A Harbinger of Spring: The Return of Blue Man Group

This year our boys are sporting primroses.

BMG

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

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

Idletwit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ERICIDLE

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Happy Trails to You

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

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

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

Sarah Pinnock

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Speaking of the natural world…

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

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

Doot-doot

Doot-doot

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

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

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

Now you know.

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

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

profile

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

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

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

volunteer

So.

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

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

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

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

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

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

shout

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

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

As one wise woman put it,

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

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

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

Department of Teaching Pigs to Sing

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

The post began with this excerpt:

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

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

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

REALLY

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

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

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

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

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

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

(end of transcript)

facepalm

Reasonably Invisible Micro Aggressions. Yikes.

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

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

My message to K:

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

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

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

*   *   *

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

 

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

 

  Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

[6] Thank the FSM those days are over.

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

[8] Read: do not feed the trolls.

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

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

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

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

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