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The Saudis I’m Not (yet) Terrorizing

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

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

*   *   *

The Grammar cop is always on her beat.

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

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

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

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

*   *   *

Hoping the Terrorists Win This One

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

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

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

turd trophy

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

The world is our oyster…whatever that means.

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

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

REALLY

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

*   *   *

This, of course, brings me to Julia Sweeney.

facepalm

Segue smackdown!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*    *   *

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

Blue Man group

Simple Pleasures of Spring, the Sequel

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

*   *   *

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

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Song I’m Not Editing

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Life’s a beach

Dateline: Sunday morning, seven a.m., walking at Seal Beach, CA.  Was it just yesterday morning that we (MH, Belle and moiself) arose way too early to catch a flight from PDX to Long Beach? And will it be just another ten hours until we fly back to Oregon?

We came down here to attend the wedding of my niece, the second of three daughters of my older sister.  I’m exhausted from the combination of yesterday’s 3:30 a.m. wakeup call [1] and getting little sleep last night.  But, we’re staying at the beach, which energizes me, and I’m up at six.  I can’t stay in bed knowing there is an ocean two blocks away; the sunny-salty air is calling.

The boogie boarders and surfers are out, and also a good many other early risers.  Standing at the base of the pier I see booths set up on the sand just north of the pier.  The booth’s banners advertise a Beach Cleanup event, sponsored by the Surfrider Foundation.  One hundred or so yards from the booths, forty Speedo clad bipeds, looking both eager and groggy, are lined up at the back of the lifeguard headquarters, which is a rather drab, blue-gray brick building adjacent to the pier.  Ocean Beach Lifeguard Tryouts April 13 7:30 am reads a sign posted on the headquarter’s garage door.

From my viewpoint on the pier, the lifeguard candidates, at first glance, seem to be very young and very fit, and very white and male.  Upon further scrutiny I notice about eight women among them, two of whom are not blond, and a couple of non-blond male Lifeguards of Color ® . A couple of the boy-guard wannabes are carrying extra poundage; the group as a whole does not exactly resemble Baywatch [2] material.  Of course, the Baywatch boys and babes in no way resembled the kind of people you’d expect would be capable of rescuing you if you were drowning (although at least two of the show’s female lifeguards – namely, Pamela Anderson’s chest – could evidently be used as emergency flotation devices).

Baywatch

I walk out on the pier. Looking to the south I see a series of solitary beach walkers, and a group of nine people standing in a circle in the sand.  The nine are all dressed head to toe in white flowing garments, and several of them also wear some kind of white cap.  In the shadow of an unoccupied lifeguard station ~ thirty feet behind the Group of Nine, a women dressed in colors other than white is performing tai chi-ish movements.

A trawler-style boat, whose wake I can trace to an offshore oil rig, is docking at the south side of the pier.  I am close enough to hear snippets of conversations from the boat’s passengers, what appears to be a group of rig workers who have been ferried from their shift.  And I realize, in all my years of hanging out at the beach, I’ve never seen a boat use one of those under the pier docking stations.  This excites me, for some reason.  My work here is done!

Or, maybe not.

Out near the end of the pier a pelican soars overhead, performing its leisurely, circling survey of the ocean beneath.  The morning light shines off of a salmon-colored streak on its beak.  I always thought pelicans were beautiful birds, somewhat ungainly on land and thus underappreciated.  I imagine a person watching a pelican gliding over the ocean for the first time. If you hadn’t seen a pelican’s fishing technique, its sudden, awkward plummet into the sea could take you by surprise.  Uh-oh, massive flight fail – look, honey, that big deformed goose just had had a heart attack!

PELICANjpg

On the north side of the pier a life guard is piloting one of those ski-doo watercraft thingies. A passenger on the back of the craft begins placing a series of orange buoy markers about 30 feet apart, as the craft turns and runs parallel to the beach approximately a quarter mile from the shore. I’m assuming the markers are for the lifeguard tryouts.

In the hazy distant north I can see the various docking rigs and equipment associated with the Long Beach harbor – an ugly sight, but if I look forward, to the pier’s end and the open sea, or to the right, or behind me to the beach, I can pretend it’s not there.

rigs

 I think I’d have to do a lot of pretending, to return to Southern California, where I was raised.  I used to tell myself I could live in So Cal, but only at the beach, where you can pretend the rest of it [3] isn’t there or doesn’t involve you. But I know the rest of it would not be worth it, for me.

Still, walking on the beach, hearing the gentle crash of the surf and feeling the salt air in my lungs, makes me feel…  I don’t know.  It just does.

corona

 I’ll never forget the sight of my father, and especially my more reserved mother, shaking their groove thangs [4] on the dance floor at my younger sister’s wedding reception, some 27 years ago.  They just couldn’t resist joining in the fun, when the DJ played a certain song, after they watched all “the young folks” having a good time.  My father requested the DJ play that song – what he and Mom came to call “The Yahoo Song” – at least five more times that evening.   Chet and Marion Parnell looked at the other dance floor denizens and mimicked the moves, raising their hands and shouting Yahoo! during the chorus of Kool & The Gang’s “Celebrate.

 We gonna celebrate and have a good time
  It’s time to come together
 It’s up to you, what’s your pleasure?

 Everyone around the world come on!
  Yahoo!
 It’s a celebration
 Yahoo! 

A year after my sister’s wedding MH and I announced our intention to marry.  One of the first things my father said to me was, “You have to have dancing at your wedding reception, and tell the DJ to play The Yahoo Song.”

At my request the song, dedicated to the memory of Chet Parnell, was played at my niece’s reception.  I may be somewhat biased, but I think it was the most enthusiastically-participated-in dance of the evening.

All over the country, parents of college-bound high school seniors are exhaling (and possibly retching) as the college notifications arrive.  Belle’s choice [5] turned out to be the college she fell in love with when she saw the campus several years ago.

UPS

 Next year Belle will join her brother, K, at, The University of Puget Sound.  K is currently a UPS junior, studying what he and others in his major refer to as “Tiny Bio” (Micro and Cellular Biology).

There are several advantages to having your child go to a college you already know how to “navigate.”  One perk in particular stands out.  When Belle gets homesick, and by that I mean catsick, [6] she’s just a 3 hour train ride away from seeing her beloved if brain-damaged intellectually challenged buddy, Crow.

CROW

Animal-related segue: or, a pet peeve apropos of nothing

I really, really, get my butt frosted by those oldies radio stations that rev my motor by playing the iconic, pounding, five-note intro to Chicago’s 25 or 6 to 4…until two minutes into the song I realize that they’re playing the abbreviated version.  NOOOOOOOOOOO!  The fact that they EDIT OUT the amazing electric guitar solo – which features a wah-wah pedal by Chicago guitarist Terry Kath , about whom Jimi Hendrix said to another Chicago band member, “your guitarist is better than me,”  – is a waterboard-worthy offense.

May those who listen to the soundtrack to your life clamor for the long version, and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

[1] It was bad enough that 4:30 am was the set wake-up time, and then MH’s alleged “smart” phone did a dumb thing and decided to wake me up earlier.  MH, of course, slept through it.

[2] A cheesy ’89-’99 TV series about an improbably nubile group of lads and lasses who patrolled the beaches of LA County, keeping the beaches free of crime, drowning, and less photogenically endowed inhabitants.

[3] traffic, pollution; congestion; overpopulation of what is, essentially, a desert; Orange County Republicans….

[4] Or the AARP-approved version of such.

[5] made easier by the four year academic scholarship the school dangled in front of her.

[6] MH and I have few illusions as to which household member Belle will miss the most.

The Horses I’m Not Scaring

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…the passengers set sail that day
 For a three hour tour, A THREE HOUR TOUR….♫

2 Tots, a Sailboat and a Storm Over Parenting was the headline that caught my attention when I opened Tuesday’s New York Times. The article, about The Kaufmans, husband and wife “sailors,” [1] whose planned trans-Pacific sailboat trip with their two young children ended in “a complicated rescue effort orchestrated by the California Air National Guard and the United States Navy and Coast Guard” when the Kaufmans, faced with a stalled boat and a seriously ill child, called for help.

Mama Kaufman blogged about the (mis) adventure, including posting her pre-trip misgivings (“I think this may be the stupidest thing we have ever done”).  Her in-transit posts included such details as how the baby was “rolling around and unable to sleep because of the ship’s violent pitch,” and how poo-poo pee-pee diapers were being washed in the galley sink.

Reactions to the blog posts ranged from kudos from free-range-style sympathizers (the parents were doing the right thing by following their passion and involving their children) to outrage (report these irresponsible people to CPS and take away their kids!) from parents and others – including Papa Kaufman’s brother – who found the decision to take young children on such a trip ridiculous and asinine at best.

This is not the first time I’ve read about parents taking children on what they hope will be a Swiss Family Robinson-type adventure.  The adults’ excuses motivations typically include the premise that they will take their children on a trip “they’ll never forget.” However, considering anecdotal and neuroscientific research regarding the inability of humans to retrieve episodic memories before the age of four, [2] the Kaufmans might have considered the fact that they were taking their one and three year old children – yes, one and three years old – on a trip the kids would likely never remember.

Given the everyone-can-have-their-15-minutes-of-LOOK-AT-ME-I’M-FAMOUS world we live in, I can’t help but think that, among the many debatable impulses behind such an escapade, the possibility of a book and/or movie and/or reality TV show about their adventure-turned-ordeal somehow figured into the Kaufman’s motivations.

There are many debate-worthy aspects to this story, including prudence of the parental decisions, the value of risk-taking, the risks inherent in everyday life we choose to ignore, and who’s going to foot the bill for the Kaufman’s expensive rescue.  All I know is, adventure, schmenture – I don’t care if they’re my closest friends or beloved family, you will never find me voluntarily inhabiting a sailboat [3] with anyone for even two days, not to mention the months it would take to cross an ocean.

*   *   *

Knowing of my fondness for linguistic innovation, my lovely and talented friend LPH alerted me to a groovy neologism, this one from her own devious mind. I told her she should have it copyrighted:

Just read an article about our local mountain lions. I’m not writing about that though. At the end in the credits was the word “Republication“, immediately it struck me: a category of where Republicans vacation! Places like the Kansas Museum of Creation, or the Pro Life Carnival in Arkansas, and what about the Pluralist Poetry Competition in Utah (when you have so many to woo, you get good at plural prose). So many places, so little time….

I’m may rethink Belle’s and my summer plans. Why settle for a mere vacation when you can have a Republication? I suggest one more stop on the itinerary:  no Republication would be complete without a pilgrimage to the canned meat that won the war .

Spam-Museum

 *   *   *

 Let’s all think about sex

 Blog readers with first-rate short term memory skills – or brain damage; it can go either way, I reckon – may remember [4] Asshole of the Day Mike Huckabee‘s comments about how women use birth control because they cannot control their libido. [5]  ‘Twas a statement so WFT?-worthy, even in context, that even Rick Santorum said Huckabee’s comments were ill-advised.  (Yes, Rick Santorum).  Let’s revisit the sentiment and humor the Huckster,[6] if only for a moment.

BATSHITYes, I'm this much closer to bat guano territory.

Yes, I’m this much closer to bat guano territory.

Yo, Mikey what the Huck?

If what you said was even remotely close to the truth, wouldn’t you want out-of-control, libido-enslaved, lusty wenches to use birth control? Wouldn’t you even go so far as to offer them assistance in installing the contraceptive devices of their choice to prevent unwanted pregnancies, lest the world be glutted with their horn-dog spawned, promiscuously-produced progeny?

And now for something not completely different. A recent round of FB postings involving the ravings of People Who Think Other People – Gays,  And Those Lusty Single Women, Too –  Shouldn’t Be Having Sex ® got me to thinking about the amount of time Some People apparently spend thinking about Other People having sex.

IMHO, one of the biggest stumbling blocks to civil rights for LGBT folk is that being defined by your sexuality makes a good number of sex-negative folk think of you primarily in sexual terms.

I recall uncomfortable conversations with gay-squeamish (GS) family members, acquaintances or co-workers that reached those “aha” moments when the GS-ers, either forthrightly or obliquely, admitted that they cannot abide the idea (i.e., the pictures that come to their mind) of the way they think “those people” have sex.  And, apparently, that’s the first thing they think about, any time they hear or read the words gay or lesbian.

“Does it really matter what these affectionate people do,
so long as they don’t do it on the street and frighten the horses?”
(Beatrice “Mrs. Pat” Campbell, Victorian age British stage actress [7])

VIB

Of course, these GSers don’t have the same problem with me.  They don’t (to my knowledge) look at me and think, She’s a married woman; whoa, just imagine what she and her hubby are doing.  As a straight/married couple, MH and I get a pass on that. [8]

Speaking of passes, I’d like to pass on a bit of advice to GSers, and to all of us.  Stop looking at and/or thinking about other people in terms of (whatever you think might be) their sexual practices.  Stop it, right now.  Stop thinking about other people having sex.

There you go – you’re thinking about it again, aren’t you?!  Yeah, ick.

As I was saying…oh, goodness, gracious, great balls of fire – really, do you think about anything else?  Stop thinking about other people having sex!

I realize such advice is akin to Do Not, Whatever You Do, Form a Mental Picture of a Pink Elephant! [9] But really.  “Straight” sex, schmrait sex; gay sex, schmay sex.  Any sexual act – in any position or “performed” by any one, in a manner deemed “normal” or exotic – can be viewed as icky, or just plain silly or ludicrous, if you analyze the component, uh, components (you do what with WHAT?).

Like, what I’m thinking about right now, tee hee.

So, c’mon now, stop it.  The next time you’re in a discussion involving health care decisions and/or civil rights for someone whom you deem different from yourself, and you are distracted from the true heart of the matter by your mental images of those Someones bonking, take a deep breath and imagine yourself floating in a tank filled with chartreuse macaroni (cooked al dente, of course). Or, go for a walk, do some calisthenics, find another classic and even cliché way to redirect your misguided imagination. Stop what you’re doing and rearrange your closet – it’s probably a mess, right? Better yet, rearrange someone else’s closet, without their permission. Their reaction might should help you work off a lot of that excess, mind your own business mental energy.

Besides, just imagine what kind of kinky devices you might find in their closet.

ClosetJPG

*   *   *

 May our street behaviors keep the horses calm, and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

[1] Other/veteran mariners questioned the couple’s seaworthy credentials and experience; thus, the “s.

[2] The phenomena is called childhood amnesia.

[3] Or any “captive” quarters.

[4] From my January 24 post.

[5] “…or their reproductive system without the help of the government” – which is what Democrats want women to think, Huck awkwardly prefaced the comment.

[6] Sometimes a prudent strategy when faced with a bat shit crazy dude.

[7] Campbell uttered her oft-misquoted riposte in response to a younger actress’s insinuations re the homosexual flirting between two fellow actors.

[8] And if it’s otherwise, please folks, kindly keep those images to yourselves.

[9] Or, a pink elephant having sex. With a rainbow-colored rhinoceros.

The Woo I’m Not Speaking

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A blurb in the Sunday Oregonian‘s (3-30-14) arts section The Buzz claimed that James Patterson is the most “successful” author since January 2001 (my emphases):

“…which should come as no surprise to anyone who’s been to the beach or walked down the aisle of a plane.  Patterson, a former advertising executive…has successfully branded himself and started several new product lines with co-authors.” 

Patterson has branded himself.  Yikes.  And, ouch. 

BRAND

And he’s started “several new product lines.”  Literary integrity, schmegrity; Pulitzer, schmulitzer – it is every author’s dream, to have their own line of toiletries, kitchen cleaning supplies and/or energy drinks….

Well, no, it isn’t.  Or, at least, it didn’t used to be.  I have pissed and moaned about it decried this transformation before in these virtual pages, and will likely do so again, seeing as how, increasingly, fiction authors are advised or even expected to build “platforms” and establish recognizable “brands” – concepts once associated with shilling laundry detergent.

Oh, an elaboration/translation of the last term (“co-authors”), for those of you fortunate enough not to be able to recognize the literary shenanigans between the lines.  The reason there seem to be new “James Patterson” books out every four months is that James Patterson isn’t writing them.  He’s not the only “successful” author to go this way (yet another a dirty little secret in the best selling fiction world).  Patterson the newbie author did write his earlier works.  Now that he has established his genre and style and main/recurring character, and he comes up with an outline or premise for a new book (a 60 – 80 page “treatment,”) and those co-authors so casually mentioned?  They do the actual writing.

Co-authoring (a phenomenon akin to ghost writing ) will get you a work-for-hire-fee, while Patterson gets the credits and royalties. Occasionally co-authors get a cover credit [1](usually listed as “with” or “and “not “by”, as in Patterson’s latest credits, which feature his name prominently above the book’s title.

Not long after came across an article in a writer’s trade magazine about Patterson’s co-author arrangements, Patterson pledged to make a made a $1 million donation to independent bookstores around the country.  Nice move. So, now I have to grit my teeth and acknowledge that at least some of those trash royalties might be put to good use.

*   *   *

The connection explained.

PALTROWMARTINSeparated at birth?

Separated at birth?

A new phrase seems to have entered our ever-expanding lexicon.  By now some of the attention has died down, but last week you couldn’t swing a dead honey badger without hearing or reading about conscious uncoupling.

Don't swing me.

Don’t swing me.

Even diligent celebrity ignorers couldn’t hide from the torrent of talk show & social media quips re actor Gwyneth Paltrow’s and musician Chris Martin’s bemusing announcement, posted on Paltrow’s GOOP website under the heading, Conscious Uncoupling.

“It is with hearts full of sadness that we have decided to separate…. We have always conducted our relationship privately, and we hope that as we consciously uncouple and co-parent, we will be able to continue in the same manner.  Love, Gwyneth & Chris.”

A brief sidetrack:  more than one alert journalist has noticed that the vast majority of the scorn being heaped upon the producers of the prodigiously precious proclamation is falling upon Paltrow’s petite, porcelain shoulders:

 “…together for 12 years…by all evidence, equal partners in whatever was Project Paltrow-Martin…. Martin’s name and visage are attached to the “conscious uncoupling” letter.  And yet it’s Paltrow who’s received all the scorn for the admittedly deeply pretentious announcement, as she has throughout the pair’s marriage…. Why does every attempt to read into Paltrow and Martin’s marriage end with the takeaway that Paltrow is a villain and Martin a passive bystander?
(“Gwyneth Paltrow’s getting treated much worse than Chris Martin,” by Daniel D’Addario)

Once again, I digress.

Conscious uncoupling. The first time I heard the phrase it sounded, to my warped little mind, like the title for a course in the Zen School of Railroad Engineering. 

Now that we have mastered Mindful Milepost Marking, we graduate to Conscious Caboose Coupling.

Now that we have mastered Mindful Milepost Marking, we graduate to Conscious Caboose Coupling.

My theory re why the Paltrow-Martin announcement received such scornful attention is three-fold:

(1) conscious uncoupling is the epitome of “woo-speak;” it is an amalgam of New Agey lingo meets politico-nonspeak, that obscures what it purports to reveal  (“The cars we sell are not used, they’re pre-owned”).

(2) P-M’s use of such a WTF?! expression draws attention to the form of announcement itself, rather than the information contained therein, and the announcement goes on to insincerely (if unconsciously) ask for privacy.

(3) number three has indeed folded.  Two folds are plenty.

Anyway and thus, the punk & Gwyn & Chris connection:  The punk’s painfully, exhaustively detailed bodily, hair and sartorial mutilations and modifications, in essence, scream, “Look at me!  I’m special!  Everyone, pay attention to ME!  Then, of course, when attention is granted, surly punk snarls, “What are you looking at?”

Gwyn & Chris, darlings: if you really wanted to do this with the least amount of fuss, y’all could have said nothing, or, released a brief but straightforward statement: we’re separating and/or getting divorced, and ask for space and consideration for our family during this difficult time.

*   *   *

Speaking of woo

Dateline: Monday, March 30, ~ 4:50 am. I am awakened by a loud, WOO-WOO!  I bolt upright in the bed, my heart pounding, and nudge MH.  “Uh…are you okay?”

MH chuckles softly (apparently, his outburst also woke his own self up). “It’s okay.  It was a dream. I was trying to scare something away.”

Moiself:  “Well, you scared me.”

MH pauses for a sec before answering.  “Then I guess it worked.”

clowndream

*   *   *

Speaking of scary clowns….

Fred Phelps, vitriol-spewing head of the hate-mongering, gay-baiting, soldier-funeral-picketing Westboro Baptist Church, died March 19.  Let us pause for a moment of silence, or a chorus of Ding Dong the Witch is Dead. I’m pro-choice; I’ll leave it up to you.

VOLDEMORT

Ever since Phelp’s death I’ve noticed a higher than usual number of liberal-Christians-feel-good-about-themselves, rainbow-strewn, If you’re using the Bible to hurt other people you’re using it wrong” postings on Facebook.  The trouble with such a sentiment is that the people employing it are “using it wrong.”  The thing is, if you are using your bible, or any ancient “holy scripture,” as a life instruction manual, you will find plenty of commandments for believers to specifically hurt people.

The cruelties of the Old Testament [2] are sometimes acknowledged (and well known, at least by us happy heretics) but rarely cited by Christians.  When believers are confronted with scriptural depictions of their god’s barbarities, including but oh-so-not limited to…

☼  burning alive people who complain

☼   commanding the wholesale slaughter of a nation (kill all males and non-virgin females, but keep the virgin women for yourselves [3] )

☼   killing the new neighbors who have a different religion

☼   ordering the death sentence for a man who gathered firewood on the wrong day

☼   and also for children who curse their parents or are stubborn

☼   sending a bear to maul and kill youths who teased a follicularly-challenged prophet (they called him “baldy”) 

…their knee-jerk strategy is to claim that all those acts of mass and individual murder, rape and torture “don’t count,” because JC supposedly rejected the OT’s violent legacy. [4]

Cool story, bro.

BIBLEBEARS

However, Christianity’s own theology refutes this excuse.  The cornerstone of Christian belief, “the trinity,” avers that Jesus was/is god.  This means JC was/is also the OT god, that crotchety, short-tempered, “You kids get the hell off my lawn!” Yahweh – the same deity who ordered all those killings, the same credited author of the numerous, violent, repellent commands listed in the Torah (“the Law”).

In the New Testament scriptures, Jesus is quoted as strongly approving of the law and the prophets, and makes no exceptions for the absurdities and cruelties contained therein.

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.  Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. [5]

The NT also has Jesus claiming that he has come to destroy families by making family members hate each other. JC claims he has come “not to send peace, but a sword;” and that those who don’t believe in him will be cast into a fire to be burned; and that we should fear a god who is willing and “able to destroy both soul and body in hell” and who has the power to kill us and then torture us forever in hell. Oh yeah, and JC had no quarrels with the idea of drowning everyone on earth in the flood, and says it’ll be just like that when he returns, and that people who disagree with his followers will suffer a fate worse than Sodom and Gomorrah. [6]

And since scripture itself claims Jesus is always in perfect agreement with the Father, [7] believers cannot claim that war, murder and cruelties were only divinely willed in OT times, as, once again, their pesky scriptures claim that their “god does not change.” [8]

Look.  I’m glad that (most) contemporary believers don’t take their “holy books” seriously – as in, applying what their scriptures literally say – which enables them to pick & choose from among the “nice stuff” (e.g., The Sermon on the Mount & the Beatitudes).

But Fred Phelps also was a believer who picked and chose. He chose from among the “icky stuff,” true, but the ickies were scriptural directives nonetheless.  And Phelps had plenty of biblical ammunition for determining what and whom his god hates.

*  *  *

 You can choose your friends and you can pick your nose,
but you can’t choose to pick your friend’s nose. [10]

Do you like my earring? I picked it myself.

Do you like my earring? I picked it myself.

*   *   *

Someday I’ll write my own version of the Beatitudes.  In homage to my childhood summers spent at the beach, I’ll title them The Beati-Dudes: timeless wisdom channeled via The Chosen Ones of Southern California. [11]

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, ’cause…dude?  No way, man, it sucks to be poor!”

Surf’s up.  It must be time for the hijinks to ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

 

[1] Or not, as with sci fi author Ron Goulart, co-author of “William Shatner’s” Tekwar series.

[2] A (rather condescending) Christian term for the books of the Hebrew Bible.

[3] read Numbers 31 for the heart-warming story of the Midianites.

[4] The typical theological justification is that Christians are to read the OT stories “through the lens” of the NT.

[5] Matt 5:17 – 19

[6] Matt. 10:34-36; John 15:6; Matt. 10:28; Luke 12:5; Matt. 24; Mark 6.

[7] John 10:30.

[8] Malachi 3:6; James 1:17.

[9] footnote  #9 is taking a break.

[10] Robyngwen 2:99.  I’m just sayin.’

[11] I mean of course, surfers.