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The Language I’m Not Unlearning

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Department Of The Day After

 

 

No – that *that* day.

Moiself  hopes you found a less-than-traditional way to celebrate yesterday.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of How Come I Never Thought Of This Before?

This is fascinating… At least to moiself.

A recent issue of the podcast Freakonomics (“What’s Wrong with Shortcuts?”)  featured podcast host Stephen Dubner interviewing mathematician Marcus du Sautoy about du Satoy’s book, Thinking Better: The Art of the Shortcut in Math and Life. The author argues that, despite what we’ve been taught, the secret to success is not in hard work, it’s in figuring out and applying shortcuts to solve one problem quickly so we can then move on to another.  Mathematics; music, psychotherapy, politics – du Sautoy claims that shortcuts can be found/applied to practically everything.  But, not everything:

“When you’re going on holiday, I don’t want to shortcut the holiday, because it’s about spending time. The point is, I don’t want you to use shortcuts for everything and spoil something you enjoy doing.”

 

Actually, Mr. Generic Handsome White Dude who is probably a CGI creation, in real life, there are both.

 

C.B.T. (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) has been hailed by many psychologists as being a true breakthrough in mental health therapeutic modes, due to C.B.T.’s pragmatic and short-term approach to handling problems.  Podcast host Dubner noted that Du Satoy’s book dealt briefly with the idea of using shortcuts in psychotherapy, but seemed skeptical of its efficacy, as per the fact that the human psyche is complex and dynamic enough to reject the type of shortcutting that might work in other realms.  Du Sautoy’s response indicated he was at least somewhat in agreement (my emphases):

“… I think that (applying shortcuts) depends on the problem you’re facing…. I talked to Susie Orbach, who’s a psychologist, and she had this nice way of describing some of the problems that people are facing:  it’s hard to learn a language. It’s even harder to unlearn a language. “

 

 

Imagine trying to unlearn English (or whatever your first language is).

Some people come to therapy with ingrained ways of thinking from experiences they’ve had in childhood – the family  “language” they learned does not serve them well, and they need to “unlearn” that language and learn another one.  Such resetting of thought patterns and behaviors will not likely respond to drastic shortcuts.  However, the C.B.T. modality (of learning how to be aware of what your thought processes are) is, in itself, “…enough to short-circuit the algorithm which was always sending you into depression. You’re sort of stuck inside the system of the way you’re thinking. What C.B.T. often helps you to do is to take a step up and look at the way that thought process is happening and understand the trigger which always sends you down….”

 

 

Moiself is a longtime fan of C.B.T.   [1]   But what keeps coming back to me from the podcast is the concept of trying to *unlearn* your first or native language.  I realize the concept is used metaphorically in du Sautoy’s argument; nevertheless, I’ve encountered something like it throughout my life, in the correlated cases of watching people deal with the cognitive dissonance of trying to embrace reality while trying to stay within certain religious traditions and/or worldviews.

A personal example: I was raised within the “language” – both via the wider culture and in my own family of origin – of the Christian religion.  During one of the few conversations with my father I had (when I was an adult) wherein he asked about why I was not/was no longer a Christian, I briefly laid out the fundamentals of the faith, along with why and how I know that those religious tenets are not true and/or are not valid explanations of reality.  I then asked him a question he could not answer:

“How can I pretend to *not* know what I know?”   [2] 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Grinch Does Thanksgiving

The headline had remained on the online Oregonian newspaper feed for several days. I would scroll past it on my phone news app…and finally decided to check it out.

Big mistake; what kind of story was moiself  expecting, given the headline?

With a little help, hunter with cerebral palsy gets his bull elk

I’ll start again.

Perhaps moiself  should title this segment, Department Of the Make A Wish Foundation Achievement I’m Not Celebrating.

Even though I was reminded of that M-A-W organization (the kind of charity which helps dying/cancer-stricken/handicapped kids achieve their “dreams”) when I read about this “achievement,” the hunter in this story is a grown-ass young man, not a child.  My lip is still curling after reading about how this significantly handicapped man – who was apparently raised to think that it is a high achievement to hunt (read: stalk and slaughter) a magnificent creature, not as a way of putting food on his starving family’s table, but for “sport”   [3]  – was able to kill an elk thanks to a group of abettors, referred to in the article as his “guardian angels.”

The article is accompanied by a photograph of three masochistic killers “sportsmen” : the CP-stricken hunter in his ATV wheelchair, and two of his “angels,” one of which holds up the lifeless head of the elk by lifting its antlers.  Some choice excerpts from the article:

“On…the next-to-last day of his northeast Oregon elk season and despite severe impairment by cerebral palsy, DM (hunter’s name) pulled the trigger on the massive six-point Rocky Mountain bull he yearned for.

But not without the help of a flock of good Samaritans.    [4]

Guardian angel 1: DM’s father and one of his primary caregivers, who takes Drew fishing and hunting, has developed a system for Drew to shoot a well-aimed rifle….

Angel 2: The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, which issued DM his disabled fishing and hunting permit after completion of a hunter safety course…..

Angel 3: Youth Outdoors Unlimited of Moses Lake, Washington, which hosted DM years ago on a bear hunt and loaned him the same track and mechanical rifle system he used then…..

Angel 4: Facebook. Yup, social media. Monsey has a large following on the platform….”

The article goes on to list at least three more “angels,” including the veterinarian/cattle rancher who owns the ranchland where the elk was shot.

The picture I mentioned is repulsive (to me…I realize I’m living in a very different world and mindset from those who enjoy hunting).  Here is the only picture of a giant bull elk moiself  finds acceptable. What in the world possesses people to think that the life of such a magnificent animal – which is what attracts a hunter to it in the first place, the fact that it is alive – is best served by becoming a trophy, or a testament to some short-sighted asshole’s twisted sense of accomplishment?

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Message To The PR Department Of KenKen Publishing

…and any other KenKen puzzle books (which moiself  purchases on a regular basis).

 

 

Re your description on the cover of the books, “100 challenging logic puzzles that make you smarter.”  Not that you care what I think, but you have no objective evidence for that claim.

Q. In pop culture, it’s a popular notion that you can do puzzles to ‘train your brain.’ But, as an adult, can you actually do that? To improve memory and cognition?

A. “So, the answer to that is generally, ‘Yes,’ but doing puzzles improves your brain only in doing puzzles…. the way you think about that is like doing sports: If you do tennis, you’re not necessarily going to be good at doing football; you’ll just be good at doing tennis. But overall, doing tennis is helping your general physical abilities and making you sprier.”

(Ausim Azizi, chair of neurology at Temple University’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine, interviewed in “Do Puzzles Really Train Your Brain,” The Philly Voice. )

Also, to make moiself  “smarter” is not why I buy KenKen books. I just like doing the puzzles.  But I suppose, from a marketing POV, “100 challenging logic puzzles that you just like to do” doesn’t quite cut it.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Phrases Which Spark Memories 

It was a phrase or sentiment I had neither thought about nor heard in some time, until it was used by a long-time friend recently.  This made me think back to…

Dateline: over twenty years ago, when my in-laws were out from Florida, visiting moiself, MH, and our offspring.  I was driving my late father-in-law somewhere.  And by late I do not mean to cast aspersions re his timeliness – he wasn’t a tardy man – but late as in, he is now deceased.  But he was (obviously to y’all, as per this story…I hope) alive when I was driving him somewhere; I mean, I’m not the kind of person to schlep a dead in-law around in my vehicle….

Once again, I’ll start again.

So: moiself and MH’s father are out. I was driving; he was in the passenger seat of my car; we came to a stoplight; the car in front of us had a quite noticeable bumper sticker.

 

My ordinarily even-tempered FIL told me that whenever he saw a car with a sticker like that he felt like getting a big shovel of shit, dumping it on the car’s windshield, and exclaiming to the driver, “Look, it’s happening!”

He used a somewhat humorous tone when he made that declaration, but I could tell that it (the bumper sticker) actually upset him.  I asked him why he found the phrase/sentiment so irksome.  He said he thought it to be indicative of a negative, passive attitude about life.

I chewed on that that for a while, then told him that I had a very different reaction.  To moiself, shit happens is merely an…uh, earthier…form of the expressions and adages found worldwide, in many languages and cultures; e.g.,  “C’est la vie;” “Que sera, sera.”

 

 

Translation: shit happens simply (if scatologically) expresses the understanding that there will be things, good and bad and neutral, which will happen to us and which will be out of our control. This doesn’t mean that you therefore go through life as flotsam, simply drifting with the currents and tides of fate – of course not.  You do what you can, but it is realistic – and mentally healthy – to recognize that, ultimately, you are *not*  in control of everything.  Shit happens/que sera, sera: things can and will happen to you – things which may seem as an insult from the universe but which, in fact, are random and have nothing to do with you personally.

I think I was able to successfully communicate my POV.  Or perhaps the genial comments of understanding my FIL made were to thwart me from breaking into the theme song of my patron saint, Doris Day.   [5]

 

 

 

*   *   *

 

 

Punz For The Day
Day-After-Thanksgiving Edition

Q: What smells the best at a Thanksgiving dinner?
A: Your nose.

Q: What do you get if you divide the circumference of a
classic Thanksgiving dessert by its diameter?

A: Pumpkin pi.

 

*   *   *

May you understand that shit happens;
May you do strive to ensure that you are not the shit happening to someone else;
May you do your best to ignore Black Friday;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] To the point that I think, by comparison, most other forms of therapy are basically a waste of time.

[2]  Even though * he* was the one who brought it up, my sweet father responded with his go-to, five-word phrase of circumvention, which he employed whenever we were getting into conversational territory which made him uncomfortable: “Well, that’s enough about that.”

[3] And unless or until the Bull Elk in question, or any other animal so stalked, is armed with the high-powered weaponry of the human hunters (who must also, as their prey is, be naked) and agrees to participate with the human, in the hunting, it is the ultimate in poor sportsmanship to call hunting a “sport.”

[4] Certainly, not a Good Samaritan from the elk’s POV. And in the original Good Samaritan story, the Samaritan did not help one creature by killing another one.

[5] Yes, atheists can have a patron saint, and for a while, Doris was mine.

The Favor I’m Not Granting

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Department Of This May Stop Them From Asking

Moiself refers to Every Writer’s Favorite Situation ®  (insert appropriate, universally understood emojis of sarcasm).    [1]

Dateline: senior year of high school (mine; not yours). I wrote a regular, eponymous op-ed column in our school’s newspaper, in which I took a humorous approach to a variety of school-related issues.    [2]   Toward the end of the year, a school acquaintance approached me, asking for a favor…although, she didn’t exactly phrase it that way.  The way she presented it, it was more of an opportunity, for me.

She had been asked to write and then read something for an upcoming Important Occasion: a work party; a family reunion – for the life of me, I cannot recall *what* it was for, but that’s not pertinent. The thing is, she was supposed to write and deliver an amusing presentation.  And she wanted me to do it for her.

She said that she would give me some basic information – what it needed to be “about’ –  and then I could just whip it out, right?

“I just don’t know how to do that, but you’re so funny.
I can’t be funny, but you can be funny – it’s so easy for you.”

The way she spoke about it, it was if that complement from her would be motivation (and compensation) enough, for moiself – who would know that I had, once again, written something “really clever and funny.”

 

 

In her eyes, moiself  was a “natural” writer.  I’d just sit my witty ass down and the work would flow from my pen to paper. She did not acknowledge the time and effort it might take, and never mind that we were a couple of days from final exams.

Gently but firmly. I declined her brazen solicitation honorable request, in what turned out to be good practice for me, being the first of many such declinations.

Now, I *liked* this person.  She was the first of many people (friends; family; co-workers) over the years who, although they seemed to acknowledge my skills as a writer enough to covet those skills for a project of *theirs,*  did not value those skills enough to offer to compensate me for my work – nor even acknowledge that writing is, in fact, work.  It’s “work” enough that they did not want to do the project themselves or take the time  to acquire and hone the ability to do so, or were intimidated by it (“I just can’t write/I’ve never been able to write, like you can so easily.“)

 

)

 

Y’all probably wouldn’t think of asking your son’s soccer coach, who is a podiatrist, to fix your bunions for free (“I thought it might be fun for you – it’d be easier than our other surgeries, and you’re so good at it”), or try to wrangle a free housecleaning from your neighbor who works for Merry Maids.  But there’s something about knowing that someone works in an “artistic” field which brings out the mooch in otherwise well-mannered people.

Over the years, I’ve compared such stories with other writers (and artist friends).  We’ve come to the conclusion that because writing – particularly fiction writing, but not exclusively   [3] – is seen as one of the arts, and since “art” is perfunctorily lauded yet (the work behind the art) not respected financially, non-artists believe that any time a writer or artist is solicited for their work they should consider it (shudder) an honor to be asked.  Or, even more dreadfully, you get the exposure thing:

“We can’t offer payment, but you’ll get exposure –
we’ll make sure everyone knows it’s your work!”    [4]

 

 

 Noone understands better than Matthew Inman, aka, the mind behind The Oatmeal.

 

It doesn’t even matter to these freeloaders favor-askers, when you protest that you are a writer of fiction, not  ______ (grant proposals/term papers/college essays/office brochures – whatever their project).  In their (non-professional writer) eyes, you can whip up anything, at any time, right? 

 

How I’ve begun every story ever.

 

Moiself, when asked to advise upcoming/wanna be writers, has alerted them to this reality: Your writing and editing skills will be coveted by others, enough that they will ask you to do work  *for* them, yet not enough to be compensated *by* them.   

I can count on the fingers of one hand – if that hand had lost three fingers in a tragic panini press accident – the number of times someone has asked for my writing skills AND let me know the payment they would offer and/or asked what I would charge for the project they had in mind.  In all other cases, I quickly discovered the Favor Asker’s assumption was that I would work for free… (for them; for the honor of being asked; for “the exposure….” y’all get the drill by now).

 

 

What prompted this screed trip down Memory Lane is a recent Carolyn Hax column.  Carolyn   [5]  is the dean and queen of advice columnists, IMO – she could claim those titles from her writing ability alone, but she’s also keenly alert, has a remarkable sense of perspective balanced with compassion, and is excellent at recognizing and pointing out the problems behind the problems advice seekers *think* they are asking her about.

Moiself cringed with weary recognition to read this letter…then my spine straightened in right-on! triumph at Carolyn’s response.

Dear Carolyn: I am a writer by profession — meaning I get paid to do what I do. I am constantly asked to edit someone’s community newsletter, write something about someone’s kid who plays lacrosse to send to college coaches, or write someone’s family Christmas letter. (I hate those things, but anyway.)

When I quote my hourly rate, I get the hurt look and, “Oh, I thought you’d just do it for me as a friend,” or — in the case of a newsletter — “Oh, I just thought it would be fun for you; it is a good cause and probably would not take much time.”

I keep quoting the hourly rate but it is the sad and hurt reactions that bother me. How to draw the line so that people do not see it as a rejection? I have even tried a slightly discounted friends-and-family rate but the problem persists.— Writer

Writer: The sad and hurt reactions bother me, too, but not for the same reason.

These people have just been reminded they’re asking you to work for free, and they think “no” is the wrong answer? Come on, people.

Go ask for free haircuts, housecleaning and brain surgery, and get back to me.

Or don’t. As a society, we’re not exactly at peak manners right now.

Your answer is fine; you are reasonably treating them as polite people looking to hire you for skilled work, and you’re responding accordingly. The burden of their cheek is on them.

But if these exchanges gnaw at you, then, sure, shift your answer a bit: “Thanks for asking. Are you offering a job or asking a favor?” So when they say, “Favor” — blowing through the sawhorse of a hint you just dragged across that road — you can say, kindly, “I’m sorry — if I agreed to those, then that’s all I’d ever do.”

*   *   *

Department Of Oh Yeah, There’s That Holiday Next Week

Ah, yes, and what to cook, which can test the patience of even the most ardent welcomer-of-Thanksgiving.  I’ve been reading that this feeling is common to many if not all contemporary hosts – not  just us plant-based eaters – as we keep in mind our guests’ various dietary preferences, allergies, likes and loathings….

 

 

*   *   *

*   *   *

From Ken Jennings, the man most people know as the winning-est Jeopardy contestant ever, has written several books on humor…the very idea of which, for some reason seems funny in and of itself, to moiself.   I’m currently reading his book Planet Funny: How Comedy Took Over Our Culture.  In the chapter dealing with the history of satire, snark, and ironic detachment (SSI)– specifically the rise, use, and overuse of that and in standup comedy, television shows and other entertainment – and even in protest movements against the government authoritarianism – Jennings has a segment titled “Outgrowing Snark.”  For a lifelong practitioner of SSI,  moiself  found his observations to be both obvious and insightful (my emphases).

Irony as a literary device, as something to observe, is fine. But as a way to live your life? Cloaking every thought, word, action with the implication that you might not mean any of it? That’s a pathology.

Unless ironic distance is the only way to keep government authorities off your back, it shouldn’t be the only pitch in your repertoire. The occasional curveball is only effective if you can throw a fastball and a changeup as well. “A Modest Proposal”    [6] is funny and effective, but let’s not pretend it accomplishes all the same things that a heartfelt plea for starving children would. You don’t always get to the same place by taking the opposite route.

In an age of irony, it will always be a temptation to use it as a cop-out, because it’s easier to smirk at things than solve them.

( excerpt from Planet Funny: How Comedy Took Over Our Culture,
Chapter 7: “Bon Jovi, come Home.”)

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Identifying With A Former Beatle

This something-I-never-thought-I’d-do moment came when I was listening to a recent Fresh Air interview with Paul McCartney.  Sir Paul is making the interview rounds, plugging his  two recent projects: the upcoming release of the Peter Jackson-directed documentary, The Beatles: Get Back, and the book The Lyrics .[7]  

 

 

As McCartney reminisced with FA host Terry Gross, who played clips from some of the Beatles’ well-known songs, I was once again reminded of, inarguably, [8]  the best – as in, the most sheerly unadulteratedly exuberant – opening to a rock n’ roll song ever: McCartney’s count off that begins I Saw Her Standing There.

 

 

Once again, I digress.  Here’s where the identification-with-a-former-Beatle comes in.  Terry Gross was asking McCartney about his age (he’ll be 80 next June), something he says he finds rather astonishing, considering how he feels:

“Hey – I can’t believe I’m a *grandparent.* I mean, like… I’m 25 years old, actually. I just look older and… I think my birth certificate was falsified.”

Bingo.  I have that feeling all the time, as though my age-on-paper has nothing to do with me.  In so many ways, I still “feel” like I’m twenty-five.  I’ve a way to go before I get to Sir Paul’s age, although the “facts” (and my mirror) remind me that I’m most definitely not 25…or even 45, or even….

 

 

*   *   *

PunZ For The Day
Beatles Edition

I’m obsessed with buying old Beatles albums.  My friends say I need help, but
I’ve already got that one.

How did the Beatles’ new skillet introduce itself to them?
“I am the egg pan.”

Did you hear that it’s tricky selling Beatles albums in some Scandinavian countries?
Apparently, when asked if they’d buy any of the group’s albums, a Swede wouldn’t.
But, a Norwegian would.

What did the Beatles eat when they were in India?
Naan, naan, naan, naanaanaanaan….

 

I’d rather poke my bleedin’ eye out than listen to anymore of this.

 

*   *   *

May you never ask artists to work for free;
May you solve as many problems as you smirk at;
May you get up and dance when you hear, One-two-three-FAH!;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] I’m not sure that there are any – hey, you emoji artists, get to it please. And we’ll expect you to do it gratis.

[2] Titled, “Parnal Knowledge.” Yeah, I know.  But what many don’t know is that title was suggested by my paper’s editor, who was also my friend, and who was known for being more…genteel, shall we say, than moiself, which led many mutual acquaintances to refuse to believe that the column’s name was her idea.

[3] I know of writers specializing in journalism and other non-fiction/expository writing who’ve had the same experiences.

[4] Except for that classmate I mentioned – when I questioned her further I found out she’d intended to read what I’d (might have) written, as if it were her own work – with no attribution for moiself   (“I’ll tell someone, if they ask,” she said).

[5] Moiself  likes to think that, had we met, we’d be on a first name basis.

[6] Arguably Irish writer Jonathan Swift’s best known work, “A Modest Proposal” (originally published anonymously in the early 1700s)  was a satirical essay which viciously commented on England’s exploitation of Ireland by using the reasonable tones of an economic treatise to proposes that Ireland could ease poverty by butchering the children of the Irish poor and selling them as food to their wealthy English landlords.

[7] A copy of which now sits on my office desk.

[8] As in, if you’re going to argue with moiself about this, just don’t.

The Temple I’m Not Joining

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Department Of First Things First

Fifty-one years ago today, the blast that was heard around the world.   [1]

Happy Exploding Whale Day, y’all.

 

 

*   *   *

In May 2014, The Satanic Temple scheduled a Black Mass to be held on the Harvard University campus, sponsored by the Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club; the event was forced to relocate off campus due to significant opposition by Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston and school administrators.
(Wikipedia, The Satanic Temple entry)

Department Of Arguably The Best Quote From A Documentary Filled With Zingers

“I think the participants felt discouraged after their permit  (to demonstrate) in Boston was denied.  And then it just occurred to me: this is the Catholic Church in Boston, which covered up decades of child rape, moved priests around, covered it up, let them continue their raping and child abuse… and then had the gall to say what *we’re* doing was sinful? I mean, fuck them.”
(a member of “The Satanic Temple” (TST), as quoted in, Hail, Satan?)

 

 

 

“The mission of The Satanic Temple, a religious organization, is to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense, oppose injustice, and undertake noble pursuits.
The Satanic Temple has publicly confronted hate groups, fought for the abolition of corporal punishment in public schools, applied for equal representation when religious installations are placed on public property, provided religious exemption and legal protection against laws that unscientifically restrict women’s reproductive autonomy, exposed harmful pseudo-scientific practitioners in mental health care, organized clubs alongside other religious after-school clubs in schools besieged by proselytizing organizations, and engaged in other advocacy in accordance with our tenets.”
( mission statement, from The Satanic Temple website )

*   *   *

The Wiccan priest tried (unsuccessfully) to stifle rolling her eyes.  The man interviewing her had asked her to explain Wiccan beliefs but inserted a stereotypical inaccuracy before he gave her time to answer:

“So, you are devil worshippers?”

The Wiccan’s tone indicated that her patience was tried; obviously, this was not the first time she had been asked that question. She replied emphatically, and a bit wearily:

No, *we* don’t worship Satan.
*We* don’t believe in Satan, or devils or demons.
*Christians* are the ones who believe in the devil. Satan is a Christian god.”

 

 

 

The interview moiself  refers to happened many years ago, in a documentary I saw about the connections between Wicca and Paganism and Norse Mythology.  I thought of that interview last week when, thanks to daughter Belle’s recommendation, I watched Hail Satan?, the 2019 documentary which followed the rise of the grassroots activist organization, The Satanic Temple (TST).  Belle thought I would find the documentary entertaining and provocative – she was correct – and we had a fun back-and-forth texting about the subject matter.

Hail Satan?, as one reviewer put it, “puts the fun in satanic fundamentalism.”    [2]  In many places the film is downright hilarious…and also thought-provoking.

“For something that doesn’t move or talk, monuments have been the subject of much debate and deep feeling in recent years. And not just Confederate monuments, but also religious ones. And one of those debates played out in Arkansas, where State Senator Jason Rapert petitioned to erect a statue of the Ten Commandments outside the Capitol building in Little Rock. In response, a group called The Satanic Temple asked to have a monument of their choosing displayed on government property. It was of Baphomet, a goat-headed angel-winged icon. And let’s just say the offer wasn’t that well-received.

That fight and The Satanic Temple more broadly is the subject of a new documentary called “Hail Satan?” – that’s with a question mark. And it follows the founding of this group, which is bringing a puckish new voice to a very thoughtful and actually serious debate over religious freedom.”

( NPR, ” Filmmaker And Satanic Temple Leader Talk New Documentary,
 ‘Hail Satan?’  4-27-19)

 

 

Moiself  was chuckling throughout the film, especially at the moment whence the opening quote in this post is taken:  in Boston 2014, when The Satanic Temple had received permission to perform a Black Mass, and they were being picketed by Catholic priests and nuns and received so many threats they decided to call it off.    [3] A Satanic or Black Mass  [4]  is a grotesque mockery of the Catholic Mass, and is meant to be offensive to RC believers…but then, the Catholic Mass and other Christian churches’ communion rites – with their reenactments of ritualized cannibalism – can be offensive (or at least, bizarre and mystifying) to people of other beliefs.

So, there they were, in the middle ages twenty-first century, priests and nun in their robes, holding rosary beads, crucifixes,chalices, and other artifacts of “catholobelia”… [5]

 

 

and then you have the “Satanists,” in their robes and masks….

 

 

It was so funny, to see both sides in their respective, silly outfits.  Only the Satanists seemed to have any self-awareness about the whole thing – that this (religion) is all play acting/dress up.

Does moiself  think that any of those people involved with TST are, in fact Satanists – that they actually and sincerely “believe in” or “worship” Satan?

Hell no.

The impression I got was that TST organizers and the vast majority of members are part political/Constitutional/free speech activists, and part street theater/Merry Pranksters…with some Cosplay nerds devotees thrown in there as well.

Belle and I bantered with the question: Does TST do more harm than good, by using imagery and tactics that some people find sooooooooooooooooo offensive? Yes, and no.  And admittedly, there is a certain power to be had from disgusting, shocking, frightening, and angering your adversaries.  If you have personal, political, and/or ideological beefs with Christianity, what better way to get under a staunch Christian’s skin than to profess allegiance to that which they view as their polar opposite, whether or not you actually “believe in” your own silly deity (just as you don’t believe in their silly deity).

 

“Who you callin’ silly?”

 

And, analogous to how some rap stars often call themselves the N-word, many people believe that there is power in taking a pejorative which has been used against you and using it (on) yourself. As one of the TST members interviewed noted, for many Conservative and Evangelical Christians, any beliefs other than theirs are evil.  Thus, if you believe something other than their interpretation of their religion, you are under the influence of the devil – they are going to consider you evil or satanic anyway, so why not be proactive about it and claim the title yourself, under your terms, not theirs?

For moiself, one of the more uproarious moments documented in Hail Satan? occurred when TST took a page from the Mormon playbook of performing proxy baptisms (a ritual wherein a proxy for a deceased, non-Mormon person is baptized into the Mormon church   [6] ).  In order to incense and mock the notoriously homophobic Westborough Baptist Church founder, these antics ensued:

” A group of satanists say they’ve given the controversial Westboro Baptist Church a taste of its own medicine, performing a same-sex ritual at the grave of the mother of the church’s founder.
Members of the Satanist Temple performed on Sunday what its spokesman describes as a “pink mass,” an admittedly made-up ritual celebrating gay love, at the grave in Meridian, Miss.
Spokesman Lucien Greaves doffed a headdress made of horns as two male couples and a female couple recited scripture, lit candles, and made out over the grave.
Members then posthumously declared Catherine Johnston, the mother of Westboro’s founder Fred Phelps, a lesbian.”

(“Satanists Perform ‘Gay Ritual’ at Westboro Gravesite,” ABC news, 7-13)

Belle and I went back and forth re the tactics of TST, which we both found…the word “silly’ kept being used.   However seriously you do or don’t take TST, it seems to be a reaction to the abuse of power and religious discrimination promulgated by Christian culture and theology, rather than standing for something on its own.

However….

Many of TST‘s antics are actually well-informed public protests, and not just “giving the middle finger to the evangelical right.”  One high ranking TST organizer pointed out that “…we are really giving the state of Oklahoma a civics lesson,” referring to TST‘s fight to have their group’s goat-headed statue (“Baphomet“) displayed on public ground, after Oklahoma allowed Christian religious artifacts on the State Capitol lawn.   [7]

 

 

One lawyer quoted in the film said, “…from a constitutional law perspective I am really interested in the Satanic temple, because it is basically making these public bodies confront the real implications of their decisions to allow religion into the public square.”

 

 

The documentary gets into some very interesting, and serious and disturbing territory when it revisits the “Satanic panic” of the 1980s , a time when many innocent people’s lives were ruined via a series of bizarre, totally false and fabricated accusations of ritualized child rape. The founders of and teachers at the McMartin Preschool and so many others endured false charges of child abuse;    [8]   meanwhile, as records would later reveal, priests and other religious figures were actually abusing children, with impunity.

One TST member recalled how he, as a boy during the 1980s who loved to play Dungeons and Dragons,  was ostracized by his friends’ religious parents, who thought the D & D game had satanic connections:

“The ‘satanic panic,’ we now know, in an entirely verified and publicly known way, was projection.
*They* (Christian religious leaders) were doing it (abusing children).
I was playing D and D.”

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
The Devil Made Me Do It Edition

I’m writing a book about a guy who peddles shoe parts to Satan.
It’s your basic, “Sold My Sole To The Devil” novel.

Where does the devil do his dishes?
Helsinki.

Why couldn’t the Devil find any cheese?
There’s no whey in hell.

How do I know that Satan works at the DMV?
Because a priest said the devil takes many forms.

If the devil were to go bald…
I bet there would be hell toupee.

I want to get a job as a stunt devil who lights his butt on fire.
It’s just something I asspyre to.

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you keep in mind that the things you take seriously
may be silly – or disturbing – to others;
May you never attribute human failings – or successes – to supernatural beings;
May you honor Exploding Whale Day ® in your own special way;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Well, if your world consists of proud Oregonians.  And it should.

[2]Hail Satan? puts the fun in Satanic fundamentalism.”  The Verge, 4-17-19

[3] Actually, they moved it to another location.

[4] Which TST was going to perform in private, as in, not open to the public.

[5] My term (I think) for such accoutrements.

[6] Yes, this batshit crazyass rite in the LDS church is a thing.

[7] The Satanists won that battle in court, as per a 2015 Oklahoma State Supreme Court decision.

[8]  And were ultimately acquitted of all charges…after a trial that lasted SEVEN YEARS and cost taxpayers 15 million dollars.

The Advice I’m Not Giving

4 Comments

 

Department Of Groovy Natural Phenomena
Part One Of Two In This Post

King tides; we got ’em.  The first of the season along the Oregon coast are today through Sunday, coinciding with overlapping storm fronts and high wave warnings.

Magnificent to observe – from a safe distance, y’all.

 

 

*   *   *

And Speaking Of Groovy Natural Phenomena…

What would ushering in the holiday season be without The Dropkick Murphys?

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of More On Stormfronts

Dateline: earlier this week. Moiself  saw a post from a FB friend, in which they announced that it was their son Oden’s   [1]  birthday…and that they would be celebrating without him, as he is in another state and wants nothing to do with his parents and is “angry angry angry.”

There are few relationships sadder than those involving parent-child alienation. The emotional part of me took hold first.  I wanted to message them privately, until the rational part of me said:

 

 

As in, WTF are you – moiself  – thinking?

Because my message would have been along the lines of:

“Oh, ____ (friends’ names) I am so sad to read this…and the fact that I’m reading this on social media makes me even sadder.
Is Oden on Facebook?  Will Oden’s seeing or becoming aware of this post help him to be less angry?”

Of course it won’t help. Nor would my rhetorical question to them have been of help, no matter how many times I would have tried to “gently” rephrase or reframe it.  And I refer to this hypothetical question as rhetorical, because I can’t think of a sensible reason for someone to believe that making such a public statement  [2]  would help their cause of reconciliation.  Unless…

 

 

duh and ahhh, unless reconciliation is *not* their cause (at this point).  Rather, the only cause I can think of which would be served by such an announcement is to receive pity/sympathy from their friends and family – reactions which could have (should have, IMHO) been garnered privately, by speaking or messaging personally with those who are aware of the long, complicated, parents-child relationship here, rather than by exposing the already-alienated-and-angry son to public scrutiny and even shame.   [3]

If feeding the parents’ sense of martyrdom heartache was the true purpose of the post, then, well-played.

It’s still sad.  No matter what.  I wish that seeing a picture of a *Baby Sloth Wearing Magic Pajamas Of Reconciliation* would make it all better, for everyone.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Yeah What He Said

Moiself  occasionally checks comedian and author and TV host Bill Maher’s “New Rules” segment, and his one last week, Rule: Words Matter , was a doozy.  Maher starts out proposing that instead of putting bibles in hotel rooms people should put dictionaries,

“…because apparently, nobody knows what words mean anymore.”

Maher goes on to illustrate one of my pet peeves – the fact that you dilute the importance of words when you misunderstand and misuse them.  And I couldn’t have given a better example of misusing/redefining than the cringe-worthy one Maher provides. It involves a standup comic, some of whose work I have listened to and liked, commenting on the standup special of another comic, some of whose work I have listened to and liked (and some…nah).

I refer to Hannah Gadsby commenting on Dave Chapelle.

Chappelle, who above all else seems to (consider himself to) be a free speech advocate, is once again testing the limits of that in his new streaming special on Netflix. Certain remarks he has made in the special have raised the hackles of many in the LGBTQ community.  [4]

 

“Dave Chappelle does not make it easy.
He is one of the most brilliant stand-up comics in the business. But he also makes a sport of challenging his audience — putting ideas in front of them that he knows are uncomfortable and unpalatable to those invested in modern notions of how to talk about feminism, gender, sexual orientation and race.
Sometimes, he does it to make a larger point. But at times, especially during his latest special for Netflix, ‘The Closer,’ he also seems to have a daredevil’s relish for going to dangerous places onstage and eventually winning his audience over — regardless of what he’s actually saying. “
(“For Dave Chappelle, punchlines are dares. His new special, ‘The Closer,’ goes too far.”
( NPR, Morning Edition, Tv Review 10-5-21 )

Australian standup comic Gadsby, a lesbian who often features LGBTQ issues in her routines, characterized Chapelle’s special as “…hate speech dog-whistling.”

 

 

Maher points out the glaring misuse of two terms which essentially cancel each other out:

” ‘Dog whistle’ refers to when someone puts something in code because they’re afraid to come out and say what they really think.
That’s what you get from Dave Chapelle –
he’s afraid to say what he really thinks?”

Maher also on touches on my second semantic pet peeve: attaching “-phobic” to any reaction you don’t like.

“…and it’s not hate speech, just because you disagree with it.  Nor is it phobic.  Phobic comes from a Greek word meaning something you fear irrationally, like spiders, or germs. But now it is used as a suffix for something you just don’t like.I’ve been called ‘commitment-phobic.‘  No, I don’t *fear* commitment, I just don’t want any.  Other people do; great!  I don’t call them, ‘single-phobic.’

….And if I talk about how wrong I think it is to force women to wear a beekeeper’s suit all day, that’s not Islamophobic – I just don’t like it.”

 

Objecting to this is not Islamophobia, it’s forcing-women-to-wear-burial-shrouds-while-they’re-still-alive ophobia.

 

“A phobia is a persistent, excessive, unrealistic fear of an object, person, animal, activity or situation. It is a type of anxiety disorder.
A person with a phobia either tries to avoid the thing that triggers the fear, or endures it with great anxiety and distress.
( “Phobia – what is it?” Harvard health a-z.edu )

For those who fling the –phobic suffix with Woke®  impunity: y’all ever met a person with an actual phobia and seen that phobia manifested?  [5]   True phobics endure debilitating symptoms that can mimic a heart attack.  It is a frightening, humbling thing to see.

If you’re gay and someone disagrees with you, about LGBTQ-related public policy or personal relationships – or if he flat out say that the idea of a gay “lifestyle” (translate: sex) makes him uncomfortable, he is just that – uncomfortable…or perhaps immature or ignorant or close-minded or whatever. But unless he slobbers and hyperventilates and screams and has to run out of the grocery store when Ru Paul enters, he is not (homo- or trans-) *phobic.*

If you’re a woman and, come time for the annual extended family Thanksgiving gathering, your strip joint-frequenting cousin Bubba Bocephus argues with every feminist principle you espouse, and freely and loudly expresses his opinion that women’s places are in the kitchen and bedroom as he tells jokes belittling his female co-workers, it is possible that Bubba actually hates women.  But unless he exhibits behavior that indicates he has an irrational, anxiety-producing *fear* of any female relative at the gathering, he is not a “gynophobe.”  He’s a misogynist asshole.

 

Moiself’s screams upon encountering Ru Paul at the grocery store would be those of sheer delight.

 

Related (moiself  sez) to the misuse or “rebranding” of certain words and terms is safe spaces, a concept I find ominous, and even the opposite of “safe.”  Those school boards trying to outlaw any form of Critical Race Theory being taught, or even mentioned, in schools?  They took a page from the far left playbook: they’re trying to keep students (read: white students) “safe” from the reality of the USA’s history of systemic racism.

Ever since I first heard the term safe spaces I’ve had an almost visceral loathing of it (but, I am not safe spacephobic). This is because I think that institutions – in particular universities, which are supposed to challenge and enlighten – being asked or even required to produce “safe spaces” produces just the opposite, and stifles development of one of the most important human qualities higher education should aspire to engender: strength of character, along with the character-building-and-expanding skill of being able to listen to and consider opinions you disagree with, or even find offensive.

 

 

And now I know why I have this reaction, thanks to the series of talks I’ve been listening to (“The Stoic Path,” via this meditation app) .  In the episode, “The Upside of Negative Thinking,” stoic philosopher William B. Irvine puts a name to perhaps the most vital yet an underappreciated part of our body’s defensive systems:

“Most people are born with an immune system.  But for it to be maximally effective it has to be developed, and the best way to develop it is by exposing it to germs.  Suppose then that you’re a parent, who wants her child to grow up strong and healthy.  You know that germs cause illness. The obvious thing to do would be to keep your child’s exposure to germs to a minimum. If you acted on this reasoning, though, and tried to raise your child in  a germ-free environment, you had better be prepared to keep him there for the rest of his life.  Otherwise, as soon as he stepped into the real world, his underdeveloped immune system would likely be overwhelmed by germs.
So what’s a caring parent to do?  As paradoxical as it may seem, she should expose her child to germs, but in a controlled fashion….

The Stoics didn’t know about the biological immune system…but they did intuit the existence of what I am calling a psychological immune system.  Whereas your biological immune system protects you from sickness caused by germs, your psychological immune system protects you from experiencing the negative emotions triggered by life’s setbacks.

Consider the following scenario: suppose that parents, in order to reduce the number of negative emotions that their child experiences, worked hard to prevent bad things from happening to him. They never shared bad news with him; never criticized or insulted him and did their best to prevent other people from doing so.  And whenever a problem arose in the child’s life they would deal with it on his behalf.  Although these parents might have the best intentions in the world, those intentions would likely backfire.  Their child’s psychological immune system would end up dysfunctional; indeed, he would be the psychological equivalent of a bubble boy.  He would be hypersensitive to comments other people made; he would be angered and frustrated by the smallest setbacks, and he might burst into tears upon hearing bad news. 

Caring parents…will take steps to develop their child’s psychological immune system… Their goal is for the child to be emotionally ready to face the imperfect world into which he will emerge in a few year’s time.  He should able to hear bad news, criticism, and even insults, without getting overly upset. And when he encounters a setback, he should be able to calmly and coolly set about to overcoming it.”

 

If only our psychological immunity could be so easily boosted.

 

Ponder this:  Allowing yourself to be exposed to contrary, harsh, even insulting thoughts, words, and opinions is the psychological equivalent of getting a flu shot.

As he expands on the concept of psychological immunity, Irvine considers how the Stoics would respond to “hate speech.” (my emphases):

“One of their (stoicism’s) key psychological insights is that what harms you the most when you’ve been insulted, maybe by a racist or a sexist, is not the insult itself, but your reaction to that insult….

We are presently in the midst of a great human social experiment involving hate speech. The Stoics’ advice for targets of such speech is to toughen themselves up; they need to strengthen their psychological immune system.…
Lots of people reject this advice out of hand. Instead of encouraging people to toughen up, they tell them that they have every reason to be upset.
They might also provide them with “safe spaces’ in which they can recover from understandably devastating insults.

The stoics would argue that dealing with hate speech in this manger inadvertently  undermines people’s psychological immune systems. Even worse, such actions can trigger a kind of downward spiral with respect to hate speech:  the more people are protected from hearing offensive remarks, the more upsetting they find those remarks, and the more upsetting they find them, the more protection they need.  The target of hate speech can thereby end up as the psychological equivalent of the Bubble Boy.”

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Mama Nature’s Psychedelics

Last Saturday and Sunday, we Oregonians had the rare opportunity to witness the aurora borealis, aka, the northern lights.

“A storm that started more than 92 million miles away is sending a spooky light show to skies above the Pacific Northwest…. a powerful solar flare left the sun on Thursday. Now charged particles are heading toward Earth… That’s likely to result in visible aurora borealis, or Northern Lights, in areas where the lights are rarely seen.   The ghostly night-sky phenomenon, which at its brightest can fill dark skies with glowing, dancing sheets of translucent green and purple lights, occurs when electrons from the sun’s solar flares collide with the upper reaches of Earth’s atmosphere….     ( opb.org )

Of course, light pollution in our area (Portland Metro)  bscured any view MH and I and other “space enthusiasts” might have gotten.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Atmospheric Phenomenon Providing A Memory Segue

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away – when I was pregnant with That Who Would Become MH’s And My First Offspring ® –  moiself  made the mistake of sharing some of my baby-naming ideas with my mother.

We now pause for the following announcement.

Hear me, ye who are newly pregnant: do not share your baby name ideas with anyone other than your partner, unless you are actively seeking input (read: criticism) as to your choices.  Because if anyone, especially the expectant grandparents, think there is a snowball’s chance in a California wildfire to change your mind, they will try.  As a Stanford Hospital employee (the records clerk responsible for recording the newborn’s name on vital documents) told me, “Don’t tell *anyone* the name until it’s on the birth certificate – because until it’s on the certificate, *someone* will try to get you to change it to a name they think is sooooooo much better….”

 

 

The afore-mentioned mistake happened during a phone call with my mother, a few days before I’d received my amniocentesis results.  Since my mother had asked I said yes, when we are contacted with the amnio results we would want to know everything, including the 23rd chromosome pair arrangement.  MH and I had just begun to think about names; if the test showed we’d be having a girl, one of the names I was considering was Aurora.

I liked Aurora for several reasons. It can be a tough world for girl-childs, I told my mother, and being named for an awe-inspiring natural phenomenon – the aurora borealis! – is a sign of strength.  Also, Aurora Dupin, the real name of the author George Sand, was a trail-blazing, stereotype-defying, 1800s French writer….    [6]   Aurora was my front runner for a girl, and if we chose that name we’d probably call her “Rory.”

My mother, born of Irish-Norwegian peasant stock, had royal blood when it came to her ability to indirectly express negative feelings rather than openly address them.  Thus, my family’s Queen of Passive Aggression made her standard, “Oh, that’s interesting,”  response to my Aurora story…which rolled right past me until she telephoned the very next day, and the following exchanged ensued.

“I’ve been thinking about your baby name choice,” my mother said.
“Do you know that the ‘R’ sound is the hardest sound for children to make – it’s usually the last consonant they learn to pronounce correctly.”

I asked her if that was a statement or a question, then reminded her that, yep, as one of the THREE of her four children whom she saw fit to give R names – ahem! – I was familiar with that phenomenon.  I thought it was kinda cute that I was called ‘Wobyn’ by toddlers, my peers, kids I babysat – and even by my younger siblings, ‘Woofie’ (Ruthie) and “Wobert’ (Robert) – until they were old enough to master that devilish R consonant.  So, her point would be…?

“I want you to go stand in front of a mirror,” she said.  “Then look at your mouth, and what happens to your face, when you say, ‘Rory.’ “

 

 

Holy fucking non-issue, moiself  marveled.  She’s apparently/actually done this. She stood in front of her mirror, and did this.

I concentrated on keeping my tone as gentle as possible (more gentle than she deserved), but also as firm as the reply demanded:

“Mom, I want *you* to go stand in front of a mirror,
and look what happens to your face when you say, ‘Buttinsky.’ “

There were no further baby name suggestions (or discussions) between us.

 

K, and the freshly hatched Belle. “K, I’m happy you are who you are, even as I want you to know you would have made a fine ‘Rory.’ “

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Baby Names Edition

Seriously, you’re going to name your son, Almondine?
That’s nuts.

Seriously, you’re going to name your daughter, Cintronella?
That’s repellant.

Seriously, you’re going to name your baby, Insurrection?
That’s revolting.

Seriously, you’re going to name your baby, R.E.M.?
You must be dreaming.

Seriously, you’re going to name your baby, KenKen?
That’s puzzling.    [7]

 

*   *   *

May you, some day, be able to see both the aurora borealis and king tides;
May you never have an occasion to look in the mirror and say, Buttinsky;
May the Baby Sloth Wearing Magic Pajamas Of Reconciliation be of comfort to you;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Not his real name.  Not even close.

[2] And as far as this public statement of mine (blogging about this) goes, moiself  is 99% certain they do not read this blog.

[3] for holding a grudge against his parents, who are just sitting there, posting alone in the dark, oy vey….

[4] Disclosure: I have not watched the special in its entirety; just clips.

[5] I have seen several phobic reactions, including this memorable one:  I had to help a friend to the floor and raise her legs, when she began to hyperventilate at just the suggestion that my child might consider getting a pet tarantula (and keep it in the garage, in a covered terrarium, when the spider-phobic friend came over, so she would never see it).  She was horribly embarrassed by her reaction, which she realized was over the top and irrational…but that’s what makes it a phobia.  Quite different from the many people who don’t like spiders or “bugs” but who don’t turn into a quivering mass of quasi-sentient protoplasm at just the *mention* of them.

[6] who, like most if not all women writers of that time, had to use a male pen name in order for her work to be published.

[7] Yeah, but KenKen is the best puzzle, ever.  Sudoku, in comparison and in MHO, is like watching paint dry.

The Holiday War I’m (Still) Not Declaring

1 Comment

Department Of Here They Come

Halloween (aka All Hallow’s Eve); Samhain; All Saint’s Day; El Dia de los Muertos; Mischief Night, Diwali

In the USA and in northern hemisphere countries around the world, there are multiple holidays with a relationship to “our” Halloween.  The relationship is as per the time of year and/or the theme, underlying beliefs, customs or origins of the various celebrations.

Many of these holidays originated as dual celebrations, acknowledgments of times of both death and rebirth, as celebrants marked the end of the harvest season and acknowledged the cold, dark winter to come.

And after Halloween, the holiday season really gets going.

*   *   *

Department Of Life Is Tough But It’s Even Tougher If You’re Stupid
Chapter 22467 in a (never-ending) series

“The idea of a “War on Christmas” has turned things like holiday greetings and decorations into potentially divisive political statements. People who believe Christmas is under attack point to inclusive phrases like “Happy Holidays” as (liberal) insults to Christianity….

Christmas is a federal holiday celebrated widely by the country’s Christian majority. So where did the idea that it is threatened come from?

The most organized attack on Christmas came from the Puritans, who banned celebrations of the holiday in the 17th century because it did not accord with their interpretation of the Bible….”

(“How the ‘War on Christmas’ Controversy Was Created,” NY Times, 12-19-16)

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of If Something Seems Familiar, That’s Because It’s Time For
My Annual Holiday Traditions Explained ® Post

What do vegetarians, vegans, non-meat and/or plant-based eaters
do on Thanksgiving?
( Other than, according to your Aunt Erva, RUIN  IT  FOR  EVERYONE  ELSE.   [1]  )

The above question is an existential dilemma worthy of Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher, who wrote eloquent discourses on the subjective and objective truths one must juggle when choosing between a cinnamon roll and a chocolate swirl.   [2]

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of I’ll Take Those Segues Where I Can Find Them

Four weeks from today will be the day after feasting, for many of us. Then, just when you’re recovering from the last leftover turkey sandwich/quiche/casserole/enchilada-induced salmonella crisis and really, really need to get outside for some fresh air, here comes the Yule season. You dare not even venture to the mall, lest your eardrums be assaulted from all sides by Have a Holly Jolly Christmas, Feliz Navidad, ad nauseum.

This observation provides a convenient segue to my annual, sincere, family-friendly,  [3]

Heathens Declare War On Christmas © post.

 

 

As to those Henny Penny/Chicken Little hysterics proclaiming a so-called “war” on Christmas, a rational person can only assume that they are not LGBTQ, or Jewish or a member of another minority religion, or an ethnic minority – in other words, they’ve never experienced actual bigotry (or actual combat). If they had, it’s likely they would not have trivialized discrimination (or war) with their whining.

The usage of “Happy Holidays” as an “attack on Christianity” is an invention of right-wing radio talk show hosts.  Happy Holidays is nothing more nor less than an encompassing shorthand greeting – an acknowledgement of the incredible number of celebratory days, religious and otherwise, which in the U.S. is considered to start in October with Halloween and November with Thanksgiving (although our Canadian neighbors and friends celebrate their Thanksgiving in October) and extends into and through January, with the various New Year’s celebrations.

It is worthwhile to note that while many if not most Americans, Christian or not, celebrate Christmas, there are also some Christians who, on their own or as part of their denomination’s practice or decree (e.g., Jehovah’s Witnesses and The Worldwide Church of God), do not celebrate Christmas   [4]   (nor did our much-ballyhooed forebears, the Pilgrims).  Also, the various Orthodox Christians use calendars which differ from most Protestant and Catholic calendars (a biggie for them at this time of the year is the Nativity of Christ, which occurs on or around January 7).

Happy Holidays — it’s plural, and for good reason.  It denotes the many celebrations that happen during these months.  People in the northern hemisphere countries, from South Americans and Egyptians to the Celts and Norskis, have marked the Winter Solstice for thousands of years, and many still do.  And some Americans, including our friends, neighbors and co-workers, celebrate holidays that although unconnected with the winter solstice occur near it, such as Ramadan, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa.

 

In 2022 the Chinese (lunar) New Year begins on Feb. 1

 

Most folks are familiar with the “biggies”- Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day. But don’t forget the following holidays, many of which we’ve learned about (or celebrated with) via our children’s teachers and fellow students, and our neighbors and co-workers.

* The Birth of the Prophet (Nov. 12) and Day of the Covenant (Nov. 26) are both Baha’i holy days  (our family has had Baha’i teachers and childcare providers and neighbors).

* St. Nicholas Day (Dec. 6)

* Bodhi Day.  Our Buddhist friends and neighbors celebrate Bodhi Day on December 8 (or on the Sunday immediately preceding).

* Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Dec 12)

* St. Lucia Day (Dec. 13) Our Swedish neighbors and friends celebrate St. Lucia Day, as did Belle’s and K’s school, when they were in grade school (Belle, as the oldest 3rd grade girl, got to play St. Lucia).

* Bill of Rights Day (Dec 15) and Forefather’s Day (Dec 21)

* Pancha Ganapati Festival (one of the most important Hindu festivals, Dec. 21st through the 25th,  celebrated by many of MH’s coworkers)

* The Winter Solstice (varies, Dec.  21 or 22)

* Little Christmas Eve (Dec.  23) Celebrated by my family, supposedly a custom of the small Norwegian village of my paternal grandfather’s ancestors.

* Boxing Day (Dec. 26), celebrated by our Canadian-American and British-American neighbors and friends.

*Ramadan and/or Eid, the Islamic New Year (as Islam uses a lunar calendar the dates of their holidays varies, but these holidays are usually November-December)

* The Chinese New Year.  I always look forward to wishing my sister-in-law, a naturalized American citizen who is Cantonese by birth, a Gung Hay Fat Choy.  (The Chinese Lunar calendar is the longest chronological record in history, dating from 2600 BCE.  The New Year is celebrated on second new moon after the winter solstice, and so can occur in January or February).

That is not a complete list. See why it’s easier to say, “Happy Holidays?”

The USA is one of the most religiously diverse nations in the world.  To insist on using the term “Merry Christmas” as the all-encompassing seasonal greeting could be seen as an attack on the religious beliefs of all of the Americans who celebrate the other holiday and festivals.  At the least, it denotes the users’ ignorance of their fellow citizens’ beliefs and practices.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Did You Know…

…that the Reverend Increase Mather of Boston observed in 1687 that, “the early Christians who first observed the Nativity on December 25 did not do so thinking that Christ was born in that Month, but because the Heathens’ Saturnalia was at that time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those Pagan Holidays metamorphosed into Christian ones.”   [5]

Because of its known pagan origins, Christmas was banned by the Puritans, and its observance was illegal in Massachusetts until 1681.   [6]

 

 

“Do you celebrate Christmas?”

We Heretics/apostates non-Christians Happy Heathens often hear this question at this time of year.  The inquiry is sometimes presented in ways that imply our celebration (or even acknowledgement) of Christmas is hypocritical.  This implication is the epitome of cheek, when you consider the fact that it is the early Christians who stole a festival from our humanist (pagan) forebears, and not the other way around.

Who doesn’t like a party, for any reason? And we who are religion-free don’t mind sharing seasonal celebrations with religious folk – sans the superstition and government/church mumbo-jumbo –  as long as they accept the fact that the ways we all celebrate this “festive season” predate Christianity by hundreds of years.

 

 

Early Roman Catholic missionaries tried to convert northern Europeans to the RC brand of Christianity, and part of the conversion process was to alter existing religious festivals. The indigenous folk, whom the RC church labeled “barbarians,” quickly discovered that when it came to dealing with missionaries, resistance is futile. The pagans intuitively grasped the concept of natural selection and converted to Christianity to avoid the price (persecution, torture, execution) of staying true to their original beliefs.  But they refused to totally relinquish their traditional celebrations, and so the church, eventually and effectively, simply renamed most of them.    [7]

Pagan practices were given a Christian meaning to wipe out “heathen” revelry.  This was made official church policy in 601 A.D., when Pope Gregory the First issued the now infamous edict to his missionaries regarding the traditions of the peoples they wanted to convert. Rather than try to banish native customs and beliefs, missionaries were directed to assimilate them. You find a group of people decorating and/or worshiping a tree? Don’t chop it down or burn it; rather, bless it in the name of the Church.  Allow its continued worship, only tell the people that, instead of celebrating the return of the sun-god in the spring, they are now worshiping the rising from the dead of the Son of God.

( Easter is the one/odd exception, where a pagan celebration was adapted by Christians without a name change. Easter is a word found nowhere in the Bible. It comes from the many variants (Eostra, Ester, Eastra, Eastur….) of a Roman deity, goddess of the dawn “Eos” or “Easter,” whose festival was in the Spring.)

The fir boughs and wreaths, the Yule log, plum pudding, gift exchanges, the feasting, the holly and the ivy and the evergreen tree….It is hard to think of a “Christmas” tradition that does not originate from Teutonic (German), Viking, Celtic and Druid paganism.   [8]   A celebration in the depths of winter – at the time when, to those living in the Northern Hemisphere, the sun appears to stop its southerly descent before gradually ascending north – is a natural instinct. For thousands of years our Northern Hemisphere ancestors greeted the “reason for the season” – the winter solstice – with festivals of light and gift exchanges and parties.  The Winter Solstice was noted and celebrated long before the Roman Jesus groupies pinched the party.

But, isn’t “Jesus is the reason for the season”?

The reason for the season?  Cool story, bro.  Since you asked; actually, axial tilt is the reason for the season.  For *all* seasons.

 

 

And Woden is the reason the middle of the week is named Wednesday.   [9]   My calling Wednesday “Wednesday” doesn’t mean I celebrate, worship, or “believe in” Woden.  I don’t insist on renaming either Christmas, or Wednesday.

 

“Now, go fetch me the brazen little sheisskopfs who took the Woden out of Woden’s Day!”

 

The Winter Solstice is the day with the shortest amount of sunlight, and the longest night. In the northern hemisphere it falls on what we now mark as December 21 or 22.  However, it took place on December 25th at the time when the Julian calendar was used.   [10]   The early Romans celebrated the Saturnalia on the Solstice, holding days of feasting and gift exchanges in honor of their god Saturn. (Other major deities whose birthdays were celebrated on or about the week of December 25   [11]   included Horis, Huitzilopochtli, Isis, Mithras, Marduk, Osiris, Serapis and Sol.)  The Celebration of the Saturnalia was too popular with the Roman pagans for the new Christian church to outlaw it, so the new church renamed the day and reassigned meanings to the traditions.   [12]

In other words, why are some folk concerned with “keeping the Christ in Christmas”   [13]  when we should be keeping the Saturn in Saturnalia?

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
The Approaching Holiday Season Edition

What is a jack-o’-lantern’s favorite literature genre?
Pulp fiction.

My family told me to stop telling Thanksgiving jokes right now,
but I said I couldn’t quit cold turkey.

My cousin is terrified by all of the St. Nicholas displays at the shopping mall.
You might say she’s Claustrophobic.

 

I told you not to encourage her.

*   *   *

Whatever your favorite seasonal celebrations may be, moiself  wishes you all the best.

May you have the occasion to (with good humor) ruin it for everyone else;
May you find it within yourself to ignore the Black Friday mindset;
May you remember to keep the Saturn in Saturnalia;
…and may the fruitcake-free hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] You have an Aunt Erva, somewhere.  We all do.

[2] Damn right I’m proud of that one.

[3] Well, yeah, as compared to the usual shit I write.

[4] And a grade school friend of mine, whose family was Jehovah’s Witnesses, considered being told, “Merry Christmas” to be an attack on *her* beliefs.

[5]Increase Mather, A Testimony against Several Prophane and Superstitious Customs, Now Practiced by Some in New England” (London, 1687).  See also Stephen Nissenbaum, The Battle for Christmas: A Cultural History of America’s Most Cherished Holiday,” New York: Vintage Books, 1997.

[6] Stephen Nissenbaum, “The Battle for Christmas: A Cultural History of America’s Most Cherished Holiday.”

[7]Paganism in Christianity.”

[8]  “Learn not the way of the heathen…their customs are vain, for one cuts a tree out of the forest…they deck it with silver and gold…” Jeremiah 10:2-5

[9] Wednesday comes from the Old English Wōdnesdæg, the day of the Germanic god Wodan (aka Odin, highest god in Norse mythology and a big cheese god of the Anglo-Saxons until the seventh century.)

[10] The Julian calendar, adopted by Julius Caesar ~ 46 B.C.E., was off by 11 min/year, and when the Gregorian calendar was established by Pope – wait for it – Gregory,  the solstice was established on 12/22.

[11] The Winter Solstice and the Origins of Christmas, Lee Carter.

[12] In 601 A.D., Pope Gregory I issued a now famous edict to his missionaries regarding wooing potential converts: don’t banish peoples’ customs, incorporate them. If the locals venerate a tree, don’t cut it down; rather, consecrate the tree to JC and allow its continued worship

[13] And nothing in the various conflicting biblical references to the birth of JC has the nativity occurring in wintertime.

The Dream I’m Not Living

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Department Of The Words I Never Thought I’d Want To Say to George Takei:

 

 

Or at least, George, you’re acting like one.

From common folk to Star Trek nerds fans, most sentient US citizens know about William Shatner’s ride into space last week.  Many of us in the latter category (ST nerds) also know about the long-standing feud between Shatner and his ST:TOS co-star, George Takei.  A brief summary of the childish spat:

Takei  [1]  has long held grudges about Shatner. The former Lt. Sulu has told stories which revolve around his perceptions that Shatner was a self-centered ham,  [2]  and that Takei and other supporting cast members resented playing second fiddle(s) on the show. Over the years and in his biography (which moiself  has read) Takei has presented a plethora of mostly petty incidents justifying (in Takei’s opinion) his resentment of Shatner.  Many of the stories ring true; however, IMHO, they are hardly relevant to the present moment.  The series (and films) were over *thirty to fifty years* ago.

Here’s the thing: a second fiddle is what Takei was hired to play.  The Kirk, Spock, and Dr. McCoy characters were the show’s triumvirate, and Shatner was hired as the star of the show – the captain of the USS Enterprise.  It is a tribute to the actors playing Uhura, Scotty, Sulu and Chekov, that they became so beloved, given their minor roles and the fact that, unlike Kirk, Spock and McCoy, their characters were *not* in every episode of the series.  Uhura, Scotty, Sulu and Chekov (and Yeoman Rand, Nurse Chapel, and others) – those roles were written and cast as *supporting* players.

 

 

But Takei (second fiddle row, far left, in the above picture) can’t seem to step out of his anti-gravity suit and rise above it all.

“William Shatner’s brief trip to outer space this week wasn’t the final frontier in his grudge match with former co-star George Takei…..Takei, who played Hikaru Sulu to Shatner’s Capt. James T. Kirk in the iconic TV series and films, fired the latest blast in the pair’s decades-long feud Wednesday. This time, he criticized the 90-year-old’s Wednesday flight aboard Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space capsule, which gave Shatner the honor of being the oldest person to launch into space.

“He’s boldly going where other people have gone before,” Takei, 84, quipped…riffing on the series’ catchphrase (and a number of headlines about Shatner’s 10-minute voyage.)

Upon returning to Earth Wednesday, Shatner was moved to tears over the ‘profound experience’ Bezos gave him and was surveying ‘the enormity and the quickness and the suddenness of life and death.’

Takei put it more bluntly: ‘He’s a guinea pig,’ he said.  The outspoken actor and prolific Twitter user then threw even more shade at Shatner’s physical fitness and age.

‘Ninety years old and it’s important to find out what happens,’ he added, noting that Shatner’s advanced years will ‘show a great deal more on the wear and tear on the human body’ and that ‘he’ll be a good specimen to study’ — a specimen ‘that’s unfit.’ “
(“Beam him down, Scotty: George Takei isn’t impressed by
William Shatner’s space trip.”  LA Times 10-14-21 )

 

Sharpening your claws much, George?

 

Mr. Takei, I think you owe Mr. Shatner an apology.  Why did you feel the need to pitch snark?  Why is your opinion relevant at all – why should it matter what *you* think about *his* trip to space?  Your comments make you look petty, jealous, and attention-seeking.  Why not be gracious – if you have to say anything, why not wish him, or anyone in that situation, the best?

And the not-so-thinly-veiled fat jokes?

 

 

Mr. Takei, I’ve admired you for your advocacy on behalf of LGBTQ issues – even as you came to it very, very, very late in the game   [3] –  and your involvement in raising awareness re the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII.  That’s still and all good.  However, your advocacy for those or any other noble causes in no way gives you an impunity shield for acting like a dick.

Shatner, of course, fired back after being attacked. And in this case, I think Captain Kirk’s shade laser topped Lt. Sulu’s dick torpedo:

 

 

Mr. Takei, is this how you want to be remembered?  Yeah, Shatner is old (wow, thanks for pointing that out), but so are you. It’s likely that neither you nor Shatner will live very much longer.  What if Shatner died next week, and your ungenerous, uncalled for critique of his space ride turned out to be the last public words you’d spoken about him?

Your and Shatner’s combined ages are 174; your vindictive verbal volleying makes the figure seem more like 24.  Whiny juveniles, still bickering over who did what to whom on the playground ( Did not! Did so! ).

Get over it.  Please, grow up and shut up.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Living Someone Else’s Dream Life

Moiself  is continuing my commentary on the series of talks about the practice of Stoicism – “The Stoic Path,” by William B. Irvine – which I’ve been listening to, from Sam Harris’ “Waking Up” meditation app.

As I am learning, part of the stoic path toward emotional equanimity involves engaging in something called negative visualization, which I’ll deal with more in next week’s post.  Although the episode for my comments this week, “You are Living the Dream Life,” also utilizes a form of negative visualization.

Yep, that’s me – I’m living the dream life.

 

 

It’s strange for us to consider that we are living the dream life. The thing to realize is that we likely are…only, it’s someone else’s dream. The idea is to get us to appreciate what we have.  As I tried to periodically remind my offspring,  happiness/contentment comes *not* from getting what you want, but wanting what you get.

When we are in the midst of life’s everyday tribulations, from minor irritations (an overdue utility bill) to major events (a burst water pipe causes our house’s floor to collapse; our spouse develops a serious illness) it’s easy to snort at the idea that we should consider ourselves fortunate (“count our blessings”).  It’s easy to *not* consider the fact that someone, somewhere around the world (possibly even in our own community) could look at what we might dramatically think of as our nightmare, and to them, it’s a dream.  We have a roof over our heads, an abundance of material possessions, indoor plumbing, antibiotics, and a palm-shaped device which helps us communicate with others, watch cat videos, and search the sum of human knowledge.

 

 

I’m certain that moiself  doesn’t fully understand the concept of negative visualization, because my first thought when I head the terms was, I don’t want to engage in this – I get enough of it from the daily news.   I don’t want appreciate what I have by imagining how things could be worse.  My “writer’s mind,” (imaging and trying out all possible scenarios of a story) already tends to go in that direction, thank you very much.  But, moiself  supposes, if negative visualization were done intentionally – as part of a meditative practice to give you perspective on present circumstances – it could be quite useful.

I was reminded of my own experience with living the dream – someone else’s:

Dateline: a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (late 1980s).  My housemate and I are living in a rented cottage, situated behind the landlord’s son’s house, in Palo Alto.  My bedroom is the slant-floored, enclosed (and un-insulated) back porch of what was originally constructed as a one-bedroom cottage.  The cottage’s kitchen (the kitchen closet, LP and I call it) literally cannot accommodate two people standing side by side.

 

Ours had a smaller yard but better siding.

 

My housemate is also my friend; we are both “foodies,” and regularly get together with another friend, PF, for theme dinners, which we take turns hosting.   [4]   On this night PF is hosting; she has chosen a date where her “roommates” are out.  For the past year PF has been living with her sister’s family (sister,  husband, two teenaged daughters), in one of the wealthiest of Bay Area suburbs (Atherton).  PF’s sister’s house, a large, craftsman-style, three story mansion filled with art and artifacts collected from her sister’s travels, is stunningly beautiful.  LP and I can barely hide our admiration – or control our drool – as we survey its spacious, well-appointed kitchen.

A couple of hours into our dinner, as we begin to clean up the kitchen, PF’s sister and her family return to their home (from whatever activity they’d been doing which got them out of the house and gave PF the chance to invite friends over).  PF introduces us to her sister’s family.  They are all beautiful people, strikingly attractive in both physique, visage, and personality.  PF later tells me (I had to ask) that Sister and Husband have a great relationship and truly are each other’s best friend.     [5]

Oh, really? That’s too bad so nice.

Petty, petty moiself  had hoped for a cliché, along the lines of, money can’t buy happiness.  I wanted to see that these are people who are rich in things, but miserable (or at least lacking) in their personal relationships.  Nope.  Looks like they got it all.

As LP and I help PF clean up our dinner dishes, I engage in friendly conversation with PF’s sister, who excuses herself after a few minutes to join her husband in their study.  She and her husband are going to plan their next vacation to Peru.

On our drive back to our cottage, LP and I engage in stunned conversation about what we’ve just seen: The Good Life ®, which we so obviously do not have.  I silently compare our friend’s sister’s evening activities with what awaits me when I return home: turning on the miniscule portable electric heater I purchased which (barely) keeps the container of hand lotion in my room from freezing.

LP and I begin listing everything PF’s sister has which we are lacking, followed by our mutual reassurances that, although we are not wealthy (and, in fact and especially in my case, barely making ends meet), “we are rich in love.”

“Could you believe that kitchen? They’re not even professional chefs.”

But, we are rich in love.

“And that bathroom, with the clawfoot tub, and the…”

Yep. We, however, are rich in love.

“And the view out the window, with their orchard and the hills and…”

We are rich in love.

“And they’ve been married over twenty years,
have two teenagers, and they look that good
and still banter and flirt with one another…”

LP begins to rattle off a list of our family and friends who value us, until moiself  feels compelled to point out the obvious:

“Yes, we have family and friends who value us; we are rich in love.
They, too, are rich in love…and, they’re rich.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Seasonal Scenery

It’s too beautiful a day to be inside and write; moiself  needs to get outside and kick through some leaves.  I suggest y’all do the same, right now.

 

 

Except, what if you’re living somewhere without quick access to the deciduous foliage show of autumn (like the above, which I can see out my window)?  Maybe you’re in the Southwest, and the plants surrounding you don’t have leaves.  Maybe the flora adjacent to your locale consists of chollas, saguaros, barrel cacti, prickly pears? 

Do cacti have any kind of seasonal shedding of their…uh, they don’t have leaves, so I guess it would be, their spines?

 

 

I’m trying to imagine that scenario:

Moiself  (or yourself), living in the Arizona desert, calling out to a friend:

“Would you look at that pile of spines underneath the saguaro grove?!  What a stunning panoply of…uh, browns and tans. Don’t you want to just wade through them, to get into the Fall spirit?

(kick kickOuch!
(kick kick) Yikes!
(kick kick shuffle shuffle) Oooh, that smarts!”

I suggest y’all do the same, right now.    It occurs to me that I’ve given you Southwestern and/or desert dwellers advice that you can’t follow.  Well, that’s what you get for living in a state where you have to steal other people’s water.    [6] 

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Rich People Edition

One hundred years ago everyone owned a horse, and only rich people had cars.
N
ow, everyone has a car and only rich people have horses.
My, how the stables have turned.

The genie asked, “What’s your first wish?”
Cathy exclaimed, “I wish I was rich!”
The genie said, “Okay; granted. What’s your second wish?”
Rich exclaimed, “I want lots of money!”

What do you call a rich European architect who goes bankrupt?
Baroque.

What do you call wealthy garbage men?
The Filthy Rich.

What do kind of nuts do rich people wear on their feet?
Cashews.

 

*   *   *

May you remember what it’s like to kick through a pile of autumn leaves;
May your dream of living the life you dream of living not be a dream;
May George Takei survive a successful surgery to remove the proverbial burr
from under his saddle of resentment;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] along with several of the ST:TOS supporting players

[2] Imagine, anyone saying that about an actor.

[3] Not until he was 68, and such a revelation couldn’t really harm his career.

[4] One of the themes was “Food you might  be embarrassed to admit you love.” I made my grandmother’s salmon loaf.

[5] PF did express some concern that her nieces were growing up not realizing what advantages they had and were taking their good life for granted.

[6] OOOOOH, throwing some shade down there.  I *do* have friends who are dear to me, who live in Arizona.

The Certain Color Of Shirt I’m Not Wearing

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Department Of Jeff Bezo’s Minions Do Not Know Star Trek: TOS Lore

As delighted as moiself  was to see that Captain Kirk ( William Shatner ) finally  [1]   got to go into space (via Wednesday’s Blue Origin spacecraft ), I was gobsmacked to view the pictures being posted online, of Shatner and his fellow Blue Origin crew members.  Shatner was wearing a yellow green shirt; the others wore red shirts.

 

 

Yes, red shirts.   [2]

This is a bad omen, moiself  thought to moiself, before my second thought kicked in:

This *has* to be a photoshopped joke.  And a good one, at that.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Artistic License

Dateline: Saturday mid-morning, hiking in the trails in the hills around the Portland Audubon Sanctuary with MH.  ‘Twas a beautiful day, with that combination of the evergreen fir and leaf-dropping deciduous scenery that seems unique to the Pacific Northwest.  We were pleasantly surprised to have the trail to ourselves.

After our hike I decided to appreciate the port-o-potty in the Audubon parking lot.   Moiself  had left my phone at home; thus, I had to prevail upon MH to take a picture of the drawing someone had done on the inside of the p-o-p door.

The picture, which MH and I dubbed Pizza Man, illustrates the importance of punctuation, and how the lack of it can lead to misunderstandings…or just mysteries.

 

 

Whaddya think? What message was the honeypot vandal artist trying to convey, armed with only his imagination and a black Sharpie ®?

Moiself can think of several possibilities, including:

*  Pizza Man is speaking as a god, who is apologizing for…something.  In which case it should read, “Sorry,” god;

* The artist is apologizing to his god, for having drawn a human face so strangely that it resembles a slice of pizza with eyes and a mouth;

* Pizza Man is the speaker – he is apologizing to his deity for what he has done or is about to do (in the outhouse, or elsewhere)?

* Pizza Man not actually a pizza, but someone who has disfigured himself by consuming so much pepperoni that the little greasy sausage rounds are sprouting on his face, and thus is apologizing to his god for his gluttony;

* The artist is apologizing to anyone who views his drawing and mistakenly thinks it is of a Pizza god.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Last Time

“For everything you do, there will be a last time you do it. This is a direct consequence of your mortality.  Because you will someday die, there will be a last time you tie your shoes, pay your taxes, and eat chocolate….

Sometimes people know they’re doing something for the last time. This is the case with the condemned prisoner eating his last meal. More commonly though, people do something without realizing this is the last time they will do it. They instead act on the assumption that they will do the thing again in the future, perhaps hundred of more times.

Along these lines, consider the last time you played hopscotch, the last time you made a phone call with a rotary phone…
Did you realize at the time that it was the last time that you would do those things?  Realize too that’s it’s possible you have eaten chocolate for the last time – I sincerely hope that this isn’t the case, but only time will tell.”
( excerpt from “The Last Time Meditation” )

 

“Like, I’m supposed to take a selfie with *this*?”

 

Can you remember the last time you ____

* wore a diaper instead of “big boy/big girl” pants?
* rode a tricycle when you were a child, before graduating to a two-wheeler bike?
* played hopscotch or tetherball on an elementary school playground?
* aced (or flunked) a high school test?
* told a joke to your (now deceased) grandparent?
* used a rotary telephone to make a call?
* used a typewriter (manual or electric) to type a school paper, or office memo?
* rented a DVD from Blockbuster?
* went to a huge, arena-style concert by your favorite rock band, whose
drummer later died after he choked on his own vomit
members are now either deceased or retired?
* copied a document from your computer onto a floppy disc?

And if you can remember, do you recall thinking, “Hey, what if this is the last time I _____ (ride a tricycle; tell a joke to Grandma….)?”

For the last year or so I’ve been using a meditation app developed by neuroscientist, philosopher, author Sam Harris. The Waking Up  app has a variety of features, including

* a short daily guided meditation (11 – 13 minutes duration)
*  a series of guided meditations on different subjects (Contemplative Action; The Spectrum of Awareness;
Consolations; Meditation for Children….)
* Q & As with Jack Kornfield and other meditation/mindfulness teachers;
*
 lessons on the fundamentals of meditation
* a simple meditation timer, which you can set for any length

When I use the app,    [3]   moiself  typically either listens the daily meditation, or does my own meditation with the app’s timer.  Earlier this week I scrolled through the app’s practices, and one title caught my eye:  a series of twenty-two short talks – “The Stoic Path, by William B. Irvine – on the philosophy and practical applications of stoicism.

 

 

Philosophy professor and author Irvine offers a modern take on stoicism, which we philosophy laypersons often misunderstand as per our limited experience with the subject (15 minutes on Marcus Aurelius in our Intro to Philosophy class, and we’re all experts).  If asked to picture or define a stoic I bet your first thought (along with moiself’s ) would be of a person who is so even-keeled as to be almost detached – someone seemingly unaffected by the downs – and ups – of life.

However, In the philosophical realm, a Stoic is someone who cultivates a world view wherein one’s personal ethics are informed by stoic virtues, logic, and understandings on the natural world.

 

“Please tell me the segue to rotary phones is just around the corner….”

 

I’m at the very beginning (day four) of the series, and am enjoying Irvine’s expositions.  He includes stories from his own personal and family life to illustrate how techniques of stoicism offer a road map  [4]  toward equanimity – by minimizing worry and focusing our mental and emotional efforts on what we can control, by learning how to deal with the inevitable “insults” of grief and loss, and aging, by putting into perspective the temporal and ultimately ephemeral temptations of power, fame and fortune.

Moiself  finds it quite interesting, and also an expanded take on somewhat familiar territory.  The virtues (translate: sound Life advice) espoused by stoicism remind me of Buddhist and mindfulness tenets – from what I’ve listened to so far, there is a good deal of common ground between them.  Check it out, if you’re interested.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Things For Somebody Else To Do

OK, calling all one-panel cartoonists…or anyone who can draw better than I can.  [5]

While listening to The Last Time  moiself  got a picture in my head, of a scenario I thought might make a good comic strip:

A prison guard enters a Death Row prison cell. He places a food tray containing a traditional last meal – grilled steak, fried chicken, a loaded baked potato, and a double hot fudge sundae – in front of a prisoner who is scheduled for execution later that evening.
The prisoner waves off the tray with, “No thanks; I’m watching my cholesterol.”

You’re welcome.

 

This is how my artist’s rendition would turn out.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Musings Apropos Of Nothing

Speaking of getting all philosophical on your ass, I have many questions dealing with the Mysteries of Life ®.  This one is for musician Dave Grohl:

What are Foos?
And why do you devote your exceptional musical talents to fighting them?

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Deep Thoughts Continued
Division Of The Existential Crises Of Aging

Why is it that when you’re over age fifty people stop asking you what your favorite dinosaur is?

It’s like they don’t even care anymore.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of A Sentence I Never Thought I’d Be So Happy To Hear

“And if we’re lucky, tomorrow there’ll be dead bodies!”

See footnote   [6] for context.  Or, better yet, use your imagination.

 

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day
Philosophy Edition

How can you make a philosophy student leave your porch?
Just pay them for the pizza.  [7]

Did you hear about the monk who got a Ph.D. in existential philosophy?
You might say he was a deep friar.

Why can’t kleptomaniacs understand sarcastic philosophical jokes about themselves?
Because they take things literally.

Why is it unwise to place philosophy textbooks in front of a stallion?
Because you shouldn’t put Descartes before the horse.    [8]

 

*   *   *

 

May you uncover the mystery of Port-o-Potty Pizza Man;
May someone ask you what’s your favorite dinosaur;
May you never board a spacecraft manned by a crew of all Redshirts;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] He’s 90.  Really.

[2] Redshirt is a term used by fans of Star Trek to refer to the ST characters who wear red Starfleet uniforms – typically, security guards or other characters who are expendable, and often killed, after having utterred only a line or two of dialogue (or sometimes none at all).

[3] Not quite daily. I’ve other meditation apps which also have timers, guided sessions, ambient music….

[4]  Is that too dated of an analogy?  Maybe I should use, “GPS”?

[5] Which would be anyone who can hold a pencil in their hands. Son K has drawn some good comic strips over the years; maybe I should ask him.

[6] Uttered by the exterminator, whom I affectionately think of as “Rat Man,” as he was explaining how he would be baiting and setting the traps he’d laid in our house’s crawlspace and then returning next day to retrieve the results.  (The traps had been laid down several days ago, baited but not set – this lets the rats [that have invaded our crawlspace] get used to the traps and think that they are a safe source of yummy peanut butter).

[7] No footnote necessary here.

[8] I certainly can’t end this with #6 being the last footnote.

The Book I’m Not Recommending To Everyone

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What could be of the most help to you in a dangerous situation – pepper spray?  Martial arts proficiency? A concealed weapon permit?

Awareness is the most important aspect of self-defense.

How to recognize and harness our body’s intuition for danger – a sense we evolved to survive – is the subject of the book I am recommending to almost everybody.  Almost, because the book might be anxiety activating for people who’ve had recent experience with violent crimes.  Thus, my trigger warning.

 

 

But for the Almost Everybody Else, ®  I highly recommend the book moiself  finally got around to reading.

For years I’ve run across references and referrals to Gavin de Becker‘s The Gift of Fear: And Other Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence.  I’ve lost count of how many times various advice columnists, and journalists covering violent crimes, have recommended or cited it.  The book even got a mention in actor/comic/writer/producer Amy Poehler’s delightful 2014 memoir.  I can’t recall the exact context; I believe it had something to do with how when a woman answers a man’s question or request with “no” – in situations ranging from business negotiations to dating – the guy persists, as if she hadn’t answered him, and attempts to elicit the response he wants instead (read: he bullies and/or manipulates you):

“Gavin de Becker talks about this in his wonderful book The Gift Of Fear.
He talks about how the word ‘no’ should be the ‘end of discussion, not the beginning of a negotiation. ‘ ”
(Any Poehler, Yes Please )

 

 

Last week I read a letter from yet another advice seeker, writing to a columnist about a personal relationship problem, and asking something along the lines of, “I am very concerned…but am I overreacting?” Part of the advice the columnist gave was to trust your own instincts, and to learn how and why to do so, read The Gift of Fear.

No one in my life is threatening or gaslighting me; I haven’t been in a workplace shooting or walked into a 7-11 just as it is about to be robbed. However, I have been in dicey situations in the past, wherein trusting my gut reaction ( “something’s really wrong here” ) and paying attention kept me safe.  Statistically, as a human,   [1]   I am likely to encounter such situations again, be they personal (targeted and hassled by a stranger on public transit) or coincidental (walking into a mini-mart just as a robbery is about to take place).  So, I let this other person’s question be my own “trigger” for reading The Gift of Fear. And now,  I’m recommending it to *everybody.*   [2]  

 

 

Gavin de Becker is an American author and specialist in security issues and threat assessment.  He founded a private security firm and works as a consultant to everyone from governments, large corporations, public figures, and private individuals.  He was instrumental in developing the MOSAIC threat assessment systems, which evaluates threats in a variety of situations (e.g., threats in the workplace; threats by students against other students and/or school staff; threats against judges and other judicial officials; threats made to celebrities and public officials; stalking and domestic abuse).

The premise of GdB’s TGOF is that our (unfortunately, often discounted) intuition is a far better judge than our logical mind when it comes to recognizing and reacting to – and learning to anticipate and escape from as much as possible – dangerous situations.  Simply put, his aim is to teach you how to avoid people who will do you harm.

This intro is from the book’s blurb on Amazon (my emphasis):

True fear is a gift.
Unwarranted fear is a curse.
Learn how to tell the difference.

A date won’t take “no” for an answer. The new nanny gives a mother an uneasy feeling. A stranger in a deserted parking lot offers unsolicited help. The threat of violence surrounds us every day. But we can protect ourselves, by learning to trust—and act on—our gut instincts.

…this empowering book…shows you how to spot even subtle signs of danger—before it’s too late. Shattering the myth that most violent acts are unpredictable, de Becker…offers specific ways to protect yourself and those you love, including…how to act when approached by a stranger…when you should fear someone close to you…what to do if you are being stalked…how to uncover the source of anonymous threats or phone calls…and more. Learn to spot the danger signals others miss.

The world we live in can be dangerous, especially for women, whom, TGOF claims, evolved a higher sensitivity toward intuition – that is, picking up nonverbal cues –  than men. That skill was critical for our female homo sapiens ancestors to survive in a world where they were generally smaller and less muscular than men: they needed to quickly detect who around them was “safe” and who was a threat (to them, and to their children).

 

 

“It may be hard to accept its importance, because intuition is usually looked upon by us thoughtful Western beings with contempt.  It is often described as emotional, unreasonable, or inexplicable.  Husbands chide their wives about ‘feminine intuition’ and don’t take it seriously.  If intuition is used by a women to explain some choice she made or a concern she has, men roll their eyes and write it off…..
Americans worship logic, even when it’s wrong,
and deny intuition, even when it’s right….

Men, of course, have their own version of intuition –  not so light and inconsequential, they tell themselves, as that feminine stuff. Theirs is more viscerally named a ‘gut feeling,’ but it isn’t just a feeling. It (intuition; gut feeling) is a process more extraordinary and ultimately more logical in the natural order than the most fantastic computer calculation. It is our most complex cognitive process and at the same time the simplest.”
( TGOF Chapter 1: In The Presence of Danger )

“Intuition” or “a gut feeling” is your body’s and mind’s response to thousands of years evolution, of picking up on cues which alert you that something’s off.  GdB offers case studies of violent crimes, going through a step-by-step dissection of the situation with the survivors who said, regarding their feeling of impending doom, “I don’t know where it came from/it came from out of the blue.”  By asking specific questions, GdB helped them to see that their feeling of fear didn’t just come out of the blue; rather, their minds noticed an A-B-C-D list of aberrant or “off” behaviors, which their guts put together.

The Gift of Fear aims to teach you to listen to your instincts and heed them. Trust your gut; don’t suppress your intuition.  Don’t worry about hurting some stranger’s feelings or “being judgmental;” don’t endanger yourself to “be polite” – all of which are particular traps for women, who are socialized to “be nice” and “don’t make a fuss.”

Although many of the incidents recounted in TGOF are hair-raising, the book’s intent is not to scare you.  The message is:  Don’t be afraid; do be *aware.*

 

 

It’s not that GdB advises readers what clothing to wear or where not to go (although he cites taking common sense precautions, as in, should the businessman walking alone late at night through a dicey neighborhood known for strong arm robberies really be flashing his expensive Rolex?).  Rather, he presents ways where we can all learn to pay attention to the things we should be noticing, and offers strategies as to how we can choose to react.  His advice is not earth-shatteringly new, but it’s presented more succinctly and effectively than I recall seeing elsewhere.

So yeah, I really liked TGOF, even as moiself  recognizes the book’s knotty areas.

TGOF Problematical Issues:

* There is some dated material (including more than one mention of pay phones !?!).

* Some of his ideas may seem counter-intuitive and are likely controversial.  For example, he believes that not only do Protective [aka Restraining] Orders not help in most domestic violence/stalking situations, they are frequently the catalyst for escalating violence from the offender (GdB cites law enforcement data to back his opinion.)

* Much of the advice given is repetitive.  Seeing as how we’ve been trained to distrust or ignore our intuition, this is why (I think) he keeps repeating the salient points.

 

 

* A gender-related issue.  GdB is a strong ally for women – so much so that he has received some miffed feedback from men when he points out the prevalence of male violence.   [3]  Still, some of GdB’s advice re domestic violence situations might be taken as very subtle victim-blaming, even as he does acknowledge the reasons why a woman might not (be able to) choose to leave a violent home.

This is a judgement I moiself  struggle with. I am a strong believer in the wisdom behind the adage, “Fool me once; shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”  If I stay after a first violent encounter, am I not resigning myself to being the victim again?  GbD says as much.

However, he is also a long-time advocate for women, and in the partner-abuse cases he cites (the book is filled with case stories of and interviews with crime survivors), I truly believe his experience drives what could initially be seen as harsh – but is in fact is very good and even life-saving – advice.  He proceeds from the premise that all people, even abused women, are not just flotsam, and can be empowered:

“Though leaving is not an option that seems available to many battered women, I believe that the first time a woman is hit, she is a victim and the second time, she is a volunteer.
Invariably, after a television interview or speech in which I say this, I hear from people who feel I don’t understand the dynamic of battery, that I don’t understand the ‘syndrome.’ In fact, I have a deep and personal understanding of the syndrome,   [4]    but I never pass up an opportunity to make clear that staying is a choice.
Of those who argue that it isn’t, I ask: Is it a choice when a woman finally does leave, or is there some syndrome to explain leaving as if it too is involuntary? I believe it is critical for a women to view staying as a choice, for only then can leaving be viewed as a choice and an option.
( TGOF Chapter 10: Intimate Enemies [domestic violence].
GdB emphasis, my emphases )

 

 

Gdb also decries the disturbing scenarios we have about romance.  Our culture’s myths, literature, and stories told by TV shows and movies, have devolved into a formula (into a drug, I’d go so far to call it), which is marketed to both women and men as romantic. In this formula, a male’s aggressive behavior and stalking – so creepily and mistakenly labeled as “persistence” –  is rewarded and even celebrated:

“This Hollywood formula could be called Boy Wants Girl, Girl Doesn’t Want Boy, Boy Harasses Girl, Boy Gets Girl.

Many movies teach that if you just stay with it, even if you offend her, even if she says she wants nothing to do with you, even if you’ve treated her like trash (and sometimes because you’ve treated her like trash), you’ll get the girl…..

There’s a lesson in real-life stalking cases that young women can benefit from learning: persistence only proves persistence – it does not prove love.
The fact that a romantic pursuer is relentless doesn’t mean you are special – it means he is troubled.”

 ( TGOF Chapter 11: “I Was Trying to Let Him Down Easy” [Date stalking/violence] )

 

“This isn’t a movie; no means no.”

 

GdB tells many stories in TGOF, involving both institutions and individuals, wherein warning signs (re violence-prone people) were ignored, and tragedies followed.  Some of the stories can be hard to contemplate.  But, as the author emphasizes repeatedly, his aim is not to frighten, but to *enlighten.*  And he acknowledges that in almost all cases, from a manager ignoring signs that a worker was intent on shooting his officemates to an aggressive suitor who becomes a wife-beating husband,

“…the people involved….were doing the best they could with the tools they had at the time.  If they’d had the knowledge you (readers of the book) now have, I believe they’d have made different choices….
my observations are not about blame, but about education.”   [5]

 

 

*   *   *

Last Sunday eve, when I was just a few chapters into the book, son K joined MH and I for dinner.  I mentioned that moiself  was reading TGOF and could tell that I would likely be recommending it to all. We had interesting dinner table conversation centered around the most striking of what I consider to be the book’s problematic areas, which is:

* We (Americans) have a racially-directed fear response. How are we supposed to tell the difference between our systemic, racist social conditioning and our true, useful intuition?

Excuze-moi, but some truthfulness in narration is called for. We *could* have had an interesting conversation about those issues.  Ahem.  I began to relay GdB’s points about paying attention to fear and intuition, and in their zeal to point out something they’d both simultaneously thought of, MH and K interrupted me. They did not wait to see if moiself  was going to bring up the problem of instinct being mistaken for internalized racism (I was).  They also didn’t seem to notice that I had snapped at them (“Let me finish!”) before they astutely (in their minds) pointed out that problem with the gut-feeling-heeding.  It wasn’t exactly mansplaining;  it was…manterrupting?

 

 

Nevertheless….

What about the fact that our instincts and gut reactions might, in some cases, be based in prejudice and stereotypes?  What about the fact that police officers (of any background) often react to a gut feeling which tells them that a black man, no matter what he is doing ( just walking down the street or driving a car, FFS! ) is inherently more dangerous than a white man?

I told my menfolk that as I was reading the book moiself  too wondered about the gut feeling-racism issue.  Seeing as how I was just into the first few chapters, I was expecting GdB to address the issue later on.

Except that, he didn’t.

 

 

Study after study has shown that White Americans (both men and women) experience a gut fear response to the sight of Black men in certain situations. As a Criminal Justice major back in the day,  [6]  I encountered the statistics that African-American men commit more violent crime than White American men –  BUT – those statistics also showed that those same violent crimes are overwhelmingly directed at and experienced by other Black men, and that most violent crime is intra-, not inter-, racial.

I wasn’t sure if those statistics still held true.    [7]   Perhaps GdB can be excused for not addressing “race” on that basis: he was aware of the stats when he wrote the book, and since most violent acts are perpetrated by members of the same ethnic group as their victims, identifying a victim’s and/or perpetrator’s ethnicity was, in his mind, superfluous.

Or, perhaps I’m trying to rationalize GdB’s neglect of this issue and/or explain it to myself, other than to say that GdB himself just doesn’t know how to resolve the prejudice/instinct dilemma.  Regardless of why he didn’t do so, the two-ton, rainbow-colored, gender-inclusive elephant in the room is that most of us have a racially-motivated fear response. It would do us well to recognize that, when it comes to trusting our instincts. 

Having said that….in the heat of the moment, I’m likely to trust my instincts (this guy is giving off creepy vibes) regardless of skin color, and err on the side of offending someone/being called bigoted or other names.  Hey, better alive and insulted than dead but “woke.”  Still, it’s a crappy dilemma, a problem for which I’ve yet to read a good solution.  Someone much smarter and wiser than moiself  needs to figure out this shit.

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Violent Crime Edition

Uh…maybe something totally unrelated is called for, to lighten this up.
Make that, Punz For The Day, Kitties and Pirates Edition

What’s a cat’s favorite color?
Purrple.

Why don’t pirates need to go on vacation?
They get all the arrr and arrr they need at work.

Why don’t felines do internet shopping?
They prefer catalogues.

What is a one-legged pirate’s favorite  restaurant?
IHOP.

 

Shiver me tim-purrs…and please don’t encourage her.

*   *   *

May you trust your gut feelings;
May you educate your mind and gut so that your instincts are trustworthy;
May you err on the side of keeping yourself from harm;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] And particularly, as a human *woman.*

[2] Keeping in mind your own capacity for being exposed to some frightening stories. And sorry for the crappy book jacket picture.

[3] Sorry, dudes, but the guy has the sad statistics on his side.

[4] de Becker survived a childhood which was filled with domestic abuse.  His unstable mother was abused by multiple husbands; she in turn threatened and abused her son, tried to shoot at least one of her abusive partners, and also turned the gun on her son.  GdB’s survival, due in part to the kind adults he credited with taking interest in and mentoring him, led to his interest in the field of recognizing threats and preventing violence.

[5] Chapter 9: “Occupational Hazards (Violence in the workplace).”

[6] A pre-law major who later decided against law school.  You’re welcome.

[7] I looked ’em up, and they do, as per the latest Department of Justice figures, compiled by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting and reported here.

The Movie I’m Not Seeing

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Department Of How Did This Happen?

It’s October, y’all!

( design from The Brights logo )

*   *   *

Department Of A Reason To Rejoice:

Mary Roach has another book out.

 

 

“Join ‘America’s funniest science writer’…on an irresistible investigation into the unpredictable world where wildlife and humans meet.
What’s to be done about a jaywalking moose? A bear caught breaking and entering? A murderous tree?…. as New York Times best-selling author Mary Roach discovers, the answers are best found…in the curious science of human-wildlife conflict, a discipline at the crossroads of human behavior and wildlife biology.”
(excerpts from book blurb for “Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law” )

I just finished Fuzz, and now an armed with a plethora of animal-human encounter trivia with which to annoy entertain friends and family.  Previous books by Roach (which I have read and highly recommend) include

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers;

Gulp: Adventures On The Alimentary Canal;

Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife;

Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex;

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void.   [1]

The thing about Roach: not only is her writing informative, amusing and accessible, even her footnotes are thought-provokingly droll.  One of my favorites in Fuzz is re “Compound W,” which was a code name used for ricin   [2]  during WWII by the National Defense Research Committee, which was doing experiments in a quest for new rat poisons.  [3] 

“Did the makers of the wart-removal product Compound W realize this when they named their product? I don’t know, because Prestige Brands, which owns Compound W, doesn’t return calls, their online media query form is a dead-end, and they’re not on Twitter.
But while we’re on the topic of inappropriate names, let’s consider “Prestige Brands.”  Because here are some more of their prestige brands: Fleet enemas, Nix for lice, Beano for flatulence, URISTAT, Nōstrilla decongestant, Summer’s Eve douche, Boil-Ease, Efferdent denture cleaner, and Boudreaux’s Butt Paste.”
(footnote from Chapter 8, “The Terror Beans: The Legume as Accomplice To Murder,”
( Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law )

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Can You Guess Who Is The Diplomat In My Family?

Last week a cousin of MH’s sent an email to MH’s extended family, to suss out interest in a family reunion the cousin is organizing for Spring 2022.  MH’s cousin wrote that recipients of the email should feel free to ask questions, make comments, etc.

This cousin is a Good Person. ® The location for the reunion he’s planning is his town of residence, a city widely known as the most liberal in the state.  However, the state is Texass.  Thanks in part to my recent blog post, y’all know how moiself  feels about that.

MH’s and my reactions were similar.  Here is mine, which I shared only with MH:

I will attend nothing held in Texas….
Please feel free to pass that along – even the more liberal residents in Austin need to know what Texas voter suppression and anti-reproductive choice policies are costing them (yeah, like our family not coming is a *big* loss to their tourism, but still….).

I also suggested to MH that, since the reunion organizer requested feedback, MH share his opinion.  And he did, succinctly and eloquently:

This is probably not what you meant when you included the word “comment,” but while I would enjoy seeing all of you, I’m currently not of a mind to spend my time or money in Texas.
I know that Governor Abbott and the state legislators won’t care that I find their actions repugnant enough to avoid the state… but I will.

Miss Tammy Wynette her-own-self couldn’t have been prouder of her man than I was of MH, when I read his reply.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Movie I’m Deliberating Seeing

The Eyes of Tammy Faye.  It’s about the rise and fall of televangelists Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker, and their religious broadcasting empire, in the 1970s-80s.

Those of you us who are old enough may remember how Tammy Faye became a cultural “thing” (and also, in a delightful twist as per religious conservatives’ antipathy to LGBTQ folk, an icon to drag queens), due in part to her liberal (sorry) use of eye cosmetics.

 

 

Here’s the thing: I’ve enjoyed the work of the movie’s two lead actors, Jessica Chastain and Andrew Garfield.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen either of them give less than a terrific performance, which I can also say about another actor in the movie, Vincent D’Onofrio, who plays Jerry Falwell.

Here’s the second thing.

 

 

Does moiself  really want to spend two hours with those characters? As in, the people…

*  who are responsible for getting the Religious Right in bed with conservative politics?

* who preached against the supposed immorality of others while they themselves were embroiled in sexual and financial scandals, robbing their supporters blind and demonizing ethnic, sexual and gender minority groups in order to spread fear and ratchet up their quest for donations?

* who included the Bakkers’ fellow carnival barking snake oil salesmen televangelists:

* Jimmy Swaggart

(Moiself’s  favorite Swaggartism: “The Lord told me it’s flat none of your business,” Swaggart said, when confronted with evidence of his dalliance with prostitutes, despite Swaggart having exposed the extramarital affairs of a fellow Assembly of God minister, which led to that minister being defrocked   [4]    )

*  Jerry Fallwell,    [5]

(a mere sampling of Fallwell’s decades of WTF?!? pronouncements include,
* “AIDS is not just God’s punishment for homosexuals; it is God’s punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals.”
* “The true Negro does not want integration… He realizes his potential is far better among his own race.”
* “If you’re not a born-again Christian, you’re a failure as a human being.”
* “The National Organization of Women is the National Organization of witches.”)

* Pat Robertson

(* “The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.”
* ” You’ve got a couple of same-sex guys kissing, do you “like” that? Well, that makes me want to throw up. To me, I would punch ‘vomit’ not ‘like,’ but they don’t give you that option on Facebook.”
* “So, can demonic spirits attach themselves to inanimate objects? The answer is yes. But I don’t think every sweater you get from Goodwill has demons in it…but it isn’t going to hurt you to rebuke any spirits that happen to have attached themselves to those clothes.”
* “Just like what Nazi Germany did to the Jews, so liberal America is now doing to the evangelical Christians! It’s no different! It is the same thing! It is happening all over again! It is the Democratic Congress, the liberal-based media and the homosexuals who want to destroy the Christians! Wholesale abuse and discrimination and the worst bigotry directed toward any group in America today! More terrible than anything suffered by any minority in history! … And it is happening here and now! Same thing, but directed against Christians by the liberal government and media! Send money today or these liberals will be putting Christians like you and me in concentration camps!”  [6]  )

 

 

Deliberation over.

Hell, that was easy.  The answer to Thing Two is a resounding, fuck no.

*   *   *

Department Of Cancel Culture Cookbooks

My latest cookbook acquisition: Thug Kitchen: Eat Like You Give a F*ck.

 

 

I’d read a recommendation for the cookbook in a plant-based cuisine magazine.  The cookbook takes its name from a food website – make that, *took* its name.

Reading through the book I found many recipes I was eager to try, and my sides were sore from laughing at how the authors had written the “potty mind” thoughts I often have when thinking or talking about food (or anything, for that matter).  When I googled the book to learn a bit more about Thug Kitchen,  moiself  discovered  (yet another) New Controversy ® about which I’d been previously unaware: digital blackface.

“Popular vegan cooking website ‘Thug Kitchen,’, which has published three vegan cookery books under the brand, has announced it has changed its name to Bad Manners following years of criticism. Bad Manners, which is run by its Los Angeles-based founders Matt Holloway and Michelle Davis, has stated that it will discontinue the use of ‘Thug Kitchen’ as the title of all of its previous cookbooks and aims ‘closely re-evaluate’ the content shared on its site.
The duo has relied heavily on their use of Black English and hip-hop vernacular in the captions of their posts and cookbooks, which has long drawn criticism from many who have accused them of ‘digital blackface’ and cultural appropriation.
‘Thug Kitchen’ first faced controversy after an interview published to promote their first cookbook revealed that Holloway and Davis were white, as many believed that the blog’s creator was a POC. Followers were under the assumption that the use of the term ‘thug,’ which is a racially charged term often used to portray Black males as violent criminals, was an attempt to reclaim the racially-charged word. In more recent years, the term has been reclaimed by hip-hop artists such Tupac, leading followers to believe the bloggers were trying to redefine the term to promote veganism to communities of colour.

( ” ‘Thug Kitchen’ rebrands following accusations of cultural appropriation and ‘digital blackface,’ ” veganfoodandliving.com  June 2020 )    [7]

 

 

Moiself  didn’t know (or care about) the background of the authors when I purchased the book.  I still don’t care what “color” they are;  I do have yet another opportunity to ponder That Thing ®, of taking a pejorative or “forbidden” word and modifying or elevating it (depending on your POV) by using it: e.g., Black rappers and comedians who use the n-word; women who affectionately call each other bitch.  Which got me to thinking: if the cookbook authors considered themselves to be badass women, would I object to them calling their book/website, Cunt Cookery?  [8]

“Not my chickens – not my circus.” That’s what friend CC might say, re this particular version of the brouhaha about who gets to use what terminologies AND who gets to be the police of such things.    [9]    What counts for moiself  is that the Thug Kitchen recipes are tasty and “doable.”  Also, the recipes’ text and descriptions are consistently (and profanely) amusing: 

“This captures the smoky flavor of a falafel without all the fucking work.”
(Spiced Chickpea wraps with tahini dressing)

“Pour all this shit together in a jar and shake the fuck out of it.
Taste and add more of whatever-the-fuck you think it needs.”
(Basic Thug Kitchen vinaigrette)

“Tired of boring-ass lettuce wraps? Try these crunchy fuckers out and remember why it’s fun to eat with your hands.”
(Yellow Split Pea and Green Onion Lettuce Wraps)

“This shit is a little complicated but well worth it. Make it when you’ve got people to
impress or when you’re really fucking lonely.”
(Mixed Mushroom and Spinach Lasagna)

“There are two kinds of people in this world: people who like enchiladas and people who
have no fucking taste.  Which are you?”
(Sweet Potato, Squash and Black Bean Enchiladas)

“Quit fucking with that tired-ass take-out. You can make better shit at home in no time.
Plus, you don’t have to put on pants to answer the door.”
(Vegetable Pad Thai)

 

 

Interesting note:  the book and its two companion cookbooks have been rebranded as Bad Manners.  The book with the original Thug Kitchen title, which I purchased a week ago new for $17.95, is going for $49 on Amazon.

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Cookbook Edition

After five years, I’ve finally finished my fresh herb cookbook.
It’s about thyme!

My other cookbook will have recipes for flatbreads and other unleavened bake goods.
I’m taking the path of yeast resistance.

The members of Aerosmith recently wrote a Chinese cookbook.
It’s titled, Wok This Way.

 

*   *   *

May you cook and eat like you give a f*ck;
May you be the diplomat in your family;
May you read at least one Mary Roach book this year;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] The last which proves that she is capable of coming up with primary book titles of more than one word.

[2] A poison found in the beans of the castor oil plant.

[3] During the war rats were “sabotaging factories, destroying food needed for our allies, and spreading disease among our armed forces.”

[4] A great word, isn’t it? I think all religious ordination rites should be referred to as “Frocking.”

[5]  Fallwell had the audacity of fronting the group he called The Moral Majority, which, as critics pointed out, was neither.

[6] This and more filth fun can be referenced at Pat Robertson’s Wikiquote page.

[7] CC’s farmer-husband has a yearly chicken circus.  I’ve seen the tents.

[8] Well, in this case, yeah.

[9] Such issues ( who “owns” language, thoughts, and ideas) are of keen interest to moiself, as regular readers of this blog know well.

The Binary Thoughts I’m Not Thinking

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Department Of I’ve Told You Before, I Can’t Make This Up This Shit

“Michael Flynn, the former national security advisor under Donald Trump, claimed during an appearance on a conservative radio program that COVID vaccines were being added to salad dressing….
‘Somebody sent me a thing this morning where they’re talking about putting the vaccine in salad dressing…..’ said Flynn.
‘These people are seriously thinking about how to impose their will on us in our society and it has to stop,’ he added. “

( “Michael Flynn claims salad dressing is being infused with COVID vaccine,”
The National Post, 9-23-21 )

 

With the right vinaigrette, I could RULE THE WORLD !!

 

*   *   *

Department Of A Blast From The Past

Fortunately, I don’t need a really big time machine to go back only two years…

 

 

…to December 2019, when I first blogged about the yogic tradition of performing 108 sun salutations to mark the change of the season (solstices and equinoxes):

Department Of If My Hamstring Muscles Are Still Sore After 36 Hours,
Have I Reached Enlightenment?

Yoga Class:
“Why 108 Sun Salutations?”

Yoga Teacher:
“It’s an auspicious number in yoga; I know 108 sounds like a lot…”

Moiself:
“That’s because it is.”

Last Sunday (12/22/19), to celebrate the winter solstice, my yoga studio held an “Om-a-thon,” which is what Someone In Charge Of Marketing ®  called an hour and a half class consisting of 108 Sun Salutations.  A sun salutation, for you non-yogis, is a yoga exercise incorporating a sequence of nine or more linked asanas, or yoga poses/postures. The asanas are linked by the breath – inhaling and exhaling with each movement – and Sun Salutations involve moving from a standing position into Downward and Upward Dog poses and then back to the standing position, with many variations and modifications.

Why 108? It’s apparently an auspicious number (in the parts of the world where yoga originated), for many reasons.  Non-woo reasons include the fact that the distance between the Sun and Earth is roughly 108 times the Sun’s diameter and ditto for the ratio of the moon’s diameter and the distance between the moon and earth – scientific realities not likely surmised when the originators of yoga decided 108 was a magic special number.

There are plenty of woo reasons for venerating the number 108, and the teacher leading the class mentioned a few of them: there are 108 Upanishads (a series of Hindu treatises ca. 800–200 BCE); there are 108 beads in a mala (a meditation tool, an idea early Christian/Catholic missionaries stole “adapted”  from the Hinduism & Buddhism, and morphed into the Catholic rosary beads    [1]     ); there are nine planets and twelve astrological signs, and 9 x 12 = 108   [2]….

Oh, and most significantly of all, a Uno deck contains 108 cards. That’s gotta be a sign.

҉       ҉      ҉


That was then; this is now.  On Wednesday I celebrated the Autumnal Equinox by doing 108 Sun Salutations at home.  How does one keep count, inquiring minds want to know?  Moiself  has a glass bowl, containing 108 small, smooth glass beads, which I keep on the dining room table. Four times a year, when I’m doing the 108 Sun Salutations (Winter Solstice; Vernal Equinox; Summer Solstice/ Autumnal Equinox) I dump out the bowl in front of my yoga mat.  At the end of each sun salutation I move one bead into the bowl.

 

 

This year I decided to do 109 sun salutations, adding my avatar (visible in the above picture) to the bead count.  It just felt like the right thing to do, and if we’re going for auspicious numbers and all, 109 is a prime.    [3]

*   *   *

Department Of Is This Either/Or…On Or Off?

Dateline: Saturday 7 am-ish, walking along a totally deserted beach – deserted in terms of fellow bipeds.  There is a light rain falling, a welcome change after a previous night’s wind/raid downpour/power outage.  Leaving the house, moiself  noticed the wind had skejewed my yard sign, which I straightened up before heading down to the beach.

I mention the yard sign because the podcast I was listening to reminded me of the sign, in a way the podcast host and producers likely didn’t intend (nor would care about, I’d imagine).  Moiself,  however, found it a fun coincidence.

The podcast, No Stupid Questions (co-hosted by research psychologist Angela Duckworth [author of Grit]  and Stephen Dubner [co-author of the Freakonomics books and host of the Freakonomics podcast] ), is one I’ve mentioned several times in this space.  This episode of NSQ, “How Can You Escape Binary Thinking?”,  made me smile from the moment I heard the title.

 

 

Angela Duckworth:
“One of my life goals is to help people *not* binarize so much…. It turns out that for almost everything that psychologists study, including things that seem categorical, they really are continuous…and you do have to, at the end of the day, either allocate a therapist for this person or not, based on a diagnosis, but if we all *knew* that the underlying phenomena were continuous for *most* things, in psychology and maybe most things in life, that would be an advance.”

Stephen Dubner:
“Plainly, there is value in binary thinking. Literally, the fundamental building block of computing, as far as I understand it, is the bit, which is short for binary digit, which is either a zero or a one, and the reason that’s useful is that it makes it easier to do huge computation, which means you require less circuitry, less cooling, things can be smaller, things can be cheaper…

AD:
“It’s a massive data compression.”

SD:
“Yeah! So, it is a heuristic for computers, but I’d like to think maybe this is one way we could be better than computers, is not having to compress.  On the other hand, I am a fan of what I believe is called, generally, categorical thinking.  I just want more categories than two….

(excerpts from NSQ episode cited above)

Although I concede its utility in certain areas, I’m not a fan of binary thinking.    [4]   The yard sign I’d previously mentioned was a product of my distaste for that kind of thought.

 

 

An employee of the sign shop where I had my yard sign designed and printed asked me if I was critiquing “those other yard signs.”  I told him that my sign was 95% just for the fun of it…and, yeah, maybe, 5% satirizing “those others:”

 

One “The Others” variant

 

I agree with most of the sentiments expressed by the variants of Those Other Signs ® …but not all of them.  There are so many complexities and nuances to the positions alluded to in various versions of Those Other Signs ® I’ve seen.  In an ideal world, I’d hope that if my neighbors wanted to know my thoughts on certain issues, instead of having to read my lawn signage and extrapolate from there, they’d ask me, and we’d have a thoughtful and civil discussion about it.

 

Yep; happens all the time.

 

For example, as per illegal/undocumented immigration.  A line like, “No Human Is illegal” is a form of data compression.  No human is illegal – what does a particular person mean, when they say or write that?  Certainly, it is a pejorative to refer to a person as illegal – is that what they are objecting to – the un-charitableness of referring to a person as “an illegal?”  Also, and just as certainly, some people do things that are illegal, including violating the immigration laws of a country.  So, what is it that the no human is illegal line is conveying or signaling to others – your position on immigration, or your concern with word choice when referring to a person who is in a country unlawfully?

Binary thinking; data compression. I didn’t have the words for it when I was younger, but the first time moiself  ran across these terms I thought, *That’s* why I never felt at home a political party – the world is so much more complex than left and right.

Alas, binary thinking/data compression seems to be the norm for politics.  “You either agree with all of these things (insert your political checklist and/or party platform) or you’re not with us,” or, expressed in another way, “You must *disagree* with *everything* promoted by The Other Side ®, or you’re not with us.”

Zero or one; on or off. Data compression is great for computing, but can be disastrous for human relations. Very few people are completely ‘”on or off,” “this or that,” as per anything. To think otherwise is to opt for the safety of categorization versus risking seeing (and dealing with) complexity.

Lest y’all think I am perfectly consistent on avoiding the pitfalls of binary thinking…

 

 

…I recognize that moiself  has my own litmus tests when it comes to certain issues. I’ve had some interesting discussions with a few people who’ve called themselves feminists but who are also anti-reproductive choice – as in, not only do they say that they personally would not have an abortion under any circumstances, they would go further and deny the choice for others.   [5]   I have not decreed to them that an anti-choice feminist isn’t actually a feminist, as I am not the boss of that word.   [6]    I have presented my take on the matter:  people make decisions all the time, about matters trivial and momentous – decisions that I sometimes don’t like or vehemently oppose.  This is part of living in a pluralistic society.  But when it comes to this particular issue, I’ll go all binary on your ass:  you either support a person’s bodily autonomy, or you don’t. 

*   *   *

Department Of What I’m Listening To…
(Sub-department Of Not That You Care….)

This would be Lindsey Buckingham’s new, self-titled album.

I mistakenly watched a rerun of a recent Stephen Colbert show where Buckingham was the musical guest – the “mistakenly part was watching the show right before bedtime.  The energy of the song Buckingham played was so infectious and the melody/lyrics so catchy, I could not get to sleep after that.

The song (“On the Wrong Side“) seems to be a meditation on looking both backward and forward, with references to life in a touring band (Fleetwood Mac’s halcyon days, I assume) and living in the present, acknowledging the passage of time.  Not the lightest of subjects, yet the rumination is encased in an incredibly catchy pop rhythm and melody, with soaring and layered harmonies. ‘Tis a song that could easily be mistaken for a new Fleetwood Mac single. 

♫  Waitin’ for the night to come
Waitin’ for the moon to rise
Wondering just what have I done
That I never realized

Time is rolling down the road
Love goes riding in a hearse
We were young and now we’re old
Who can tell me which is worse  ♫

Buckingham’s solo work reveals just how much he brought to Fleetwood Mac, and how so much of the band’s sound   [7]  was due to his influence and contributions.

I dare you to listen to On the Wrong Side and then *not* walk around having the chorus stuck in your head for the rest of the day.

♫  I’m outta pity/I’m outta time
Another city/ another crime
I’m…
on the wrong side… ♫

 

 

 

*   *   *

Q & A Punz For The Day
Popular Music Edition

Name a rock group where none of the members sings or plays music.
Mt. Rushmore.

What kind of music do bunnies like?
Hip Hop.

Why did the hearing-impaired jazz musician bring a sweet potato to rehearsal?
He thought he’d been invited to a yam session.

How many guitarists does it take to play Stairway to Heaven?
Apparently, all of them.

 

Sorry about the bicycle wheel, but I couldn’t find any yams.

 

*   *   *

May you eschew most forms of binary thinking;  [8]

May you enjoy listening to at least one song from Lindsey Buckingham;

May you embrace your humanity by holding fast to at least one binary opinion;    [9]

…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Although the Catholics halved the number to 59 beads, in perhaps an effort to claim originality or refute charges of plagiarism.

[2] Except of course/again the originators of such superstitions did not know there were nine planets…and now we all know (though some of us refuse to accept the fact) that there are not nine planets, but eight.  And longtime readers of this blog can likely surmise what I think of astrology.

[3] A prime number is a whole number which is divisible only by itself and 1.

[4] Binary thinking (urban dictionary): “Denotes a system of thought that predominantly considers things in an “either, or”, “right, wrong”, “black, white” way, ignoring any subtleties or consideration of third or more alternatives.”

[5] As in, they support making abortion illegal, or at least highly restricting its availability.

[6] Yet.

[7] In that particular configuration during 1975 – 1987, when he and Stevie Nicks joined.  There have been many, many personnel configurations in the band’s fifty-plus year history.

[8] Except when it comes to black licorice: you either hate it (correct!) or love it (so very, very, wrong).

[9] Like, the one about black licorice.

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