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The Snake Handlers I’m Not Electing

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My daughter celebrates her twentieth birthday tomorrow. Happy Birthday to you, Belle, from me…and this, from eight year old Emily, who does an amazing “drum cover” of the Beatles’ Birthday:

 

 

*   *   *

And Now We Pause For A Primal Scream Moment

KHAN

 

Words are not adequate to describe the living hell – for those of us who don’t even believe in a hell but who do believe in being an informed citizen and thus try to pay attention to things – that the next ten months of political rhetoric will bring. [1]

Listening to the Republican candidates pander speak to the religious right in the days preceding the Iowa caucus was truly retch-inspiring, and caused many an Iowa Atheist to check their GPS systems to confirm that, yes, they were in fact at a political meeting in Des Moines and had not been somehow transported to a convention of hillbilly snake handlers in Kentucky, THANK YOU JAAAAAAYSUS .

I eagerly await the videos of rally attendees foaming at the mouth and proclaiming Ted Cruz has cured their anal hyperhidrosis.

And BTW, Republi-Cons: are any of you seriously running for Preacher-in-Chief, or President of our secular democracy? [2]

Flying Spaghetti Monster, give me strength.

 

 

You'll get your turn Jeb, after Ted and Mario have a swing at it.

You’ll get your turn Jeb, after Ted and Mario have a swing at it.

*   *   *

 

On a related note: striking a blow for equality of absurdity, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster has been recognized as a religion in The Netherlands.

And the faithful Pastafarians cried out, “Ramen!”

 

FSM

*   *   *

Department Of Figuring It Out

Detractors…say the degree is responsible for so-called program fiction — homogenized, over-worskshopped writing void of literary tradition and overly influenced by the mostly upper-middle-class values and experiences of its students. Others describe an inherently unfair system….a self-generating track to the literary establishment, on which the most fortunate jump to fellowships, writing colonies, agents, publishing deals and professorships, where they are indoctrinated into the status quo.
(Why Writers Love to Hate the M.F.A., NY Times, April 9, 2016)

When I begin reading a book I get straight to the manuscript itself. I skip reading the cover quotes, as well as any that may appear on the inside pages. You know the ones – the remarks from other authors and/or Important People Whose Names The Publisher Hopes You Recognize, ®  people who have the same publisher/owe the book’s author money who provide alternately pithy and gushing, This is really worth whatever you paid for it recommendations. I bought the book; I’m going to read it. I’ve no interest in people I don’t know telling me why I should read it or what it’s going to mean to me. Pesky contrarian that I am, I like to figure these things out for myself.

I also don’t read the author’s bio notes (which, in the case of fiction, are typically found in the book’s final pages or back cover) before I read the book. It’s the work itself that interests me. I realize this makes me an outlier in this world of Celebrity Everything © , but I don’t give a flying fart about the author’s life story. [3]

 

REALLY

 

Yes, really.

I may peek at the bio notes after wards…but usually only if I’ve found the book somewhat disappointing and want to know, Who was responsible for this? As per that sentiment….

I recently finished reading two collections of short fiction. With each book, as I was turning to the About the Author page, I found myself mumbling, I’d bet good money this was the product of a M.F.A. program.

Can you make big $$ by winning a bet with yourself? [4]

 

SOAPBOX

 

I have come to think that the word Creative is a misnomer when applied to M.F.A. in Creative Writing. [5]  This is not to say I didn’t like any of the stories in the books. However, there was a certain…sameness…to the supposedly disparate stories, a so-what?-ness I have encountered so, so so soooooooooooooooo very many times in contemporary literature, I can practically smell it.

Bonus dis: I’ve figured out the alternate definition of the degree. A M.F.A., or Master of Fine Arts, in Literature/Creative Writing also translates as a degree in Mediocre Fucking Acts.  In my humble experience and opinion, if a work of fiction is connected to a M.F.A. program the book is guaranteed to include several/obligatory sex scenes – scenes which will be presented/narrated in a self-consciously self-important, trying-so-hard-to-be-blasé style, which proclaims, I-am-so-not-a-romance-writer-and-whatever-sex-means-to-you-it-is-not-love-making-in-these-pages. These cynical physical interludes are described with all the passion, affection, humor and significance one might use to portray a dental flossing session.

Also: the sex will be referred to, by the story’s narrator and/or protagonists, as fucking.

*   *   *

Department Of: That Might Be… No

I can’t figure out if this joke that sprang to my mind the other day is funny ha-ha, or just funny…you know:

Did you hear that Caitlyn Jenner wants to try her luck in the theatre?
She’s peddling her idea to Broadway producers about remaking the classic musical about Wild West sharpshooter Annie Oakley.
The play’s working title: Trannie Get Your Gun.

trannie

*   *   *

May all of your jokes be wildly, thigh-slappingly, milk-squirting-out-of-your-nose funny and yet manage to offend no one;
May you have a (pain-free) lobotomy if you think the former is possible or even desirable;
May the Flying Spaghetti monster touch you with his Noodly Appendage,
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

[1] I know, I know, stop reading/listening to the crap….

[2] And stop asking questions when you already know the answer.

[3] Unless, of course, there’s some really icky stuff worth giggling over.

[4] One M.F.A. student and two M.F.A. professors.

[5] There are, of course, exceptions to the M.F.A.-works-smell-read-similar. Somewhere.

The Pants Seat I’m Not Flying By

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This has been a week of Deep Thoughts ®. Bear with me.

Conversation Of The Week

Sensing that I’m a friendly person – or perhaps that pesky, Go Ahead, You Can Say Anything To This One sign was flashing on my forehead, again – the stranger behind me in the checkout line begins chatting with me while she unloads her cartful of groceries. I had just a few items, including a bag of son K’s favorite cookies, which she commented on (“I didn’t know they came in mini-size!”). She hefted a 10 lb. bag of potatoes onto the scanner belt, followed by several other fresh vegetable items, and began to complain about the produce selection at the “new store.”

Woman Whom I’ve Never Seen Before: “I was really disappointed at the produce selection at the new store. There’s hardly any variety in vegetables – nothing like here.”

Me: “The new store?” I assumed she meant that a new franchise of the supermarket chain she and I are in has opened.  “I didn’t know they’d built another one.”

WWINSB: “Yeah, the new store.” She paused, anticipating the light of recognition in my eyes that never appeared. “You know the one. It’s right by where I live.” 

Me (as sweetly and patiently as humanly possible): “I have no idea where you live.”

WWINSB: “Right by the new Wal-Mart.”

We were not in a Wal-Mart.

 

WTF Spock

*   *   *

Fess up. Neither you nor I nor the rest of the world, I bet, have ever seen someone actually flying by the seat of their pants. For some reason, this is bothering me.

I’ve a general awareness of the definition of the idiom (“to proceed or work by feel or instinct, without formal guidelines), and also that it has several origin stories, including, no surprise, an anecdote from the early days of aviation.

But that story doesn’t help to explain the images that come to mind or are implied when that expression is employed.

 

pantsflypng

 

Does that mean that you are able to fly by, what, flapping your pants’ seat? Or, is it that the seat of your pants is flying, as are you, and you are flying “by” (in formation, alongside, or proximity to) the seat of your pants…in which case, if your pants are flying by themselves then you are flying pants-less, and the wind-chill factor is likely to do a number on your noonies.

Yeah, I know: A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

 

facepalm

*   *   *

Department Of My Brain Hurts

Just a sample of the thoughts spinning through (orbiting?) my head after listening to Neil deGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk Radio podcast , “Colonizing Mars with Bas Landsdorp.” [1]

Some of my questions/thoughts were addressed or at least acknowledged…but not fully answered, IMHO…by  my buddies, Neil and Bas. The issues facing the successful, long-term survival of colonists do not, to me, seem to be primarily those which will be solved [2] by engineers and – oh, I love the chance to type this – rocket scientists.  The main obstacles of establishing and maintaining a colony on Mars would seem to be psychological and sociological. Some of my concerns include:

* What kind of person volunteers for a no-return trip? Are you going to end up with a ship (and then colony) full of highly intelligent, scientifically and technologically literate, highly motivated…sociopaths and misanthropes? I know there will be psychological/personality testing up the wazoo for any volunteers…and I also know that highly motivated and highly intelligent and highly manipulative people can figure out how to beat those tests.

* Establishment of a long-term or permanent colony brings up the dilemma of how the colony members will be replenished: by continuing trips from earth, or via reproduction?  Humans evolved to live in social groups; most people instinctively crave the love and support of family life, want to pass on both their genes and their experiences, and find pleasure in raising children. If you assume that people will do what people will do and plan to let nature take its course…will nature even be able to find a course?  Can humans, who evolved on earth, even reproduce in different gravity environments, and what will happen with pregnancy and fetal development?

* Humans are humans. If you don’t send already established couples to the colony, there will be competition/jealousy when it comes to the finding a mate issue. Also, the pickings, initially, will be slim. Will the desire or need for reproduction (to keep the colony going) rule out sending gay male scientists and explorers? [3]

* If/once you have a colony rug rat or two, ay yi yi. How can you give a child a normal life without endangering the colony and/or driving both the parents and the child insane via the need for constant vigilance? It’s one thing if little Marina kicks a soccer ball through the neighbor’s plate glass window, quite another if she inadvertently takes out a solar panel or other crucial piece of equipment.

* The most important question of all: will I live to see any of this?

 

 

mars

 

*   *   *

Department Of This Is What Happens When You Talk Loudly Next To A Blogger
Aka, With Friends Like These, Who Needs Lunch Dates?

After my Qigong class at the community college I treated myself to lunch at a nearby pasta restaurant. Two women in their mid-to-late sixties were seated at the table next to me, and I had no problem catching parts of their conversation about a friend of theirs who had bailed out on their lunch invitation.

Friend #1: I probably shouldn’t say this…

(But of course, she does.)

Friend #1: I know there is such a thing as migraines, but sometimes I think she just doesn’t want to get out of bed.

Friend #2: “Well, that’s her problem.”

Friend #1: “She takes one or two prescriptions, but she won’t take the prescriptions that the doctor gives her.”

Friend #2: “So why bother going to the doctor?”

Friend #1: “That’s what I told her. She said she doesn’t want drugs, she only (#1 sniffs disdainfully) wants ‘natural stuff.'”

 

gossip

*   *   *

Department of Great Movie Lines

One of the greatest (IMHO) pieces of movie dialogue consists of only one word. Oh, but what a word. A Golden Scroll from the Department of Cultural Literary ® if you can remember [4] where this one comes from:

Ovaltine?

Think hard, and this trophy can be yours.

Think hard, and coveted this trophy is yours.

*   *   *

May you never have your lunchtime gossip chitchat recorded by a stranger;
May your flights by any kind of pants be safe and turbulent-free;
May we all live to see a (human) Mission to Mars…
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

[1] Bas Lansdorp is a Dutch entrepreneur best known as the founder of the Mars One Project , not a kind if rocket or an extra planetary colonization technique. But you knew that.

[2] And I believe the mechanics of getting people to mars and housing and feeding them while they are there will be solves.

[3] Gay women can still conceive and bear children.

[4] Hint: no.

The Dr. Seuss Book I’m Not Reading

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Department Of I Really Don’t Want Us To Be Those People…

…who end up on the nightly news, as video clips of their car spinning out plays over and over again, entertaining viewers safe and sound at home who congratulate themselves on staying put and smugly if rhetorically wonder aloud, What kind of idiot goes out on the road in this weather if they don’t have to?

Yeah, well. That would be, this kind of idiot.

Although Belle’s second semester classes at the University of Puget Sound don’t begin until after MLK Day, Belle had a job in the UPS bookstore that started on January 4. She’d taken the train down from school for Winter Break but didn’t think she could handle the return trip schlepping all the stuff she’d brought with her plus all the loot she acquired at Christmas (the cast iron frypan and a case of spinach linguini were her tipping points).

So. MH and I agreed to drive her back up to Tacoma on the January 3rd ….the morning a rare snowstorm hit the Portland area and moved north to Washington.

 

spinout

 

We passed way too many vehicles post spin-out (or rollover, ugh) on I-5, and the going was slow, but we managed to safely deliver our girl back to her on-campus house. After helping her stock up on groceries, we began the trip south at around 4 pm.

Things were getting ugly on the return trip, and by that I do not mean MH and I hallucinated the visages of Republican presidential candidates in the snow eddies on the freeway. ..although happy heathen moiself did have an experience worthy of a Catholic mystic in that for a moment I thought saw the image of Gov. Chris Christie on the side of a Target ® truck that skidded past us in the (not-so) fast lane.

 

Storm – you call that a storm? C'mon, try crossing one of my Joisey bridges and I'll show you a storm.

Storm – you call that a storm? C’mon, tough lady, try crossing one of my Joisey bridges and I’ll show you a storm.

 

Once again, I digress.

The radar [1]  said we had a bunch of ice to get through, so I used my Smart Device ® to find us lodging in the nearest bed-big-ridden fleabag comfy motel. It was a good decision; the roads were better in the morning. We had a relaxing evening after a stressful day of driving, and stomped carefully from the motel to a nearby Mexican restaurant for dinner. The otherwise dark night was bright in the little town of Kelso, its downtown illuminated by streetlights reflecting off new-fallen snow, which can make the most mundane town resemble a quaint, magical, North Pole scenario.

 

 Follow the bright star to the taco stand.

Follow the bright star to the taco stand.

*   *   *

¿Cómo se dice WIMP en español?

Tuesday evening was supposed to be the first night of the “accelerated” Spanish One [2] class I’m taking this quarter at the local campus of Portland Community College. Tuesday was two days after the aforementioned winter storm. I noticed no unsafe conditions when driving to the PCC site, and one by one, would-be Spanish (and German and ASL and other “community education” classes) students entered the building and milled around our unlit classrooms until we compared notes and arrived at the same conclusion: although the building was open our particular classes were, apparently, cancelled…but why is there one occupied classroom, full of students speaking French?

Someone used his cellphone phone to check the PCC site, and that Someone reported that indeed, PCC classes were cancelled for the day. [3] Meanwhile, another Someone returned to the (unstaffed) site  information desk to check the small, a hand-written sign, which announced in barely legible Sharpie scrawl that any PSU – Portland State University, which, evidently, uses the PCC site for at least one French class – sessions would meet as scheduled… but all PCC classes were cancelled.

A few of the Accelerated Spanish One students, one of whom said she had lived in Buffalo (They think THIS is snow?!), shared our opinions as to the ridiculousness of the situation, and also bonded in that I-drove-all-this-way-for-THIS? way that only befuddled strangers can, as we groused about the inconvenience of the cancellation [4]  and the relative wimpiness of the PCC vs. PSU schedulers.

 

Not.Even.Close.To.This.

Not.Even.Close.To.This.

 

It wasn’t all for naught. While three of us aspiring estudiantes were waiting for what we hoped was the late arrival of the Spanish teacher, we shared our history/familiarity with speaking Spanish. When it was my turn I said what I remembered most were bits of rudimentary medical Spanish, or what I liked to think of as Planned Parenthood exam survival Spanish: e.g., Please remove your clothing from the waist down. The Woman Who Formerly Lived In Buffalo © grinned broadly, asked me to repeat the phrase, and thanked me. It might come in handy, she explained, seeing as how she’d recently started dating a man from Mexico.

 

*   *   *

My Mother’s Resumé

Last week my older sister forwarded a text she’d received from CG, one of our mother’s caregivers. The subject was, “Mom wants to pitch in.”

(It was a )Good day here. Your mom was making her resumé for a while in her office. She feels that she should be working. I didn’t want to dampen her hopes but we talked about being a volunteer which of course would be too much….

I got a kick out of it…for a moment. The image of my mother making her resumé –is cute, funny, sweet – make that, bittersweet. And now a part of me wants to know: did mom follow through, and what would be on it if she did? What would this 87 year old woman (who is not always cognizant of her own age [5] ) list on her resumé?

 

oldjobjpg

 

My mother was the youngest of four daughters – her parents’ midlife, “oops” baby. [6]

Like most women of her generation, my mother had little hope for independence as an adult and was, essentially, a sentenced to life with her parents until/unless she married.

She moved with her mother and father to Santa Ana (CA) after her father retired from his job in Cass Lake (MN), an event which coincided with Mom’s high school graduation.

Mom enrolled in the local community college, got an A.A. degree, and managed to land a job with the Post Office. I gathered from the stories she told me over the years that she loved her job. Although she still lived with her parents [7] she was thrilled by the promise of even a modicum of independence that arose from earning her own money – she was saving up to buy her very own car; she really liked the styling on the Chevy Bel Aire! – even as she was less than thrilled (read: downright resentful) to be privy to the status and higher salaries of her fellow Post Office employees, all older than her and male, whom she described as slack-off, ineffectual, Civil-Service-for-life “geezers” whose jobs she felt she could do so much better (and sometimes did, but without credit) but would never be hired for or promoted to.

And then she got married.

She transferred her savings into the account of he-who-would-be-my-father, and their joint monies went for the deposit for their apartment, and a couple of years later, after my older sister was born, the down payment for their first house.

Oh, and she had to quit her one and only “real” job after she got married.

 

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds...but married women give me the willies.

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds…but married women give me the willies.

 

 

What do you mean, you had to quit your job when you got married? Why?

No matter how many times I asked that question [8] I never received a satisfactory answer. This was because

(a) there can be no satisfactory answer to a rational question about an absurd situation;
(b) my mother, hardly the bastion of feminist consciousness and one of the least introspective and politically conscious persons I’ve ever known, didn’t understand the why herself.

When I’d press her, she’d say that she didn’t know if it was codified Post Office policy, but it was common knowledge that only single women were hired for such clerical work. Her supervisor informed her, when she told him she was engaged, that she could remain at her position “until that time,” but that she’d have to quit her job when she got married.

 

wow

 

It’s been 60 – sixty!? – years since my mother had worked for pay. She worked nonetheless and of course for all those years, in a job of total dependency – a job which wasn’t even called a job, and for which there was little-to-no recognition outside that from the family which “employed” her. She played by the rules; she heeded the porous platitudes from the male-worshipping culture which spawned, formed, defined and limited her:

We won’t let you be a scientist  [9] but you will have the-most-important-job-in-the-world-as-wife-and-mother!

That same ManSociety neglected to mention that, lofty rhetoric aside, it placed little value in that “most important” of jobs, which by the way and don’t you worry your pretty little head about this will leave you completely financially dependent upon your husband and without translatable, marketable experience and skills.

 

REALLY

 

And now, ’tis 2016. Seemingly apropos of nothing, a sweet, memory-addled, elderly widow-woman wants to update her resumé. If she were physically and mentally able to seek employment, what would she be qualified to do?  [10]

I won’t ask, in my next phone call with her, how her resumé is shaping up. It would only confuse and upset her; she’ll have no memory that she mentioned her project to CG. She will have forgotten; I can’t. It’s gnawing at me, in a wistful way that makes me think about the last book Dr. Seuss never wrote: Oh, the Places You Could Have Gone.

I’d like to think that, if only for a moment, when my mother was thinking about writing her resumé she was reaching for the proverbial stars, and genuinely if only fleetingly thought she had a chance at applying for something important and exciting. Astronaut camp counselor? Postmaster general? Chevrolet design engineer?  Hell’s bells, what good is a stalling memory if you can’t jump start it and take a joy ride every now and then?

 

1954 Chevrolet Bel Aire

1954 Chevrolet Bel Aire

 

*   *   *

May you learn survival phrases in the foreign language of your choice;
May your life’s resumé be the stuff of sweet dreams,
And may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

 

[1] Do you have the Accuweather app? You should.

[2] “Accelerated” meaning you’ve had some familiarity with Spanish however long ago, and, like in my case, when you can remember bits of what I refer to as Planned Parenthood Spanish (please remove your clothing from the waist down”) you might want a faster paced class than one which begins with “Uno, dos, tres….”

[3] It hadn’t occurred to those of us who showed up to check the status of the classes. Monday, maybe, but things seemed fine on Tuesday.

[4] We had to provide email addresses to register for the class. Would it have been too much to send out a mass email notifying us of the cancellation?

[5] My mother suffers from a variety of age-related ailments, including memory impairments.

[6] And the fact that she knows the history of her “embarrassing” birth – that she was told by her parents that her “arrival” was an embarrassment to them – explains a lot, IMHO, about many aspects of her personality.

[7] Apartment complexes/landlords would not rent units to unmarried women.

[8] I stopped asking around the time when I was in high school, when, thanks to the Second Wave of Feminism, I “got it.”

[9] My mother’s high school physics teacher announced on the first day of class that he would not teach science to female students wanted them to leave the classroom. My mother’s mother intervened with the principal, and the teacher begrudgingly let the girls stay in his classroom but continued to slight them (including my mother, who would go on to be her class valedictorian). He never looked at them during his lectures and ignored their raised hands when he asked for questions…with one exception. He agreed to teach my mother’s best friend, Dorothy, because “It was obvious Dorothy will never marry ” and thus she’d need to be educated to support herself (Dorothy had been facially disfigured at birth by the inept, forceps-wielding doctor who delivered her).  This story was first told to me when I was taking physics in high school. I’d commented on something we’d learned in class, and my mother told me she’d never found physics very interesting. Imagine that.

[10] Please don’t say, Walmart greeter. Gawdammit, I heard ya.

The Bohemian Like You I’m Not Like

Comments Off on The Bohemian Like You I’m Not Like

 

And Now You Know

This is the song I’d write, and play rhythm guitar on, if I wrote alt-type songs and played guitar.

 

 

*   *   *

And Now You Know Even More

And this is the song, I told MH as we were listening to the radio in the car on the way to run some errand, that I would learn to play if I played bass guitar.

 

 

*   *   *

Although You Probably Didn’t Know This

I have written a song. It’s a C & W ditty, titled, If You Can’t Live Without Me Then Why Aren’t You Dead. It remains (mercifully so, in the eyes and ears of some) unpublished and unrecorded. Ah, but the year is young….

*   *   *

If You Read Only One Book This Year…

Well then, shame on you. Put down your screens and read one more.  And make sure it’s Between the World and Me, by journalist-author Ta-Nehisi Coates.

I won’t write a review because y’all know I neither write nor read book reviews. Suffice to say I think you’d enjoy this book (I’d like to add, you need to read this book if you’d like to consider yourself a Good American Citizen ® , but that would be too dogmatic), especially if you’re one of us who “think they are white.” [1]

 

Enlightened minds are amused by the concept of race.

Enlightened minds are amused by the concept of race.

*   *   *

Department of The End

…of one of my favorite weeks of the year, that is. I love the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. [2]  New Year’s Eve, however, is another thing. I have a somewhat bipolar relationship to the day. Over my adult years it has seemed to be either been really fun or really dull. I’ve (almost) outgrown the We’re Supposed To Be Having Fun – Are We Having Fun Now?  mentality – the notion that somewhere out there, everyone is having a gay old time except for moiself, who is home polishing furniture or something. [3]

 

Please do tell me when I'm having a jolly old time.

Please do tell me when I’m having a jolly time.

 

Today we’ll have a few close friends over for dinner. We’ll be serving a variation of my father’s beloved New Year’s Day meal: you must have black-eyed peas and rice, aka Hoppin’ John, and cornbread and collard greens, in some form, on the first day of the year.

It’s a Southern Thing ©: eating black-eyed peas on January 1 supposedly brings good luck for the coming year (black-eyed peas were supposedly seen, by several cultures, as resembling pennies or coins). And as even the most cursory glance through the pages of an American history book demonstrates, if you’re looking for a culture synonymous with good luck, you can’t go wrong by picking a tradition from The South ®  and following it to the letter.

So. In defiance of the good luck that will not be coming my way in 2016, I’ll be tweaking the traditional menu. I’ll make black-eyed peas and rice cakes with roasted red pepper sour cream sauce, cider vinegar sautéed collard greens, and cornbread.

 

I see not the slightest resemblance to coins and would never attempt to use these objects in vending machines.

I see not the slightest resemblance to coins and would never attempt to use these objects in vending machines.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Why Do They Do That?

“Our culture is not the only one that had slavery/Slavery has been practiced by all people around the globe/Native Americans took slaves from neighboring tribes/….”

Make that, Department Of Rhetorical Questions.

I know why “they” (people in general, moiself included) do “that,” which is to joke, distract or “play the devil’s advocate” when Certain Subjects ® are raised. It is an attempt to hide discomfort and/or distance yourself from unpleasant topics, particularly those that may make you feel defensive and powerless yet complicit.

The italicized comments above were evoked when I attempted to recommend the previously mentioned Book I Read But Did Not Review ® to a couple of light-skinned menfolk. Their immediate (and interruptive) comments –  the kind of Oh yeah? Well what about ___? defense-as-offense remarks which strike me as the intellectual equivalent of an eight year old sticking his fingers in his ears, nyah nyah I can’t hear you – should  have come as little surprise, given the subject (racism in America).  Still, it frosted my butt.

First of all: Hello, I was merely attempting to recommend a book I think you would enjoy reading. I was not attempting to discuss the book – which negates the kneejerk, devil’s advocate defense (“it’s no fun if everyone is agreeing…”). What would be the point of wanting, or even trying, to discuss a book with people who haven’t yet read it?

Second of all: Geesh.

If your daughter ran into the kitchen, blood gushing from her nose, and said she’d been punched in the face by the neighborhood bully, you should (1) tend to her injuries and (2) consider paying a visit to the bully’s house. I would hope your reaction would not be to tell your daughter that there have always been bullies all over the world, that Julius Caesar bullied Marc Antony, and that she isn’t the only kid who’s ever gotten punched in the nose – we know of kids in the next block and across town who also got bloody noses….

 

nyah

*   *   *

Department Of Am I Missing Something?

I refer of course to watching Home Alone on Christmas Eve.

One thing led to another during our family dinner table conversation on December 24, the Another being Movies That Take Place On Or Are About Christmas.  It turned out that none of us – not moiself, MH, son K or daughter Belle –  had ever seen the so-called classic, Home Alone.

 

HA

 

We’d each been privy to a few scenes or outtakes from the movie. I pride myself on being somewhat [4] culturally literate (if only to be better equipped to do crossword puzzles), and thus was familiar with the movie’s general plot. So. After dinner we downloaded HA (either Amazon or Netflix, can’t remember) and watched it.

Really, how lame is that movie? And why does everyone [5] say it’s a classic?

MH offered a week defense of HA, with which I, at first, weakly agreed: you need a suspension of reality; i.e., pretend you’re watching a Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner cartoon, and you might be able to enjoy HA on that level. Nah. That ultimately and only made me wish for a Looney Tunes adventure, and did nothing to alleviate the loathing I felt for the excruciating “clever”, sitcom-ish, written-by-adults-trying-to-pretend-a-clever-8-year-old-kid-would-talk-like-this dialogue spewed by HA’s pint-sized protagonist.

 

scream

*   *   *

Department of Last Day Quotes of the Year

This is the disadvantage of being tall – people can look up your nose.
(MH, 12-31-15)

*   *   *

May you try to engage topics that make you uncomfortable;
may you feel free to avoid classic art that sucks;
may your height bring you nothing but advantages,
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Happy New Year, and  Au Vendredi!

HNE

 

 

[1] This idea – of “race” as a construct and thus, e.g., people think they are white but in fact are not – is directly, obliquely and poetically addressed in Coates’ book.

[2] Well…I love it during those years when I’m not bogged down/distracted by the it’s a new year and what the hell have you done with your life and why did the last year leave skidmarks? kind of issues.

[3] An actual New Year’s Eve activity I did one year, a long long time ago in a galaxy far far away, as a one-woman protest of the hype and commercialism of the eve and to prove to myself that the event was overrated and that I could be satisfied with simple, contemplative activities, even an activity I would never otherwise undertake (wax the furniture?). And yes, it was also/partially because I hadn’t been invited to any of those overrated and hyped parties…and yes, it was also/partially lonely, and it sucked.

[4] Read: sometimes barely.

[5] Yes, everyone. When I meet people from overseas, it’s the first thing they say (well, after mumbling in their broken English some variation of “where’s the toilet?”): “So, does you are enjoying ze American classic, Home Alone?”

The Hand I’m Not Sniffing

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Nothing Says Here Comes Christmas…

…quite like decorating the tree while watching an American International Pictures movie, starring Annette FunicelloFrankie Avalon .  Muscle Beach Party , y’all. Fa la la la la, la la la la!

 

*   *   *

Department Of Now I Get It

Content warning: Ted “too-busy-tithing-to-pay-his-brain-bill” Cruz quote.

During the National Religious Liberties Conference last month, Rethuglican Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, when asked by conference sponsor Batshit Frothing Fanatic Foghorn Pastor Kevin Swanson [1]  how important it is for the President of the USA to “fear god,” replied (my emphases)  [2] :

“Any president who doesn’t begin every day on his knees
isn’t fit to be commander-in-chief of this nation.”

Gotcha, Massa Cruz. Christian cocksuckers are presidential material, but Atheists, Agnostics, Brights, Freethinkers and Humanists need not apply.

 

whatif

*   *   *

Department Of Laugh So Hard You Crap You Pants, Just Don’t Inhale

Dateline: last Sunday evening, 6 pm. Tears of joy welled in my eyes as, standing in front of my computer in my office, I overheard yet another, they-don’t-realize-how-loud-they-are-talking-and-that-we-can-hear-them discussion among The Stinky Boys ® [3] in the dining room. Topic: a story about a friend who left a gathering after he’d emitted what might be described genteelly [4] as a moist flatulent emission…but, before excusing himself, he put his hand down the back of his pants, removed his hand, and sniffed it.

TSB were taking sides on whether the sniff was necessary (“If you crapped your pants, you know what you did – you don’t need to smell it to confirm…”).  Believe it or not, there was quite a bit of back and forth about this. I had not imagined there could be pros and cons – or any opinions other than EEEEEEEEWWWWWWWWW – on the subject.

 

we are not amused

*   *   *

MH is feeling crafty this Christmas.  Funny how much more stately a bottle of Two-Buck Chuck cabernet seems when you dress it up as Obi Wine Kenobi.

 

obiwine

 

*   *   *

Department Of Sometimes All You Can Do Is Laugh

I needed a pitcher of martinis last Saturday afternoon. Or, as I explained to friend SCM, perhaps just a picture of James Bond and a martini would suffice.

 

bondmartini

 

The martini mood was induced by an odder-than-usual conversation with my mother, who had phoned me, or rather, had her “lady” [5] dial me up. My mother initiating a phone call is highly unusual (I’m the one who calls her); she wanted my reassurances on some pressing/disturbing issues for her. After speaking with Mom I called my older sister for a tête-à-tête re the situation, then lumbered downstairs.

MH met me at the bottom of the stairway and gestured toward the family room, where our son K and The Stinky Boys ®  [6] were gathered around our TV.   “You might not want to go in there,” he said. “They’re watching ‘Reservoir Dogs’.”   [7]

“That’s nothing,” I said. “I just had to kill my father.  Again.”

My mother had called to ask me why I had taken the family car. She’d been obsessing about the so-called missing car for days, according to her lady/caretaker, who is usually able to handle such matters. But Mom was convinced I’d taken the car and had been gone – and when was I coming back, and would I also bring back my younger sister? – and her caretaker, CCC, thought that I might be able to calm her down.

I was able to (eventually) get my mother off the missing car path, but her erratic thought train jumped another, more problematic track:

Where is your dad? Why won’t he come home – do you know what happened?

Oh….shit.

 

Apropos of nothing, except that I need a cute picture right about now.

Apropos of nothing, except that I need a cute picture right about now.

 

She’ll be fine for days, even weeks, then forgets that Chet Parnell died six years ago. The pain, fear and confusion in her voice is evident, and it is heartbreaking to realize she’s thinking her beloved husband abandoned her or is missing and no one knows what has happened – or, worse yet, we all know what’s going on but are keeping it from her….

This forgetting of her husband’s death, this most painful of her many memory lapses, has happened before, and will almost certainly happen again. I know this. Still, it catches me off guard. Such conversations are painful for me, to understate the situation to the nth degree. But imagine how distressing it is for her, a confused, frail, frightened, elderly woman, who essentially has to relive the death of her husband, over and over again….

At least I was able to reassure her that I had not run off with the car (nor kidnapped my younger sister). Evidently stuck in yesteryear, my mother thought I was a teenager; also, she didn’t trust that it was me, at first, on the phone. (“That’s not Robyn,” I heard her say to her caretaker). I was able to prove that I was her second born daughter by reciting my birth date, after which I heard CCC say in the background, “See, that’s Robyn. She knows her birth date…yeah, and that would make her about fifty, which is correct.”

I later told CCC that I like the way she does math. Now, my own mother thinks I’m only 50!

Some memory lapses have fringe benefits.

*   *   *

Department of Nyah Nyah Nyah Nyah Nyah

I’m seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens this afternoon, and you’re (probably) not.

 

 

force

*   *   *

Department Of It’s A Wonderful Life

Dateline: Wednesday, December 16. The birthday of moiself. The official family B-day dinner will be on Saturday, when Belle is home from college. On the actual day of The Blessed event © MH and son K took me out to a favorite eatery – a brew pub up in the hills. I enjoyed a relaxing evening: dinner and listening to live music with my boys at the Rock Creek Tavern.

Most of all, I enjoyed our conversation, the free range topics of which were inspired by K’s new job as a lab research at a local biomedical startup.  We started with what defines terms commonly used by both scientist and laypersons that are also commonly misunderstood or under-understood: basic and acidic and the ph scale  . We all use the terms, but what do they actually measure?…which led to the more general concept of scientific classifications, which, as many scientists point out, are necessary for research but are also, sometimes, somewhat arbitrary…which segued to the political psychological and sociological ramifications of that most errant of classifications, “race” as per human beings…which led MH to point out that “breed” might be a better term to classify distinctive physiological differences among a group of animals that are still able to reproduce within the same group…which led to moiself approving the logic in MH’s suggestion, because after all, humans are animals…which prompted MH to share the fact that the German language has different terms – essen and fressen – to distinguish the same function – eating—between humans and other animals…and [8]  then K for some reason found it necessary to impart what he thought was a distinguishing feature that proved he was no mere animal – I  do not lick my balls!…a proclamation which, of course, had to be countered by moiself:

That’s only because you can’t.  If you could, you would.

K wisely decided not to contradict his mother on her birthday.

As my father, the late great “Chet the Jet,” was fond of saying, These are the good times.

 

happy family

*   *   *

Department Of If You Have To Ask…

I bought two of those clapper things – you know, the As Seen on TV devices. I’ve been having soooooooooooooo much fun using it to turn on the Christmas tree lights (clap clap clap), and also the lights I have in the fireplace (clap clap). Not only does the clapper do what it does, the festive device has provided me with opportunities for blissful marital repartee – all this for only $19.95, such a deal.

 

Moiself: Look at this!  (clap clap; clap clap clap).

MH: Uh oh.

Moiself: Isn’t this fun!  (clap clap clap). I actually bought two of them. Where shall we put the other one?

MH: You don’t want me to answer that.

clap

*   *   *

May the Ted Cruz-es of our world deem you unfit for their world;
may you be a credit to your race breed;
may you clap your way to happiness;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

[1] Who, BTW, thinks gay people should be killed.

[2] watch the tape of Cruz’s remarks here

[3] As mentioned in previous posts, The Stinky Boys is MH’s and my affectionate nickname for the group of friends who gather with K every Sunday (and sometimes Saturday) night to play D & D and other games and watch movies and raise their risk of developing adult onset diabetes and heart disease eat pizza and junk food.

[4] But of course, was not.

[5] Her live-in caretaker. My mother is elderly, in poor mental and physical health and suffers from memory problems.

[6] A group of roughly 4-7 of K’s friends (membership varies), who are not in fact stinky (and sometimes not all boys), who gather here regularly to play D & D and other games and watch movies.

[7] A violent Quentin Tarentino movie…which I think is a redundancy.

[8] Pretend there is yet another smooth as silk segue here.

The Fun I’m Not Missing

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Department Of What’s The Point

The problem with speaking the truth to power is that power can’t be bothered to listen.

*   *   *

Department Of Pleasant Surprises

Last Saturday morning when I finished exercising I popped out the workout DVD and did my cool down/stretches to the background noise of a college football game on TV. During one brief timeout in the game over a disputed call or something I swear I heard one team’s marching band play the distinctive opening riff to the White Stripe‘s Seven Nation Army.  It was at once bizarre and totally appropriate…and almost as emotionally satisfying as hearing the Roto Rooter Goodtime Christmas Band ‘s rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s psychedelic rock anthem, Purple Haze.

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Yet Another Podcast Adventure

The podcast, an interview with a historian specializing in ancient Rome (Mary Beard/Fresh Air show), began with the show’s host reciting an intriguing description of the guest’s professional accomplishments: “…a professor of classics, does TV and radio documentaries, writes a well-read blog…and has become somewhat famous for taking on internet trolls.”

 

trolls

 

I couldn’t help but wonder: Why, oh why, would someone do that, or become “famous” for doing that?  Especially someone who is an academic, or at least educated. I thought that, by definition, if you “take on” an internet troll, or engage them in any way, the troll wins.[1]

I am not fully convinced that individual internet trolls exist.  I think there is a troll generator somewhere, created and controlled by a man-boy who resembles a cross between Jabba the Hutt and a meerkat. This Jabbakat occupies a bunker designed to resemble his parent’s basement, where, hunkered down amid cases of Red Bull, Hot Pockets and survivalist grade toilet paper, he froths and seethes over the Unfairness of Life ® , including what happened eight years ago when, after hearing that girls go for guys in uniform, he dropped out of community college to take a job as a pizza delivery boy.

My favorite comment/observation about trolls of any kind is from Tina Fey, in her book, Bossypants . [2]

Bring on the babes.

Bring on the babes.

*   *   *

Department  Of Just Think About All The Fun You Missed

Wednesday was my annual Ladies Lefse dinner party. It is not too late for you to plan your own.  You don’t even have to make it an all-lady affair – you can define the term “lady” loosely (as most of us do these days, yuckity yuckaroo). In the spirit of open-minded heteronormativity, [3] you could make it a party for Lefse Ladies and Those Who Identify as Lefse Ladies.

 

Who wouldn't want to identify with these festive, frisky females?

Who wouldn’t want to identify with these festive, frisky females?

 

*   *   *

I kept hearing erstwhile respected actor Danny Glover’s voice on a TV ad, publicizing a medication to treat “pseudo bulbous effect.”  And I kept thinking, Wow, there’s a drug for everyone, including people who obsessively don large fake noses.

I stand corrected. It’s Pseudobulbar affect, and it’s apparently a thing. Pseudobulbar affect is a neurological disorder, that just happens to have one of the best disorder nicknames ever:

“also known as emotional incontinence.”

 

 I can quit any time I want to, okay?

I can quit any time I want to, okay?

 

*   *   *

A Special Holiday Message For A Special Guy

To the dude I was driving behind on Monday – the guy in the Ford pickup heading west on Cornell Road in the early afternoon. After watching you weave in and out of traffic lanes and tailgate other drivers, I humbly suggest that your holiday thankfulness this year be directed toward the following government agencies and employees:

* the DMV, for not having a basic reading comprehension and IQ test as part of its licensing procedures

* those current and former U.S. Marines, [4] who might be embarrassed/appalled by your proudly displayed ignorance as evinced by your various anti-Obama, anti-government, bumperstickers and window decals sharing bumper and window space with your pro-U.S. Marines stickers.

BTW, duuuuuuuuude: Obama is an American, not a Kenyan, for crying’ out loud in the fucking Halls of Montezuma‘s sake.

I can only assume your truck’s OR license plate was crafted personally, for you, and that YRT 987 stands for, Your Retard Tendencies 987 (on a scale of 990). [5] [6]

 

 

He forgot the sticker that says, Honk If You're Following a Bigoted Asshat

He forgot the sticker that says, Honk If You’re Following a Bigoted Asshat

*   *   *

Holiday haiku

At this time of year
no joy is as pure as that
which arises from

seeing Christian
right wing nutjobs twisting their
tinsel-lined panties

when they hear the phrase
Happy Holidays! and/or
another greeting

which acknowledges
the wealth of celebrations
at this time of year.

solsticegreetings

It’s Merry Christmas
or nothing for those pinch-nosed

paranoid Scrooges.

Their faces turn red
and green – which, fittingly, are
the Christmas colors.

I am delighted
to wish them, “Happy Solstice,”
and hope that one day

they’ll understand this:
“Axial tilt – The Reason
For (all the) Seasons!”

axial tilt

*   *   *

May you avoid troll engagement;
May you embrace the season’s greetings;
May you remain emotionally continent;
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

[1] Or at least, you lose.

[2] Look it up. You won’t regret it. While you’re at it, just read the whole damn book.

[3] Belle is going to be taking a Gender Studies class next semester. I’m practicing.

[4] Government employees, yep – although not often thought as such. Who pays the military salaries?

[5] I know, I know, retard is no longer an acceptable pejorative. I’m making a New Year’s Resolution to stop using it.

[6] If you believe the previous footnote, you’re a ‘tard.

The Relevance I’m Not Maintaining

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Department of Thanksgiving Hangover

Yet another thing for which to be thankful – a spate of recent crisp, [1] clear mornings late last/early this week, when I could see the moon as I walked at dawn.

dawnmoon

 

Department of My Irrelevance

Medical doctors are trained in the importance of pain assessment , including how to differentiate between the many and problematically subjective human experiences of pain. Current thought on the matter is that storytelling, via descriptive prompts from doctor to patient, is a valuable lead-in to pain assessment.

Tell me about your pain. Would you describe it as:

burning, shooting, tingling, radiating, lancinating, or numbness
or achy, throbbing, or dull;
or squeezing, pressure, cramping, distention, dull, deep, and stretching

The pain I felt on Tuesday morning began as a burning in my ears. The sensation quickly radiated up the auditory nerve to my auditory cortex, where it translated into a deep, throbbing ache. It was all I could do not to jerk out my earbuds and fling my iphone to the ground.

Lay translation: the podcast I was listening to made my brain hurt.

This American Life , the mahvelous weekly journalistic radio show, follows a distinctive format.  Each show has a theme, and uses a combination of essays, first person narratives and interviews, archival sound recordings and sometimes even short fiction to explore and illustrate their show’s themes, in segments of up to three or four “acts.” TAL’s themes range from current events and popular culture to particular aspects of human nature. The one that made my brain hurt was This American Life #573: Status Update.

“Most of the time, the updates we share about our lives are small and inconsequential. This week, status updates that interrupt daily life.”

I had to force myself to finish listening to the first act – the ominously [2] titled, Finding the Self in Selfie. TAL host Ira Glass interviewed three teenage girls on the complex and constantly changing social media map that is primarily distributed and maintained via their cellphones. The interview consisted of the girls (Julia, Ella, Jane) explaining why they feel they must constantly tell their friends they are beautiful on Instagram and other social media sites, as well as post pictures of themselves on the same sites, which are in turn subject to commentary.

 

socialm

 

There are complicated and unwritten – yet widely known and seemingly accepted [3] –  “rules” for such social media interaction. And listening to the girls explain it made me want to puke.

Navigating the social strictures of high school was hard enough in The Olden Days, ® when your social status rose and fell via lunch table and locker room gossip. Now, kids have to obsess about their “relevance”  – they use that term, I kid you not – as per their peers’ reactions to their social media presence, a relevance (read: social ranking) both ephemeral and life-altering, which can change in minutes, even seconds.

And even as the girls complained about or acknowledged the shallowness behind the obligation of social media, they admitted to voluntarily and rabidly participating in the same.

(excerpt from a transcript of the episode)

Ira Glass: I have to say…oh my god, this is such a job.

Girls: Yeah.

Julia: It’s like I’m– I’m a brand, and I am like–

Ella: You’re trying to promote yourself.

Julia: The brand. I’m the director of the–

Ira Glass: And you’re the product.

Jane: You’re definitely trying to promote yourself.

Julia: To stay relevant, you have to–

Jane: You have to work hard.

Ella: Relevance is a big term right now.

Ira Glass: Are you guys relevant?

Ella: Um, I’m so relevant.

Jane: In middle school. In middle school, we were definitely really relevant.

Ella: (SARCASTICALLY) We were so relevant.

Jane: Because everything was established. But now, in the beginning of high school, you can’t really tell who’s relevant.

Ira Glass: Yeah. And what does relevant mean?

Jane: Relevant means that people care about what you’re posting on Instagram. People–

Julia: Care about you.

Listening to the story, I felt…I’m not sure how to describe it. I felt like some kind of Amish anti-tech/media advocate. 

 

There be no more Snapchat for thee, young ladies!

There be no more Snapchat for thee, young lady!

 

Of course, those seemingly benign Amish can get downright nasty when it comes to their community’s insular social status, and shun their own who fail to toe the line. But the threat of ostracizing, bullying or relevance banishment seems so much more pervasive in today’s all-knowing, all-reporting world of social media.

I wanted to slap some sense into those girls and envelop them in a mama bear hug, all at once.

It’s like I’m– I’m a brand…
…and you’re the product.

I wish feminism came in a can, like Red Bull, that girls and young women could chug. I wish there was a “product” to rev up their perception metabolism, a formula that would make them want to stop shoring up the system that perpetuates looksism and a bajillion-hundred other insecurities and forms of disempowerment.

 

wecandoit

*   *   *

Department of Holiday Hell

A recurrent seasonal nightmare of mine involves having a friend who participates in That Most Fiendish Holiday Of Events © . This friend invites me to attend said event, and in a moment of weakness truth-telling I blurt out that I would rather dive face first into a vat of eggnog-laced hyena feces than attend a Singing Christmas Tree show.

 

Santa, shoot me now.

Santa, shoot me now.

*   *   *

Department of Holiday What The Hell

Every time the traveling company for the Broadway musical The Book of Mormon has come to Portland I’ve tried to get tickets, and every time I have failed.  I did succeed in convincing MH and our son, K, in accompanying me to the next best thing: a matinee performance of The Book of Merman, which we saw last Sunday.

The Book of Merman is the story of what happens when two novice Mormon missionaries unexpectedly encounter “the undisputed first lady of the musical comedy stage.” (Well, of course it is).

I tried to make our outing as multicultural as possible. When one thinks of Mormons and/or Ethel Merman, the cuisine that naturally comes to mind is something Ricky Ricardo would appreciate. Thus, we dined before the show at Portland’s best Cuban café, [4] Pambiche,

BTW, you should know that Ethel Merman did one of the all-time great movie cameo appearances, in Airplane!

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Don’t Make Me Say It 

Is it December, already?

I thought I advised you not to make me say it.

And while I religiously dodge Singing Christmas Tree invitations I do enjoy a seasonal song or two.  There is no shortage of good Christmas carols for atheists, [5] including, White Christmas, Sleigh Bells, Deck the Halls, Rudolph…and I’d say almost any tune by Tim Minchin qualifies, especially the lovely, cheeky and yet sentimental, White Wine in the Sun. A new-old favorite of mine is I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas. [6]  And please, get you and yo mama some seasonal spirit by singling along with the greatest rap Yule tune of all time, Christmas In Hollis.

 

 

*   *   *

May your unexpected encounters be Merman-esque;
may you be emotionally healthy enough to not give a flying flounder’s flatulence about your social media relevance;
and may the holiday hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Not exactly thrilled about the 20˚ temps…but the moon is worth it.

[2] For someone my age who loathes selfies.

[3] At least, by the teenagers involved.

[4] Well, it’s the best Cuban restaurant – Perdóneme, el mejor café CubanoI’ve been to in Portland (okay, so there are, like, maybe three).

[5] “Good” is defined as songs that do not mention deities. And it’s funny, when you do the research, to find out how many Christmas songs were written by atheists and agnostics…and Jews.

[6] Of course, some godless nitpicker will point out that hippo gods were worshiped in ancient Egypt.

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