentation, which perhaps sparked the teensiest seed of hmmmmm? in a few true believers who may have dropped their blinders just long enough to notice that Ham’s version of refuting scientific claims was the intellectual equivalent of a third grader’s Nyah yah nyah nyah nyah (“Well, you weren’t there so how do you know?).  Ken Ham got a wider-than-usual audience for his blind faith fables.

JESUSSAUR

*   *   *

There was the potential for a nasty, man-slap brawl at the Nye-ham debate, as there is when any testosterone-laden beings disagree. But the participants for the most part kept their cool.  Could it be that they suffer from….low T?

Pre-peri-post-persistent-paleolithic-menopause – when it come$ to redefining a human being’$ natural life a$ a di$ea$e proce$$ that mu$t be managed and treated (read: medicated),  Big Pharma ha$ pretty much exploited women a$ much a$ they can.

Menfolk, don’t say you weren’t warned.  It’s your turn.  And the trouser-snake oil purveyors know what’ll get your attention:  a T & A show! [5]

You may have noticed the increasing amount  of commercials, articles and emails – even  youtube videos, FFS – with such ominously titillating titles as How to Tell if Your T is Low and How to Increase Your Testosterone Level.  The underlying assumption the T-teams are trying to hammer into that Male Pattern Balding head of yours is that your natural aging process is faulty, and can and should be “fixed,”  Specifically, the ebbing of men’s  testosterone levels be bad, and increasing men’s “T level” be much more better.

Don’t forget to follow those links in the ads, which will take you up the creek down the yellow brick road to the products those fear-mongering, money-grubbing whitecoat quackery  selfless angels who are concerned only with your well-being have concocted to raise your guy-juice levels.

BEFORE

After

After

Although many if not most of these hormone peddlers will be wearing the Hallmark of Sciency Authenticity (a white lab coat  [6]), their spiels won’t contain anything resembling the real science behind the issue of testosterone supplementation.  It’s a safe bet that they won’t be touting the results of the Boston medical researchers’ trial which found that that men taking testosterone supplements had five times the number of “cardiovascular problems” [7]  vs. those taking a placebo (a finding which caused safety monitors to end the trial earlier than planned).  They’re trusting you’ll fall for claptrap about vim and vigor and the other/usual limp dick scare tactics and won’t want or care to read, say, articles like the one in this week’s New York Times Science section, A High Price For Vigor.

Testosterone declines naturally with age.  The lifestyles of many American men can exacerbate this decline; however, as Internist John LaPuma points out in his New York Times op-ed, Don’t Ask your Doctor About “Low T”, clinical testosterone deficiency “isn’t nearly as common as the drug ads would have you believe.”  And the “tried and true way to naturally boost testosterone levels” – losing weight, [8] limiting alcohol consumption, “eating more of the right foods and fewer junk foods”…well, that’s just not as sexy a sell as popping “a prescription for a risky drug to treat a trumped up disease.”

I pity the fool who thinks Mr. T needs more T

I pity the fool who thinks Mr. T needs more T

*   *   *

 Linguistic  Rumination

Why is “trousers” such a great word?  You can wear pants or slacks, britches or breeches or knickers.
But if given my druthers [9] (another great word!), I’d choose trousers.

But not these, even if they were the last trousers on earth, and wearing them would bring world peace and cure cancer.  Nope. Sorry.

But not these, even if they were the last trousers on earth, and wearing them would bring world peace and cure cancer. Nope. Sorry.

*   *   *

Sometimes It’s Better to Stay Awake and Organize The Sock Drawer 

I had a dream.  Not your noble speech-inspiring, Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. I Have A Dream kind of dream. Rather, it was the kind of dream where you are trying to wake yourself up because the dream really sucks, and finally you do wake up, but damned if you don’t fall right back into it when you close your eyes.

I had been conscripted into the army.  They had given me a backpack and a list of supplies with which to fill the pack.  I was concerned that I didn’t have enough wool socks, and should I bring a toothbrush and vitamins and…?  It was getting late; I didn’t want to report for duty, but I had to.  At the check in station, which was in a large, airplane hangar-like building, I was directed to the “Welcome Area For New Recruits.”  I sat down at a large table with other conscripts, and we spoke of our mutual fears re what was in store for us.  I told them I wanted to talk to my dad before I left (ouch), because he knew something about war.  The other draftees, male and female, looked SO YOUNG to me, as if they were in junior high school.  I was my real/present age in the dream, and wondered why They (whomever They were) would want me at my age? And yet, in that out-of-character reality peculiar to dreams, it never occurred to me to protest.

SOLDIERSjpg

I woke up wondering about this pesky aging think.  If I had no mirror to remind me otherwise, on many other levels I can fool myself into thinking I’m still in my late twenties/early thirties.  So, how did I get to be the age I am?

In a moment of (what passes for me as) mathematical genius, I came up with

☼     THE FORMULA THAT EXPLAINS IT ALL [10]     ☼

Q:  “How did I get to be x (where x = your present age)?”

A. By not dying at x-1

You’re welcome.

But please, save the congratulatory phone calls. I need to keep the lines open for the Nobel Committee.

FIND X

*   *    *

Mathematical Rumination

You know what’s odd to me?  Numbers which are not divisible by two.

That's so funny my camel forgot to laugh.

That’s so funny my camel forgot to laugh.

May your worst joke delight your best beast of burden, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Give me a filet, any day.

[2] Chuck Darwin shares a birthday with Honest Abe.  Good to know.

[3] Or a dollop, if you prefer that term (and who doesn’t?).

[4] including such pseudoscience gems as humans hunted dinosaurs to extinction a few thousand years ago after peacefully using them for transport companionship (“Buford, Jethro, y’all seen Rex’s saddle?”)

[5] You were thinking T & A as in testosterone and androgens, right?

[6] Similar to the one worn by your veterinary tech or manicurist.

[7]  Including heart attacks and strokes

[8] Belly fat depresses testosterone levels, as do obesity-caused or exacerbated diseases like diabetes II, and also steroids and opiates and BPAs (commonly found in plastic food containers)….

[9] And please do give me some, because we’re all out of fresh druthers.

[10] Remember, all caps means, “this is where you’re supposed to pay attention.”

The Netherlands I’m Not Grooming

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Dateline: Wednesday, 12:07 pm, text from daughter Belle:

Conversation overheard in the bathroom:
“OMG do we have the same pants?”
“Wow, maybe!  Lemme feel your ass.  Nike yoga pants, shut the f up we do have the same ones!”
*lots of squealing*
“Hi I’m Tiffany, what’s your name?”

REALLY

I’m surprised Tiffany and her new BFF didn’t whip out their phones and take selfies of their, like, totally awesome like-trousered asses…or whatever such vapid creatures do these days.

Yikes, that makes me sound old.

*   *   *

Speaking of things that make me feel old:

2014:  The Year of Californians Wedding Frequently

Two nieces and one nephew from my side of the family are getting married this year.  One in April, two in October, and all three weddings will take place somewhere in SoCal. We’d love for all four of us to be able to go to all three marital hitchings.  K doesn’t know if his midterm schedule will allow for a weekend away in April; K and Belle will be in college, facing midterms, for the October weddings, K in his senior year and Belle in her freshman year…blah blah blah.  Of course, there are complicated logistical/travel and financial considerations for getting all four of us to one wedding, let alone three.  But hey, there are three California weddings.  Yikes and Yee haw!

WEDDING

*   *   *

It seems I have mis-titled the previous section.  It should read,

2014: The Year of Californians Wedding Frequently During the Year of the Horse

Gung Hay Fat Choy, or Happy New Year, to my Chinese-American SIL, “Joey,” and to all who celebrate the lunar new year.

Look out world, it's my year.

Look out world, it’s my year.

My favorite lunar New Year activity, one that might confound my sweet sister-in-law as much as it has embarrassed my offspring, [1] involves roaming the aisles of the Asian supermarket Uwajimaya.  If you’re looking for Japanese linens and dishes and sake serving sets or Chinese teapots and greeting cards, or Hello Kitty men’s boxer shorts [2] ; if your recipe calls for lotus root or bitter melon or tatsoi or other hard-to-find Asian vegetables,  or Cambodian fermented fish paste or 75 varieties of dried black mushrooms or fermented tofu or spot prawns or uni for your sushi bar or fish you didn’t even know swam in our oceans, you can find it at Uwajimaya.

I make several pilgrimages a year to Uwajimaya, but  it’s not the fact that I shop there that causes consternation to my offspring.  Rather, it’s the fact that when I push my cart up and down the aisles I am overcome by the irresistible urge to chant my Uwajimaya mantra: I say the store’s name, over and over, mumbling in my pathetic imitation of a fervent samurai, changing the enunciation with each recitation.

SAMURAIpng

 

U-WA-ji-may-a!

U-wa-ji-MAY-a!

U-wa-JI-may-a!

UUUUU-wa-ji-may-a!

Go ahead.  You know you want to.

Warning:  the recitation is both calming and addictive.  Say it once, say it twice, and one day you may find that the CRAMAWL [3] roaming the aisles is you.

*   *   *

One Thumb Up (but up  in my nostril) for Blue Jasmine

In my yearly quest to see all films that have garnered the “major” Oscar nominations [4] – a quest I have never, ever completed, and will not complete this year, as I loathe the Golden Pumpkin Headed Boy [5] and will not see the much- nominated film in which he stars – I rented Blue Jasmine, which has two nominations for acting (lead and supporting female) and one for Original Screenplay.

OSCAR

Many years ago I was a fan of WA’s films, but his characters’ neurotic New Yorker schmeil shtick, and ever more evident, disturbing and self-serving ethics, began wearing thin long before his real-life  incestuous-bordering-on-pedophilia relationship with his longtime partner’s daughter sealed the ICK deal for moiself.  I’ve mostly boycotted his films since then (1992) ; [6] thus, MH was surprised to see just what it was I’d popped into the DVD player.  I assured MH that Blue Jasmine, like most Woody Allen movies of the past ten years, does not feature Woody Allen acting in it – which is one of the major objections MH has to Woody Allen movies.

Once again, I digress.

May I have the envelope, please? Acting:  Cate Blanchett was indeed terrific in the lead role, a formerly wealthy but naive, clueless, pill-and-booze addled, mentally unstable, down on her luck, hard to like, rather pitiable character.  The supporting role, that of her sister?  Meh.  Original screenplay?  Hardly original, for Mr. Allen – a familiar tale of lower and upper class stereotypes, most of them with heavy New York accents and/or attitudes, all of them whining.  About those accents and attitudes….

What really frosted my butt about the film was that it was ostensibly set in San Francisco (present day scenes, with flashbacks set in New York).  If it weren’t for a couple of outdoor shots of SF’s iconic hilly streets and the Golden Gate Bridge, you’d think you were watching a typical Woody Allen set-in-New-York movie.  I could not suspend disbelief and pretend, not even for a minute, that Blue Jasmine’s characters lived…well, anywhere on the West Coast, but especially in The City.  How could Allen think anyone who had ever spent more than ten minutes in San Francisco would buy that his characters were from, or lived in, San Francisco?  From physical appearance to wardrobe to dialog, the cast embodied Allen’s hackneyed, New York/Brooklyn staple characters. Did Allen lose a bet, or was he trying to disprove the notion that he can only film in New York?  And why would anyone want to film in San Francisco, one of the most scenic and distinctive cities on the planet, without incorporating or depicting the sights and sounds and social and cultural diversity and distinctiveness that is The City By The Bay?

*   *   *

Friday’s Fun Food Fact

Frozen cauliflower, as it thaws on a plate by the sink, will slowly but inexorably  fill your house with the odor of what your house would smell like it if twenty-five Marines, whose rations for the past six months had consisted of nothing but cauliflower and beer, decided to celebrate going on military leave by having a flatula-thon in your kitchen.

SOLDIER FART

Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

*   *   *

I read the news today, oh boy.

All New York Times newspaper days are equal, but some days are more equal than others. And for moiself, some days are easier to ready than others, in that there are the once-a-week sections of the paper I highly anticipate and usually enjoy in their entirety (the Science section on Tuesdays and the Dining section on Wednesdays), or the ones I forthwith relegated to the bottom of the pile (Sports Mondays). Thursday is an “easy” read day, in that there are two sections in the Thursday NY Times that require little of my attention before they are relegated to the recycling bin.  These sections are Home and ThursdayStyles.

The Home section is an ratcheted up version of your typical newspaper home & garden section, and features stories about People Who Are Much More Adventurous (and richer) Than You, Doing Cool Things You Can Only Dream About.  This week’s Home section features an archetypal story about some folks who decide to build a home on a remote Scottish island.

The Lure of the Hebrides,Drawn by the beaches and ethereal light,
a family builds an offbeat [7] island home.

Such stories can be entertaining, in that drive-by accident-gawking kind of way, and so I usually give the Home section a look-see.  ThursdayStyles is almost always a five-second-at-most, flip-through-giggle-then-toss-it exercise for moiself, and the seconds fly by as I wonder aloud how anything involving style and fashion can be considered print-worthy.  I know, I know, it’s a bug bucks portion of certain economies and thus can have a financial excuse for being deemed” news.” New York City may be the fashion hub of the world, but fashion hub of the world is one step up from motorized ear hair clipper hub of the world, in terms of its relevance to my world.

But, don’t ya know it, this week’s flip-through of ThursdayStyles had a gotcha! for me. My curiosity was momentarily piqued, and I had to at least skim whatever story could follow a headline like this.

Below the Bikini Line, a Growing Trend.
“Women are increasingly going with the natural look
when it comes to their nether regions.

Peter Pan, Wendy?  Looks like we’re not in Neverland anymore.

SKIRT

Welcome to Nether-land, with miniature headshots of four Celebri-ons [8] who “…have all expressed a preference for a fuller look in their most private areas.”

Silly me, for thinking the phrases “expressed a preference” and “private areas” would be mutually exclusive.

Yo, Famous Ladies whose names rhyme with Mady Tata, Grinneth Malcrow and Shameron Peeass:  are y’all so feminist consciousness-retarded that you think your nether regions needs to be “groomed,” or needs a “look” other than what is naturally there?  I know it’s been said that no publicity is bad publicity, but are y’all really so whorisly PR-desperate that you think the world welcomes knowing how you groom your lady bits?

No, please – don’t answer that.

On second thought, enquiring minds – or at least those belonging to Tiffany and her new bathroom yoga pants buddy – want to know.

*   *   *

No fashion for you, Gilda.

No fashion for you, Gilda.

I base most of my fashion taste on what doesn’t itch. (Gilda Radner)

May you be fashionably late, may you feel free to scratch where it itches, and let the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Well, Belle has sometimes seem embarrassed, but K…I suspect he is amused, perhaps even proud.  I’ll make an aisle-mutterer of him yet.

[2] And who isn’t, these days?

[3] Crazy-ass middle-aged white lady.

[4] Screenplay, acting, directing, best picture.

[5] Stage name Leonardo DiCaprio.

[6] Worthy of a post, but not today, are the ruminations re separating the artistic worth of a work from the moral achievements or shortcomings of the artist.

[7] Offbeat = $$$$.

[8] The mutant offspring of celebrities and morons…would that be a creature of redundancy?

The Mile-in-your-shoes I’m Not Walking

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Friday Follies: The Footnotes Edition

But first, random notes.

I never used to encounter people named Quinn, but since the publication of The Mighty Quinn I’ve come across several children with that incredibly awesome name.

Just sayin.’

*   *   *

Happy birthday to my younger sister.

BIRTHDAY

It was many years ago, Ruie, but I’m still sorry for the incident wherein my cat “presented” your hamster to us at the dinner table.

*   *   *

Because all the Best Book Names are Already Taken

I know nothing about the author, but how did he get into my mind and steal the title for my (as of yet unwritten) memoir?

This is the best book I’ve ever written, and it still sucks

*   *   *

 Because all the Classy Names For Publishers Are Already Taken

Children’s Brains Are Yummy (CBAY) Books is a legitimate, niche/genre (fantasy & sci fi for middle grand & YA readers) publisher located in Austin Texas. Their website defends their name choice as having nothing to do with cannibalism; rather, it is a tribute to the “delightful, extraordinary” minds of children:

“We think kids have yummy brains the same way
the stars of Sex and the City wore yummy shoes.”

 

Because nothing says yummy and sexually alluring like hammertoe cleavage.

Because nothing says yummy and sexually alluring like hammertoe cleavage.

CBAY’s comparison-as-defense is lost on mere mortals such as moiself, who think Sex and the City [1] style  torture devices shoes are yummy in the same way foot binding [2] is yummy.

"♫I'm sexy and I know it♫... but I can't stand up.

“♫ I’m sexy and I know it ♫…
but I can’t stand up.

*   *   *

I smell a theme rising.  Pass the odoreaters?

 If the shoe fits, quote it.

* You know you’re old when someone compliments you on your alligator shoes, and you’re barefoot.  (Phyllis Diller)

* These are my new shoes. They’re good shoes. They won’t make you rich like me, they won’t make you rebound like me, they definitely won’t make you handsome like me. They’ll only make you have shoes like me. That’s it.  (Charles Barkley)

* We women continue to swallow this line that it’s unladylike or even proof of being a lesbian if you wear flat shoes like Doc Martens. I’m prepared to put up with that accusation, because at least my feet aren’t killing me and I don’t look like a bandy ostrich. (Jo Brand)

Not Jo Brand's feet.

Not Jo Brand’s feet.

* Did you ever get the feeling that the world was a tuxedo and you were a pair of brown shoes?  (George Gobel)

* Women’s fashion is a subtle form of bondage. It’s men’s way of binding them. We put them in these tight, high-heeled shoes, we make them wear these tight clothes and we say they look sexy. But they’re actually tied up.  (David Duchovny [3])

* They went into my closets looking for skeletons, but thank God, all they found were shoes, beautiful shoes.  (Imelda Marcos)

The prestigious Jean Luc-Picard Face Palm of Distinction award goes to movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn, for his words of wisdom:

* I never put on a pair of shoes until I’ve worn them at least five years.

facepalm

Wishing you a week of comfortable shoes for your twinkle toes, and may the Happy Feet hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] How is in that a reference to Sex in the City is on my blog? This is wrong, so very wrong. I can’t tag it.

[2]  A centuries-long (and now outlawed) Chinese “beauty practice” involved beating and breaking girls’ feet and binding them to produce a gnarled, misshapen podiatric mess mass – and crippled walk and dependency – that upper-class (as in wealthy and powerful, not classy( Chinese men found erotic. Pictures of the practice are graphic and far from yummy.

[3] Apparently,  Fox Mulder’s porn-addicted portrayer is quite familiar with less subtle forms of bondage.

The Well I’m Not Meaning

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Happy 2014!

I hope the holidays brought you the new science oven of your dreams.

MICROWAVE

*   *   *

Miscellaneous observation on the human condition/New Year’s Resolution mash-up

I resolve never to mean well, nor to have a heart that induces others to bless it.

You know what I mean, even if you think you don’t.

During the after après-holiday dinner cleanup, you graciously but firmly refuse your notoriously ham-fisted aunt’s offer to dry the stemware.  Smiling and cracking wise, Auntie pushes you aside and grabs a dishtowel and within seconds there is the jaw-clenching jingle of shattering glass.  Your mother takes your elbow and steers you into the hallway, delivering her comment in a there-there voice, which is meant to assuage your distress at the fact that your aunt smashed your husband’s family heirloom, Waterford crystal champagne goblets, given to you as a wedding gift from your in-laws.

Oh, Aunt Erva – she means well.

Observation has led me to this point:  One must strive to never, ever, mean well.  Inevitably, whenever an anecdote is followed by “s/he meant well,” it was preceded by followed by the description of a boner of a comment and/or action by “s/he.”

I’ve noted a similar correlation with “bless his heart.”  Uncle Harry, bless his heart. This seemingly benign consecration/invocation [1]  is sometimes used when Uncle Harry has somehow fallen into misfortune (The doc told Harry the tumor metastasized to his lungs, bless his heart).  More commonly, it accessories a certain kind of description — one that never includes tales of competence and/or intelligence.  Rather, you are about to hear confirmation that Uncle Harry can’t find the play button on his remote control, so to speak.

images75JF20WH

Woe unto you if the two are ever put together – you may as well check yourself into the Loser Asylum.  If I’m ever on the receiving end of, Bless her heart, Robyn means well…., I will hesitate to gaze skyward lest I espy vultures circling.

*   *   *

Two Thumbs (both opposable) Up

Although I really, really wanted to edit it down to less than two hours, I nevertheless recommend seeing American Hustle.  Who would have thought an entertaining movie could come from the story of a forty year-old corruption sting? I assume the story of the ABSCAM  operation was made more cinema-worthy by the fabrication of a love triangle between an FBI agent and two informants – and also by copious boob shots of the female leads (insert director’s disco area clothing excuse). And ya gotta love a movie that has a side joke about how incredible microwaves (“the science oven”) seemed in the 1970s.  Plus, an all-around stellar cast. And mancurlers.

MANCURLERS

I’d raise my opposable big toes [2] if I had them for Saving Mr. Banks.  My movie-going friend LAH and I agreed that this is a movie we both are going to be processing for some time, for both personal and professional reasons. The story of author PL Travers‘ resistance to Walt Disney’s pursuit of the film rights to Mary Poppins is vastly entertaining in its own right, and also has several thought-provoking sub plots, including wrestling with how a person can succeed or fail at loving – and “saving” – their family.  If you had or have a loving and problematic relationship with your loving but deeply flawed father, this might be the movie for you…or, it might break your heart.

MP

For writers, the movie deals with the dilemma of selling (and selling out) your characters and stories, even as you grapple with the realization that your motivation for creating them in the first place might be far more complicated than you realize.

Special Bonus: SMB stars Emma Thompson, whom I want to be when I grow up.

Whaddya mean, I’m already grown up [3] and I’m not Emma Thompson [4]?

Emma Thompson

Emma Thompson

Not Emma Thompson

Not Emma Thompson

Happy effin’ New Year to you, too.  And may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Really, what is it?

[2] Which I do not possess despite sharing 96% of of my DNA with chimpanzees, thank you for your concern.

[3] Trust me, that assertion would not stand up in a court of law.

[4] Not only that, I’m two and a half years older than her, and yet she somehow became herself before I did. Damn!

The Resolutions I’m Not Breaking

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I hope y’all had/are having a Merry Happy Festivus Christmukkuh , however you acknowledge (or spell) your favorite holiday celebrations.

festivus

This week I received two early bird publication notifications.  Translation: due to the mysteries of publishers’ scheduling, stories that were slated for publication in 2014 instead just made it in 2013:  My story “Souvenir” is featured in the December/Winter 2013 edition of Hospital Drive and “Requiem” is in the Voices From the Porch anthology.

K is home from college on semester break until MLK day. All four of us (MH, Belle, K and moiself) carried on with our tradition of having Christmas Day lunch at Jake’s Grill, after which we walk (or waddle, depending on the Jake’s menu) to Powell’s Books. Another if sporadic Christmas Day tradition is going out to a movie, which we fulfilled by catching the last matinee [1] showing of Frozen.

There is much to like about the latest Disney Princess Movie ® (insert appropriate groan- gasp), aside from the stunning animation, memorable songs and several genuinely funny sidekick/comic relief characters. [2]

 viewer-approved sidekick Olaf

viewer-approved sidekick Olaf

Belle and I talked afterward, about how refreshing it was to see an animated (or any kind of) movie that featured than one main female character (gasp again), and also to find that finding a prince for the princess was not the main plot point…and how pathetic it is that we have to consider those things “refreshing.”

If they can see it, they can be it.”

Mere words cannot describe how much I love that quote.  Really elaborate ones might help, but I’m trying to savor one of my favorite times of the year – the span between Christmas

XMAS

and New Year’s –

NYE

 and it would require too much concentration to get all sesquipedalian on y’all.

Instead, I’ll let the quote-generator herself, Geena Davis, actor and founder of the Institute on Gender in Media, do the talking. Best known for her role as Thelma and Louise‘s avenging assault victim, Davis is a righteous warrior when it comes to battling inequality in her chosen field.  Thelma Davis takes aim at gender disparity in the movies in her recent guest column in the Hollywood reporter, Two Easy Steps to Make Hollywood Less Sexist.

THELMA

The basics are that for every one female-speaking character in family-rated films (G, PG and PG-13), there are roughly three male characters; that crowd and group scenes in these films — live-action and animated — contain only 17 percent female characters; and that the ratio of male-female characters has been exactly the same since 1946. Throw in the hypersexualization of many of the female characters that are there, even in G-rated movies, and their lack of occupations and aspirations and you get the picture. 

It wasn’t the lack of female lead characters that first struck me about family films. We all know that’s been the case for ages… It was the dearth of female characters in the worlds of the stories — the fact that the fictitious villages and jungles and kingdoms and interplanetary civilizations were nearly bereft of female population — that hit me over the head. This being the case, we are in effect enculturating kids from the very beginning to see women and girls as not taking up half of the space.

 Moiself has long thought Hollywood [3] has a bit of what I call an Islamist sensibility when it comes to simple gender demographic representation.  Watch a “crowd scene” filmed in an Islamist country, whether it’s a documentary on daily life or a breaking news clip of a demonstration outside of an embassy.  What you will see is a sea of male faces.  Where are the women?  Somebody with lady parts had to make all those bearded boys.  Oh, wait – what’s that?  A moving, mummified column?  Could be a female, but it’s hard to tell under all that casing.  We know they are there but they are cloistered, whether mentally and emotionally inside the home as well as literally when they are “allowed” outside.  They are…infrastructure.

*   *   *

But I digress.

On to a new segment I call

Happy New Year – and you do know it’s gonna be 2014, right?

A special Welcome to the nineteenth Century – whoops, that should be twenty-first, where did the time go? – to those Wacky Elders of the LDS.  Yes, the Mormon church, always Johnny-on-the-spot re human rights, has come out as no longer being officially racist, with their declaration (way back in 2013) that dark skin is no longer a sign of god’s curse.

It will be interesting to see if, in the coming year, the continuation of the church’s “I’m a Mormon” print and media ads, [4] will bring about the revision if not the elimination of other LDS whackadoodle other beliefs, including:

1.  The American continent was originally settled by ancient near easterners.
2.  Native Americans are descendants of ancient Israelites.
3.  The Book of Mormon [5] is an historically accurate work, translated by Joseph Smith from gold plates buried by the prophet Moroni.
4. The Osmond Family – now, that’s entertainment!

mouthfuls of enormous, white teeth are a sign of god's favor

mouthfuls of enormous, white teeth are a sign of god’s favor

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New Year’s and Resolutions Ruminations

*  Youth is when you’re allowed to stay up late on New Year’s Eve. Middle age is when you’re forced to.  (Bill Vaughan

* New Year’s Day… now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual. (Mark Twain

* 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

* I can’t believe it’s been year since I didn’t become a better person. (Anonymous) 

* The Christian resolution to find the world ugly and bad has made the world ugly and bad. ( Friedrich Nietzsche) 

* Those who break New Year’s resolutions are weaklings.  Those who make them are fools. (Anonymous)

The only New Year’s Resolution I’ve successfully kept was the one I made way back in the 1980′s, which was to not make New Year’s Resolutions.  But that was so…well…80′s. [6]  Perhaps it’s time to give it another try.

In 2014 I resolve to:

1. stop making lists
B. be more consistent
9. remember to count
F. never again use the word “Osmond” (at least in public)

Whatever you resolve, may you leave ample room for the hijinks to ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Also a tradition: see the movie at the cheaper show times.

[2] Such characters are difficult to pull off, and often trip over the line between amusing and obnoxious.  Jar-jar Binks, anyone?

[3] Meaning the film industry, whether it’s a blockbuster filmed in the actual So Cal soundstage or an indie on the streets of Portland or Austin….

[4] The LDA-s million dollar pr campaign a multi-million dollar marketing campaign about “ordinary Americans who are also ordinary Mormons.”

[5] The LDS hold scripture, not the musical. Although there is more rational evidence for the historical accuracy of the musical.

[6] Are you picturing harem pants for men, Valleygirl mallrat side ponytails and Miami Vice designer stubble?  You know you want to.

The Trolls I’m Not Feeding

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Monday I made a visit to Forest Grove Community School, where the 5th & 6th grade students are using The Mighty Quinn for their block of study on realistic fiction.  I spent two class periods with them, first with the 6th graders and then the 5th graders.  I read a brief TMQ excerpt as an example of revealing character via dialog, did a Q & A session, and met individually with students to hear their writing samples and banter about story ideas.  The kids were delightful, and one of the best school groups I’ve ever visited.

I got a kick out of observing the students’ interactions (from the back of the class, before the teacher introduced me.  (Yep, I was lurking).  What a difference a year makes.  The 6th graders were obviously conscious of how they might “look” to their peers when asking a question or offering a comment.  Their Q & A concerns focused on their struggles with their own writing assignments.  The 5th graders were energetic, unbounded and out there – one boy shrieked with delight and threw me a high five when I was introduced as the author of the book they’d been reading aloud in class.  The 5th graders’ Q & A session was dominated by personal (to me),  what’s it like to be a writer queries.  One student even asked about my royalties, and was thrilled when I complimented him for knowing the term.  Several students stayed after class, missing part of their recess, to gather around me.  They gushed about how unbelievable it was that they had met a REAL PUBLISHED AUTHOR ® a sentiment I find embarrassing/annoying when expressed by adults, but from those students, it was sweet beyond words.  FGCS 5th and 6th graders, this Pretty Purple Toe Award is for you.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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BELLY LAUGH OF THE WEEK

Tuesday:  in my car, waiting for the left turn signal.  The car in front of me had one of those stick figure family decals in the rear window, which, in general, I find annoying and rarely give a second glance to.  But something about this one caught my attention.

STICK FIGURE FAMILY

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BELLY CREEP OUT OF THE WEEK

Wednesday: Back in the damn car again, performing what used to be an almost daily chore that has evolved into a rare errand: sending a manuscript via snail mail.  The nearest mailbox where I might still make the pickup time [1] was a couple of miles away, by a Bi-Mart store. As I pulled into the Bi-Mart parking lot a woman pushing a shopping cart with an infant seat in it crossed in front of me.  Heading for the store, she walked slowly and laboriously and looked neither left nor right.  She just crossed the lane of traffic.

I was ~ ten feet away from her, in no danger of hitting her as I was going quite slowly, but I was annoyed by her negligent pedestrian-ship. FFS lady, maybe you don’t care about your own life but what about the baby?  Further annoying me was the fact that it was 27º outside, and I could see the infant’s bare legs sticking out from the bottom of the child seat.  As my car rolled closer I could see that the woman had a vacant, slack-jawed expression on her face, one that might be explained by a mental or physical disability, and the “baby” in the baby seat was actually a (very realistic-looking) baby doll.

DOLd

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“It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.”
(Einstein’s letter of 3-24-54 to a correspondent who’d asked Einstein to clarify his religious views.
(“Albert Einstein: The Human Side.”)

 One of the great games in the culture wars is claiming the good and smart for your team and pushing the monsters away. Picture Christian and atheist captains in a sandlot choosing basketball teams. “Einstein, we get Einstein!” say the atheists. “No way, he used the word God!… “Oh you WISH!” ….
Albert Einstein is the three-point shooter everybody wants to draft.

(from Dale McGowan ‘s blog post, “Owning Einstein.”)

holding out for free agent status

holding out for free agent status

A link I posted on my Facebook page – to Hemant Mehta’s  blog post about Ron Reagan Jr. taping a PSA for an atheist organization – got me sucked into one of those  discussions.  A FB friend apparently took issue with the younger Reagan’s statements about reason being “the hallmark of the human species.”

FB Friend: Who says that believing in God makes one unreasonable? That is a rather objectionable statement. Most of history’s great thinkers believed in God. I believe in God and I believe im (sic) a reasonable person. You don’t believe? No prob. Its (sic) not my job to force my faith down your throat. We can get along without faith being an issue…

RP:  “Most of history’s great thinkers believed in God.” Now, that is a statement of faith, not fact.   ;-)

FBF: Einstein believed, Newton believed, Galileo believed, Devinci (sic)  did as well. its not a matter of just having faith…

MH also followed the link in my post. He read the Reagan post in its entirety, and thus was confused by FBF’s reaction.  “Why did he (FBF commenter) assume the article said religious people are unreasonable, when it didn’t?” he mused.

My Son K would probably say that I violated the don’t feed the trolls rule by even acknowledging the comment.  You know, stick to posting pictures of your dinner and links to fart jokes.

TROLL

But, no.  That’s too easy.  And besides, the commenter is no troll.  Rather, he is a friend from high school days, and a very nice guy.  So, I posted the Einstein quote that opened this section, and said I’d deal with this more extensively in this blog post.  Here we are.  More extensively, ho! [2]

Although they (of course) are not here now to speak for themselves, I’ve little doubt that many if not most of what we might call the “great thinkers” of the past were religious…at least, in their public personas. People had to make some sort of public religious profession; there were no other options. [3]  What choice did people have, to believe or express opinions to the contrary?

Giordano Bruno was just one of many great thinkers who were tortured and murdered for expressing opinions and/or doing research that the religious/political authorities (often one in the same, in that most unholy of alliances) found threatening or blasphemous.  You need not have a writer’s imagination to posit what would have happened to Galileo if he’d expressed doubts as to the existence of the Jehovah deity, when for merely making scientific (not religious) statements – backed with, hey, evidence! – he was called to Rome and tried for heresy.  Galileo, well aware of the fate of Bruno and others before him, was given a “tour” of the church’s dungeons, and shown the instruments of torture that would be used on him if he did not recant his support for Copernicus’ theory .  Even after he recanted the truth [4] Galileo was confined to his home under house arrest, where he died seven years later, not having been allowed to leave or to receive visitors.

Albert Einstein tried to fit his complex ideas into terms that might interest the lay (as in, non-science literate) population.  The mis-location of Einstein to the Religious Believers’ Great Thinkers Team mostly stems from two of his public figurative comments:

(1) his public statement, reported by United Press in April 25, 1929: “I believe in Spinoza’s God, who reveals himself in the orderly harmony in being, not in God who deals with the facts and actions of men,” and
(2) his famously misinterpreted metaphor regarding nature conforming to mathematical law: “God does not play dice with the Universe.”

But in his private/personal and other correspondences, Einstein lamented the misuse of his public statements to infer religious belief on his part.  He made his opinion about such matters quite clear, as in the opening quote and many others, three of which I’ll cite here.

“The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.” [5]

“The idea of a personal God is quite alien to me and seems even naïve.” [6]

“It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously. I feel also not able to imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere. My views are near those of Spinoza: admiration for the beauty of and belief in the logical simplicity of the order which we can grasp humbly and only imperfectly. I believe that we have to content ourselves with our imperfect knowledge and understanding and treat values and moral obligations as a purely human problem—the most important of all human problems.” [7]

Ultimately, the numbers on anybody’s “teams” are irrelevant. The criteria for evaluating the truth of statements – even those phrased as “beliefs” – is not all that complicated.  Which leads me to a brief [8] incursion into what seems to be a minefield for many people:  the difference between facts and beliefs.

MINE

I hold many, many beliefs about many, many subjects.  I believe that Meryl Streep is a great actor and that Tom Cruise is not, that Oregon Pinot Noirs are superior to California Merlots, that is more enjoyable to watch a high school varsity volleyball game than any professional golf tournament, that corn snakes make better pets than mice, that cedar-planked salmon is a tastier entrée than fried razor clams, that MH looks better with a full beard than with just a moustache, and that Elvis, Lady Gaga and the Virgin Mary do not make cameo appearances in the spots on someone’s flour tortilla.

Beliefs can be preferential, like those I listed.  A preferential belief expresses your opinions about interesting but ultimately inconsequential matters.  But beliefs can also express factual or cognitive claims, which call for evaluations of the truth of the propositions or assumptions behind the claims.  For example, if you assert that you “believe in God,” you are also making the assumption that the god you refer to exists.

If you express a cognitive belief but make no effort to justify it, you’re merely telling me your feelings or expressing your opinion.  It may be true that you believe you are the greatest fastball pitcher since Sandy Koufax.  However entertaining that claim may be to your slow-pitch softball league teammates, your belief by itself has no factual value.

koufax

There is nothing admirable about a belief just because you hold it, and cognitive beliefs are not immune to criticism. Cloaking beliefs in the robe of “god” or “religion” doesn’t excuse those ideas from examination.  “Believing” (aka “having faith in”) something doesn’t make an irrational claim suddenly rational, nor does it protect your belief from the test of evidence and reason – from the kind of the evaluation a thoughtful, intelligent person would normally apply to any statement of any kind, be it political, cultural, emotional….

If you want your beliefs to be taken seriously by others, you need to communicate them as something other than personal statements about what you “have faith in.”  Beliefs become objective when backed up by explanations and evidence that can be analyzed.  If you don’t want your beliefs to be subjected to this kind of scrutiny, then you should keep them to yourself.

I for one wouldn’t go around claiming too many of the “great thinkers” of centuries past for my team.  Great minds who seemed ahead of their time in their niches of music, art, literature, philosophy and/or science may also have thought that the earth was flat, that enslaved peoples were “naturally” inferior to their enslavers, that diseases were caused by evil spirits and ill humors, etc.  Even great thinkers are commonly bound by the ignorance and superstitions – and subject to the cultural and political pressures – of their times.

Down from the soapbox and up to the feel good FB posts.  Truly, those are what I should be posting at this most festive time of year – a sampling of flatus classifications:

Backseater: an odiferous fart that occurs in automobiles, it is usually not very loud and can be concealed by traffic noise.

Cherry bomb: A loud, high-pitched, squeaker fart.

The Rambling Phaduka: One of the most loud and lengthy of farts,  it goes on for at least 15 seconds, often leaving the farter unable to speak, as if he’s had the wind knocked out of him.

The Skillsaw:  sounds like an electric skill saw ripping through a piece of plywood.  It has been known to cause people to back away in terror and confusion.

TGIAF: the thank goodness I’m alone fart. You look around after producing it and say, thank goodness I’m alone.  Then you get out of there, fast.

And may the farting animals compilation video hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 


[1] I didn’t, and ended up driving to the main Post Office.

[2] As in Westward, ho!” and other idioms expressing the desire to go or return to a certain destination, and not as in a reference to skanky pavement-pounders Our Great Nation’s proud sex workers.

[3] Even the option to choose this flavor of Christianity or that flavor of Islam could get you murdered, plundered or banished, depending on which group was in charge.

[4] And some  say he recanted his recanting, under his breath….(Atheism for Dummies, ch. 6, “enlightening Strikes”)

[5] (From Einstein’s letter to philosopher Eric Gutkind, dated Jan. 3, 1954, cited in The Guardian, “Childish superstition: Einstein’s letter makes view of religion relatively clear,” by James Randerson, May 13, 2008).

[6] From Einstein’s to Beatrice Frohlich, December 17, 1952 ( The Expanded Quotable Einstein )

[7] Albert Einstein Creator and Rebel, New York: New American Library, 1972, p. 95.

[8] No really…considering the subject.

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