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The Frog I’m Not Kissing

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 “Pretty women out walking with gorillas down my street….”
Joe Jackson, “Is She Really Going Out with Him?”)

A long long, time ago in a galaxy far far away, I left a movie theater having just seen the latest rendition of one of the oldest fairy tale plot devices.  The movie was Roxanne, a modern re-telling of the Cyrano be Bergerac story. While I found the Steve Martin-Darryl Hannah vehicle to be somewhat charming, as I joined the après-movie queue [1] outside the women’s restroom I was also frustrated by the sameness of it all.

Why aren’t the roles ever reversed? I groused to myself – ah, timing – just as a Sweet Young Thing ® standing in line behind me began gushing to her companion about the movie’s “uplifting” message:

“It’s like, you know, how true beauty is what’s inside a person, and when people, like, look beyond the physical stuff and people are, like, transformed, and so people shouldn’t, like, judge a book by its cover, because the one with the lousy cover might have some really good stuff inside…”

SYT’s commentary went on for some time, increasing in both volume and vapidity, to the point that I finally reached my WTF point. We were standing in a piss line; I’d never see her again.  I turned around and addressed SYT.

BTW and yes, I am One Of Those People ® who will sometimes speak to a Stranger when we are both standing in the same line, particularly when a Stranger makes inane comments loud enough to intrude upon the brain waves of bystanders.  Dream scenario for this situation: the Marshall McLuhan scene in Annie Hall.

Ah, but I digress.

“Actually,” I smiled at SYT, “the point of that movie, and other stories like, is a bit more specific. The underlying message is not that beautiful people can learn to appreciate homely people. The message is that, if you are a man who is unattractive, even ugly or deformed, you can pursue the pretty princess; you the man-troll can make a beautiful woman look beyond your physical deficiencies to appreciate the goodness within you. Think about it: that storybook train runs only one way: ugly man to pretty woman.” [2]

She did not respond, unless you count her open mouthed, frog-like gaping.  Hmm.  If she’d been a guy frog, some hot babe could have kissed her and transformed her into….  Nah.

cyrano

Cyrano be Bergerac. The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Beauty and the Beast. The Princess and the Frog. Shrek. Ninety-nine percent of Woody Allen movies starring Woody Allen.

Art and literature teem with images and stories of unattractive schmucks who pursue and win (and are portrayed as ultimately deserving of) the hearts, minds (and bodies) of beautiful women.  The homely, rejected but deep-down-decent protagonists know what it’s like to be judged and ignored for their inadequate exteriors, even though they have so much “inner beauty” to offer. Why then do the stories not have these men seek out their homely but decent, kind and wise female counterparts – kindred spirits with whom they could find simpatico, and mutually beneficial relationships?

yeahright

When was the last (or first) time you had the opportunity to read your children the bedtime fable of the devastatingly handsome prince who finds happiness with the wall-eyed but kind-hearted, intelligent princess? [3]

What sparked this particular intellectual excursion, I cannot say.  Perhaps the OBFD (stay tuned for acronym explanation) has something to do with it.

*   *   *

Department of Awwwwww…..

Dateline: last week, after enjoying a sushi lunch with friend SCM and her seven year old daughter P, we three womenfolk got ourselves to the Streets of Tanasbourne, an outdoor mall, to attend to a serious errand.  SCM was in need of new lady undergarments, and while she shopped for them [4], P and I played at the mall’s fountain. That is, P and I attempted to play, as much as the fountain’s numerous warning signs would allow us to act in any way that might resemble frolicking.

“No wading in the fountain, no walking along the rim, no sitting on the edge…no furtive glances in the direction of the fountain, no no no no…”

The signs did not say NONONO re using the fountain as a wishing well, and P pointed out to me the plethora of pennies that previous well-wisher had left.  I doled out a handful of pennies, one by one, to P, who tossed them in the fountain one by one, and one by one [5] told me who and what she’d wished for.

fountain

For her mother, P wished for – surprise! – new underwear.  For her father, new trousers. For her various friends, a puppy, a pet, a puppy, a pet, another puppy. For my daughter Belle, a black kitten.

“This is for K,” P told me, as she tossed the last penny into the fountain.

I found it touching her last penny was used to make a wish for my son. “And what is your wish for K?” I asked her.

P paused for a moment.  “Someone to keep him company.”

*   *   *

Department of Ahhhhh…crap.

Readers of this blog may remember my post from last week, wherein I mentioned daughter Belle’s plan to take the train home for a visit – along with seven of her dorm friends who wanted an adventure/escape from college for a few days – this weekend.  The visit is still on…in a different scale.

Belle’s friend MGN has been given a final countdown in her long battle with renal failure.  Assuming MGN makes it to the weekend, Belle will be spending most of her time “home” in the hospital, visiting MGN.  Belle’s college friends, once they heard the news, kindly and graciously backed out of the trip (“I won’t be any fun to be around,” Belle warned them), and Belle will be coming home alone.

MH and I were in Astoria when Belle texted me with the news.  We drove up the steep, winding, road to the Astoria Column and climbed the 164 steps to the top of the column.  I launched a small balsawood glider [6] from the column’s observation deck, in honor of MGN. It was a windy, pre-rainstormy day, and the flimsy glider rode the drafts like a tiny raptor, circling downward until it came to rest in a grove of fir trees.

astoriatreeJPG

Best wishes for MGN…and for her grieving friends, like Belle. The mortality of your peers in your face is just not something we imagine our children facing at age eighteen.

Morgan

*   *   *

The Return of the Old Boyfriends Dream

Scene: A university lecture hall. Standing at the dais is a man who is much too young to be James Watson[7] yet that is who we lecture attendees are supposed to think he is.
Looking around the crowded venue, I spot another young man.  This one, I know. He is standing off to the side, leaning against the lecture room wall, exchanging glances and smirks with his younger sibling, both of them trying to look professorial….

Old [8] Boyfriend Dreams ® . They’re baaaaaaaaaaaaaack.

I’ve had them before, and have noticed a pattern.  An old BF’s appearances in my dreams – typically in supporting roles, sometimes in brief, “walk-on” parts – coincide with times in which I am facing a current or imminent, significant, change in life circumstances.

When I wake up in the morning (or middle of the night) and my first thought it, Yo, dude, why were you (former bf) running amok in my subconscious?, my second thought is, Oh, okay…it’s this, again.

The OBFDs first made their appearance during my pregnancy with K. Those OBFDs also coincided with a desire to listen to my old Led Zeppelin albums, go figure.

A brief donning of my amateur dream interpretation hat is all it takes for me to figure it out.

Not quite as powerful as the Hogwarts Sorting Hat.

Not as awesome as the Hogwarts Sorting Hat.

 

I understand that those dreams signify my concerns for What Is To Come vs. What Might Have Been.  The old BFs represent The Road(s) Not Taken; they symboloize how every opportunity, every fork in the road, every major decision to be made, involves choosing certain paths and thus (by default if not intention) rejecting others.

The reason now for such dreams to be happening now, as in, again, is no surprise.  It’s Transition time.

"Oh, no - not another learning experience!"

“Oh, no – not another learning experience!”

My husband’s workplace offers employees a period of leave every seven years. Employees may use the time for purposes at their discretion (Travel? Classes? Eight weeks of couch surfing?).  As of last Saturday, “We” are currently on MH’s sabbatical.  “We”as in, when MH takes his sabbatical I get one (or have to take one, depending on POV issues), too. [9]

As much as I am fortunate to be able to do this, sometimes the timing is…problematic.  The previous sabbatical came at a time where I was in the middle of what would become The Mighty Quinn, and I was not in the place to be able to put that and other writing projects aside. [10]

FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS ALERT – Of course, I felt guilty for even having such resentments, and was glad I did take the opportunity to make wonderful, life-long memories of travel adventures with MH, K and Belle (and even if Belle hasn’t forgiven me for the holding-my-hand-over-the-still-steaming-pile-of-bear-shit incident, she’s got a great story to tell).

The timing of this sabbatical is more fortuitous in many ways.  It comes at a time when I’ve already taken a philosophical and mental sabbatical of my own, from my work. It comes at a time when significant family concerns (including elderly parents’ health crises on both sides of the family, and K and Belle leaving our nest) are bracketing my slow-dawning realization that I have chosen to devote decades of my life to what seems to be, for me, the wrong profession.

Cliff Notes version:  WTF do I do now?

Not the most convenient realization to have at my age, when my chronological peers are anticipating and planning for their retirements. Sigh. I’ve always been a late/backwards/sideways bloomer.

It’s time for Act Three. There are bound to be more rumination on his subject…or maybe I’ll just spare y’all and extend that particular sabbatical.

forkroad

*   *   *

May your roads, taken and not, be navigable and scenic, and may you know joy that comes from hearing a seven year old’s earnest wishing well announcements, which will surely help the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Four stalls, in an eight theatre multiplex?

[2] No, that’s not quite a verbatim transcript (Roxanne came out in 1987).

[3] Cinderella doesn’t count.  She is beautiful; her deficiencies are not physical but situational, in the form of poverty and an abusive step family.

[4] At a store, the name of which may or may not rhyme with Shick-gloria’s Meek-fret.

[5] I feel a theme coming on.

[6]  You can purchase the gliders for $1 at the gift shop. On previous visits to the column, I always thought it a cheesy thing to do…and it probably still is.

[7] One of the two scientists credited – mistakenly – as being the “discoverers” of  DNA.

[8] Old as in former, not old as in age seventy-three.

[9] His leave is paid.  Mine is not.

[10] Indeed, returning from the sabbatical, I felt as if I were starting from scratch.

The Elephant I’m Not Ignoring

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As promised (threatened?) in earlier missives, a picture of Belle’s tattoo.

Cicadatatt

She did the artwork herself. The tattooist was pleased at having to do (almost) no alterations to translate Belle’s fine art into body art.  There is, of course, a story behind the design.

Belle included a triangle for several reasons, including her love of the strength and purity of the strongest geometrical shape, and because it is the mathematical operator (delta) ∆, for change.  The cicada also has multiple personal references for Belle.  She is in awe of the cicada’s dramatic emergent cycle (13 – 17 years, depending on the species), and a cicada  symbolizes her years of dedication to the Oregon ZooTeens program.  Last summer Belle and other members of the program’s Leadership Corps travelled to a nature preserve in Costa Rica, where they were serenaded by an abundance of cicadas.

 *   *   *

 Too bad not all things that creep and crawl are as benign as cicadas.

White Guy Killer Syndrome: Can I go ahead and scream yet? It’s time for America to admit what it’s long resisted: White male privilege kills.  (by Brittney Cooper [1])

There have been many articles published this week about the Santa Barbara killings. Cooper’s is one of the more incendiary and thought-provoking.  She writes forcefully about the latest, maddening, frustrating – and worst of all, hardly atypical –  mass killing scenario in the USA.  It seems that “every few years, the American public has to watch in horror as some white kid goes on a rampage, killing everything from babies to old people,” when yet another young white guy decides “….his disillusionment with his life should become somebody else’s problem.”

Cooper rails against the inability of the press, the law, of society itself, to have the conversations  “…about white male pathology and the ways that systems of whiteness and patriarchy continue to produce white men who think like this. “

(The killer) had been posting strange youtube videos of himself talking about killing people over the last several weeks, so much so that his family was reportedly disturbed enough to call the police and have them come do a welfare check. But “officers concluded that he was ‘polite, courteous,’” and downplayed any difficulties.

 In the manifesto he released he said he was relieved that officers did not push the matter further because they would have found his weapons.

FRUSTRATION

 Can I go ahead and scream yet? A black or brown man would have been violently hauled into a jail and locked up at the first sign of such machinations. His property rights would have been thoroughly violated, and no matter how “polite” and “courteous” he might have been with officers, no reports would have reflected such language.

 These coded terms mean that these officers were incapable of seeing this clearly troubled young white man as a threat. How many mass killings must it take to recognize that white male entitlement is potentially deadly?”

*   *   *

The Department of No, I’m Not Done Yet
Aka The Santa Barbara Killings and Male Defensiveness:

We’re not all like that!”

Who. Fucking. Said. That. You. Are?

If, just one more time, I hear/read one more variation on that comment….

facepalm

I recently posted a link on my FB page to a Greta Christina blog post that addressed the killings.  The atheist/feminist/LGBTG activist, author and blogger linked to a compilation of excellent blog posts on the subject of why we are, still and again, told to ignore blatant misogynist fanaticism when it is implicated in acts of violence.  “You see,” we are assured/lectured, “it’s just the unbalanced, socially awkward dudes who commit such atrocities, and there is no relation to misogyny…” No matter how many female-loathing manifestos were spewed from the very killer’s mouth/computer.

 “A man who was part of a community of extremists who hate women, wrote a manifesto about his hate for women, then went to a female sorority house to kill women.  But it definitely wasn’t about his hatred of women. Oh, no sir…. “
(Martin Robbins, quoted in Butterflied & Wheels post, What Elephant in What Room?)

 The GC-linked posts show that a whole lotta intelligent, articulate and thoughtful men understand Why  (the Killer’s) Misogyny Matters.

And then, there are others.

A FB comment on my afore-mentioned post:

“Because white supremacists don’t want to live with blacks, anti-Semites don’t want Jews to exist, ____(killer’s name) [2] failed to obtain to obtain what he (wanted? sic) from women and then converted it into a conspiracy against him. If you read further there was also bullying involved in his life. This is a complex situation which apparently been going on for years which the therapist was unable to identify how serious it was but was on top of the last email to notify his parents. Remember his first victims were male, so its (sic) not all about you.”

REALLY

Really.

I wanted to frost the commenter’s well-intentioned, I’m-going-to-sound-like-the-voice-of-let’s-stay-calm-folks, privileged, clueless assterior.  But since there is no frost-the-assterior button [3] on FB to click, I instead commented on his comment.

Uh, (FB poster), that some of (the killer’s) victims were male – just as victims of anti-Semitic or racist or gay hate crimes are often not Semitic, or of the “majority” ethnic group, or straight – does not mitigate the misogyny as his (self-identified) primary motivation.

I would hope my response to those bringing up anti-Semitism as the motivation for a mass killing would not be, “but Catholic Poles also died in the gas chambers, so it’s not all about you Jews.”  I would hope, listening to someone who is trying to get people to consider the broader reasons and motivations that drove the murders of Civil Rights activists, to be just a tad less defensive, so that my knee-jerk reaction would not be to defend whatever group I am in that, I think, is related to the killer(s): “But, white activists were also slain in the Civil Rights movement, so it’s not all about you Negroes.”

It’s not all about you.  Sadly, that comment just proves the pathetic, dangerous poin: [4] of people being averse to and uncomfortable with talking about misogyny.

WHOCARES

We all want to believe we live in a “post-racial,” “post-gender inequitable” world, because then that would remove us from the responsibility of equalizing the imbalances.

If I am a man who considers myself to be the kind of man who does not hate women, who would never consciously disparage, harm or discriminate against someone based on their gender, then I can generalize from my own attitudes to assure myself that whatever individual or societal misogyny maybe-waybe still exists a teesny-weensy bit, golly gee, it’s not my problem, because…well…just look at me!  I’m evidence that we’re not all like that.  So, uh, yeah.  We’re not all like that.  Therefore, let’s pretend the ones that are like that don’t matter, have no influence, and never do any harm like that.

*   *   *

We take a break from this week’s ranting to contemplate a soothing picture, brought to you by the makers of A Baby sloth in a Bucket. ®

No ranting here, just enough cuteness to make you piss through your eyeteeth [5]

No ranting here, just enough cuteness to make you piss through your eyeteeth [5]

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

*  *  *

Operation Plain Speaking

Post Memorial Day rant musing: How I loathe, loathe loathe – and did I mention abhor? – the euphemistic, spin-meister monikers which Those in Charge of Such Things ® have applied to our recent and ongoing wars.

SOLDIER FART

I get that “Desert Storm,” “Operation Enduring Freedom” and “Operation Iraqi Freedom” sound nobler than, “Thanks fer nuthin,’ Ex-Prez Bush-wad, now we’re the latest arrogant blowhards to get stuck in these historical shitstorms,” and are easier to fit on tombstones.

“Enduring Freedom,” my uncles’ and father’s (WWII) and grandfather’s (WWI) asses. People have died for those pompous pretenses.  “Enduring freedom” is translating into “never-ending confrontation.” Call ‘em what they are.  The Iraq War; the Afghanistan War.

*   *   *

Speaking of plain speaking, and desperately looking for a rant-free segue into coming attractions, I have been practicing my French survival phrases:

Aider! Un home avec une poitrine velue volé mon vin! [6]

 and

J’aime votre chevre [7]

 and of course

 Où est votre coude ?[8]

 FRENCH

Breathe deeply, fight the good fights, speak plainly, and S’il vous plaît, me passer le caillé de fromage, [9] and – but of course! – the hijinks shall ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

[1] Educator and contributing writer at salon.com .

[2] Name redacted; I refuse to type it.

[3] Why is that, Mr. Zuckerberg?

[4] Just as how “The comments on any article about feminism justify feminism;”aka, Lewis’ Law.

[5] An old Southern saying.  Actually, not.  But it should be.

[6] “Help!  A man with a hairy chest stole my wine!”

[7] “I like your goat.”

[8] “Where is your elbow?”

[9] “Please pass me the cheese curds.”

[10] Il n’y a pas de footnote ici.

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 Saudis I’m Not (yet) Terrorizing

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It’s been a while since I’ve undocked my laptop from the mother ship and taken it to a coffee shop.  I don’t need the caffeine but I will need the wifi in order to post this.  Our landline/modem are down (as well as my cell phone’s voicemail, a glitch that has no technical relation to the former problems, but it all happened at once, all of a sudden and apropos of nothing, so WTF?).

When informed about my various technical/communications snafus, perspicacious friend SCM asked, “What have you done to piss off the NSA?”

*   *   *

The Grammar cop is always on her beat.

Tuesday’s New York Times featured a cover story about labor and safety demands made by Nepalese Sherpas in light of the Mt. Everest avalanche tragedy.  The Grammar Cop is issuing a warrant for the arrest of the mountaineering company owner who was quoted in the story.  The charge: illegal (yet admittedly impressive) usage of two torpid terms [1] in a row, thus creating an emphasis redundancy:

“The bottom line is, at the end of the day, if the Sherpas aren’t happy….”

 Remember, every time you make a typo, the errorists win.

Remember, every time you make a typo, the errorists win.

*   *   *

Hoping the Terrorists Win This One

 Saudi Arabia has issued a combination of royal decrees and legislation which, according to Human Rights Watch, will serve to criminalize virtually all dissent thought or expression, and which define terrorism as, “Calling for atheist thought in any form, or calling into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion on which this country is based.”

Oh-so-disturbing, but oh-so-hardly surprising. Saudi Arabia has a dismal, to put it mildly, human rights record. [2]  Its inexorable oppression of women has been likened to gender apartheid, and – imagine this! – the Islamic monarchy remains one of the very few countries in the world not to accept the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Yo, King Abdulla and your misogynist, racist, Islamite religionist, Stone Age stooges: this Royal Turd Trophy is for you.

turd trophy

*   *   *

Dateline: San Francisco, mid-1980’s.  A friend and former college apartment mate, who’d moved to the East Coast to pursue his master’s degree, was back to The Coast for a visit, and arranged for us to meet up at the dive bar of his choice.

Much to the amusement (and sometimes, annoyance) of our other roommates, Yanny [3] and I liked nothing better than to chew the intellectual fat.  That night in SF we were in fine form, chomping far and wide, so to speak.  I can’t remember which one of us brought it up, but the night (and drinks) ended with us gnawing on this proposition: if you could be endowed with tremendous or fantastic abilities/features/talents in one area, what would you choose?  And which trait do you think would have the most impact upon your personal and professional life?

You can have genius intelligence – you could understand at a glance Einstein’s theories of special and general relativity and see where Max Plank should have tweaked his quantum theory.  Or, you have perfect pitch, can sight read music, possess a singing voice that causes Vladmir Putin to embrace kittens and weep with joy when he hears you belt out Time to Say Goodbye.  Or, your athletic ability is such that the decathlon isn’t enough of a challenge for you, and the International  Olympic Committee decides to add a fweptathalon (that would be the term for forty-one events, right?) to showcase your abilities.  Or….

I mentioned the obligatory caveat, that many historical figures deemed genius were not all that content with or successful in their personal lives. Then Yanny and I, almost simultaneously, brought up the idea that one extreme attribute, the one that involved the least amount of aptitude and/or effort, was also the one trait most likely to affect your life in a positive manner:  that of being good-looking.

The world is our oyster...whatever that means. 

The world is our oyster…whatever that means.

In various psychology and sociology classes we’d read about the “perks of pretty,” or what was sometimes called the “Beauty Effect.” [4]  Controlled studies show that, absent any behavioral or verbal cues, beautiful people are regarded to be more talented, kind, friendly, competent, honest and intelligent than their less attractive counterparts, and that “people go out of their way to help attractive people — of the same sex and opposite sex —because they want to be liked and accepted by good-looking people.”

Yanny and I, while hardly trolls, had long been aware of our place among the pulchritude-inally challenged.  We swapped the-entire-lecture-hall-snorted-with-duh-osity stories about the times our professors had brought up a Beauty Effect story. Say it ain’t so, prof – beautiful people have an advantage/get special treatment in this world? Stop the presses!  Alert the National Guard!

REALLY

I don’t recall either Yanny or moiself confessing, screw integrity, we’d take the beauty superpower. I also don’t recall ifI felt we’d lied about that.

*   *   *

This, of course, brings me to Julia Sweeney.

facepalm

Segue smackdown!

Sweeney is a comedian/screenwriter/actor/author/essayist/playwright – yes, she’s one of those multiple slash identity people.  Most folks know her as the creator and star of the “It’s Pat”  series of Saturday Night Live sketches.

I greatly admired Letting Go of God, Sweeney’s moving and amusing memoir (and subsequent theatrical monologue show & movie), in which she recounted her journey to letting go of Catholicism and taking hold of a “precarious, messy, cruel, and glorious,” natural worldview.  I’d heard her speak at two Freedom From Religion Foundation annual conventions, most recently during last year’s gathering, at the FFRF home base in Madison, WI.  Sweeney’s speech included an uproarious excerpt from what was to become her latest book, and I made a note to self:  get that one.

If It’s Not One Thing It’s Your Mother is that book.  It contains many interwoven stories, most of which revolve around how Sweeney adopted her daughter Mulan[5] from China, and how she met the man she would later marry via an email solicitation from her future husband’s gay brother.

One of my favorite chapters concerned Mulan’s school experiences.  A friend of Sweeney’s sent his three kids to the same upscale Santa Monica preschool Sweeney’s daughter briefly attended.  [6]  This friend provided Sweeney with a spot-on explanation of the abundance of Young, Beautiful and Thin Mothers ® at the school (in response to Sweeney’s astonishment at the spectacle– “It’s like a beauty pageant around here!”):

 A lot of women come to Hollywood because they are very beautiful…they come here because this is where you can really exploit your luck at being born gorgeous. Maybe they want to be actresses. Maybe the part of being an actress they like most is the part where people admire your beauty. Sometimes they make it in show business. Most, however, do not.

 Then, you have a lot of very successful men in Hollywood. Many of them were overlooked in high school. They have a deep psychological need to be with a knockout. This need is a gasoline that powers their desire to dominate. The women decide that their best bet is to marry these men and seal the deal by having a couple of kids. They’re like anyone assessing their prospects in the face of their declining value because they’re getting older. Can you blame them? It’s a smart move…And many of them do not work outside the home, and they have the time, and the desire, to hang out at the school, parading their beauty for all of us to enjoy.
(from Chapter Twenty-Two, “An Education,” If It’s Not one Thing It’s Your Mother)

I recommend the book for an entertaining read.  If you read it in public – say, during your commute or lunch hour – you will also provide entertainment for those around you.  You’ll laugh; you’ll cry; you’ll retch. The chapter on her daughter discovering the mechanics of sex courtesy of a frog project at school made for laughing-so-hard-I-cried reading.  As for the retching, that came from reading about Sweeney’s encounter at a playground, a few days after Sweeney and Mulan returned from a Hawaiian vacation. A Korean mother approached Sweeney and chided her for the robust tan Mulan had acquired:

“You know, we don’t let our kids get that dark…I mean she looks like she’s black,” the Korean mother said.  Making a disgusted face, she added, “A Korean mother would not let that happen.”

*    *   *

Simple Pleasures of Spring: the Return of (our) Blue Man Group

Blue Man group

Simple Pleasures of Spring, the Sequel

Walking home from lunch at a local Lebanese-Persian café, I got caught in a hailstorm.  I had my trusty rain hat on, but discovered that my favorite “water resistant” pants have apparently adopted the Borg mantra: Resistance is futile.

*   *   *

May all of your man groups be blue, may your resistance be effective, and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

[1]  Torpid terms are vapid words and phrases used in place of vital ones (e.g. using “the bottom line” instead of conclusion, keynote, upshot, main point), as per the Thesaurus of alternatives to Worn-Out Words and Phrases

[2] I feel kinda dirty even using the words “Saudi Arabia’ and “human rights” in the same sentence.

[3] The etiology of his nickname comes from a long involved story about my implying that there was a Norwegian somewhere in his family’s allegedly exclusive Jewish woodpile…a story I cannot remember in its entirety, for which you should be grateful.

[4]Beautiful people get more of everything positive in life – from pay raises to social status and career and academic opportunities , and probably less crappy stuff, like mosquito bites and bedbug infestations and spam email….

[5] Yes, Mulan is her real/given Chinese name; she was not named after the Disney princess, as Sweeney will be explaining for life.

[6] Sweeney soon realized the school’s fancy, creepily opulent atmosphere was not for her, and enrolled Mulan in public schools.

The Virus I’m Not Defeating

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I do not do well with fevers. My own, that is (I have no problem with yours). This may be your brain on drugs, but it’s mine when my temperature rises above 100.º

BRAIN

 I woke up Tuesday morning and promptly wished I hadn’t.  Fever, congestion, cough-sneezing and sore throat.  I’d felt something coming on Monday, uttered those famous last words (it’ll go away) to myself, and tried to rest most of the day, in order to fulfill my March 5 World Read Aloud Day commitment.  I was scheduled to read excerpts from The Mighty Quinn to two classrooms: Tuesday eve at 9 p Pacific Time (which translates to 10 am March 5, Pakistan time) to a classroom in Karachi via a Skype call, then on Wednesday to a classroom in Seattle.

I tested my Skype connection, practiced (whispering, to save my increasingly hoarse voice) my excerpts and set my phone alarm for the evening, so I wouldn’t sleep through the call from Pakistan.  I assumed the fact that I looked like something the cat dragged in – and we have four cats, so that’s a lot of dragging – would be attributed to the computer connection.

oh, poor widdle yuppie model, pretending to be sick - dude, never have I looked this good, even at 98.6º and even when...not a dude.

oh, poor widdle yuppie model, pretending to be sick – dude, never have I looked this good, even at 98.6º and even when…not a dude.

The call from Pakistan never came.  My attempts at connection were for naught, as the teacher remained offline.  Then, the next day, when my fever rose, I had to cancel the WRAD session with Seattle, when I realized that being conscious (not to mention vertical) for 30 minutes was not an option.

Wednesday eve I told pathetically whined calmly articulated to MH how in the last couple of days, the most exercise I’d gotten was putting my socks on when I got chilled and then taking them off five minutes later when I was feverish and overheated.  With all due spousal support and sympathy, MH told me I seemed to be taking a Karate Kid approach to my convalescence.  Socks on; socks off….

wax on...wax off....

wax on…wax off….

 *   *   *

While cleaning my office last week I found a CD I’d purchased in December, buried under a stack of scratch papers.  So, this means that, for more than 8 weeks, I have been unmindful of the thereabouts of my “Mindfulness: An eight week plan for finding peace in a frantic world” guided meditation CD.  Does this mean I’m ahead of, or behind, the plan?

DOGOM

Wednesday eve my son sent me a link to a draft of his undergraduate research grant proposal, with the request that I give it a “proof.”  I’d warned him about my fever brain, and said I’d try to get to it…whenever.

Thursday morning my temp dipped to under 100º – yay!  (and then slowly rose as the day went by – boo.).  I took a copy of my son’s paper and my Red Pen of Proof ©   upstairs, figuring I could take a crack at it every fifteen minutes or so, between sleeping through whatever horrendous shows were on the Overheated Brain Pacification Device (TV).  Scratch that – my convalescent viewing was to alternate bouts of consciousness while playing my recently acquired, used-but good condition DVDs of the first season of Once and Again).

But I digress. The research paper. Working title: Investigation of the activities of MalA, a maltase from the predatory bacterium Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus.

Imagine my surprise, to find that sentences such as

GH13 enzymes are known to display a wide variety of hydrolase activities such as α-1,4-glucosidases, as well as isomerase and glucanotransferase activities. GH 13 enzymes specifically act on molecules containing α-glucoside linkages. GH13 enzymes employ the retaining mechanism, meaning that their product’s anomeric carbon will have the same configuration as their substrate’s anomeric carbon

 are somehow less intimidating to me when I have fever-brain. Instead of, WTF? my reaction is, wow, man…this is so true.

Oh, and to my amazing son, K:  Honey badger may not care if it’s your birthday tomorrow, but I do. Happy 21st to my guy!

Oh, and K – your sister has the best present for you, in the making.  Like all true works of art it won’t be done overnight, and I’m hoping she (and you) will let me post a picture of it here, when it’s finished.

*   *   *

 ҉    Let us pause for a moment to consider another one of life’s mysteries     ҉    

Nasty for any reason:  a paper cut.
But worth it:  when said cut is procured while opening a box of Lindt 85% cocoa Extra Dark chocolate.

Can you tell I minored in Philosophy? [1]

PIX:CHOC caption: just what the doctor ordered

 *   *   *

May your all fevers be fleeting, all your thermometers be oral, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] That’s a lie. Further proof of illness: only one footnote?

The VD I’m Not Celebrating

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Valentine’s Day.  I always thought that Hallmarkification of that day was a sexually transmitted malady, and thus enjoyed its abbreviation, VD.  But nowadays we have STDs, not VDs.  The new-fangled acronym spoils all the fun.

Anyway.

I know it’s a corporate conspiracy to make single people feel lonely and miserable, and make those who are coupled, happily or otherwise, feel pressured to spend big bucks and Do Something Special.  Still, if you can stand it, Happy VD, y’all.

CAGEpng

*   *   *

Oh no, the family moans, the Winter Olympics are here.

Summer or Winter games, I like ‘em both.  For two weeks, when the Olympic Games are televised, I have to fight the urge to nest on the family room floor and watch every event.

Some urges are easier to fight than others.  For instance, I don’t care to watch the luge, for several reasons.

1.  The name of the event, Luge, sounds to my eternally-amused-by-a-nine-year-old’s-sense-of-humor portion of my brain has something to do with boogers.
2.  It’s probably a blast to do, but it’s a rather passive sport to watch.  The riders hop on, and you watch them either hold on or fall off.
3.  The inward turned leg position a successful luge (there it is again!) rider must hold atop the booger-sled luge reminds me of salmon steaks.  And while I adore salmon in most any form, for some reason, I do not like the cut of salmon steaks. [1]
4.  Did I mention boogers?

LugeSALMON

Salmon steak, or luge?  Can you spot the difference? 

*   *   *

Tuesday morning I emailed friend LAH, another member of the <!–aAWWAF (Adult Women Who Adored Their Fathers) club.  L’s father, Jesse, died a little less than two years ago.–>

I wondered why I woke up thinking of you and Jesse.  Then I looked at my calendar: Chet died 5 years ago today.  Hmmm.

I also subsequently had  this email exchange with friend SCM (and daughter P):

My calendar says my dad died five years ago today, which seems at once bizarre and yet, “Oh, yes, it’s been five years.” 

One of the things-I-never-got-around-to-doing with him was to take him out for sushi.  Being both a seafood and soy sauce loving man, and willing to try anything (if his daughter recommended it), I think he would have liked it. If you & P are available I’d like to take you to sushi lunch, in Chet’s honor. 

Has it been five years? Damn. I am so sorry you never got to take him for sushi. Maybe it is a Kentucky thing, but ______ (SCM’s husband) will eat anything at least once. Or maybe it is a military food thing.

I think it may be a southern/poverty thing – they’ll eat anything at least once, because growing up dirt poor like my father did, I got the feeling he had to eat anything…and often more than once.

We met for lunch, at a sushi spot in Portland.  I took one of my most cherished pictures to show P:  of my father astride his Palomino stallion, “Stardust.” P was suitably impressed, and SCM said Chet was quite the handsome dude in his cowboy days, and also, that she saw a resemblance between my son K and his grandfather, something I’d never thought of before.

.chet on stardust

*   *   *

Happy Belated Darwin Day (February 12 [2]).  If you don’t already have this on your calendar, mark it for next year.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Our Darwin Day dinner celebration included Primordial Soup:

Primordial Soup (serves 3-4; soup is vegan friendly if you lose the dairy garnish)

-1T EVOO
– one medium white or yellow onion, chopped
-1/2 green and ½ red bell peppers, seeded and diced
-4-5 garlic cloves, minced
-1 small celery stalk and 1 peeled carrot, sliced
-1 generous t ground cumin
-1/2 chili powder (chipotle, if you have it)
-pinch of cayenne pepper
-2 c no or low-salt vegetable stock
-1/2 c frozen organic white corn
– ~ 2c cooked black beans or black soy beans
-chopped fresh cilantro and/or Italian parsley for garnish
– (optional) sour cream, Greek yogurt to garnish

1. In a Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat, sauté onions in EVOO ~ 8 m, until just starting to brown.  Add celery, carrots, green peppers, sauté for 2 m.
2.  Add garlic to pot, stir until fragrant (30 sec – 1 m).
3. Add remaining ingredients (sans garnish), bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover pot & simmer for 25 m.
3.5  Ain’t no step 3.5  You could do the prep dishes while the soup simmers. Better yet, floss your teeth (they probably need it) Since that won’t take 25 m, floss someone else’s teeth, too.
4. Let soup cool a bit, transfer to blender or processor and puree it, then transfer soup back to the pot.  Better yet, use a hand blender if you have one – and you really should have one if you frequently make soup – to puree the soup right there in the pot. More fun than watching a luge race!
5.Taste for seasoning: add salt, pepper, more cumin, whatever you’d like to taste.
6. Serve garnished with fresh herbs, and a spoonful [3] of cream or yogurt.
7. Wait for the complex organic polymers to arise.  Or, just enjoy the soup.

primordial soup

*   *   *

My son K’s FB message to me re the Bill NyeKen Ham debate:

ended up watching more of the bill nye debate.
man I want a sample of whatever ken ham is smoking.

There were those who thought Nye lost the debate just by showing up; that is, by legitimizing creationists’ whackadoodle alternate reality  [4] as being capable of rational debate.  Then there was the post-debate, informal poll on the website Christian Today, in which a whopping 92% of respondents — presumably, people who even know there is a website called  Christian Today — said that Bill Nye won the debate.

I suppose it comes down to how you define win.  Bill Nye got to do his geeky, sincere, Science Guy presentation, which perhaps sparked the teensiest seed of hmmmmm? in a few true believers who may have dropped their blinders just long enough to notice that Ham’s version of refuting scientific claims was the intellectual equivalent of a third grader’s Nyah yah nyah nyah nyah (“Well, you weren’t there so how do you know?).  Ken Ham got a wider-than-usual audience for his blind faith fables.

JESUSSAUR

*   *   *

There was the potential for a nasty, man-slap brawl at the Nye-ham debate, as there is when any testosterone-laden beings disagree. But the participants for the most part kept their cool.  Could it be that they suffer from….low T?

Pre-peri-post-persistent-paleolithic-menopause – when it come$ to redefining a human being’$ natural life a$ a di$ea$e proce$$ that mu$t be managed and treated (read: medicated),  Big Pharma ha$ pretty much exploited women a$ much a$ they can.

Menfolk, don’t say you weren’t warned.  It’s your turn.  And the trouser-snake oil purveyors know what’ll get your attention:  a T & A show! [5]

You may have noticed the increasing amount  of commercials, articles and emails – even  youtube videos, FFS – with such ominously titillating titles as How to Tell if Your T is Low and How to Increase Your Testosterone Level.  The underlying assumption the T-teams are trying to hammer into that Male Pattern Balding head of yours is that your natural aging process is faulty, and can and should be “fixed,”  Specifically, the ebbing of men’s  testosterone levels be bad, and increasing men’s “T level” be much more better.

Don’t forget to follow those links in the ads, which will take you up the creek down the yellow brick road to the products those fear-mongering, money-grubbing whitecoat quackery  selfless angels who are concerned only with your well-being have concocted to raise your guy-juice levels.

BEFORE

After

After

Although many if not most of these hormone peddlers will be wearing the Hallmark of Sciency Authenticity (a white lab coat  [6]), their spiels won’t contain anything resembling the real science behind the issue of testosterone supplementation.  It’s a safe bet that they won’t be touting the results of the Boston medical researchers’ trial which found that that men taking testosterone supplements had five times the number of “cardiovascular problems” [7]  vs. those taking a placebo (a finding which caused safety monitors to end the trial earlier than planned).  They’re trusting you’ll fall for claptrap about vim and vigor and the other/usual limp dick scare tactics and won’t want or care to read, say, articles like the one in this week’s New York Times Science section, A High Price For Vigor.

Testosterone declines naturally with age.  The lifestyles of many American men can exacerbate this decline; however, as Internist John LaPuma points out in his New York Times op-ed, Don’t Ask your Doctor About “Low T”, clinical testosterone deficiency “isn’t nearly as common as the drug ads would have you believe.”  And the “tried and true way to naturally boost testosterone levels” – losing weight, [8] limiting alcohol consumption, “eating more of the right foods and fewer junk foods”…well, that’s just not as sexy a sell as popping “a prescription for a risky drug to treat a trumped up disease.”

I pity the fool who thinks Mr. T needs more T

I pity the fool who thinks Mr. T needs more T

*   *   *

 Linguistic  Rumination

Why is “trousers” such a great word?  You can wear pants or slacks, britches or breeches or knickers.
But if given my druthers [9] (another great word!), I’d choose trousers.

But not these, even if they were the last trousers on earth, and wearing them would bring world peace and cure cancer.  Nope. Sorry.

But not these, even if they were the last trousers on earth, and wearing them would bring world peace and cure cancer. Nope. Sorry.

*   *   *

Sometimes It’s Better to Stay Awake and Organize The Sock Drawer 

I had a dream.  Not your noble speech-inspiring, Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. I Have A Dream kind of dream. Rather, it was the kind of dream where you are trying to wake yourself up because the dream really sucks, and finally you do wake up, but damned if you don’t fall right back into it when you close your eyes.

I had been conscripted into the army.  They had given me a backpack and a list of supplies with which to fill the pack.  I was concerned that I didn’t have enough wool socks, and should I bring a toothbrush and vitamins and…?  It was getting late; I didn’t want to report for duty, but I had to.  At the check in station, which was in a large, airplane hangar-like building, I was directed to the “Welcome Area For New Recruits.”  I sat down at a large table with other conscripts, and we spoke of our mutual fears re what was in store for us.  I told them I wanted to talk to my dad before I left (ouch), because he knew something about war.  The other draftees, male and female, looked SO YOUNG to me, as if they were in junior high school.  I was my real/present age in the dream, and wondered why They (whomever They were) would want me at my age? And yet, in that out-of-character reality peculiar to dreams, it never occurred to me to protest.

SOLDIERSjpg

I woke up wondering about this pesky aging think.  If I had no mirror to remind me otherwise, on many other levels I can fool myself into thinking I’m still in my late twenties/early thirties.  So, how did I get to be the age I am?

In a moment of (what passes for me as) mathematical genius, I came up with

☼     THE FORMULA THAT EXPLAINS IT ALL [10]     ☼

Q:  “How did I get to be x (where x = your present age)?”

A. By not dying at x-1

You’re welcome.

But please, save the congratulatory phone calls. I need to keep the lines open for the Nobel Committee.

FIND X

*   *    *

Mathematical Rumination

You know what’s odd to me?  Numbers which are not divisible by two.

That's so funny my camel forgot to laugh.

That’s so funny my camel forgot to laugh.

May your worst joke delight your best beast of burden, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Give me a filet, any day.

[2] Chuck Darwin shares a birthday with Honest Abe.  Good to know.

[3] Or a dollop, if you prefer that term (and who doesn’t?).

[4] including such pseudoscience gems as humans hunted dinosaurs to extinction a few thousand years ago after peacefully using them for transport companionship (“Buford, Jethro, y’all seen Rex’s saddle?”)

[5] You were thinking T & A as in testosterone and androgens, right?

[6] Similar to the one worn by your veterinary tech or manicurist.

[7]  Including heart attacks and strokes

[8] Belly fat depresses testosterone levels, as do obesity-caused or exacerbated diseases like diabetes II, and also steroids and opiates and BPAs (commonly found in plastic food containers)….

[9] And please do give me some, because we’re all out of fresh druthers.

[10] Remember, all caps means, “this is where you’re supposed to pay attention.”

The I’m Erotic Cattle Abduction Scene I’m Not Writing

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Some authors should not go there

Sex.  As in, writing a sex scene. I find myself either yawning or cringing – sometimes both [1] – when I read them.  Rarely have I found a fictional account of a sexual encounter to be anything other than mildly ludicrous at best, and wonder, is this claptrap supposed to be erotic?

No entendre, double or otherwise, intended with the use of the word claptrap.  Although it would make a good title for a murder mystery novel.

Claptrap :  While on vacation in New York City, Kenyan homicide detective Yawanna Ubangi gets drawn into the investigation of an apparent female serial killer, a Femme Fatale whose M.O. involves weakening her lovers through intentional gonorrhea infections….

Hot damn, I may be on to something. I shall have to restrain myself, until I’m at least done with the first draft of the next Quinn book.

Once again, I digress.  Back to bad sex.

Case in point, the book I am currently reading.  I like the plot and most of the characters; I want to like the book in toto, but the author is making it difficult for me to do so.  There is something off-putting about the prose style I can’t quite put my finger on, and then, there are the intermittent sex scenes between the protagonist and her husband that make me never to want to put a finger on anything, ever again.  Not only are the sexual encounters awkwardly written IMHO, they are so…perfunctory, mechanical, and terse .[2]   I find myself wondering, in the most basic, high school Literature Evaluation sense, why are these scenes in the book in the first place?  What plot point or character reference do they serve to illustrate or advance?  Did the author feel obligated to include a minimum amount of whoopee, or was it an editor’s misguided marketing strategy (“There’s no sex in this book, FFS!”) ?

BADSEXjpg

*   *   *

Yet another reason not to follow a link on Facebook and end up wasting far too much time blowing steam about some hypercritical misanthrope

The link to a Huffington Post opinion piece was posted by friend RN, with the question, “You know, this is how A__ (RN’s partner) and I roll, too.  Are we extremists?”

After reading the article I had to wonder if RN had read it all the way through, for although I know that RN & A___ have generous spirits and kind hearts and have opened their home to rescue dogs, I can’t imagine they are anything like the extremely judgmental lady dick who wrote An Open Letter to the Person Who Left This Sweet Dog at the Kill Shelter.

The article is a hostile, self-congratulatory screed by a self-described “blogger, Dog Lover,” who takes to task – and threatens the safety of – the person who surrender an elderly dog with multiple health issues to a “kill” shelter.

“Warning – it’s not easy to read,” RN wrote re the article, referring to the details of the poor dog’s plight, I assumed.  Assumption #2: I anticipated my reaction would be similar to RN’s, until I followed the link and read the article…and felt compelled to reply:

Uh, it’s not easy to read because the author is a vile, judgmental, sanctimonious narcissist, who in truth knows little to nothing about the situations that may have led to a family surrendering their dog. 

My daughter and I volunteered for a no-kill animal organization [3]  and we met some of those people. “Pet surrenders” increased dramatically with the downturn of the economy, and for every jerk who turned in a pet that they just didn’t want anymore there were two grieving families, heartbroken over the fact that they had lost their jobs and their homes and/or leases (yes, our organization researched these surrenders and checked references), had no friends or family to take their beloved pet and had to choose between buy their own diabetes medication or their son’s anti-seizure drugs…. 

What little information is on an animal surrender intake sheet does not tell the whole story, and people are often reluctant and embarrassed to reveal their private miseries. That self-congratulating dog rescuer may have a heart for animals but I wish s/he’d extend the same compassion toward his fellow bipeds.

I could have gone on, could have mentioned the heartbreak of seeing the elderly pets “surrendered” by their elderly, loving owners who had fought for years to be able to stay in their own homes but due to illness/disability/dementia were entering nursing homes and had exhausted every resource to find a home for their beloved animal companions – stories way too complicated to fit on an intake form…. And no-kill shelters almost always have a waiting list.  A very long waiting list.  To assume that any person who “surrenders” an animal does so voluntarily and cavalierly frosts my butt.

And so, Blogger-dog-lover, this asshat’s for you:

AHat

*   *   *

It was time to send another care package to K, up at UPS.  I gathered a motley assortment of silly items ® and went to a certain store to get some cheap junk food inexpensive nutritious snacks to fill out the box. I also got him one of those paper fold out turkey centerpieces (one dollar, such a deal!), and wrote my suggested instructions on it: K should wait until his housemates are out, assemble the hideous thing tasteful decoration and place it atop the dining table. Once its presence has been noticed he should deny all knowledge of how it got there, and suggest that they have been the victims of yet another drive-by centerpiecing.

TURKEY

 Anyway….

I placed my items on the checkout counter conveyor belt along with my own bag, and for some reason flashed back to the first time I’d brought my reusable bag to the store (the name of which rhymes with Collar Free):  The clerk seemed to be in a hurry, and started shoving my items into a plastic bag seemingly before they’d touched the conveyor belt.  “Oh, wait please.” I waved my cloth bag while stating the obvious. “I brought my own bag.” The clerk’s eyes grew wide with concern as she transferred my items from the store’s bag to mine.  “I’m sorry,” she said, in the measured, you may want to sit down for this tone usually reserved for telling someone their favorite auntie has died, “But I can’t give you a discount for using your own bag. Store policy; it’s still a dollar, for everything.”

Uh, yeah, that’s fine. That’s not why I bring my own shopping bag, to get five cents off my total.  I didn’t even think of the bag rebate until you called it to my attention…but, now that you mention it, the injustice is sinking in and I am outraged, I am appalled, utterly appalled. GODDAMMIT I WANT MY NICKLE REFUND!  I AM NOT LEAVING THIS STORE UNTIL I GET MY NICKLE BACK OR YOU GIVE ME ONE OF YOUR PLASTIC BAGS.

REUSALE

It has rained several times this week, after last week’s glorious burst of late summer sun and high temperatures. The first rainstorm of the season – I love the way it smells.  For some people, the return of the rain is enervating, but I find it energizing.  The harbinger of autumn, my favorite season. Bring it on.

*   *   *

SOAPBOX

One of my favorite comics from one of my favorite comic strips, Bizarro, shows two couples, beverage tumblers in hand, meeting at an outdoor party.  The husband of one of the couples extends his toward the other couple and says, “Hello, we’re the Hendersons. You must be the non-Hendersons.”

I can't afford whatever the fee would be to borrow a Bizarro comic, so use your imagination here.

I can’t afford whatever the fee would be to borrow a Bizarro comic, so use your imagination.

This shall make sense; bear with me.

The first rain of the season reminded me of other firsts.  Three of We (MH, Belle and I) are attending the FFRF’s [4] annual convention later this month.  This will be Belle’s first, Mark’s third and my fourth FFRF convention.  I’ve been fondly recalling one of the more thought-provoking moments at my first convention, which occurred during the convention’s customary non-prayer breakfast [5] .  The charming elderly gentleman seated next to me at breakfast outed himself as a “non-atheist.”  He said that although his wife was a “long-time atheist” he was a theist, and that he found it educational, intriguing and humbling to be in the minority, as he was likely one of the few non-atheists in the room.  Isn’t it funny, I replied, that you’re sitting next to another minority member…only in that I do not call myself an atheist.

I think words are incredibly important; they are what we humans, a non-telepathic species, use to communicate ideas.  And I can get picky about labels. Although some might find it amusing if not presumptuous for a freethinker to even attempt to persuade other freethinkers to think differently, I don’t like the atheist label and wish those who claim the word would claim…something else, instead.

There are several reasons for my dislike of the term.  For one, I find it to be a misnomer.  Also, I think Freethinkers, Humanists, Brights, Skeptics and others who accept and even embrace the A-label are making a semantic as well as a strategic/public relations mistake.

One of the best pieces of parenting advice MH and I received was that when it came to discipline we would need to “choose our battles” wisely.  We found that to be true; there are things not worth the fuss, and others that are so worth fighting for.  I think the battle to claim or rehabilitate the word atheist is futile; it has too many negative connotations and associations.  Of course, those associations were and are concocted and perpetuated by the religious and are largely and historically inaccurate, but since when has acknowledging that fact corrected a firmly entrenched misperception?  [6]

Personally, I’ve no “fear” of being called an atheist.  To the contrary, being thusly labeled has provided many an Entertaining Educational Moment, when I’ve reminded the person who used the word that we’re all atheists vis-à-vis our stance on other gods/religions, and that it is only relatively recently that “atheism” has come to mean a lack of belief in any gods (historically, an atheist was someone who didn’t believe in the god you believed in, and so Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Pagans, Moslems and Hindus have all been referred to, by those outside their respective religions, as atheists).

But that Educational Moment, no matter how entertaining, ultimately misses the point.  For if we are all Something in relation to Something Else, then Something has no specific meaning.  I find the Something that is atheism to be imprecise, and so I correct someone who applies that term to me, just as I would correct a mispronunciation of my name or misstatement of my height. [7]

The religious generally try to understand or dismiss atheism as just another (“false”) religion. That’s silly, of course, but that’s how they, in their minds, can handle it. One reason they get away with this is that self-labeled atheists involuntarily abet such faulty reasoning by allowing themselves to be defined in religious terms by religious people.  But atheism isn’t a religion, a philosophy, or even a world view. It’s not even an ism.

In fact, “atheism” is a term that should not even exist. No one ever needs to identify himself as a “non-astrologer” or a “non-alchemist.” We do not have words for people who doubt that Elvis is still alive or that aliens have traversed the galaxy only to molest ranchers and their cattle. Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs.

Sam Harris, Letter to a Christian Nation

"I believe, Elsie, I believe!"

“I believe, Elsie, I believe!”

I am not religious, and thus find it improper and even rude to be defined in terms of what I do not do, believe, or practice.  I am not a negation of something; like anyone else, I want to be defined positively, on my own terms, not in terms of my relation to someone or something else.  When it comes to politics, I’m an Independent, not an anti-Democrat, un-Republican, de-Green Party or dis-Libertarian.  I’m not an a-astrologist, a-New-Ager or a-theist; I am a Freethinker, a Humanist, a Skeptic, a Bright.

Let’s say I’m visiting my Floridian, Republican, Lutheran, tennis-loving, Gucci satchel-toting mother-in-law, Gladys. [8]  And let’s say Gladys gives the following description of me to her neighbor, Jethro:  “Her name is not Gladys, she’s not from Florida, she’s an a-Republican and an a-Lutheran, she’s not a tennis player or an Italian purse carrier, and she’s not my daughter.”

While technically correct, that description provides no pertinent information about me.  Jethro knows nothing of what I am, only a little bit of what, in relation to Gladys, I am not.

Another reason I don’t like the term atheist is that it elevates theism to the #1 position of the many things in whose existence or veracity I don’t believe.  It gives the false assumption that there is something out there (a supernatural world and/or deities) to deny. Yes, I do not believe in the existence of deities, but I also don’t believe in demons or ghosts or fairy godmothers or homeopathy or astrology or the trickle-down theory, either.

Most religious folk think they know what an atheist is, does and/or believes, but, in my humble opinion and experience, even the most academically challenged Fundamentalists can be intrigued by the unfamiliar.  Call yourself an atheist (or allow them to do so) and in their eyes, you’re pegged – beginning/end of discussion.   Call yourself a Freethinker, a Bright, a Skeptic, and you’ve set their ears (and sometimes…gasp…even their minds) atwitching.  (“Freethinker?  What exactly do you mean by that?”).

As a Bright, I hold a naturalistic worldview, free of supernatural and mystical elements.  As a Freethinker, I hold that opinions or beliefs of reality should be based on science, logic and reason, independent of religion, authority, “tradition” or dogmas. As a Skeptic, I take a provisional approach to all fantastic declarations, and support the application of science and reason to test the validity of any and all claims. As a Humanist, I hold a progressive philosophy of life that bases my values and actions on a naturalistic worldview and affirms my ability and responsibility to lead an ethical life that aspires to the greater good of humanity.  And yes, if you are a religious believer you may call me an atheist (but be prepared for me to point out that you’re the one who’s the theist, not me, a- or otherwise).

Bright, Freethinker, Skeptic, Humanist, Happy Heathen, Apostate, Atheist, Heretic – I will embrace or tolerate any of those terms.  Although my title of choice would be “T’Saywhat, Galactic Sovereign of the Terran System.”

ZSAQUEEN

Queen T’Saywhat’s philosophy is to protect and enhance the earth, to enjoy life in the here and cultivate moral excellence, maturity and common human decency.  She would exercise her Galactic monarchical responsibility by requiring all humans to meditate upon the truths illustrated herein:

Get that Captain a charcoal seat cushion, and let the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Which I am able to do thanks to years of yoga practice.

[2] Not that I’m complaining about a poorly written scene not dragging on and on and on….

[3] over five years with C.A.T. Cat Adoption Team

[4] The Freedom From Religion Foundation’s objective is to promote the constitutional principle of separation of state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to non-theism.

[5] Which begins with a “moment of bedlam” instead of a moment of silence.  Such fun before 9 am is illegal in most Islamsit countries. You really gotta be there.

[6] Greater and more articulate minds than mine have argued for dropping the A-label – most notably author and neurobiologist Sam Harris at the Atheist Alliance Conference, for which he was burned at the rhetorical stake, so to speak.  Hmm, are there Atheist Fundies?

[7] I am taller than you think.  I am taller than I think…in my dreams.

[8] Neither her real name nor her taste in handbags.

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