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The Friend I’m Not Praying For

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

prayer

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not even moi?

Not even moi?

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

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

praying

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

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

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

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

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

answered prayer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

getwell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 *   *   *

And Now For Something Completely Different

 Department of Making It All Better

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

sprouts

*   *   *

About Last Week’s Shirt

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

REALLY

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

facepalm

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

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

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

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

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] A Hawaiian healing ritual.

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

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

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

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

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

[7] That would be: zero.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Pillowcase I’m Not Swinging

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“All great truths begin as blasphemies.”
(George Bernard Shaw)

 International Blasphemy Day

…was earlier this week. September 30, in case you missed it. Mark your calendars; it’s never too early to start planning for IBD [1] 2015.

Your religion, to me, is like a penis.  It’s okay if you have one, but please don’t whip it out in public and wave it around, and DO NOT try to shove it down my children’s throats.

blasphemy day

*   *   *

Now that both K and Belle are away at college, MH and I have assumed the task of The Feeding of the Reptiles ® . This means that once every 7-10 days we thaw 3-4 frozen mice for T’Pol and Andy, our corn snake and ball python.  While we were discussing the snake feeding schedule, MH recalled how we once bought a year’s worth of feeder mice, [2] for a much better cost per unit than can be had at the local pet supply stores, from an online supplier.  MH did a search for bulk reptile food suppliers and found one company with an amusing (to us) assurance to potential buyers, via their FAQ section. (my emphases)

FAQ: How do you euthanize your feeder animals?

We euthanize our animals quickly and humanely with carbon dioxide (CO2), as recommended by the American Veterinary Medical Association panel on euthanasia, then tuck their legs and tails neatly underneath their bod y[3] and freeze them immediately… CO2 ensures a humane, quick and painless death for the animals and leaves no harmful residual chemicals that may harm the animal ingesting the prey item….

Imagine, having that for your job title: euthanized mouse leg and tail tucker.

Feet and tails not neatly tucked...heads will roll for this indiscretion.

Feet and tails not neatly tucked…heads will roll for this indiscretion.

 

*   *   *

If you are enjoying the topic of snake feeding half as much as I am, then I’m enjoying it twice as much as you.  I may as well try to even things up by sharing a blast from the past:

☼ The Truncated, Possibly Non Sequitur-ial story of Mrs. S___, Reluctant Snake Charmer ☼

Mrs. S___ was my parents’ next door neighbor. To give you a sense of Mrs. S___, it helps to picture June Cleaver, or any other 1950s archetypal (read: fictional), Suburban Wife and Mother ® icon.

Like Mrs. Cleaver, Mrs. S___ was always impeccably attired, almost always in dresses accessorized with a strand of pearls around her neck. Unlike Mrs. Cleaver, Mrs. S___ did not wear pearls when she vacuumed, but this is only because Mrs. S___ did not vacuum.  She paid someone else to do any kind of housework, including vacuuming. Are you getting the picture?  Good.

Add 30 years and pounds, darker, poofier hair, and you've got Mrs. S___

Add 30 years and pounds, darker, poofier hair, and you’ve got Mrs. S___

The tragic/pathetic story of how Mrs. S___’s only child, Jeremy, [4] came to be such a tragic/pathetic character is worthy of another story for another blog. For now, I give you this.  When Jeremy died, the feeding of his pet boa constrictor fell to his widowed mother. Mrs. S___was distressed at inheriting this task.  She shared her discomfort with my parents, but ignored their counsel to find another home for the snake. Jeremy loved that snake, Mrs. S___ told them, and she’d promised him that she would care for it.

A brief explanation for y’all non-reptile owners as to the feeding protocols for your pet snake:

In “the wild,” when snakes are hungry they hunt and consume live prey. However, the general recommendation from herpetologists is to feed captive reptiles killed prey, as it is safer for the reptile and also (somewhat) “kinder” for the prey.

Captivity is not a natural state for reptiles; [5] thus, some natural behaviors are altered in confinement. If your snake happens to not be hungry when you decide to feed it, it will not eat. Translation: it will ignore the live prey you put in its enclosure. Meanwhile, the prey animal, left alone in a predator-occupied terrarium with no way out, will not be so chill. It will be terrified, and try to find a place to hide.  Eventually, sensing its imminent demise and and/or choosing the best defense is a good offense strategy (and/or becoming hungry itself) the prey animal will attack whatever is around – like, your snake. [6]

Thank you for your patience.

Thank you for your patience.

To return to the story: Jeremy followed the herpetologists’ recommendations to feed killed prey to his snake…with his own unique variation. When it came time to feed his boa, Jeremy would purchase a live rat from a local pet shop and bring it home to his bedroom, where he kept his snake terrarium.  He would place the rat in the bottom of a pillowcase, [7] grab the top end of the pillowcase and swing it round and round over his head.   When the swinging had reached a certain critical speed, Jeremy smacked the end of the pillowcase against his bedroom wall, instantly transforming a live rat into a snake entrée.

Jeremy left detailed instructions for his snake’s feeding. His mother told my parents that while she detested the process she followed the procedures to the letter. [8]  Although I heard this story years ago, the image is still with me:  Mrs. S___, trying to honor the memory of her son, gingerly removing a live rat from its box, placing it in a pillow case and swinging said pillowcase around her head, trying to get up the momentum (and the gumption) to whack it against the wall, all the while wincingly fingering her strand of pearls….

*   *   *

Always carry a flagon of whiskey in case of snakebite,
and furthermore, always carry a small snake.
( W. C. Fields )

*   *   *

 May you always carry the flagons of your choice, and have the gumption to swing what must be swung, and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Not the best acronym – sounds like some kind of intestinal disorder, doesn’t it?

[2] And keeping in mind the year’s worth did not in fact “keep” for a year in the freezer (read: eeeewwwwwww).

[3] I’m assuming they mean the rodents, not the American Veterinary Medical Association panel members.

[4] He lived at home until he died, sometime in his mid-40s.  Never left the nest; held one paying job that lasted two weeks.

[5] Or any animal..Sorry, all you PETA pet-owners.

[6] Pet lizards, snakes and other reptiles have been injured and even killed by live prey.

[7] One Jeremy reserved for this purpose (i.e., he did not buy pillowcases in bulk) and which, according to what Mrs. S___ told my parents, he apparently never laundered.

[8] Not another snake-related footnote, I promise.

The Petard I’m Not Hoisting

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This week’s Sunday haiku to my mother.

Morning is sunny;
another sweltering day
is in the forecast.

 Belle has her zoo shift,
and a friend’s birthday party
in her day’s schedule.

There’s packing to do,
for Orientation week
The countdown begins.

She is quite eager,
and at the same time, fearful
of what awaits her.

The future is calling
her heart and mind, as we watch
with proud, trembling hearts.

 

Sadie art

 *   *   *

During one recent Sunday Dinner With Friends ® the conversational topic veered to the health issues of aging parents. [1] When I shared my concerns over my elderly mother’s ongoing physical and cognitive decline, friend MW recommended the book Learning to Speak Alzheimer’s. Subtitled A Groundbreaking Approach for Everyone Dealing with the Disease, the book’s focus is not on the causes/origins of Alzheimer’s. Instead, author [2] Joanne Koenig Coste presents a practical approach – a comprehensive method called habilitation – to help family and caregivers enhance communication with those beset by a disease that progressively robs them of their ability to understand and be understood. The book offers practical tips on how to “step into their world” – interestingly, also a mantra of by improvisational theater groups [3] – as in, how to understand and relate to those patients who must live with their changing, diminishing sense of reality.

OLDHANDS

Although my mother does not have Alzheimer’s disease, my friend pointed out that my description of my mother’s difficulties are similar to those experienced by Alzheimer’s patients:

 * Short (or long) term memory loss
* Difficulty performing familiar tasks
* Problems with language
* Disorientation to time and place
* Poor or declining judgment
* Problems with abstract thinking
* misplacing things
* mood and behavior changes
* loss of initiative
* personality changes

I don’t need to scare you with the statistics, but sooner or later most of us are going to be dealing with some form of dementia, whether via a spouse or family member’s diagnosis, or just losing it after one too many Comcast customer service calls.

I was glad MW recommended the book. Moiself in turn passes on that recommendation to y’all.  I found the book’s advice compassionate, accessible, applicable – even somewhat Zen, in that it stresses learning to live in the moment and trying to understand the afflicted person’s reality.

 The Ticking Meter

My head feels like an old depot, worn by time and tears.
 No more locomotives passing through, café filled with tales and baggage.
 The old depot’s barren now.
 There has been a great brain robbery.
[4]

ALZ

*   *   *

The dementia train could stop at my depot; who knows what the future holds?  Until that time, I will stick with my philosophy:  the more you rant, the longer you live. [5]

Speaking of which:

 Department of Needs No Further Comment

Last week, Jorge Mario Bergoglio aka Pope Francis, leader of the largest Christian denomination in the world, whose headquarters in the Vatican City is a “sprawling financial empire” that holds billions of shares in the most powerful international corporations such as Gulf Oil, Shell, General Motors, Bethlehem Steel, General Electric, International Business Machines, and whose various museums house art collections of inestimable value,  embarked on his first tour of Asian countries, during which he urged Asian youth to reject materialism.

VATICAN GOLD

 *   *   *

To Hoist or not to Hoist

He was hoisted on his own petard.

I heard someone on the light rail use that Hamlet-ian expression last week. He was sitting behind me on the train; I only caught bits and pieces of his (you guessed it) cell phone conversation, so I’m not sure if he used the phrase correctly.

But, really – does  anyone use it correctly?  Even Shakespeare, who supposedly invented its modern usage?

I’m not sure if I’ve ever been hoisted on or by my own petard.  It is, however, my dream to be hosted by Jean Luc Picard.

Please, do come in and join me for tea. Earl Grey, hot?

Please, do come in and join me for tea. Earl Grey, hot?

*   *   *

Happy (one-day-belated) Birthday to MH

A long long time ago in a galaxy far far away (Palo Alto), with Christmas kitty, Sheena.

A long long time ago in a galaxy far far away (Palo Alto), with Christmas kitty, Sheena.

The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.
Madeleine L’Engle

 *   *   *

May you keep all the ages you’ve been that you’d like to keep, hoist off the rest on the petards of your choice, and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] After the requisite political rants and fart jokes.

[2] and health  care sonsultant, whose  husband died from early-onset Alzheimer’s.

[3] For teaching budding actors and comedians how to enter a skit someone else has started.

[4] From Learning to Speak Alzheimer’s.

[5] Or it just seems longer, to everyone around you.

The Nose Hairs I’m Not Trimming

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Lovely Spam, Wonderful Spam

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

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

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

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

Please, say it ain’t so.

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

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

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

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

 *   *   *

Silent But Deadly =  Recuperative

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

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

As reported in The Week:

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

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

 *   *   *

Why I Never Ran a Lemonade Stand  [1]

Lawston 2

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

 manatea

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

 *   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

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

 *   *   *

Department of I Am So Not Making This Up

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

GOLDEN WINGNUT

 

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

hellwedgie

 

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

REALLY

No shit. [2]

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

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

Uh huh.

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

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

*   *   *

Best. Vandalism. Ever.

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

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

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

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

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

Here the breaking news reporting gets more species-specific:

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

DONUT

With sprinklesI love that this important forensic detail is mentioned.

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

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

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

Now we’re talking.

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

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

*   *   *

R.I.P. James Garner

Murphy's

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

SF: “So, how do you like your eggs?”

JG: “I’m sixty.”

*  *  *

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

 Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

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

[2] Except for the batshit crazy kind.

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

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

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

The (made-in-China) Flag I’m Not Waving

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Release the piccolos!

Release the piccolos!

 

There’s nothing like hearing the classic obbligato from arguably the best patriotic march ever composed [1] to set the mood for Independence Day.

*   *   *

 Happy 4th of July!

 Do these fireworks make my butt look big?

Do these fireworks make my butt look big?

 

*   *   *

Yet Another Sign of the Times

berrychickenJPGBERRY

During raspberry-picking season I look like a cowardly and/or incompetent self-cutter.

*   *   *

I can think of few better ways to celebrate our nation’s independence from hierarchical hegemony than to kick a hallowed institution.  But, first….

 *   *   *

White People Problems – #568 in an unending series
The Warning That Ruins Lives

Don’t you, kinda yeah maybe well sure, want to know things?  As in, when a certain variation of A Good Thing to Do has a deleterious or dangerous side effect, and there is a better version of or way to do The Good Thing ®, wouldn’t you want to know about it?

It's too much to handle! Let the little #$&!s get melanoma!

Another helpful hint – it’s too much to handle! Let the little #$&!s get melanoma!

Dateline: A Sunday morning, at the Oregon Zoo’s Cascade Grill.  Two Mommy Friends ©, each accompanied by one ambulatory toddler and one infant in a stroller, are chatting outside the entrance doors to the café.  One of the women is pregnant.  Preggers Woman reaches into her stroller’s storage bag for an aerosol can of sunscreen and begins to spray her toddler’s legs.  As the sunscreen mist envelops her child from toes to torso she complains to her friend about how she just read somewhere that pediatricians are advising parents to refrain from using spray sunscreen on their children, because

(a) spray-on sunscreens are not effective as the rub-in lotions, and
(b) children can inhale the sunscreen mist, which is harmful to their lungs.

“And I thought, really?” PW rolls her eyes and snorts with disgust as she snaps the cap back on the spray bottle and tosses it in the stroller bag. “I mean, really – it’s just so frustrating!  So now what else can’t I give my kids?!

What else can’t you give your kids?

How about lead paint? Or an overdose of Tylenol, or….?

*   *   *

And now, let the kicking begin.

The honeymoon is over

Although the relationship was doomed from the start, I’m surprised more friends didn’t intervene and say, “He’s just not that into you.”

I refer to the liberal religiositati’s [2] high hopes for the latest head of the Catholic church, Pope Francis.  He threw them a few bones about caring more about the poor than about divisive social issues and they were practically tripping all over themselves, using their ACLU membership cards to mop up their deferential drool.

It may be true that, as one friend put it, P. Francis is “better than the Nazi,” [3] but talk about damning with faint praise.

PF has consistently dodged questions about raising the status of women in his church, and last week responded to a journalist’s query about the underlying misogyny in the Catholic church by making a “joke” :

Francis replied: “The fact is that woman was taken from a rib.” PF then laughed “heartily” before saying: “I’m joking. That was a joke.”

That’s one wacky dude!  Hard to believe he traded in a promising stand-up comedy career for vows of celibacy and poverty.

Living the vow of poverty, gold-plated Vatican-style.

Living the vow of poverty, Vatican-style.

Not only is the latest high priestess of Isis RC witch doctor holy chicken bone mumbler pope maintaining his church’s separate and unequal gender wall, he seems prone to reinforcing it, as when he spoke a few weeks back about, the need for “… fertility in maintaining a Christian marriage.”

Frankie baby blamed a “culture of well-being” and comfort for convincing married couples that a carefree life of world travel and summer homes was better than having children. He said married couples should look at how Jesus loves his church to learn how to be faithful, perseverant and fruitful in their vocation.

REALLY

Pay attention to whatever the man in the dunce cap pointy hat – surely a signifier of supreme intellectual aptitude if there ever was one – tells y’all.

pointyhat

Yo, Catholic married couples. Your Jesus (according to RC doctrine) never married and was childless; therefore; it logically follows that to be faithful to this Jesus and his church you should marry and must have children.  If it breeds, it leads! Or…something. [4]

Why anyone heeds the admonitions of a childless celibate who presumes to lecture other people on the supposed virtues – and strictures – of a breeding marriage….  RCs, get your heads out of those orifices.

HEAD   Head_up_ass

Or perhaps Francis the talking mule O’Pope was trying to divert attention from the latest Catholic business as usual scandal. “Our own little Holocaust,” is what an Irish Mirror writer called the discovery of the bodies of ~ 800 toddlers and babies who died of disease and malnutrition in the Irish institutions that housed their unmarried mothers, who were shamed and damned by the cultural stigma against sexually active females and “bastard” babies – a stigma invented, promoted and implemented by the church.

On the really, really dim bright side, will yet another set of these latest revelations finally help to break the RC stranglehold on Irish culture, law and politics?

“After the revelations that Irish priests raped countless little boys and Irish nuns beat and starved countless little girls forced to work in the Magdalene laundries, we can’t take any more. The children in the homes were even used as guinea pigs for pharmaceutical companies to test vaccines. .. Never again should the Catholic Church dare to point the finger at any young woman contemplating abortion, or lecture on the sanctity of human life.”
The Week (6-20-2014)

 *   *   *

That was fun, wasn’t it?

And now for something completely different.

 So Glad I’ve Lived to Experience This Breakthrough For Humankind

Last week I had my annual mammogram. [5]Tuality Hospital’s Breast Health Services center is quite proud to be up on the latest technology for diagnostic screening, and instead of the usual titty in the wringer mammogram they offered me Tomosynthesis.

Tomosynthesis is better known as 3D mammography – you know, where it seems like the breasts just come flying off the screen at you.  The mammography technologist looked at me blankly when I asked her if I could wear the special glasses.

They're too scary, Mommy – make them go away!

Too scary, Mommy – make them go away!

 *   *   *

Where liberty dwells, there is my country.
~ Benjamin Franklin ~

Happy Independence Day!

Let us all proudly wave our American flags and light our fireworks (both made in China) and then stare at our computer screens, comparing Facebook pictures of other people’s celebrations.

And may the red white and blue hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

[1] John Philip Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever.

[2] Yeah, not an OED-recognized word. But it should be.

[3] The always observant SCM was referring to Joseph Ratzinger, better known by his slave name, Pope Benedict.

[4] No footnote here. Move along folks; there’s nothing to see.

[5] Insert your favorite/paranoid grumblings about the wisdom and costs of routine medical testing.

The Good Ole Folks I’m Not Romanticizing

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 Remember to call your billiards shots 

White cat in the side pocket.

pool nova

*   *   *

The Offfspring of Duh Meets the Progeny of You Can’t Make Up This Stuff

Dateline: May 21, a New York Times article, Bryan College is Torn; Can Darwin and Eden Co-exist?, about an Christian college which is being sued by two long-time faculty members as part of a controversy over the college’s stance on the origin of humans.

Creationist1

In a nutshell – an appropriate container, as you’ll see – the lawsuit revolves around the college’s “statement of belief,” which professors have to sign in order to be employed at Bryan College.  The original statement of belief, quite retro re the school’s views on creation and evolution,[1] is apparently not backward and Neanderthal strong enough for the college’s administration and governing board.  Fearing “a marked erosion of Christian values and beliefs across the country,” college officials recently added new language to the SOB [2] –  language they refer to as a “clarification” – that would have faculty members professing that Adam and Eve “are historical persons created by God in a special formative act, and not from previously existing life-forms.”

Some Bryan College students as well as professors are objecting to the SOB’s addition, claiming that it “…amounts to an assault on personal religious views” and that “it makes (Bryan College) a more narrow place.”

 Gee, ya think?

Gee, ya think?

Bryan College president Stephen D. Livesay defends the SOB’s clarification:

“…this is something that’s important to us. It’s in our DNA. It’s who we are.”

 Oh. My. Mr. Livesay. Whatever possessed you to use that term?

There’s no such thing as DNA. Because if there was, you’d be able to trace human ancestry back to previously existing life forms….ooooh….never mind.

 *   *   *

Speaking of (or implying) dinos, Wednesday’s Google Doodle tagged Mary Anning, a British palaeontologist.

And I’m using the British spelling intentionally and respectfully, not just to be colourful , so take a hike, spellchecker.

*   *   *

Animal Enrichment

juncooregon

We have a pair of Juncos nesting in the bird house we so inconveniently located (well, for the birds) above the jungle-gym/climbing tree of our outdoor cat, a Bengal named B.B.  We put the birdhouse up for more decorative than functional reasons, as an object d’yard art, thinking that no sane bird would choose to homestead in such close proximity to a feline. But, alas, a pair of Juncos seems to be feeding chicks housed within.  Fledging time should prove to be interesting.

birdhouse

*   *   *

Department of Random

Last week, watching the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, I got to thinking [3] about the ironies (or should I say insincerities?) behind one of the Country-Western genre’s staple themes, when guest Dolly Parton performed a song called Home.

There are a plethora of CW songs that pay tender tribute to and ostensibly yearn for the good ole folks and good ole, simpler times back home (“we wuz dirt poor but we wuz luuuved”) — songs written and performed by multimillionaires who did everything in their power to escape that life, that locale, and those people.  If life back then ‘n there was so good, why did you want out? Why were you so ambitious, in some cases even desperate, to leave it all behind and go for something more?

POOR

Just wondering.  Excuse me, wonderin’.

*   *   *

I Request a Moment of Respectful Silence

Moment_of_silence

Please join me in honoring the passing of a national treasure, TOWIAWNCHH. [4]  Yes, The Only Women in America Who’s Never Colored Her Hair has thrown in the towel.

 hair

*   *   *

Department of Mixed Experiences

 "We are never, ever coming back."

“We are never, ever coming back.”

Last week MH traveled to Pasadena to attended Nerdfest 2014 his Caltech Class of 1984 reunion.  He hemmed and hawed over attending, as he holds no special fondness for his alma mater and was not interested in the reunion activities.  He decided at the last minute to go because he wanted to see a group of friends who’d planned on attending.  One of these friends from Caltech days, who has continued to be a real life buddy  [5],  had this to say on his FB page about the reunion:

“As usual much bigger participation by younger and older classes. Energetic young woman working for the (Caltech) Alum Assoc introduced herself and explained her job was partly to improve relations with 1980′s classes. I asked what her theory was and she said their best guess was alums from that era had “mixed experiences” and many “did not enjoy returning to campus”.

I think all Caltech classes should hold their reunions on grounds of the previously-mentioned Bryan College.  Caltech alums could schlep in some previously existing life forms, planting them strategically around the campus grounds….

jesus burying dinosaur bones

 *   *   *

My Wicked Fantasies ©
Chapter One in a (hopefully, very short) series

I will consume a cabbage, beans, Brussels sprouts, garlic and broccoli smoothie three hours before my next scheduled airplane flight.  When going through the security checkpoint, I will refuse to enter the TSA scanner machine and ask for the security pat down instead.

 *   *   *

May all of your security pat-downs reveal no previously existing life forms, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

[1] It includes statements such as, “The origin of man was by fiat of God.”

[2] Praise Jaysuuuus for the opportunity to use that acronym.

[3] Fortunately, this train of thought lasted for, at most, five minutes.

[4] Her slave name is Robyn Parnell.

[5] And who is a favorite dude of mine as well.  Even if he is a dwarf scientist. Which I’d more fully explain, but then this footnote would need a footnote, and that’s just not right.

The Doves I’m Not Angering

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Sight of the Day

Thursday afternoon: returning from New Seasons market, I was entranced by the sight of our two resident, usually docile mourning doves, who swooped down from the tippy-top top of our deodora cedar and engaged in a coordinated attack upon two much larger crows.  The crows flew nonchalantly, even as the doves chased them to our rooftop, from where one crow safely launched itself up and away from the doves.  The other was chased off of the roof and then down the block.  The doves took turns dive-bombing the crow, forcing it to fly lower and lower until it found shelter in a neighbor’s shrubbery.

Protecting their nesting site?  Impressive courtship display (“Oh baby, you know how I love it when you harass the corvids)?  Or just feeling bodacious?  Whatever the reason, I enjoyed the doves’ aerial show.

angrydoves

*   *   *

WTF, SCOTUS?

I’d like to send some angry doves to Washington to peck some sense into a certain group of chickenhawks.  The SCOTUS’s four Resident Retrograde Catholic Assholes [1] were at it again, and were joined by swing asshole Justice Kennedy in their latest yep-we-done-lost-our-shit 5-4 ruling, this one involving Christian prayers at government meetings.  I’ll sum up the majority reasoning rationalization: You see, boys and girls, violating the Constitutional, if someone has[2] been doing it for years, ceases to be a violation and becomes protected “tradition,, “history” and/or culture.

PRAYHYPOCRITES

Now that they’ve reamed the First Amendment a new one, let’s all go out and have our way with the others.

Yessum, Mr. U.S. Attorney, we-all in Bunnyboner, Mississippi kinda heard ’bout that Fourth Amendment  prohibiting warrantless searches and all, but our Sherriff’s department been bustin’ into houses and ransacking shit for decades – it’s our law tradition.

*   *   *

Another religion-politics face palmer was brought to my attention by MH, this one involving Monica Wehby, the Portland doctor who’s thrown her neurosurgeon’s cap into the political ring for Oregon’s Republican Senate primary race.  Wehby is apparently not conservative enough for her party’s wingnuts, who’ve criticized her stance on abortion, which is a teense too prochoice for their tastes. Oh, yeah, and she’s identified herself as a Catholic.

We’ll likely never know if Wehby is a practicing/believing Catholic or merely a “cultural Catholic.” Or, she might be the kind of self-identified RC (as I suspect many politicians are) who no longer practices and/or believes the tenets of her religion, but who doesn’t want to rock the ark and does want to claim a label that (used to) guarantee a bloc of votes.  As reported in The Oregonian, in an early primary debate, when the subject of abortion came up, that’s when she played her RC card:

Wehby said abortion should be a woman’s choice – although she’s also quick to emphasize that she’s a Catholic who is personally pro-life. 

Some of us would like to quickly emphasize that the proclaimed Catholic Wehby is divorced, and is sympathetic to gay marriage [3] and that, like abortion, both divorce and gay marriage are ginormously big no-nos in the Catholic religion.

Some of us would also just as quickly prefer never to have to think about a politician’s supernatural beliefs, never, ever again.  We are a secular democratic republic; we elect people to be our political leaders/servants, not priests (or doctors, or…).  But Wehby dragged her religion into the public arena, so her hypocrisy, or at least inconsistency, is fair game.  Because, really, Roman Catholic-influenced thought and strategy of any kind is just what we need to bring justice, evenhandedness and stability to our halls of government.

abortion-hypocrisy

(Threatened with a lawsuit for failing to perform potentially life-saving abortion, a Catholic hospital’s defense was: life begins at birth, not at conception – a complete reversal on the Catholic church’s long standing anti-choice position that human life begins at conception.)

*   *   *

When politics is too effin depressing, and writing coherently about it would involve – nay, require – way too much profanity, it’s time to think about art.  Specifically, the theatre.

MH and I are season subscribers to two local theatre companies, Portland Center Stage and Hillsboro’s Bag & Baggage Productions.  This gets us typically one to two plays every four to six weeks, but an unusual set of circumstances/reschedulings have us attending three plays in eight days. [4]  Last Sunday we saw the PCS production of The Last Five Years, a two-person musical that depicts the story of a New York City couple’s relationship in an unusual, innovative way (the woman’s story is told backwards, while the man’s is told chronologically.)  Tonight we’ll take in B&B’s version of Noel Coward’s Private Lives, and then Sunday we’re back at PCC, for Othello .

Our seats were just three rows back from the stage for The Last Five Years, and the actors’ prodigious saliva slinging reminded me of being in the splash zone at the Sea World Shamu [5] shows.  Don’t get me wrong – I’ve no phobia about being pelted by thespian bodily fluids.  In fact, I proudly claim to have been showered with the saliva of many theatrical performesr, including twice on two separate occasions by Lily Tomlin. [6]

splash

*   *   *

bye-bye goodie boxes..for now

I sent the last care package of the academic year to son K, to mark his last week of classes at UPS , which stands for the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma and should not be confused with that other UPS, which is my favorite method for shipping packages to…that other UPS.

Several of the employees in the local Office Depot’s copy/print/shipping department have come to know me the past three years, and they prep a computer monitor for their shipping system as soon as they see me enter the store.  One of the employees, herself a college student, chats with me about the latest Star Trek: TNG episodes she’s seen [7]  while I type in my answer to the contents of package question on the shipping form.  I love listing the package contents as “junk food,” although, really, Pepperidge Farm Milano Mints should not accurately be described as junk.

Finals week survival rations. 

Finals week survival rations.

Good news from K this week included learning he’ll be home in two weeks, gainfully employed for the summer [8], and that he got a research grant for his senior year!  The grant entails helping a chemistry professor do…something.  Like, chemistry-researchy stuff.

Good news for Belle included surviving AP hell week.  She had Advanced Placement tests three days in a row, starting with AP Calculus on Wednesday.  This weekend she’s blowing off steam by attending her high school prom.  There may be prom pictures posted on this blog next week, a sentence I could never have imagined myself writing several years ago.  Also next week, Belle is having another I-could-never-have-imagined-myself-writing-about adventure, for which photographic proof will definitely be needed .  That’s all I’m allowed to say about it, for now.

*   *   *

Department of Hey, Nice Try

Although I have a rule to never donate to panhandlers, I wavered when I saw the sign held by a man in Portland, who was standing by the 16th St. entrance to the freeway.  Just for one moment I thought that the originality was deserving of reward:

Ninjas captured my family.
Need money for karate lessons.

*   *   *

“Reality is the leading cause of stress amongst those in touch with it.”
(Lily Tomlin as Trudy, from The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe. [9])

May your reality be stress-free, and may your hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

[1] Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, Alito.

[2] It is really, really, way past time for those old white (and one black) men to die. Too bad they have the best health care our money can buy.

[3] (“I don’t have a problem with gay marriage. … I think it’s not a government decision. I think it’s a personal decision”) – from the same debate.

[4] Three Plays in Eight Days – sounds like the premise of an off-Broadway satirical revue.

[5] Yep,  I’ve seen Blackfish, and even before that, had sworn off seeing animal shows for ethical reasons.

[6] During her one woman play, The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe.

[7] She and her boyfriend are going through the entire seven year series.

[8] And there was much parental rejoicing.

[9] Written by playwright/director and Tomlin’s longtime partner, Jane Wagner.

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