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The Skills I’m Not Listing

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A Harbinger of Spring: The Return of Blue Man Group

This year our boys are sporting primroses.

BMG

*   *   *

Happy belated birthday to comic actor, author, playwright, composer and founding Monty Python  member Eric Idle.

Idle shares a birthday with my mother-in-law (March 29); they both like to sing…and there is where the similarities begin and end.  While my MIL is a devoted Lutheran, Idle composed many of the Python songs and other naughty bits that crack wise at religion.

Idletwit

Idle, as Vivian Smith-Smythe-Smith, contestant for Upperclass Twit of the Year.

As per his own worldview, Idle has described himself, as in this piece he wrote for the Los Angeles Times, as an Alzheimer’s agnostic.

“I am an Alzheimer’s agnostic: I can’t remember whether I don’t believe in anything or not.
“However I do believe religions are the cause of most of the problems in the world today and there should be a moratorium on the use of the G-word. I think it should be replaced by something less controversial that we can all agree on. Like Chocolate.

“I can quite happily confess that I believe in Chocolate without upsetting anyone. No one ever killed anyone else over Chocolate. (All right, outside of Beverly Hills.) ‘One Nation under Chocolate’ is surely something we can all get behind. But I suppose, like all my ideas, it will be dismissed as just too silly.”

In Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life,  Idle’s Oh Lord Please Don’t Burn Us caps a skit illustrating the absurdity of religious worship.

Idle satirically illustrates the  logical consequence/conundrum for those who believe in a creator god – a deity they credit for “All Things Bright and Beautiful” but who somehow gets no responsibility for the parts of creation that are a bit dicey – with his Anglican hymn parody, All Things Dull and Ugly.

All things dull and ugly,
All creatures short and squat,
All things rude and nasty,
The Lord God made the lot…. 

All things scabbed and ulcerous
All pox both great and small
Putrid, foul and gangrenous
The Lord God made them all….[1]

ERICIDLE

*   *   *

Happy Trails to You

Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve bid a fond farewell to one of their greatest assets this week, when Sarah Pinnock retired from her position as Wetlands Education Specialist. MH and I have had the privilege of Sarah’s acquaintance for many years. We first met her when we were hiking around the preserve one day, many years ago. Sarah pointed out to us the nesting tree of the JBW Preserve’s resident pair of bald eagles, and showed us bobcat scat on one of the trails and other points of interest.

K graduates in May with a B.S. in Micro and Cellular Biology, and Belle will likely declare her major in Biochemistry or Biology. I attribute my offspring’s interest in the biological sciences in good part to Sarah’s enthusiastic mentoring. She led a series of nature/wildlife biology-themed camps at the preserve, several of which K and Belle attended. My kids adore and admire her, as do MH and I. There aren’t many people who can nurture or appreciate your children’s passion for dissecting owl pellets as well as Sarah.

She has the skill of making the phases of the natural world – from the life cycle of a vole to the water cycle of a wetland – interesting and accessible to adults and children alike. The naturalist who will succeed Sarah Pinnock at JBWP will have some big shoes – knee-high mud boots, actually – to fill.

Sarah Pinnock

*   *   *

Speaking of the natural world…

Spring Language Lexicon
Chapter 32: Doot-Doot vs. Deet-Deet

Doot-Doot: the thin cardboard cylinder around which a roll of toilet paper is wrapped and which, when stripped of all toilet paper, may be raised to the mouth of a human being so as to facilitate that human’s pretense of playing a trumpet or similar wind instrument. [2]

Doot-doot

Doot-doot

Deet-Deet: Any of the small, long-legged, narrow-billed shorebirds (e.g. sandpipers, oyster catchers, plovers) which dart to and fro, chasing outgoing waves and in turn being chased by incoming waves, their rapid gait making the deet-deet-deet-deet-deet sound (to discerning ears).

Deet-Deets getting ready to deet-deet-deet-deet.

Deet-Deets getting ready to deet-deet-deet-deet.

Now you know.

*   *   *

Wednesday was my first of what I hope will be a regular gig of volunteer shifts at the Bonnie Hayes Animal Shelter.  I’m happy to return to serving an animal adoption/rescue organization, after a break from 5+ years volunteering, along with Belle, at one of the C.A.T. humane organization’s outreach centers.

I’ve been searching for “suitable” [3] volunteer opportunities, and have noted a similarity in the animal shelter’s and other organizations’ volunteer application forms. At some point in the form after you’ve provided information relevant to the volunteer position, there is a section where you are asked to list interests, hobbies and other skills. Which strikes me as something you’d find on a dating profile.

profile

The trouble with volunteerism is that nonprofits offer plenty of “opportunities” to take on what are essentially jobs – “real” jobs – without being paid.  One example out of many: with my background working for both Planned Parenthood and a private OB/GYN practice, I thought about volunteering for a reproductive health clinic…until I researched volunteer positions available at the local Planned Parenthoods. Most of the descriptions made me think, Volunteer-schmolunteer –the scope and depth of responsibilities and duties – this is a job. Someone needs to get paid to do those things (like I used to).

I’ve had enough of that – of being expected to work without pay – as a writer.  Along those lines, I left blank the interests, hobbies and other skills section of the BHAS application. I did not list my writing skills; experience has taught me what will happen with that. I don’t want to haul out my good-natured-but-firm-smiling-through-gritted-teeth-turndown/explanation: that I do not work for free (nor do I think anyone should).

Yes, I understand that nonprofits need volunteers to thrive, or even survive.  But volunteerism comes at a high cost to women, who, as NPOs from art museums to educational tutoring programs to animal shelters will tell you, constitute the backbone of the volunteer force. The fact that women are often paid less than men for doing the same job (even in “traditionally female” occupations, for FFS!! [4] ), the fact that women are more hesitant/less adept than men when it comes to bargaining for salary raises – these inequalities are directly linked, I believe, to another frustrating fact:  both boys and girls grow up seeing women doing work – from managing a house/raising children to volunteering in key positions in their school/church/community – without being financially compensated for their work. [5]

volunteer

So.

I’ll gladly sanitize cat kennels and paint my children’s classroom walls, for free.[6] I will not write your organization’s press releases or grant proposals or edit your newsletter for zip.

*   *   *

My Son, the Micro Aggressor
Aka, This Is How We Lose The Support Of Good People

One of the things that makes me the most proud (or relieved) about my children is that they’ve turned out to be Good People ® . MH and I tried to instill in and model for them the value of applying compassion and reason to all areas of life, including political and social discourse. K and Belle try to think logically, to give people the benefit of the doubt, and look to the natural world for rational explanations of phenomena. Thus, it is no surprise that they support “the good fights” – LGBT rights, civil rights, women’s rights – you know, human rights.

We’ve also tried to teach them, by both example and “decree,” to never assume malice on the part of another person who makes a patently false or absurd statement (or simply a statement with which you disagree) when ignorance or simple difference of opinion would suffice for motive.

Most importantly, we advised them to question everything, even and especially the party line spouted by those whose positions you support.  Errant or exaggerated statements and inappropriate assumptions are to be found errant or exaggerated and inappropriate on their own merits, regardless of the desirable politics or good intentions behind them.

No surprise that both K and Belle have intermittently run into slobbering opposition (read:¨PC attacks and name-calling) when they have questioned some blanket/misleading statements having to do with The Oppressed vs. The Oppressors © .

shout

K had some “interesting” discussions in a Gender and Society [7] class he took at college last year, and I was both bemused and frustrated on his behalf when he recounted the incidents to me.  Stand-up guy that K is, he’s sometimes gotten involved in what he advised me you must never do, Mom, when it comes to online discussions, [8] and I’ve enjoyed being able to tease him about it (You stepped right in that pile, didn’t you?). But his missteps are understandable. For example, he is studying chemistry and biochemistry and organic chemistry, and when he runs across some blatantly whackadoodle statement about the “chemical reactions” that “prove the toxicity” of fluoridated water, he just can’t help but wade in and offer a factual correction. And the fun ensues.

Delusional thinking, by definition, cannot be reasoned with…and yet silence implies acquiescence. You simply can’t reason with some people, and yet you must try [9]  – I hold these seemingly contradictory opinions, a fact K and I have discussed, many, many times. You must learn to choose your battles; you must also learn when the best choice is to say, Cool story, bro, and walk away.

As one wise woman put it,

Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time, and it annoys the pig.

For the hundredth time, Wilbur, there's no falsetto in the chorus.

For the hundredth time, Wilbur, there’s no falsetto in the chorus.

Department of Teaching Pigs to Sing

Yesterday K entertained me by relaying the following pig-singing-lesson discussion he waded into, when he commented to a post on FB. [10]

The post began with this excerpt:

“Many white women have said to me, ‘We wanted black women and non-white women to join the movement,’ totally unaware of their perception that they somehow ‘own’ the movement, that they are the ‘hosts’ inviting us as ‘guests.’ “
 – bell hooks, Feminist Theory: From Margin To Center

K: OR maybe they said that because they felt like nonwhite women were not represented by the movement and there were few (nonwhite women that were) a part of it.
Why do people always assume malice behind people’s actions and words? It’s foolish to read into things that damn much.

PDQ [11]: ^^^^ Can somebody please deal with this I can’t

REALLY

Yes, PDQ, go lie down with a cold compress on your forehead until you can deal with it.  OR, FFS, why bother to respond if all you’ve got is the vapors to offer? OR, FFFFFFS, put on your adult undergarments and deal with it.

Excusez-moi. Back to the transcript. Frail, unable-to-deal-with-it PDQ called upon someone else to respond (I’ll call her SAP), which SAP did.

SAP: 1. Nobody asked you. 2. ______(SAP provided a link to a HufffPo article on the “white savior complex”).

Then there was a lengthy comment by another person, “NAH,” on a tangential topic. K stayed on track, ignoring NAH and responding to SAP.

K: SAP, 1. If you post something publicly about a political topic, you are inviting responses. 2. You seem to think I’m saying that I don’t think this savoir complex exists. That’s not what I’m saying. What I said was that people seem to, tend to, read malice or otherwise hostile intent into quotes, like the one posted.

 NAH: Yeah. Oppressed people tend to be sensitive to the reasonably invisible micro aggressions that reinforce their mistreatment and widespread marginalization. No Shit.

(end of transcript)

facepalm

Reasonably Invisible Micro Aggressions. Yikes.

As an an uppity woman from the get-go, I’d love to terrify Pat Robertson by leaving my husband to practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and go lesbo, [12] but it’s late and I’ve yet to brush my teeth.  BTW, I cut my feminist teeth on the works of Gloria Steinem, bell hooks, Robin Morgan, Audre Lorde, Kate Millett, Betty Friedan, Alice Walker et al, and I embrace the descriptive legitimacy of the concept of both white and male “privilege.” Reasonably Invisible Micro Aggressions? Never heard of ’em. I feel so…un-PC hip.

That term had my non-thong underwear knotted with laughter. My first thought was, What in the name of Susan B. Anthony are micro aggressions? And if they’re invisible, how can you tell if they’re micro or macro? And WTF is “reasonably” doing in that phrase?

My message to K:

Congratulations – I just found out I am the proud feminist mother of a microagressor.
Even better, one who may be responsible for “invisible” micro aggressions. Sounds like the equivalent of political homeopathy.

Is that your invisible micro aggression or are you just happy to see me?

Is that your invisible micro aggression or are you just happy to see me?

*   *   *

Liberty is the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.
(George Orwell) [13]

 

May all of your aggressions be visibly comprehensive, and may the hijinks ensue.

 

  Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1]All Things Dull and Ugly,” by Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Trevor Pka, John Du Prez.               

[2] You know you want to try it: doot-doot-doot-doot.

[3] “Suitable” – there’s the rub. Just try finding something that doesn’t involve meetings and/or committees, which I believe are the scourge of humanity, comparable to alopecia and shingles.

[4] Check out this and other uplifting articles which document how male nurses out earn female nurses.

[5] And also without attaining the respect/cachet that comes from having “a real job” (i.e., a one that pays a salary.

[6] Thank the FSM those days are over.

[7] A straight (but not narrow!) white male in a class with such a name…you can just imagine the traps set for him, by zealously sincere (the worst kind) and humorless “activists.”

[8] Read: do not feed the trolls.

[9] Because sometimes…eventually… good sense will take root.

[10] As usual, I will use acronyms instead of names, to protect the hypersensitive, not-so-innocent.

[11] As in Political Drama Queen. An appropriate acronym for someone who would respond as she did.

[12] In an infamous fundraising letter Roberts described the “feminist agenda” as “a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.”

[13] I know SCM is thinking, “More footnotes!”

The Headline I’m Not Walking In

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"Is it hot in here, Gov. Perry, or is it just me?"

“Is it hot in here, Gov. Scott, or is it just me?”

What follows is not something made up by The Onion.

*   *   *

Department of No Comment

From salon.com:  “A slew of unconfirmed reports indicate that Florida Governor Rick Scott has banned state officials from using the term ‘climate change’…. Despite Scott’s repeated denial that such a law exists, in a new video released by climate activist organization Forecast the Facts, Director of Florida Division of Emergency Management Bryan Koon clearly tries to avoid using the phrase in a public hearing.

*   *   *

On Second Thought : Comment

Climate Change! Climate Change! GLOBAL WARMING WARMING
WARMING Climate Change! Climate Change! Climate Change!

Dang…there goes my career in Florida politics.

Now that I’ve nothing to lose: Gov. Rick Scott – this ass hat award’s for you.

AHat

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The Rhythm Method

K and Belle were home last week, for their Spring Break. After they returned to college it took two days for me to realize that the schools here (Oregon) are on Spring break this week. Is there some holiday/teacher contract day I don’t know about? I wondered to moiself during my morning walk on Monday, when I noticed the absence of students waiting at the curbside bus stops. I noticed the same thing Tuesday morning, and subsequently my brilliant powers of deduction that sense of oh, gee, school must be out kicked in.

Einstein

I’d heard about this from other parents, about how when your kids go off to college and/or work, the rhythms of your personal/professional life and family schedule – which revolved in large measure around your children’s school schedules – seem to disappear.  [1]

*   *   *

Department of Education

I think I learned a wee lesson in compassion this week.

A marketplace has emerged, where public humiliation is a commodity and shame is an industry. How is the money made? Clicks.  The more shame, the more clicks; the more clicks, the more advertising dollars.
We’re in a dangerous cycle. The more we click on this kind of gossip, the numb we become to the lives behind it. And the more numb we get, the more we click. All the while, someone is making money off of someone else’s suffering.”

If, like me, you were fascinated/angered/bemused/repulsed by the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal of seventeen years ago, you need to hear Monica Lewinsky’s TED talk on The Price of Shame.

Lewinsky was the same age then as my son is now when she began an affair with her boss which led to, among many other events, the first national case of what we now call cyber bullying and/or slut shaming. Listening to her speech, I realized for the first time (a) how young she’d been when she (admittedly and profoundly regretfully) did something really, really stupid, [2] and (b) how painful the consequences were, for herself and her family, of having her mistake made public.

Even if you think you had/have little interest in the pathetic affair, you heard the stories and the jokes, and we all formed opinions on the ensuring events based, at least in part, on the ensuing gossip.

Listen to her speech. We – the American public – owe it to both Ms. Lewinsky and ourselves to imagine, as she puts it, “walking a mile in someone else’s headline.”

cyberbully

*   *   *

Blast From the Past

Whatever prompted the following stroll down Memory Lane, [3] I cannot recall, but I am grateful to the whimsical brain breezes which produced it.

Dateline: a long long time ago in a galaxy far far away – a galaxy which happened to have a Barnes & Noble bookstore. Friend LU and I were cruising the B & N stacks, looking for – surprise! – a book (the title of which escapes me now..I think it was something by Stephen Jay Gould).  As we passed by the religion section stacks I noticed a display rack in the Christian Nonfiction section for books whose titles proclaimed the glories of “Submissive Womanhood.”

Naturally, I decided an act of guerrilla feminism was called for.

LU stood as lookout for B & N employees (a task she performed admirably, despite almost pissing herself with laughter) while I moved the entire submissive pile of shit stack of books to the section labeled Christian Fiction.

"Dear Lord, why does having a brain make my ass look big?"

“Dear Lord Jesus,
does having a brain make my ass look big?”

*   *   *

The Problem With Inspirational Quotes

“Do one thing every day that scares you.”
(Eleanor Roosevelt)

Uh…okay.

BTW, Ellie – may I call you Ellie? – here are just a few of the things that scare me:

* sticking my hand down an active garbage disposal
*running over my neighbor’s “un-schooled/free range” kid when he darts into the street from between parked cars

* stepping into an open septic tank
* boarding the light rail and realizing, after the train takes off, that the car is filled with rival gang members
* eating a carton of yogurt that is years past its expiration date
* encountering a pissed-off ____ (bear; cougar; moose) when I’m hiking and have to go off-trail to take a leak.

Hmmmm. Which one shall I do today?

Got it; this is your spot – I'll just move on.

Got it; this is your spot – I’ll just move on.

*   *   *

I recently finished reading two rock musician memoirs. The first was Punk Rock Blitzkrieg, the byline of which reads Marky Ramone with Richard Herschlag. Most of my fellow writers know full well what with means in a byline. The name that follows with (aka as told to) is the name of the person actually wrote the book – it is the name of the writer who cobbled together a coherent narrative after the famous-person-who-is-not-a-writer spent weeks or days downloading their thoughts to a tape recorder.

Despite having been ghostwritten, the Marky Ramone book was an enjoyable read. IMHO, with managed to capture the self-deprecating charm, boyish enthusiasm and generous spirit the Ramone’s drummer had and still has, after all these years, toward his music and his bandmates.

Then, there was Kim Gordon’s Girl in a Band.  Which was written all by her lonesome, apparently, as there is no with listed.

Pity.

Let me just say that I am not going to make it through this book was my mantra (until I actually finished it).

Yeah, I get that Gordon never intended to be in Sonic Youth, or in any band (or so she proclaims in every other chapter) – I get that ART (always capitalized, in intent of not punctuation) was her goal and muse.

Oh, the names she drops and hoists, again and again, of the art crowd, curators and gallery owners, the painters, the showings, and the paintings… There was a _____   ! [4] in the gallery, imagine that.

Gordon does make some interesting observations about feminism in the music and art worlds, but the performance art-style posturing tone of the book was a little too precious for moiself.  It made me want to invite her to my house and show her my art collection – a variety of works, from sculpture to pottery to paintings, by talented Pacific Northwest artists unknown to the Manhattan bozos bohos but nonetheless talented.  I may not have a Richard Prince in my “gallery,” but I do have a have a Tucker, a Henson, several Haworths and a Gabriel and another Gabriel and two Bonofiglios and a Grover and a Visse and Aukshunas and a Pickering [5]…and my pride and joy in my original pieces by S. Wagnell and E. Wagnell.

Original drawing by E. Wagnell

Original drawing by E. Wagnell

Original sculpture by S. Wagnell

Original sculpture by S. Wagnell

*   *   *

Department of Over Compensating

On the subject of art and pretension, after my outing to Portland’s Pearl District last week, I have an open suggestion to the vertically-challenged man wearing a leather biker jacket and an ill-fitting rug who paused to check his reflection in the driver’s side mirror before he locked his Lamborghini:

Dude, why not just get a vanity plate that reads, TINYPNS ?

Another thing that don’t make no sense: Duuuuuuuude, if you can afford a car like that, what’s with the Dollar Tree toupee?

Now, that's more like it.

Now, that’s more like it.

*   *   *

May your automobile choices be compensation-free,
may your life choices scare the crap out of Eleanor Roosevelt,

and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] However, having worked for a private OB/GYN practice and several Planned Parenthoods, I have nothing good to say about the rhythm method or those who practice it.

[2] …and how lucky I and my peers were, to have committed our youthful indiscretions out of the internet’s/social media’s/cell phone’s all-seeing, all-blabbing eyes.

[3] Which is also the real name of a real street near where I lived in Santa  Ana, CA. Strange, that I can’t recall much about Memory Lane….

[4] Insert name of any artist unknown to those outside the Manhattan bohemian scene.

[5] Jimmy Pickering also illustrated my picture book, My Closet Threw a Party. So there’s my name dropping for the day.

The Toast I’m Not Serving

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I went to a restaurant that serves ‘breakfast at any time’.
So I ordered French Toast during the Renaissance.
~ Steven Wright ~

*   *   *

If This Catches On, Our Culture Is Toast

Its’ a Thing, apparently. And, like with so many Things, I’m far from the first to catch on.  It’s Artisanal toast.

Yes, the apocalypse is at the gates and I’m in my sweatpants.

toastpng

*   *   *

Yet Another New Thing
Aka Department of
Pack it in, Pack it out

Content warning: a lotta shit-talking ahead

Last Sunday MH and I hiked the Angel’s Rest trail in the Columbia Gorge. I was thrilled to see my first trillium of the season…

trillium

…and then I was not-so-thrilled to see the first of what would be many, many, many, plastic  baggies by the side of the trail, their lumpy shape indicating they were filled with what my father genteelly [1] used to refer to as dog dirt.

This seems to be a new thing with People Who Take Their Dogs Hiking.® The optimistic part of me [2] would like to think that the owners, hiking uptrail when Rover does his business, place Rover’s doggie doody bag in a spot they think they will remember and intend to retrieve the bag on their way downtrail.

yeahright

Oh, sure, I trust ’em all to remember the exact spot on the trail where they left their dog’s bag, among the 523 bags left by the hikers before them.

Doggie-waste collection bags used to come in two shades: black, or very dark green. Perhaps on the advice of a Poop bag PR firm (which, I imagine, proposed that having a different colored bag will allow you to spot it more easily along the trail or hillside), the bags now come in a variety of colors. As MH and I ascended out of the fern-filled forest, past Coopey Falls and up to a ridge crest which offered a spectacular Gorge view, our view of the trail itself included

* pale pink poop bags
* purple poop parcels

* fuscia feces fetchers
* tangerine turd totes
* shadow  blue shit bags
* strawberry stool satchels
* burgundy buttload bundles
* cream crap carriers

turdbag

I’m glad (at least some) dog owners are bagging their furry friend’s feces instead of leaving it for other hikers to slip on/trip over (although we did see some free range dog turds). Still, why don’t they just take the bags with them?  If you’re one of those dog-hikers who doesn’t, because you think hiking while swinging a sack o’ shit would ruin your Nature Experience ® or whatever your reason is, please consider the experience of the your fellow outdoor lovers who are subject to the sight of your litter.

I spotted several hiking couples who carried their babies with them in backpacks. With the way my mind works, I began to wonder: why don’t they do the same as the dog owners? [3]  As a veteran parent of two long-ago-housebroken-children-now-young-adults, I remember the prodigious poop production of infants.  Yet I didn’t see any baby diapers, solo or bagged, on or near the trail.

I did see one Responsible Dog Owner, © whose dog wore one of those vests that have pockets and/or clip on gadgets which allowed the dog to carry its own poop bag.

Attention, puppy possessors who simply must take your faithful canine companions on the hiking trail:

First of all, make sure your dog actually enjoys hiking and is up to it.  Those of you who take along your foo-foo yipsters  and other petite breeds [4] – do you realize that:

(1)  not all dogs enjoy or have been bred for hiking;
(2)  your legs are four times as long as theirs;

(3)  as your dog struggles to keep pace with you, we who approach you on the trail can see the miserable, winded look on your dog’s face, that you apparently can’t (or choose to ignore)?

And second of all, most of all, get and use one of those Turd Tote [5] vests for your dog.

dogvest

The rest of us nature lovers will appreciate it, so much so that we will serenade you with a special version of the hiker’s anthem, The Happy Wanderer Song:

♫ I love to go a-wandering,
 Along the mountain track,
 My dog’s with me, and he’ll carry,
 His crapsack on his back.  ♫

C’mon, all you Girl Scout and Boy Scout dropouts – join in on the chorus:

♫  Val-deri,Val-dera, Val-deri,
 Val-dera-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha
 Val-deri,Val-dera
His crapsack on his back  ♫

*   *   *

Department of Well, That’s a First

The song I woke up to Sunday morning that was playing in my head – I have previously blogged about my mind’s propensity for earworms – was the Ramones’ The KKK Took My Baby Away. Which is, aptly enough, from their album Pleasant Dreams.

*   *   *

Department of What Could Be Better for Your Brain Than Earworms

Reading this, that’s what:

It’s Time To Fight Religion:
Toxic Drivel, Useful Media Idiots, And The Real Story About Faith And Violence.

In this searing opinion piece for salon.com, The Atlantic contributing editor and Russia correspondent  Jeffrey Tayler rips news outlets and religious apologists and other a new one for their “misguided notions of tolerance” in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo murders. Tayler takes these “unwitting recidivist useful idiots” to task for evincing more political correctness than guts when it comes to defending – even understanding – the need for questioning and truth-telling in a free society.

“We need to turn the tables and refuse to let the faith-based or their smooth-talking accomplices set the terms for debate; refuse to cower before the balderdash term Islamophobia; refuse to let faith-mongering fraudsters, from the Pope in the Vatican to the pastor down the street, educate our children or lecture us on morals or anything else. If we do not believe the Bible is true or the Quran inerrant, we need to say so, loudly, clearly and repeatedly, until the “sacred” sheen of these books wears off. And it will.”

And if you enjoy that thought-provoking religion smack down, check out another article by Tayler. This one is about how the assumption that the so-called “Good Book” is actually good– i.e., that the Jewish and Christian scriptures offer nice, morally uplifting and instructional stories and firmly proclaim temperance and chastity – rests on grossly false premises. Also, the article’s title should be worth some kind of journalism award:

The Bible should be X-rated:
The Good Book is loaded with sexy sin – someone tell Mike Huckabee.

Indeed, someone tell Mike Huckabee. Tell him something. Anything.

*   *   *

Department of One More Shot

While I’m on the subject of Hucka-dissing, let’s say you somehow survived years of intellectual deprivation and traumatic brain injuries and thus have decided that Huckabee is your dude for the Republican presidential nomination.  Setting aside his platform of theocracy pandering, LGBT fear-mongering, sexually active women-bashing, science-denying, anti-choice, mandatory pregnancy-supporting and other unmedicated, Fox News-parroting, mythomaniac political positions, consider this:

Would you want This Great Land of Ours © to be led by someone who’s name brings to mind a chain of eateries whose greatest contribution to American food culture (read: the obesity/Type II diabetes epidemic) is their $13.99 “riblet” special?

"Casual, arterial and colon clogging dining since 1980."  (Not their official slogan)

“Casual, arterial and colon clogging dining since 1980.” (Not their official slogan)

 

*   *   *

Department of Let’s Think of Helpful Things For a Change

Panhandlers, and the frustration faced by most good-hearted people: to give or not to give? Actually, for me it’s easy. After doing volunteer work with the people who were professionals in the helping profession – experienced, non-starry eyed workers with the homeless and people living “on the edge” – I follow their advice.

Do not give cash. By doing so you may give yourself one minute of warm fuzzies, but true compassion does not abet or enable. Your money will most likely be going toward addiction of some kind (from nicotine to alcohol to meth to heroin and back again [6]), or you are funding one scam or another and some you’d never thought of.

Let’s say the guy asking for change says he’s doing so because he’s hungry. On the off chance he really is hungry, if you’ve the time, head for the nearest food cart or deli or corner mart and bring him back a burrito or a sandwich or a salad or ___. [7]  But most of us don’t have the time – we’re on our way to work or an appointment or whatever.

So. If you care about such things, tonight or some night soon, when you’re binge watching your latest BBC series, start to put together a Panhandler Kit.  Make a list of what you need for such a kit – some of the items you may already have around the house (we always keep a supply of Max tickets on hand), and some may take a little searching out. You may think of more additions, but here is the very basic kit I keep in my purse.

phandlekit

Panhandler kit:
* All day public transit tickets
* Meal vouchers for local soup kitchens (Sisters of the Road (Portland Area)
* lists of social services in your area (organizations that provide meals, shelter, showers, food, clothing, health and employment assistance – google them, make a document that can be printed out and scaled down to a wallet-sized card)

All items can fit in a business card holder-style wallet, or an envelope you reserve for that purpose. When solicited by a street person, kindly reply that no, you do not have/are unable to offer spare change, but…** and you remove your kit from your purse, pocket, backpack.

** In this day and age I do feel compelled to add “if you feel safe to do so.” Of course, you must use your judgment as to the wisdom of stopping and speaking with someone who gives off dangerous and/or unstable vibes. I, for example, would hesitate to engage a Klingon panhandler.

 

Klingon panhandler

*   *   *

 

 May all of your encounters, on the streets or the trails, be turd-bag free and worthy of the artisanal fad food of your choice, and  may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

[1] He had not-so-genteel words, which he reserved for yelling through the kitchen window when he spotted people who walked their dogs and let them poop indiscriminately on other people’s lawns and sidewalks and – on one infamous (in my family, at least) occasion – on our garden hose.

[2] Yeah, the same part that would like to think Pol Pot had been bullied on the playground and was not merely or intrinsically evil.

[3] I actually began to plan my next guerilla art project: get disposable diapers, fill them with a lumpy substance, tie them neatly, take them along on our next hike and leave them next to dog poop bags.

[4] I’m talking to you, Pomeranian people, and also to owners of the other short-nosed, flat-faced, Brachycephalic breeds which are prone to respiratory distress and/or low endurance (e.g. pug, bulldog, boxer, chihuahua, shih tzu).

[5] Not the official name. But it would be, if I were the Marketing Queen.

[6] Or just to staying on the street and not seeking alternatives if you’re making enough by panhandling to get by.

[7] I’ve done this many times, and have shared stories with others who’ve done the same. The reactions from the food recipients clue you in as to whether the request was sincere. My favorite honest response: “Yeah, I was hungry, but for A BEER.”

The Green Armband I’m Not Wearing

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I am no longer wearing it. I wore it for three days, starting last Friday, when Leonard Nimoy died. Green is the color of Vulcan blood. You knew that.

symbol

Leonard Nimoy was, of course, best known for his portrayal of the iconic Star Trek character, Mr. Spock. [1] Nimoy was also a talented writer and screenwriter, director and photographer and singer. [2]

Oh yeah, and he also appeared in the “The Challenge,” which is arguably the Best. Automobile Commercial. Ever.

In late 1979 or early 1980, my parents drove up from So Cal to visit me and check out my first post-college apartment in the Bay Area. A week before the trip they asked me if I wanted them to bring along their old black and white TV set, which, they said, was mine if I wanted it (they’d recently purchased a new color TV, and they knew I had no TV set of any color.). I said thanks, but no. I didn’t watch much television at the time, except for the occasional special event (e.g. The Olympic Games). [3]  I called them back in a couple of days and asked them to bring the set along – I ‘d just found out that Star Trek reruns were going to be broadcast on some local channel.

Upon hearing the news of Nimoy’s death, my siblings and I exchanged a series of emails, in which we reminisced and recommended our respective favorite Star Trek “Spock-centric” episodes, which got me to thinking about the impact a piece of art and an artist [4] can have on one’s life.

I have never attended a Star Trek (nor any fan) convention nor have I ever had the slightest interest in doing so (other than having a fleeting curiosity about attending a ST convention with a cultural anthropologist’s mindset to observe the behavior of obsessive social misfits devoted fans). Still, the Star Trek series and its television and movie sequels and prequels and spinoffs have been an important part of my “entertainment life” for over forty years. That’s worth at least three days of official if casual, armband-wearing mourning. And a lifetime of memories.

My friend MM, when he heard the news, posted the most succinctly appropriate sendoff or tribute I’ve seen:

One to beam up.

Nimoy

*   *   *

Department of My Brain Hurts

Sometimes once something gets in print or gets in a textbook or gets on people’s public radar, it just sticks around, even if there’s reason to suspect that the idea’s just wrong.
(Laurie Santos, professor of psychology at Yale University,

Director of the Comparative Cognition Laboratory)

brain

The latest episode of Freakonomics, the radio show that explores “the hidden side of everything,” is inspired by the book This Idea Must Die: Scientific Theories That Are Blocking Progress. Freakonomics’ 3-5-2015 podcast, “This Idea Must Die” is both a treat and torture for idea junkies, and features interviews with a variety of Notable People ® from a variety of professions, all of whom were asked to propose answers to the same question:  “What (scientific) idea is ready for retirement?”

My head felt ready to explode as I began to consider the various propositions, which included

* A professor of cognitive science at University College London would like to kill off the idea that people are either right-brained or left-brained (“an idea that makes no physiological sense”);

* A professor at Harvard Business School wants to retire the idea that that markets are good…and the idea that markets are bad;

* A professor of quantum mechanical engineering at M.I.T. professor of quantum mechanical engineering at M.I.T. would like to retire the idea of “the universe;”

* An oncologist, professor of medicine and director of the MDS Center at Columbia University wants to retire “mouse models” from use in drug development for cancer therapy…

And how about the following for an apoplectic, [5] contemplation-o-rama:

“I think an idea that is bad, that’s really detrimental to society, is the idea that life is sacred.”
(Steve Levitt, Freakonomics co-author, economist at the University of Chicago.)

You owe your brain a listen.

*   *   *

It’s Flicker Time

hammer

No no no no no no no. That’s Flicker Time, not Hammer Time.

But while I’m on the subject, I’m standing here, in my office, staring at this parcel that was delivered  to our house by mistake. I just don’t know what to do. I know I should return it, but it’s addressed to MC Hammer, soooooo, I can’t touch this.

Thank you, Ladies and Germs, you’re too kind.

Back to Flicker Time.

flicker

One of the harbingers of the spring-that-shall-soon-be-here is the sound produced by a Northern Flicker, when s/he [6] is declaring territory with the help of technology.

Northern Flickers (along with most woodpecker species) “drum” on objects to declare territory, warn off rivals and attract and communicate with their mates. Before humans came along to muck up alter the environment, Flickers had to be satisfied with mere tree trunks to drum. They want to make the loudest noise possible from the highest spot possible, which is why, for suburban-dwelling Flickers, paradise is a neighborhood filled with houses that have metallic vents, chimney guards and flashings on their roofs.

I love to hear the sounds of Flicker housetop-drumming when I’m out for my morning walk. The part of me that enjoys petty irritations inflicted upon other people loves to imagine the reactions of the occupants whose houses are selected for Flicker drumming. I speak from experience: the first time you hear that noise, reverberating down your chimney and bouncing off the walls, it can be quite disconcerting until you figure out what the heck it is, where the heck it is coming from and who the heck is doing it.

"Everybody look at meeee! I've got my own drumming spaceship!"

“Everybody look at meeee! I’ve got my own drumming spaceship!”

*   *   *

Happy (early) 22nd Birthday to my son, K.

Hard to believe that my adorable “leaf boy” is twenty-two.

October 1995, near the Mackenzie River.

October 1995, near the Mackenzie River.

*   *   *

My Daughter the DJ

Keep it locked on the sound, 90.1 KUPS.

Excuse me for yet another a parental pride freak-out, but that’s my daughter on the air, announcing her college radio station’s motto.  All together now:

AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW.

Cat’s Got Your Tongue is what Belle is calling her show on KUPS, at the prime slot of Wednesday mornings, 6 am.. Her focus is “Indie folk,” which means that lucky listeners such as moiself get to hear songs about how “the robots are going to help us find our crystal” (after the pirates have stolen it). [7]

KUPS is a college radio station and sounds like one – interesting if sporadic programming, there are gaps in their schedule, and their website needs updating (Belle’s shift is not listed, ahem). Oh, and apparently no one at the radio station can agree about why their mascot is…what it is.

KUPS

*   *   *

When I’ve completed a new project and am researching publishers, one of the first things I do is check out the manuscript submission guidelines that are found on the publishing houses’ websites.  I am not a writer of genre fiction; thus, I rule out publishers that specialize in genres (unless they also publish literary fiction).  Sometimes, even when it is obvious from first glance that a publisher is genre-specific, I linger at the site, just to get an idea of how many ridiculous sub-categories there are and imagine the minds of people who read that shit genres are out there.

Such lingering occurred early this week, when I ran across a relatively new publishing house that specialized in the Romance genre. I was struck by the extensive sub-categories of Romance, some (okay; most) of which I had no idea existed:  Adventure Romance; Dark Fantasy; Futuristic; Gothic; Interracial; LGBT; Medical; Military; Paranormal; Regency; Rock ‘n Roll; Science Fiction; Time-Travel;Urban Fantasy…

Oh, and the publishers noted they were particularly interested in Amish Romance.

REALLY

Amish Romance?

I’d heard of the Christian – aka Inspirational – Romance genre, the guidelines of which are fairly strict: protagonists must behave according to “Christian tenets” and shun alcohol, tobacco, profanity and drugs; sexual desire and content is only hinted at or avoided entirely and must be heterosexual in nature; no nookie before marriage, and romantic encounters must lead to marriage or the promise of it somewhere in a golden horizon that is planned by their god; relationships with non-believers are either forbidden or presented in a negative light unless the plot involves the heathen love interest being “led to Christ.” A typical blurb for a mainstream Christian romance novel:

Bethany La Chasteté and  Rick Granarbor are not ready for the feelings that may blow apart their plans for their lives. Can they learn to trust that God has his own?

Once again, I digress.

An Amish romance novel? Who would read it – certainly not an actual Amish person. So then, who is the target audience? The comparatively frisky Mennonites?

Are those bees in the girls' bonnets or are they just happy to see us?

Are those bees in the girls’ bonnets or are they just happy to see us?

I’m trying to picture what, exactly, might constitute conflict and tension in an Amish Romance novel. An exchange of longing gazes over buttonhooks; the gentle stroking of a beard while sneaking surreptitious glances at an apron string fluttering in the sultry summer breeze; the coveting of the neighbor farm boy’s well-endowed buggy….

Joseph, Samuel and Jacob – is it hot in here or is it just me? Excuse me while I lie down and loosen my bonnet.

Although Rebecca's fiery temper has driven away every suitor, Reuben was ready to p lough the fallow fields of her heart.

Although Rebecca’s temper had driven away every suitor, Reuben was ready to plow the fallow fields of her heart.

 

*   *   *

May you live long and prosper, may you be the target audience of the genre of your choice, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

[1] Nimoy was also instrumental in developing the character’s history, distinctive body language and personality, according to Star Trek writers, producers and fellow actors.

[2] No…he was not a talented singer, as evidenced here.

[3] During my college and Young Adult Working Years © I missed many television shows now considered iconic (Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, ad nauseum) and had to learn about them in other ways, to fill the gaps in my popular culture knowledge, which is important for doing crossword puzzles.

[4] Yes, I’m counting a television show as art.

[5] Well, perhaps, if you’re religious, just that idea might send you into fits. I fully agree with retiring the idea that life – that anything – is “sacred,” but not for the (economic) reasons Levitt cites.

[6] Both sexes will drum and call to declare and protect their territory.

[7] Dillon’s Hey Beau.

The Bucket I’m Not Listing

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I don’t have a Bucket List ® .  I do have, in the dusty corners of my mind, a file of some things I want to do before I die…but not right before I die. That is, I don’t want to do them, and then die.

One of them is to form a retro, San Francisco-style psychedelic band – doing covers of Jefferson Airplane, Strawberry Alarm Clock, and Iron Butterfly songs.  We’ll call ourselves Acid Reflux. [1]

acidrock

*   *   *

Speaking of hallucinogens…

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, an evangelical Christian and son of a Baptist preacher, regularly references his reliance on and so-called relationship with his god and has used his political platform to promote his beliefs. This has led to “The cutest press release we’ve ever issued”, according to FFRF co-president Annie Laurie Gaynor, which refers to the “genius action by one of our members” as per following story.

 In January Gov. Walker told a group of Wisconsin bankers that he will only run for president if he felt “called” to run. His many statements about how he feels instructed by his deity to make political decisions include his statement to the Madison Christian Business Association that by the age of 13 Walker had “…realized “I’m going to trust in you, Christ, to tell me where to go.” [2] Since Walker has taken the steps prospective candidates take in launching a presidential bid, one can assume that Walker feels instructed by his god to run for president.

godGOP

Thus, a cheeky Wisconsin state member of the Freedom From From Religion Foundation felt called by the forces of reason and rationality to file an open records request as per the state’s Public Records Law:

“Since your terms as Governor, please provide a copy/transcript of all communications with God, the Lord, Christ, Jesus or any other form of deity.”

Despite the fact that the various incarnations of the Christian deity [3] have rarely if ever seemed to be press-shy – at least if you count the actions of their followers – the governor’s staff admitted there is no evidence for governor-deity consultation. The official response to the records request came from the Office of the Governor’s legal counsel, which confirmed that no such records exist.

I'm shocked – shocked, I tell you – by this revelation!

I’m shocked – shocked, I tell you – by this revelation!

*   *   *

But wait – there’s more!

The Christian deity may be press-shy for a mere governor, but for renowned astrophysicist and Hayden Planetarium Director and Cosmos host, Neil deGrasse Tyson ? Oy vey and fire away:

Interviewer NGT: “God, it’s great having you on StarTalk, I’ve been after you for a couple of years to do this, you finally made some time in your busy schedule, so thanks.”

God: “It’s my pleasure, I’m a big fan, Neil. May I call you Neil?”

NGT: “Neil is fine.”

God: “Would you be willing to actually kneel?”

NGT: “Uh, there’s no ‘k’ in my name. And the answer’s no.”

You can listen to more of Neil’s Conversation with God here, on the podcast StarTalk Radio.

god cartoon

*   *   *

Department of Is it Equanimity, or is it Valium?

Wednesday night, circa dinner time, making a last minute run to the nearest market to pick up some I-forgot-these items, I spotted a man walking up and down the aisles of the store, accompanied by his (presumed) daughters, guestimated ages 6 and 3. The three year old was totally losing her shit; daddy remained calm, with an almost disturbingly serene smile on his face, despite being the recipient of many lasered, why won’t he do something about that? stares from unsympathetic adults.

I’d like to take this moment to thank Belle and K for being such relatively easy kids to raise. No matter what they did at home, they mostly held it together in public places.

Laissez les bons temps rouler.

Laissez les bons temps rouler.

*   *   *

Department of Simple Pleasures

I love being able to use my MS Word Add Words To Your Spell Check Dictionary feature for terms like “wedgie.”

*   *   *

Department of How You Know When It’s Time to Quit

but it looks so glamorous when the rock stars do it....

but it looks so glamorous when the rock stars do it….

Dateline: Monday morning, ~ 6:58 am, out for my morning Nordic walk. I detected an unfortunately familiar scent on the cool morning breeze, my head instinctively if disgustingly turning toward the direction of the smell, to confirm that it was yet another  of another husband/wife banished to the porch/garage for their morning nicotine fix.  This time it was a man, slouched on a lawnchair on his front porch, wearing tennis shoes and a too-small (his wife’s?) pink terrycloth robe.

The robe looked nothing like this.

The robe (and the man) looked nothing like this.

The very next (Tuesday) morning, the very same smell, the very same turn of my head, only it’s a double turn, as in double take.  This time, it’s a woman at the same house, sitting in the same chair on same porch, and she’s wearing the same ratty pink robe. She takes a deep drag on her fag and I’m thinking, ah, how cute, it’s the shared smoking robe.

Wednesday morning – nah. I took a different route.  I was a smidge curious (would there be a third wearer of the smoking robe?), but, there are so few mysteries left in life….

smoking jacket

*   *   *

Department of I Still Can’t Get Over This

The past few years…decades…have shown us that far too many [4] Republican legislators have an obsession with women’s reproductive systems. Surprisingly—NOT – these same lady-business-is-my-business conservative whackadoodles  seem to have little understanding of how the human body is constructed and actually functions.  Time and time again, their rhetoric indicates they wouldn’t know an actual female reproductive system from the proverbial hole in the ground.

The GOP's Va-jay-jay patrol.

The GOP’s Va-jay-jay patrol.

Latest pathetic example: State Rep. Vito Barbieri (R – Idaho) apparently thinks a woman’s stomach is connected to her vagina.

REALLY

Really. I may be a fiction writer but I can’t make up shit like this.

Whhile questioning a physician who was testifying against an Idaho State house anti-abortion bill, Representative aren’t-you-glad-my-salary-is-paid-by-my-constituent’s-tax-dollars Barbieri, whose intellect is evidently only rivaled by Idaho’s famous potatoes, asked the doctor  “if women could simply swallow a camera in order for doctors to perform remote gynecological exams.”

facepalm

I’m going to suggest Rep. Barbieri simply use a suppository camera so neurologists can perform a remote scan of his brain.

*   *   *

He no play-da-game. He no make-a-da rules!
(variously attributed to several politicians and/or public officials, referring to the Pope’s stricture against contraception)

 

May you only play the games where every player agrees to the rules,
and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Go ask Alice, when she’s ten feel tall.

[2] As quoted in Freethought radio broadcast

[3] Yahweh, Jehovah, Jesus, Jesus Christ, The Holy Ghost,

[4] The correct number of legislators would be zero.

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 Baby Stroller I’m Not Buying

2 Comments

Peach at the Beach [1]

Everyone should periodically have the opportunity to be reminded of words like enchanting, which come to mind while watching a seven year old girl splashing in the waves, joyously oblivious to the bone-chilling water temp, chasing flocks of gulls and exclaiming over the profound Mystery of the Broken Sand Dollars [2]  – what happens to the other pieces?

 sanddollar

 *   *   *

Twenty Five Years.
Really.

Lest you think I have fallen from the Cliffs of Insanity, check for yourself and you will discover that it has been twenty-five years since the release of One. Of. The. Best. Movies. Ever. Made.

I am of course referring to The Princess Bride.

All together now:
Inconceivable!

*   *   *

Buy Patrick Stewart A Baby Stroller

Sir Patrick Stewart said he doesn’t fit in in his neighborhood of Park Slope, Brooklyn, because he’s the only one without a stroller. We knew what we had to do.

Somehow, for reasons that escape me (other than the obvious coolness factor), I contributed money to this campaign.  The fact that it was organized by the mahvelous singer-songwriter-comedian-actor-Broad Comedy guru, she of the multiple slash-talents, Katie Goodman – and her equally lovely and talented husband, writer-director Soren Kisiel [3]– may have something to do with it.

Please...make it not so.

Please…make it not so.

*   *   *

And Now I Know

Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, is neurologist Oliver Sacks’ absorbing and compassionate case-study-book that deals with how human brains process and understand music, and how music shapes and transforms human beings’ understanding of their world, and themselves.

I’ve been a fan of Sacks’ work for years (you really must read The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat – trust me, you’ll never look at brain deficits and altered perceptions in the same way again [4]).  A friend, [5] after discovering that she and I share a similar neurological “condition,” recommended Musicophilia to me.

When I wake up at night, I immediately hear music; i.e., a song. This is not because mischievous elves have crept into my bedroom and turned on the Various Music Playing Devices. The song I hear does not awaken MH, because the song is in my head.  The song varies; it is never classical music, never instrumental – there are always vocals. [6]  Genre-wise, it is more commonly a rock/pop/folk/soul/alternative song than country or heavy metal; it will occasionally be a show tune or Broadway musical number; it is never (so far)  rap or Emo, thank the FSM.

 

"You're welcome."

“You’re welcome.”

Sometimes there is a logical explanation for whatever song is on my brain’s nocturnal playlist – I’d heard the song earlier in the day, on the radio/my phone as I was driving/exercising/out for a walk.  And sometimes it’s just a mystery or even embarrassment to me as to why Joan Jett’s I Hate Myself For Loving You or Aretha Franklin’s Think or Bobby Sherman’s Hey Little Woman [7] is bouncing between my ears.

Thanks to reading Musicophilia, I know that this musical tic of mine is likely a brainworm – a perceptual construction analogous to visual afterimages but “created at a much higher level (than visual afterimages and other sensory system effects) in the brain.”

Either that, or I’m just fucking daggy. [8]

 

*   *   *

Me, Too

listsirony

*   *   *

May the music between your ears (or whatever forms the soundtrack of your life) warm the cockles of your heart, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] The delightful nickname of delightful friend SCM’s delightful daughter.

[2] Sounds like a Nancy Drew title

[3] The driver in Hummer Driving Man.

[4] I’m assuming you already had opinions about brain deficits and altered perceptions. Which may be a sign of my own altered perception.

[5] Who would be the afore-mentioned SCM.  Wow – TWO footnotes, way to go, S!

[6] There is no footnote #6. Move along, folks – nothing here to see.

[7] Yes, that one would be the embarrassment.

[8] Aussie/New Zealand slang for crazy.

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