Today’s post is the blog equivalent of the televised perpetual Yule Log fireplace.
Our family welcomed the Winter Solstice, even though we skipped our somewhat-regular, S-to-the-third-power dinner (aka, a Solstice Soup Supper). So many of our holiday celebrations revolve around food, as seems to be the custom worldwide. On December 23 we celebrated Little Christmas Eve as is our custom, hosting a dinner with friends, which includes a gift exchange with the young-uns…with even some not-so-young-uns getting in on the action. I anticipate, during the ongoing/never-ending presidential campaign, that I shall enjoy wearing out the batteries in the Bullshit Detector friend SCM so thoughtfully bestowed upon us.
I do so appreciate the festive holiday red color.
Christmas Eve was a family dinner, with MH, K, Belle and I enjoying Norwegian lefse & meatcakes (and the kitties enjoying whatever scraps happen to fall to the floor). Now today, after a frenzied serene and appreciative morning of gift-opening, we’ll head to Portland, for what has become our new(er)  Christmas day practice: lunch at a favorite Portland restaurant, followed by a visit to Powell’s Books. Dinner will be make-your-own-za night .
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I hope you enjoy the picture of my office yuletide décor.
I decided to post that, instead of silly/tasteless Christmas jokes, such as:
What happens when Santa gets he gets stuck in a chimney?He feels Claustrophobic.
Why did Santa’s helper see the psychiatrist?Because he suffered from low elf-esteem.
What is Santa’s favorite Pacific Northwest State?Idaho-ho-ho.
Who is the most obnoxious of Santa’s reindeer?Rudolph.
During the National Religious Liberties Conference last month, Rethuglican Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, when asked by conference sponsor Batshit Frothing Fanatic FoghornPastor Kevin Swanson how important it is for the President of the USA to “fear god,” replied (my emphases) :
“Any president who doesn’t begin every day on his knees isn’t fit to be commander-in-chief of this nation.”
Gotcha, Massa Cruz. Christian cocksuckers are presidential material, but Atheists, Agnostics, Brights, Freethinkers and Humanists need not apply.
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Department Of Laugh So Hard You Crap You Pants, Just Don’t Inhale
Dateline: last Sunday evening, 6 pm. Tears of joy welled in my eyes as, standing in front of my computer in my office, I overheard yet another, they-don’t-realize-how-loud-they-are-talking-and-that-we-can-hear-them discussion among The Stinky Boys ®  in the dining room. Topic: a story about a friend who left a gathering after he’d emitted what might be described genteelly  as a moist flatulent emission…but, before excusing himself, he put his hand down the back of his pants, removed his hand, and sniffed it.
TSB were taking sides on whether the sniff was necessary (“If you crapped your pants, you know what you did – you don’t need to smell it to confirm…”). Believe it or not, there was quite a bit of back and forth about this. I had not imagined there could be pros and cons – or any opinions other than EEEEEEEEWWWWWWWWW – on the subject.
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MH is feeling crafty this Christmas. Funny how much more stately a bottle of Two-Buck Chuck cabernet seems when you dress it up as Obi Wine Kenobi.
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Department Of Sometimes All You Can Do Is Laugh
I needed a pitcher of martinis last Saturday afternoon. Or, as I explained to friend SCM, perhaps just a picture of James Bond and a martini would suffice.
The martini mood was induced by an odder-than-usual conversation with my mother, who had phoned me, or rather, had her “lady”  dial me up. My mother initiating a phone call is highly unusual (I’m the one who calls her); she wanted my reassurances on some pressing/disturbing issues for her. After speaking with Mom I called my older sister for a tête-à-tête re the situation, then lumbered downstairs.
MH met me at the bottom of the stairway and gestured toward the family room, where our son K and The Stinky Boys ®  were gathered around our TV. “You might not want to go in there,” he said. “They’re watching ‘Reservoir Dogs’.” 
“That’s nothing,” I said. “I just had to kill my father. Again.”
My mother had called to ask me why I had taken the family car. She’d been obsessing about the so-called missing car for days, according to her lady/caretaker, who is usually able to handle such matters. But Mom was convinced I’d taken the car and had been gone – and when was I coming back, and would I also bring back my younger sister? – and her caretaker, CCC, thought that I might be able to calm her down.
I was able to (eventually) get my mother off the missing car path, but her erratic thought train jumped another, more problematic track:
Where is your dad? Why won’t he come home – do you know what happened?
Apropos of nothing, except that I need a cute picture right about now.
She’ll be fine for days, even weeks, then forgets that Chet Parnell died six years ago. The pain, fear and confusion in her voice is evident, and it is heartbreaking to realize she’s thinking her beloved husband abandoned her or is missing and no one knows what has happened – or, worse yet, we all know what’s going on but are keeping it from her….
This forgetting of her husband’s death, this most painful of her many memory lapses, has happened before, and will almost certainly happen again. I know this. Still, it catches me off guard. Such conversations are painful for me, to understate the situation to the nth degree. But imagine how distressing it is for her, a confused, frail, frightened, elderly woman, who essentially has to relive the death of her husband, over and over again….
At least I was able to reassure her that I had not run off with the car (nor kidnapped my younger sister). Evidently stuck in yesteryear, my mother thought I was a teenager; also, she didn’t trust that it was me, at first, on the phone. (“That’s not Robyn,” I heard her say to her caretaker). I was able to prove that I was her second born daughter by reciting my birth date, after which I heard CCC say in the background, “See, that’s Robyn. She knows her birth date…yeah, and that would make her about fifty, which is correct.”
I later told CCC that I like the way she does math. Now, my own mother thinks I’m only 50!
Most of all, I enjoyed our conversation, the free range topics of which were inspired by K’s new job as a lab research at a local biomedical startup. We started with what defines terms commonly used by both scientist and laypersons that are also commonly misunderstood or under-understood: basic and acidic and the ph scale . We all use the terms, but what do they actually measure?…which led to the more general concept of scientific classifications, which, as many scientists point out, are necessary for research but are also, sometimes, somewhat arbitrary…which segued to the political psychological and sociological ramifications of that most errant of classifications, “race” as per human beings…which led MH to point out that “breed” might be a better term to classify distinctive physiological differences among a group of animals that are still able to reproduce within the same group…which led to moiself approving the logic in MH’s suggestion, because after all, humans are animals…which prompted MH to share the fact that the German language has different terms – essen and fressen – to distinguish the same function – eating—between humans and other animals…and  then K for some reason found it necessary to impart what he thought was a distinguishing feature that proved he was no mere animal – I do not lick my balls!…a proclamation which, of course, had to be countered by moiself:
That’s only because you can’t. If you could, you would.
K wisely decided not to contradict his mother on her birthday.
As my father, the late great “Chet the Jet,” was fond of saying, These are the good times.
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Department Of If You Have To Ask…
I bought two of those clapper things – you know, the As Seen on TV devices. I’ve been having soooooooooooooo much fun using it to turn on the Christmas tree lights (clap clap clap), and also the lights I have in the fireplace (clap clap). Not only does the clapper do what it does, the festive device has provided me with opportunities for blissful marital repartee – all this for only $19.95, such a deal.
Moiself: Look at this! (clap clap; clap clap clap).
MH: Uh oh.
Moiself: Isn’t this fun! (clap clap clap). I actually bought two of them. Where shall we put the other one?
MH: You don’t want me to answer that.
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May the Ted Cruz-es of our world deem you unfit for their world; may you be a credit to your race breed; may you clap your way to happiness; …and may the hijinks ensue.
 As mentioned in previous posts, The Stinky Boys is MH’s and my affectionate nickname for the group of friends who gather with K every Sunday (and sometimes Saturday) night to play D & D and other games and watch movies and raise their risk of developing adult onset diabetes and heart disease eat pizza and junk food.
The problem with speaking the truth to power is that power can’t be bothered to listen.
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Department Of Pleasant Surprises
Last Saturday morning when I finished exercising I popped out the workout DVD and did my cool down/stretches to the background noise of a college football game on TV. During one brief timeout in the game over a disputed call or something I swear I heard one team’s marching band play the distinctive opening riff to the White Stripe‘s Seven Nation Army. It was at once bizarre and totally appropriate…and almost as emotionally satisfying as hearing the Roto Rooter Goodtime Christmas Band ‘s rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s psychedelic rock anthem, Purple Haze.
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Department of Yet Another Podcast Adventure
The podcast, an interview with a historian specializing in ancient Rome (Mary Beard/Fresh Air show), began with the show’s host reciting an intriguing description of the guest’s professional accomplishments: “…a professor of classics, does TV and radio documentaries, writes a well-read blog…and has become somewhat famous for taking on internet trolls.”
I couldn’t help but wonder: Why, oh why, would someone do that, or become “famous” for doing that? Especially someone who is an academic, or at least educated. I thought that, by definition, if you “take on” an internet troll, or engage them in any way, the troll wins.
I am not fully convinced that individual internet trolls exist. I think there is a troll generator somewhere, created and controlled by a man-boy who resembles a cross between Jabba the Hutt and a meerkat. This Jabbakat occupies a bunker designed to resemble his parent’s basement, where, hunkered down amid cases of Red Bull, Hot Pockets and survivalist grade toilet paper, he froths and seethes over the Unfairness of Life ® , including what happened eight years ago when, after hearing that girls go for guys in uniform, he dropped out of community college to take a job as a pizza delivery boy.
Department Of Just Think About All The Fun You Missed
Wednesday was my annual Ladies Lefse dinner party. It is not too late for you to plan your own. You don’t even have to make it an all-lady affair – you can define the term “lady” loosely (as most of us do these days, yuckity yuckaroo). In the spirit of open-minded heteronormativity,  you could make it a party for Lefse Ladies and Those Who Identify as Lefse Ladies.
Who wouldn’t want to identify with these festive, frisky females?
I stand corrected. It’s Pseudobulbar affect, and it’s apparently a thing. Pseudobulbar affect is a neurological disorder, that just happens to have one of the best disorder nicknames ever:
“also known as emotional incontinence.”
I can quit any time I want to, okay?
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A Special Holiday Message For A Special Guy
To the dude I was driving behind on Monday – the guy in the Ford pickup heading west on Cornell Road in the early afternoon. After watching you weave in and out of traffic lanes and tailgate other drivers, I humbly suggest that your holiday thankfulness this year be directed toward the following government agencies and employees:
* the DMV, for not having a basic reading comprehension and IQ test as part of its licensing procedures
* those current and former U.S. Marines,  who might be embarrassed/appalled by your proudly displayed ignorance as evinced by your various anti-Obama, anti-government, bumperstickers and window decals sharing bumper and window space with your pro-U.S. Marines stickers.
BTW, duuuuuuuuude: Obama is an American, not a Kenyan, for crying’ out loud in the fucking Halls of Montezuma‘s sake.
I can only assume your truck’s OR license plate was crafted personally, for you, and thatYRT 987stands for, Your Retard Tendencies987 (on a scale of 990). 
He forgot the sticker that says, Honk If You’re Following a Bigoted Asshat
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At this time of year no joy is as pure as that which arises from
seeing Christian right wing nutjobs twisting their tinsel-lined panties
when they hear the phrase Happy Holidays! and/or another greeting
which acknowledges the wealth of celebrations at this time of year.
It’s Merry Christmas or nothing for those pinch-nosed paranoid Scrooges.
Their faces turn red and green – which, fittingly, are the Christmas colors.
I am delighted to wish them, “Happy Solstice,” and hope that one day
they’ll understand this: “Axial tilt – The Reason For (all the) Seasons!”
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May you avoid troll engagement; May you embrace the season’s greetings; May you remain emotionally continent; and may the hijinks ensue.
Yet another thing for which to be thankful – a spate of recent crisp,  clear mornings late last/early this week, when I could see the moon as I walked at dawn.
Department of My Irrelevance
Medical doctors are trained in the importance of pain assessment , including how to differentiate between the many and problematically subjective human experiences of pain. Current thought on the matter is that storytelling, via descriptive prompts from doctor to patient, is a valuable lead-in to pain assessment.
Tell me about your pain. Would you describe it as:
burning, shooting, tingling, radiating, lancinating, or numbness or achy, throbbing, or dull; or squeezing, pressure, cramping, distention, dull, deep, and stretching
The pain I felt on Tuesday morning began as a burning in my ears. The sensation quickly radiated up the auditory nerve to my auditory cortex, where it translated into a deep, throbbing ache. It was all I could do not to jerk out my earbuds and fling my iphone to the ground.
Lay translation: the podcast I was listening to made my brain hurt.
This American Life , the mahvelous weekly journalistic radio show, follows a distinctive format. Each show has a theme, and uses a combination of essays, first person narratives and interviews, archival sound recordings and sometimes even short fiction to explore and illustrate their show’s themes, in segments of up to three or four “acts.” TAL’s themes range from current events and popular culture to particular aspects of human nature. The one that made my brain hurt was This American Life #573: Status Update.
“Most of the time, the updates we share about our lives are small and inconsequential. This week, status updates that interrupt daily life.”
I had to force myself to finish listening to the first act – the ominously  titled, Finding the Self in Selfie. TAL host Ira Glass interviewed three teenage girls on the complex and constantly changing social media map that is primarily distributed and maintained via their cellphones. The interview consisted of the girls (Julia, Ella, Jane) explaining why they feel they must constantly tell their friends they are beautiful on Instagram and other social media sites, as well as post pictures of themselves on the same sites, which are in turn subject to commentary.
There are complicated and unwritten – yet widely known and seemingly accepted  – “rules” for such social media interaction. And listening to the girls explain it made me want to puke.
Navigating the social strictures of high school was hard enough in The Olden Days, ® when your social status rose and fell via lunch table and locker room gossip. Now, kids have to obsess about their “relevance” – they use that term, I kid you not – as per their peers’ reactions to their social media presence, a relevance (read: social ranking) both ephemeral and life-altering, which can change in minutes, even seconds.
And even as the girls complained about or acknowledged the shallowness behind the obligation of social media, they admitted to voluntarily and rabidly participating in the same.
Ira Glass: I have to say…oh my god, this is such a job.
Julia: It’s like I’m– I’m a brand, and I am like–
Ella: You’re trying to promote yourself.
Julia: The brand. I’m the director of the–
Ira Glass: And you’re the product.
Jane: You’re definitely trying to promote yourself.
Julia: To stay relevant, you have to–
Jane: You have to work hard.
Ella: Relevance is a big term right now.
Ira Glass: Are you guys relevant?
Ella: Um, I’m so relevant.
Jane: In middle school. In middle school, we were definitely really relevant.
Ella: (SARCASTICALLY) We were so relevant.
Jane: Because everything was established. But now, in the beginning of high school, you can’t really tell who’s relevant.
Ira Glass: Yeah. And what does relevant mean?
Jane: Relevant means that people care about what you’re posting on Instagram. People–
Julia: Care about you.
Listening to the story, I felt…I’m not sure how to describe it. I felt like some kind of Amish anti-tech/media advocate.
There be no more Snapchat for thee, young lady!
Of course, those seemingly benign Amish can get downright nasty when it comes to their community’s insular social status, and shun their own who fail to toe the line. But the threat of ostracizing, bullying or relevance banishment seems so much more pervasive in today’s all-knowing, all-reporting world of social media.
I wanted to slap some sense into those girls and envelop them in a mama bear hug, all at once.
It’s like I’m– I’m a brand… …and you’re the product.
I wish feminism came in a can, like Red Bull, that girls and young women could chug. I wish there was a “product” to rev up their perception metabolism, a formula that would make them want to stop shoring up the system that perpetuates looksism and a bajillion-hundred other insecurities and forms of disempowerment.
Every time the traveling company for the Broadway musical The Book of Mormon has come to Portland I’ve tried to get tickets, and every time I have failed. I did succeed in convincing MH and our son, K, in accompanying me to the next best thing: a matinee performance of The Book of Merman, which we saw last Sunday.
The Book of Merman is the story of what happens when two novice Mormon missionaries unexpectedly encounter “the undisputed first lady of the musical comedy stage.” (Well, of course it is).
I tried to make our outing as multicultural as possible. When one thinks of Mormons and/or Ethel Merman, the cuisine that naturally comes to mind is something Ricky Ricardo would appreciate. Thus, we dined before the show at Portland’s best Cuban café, Pambiche,
BTW, you should know that Ethel Merman did one of the all-time great movie cameo appearances, in Airplane!
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Department of Don’t Make Me Say It
Is it December, already?
I thought I advised you not to make me say it.
And while I religiously dodge Singing Christmas Tree invitations I do enjoy a seasonal song or two. There is no shortage of good Christmas carols for atheists,  including, White Christmas, Sleigh Bells, Deck the Halls, Rudolph…and I’d say almost any tune by Tim Minchin qualifies, especially the lovely, cheeky and yet sentimental, White Wine in the Sun. A new-old favorite of mine is I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas. And please, get you and yo mama some seasonal spirit by singling along with the greatest rap Yule tune of all time, Christmas In Hollis.
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May your unexpected encounters be Merman-esque; may you be emotionally healthy enough to not give a flying flounder’s flatulence about your social media relevance; and may the holiday hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
 Not exactly thrilled about the 20˚ temps…but the moon is worth it.
Active, reliable, sarcastic, affectionate, bipedal, cynical optimist, writer, freethinker, parent, spouse and friend, I am generous with my handy supply of ADA-approved spearmint gum and sometimes refrain from humming in public.