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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 Spanish Class I’m Not Taking

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There is no I in quitter.

Turns out, there is.

¿Come se dice Homework sucks en español?

Guess I’ll never know, unless I look it up myself. On Monday I dis-enrolled moiself from the Spanish class I’d so been looking forward to.

 

REALLY

 

Yes, really.

I’d been a little put off by the cancellation-without-notice of the class’s first meeting, (mentioned in a previous post), an incident which, on the second meeting of the class, [1]  la professora seemed not at all concerned about, even after several of us told her we had showed up to an empty, dark classroom. [2] But hey, okay, no big deal in the whole scope of things, right?

I was also a bit put off when la professor told her estudiantes that she was not fond of the textbook for the course, a book we had all purchased as instructed (a book that was, what, assigned for her class against her will?). What was the point of mentioning that?

I liked the other students in the class just fine and dandy. [3]  And then it came time to do the homework assignments.

Something in me balked. I did not find the assignments difficult; in fact, I was encouraged – given that I’d enrolled in an “accelerated” beginner’s class – by how much of the material was familiar to me. But…I… just….

 

 

homework

 

 

I found myself reacting as if it were one of those committee meetings I so loath.

Homework.

Been there; done that, for sixteen years, a long time ago in a galaxy far far away…

Why again, I asked moiself, am I taking this class?  And why am I still typing moiself instead of mi mismo if I am supposedly interested in improving my español?

*   *   *

Department Of That Is So Not The Correct Response

Whilst using the self-checkout line at the local grocery store, the sopping wet bunch of scallions I’d picked up from the store’s why-do-they-spray-the-vegetables-every-five-seconds produce section leaked through my reusable bag. Water dripped all over the scale, and this apparently/somehow obscured the scanning device. I turned to face the clerk’s station which was right behind me, the station manned by the exceedingly tall, dull-eyed, slack-jawed lucky employee whose job it is to oversee the store’s self-checkout lines.

“Hello/Excuse me.” I smiled my best, Affable Customer Needs Assistance ® smile.  “One of my produce bags leaked water all over the scale. I’m unable to scan my last item, and….”

The clerk said, “Okay.”

Okay?

That was it. He said it somewhat expectantly, as if he were waiting for me to finish a not-very-funny joke.

I paused, awaiting the offer of assistance that was not forthcoming. I restated my dilemma, more succinctly the second time, and received a blank stare in response. I tried a third recitation of the situation, this time pointing toward the roll of paper towels at the clerk’s station, paper towels which are there to – wait for it – wipe the scales. [4]  He grabbed the roll, shuffled over to my checkout station and slooooooooooooowly wiped off the scale,[5] all the while shooting me several  Why are you telling me this? glances.

Silly moiself. Why did I tell the guy whose job it is to help the self-checkout stations that I needed  help with a self-checkout station? WTF, dude, I just decided to share this with you because I’m having a lonely night.

 

grocery

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Department Of Sushi Politics

MH and I had a lovely sushi lunch last Friday, with two administrators (the President/CEO and Chief Development Officer) from the local Planned Parenthood chapter, who wanted to thank MH and I personally for our year end donation, and pick our minds about our history of supporting the organization, etc.

We’ve supported PP [6] at both the local and national level for years, although I removed the national organization from my donation list many years back, [7] a story I got to share with the PP Ladies. And although I am so grateful for the services PP provides to the community, I also shared my disappointment [8] with the decision by the political wing of the National PP organization to break a long-standing tradition of neutrality to endorse a presidential candidate during the primary races.

The PP Prez made an articulate, well-reasoned and passionate case for the national PP board’s endorsement – a decision I found not surprising and certainly understandable in these trying times for supporters of reproductive freedom. Still, I agreed to disagree with the endorsement, in part due to the story I’m about to share with y’all.

Another long time ago in a galaxy far far away, I worked for Planned Parenthood of San Mateo County (CA). One morning at the beginning of my shift, as I walked down the hallway which led from the PP building parking lot through the administrative offices, I was greeted by PPSMC’s vice-president. The Veep was on her way to the employee break room for her morning coffee, and her attention was caught by the button I’d affixed to the strap of my purse:

 

lobotomy

 

Veep flashed me a wicked, I-am-so-going-to-love-this smile and asked,

Do you think I should have a lobotomy?

Gulp.  Uh, no, ma’am.

Turns out PP Veep was a longtime Republican, and as she accompanied me to the clinic wing of the building she treated me to a PP history lesson. She pointed to the pictures of the clinic’s founders and major financial sponsors, pictures which hung in the hallway I’d traversed every day I came to work – pictures I heretofore had given nary a second glance as they all seemed at first glance (to moiself) to be a bunch of “old folks” who looked like they could have been the disgruntled bridge partners of my Aunt Erva.

 

Of course I support your reproductive choices. But if you choose to bid one heart again I'm going to kick your ass.

I support your reproductive choices. But if you choose to bid one heart again I’m gonna choose to kick your ass.

 

The majority of the clinic’s founding donors were political conservatives and/or Republicans who, the Veep explained to me, had the highest respect for PP’s mission statement – that the family is the bedrock unit of society; thus, the ability to plan one’s family is a fundamental and most personal decision that should be free of governmental interference – and that that was the true conservative’s position, and anything I’d heard to the contrary was the result of political and religious fanatics hijacking the authentic….

You get the picture.

And I got the button off my purse strap. [9]

My dear and recently departed FIL was a staunch Republican, who made it a point over the years to tell MH and I how he’d consistently (and successfully) fought to procure and maintain the donations to PP from the many charitable foundations on whose boards he’d served. He and my MIL – pro-choice Republicans [10] – might seem to be an endangered species, but I know there are more of them are out there.

Again, I get PP’s decision. The current crop of Republican presidential candidates is particularly dismal, and it’s been a tough political row to hoe for the pro-choice movement.

But, it’s been that way for a loooooong time. Fiscally conservative/socially progressive Republicans who are teetering about their loyalties…I fear the endorsement of Clinton by PP might just be the “nudge” to get those R’s thinking that they have to choose sides once and for all on this issue, and that the fanatics are correct – only those liberals support reproductive freedom.

  *   *   *

Department Of Object Lessons

I follow the blog Epiphenom: The Science of Religion and Non-Belief. The blog came about as per its author’s curiosity regarding…I’ll let him tell you in his own words:

Hi, my name’s Tom Rees I want to know why some people believe in gods, and what the psychological and social consequences of those beliefs are. I read the research, and when I find something juicy I write it up and post it here!
I’ve been blogging on the psychology of religions belief (and non-belief) since 2008 – this blog has its origins in a paper I wrote published in 2009 on the link between personal insecurity and religious belief. I’m a medical writer by profession, and have a PhD in biotechnology.

A recent post on the Epiphenom blog is worth a look for all you Freethinkers, or anyone, no matter how you label yourself, who is concerned re the influence of religion on education.

The world’s first scientific renaissance took place not in Italy, but in the Arab world…
Which makes it all the stranger that modern Islamic nations have such a lamentable record in science. Where did it all go wrong?
(from How Religious Schools Led to the Decline of Arabic Science, Epiphenom, 1-14-16)

As per the following excerpts (from the same post), replace Sunni revival with Evangelical or Conservative Christian…and feel free to shudder away.

And once religious traditionalists took control of the education system, they shut down most lines of scientific inquiry. Not only were there fewer scientific works after the Sunni Revival took hold, but those that were produced in were cited less often – indicating that they had less impact on other scholars….. So, this is a simple case of power and control. Once the Sunnis became dominant, they clamped down on any potential challenges to their authority. And that included rational inquiry – dealing a fatal blow to the region and causing lasting damage that persists to this day.

Christianity vs. Science

*   *   *

 

Okay. Enough with the Serious Stuff © .

Department of Morning Surprises

Oh, crap, no!

I espied a suspicious dark blob on the floor by the kitchen table and dropped to my knees for further inspection.

What is it? MH asked cautiously.

We both feared another thinking-outside-the-box incident, for which one of our cats is notorious. Instead it was only (and oddly) the top of a jalapeño – a trimming from the previous night’s dinner – which had somehow escaped from its (intended) journey from the kitchen counter to the compost bin.

MH recoiled reflexively as I dangled the so-relieved-it-is-not-a-cat-turd object in front of his face.

“It’s a jala-poo-ño,” he declared.

 

jalapoo

*   *   *

May your mornings bring only pleasant surprises;
May your requests for assistance bring only appropriate responses;
May you enjoy a realization of freedom that is one of the few unmitigated pleasures of aging (hey, I don’t have to do this thing if I don’t want to!);
and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Uh, which was then actually the first day of the class.

[2] A simple, vaguely apologetic, Oh, how inconvenient for you, would have sufficed.

[3] And in age-reporting fairness, as per my being the youngest in the other class I’m taking (which I mentioned in last week’s post), I’d estimate I was one of the two oldest in the Spanish class.

[4] I have seen other clerks do this. I have seen, and I have believed that it is possible.

[5] It took three paper towels. That store believes in soaking their scallions, lemme tellya.

[6] Translate: yearly $$ donations.

[7] Due to my dissatisfaction with their non-response to my repeated, reasonable and well-stated concerns re their constant dunning for membership dues. Someone’s yearly membership is not “in desperate need” of renewal eleven months before the expiration date.

[8] I’m pissed off, I believe, is the genteel expression I employed.

[9] I still wore it. Just not to work.

[10] At least, ones willing to be vocal about it.

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.

The Alien Beam I’m Not Succumbing To

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They’re Here

 

 

 

I fear for MH. And also for my son, K. Something happens to men on this day.  And yes, despite my lifelong battle against gender stereotypes, I must declare that it seems to be a Guy Thing © .

I have it on good authority [1] that on the day after Thanksgiving men become subject to an alien spacecraft which hovers over North America, determined to wreak holiday havoc. Any adult male biped homeowner residing in the suburbs who steps outside of his home is subject to the thought control beam emanating from that invisible, insidious spaceship.

Truly, it is a wretched sight to behold: the oblivious male homeowner’s arms slowly elevate until they are parallel to the earth and he begins to move in a Frankenstein-ian lurch toward his stash in the attic and/or garage, all the while robotically murmuring,

Must. Put. Up. Lights. On. House.

 

xmaslights

Klaatu barada nikto…I hear and I obey.

*   *   *

Department Of You Know I’m Right

 

If you can’t fix it with this

 

duct

 

or this

 

WD

 

Or this

 

screwdriverpng

 

Which is not to be confused with this

 

On second thought....

On second thought….

 

then it’s probably not worth fixing.

 

*   *   *

Department of But Wait – There’s More!

Remember last week’s rant well-reasoned if bemused commentary about the TMI [2] – ness of the LGBT acronym?  On Monday I discovered this Special Specification ® , posted online in a call for submissions from a literary journal:

Adipose Crustacean Quarterly [3] will celebrate QPOC (queer people of color) voices
in a special issue outside of our regular publication schedule!

Now get back to putting up those lights around the garage door.

Now get back to putting up those lights around the garage door.

*   *   *

‘Tis the Fucking Season

 

war

 

Americans who wail about the imaginary “persecution of Christians” – I want to shine my flashlight in their right ears to see how long it takes for the beam to come out of the left.  The holiday season really brings it out, and their ignorant mewling becomes even more strident and annoying from now through New Year’s.

Attention, crybabies Christians: not getting everything your way every day, on every issue does not constitute a war against you. People acknowledging the fact that in the Northern Hemisphere there are about bazillion cultural observances that regularly and/or periodically occur between the Autumnal Equinox and the Winter Solstice and New Year, [4] and thus using Happy Holidays! as a respectful, inclusive and appropriate greeting – no war there.

All together now:  not being able to discriminate against other people does not equal a war on your beliefs.

 

 

warxmas

*   *   *

May you discover your very own special acronym;
may you escape the clutches of invisible alien beams;
may you be free from imaginary wars and filled with authentic peace…
and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] That would  be my devious imagination.

[2] Too many initials

[3] Not the magazine’s real name. Dang, eh?

[4] Including Saturnalia, Boxing Day, Hanukkah, Diwali, El Dia de los Muertos, and Kwanza, Solstice, Ramadan, Yule, Watch Night, Eid al-Fitr, Saint Nicholas Day, Bodhi Day, Chinese/Lunar New Year,Fiesta of Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Lucia Day, Pancha Ganapati, All Saints Day, Sadeh, Guy Fawkes Day….

The Time I’m Not Traveling

1 Comment

 

Department Of Can We Stop Using This Phrase, Please?

Re the ongoing blah blah blah political rhetoric of What We Would Or Shouldn’t Do To Help The Syrian People/Fight ISIS ® : there is a certain phrase I want to consign to the idiom trash bin.  Because

1) it glosses over the gritty reality of soldiers – flesh and blood human beings who are more than the parts of their uniforms – being deployed, and

(2) it doesn’t make me feel any more or less safe, or any more or less certain that we (the USA) are doing the right thing.

I mean, Boots on the ground – c’mon. That’s a given in my home.

 

boots

*   *   *

Department Of Just Wondering
Aka, Further Idiotic Idiom Inquiries

While we [1] are on the subject of idioms, you know the one some people use when they wish to emphasize their certainty about a subject?

“I ____  beyond the shadow of a doubt.”

This expression assumes that a doubt has a corporeal heft to it – a mass that could cast a shadow. Now, what would a doubt’s shadows look like? How would you know that what you saw was the shadow of a doubt? [2] And, like most physical objects, would doubt only cast a shadow on a sunny day, and thus on a cloudy day you could have no such certainty?

For the sake of further blithering discussion, suppose you indeed found doubt’s shadow: how would you know you were beyond it? Would it have clearly demarcated borders? And would beyond a shadow of a doubt mean that you were before, after or to the side of…which of the borders?

 

Whichever one of you is Doubt, please raise your hand...damn....

Whichever one of you is Doubt, please raise your hand…damn….

*   *   *

Department Of Put Down Your Green Tea And Reach For An Antiemetic

Katherine Stewart, author of “The Good News Club: the Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children” wrote an op-ed piece for Monday’s New York Times, which was one of the more disturbing articles I’ve ever read over breakfast. Stewart wrote about the Republican presidential candidates [3] who attended the National Religious Liberties Conference, wherein conference organizer, pastor Kevin Swanson, “…again called for the punishment [4] of homosexuality by death. To be clear, he added that the time for eliminating America’s gay population was “not yet” at hand. We must wait for the nation to embrace the one true religion, he suggested, and gay people must be allowed to repent and convert.”

Stewart writes that we non-conservatives might picture religious conservatives via stereotypes of  Midwestern farmers and small business owners, but warns that the leaders of the conservative religious movements to whom the seemingly benign Farmer Jethros of the nation deliver their votes have a more powerful, radical, and far-reaching agenda.

[ From Ted Cruz and the Anti-Gay Pastor, by NY Times op ed 11-16-15 (my emphases)]

When they hail religious liberty, they do not mean the right to pray and worship with other believers. Instead, the phrase has become a catchall for tactical goals of seeking exemptions from the law on religious grounds.  To claim exception from the law as a right of “religious refusal” is, of course, the same as claiming the power to take the law into one’s own hands.

The leaders of this movement are breathtakingly radical. Like Mr. Swanson, they feel persecuted and encircled in a hostile world. Like him, they believe that America will find peace only when all submit to the one true religion. … they do share the ultimate goal of capturing the power of the state and remaking society in ways most Americans would find extreme: a world in which men rule in families, women’s reproductive freedom is curtailed and “Bible believers” run the government.

I know that such people exist; I’ve heard their frightening rhetoric. Still, sometimes I wonder how much I really know about what they would like to do, if given the chance. Change the name Swanson to Imam Shafi’I and Bible-believers to Quran or Sharia disciples….in case you haven’t already noted the identical mindset.

 

clogic

*   *   *

Department Of Time To Pick On The Other Side
Subdivision Of Stop This While You Still Can

It’s not LGBT anymore- it’s LGBTQ!
(overheard from a probably well-intentioned but nonetheless shrill acronym cop)

 

facepalm

 

Not long ago, I overheard a portion of a conversation between two people, in which Person 1 corrected Person 2 for using LGBT, an erstwhile standard acronym which, according to some burr up their butts concerned citizens, is no longer acceptable due to its inadequacy of inclusion.

I’ve been reminded of that unintentional eavesdropping incident several times in the past few months, when I’ve encountered variations on the term LGBT. I’ve also encountered  More People insisting that Other People must employ a longer variant of the term (of the More People’s choosing). Most of these variations involve LGBT ‘s acquisition of Q, which, I’ve both told, stands for queer or questioning…or queer and/or questioning.

And then, earlier this week, I came across a new literary journal’s submission guidelines, which included this specification:

We are especially excited to hear from LGBTQIA + writers.

This was just a few days after I’d read some political observations online, wherein a commenter was questioned/corrected when he used LGBT instead of whatever acronym the Corrector deemed proper, which was something like LGBTQIA+ …only there was another symbol after the A, which wasn’t a + .

The Corrector didn’t say what his replacement acronym stood for, which of course led me to a so-what-does-it-mean? Web search. I found several sites which define LGBTQIA as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Queer, Intersex, Asexuala “more inclusive term than LGBT for people with non-mainstream sexual orientation or gender identity.”

But wait,  that’s what the Q is for – inclusivity, right? One Corrector explained it to me many moons ago: Queer was for other identifications that were not specifically or mainly LGBT.

Okay; fine. LGBTQIA.  Now, what’s with the addition of the addition sign? What does + signify? There is more inclusivity to be included?

Look, I’m sorry…. Strike that.

 

sorry

 

I’m not sorry at all for holding the opinion that the acronym is becoming unwieldy. This opinion o’mine is based on matters of convenience and accuracy of usage, and is not indicative of any political or social stance. [5]

Calling all Acronym Correctors: Don’t potentially alienate supporters – don’t shut down dialog or push people away by being a usage cop. Strive to gain and maintain allies by listening to what people say over how they are saying it; i.e., go for substance over style. And BTW, since when are all LGBTQ/minority sexual identifying people part of one, monolithic community, with the same political, economic, social and cultural concerns that can be encapsulated in one acronym?

IMHO:

LGBTQIA+  =  TMI.

TMI in this case  =  Too. Many. Initials.

SOAPBOX

We now return you to our regular ranting…er, programming.

*   *   *

Department of Public Service

truth

The Tooth? You Can’t Handle The Tooth
(A Few Good Men, the Dental Hygiene prequel)

Glide dental floss is sold by the crapfull caseload at Costco; thus, a crapload whole lotta people use it. According to my dentist [6] it is one step up from useless, as are all flosses coated with PTFE (a synthetic polymer, the most familiar brand name of which is Teflon).

Teflon-coated floss slides between your teeth nicely, but that’s about all it does. Plaque doesn’t stick to it, and the point of flossing is to have the floss latch on to and remove plaque. Remember what kind of surfaces Teflon is used for? All together now: non-stick.

 

angrytoothpng

*   *   *

One Ticket For The Time Travel Shuttle,
And May I Have The First Class, Low Sodium Seating Option?

Somebody talking something [7] about the possibility of time travel got me to thinking about the temporal reality I inhabit. I’ve long considered that I live in the (near) future, in that my today is what was the tomorrow of my yesterday.

That may sound like cheating, but think about it: we are living in the future of our past. Those months and years ago, when we thought about the times to come? Every day is just that. Oh, and that proverbial rainy day that we are supposed to save for? It’s here (well, at least in the Pacific Northwest). So do it/spend it now, if/while you can.

Something else I heard from the Somebody Talking: apparently, when people are asked to imagine the option of time travel (Pretend you could travel in time; where would you go and what would you do?), they commonly elect to go backward in time to try to right some historical wrongs or atrocities (hint: fanatical German dude with unbecoming mustache).

For moiself, I’m not so sure I’d take up the offer. I’ve seen too many Star Trek episodes to think that I’d be wise enough so that my tinkering with history would produce only positive changes. Were I to travel back in time, I wouldn’t choose to do anything grandiose or ostensibly noble (I would not assassinate Hitler, nor his mother). I’d revisit more personal scenarios. There are some people I’d like to kiss that I didn’t…and there are some I’d like to punch that I didn’t. But, wouldn’t changing anything be mucking up history, even if on a smaller scale?

My brain hurts.

mybrainhurts

*   *   *

You Know It’s Almost Here

 

 

*   *   *

May the seasons you celebrate be upon you and yours,
and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

[1] Yes, technically it’s me who’s on the subject, but y’all are along for the ride.

[2] What if you confused it with, say, the shadow of a debit? Or a donut?

[3] Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

[4] Ha ha, made you look.

[5] And I FHTF (fucking hate the fact) that I feel obligated to make that disclaimer.

[6] Who is now asking his patients what kind of floss they use, instead of just the yes/no do you floss question, as he’s seeing more and more avowed regularly flossing patients whose teeth have the plaque buildups of non-flossers…and guess what kind of floss they use?

[7] It might have been on Neil deGrasse Tyson’s recent StarTalk podcast.

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