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The Hakuna I’m Not Matata-ing

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That Didn’t Take Long, Did It?

Okay, I’ll get this out of the way.

SOAPBOX

The seat cushions of the 114th Congress – which is 80% white, 80% male and 92% declared Christian and yet gets called “one of the most diverse (Congresses) in American history” – are barely warm, and guess what the religious right is up do?

Rep. Walter Jones (R, N. Car.) introduced a bill, H.R. 153, which aims to “restore the Free Speech and First Amendment rights of churches and exempt organizations by repealing the 1954 Johnson Amendment.”

The Johnson Amendment, a change in the tax code, prohibits churches (or other nonprofits with 501C tax exemptions) from endorsing or opposing political candidates. Hiding behind the free speech flag waving is the bill’s real agenda – religious electioneering and the effort to erode the wall of separation between church and state.

carlin

As per this alert from The American Humanist Association:

If pastors are given the right to endorse candidates from the pulpit, their parishioners may be coerced into supporting specific candidates because of a perceived religious obligation. This is fundamentally un-American, and weakens the state of our democracy by giving religious leaders untold influence. Stand up for church-state separation by opposing this harmful bill.

Church and state are separate for a reason, and attempts to de-secularize our government are opposed by levelheaded people of all worldviews, from humanist to religious believers.  Please, take a minute and make your voice heard by contacting your Representative.

*   *   *

andnow

DVD pick of the week : Murderball

This award-winning 2005 documentary about the U.S. quad rugby team, a team composed of paraplegic men, is highly entertaining. However, the film is not exactly in the mode of Reader’s Digest Inspiring Stories when it comes to portraying the psychologically transformative power of living with a disability.  In other words, if the macho asshole sensibility was your guiding force in life before you were disabled, chances are you will continue to be a macho asshole in your souped-up wheelchair.

murdrerball

*   *   *

Department of Oh Please, Please, Make It Be True

In the latest issue of The Week‘s It Must Be True I Read it in the Tabloids section, there is a blurb about a new home-renting service: Airpnp.

Nah, I thought, it can’t be real, although it’s a great prank on airbnb…then I searched, and found the service’s website:

Find a clean, comfortable bathroom no matter where you are. Airpnp gives you access to a ton of restrooms all over the planet. Whether you’re just out and about, at a big event, or need to find a place to go in a new city we’ve got you covered. 

Apparently, someone made it so.

*   *   *

Department of Too Good To Be True, But It Is
Aka, The Updated Version of Our Bestseller will Be Titled
The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven: And Lied His Ass Off for Jesus

There’s a whole industry based on books where people “die” and then come back to life with firsthand accounts about what it’s like in heaven and what a really nice guy Jesus is. To American Christians, this is like deep-fried foods – they just eat it up, no questions asked. Because it verifies what they already believe, but can’t prove.
(Bill Maher, “Heavenly Fodder”)

You may have heard that Christian Evangelicals and religious booksellers all over the nation were peeing their pants with capitalist delight over the book that the gullible believers faithful  flocked to purchase.  The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven: A True Story, the 2010 “memoir” of a boy’s recollection of his tour of heaven during his comatose state that followed a car accident, is being pulled from shelves after the (now) 16 year old boy admitted he made up the tale. [1]

The boy’s name?  Alex Malarkey.

*   *   *

Speaking of malarkey, Pope Not-As-Big-A-Cretin-As-The-Others-But-Still-a-Pope Francis went on his Hell Freezes Over [2] tour of the Philippines. He led an outdoor Mass last Sunday in Manila, during which he praised the faith of “simple people” (translation: those willing to swallow whatever codswallop the church dishes out).

The F-pope also spoke out against “poverty, ignorance and corruption,” giving those of us who are religion-free yet another thigh-slapper.

laughing

After all, the church’s Holy Trinity of poverty, ignorance and corruption is what sustains their hold over the ignorant, fearful, deceived masses faithful.

" Y'all pray for the poverty-stricken masses while I wave this solid gold cross."

” Y’all pray for the poverty-stricken masses while I wave this solid gold cross.”

*   *   *

Department of Really Stupid Stuff I Nearly Said
Sub-Department: This is Going To Come Back To Haunt Me Someday

As my groceries were being rung up I was about to comment on the clerk’s unique hand tattoo but, fortunately, took a second look before I opened my mouth…and realized that what had caught my attention was not ink art on the back of the clerk’s hand, but rather a tangle of varicose veins.

Not quite like this.

Not quite like this.

*   *   *

Department of Yum

The aroma is wafting[3] in from the kitchen, where a pan of toasted whole spices is cooling on the counter.  I’ll grind them [4] after they cool, then mix them with ground turmeric and coriander, for my special recipe curry powder.

spicesJPG

I love the smell of toasted spices, which lingers for hours, sometimes even overnight.  Belle, not so much.  One of the few plusses to having your children away at college is being able to mix up whatever spice or sauce combinations suit your palate, and not hear the dreaded Eeeeew, what’s that?

On one such Eeeew occasion, a long long time ago in a kitchen far far away, MH helped Belle weather the storm.  I think it was something Thai I was cooking; whatever it was, she didn’t like the smell of it, and he rigged a protective “device” for her — a tissue placed under her nose and held in place by her (relatively new, at that time) eyeglasses.   I was so pissed off My joy at his inventiveness knew no bounds, and I’m still thanking him for his ingenuity. [5]

Sadie nose protector

*   *   *

A few weeks ago someone said I didn’t often post personal info on my blog. I don’t know how much more personal you can get than to show a picture of your pestle-that-could-be-mistaken-for-a-marital-aid; still, I suppose it was a valid observation.

So.  Here are
15 Little Known If Not Exactly Personal Facts About Moiself
Content alert: name dropping

  1. I am interested, to the point of occasional fascination, by reports of inclement weather. (It’s a good thing MH & I are the Last Remaining Neanderthals Who Do Not Now Nor Ever Have Had Cable TV, ® or I would be glued to the various weather channels).
  2. I abhor the taste of black licorice and licorice-like flavors and aromas (if a recipe calls for anise or fennel seeds, I’ll leave it out). It isn’t a true allergic reaction, but even the whiff of a fresh fennel bulb makes me woozy.
  3. There is no third little known fact about me.
  4. One day in the early 70’s Danny Bonaduce (“Danny Partridge”) tried to strike up a conversation with me at Seattle’s Space Needle, where he and Dave Madden (“Reuben Kincaid”) were attending a Partridge Family promotional event. [6]
  5. I have shorter than average toes. [7]
  6. I think it would be great fun to have a glass shattering range (ala a firearms shooting range), where a person could lob full bottles of liquid against a concrete wall.
  7. I have had cats, dogs, snakes, lizards, birds, hamsters, rats, guinea pigs, snails, fish, mice and tarantulas for pets, but never a rabbit.
  8. When I was accepted to UC Davis I received a recruitment letter from their field hockey team.
  9. I worked for the obstetrician who delivered Neil and Pegi Young’s second child. [8]
  10. Oops, looks like only ten little known facts.
"There, there, it's nothing personal, Danny, she just thought your bass playing sucked."

“There, there, it’s nothing personal, Danny, she just thought your bass playing sucked.”

*   *   *

Department of Why I’ll Never Be Ambassador to Kenya

At least once a week, whatever part of my brain is in charge of such things rings me up in the proverbial middle of the night with a must-write-this-down call.  Over the years I have learned that whatever prompts these nocturnal nudges cannot be ignored if I am to go back to sleep; thus, I keep a notepad and pen on my nightstand.

Nine out of ten times I wake up in the morning aware of (mostly) what I’d written down.  Last Saturday was one of the 10% mornings: I knew I’d written something, but wasn’t sure about the content.  In the morning, my scribbles on the note pad read:

Hakuna Matata?
No, Hakuna Frittata.

Oh. Okay. I get it.

Not this:

hakuna

But, this:

fritatta

Don’t you wish your subconscious was as profound as mine?

*   *   *

 May your Wall of Separation keep you safe from encroaching licorice, and allow for an occasional fennel-free frittata to sneak past the border patrol…
and may the hijinks ensue.

  Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Actually, it’s quite sad to read the story behind the story. The accident left the boy quadriplegic; he wanted attention, was raised religious…and the boy and his mother were exploited by both fellow evangelicals and publishers and pressured to remain silent when they wanted to go public with the book’s “inaccuracies.”

[2] Or, was that The Eagles?

[3] Wafting is an aroma’s favorite means of transport.

[4] In a $9 coffee bean grinder I purchased solely for grinding spices.

[5] Or, not.

[6] I thought he was trying to impress me with his celebrity, and I snubbed him. He was surrounded by adults and I was the only person his age nearby…I think he was just a lonely/bored kid trying to connect, and I’ve always regretted not being kinder to him.

[7] As confirmed by many a shoe salesman, one of whom said, after espying my naked feet, “Wow, if you had, like, normal length toes your shoes would be one or two sizes larger.”  Guess who didn’t make that sale?

[8] And I’m pissed at Mr. Young for dumping Pegi after 36+ years for…Daryl Hannah?

The Orthodox Eyes I’m Not Polluting

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

new kayak

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

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

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

Does my bigotry make my butt look fat?

Does my bigotry make my butt look fat?

*   *   *

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

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

Je suis Charlie.

Except that, of course, I’m not.

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

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

The following is not one of my legendary digressions.

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

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

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

Brave?

REALLY

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

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

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

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

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

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

burning book

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

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

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

(Wikpedia definition for “Satire”)

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

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

Hitler

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

highhorse

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

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

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

*   *   *

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

Golda Meir

*   *   *

 

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

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

[2] Primarily located in the USA or Canada.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Baby Card I’m Not Sending

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Happy New Year – Pick Your Battles

Every morning I send an email to my mother (from my end it’s an email; from her end, it’s more like receiving a fax [1]). The emails are neither particularly personal nor conversational – I save that for our phone calls. Rather, they are another way of keeping in touch, another way of letting her know I’m thinking of her, another way to provide her with a modicum of cognitive stimulation and something to read besides that loony-ass shit the Billy Graham people send her. [2]

Each day’s email has a theme. Mondays are Jokes for the day, and I send her select stories and gags I’ve culled from a variety of “clean” humor websites.

corny joke

On another day she receives a Word for the Day, and there is a Quote for the Day, Poem for the Day, and so on.

Thursdays are Thoughts for the Day: two or more meditative or philosophical passages I gather from a couple of sources, including one called (wait for it) Thought For Today.

The TFT website describes its function as providing:

 “…daily Medication for the soul. Quotations and words of wisdom to motivate and inspire. Since January 2008 we have provided a Thought for the Day from famous and not so famous individuals, some still living, some not.
We believe that words are powerful, they have the power to tear you down and they have they have the power to build you up….”

The TFT site posts a list of quotations/meditations/thoughts that change daily.  No matter the attribution, the words of wisdom are listed as being presented on the site by “The Thought Collector’s Wife.” Which frosts my butt, every time I read that.

OHNO

Yesterday, I decided that it’s butt-thawing time, and sent the TFT site the following email.

I enjoy reading your collection of motivational quotes. As you so wisely put it in your About Us statement, “Words are powerful, they have the power to tear you down and they have they have the power to build you up.” I agree wholeheartedly that words matter – that how we say something can be just as important as what we are saying.  Thus, I request that you please change the name of “The Thought Collector’s Wife” to “The Thought Collector.” The former “title” is a sexist remnant, reflecting the times when only a man was thought to have ownership of occupations and ideas – times when, for example, a man who farmed was referred to as a farmer, and the woman who also farmed would be called “the farmer’s wife.”
“Wife” and “husband’ are terms denoting relationship, not occupation.  If a woman collects thoughts, she is a thought collector – her marital status is irrelevant.
Thank you for your consideration of my request.

*   *   *

 

falling

OPRAH DROPS FOUR SIZES ! ! !

Yikes! I hope they didn’t land on anyone’s noggin.

That is my favorite spam of 2015. The year is young, I know.

spamlite

*   *   *

Speaking of canned meat by-products,  although it pains me to waste precious seconds by typing the name, Sarah Palin (ye-ow, that smarts) was something I thought I’d be grateful for, in the new year.  Grateful as in, I’ve yet another year to appreciate the concept of bullet dodging.

As in, we dodged a bullet.

Big time.

All of us.

Which we did by not electing the McCain-Palin (ouch) ticket.

I also thought I’d be grateful that the dropout governor/former mayor of the meth capital of Alaska was seemingly/relatively gone from public life….

Silly moi.

And then, one of her mutant offspring [3] stepped on the new family dog, and for some reason Palin (owwww) posted a picture of the abuse charming domestic scene on a social media site.  Animal rights accusation flinging ensued, and Palin (stop that!) eagerly dove headfirst into the slop bucket jumped into the ring.

Pet abuse, schmet-abuse – the real story is, why did she respond at all?  Is it simply that she continues to be infected with the quasi-celebrity mentality that any press is good press, and it’s been some time since she’s had a headline?

I actually read part of her screed, before I was overcome with a return-to-sanity-inducing, WTF am I doing?!  bout of self-reproach.  And I felt a chill – yep, the actual, [4] proverbial chill running down my spine – to read her strident, two-steps-short-of-intelligible harangue; I felt chilled to realize that such an immature, superficial, petty and vicious person was, for the most manipulative and cynical reasons [5], chosen to be placed in a position a few EKGs away from the presidency.

And thus, the first Pretty Purple Toe Award of 2015 goes to…well, to all of us. We do a lotta dumb shit, but at least we did not go down that path.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

*   *   *

҉    New Year Reflections Continued    ҉

The Department of She Meant Well
Chapter XVI: The Problem with The Problem Child

The following discourse is courtesy to flashbacks sparked by the family wedding photos I received with this year’s Christmas cards and letters.

Dateline: either in late junior high or high school.  was visiting a friend at her house. My friend, Friend’s Mother and I were talking about…parent-child relationships, perhaps? I cannot remember the subject. Whatever the topic, it apparently inspired Friend’s Mother to tell me the story of how my mother had confided in her that I was my mother’s “problem child.”

Looking back, I think FM sincerely (if mistakenly) thought that by sharing this story she might bolster my self-confidence and paint herself as a hero –  my champion – as the anecdote also included her response to my mother:

“Well, if that’s a problem child, give me that problem any day!”

problemchild

Problem child. A moniker which, I imagine, most true problem children bear with pride.

It confused me, then. Still does.

I attended a Southern California high school that had a socioeconomically and ethnically diverse student body, and which was majority Hispanic by my senior year.  My fellow students were kids from poverty-stricken neighborhoods with gang problems and rich kids with drug problems and surfer kids with Dude, where’s my brain? problems, and everything in between.

Moi? I was a smart ass, with opinions. I talked back – and forth, and up and down – at home, at school, at church. I questioned; I had political and social and cultural attitudes and interests that were not always shared nor understood by my parents or teachers.  I also was a straight-A student, involved in my church’s youth group and in school sports and student government and journalism programs, and by my senior year had my own editorial column in the school paper’s op-ed page.

I was not doing drugs/violence/the track coach under the bleachers. Where, exactly, was the problem?

Not my long-lost high school picture.

Not my long-lost high school picture.

Through the miracle of time travel we return to the recent past, to one of last year’s three family weddings.  My niece’s wedding ceremony was late (surprise!) in starting.  Sitting in the second row, I struck up a conversation with one of the three wonderful women who are employed as my mother’s round-the-clock, live-in caretakers (“Mom’s Ladies” is how my sisters and I fondly refer to them).

Looking around at the other guests, I’d noticed I seemed to be the only female not attired in something on the purple-blue end of the color spectrum. I pointed to my black skirt and made a crack to the Mom’s Lady sitting nearest me, about how I obviously “hadn’t been sent the wedding attire memo.”

Mom’s Lady winked at me and said, with conspiratorial affection, “Well, of course – black sheep of the family.”

Interesting…that the label had apparently changed (progressed?) from Problem Child ® to Black Sheep ®.

Still, youch. I just wasn’t expecting that blast from the past.

The thing is, the only reason one of Mom’s Ladies could have known I had been given that label is that is that someone – my mother is the likely suspect – had to have said that to her.

Why does such a label – or the story of it – persist? It may be due in part to the fact that I am the only (openly) religion-free person in my immediate family. But, really. FFS, I’m in my fifties.

 

Yeah, I'm black. You tighty whities got a problem with that?

Yeah, I’m black. You tighty whities got a problem with that?

*   *   *

Department of Pipe Dreams

Ababies

Aka, The Congratulations Card I Probably Won’t Send

What with all the weddings in my extended family during the past year, there’s bound to be some imminent breeding. Here is an example of the baby congrats card I’d love to send…but won’t.[6]

Congratulations on the birth of your new little atheist!

Congratulations on your new little atheist!

 

All babies, including those born to religious parents, are born atheists.  Atheism is not a philosophy or belief system – really, it’s not an ism at all. It is a term which simply denotes a lack of theistic belief, which is where we all begin – it is a human being’s natural state. We are born without supernatural beliefs, or beliefs of any kind.

Religions need to be inculcated.  Beliefs are learned [7].  You have to be carefully taught.

 

*   *   *

And You Thought Wedgies Were Uncomfortable

Animal name of the day…year…century.  Behold, the cockchafer.

Imagine having that for your species name. Just, because, okay?

Who's the cute little cockchafer?!

Who’s the cute little cockchafer?!

*   *   *

Overheard

Dateline: Wednesday, during our family tradition of playing cards at dinner (dealer chooses the game). Over a game of Knock (aka Kings in the corner), MH came up with a somewhat mild double entendre while Belle, K and I were discussing the latest Downton Abbey episode.

“Dad!” Belle gasped in astonishment and delight. “Did you just make a dick joke?!”

MH smiled enigmatically, but did not reply.

“I think you’re ready to play Cards Against Humanity,” [8] Belle declared.

*   *   *

May you be ready for any game your children will play with you, and for all shades of sheep that may roam the pastures of your life, and may the covert dick jokes and hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] She has a device which allows her to print email from selected sources (thus, no spam), but she cannot reply. The device caters to and is marketed at the elderly/frail/computer-disinterested and/or phobic.

[2] No, she does not read this blog (and has no means to do so) – whaddya think, I’m crazy or something?

[3] I know, I know, don’t pick on the kids. At least I didn’t employ a slur that is supposedly directed at the mentally impaired (hint: rhymes with pee chard).

[4] Notice I did not type, “literal,” as, literally, that word has been officially declared so 2014, or whatever.

[5] You really must read Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime. Preferably while chugging a strong anti-emetic.

[6] Because, after all, don’t want to give ‘em any more Black Sheep ammunition.

[7] And, fortunately, can be unlearned.

[8] My offspring have promised to play that game with me, but have steadfastly refused to do so with their more genteel father.

The Possum I’m Not Herding

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The Department of Feasting

My family – the one MH and I created – has several holiday season traditions, some of our own making and some adopted/adapted from our respective families of origin.  The elves that hide in every downstairs room to watch you from atop the curtain rod, hanging from the bathroom lights or peeking out from a potted plant watching you – that’s from my family.  The every-piece-of-art-with-a-face-wears-a-Santa-hat mandate, that’s from the weirdo festive mind of moiself.

a clock may not be art, but it has a face.

a clock may not be art, but it has a face.

 

Many of our traditions involve (surprise!) dining.  Depending on when the Solstice falls, there are several days in a row of special meals.  Solstice Soup & Salad Supper; Little Christmas Eve,[1]  and of course Christmas Eve. [2]  On Christmas Day we go out for lunch to a fancy-schmancy restaurant, then for dinner it’s homemade pizza. Come Boxing Day, I swear I’m never going to cook/eat again…a vow that I am most happy to break in the New Year.

 

Mmmmm...lefse.

Mmmmm…lefse.

*   *   *

Department of Holiday Guerrilla Art Projects

Much to the chagrin pride of my family, I’ve been working on a…new project.  Friend and legitimate artist LAH refers to my project as a kind of performance art.  I’ve composed a variation on the typical lost pet posting that you see on kiosks, neighborhood post office boxes and lampposts, and for the past few days I have been posting these flyers around the “greater” [3] Hillsboro area.

LOST PET: REWARD FOR RETURN OF OUR BELOVED DOG!
503-555-9929
He is a purebred Welsh possum herder, answers to the name of:

Llanfairpwllgwyngyll

uglycat

Physical description: 15 years old,weighs approx. 10 lbs, brown, mange-ridden fur
blind in left eye, arthritic, toothless, asthmatic, incontinent….

On second thought, never mind.

 

* Yes, Virginia, Llanfairpwllgwyngyll is the actual name of a Welsh village;
* Yes, Virginia, there is no such thing as a Welsh possum herder dog;
* Yes, Virginia, the picture is not of a dog, but that of a pretty sorry looking cat

 

*   *   *

pagantree

“Thus saith the Lord, learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.
For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with teh axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.”

(Jer. 102-4)

 After last week’s post, specifically the blurb about the essay No, Virginia, There is NO Santa Claus, I feel compelled to explain that I like the Santa Claus thing.

I loved the folklore of Santa Claus when I was a child, even as I can’t remember a time that I actually believed Santa was a real entity.  It was a marvelous make-believe that got both kids and grownups to play an elaborate kind of dress up.

Being raised in a religious family, I took the various birth-of-JC stories for granted, although they didn’t interest me nearly as much as the other trappings of the Solstice season.  All the things I loved most about Christmas – Santa and the reindeer, candles and lights, festive greenery and Christmas fir trees, the idea of giving and receiving gifts – were, I later realized, secular traditions and symbols predating Christianity. These traditions and symbols were later stolen adopted and adapted by Christians, in a practice called Interpretatio Christiana, as a strategy for relating to and ultimately converting their pagan neighbors.

I know all that.  Still, I love the Santa thing for several reasons, including the fact that Santa Claus is a Freethinker/Bright?Atheist/Rationalist/Humanist’s best friend.  Or, as author and educator Dale McGowan put it, Santa Claus is “the greatest gift a rational worldview ever had.”

Asanta

Santa Claus is an entertaining and culturally acceptable way to introduce children to the fact that sensible-appearing people who claim to have good or altruistic reasons for doing so often “believe in” something that is exceptionally improbable…and these same, otherwise sensible people tap dance their way around answering the sticky questions children ask when they notice things like, “How come Santa brings more gifts to rich kids than to poor kids?”

By allowing our children to participate in the Santa myth and find their own way out of it through skeptical inquiry, we give them a priceless opportunity to see a mass cultural illusion first from the inside, then from the outside. A very casual line of post-Santa questioning can lead kids to recognize how completely we all can snow ourselves if the enticements are attractive enough.
Dale McGowan, from his essay “Santa Claus, the Dry Run

*   *   *

uglyXmas sweater

Only 364 days until the next UCS [4] Fest.

*   *   *

Happy Boxing Day!  And may the hijinks ensue.

*   *   *

 Make it so...festive

Make it so…festive

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Little Christmas Eve is the Eve before Christmas Eve, an obscure – to everyone but my family – holiday supposedly celebrated by my paternal grandfather’s tiny Norwegian village.  The LCE dinner menu varies year to year; this year, at K’s & Belle’s request, roast rack of lamb.

[2] CE menu never varies: Norwegian lefse and meatcakes.

[3] The farther away from Hillsboro, the greater you get.

[4] Ugly Christmas Sweater.

The Dead Beatle I’m Not Impressing

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Yes, Virginia , There is no Santa Claus

“Adults know that there is no Santa Claus. If they tell you otherwise, they are lying to you. That’s okay: some parents tell their children that Santa Claus is real as a sort of game, and there’s no evidence that this does any real harm. But if anyone keeps lying to you — about Santa Claus, or anything else — when you ask them a direct question and explicitly ask them to tell you the truth? That’s a problem. And if anyone tries to make you feel ashamed, or inferior, or like your life will be dreary and intolerable, simply because you don’t believe in this lie they’re telling you… you should be extremely suspicious. They are trying to manipulate you. It is not okay.”
(from “Yes, Virginia, There is No Santa Claus,” Greta Christina’s blog)

I think this essay should be required reason for the holiday season – anyone’s holiday season. You can read the entire essay, which is a satirical commentary on the original “Yes, Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus,” on the mahvelous Greta Christina’s blog.

badsanta

*   *   *

Thank You For Not Axing

Dateline: Wednesday, out for my a.m. walk, listening to a podcast of author Steven Pinker being interviewed about his latest book, The Sense of Style: A Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century.  The interview touched on several interesting issues (well, interesting, if you’re a linguistics/usage groupie), including how dictionaries reflect (the always-evolving) common usage, the differences between elucidative prose and speech, and all that grammatical gobbledygook.

Which reminded me about my own usage peeve.

Calling persons of all genders, nationalities, ethnicities, political and artistic preferences – can we agree on this fact:

There is no “x” in the English language word, “ask.”

Therefore, don’t be surprised if and when you say, “I want to axe you something,” I run away screaming.

axe

*   *   *

Department of Somebody Please Tell Them (preferably, in their native language)

MH took me for a foot reflexology massage on my birthday….

Happy Feet

…followed by a sushi lunch. The sushi restaurant had a sign up on their electronic menu board reminding patrons to check out their 37 new menu items. One of the new items has a name which, I presume, was chosen in honor of someone, by someone else who is unfamiliar with American slang.  Golly gee, no, thank you, but I’d rather not try your Johnson Roll.

OHNOSUSHI

*   *   *

Department of Random Reflections

If I’m standing by a door that has one of those status sign indicators underneath the lock, it’s because I’m waiting to use the facilities.  Thus, it’s a good thing when the status changes from “Occupied.”  Still, a part of me feels I’m in danger of dropping 10 IQ points by entering a room that says “vacant.”

vacant

Department of If I Had the Power To Do So…

I’d like to change, or make an addition to, those door lock status indicators. Occupied; Vacant – there needs to be a third option.

occupied

There needs to be an option to alert people that it might be some time before the room is available, as the occupant is not merely taking a leak but is trying to collect her thoughts, and this room is the only place she may find some peace and quiet away from co-workers/family-friends:  PreOccupied.

Also, I’d like the following occupancy indicator sign implanted in my forehead.  For those special moments, where my cognitive activity may not be apparent to others:

INUSE

*   *   *

Random Scenes from the Past [1]

Dateline:  A long, long time ago [2] in a galaxy far, far, away. [3]  I was standing in a checkout line at a Safeway, holding my basket of ten-items-or-less[4] The line moved slowly, and after performing my customary assessment of the basket items of the people in line ahead of me, [5] I looked around for something else to scrutinize, and beheld a rack of cut flowers by the counter.  What held my attention was that I could actually smell the flowers from several feet away; they were not the usual, cheap/five-minutes-before-wilt-mode bouquets to tempt harried dinner guests/dates into a last minute guilt-grab.

An arrangement of humble but incredibly fragrant carnations attracted my attention, and after checking the price [6] I added it to my basket.

“What a pretty bouquet!” the cashier cooed, as she rang up my items.  “For someone special?

“Ah…” I chuckled.  “Well, yes.  They’re for me.”

“For you?  You’re treating yourself to flowers?”

“Why not?”

“Oh, what a nice idea!”  The Cashier leaned toward me and, with a gal-to-gal conspiratorial sigh, added, “But it’s just not the same, is it, when you have to buy them for yourself?”

By the time I got back to my apartment, the flowers were not as fragrant as they’d seemed in the store.  I gave the bouquet to my next door neighbor, who’d picked up my mail for me when I was on a business trip.

wiltedbouquetjpg

*   *   *

Pre-Christmas/post-birthday blues:  It’s that time of the year: here come the the lists.  You can’t spit without hitting someone’s inventory of the Best/Top 100/15/20 People/Neologisms/Inventions of the year.

And then, there’s that pissin’ John Lennon Christmas Song, [7] with its nagging opening line that really, really, really bothers me, for some reason:

♫  And so this is Christmas/and what have you done?  ♫

And what have I done?  Not enough, apparently – I’m not doing enough, okay, John?  Could you please chill out with the guilting, and shut up Yoko, while you’re at it?

Then, of course, I find myself thinking, I am sniping at my radio; I’m yelling at a dead man, through my car radio.  How pathetic is that?

She's suck a fookin' disappointment.

She’s such a fookin’ disappointment.

*   *   *

About those lists.  If you can’t beat ‘em…[8]

I’ve got one, that has nothing to do with 2014 or the year’s end, but that was prompted by hearing a song on the radio – in this case. R.E.M’s Losing My Religion. After which I said to moiself, That’s one of the best songs ever written about alienation...which led me to ponder  other best-songs-written-about categories.

Song title (Performer)

-Best song about paranoia: Get In Line (Bare Naked Ladies)

-Best song about heading-for-a-breakup defiance: You’re Breaking My Heart (Harry Nilsson)

-Best song about why you shouldn’t get drunk and look through your high school and/or college yearbooks: Need You Now (Lady Antebellum)

-Best song you’re embarrassed to admit you like, but dang if it don’t have a catchiest, earwormiest tune: M-m-m-Bop (Hansen)

-Best song with incredible Emmy Lou Harris harmonizing about a woman’s love for her incarcerated son: The Sweetest Gift (Linda Ronstadt)

-Best song that lives up to its title: Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner (Warren Zevon)

-Best song about Patti Smith falling in love: Frederick (Patti Smith)

-Best song about knowing the right thing to do but putting it off until later: “Come Tomorrow” (Patti Scialfa)

-Best Beach Boys tribute/parody song: Back in the USSR (The Beatles)

-Best song about Portland hipsters: Bohemian Like You (The Dandy Warhols)

-Best song by Portland hipsters who’ve unfortunately heard the term “literary” applied to their music by a few slavering critics and thus take themselves way too seriously: Down By the Water (The Decemberists)

-Best song to snap your fingers and sing along and pretend you’re a hipster: Danny’s All-Star Joint (Rickie Lee Jones)

hipster

 

-Best Bob Dylan song neither written nor sung by Bob Dylan: You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away (The Beatles) [9]

-Best song to explain the visceral appeal of punk: I Wanna Be Sedated (The Ramones)

-Best song about what you wish you’d said to the drunken jerks who hit on you at the concert/club even after you’d made it clear you were not seeking male companionship but just wanted to have a good time with your girlfriends: U + Ur Hand (Pink)

-Best song that illustrates why radio censorship was a good thing, because composers had to write clever, read-between-the-lines lyrics and it was so much fun to “get it” when your parent’s didn’t: Lola (The Kinks)

-Best song to get the boys (drunk or sober) to sing the chorus: 8 Miles Wide (Storm Large)

-Best song about sexual infatuation from one woman’s POV:  Why Can’t I (Liz Phair)

-Best song about cows with guns: Cows With Guns (Dana Lyons)

-Best song about not regretting taking a stand: Not Ready to Make Nice (Dixie Chicks)

-Best song about honky hip hop ineptitude: Help, I’m White and I Can’t Get Down (The Geezinslaws)

-Best song that would be my anthem if I were a pre-operative trannie: Stand By Your Man (Lyle Lovett)

-Best not-your-parents’ Christmas song: Christmas in Hollis (Run DMC)

*   *   *

May all your favorite songs make someone’s best-of list, and may the ho-ho-ho hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

[1] Not as random as some, this recollection was prompted by my receiving a lovely birthday bouquet from friend LAH.

[2] In the 1980’s.

[3] The Bay Area.  Specifically/probably, Palo Alto or Menlo Park.

[4] Which should be “or fewer” not less, I know.

[5] Dude, with that beer gut, do you really need three bags of pork rinds?

[6] I was living hand to mouth or hand to foot or foot and mouth disease – or whatever in those days – and flowers or any kind of “luxury” item was not in the budget.

[7] Not the official name, which is Happy Xmas/War is Over.

[8] “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em? Nah. Take a page from Dick Cheney’s book, torture ‘em, and call it, “Enhanced Interrogation.”

[9] Okay, maybe a tie, with the mahvelous Roy Zimmerman’s  Christmas is Pain.

The DMV I’m Not Suing

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My apologies to those of you wretched, lonely hearts devoted readers who have told me you look forward to sitting down with your coffee on Friday morning and reading my blog.[1]  Technical difficulties delayed its usual early morning posting.  Let’s just say I oppose the death penalty, except for those who create and distribute computer viruses.

 *   *   *

Dateline: Wednesday. Birthday coming up in less than a week.  Driver’s license renewal.  Fastest time ever at the DMV – in and out.  Worst. Picture. Ever.

Not this bad.

Not this bad.

“I need an override,” the woman at the camera station called out to her supervisor.

“What, my face broke the camera, ” I mumbled half-heartedly. The supervisor smiled, clickety-clacked on the computer keyboard and replied, “Only cracked it.”  After she left I asked Camera Woman, “No, really – what did you need to override?”

“When there’s a discrepancy with your past picture, the computer calls for a compare.”  It seems the DVS’s picture processing software is sophisticated enough to opine, “There’s no way this can be the same person…and even if it is, holy facial recognition software, do people have no pride?  She could have at least brushed her hair; oh yeah, lady, but it’s raining outside yada yada yada, nice try with that excuse….”

Really.  A bad picture.

Almost this bad.

Almost this bad.

*   *   *

That was no way to start a Wednesday, or any day, but especially the second Wednesday in December, which was my annual Ladies’ Lefse Party.  But, the day was soon redeemed

Returning home from the DMV, still pissed about the picture incident [2] I decide to play a word game to calm myself down before getting down to work.  It’s the little things that matter, you know?  Like the oh-so-special feeling I get when playing Jumble Jong and I get an AWESOME! message plus bonus points for using the available tiles to spell the word, smuttily.

Also, there was the lefse party.

Lady Marmalade, just some of the Lucky Ladies invited to the Ladies Lefse Party.

Lady Marmalade, just some of the Lucky Ladies invited to the Ladies Lefse Party.

*   *   *

Department of Pretend There Was An Artful Segue

Friend fellow writer and self-described reluctant homeschooler [3] SCM has had trouble “finding her tribe” as she put it… as so sharply evidenced by a local homeschooling list serve posting she sent me (to which she has since unsubscribed), which she titled, From the “I can’t make up this shit” files…

(my emphases)

Messages: Classic Literature I don’t let my kids read.
Posted by: (redacted)[4]
I had a frank discussion with my kids literature teacher after one of my own picked up Grapes of Wrath, which I’ve never read, and read it during our reading time, not outloud. Apparently there are some rather gratuitous love scenes in there or at least one. Never having read it, I’m kicking myself for having trusted the many “classic literature” lists that I’ve printed and clung to while shopping for books to build our home library with.

 I emailed their teacher my list and she went through it and marked the ones that were safe, the ones that weren’t, and the ones she either couldn’t remember or hadn’t personally read. What an eye opener! For starters, here are the ones we removed from our shelves because of such love scenes.

 1984
Candide
Grapes of Wrath 

I’m sure there will be others, but this is just a startling starting point. I don’t mind an occasional bad word or even a string of bad words.

It’s the erotic love scenes that disgust me when I think of my teenage son picking up and reading from material I HAVE PROVIDED! It’s sad to think about the books they’ll be missing out on because of unnecessary inappropriate scenes.

If you know of other not-so-classy “classics”; I would steer away from that are usually found on classics lists, please let me know.

advisorypng

Holy fucking inappropriate love scenes.

I mean, objecting to “love scenes”? In “classic” literature, that you yourself admit you’ve NEVER READ?

And, “Grapes of Wrath,”  really?

REALLY

For the love of butt-fucking pornography, I’m trying to remember what might be determined “inappropriate” about The Grapes of Wrath, a book which  was one of many triggers responsible for the awakening of my political consciousness….. Ah, maybe that’s it. That and, you know, all the scenes featuring poor people striving for a better life amidst political forces determined to keep them in their place.

“It’s sad to think about the books they’ll be missing out on because of unnecessary inappropriate scenes.”

No, ladyass, it’s sad to think about the books your kids will be missing out on because their mother has a frigid, rigid, prude-drooling fear bucket where her brain should be.

I’m trying to imagine her and others of her ilk, going through her books [5] and marking which ones are “safe.”

NOVELS AREN”T SUPPOSED TO BE “SAFE” – THAT’S THE FUCKING POINT.

And that message of hers sparked replies – a back and forth from fellow home- obscurants schoolers who seemed to be almost bragging about the fact that they have lists of “Classic Literature I Don’t Let my Kids Read.”

I just feel like kicking something.

ignorance

*   *   *

Department of, awwwww…..

A week ago this afternoon, at the invitation of a staff member, I did a reading of The Mighty Quinn followed by a Q & A session [6] at the Hillsboro Boys and Girls Club.  The group of kids attending would be in the 4th – 8th grade age range…or so I was told.  The kids seemed younger; the coordinator explained that, just before she made the announcement to gather in a meeting room for the reading, someone else announced that a movie was going to be shown in another room, and most of the older kids went to the movie.

Well, yeah.

After the reading (and a Q & A session seriously in need of some mediating [7] ) the event coordinator took a picture of me and the kids, and then dismissed the kids to their other activities.  One girl, who had been one of the most enthusiastic Q & A participants, approached me with a shy gleam in her eye.

“Here,” she said, holding out a coin.  “This is for you.”

I must have had a confused look on my face.  “It’s a nickel,” she explained.

Actually, it was a quarter.

Of course I had to take it.  For two reasons

  1. You cannot refuse such an act of generosity from a child.
  2. Have you seen my last royalty statement? I think she may have.
  3. I said, for two reasons.

*   *   *

The Return of the Santa Hats

As a part of our household’s seasonal décor, anything that can be classified as art, that has a face, must wear a miniature Santa Hat. Don’t ask for an explanation because I don’t understand it myself (and I’m the one who insists on the practice). This has made for a whole lotta Santa hat-making as the years go by and we keep collecting specimens for our Wall of Faces:

This image represents less than 10% of the faces. Be afraid; be very afraid.

This image represents less than 10% of the faces. Be afraid; be very afraid.

 *   *   *

May your days be merry and bright, may you read the classic books and fight the good fights, may your Santa hats fit you just right, and may the holiday hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Yep, I’m talkin’ you, BOM.

[2] And then more pissed for being so petty as to care about a driver’s license picture.

[3] With a near genius child, no money for non-public school options, living where the public school choice is in the lowest 15% of everything (and sends out how-to-keep-your-grade-schooler gang-free info)

[4] Or should I say, retarded. Which I would, if I thought I could get away with the (now) non-PC epithet.

[5] Or, worse, yet, taking some other patsy prig’s  word for it, as she doesn’t seem to be familiar with the books she criticizes.

[6] “Meet a REAL author, who lives in Hillsboro…and you can ask her why the heck she hasn’t moved to Portland!”

[7] At least these kids didn’t ask me how much money I made, but they did ask why I wasn’t giving them free copies of the book.

The Friend I’m Not Praying For

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

prayer

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not even moi?

Not even moi?

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

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

praying

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

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

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

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

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

answered prayer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

getwell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 *   *   *

And Now For Something Completely Different

 Department of Making It All Better

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

sprouts

*   *   *

About Last Week’s Shirt

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

REALLY

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

facepalm

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

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

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

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

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] A Hawaiian healing ritual.

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

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

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

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

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

[7] That would be: zero.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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