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The Ingredients Lists I’m Not Reading

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Department Of, And Yet Another One

I wrote about this recently – was it only two weeks ago?

I was going to title this segment, Department Of No Comment…except that –  surprise! – moiself  be commenting.

Gender Reveal Device Explodes, Killing Man in Upstate New York
A man who was expecting his first child was killed on Sunday and his brother was injured when a device they were preparing for a gender-reveal party exploded in a garage in the Catskills in New York, the authorities said….(another) brother, called what happened “the freakiest of freak accidents…”
What set off the explosion remained under investigation…. The device consisted of some kind of pipe that was intended to be used at a gender-reveal party, but the nature of its explosive material was not yet known….
( Gender-Reveal Device Explodes, Killing Man in Upstate New York,
NY Times 2-22-21 )

Apparently, my sarcastic rebuke wise warning words re the foolhardiness of the gender reveal party phenomenon was not significant to the expectant father/now existent cremation candidate.  He, of course, like 99.9999999% of the population, doesn’t (uh, didn’t) know or care that I exist, nor what I write about. Common sense, along with any sense of proportion and propriety wasn’t enough, either.  Nor was Learning From The Mistakes Of Others. ®    [1]

As for the description of the incident as, “the freakiest a freak accidents…”

 

 

Public Service Announcement:  it’s not a freak accident when an explosive device explodes. That’s what explosive devices are designed and constructed to do.

Ask fire fighters or EMTs or hospital ER personnel: their collective “Can you believe this?!?” arsenal of stories is replete with tending to people injured by explosive devices which unintentionally exploded – people from munitions “experts,” to the schmuck who volunteered to shoot his high school’s pep rally confetti cannon.

 

 

*   *   *

 

 

Different as in, something which restored my optimism about humanity.

Department Of: This.

Dateline: Tuesday morning; circa 7:30 am. I am on my morning walk, headed toward a light rail station. As I turn onto the bike/walk path which parallels soccer and baseball fields I see a young woman walking on the path ahead of me.  She hears my footsteps as I close the gap between us, or so I assume because she does (and then I do) The Right Thing® : she scooches all the way to the right and I to the left, and we both raise our masks.

I call out a good morning to her; she greets me in return, and although my pace is quicker than hers for a moment we are side-by-side (if 10 feet apart).   She says something else which I can’t understand due to both her mask and her heavily accented English. I politely ask her to repeat herself; she asks how I am doing…but not in that casual way where people say, How are You?  in lieu of Hello or Good Morning. She means it.

I hope she sees the smile beneath my mask which makes it up to my eyes, when I reply that I am doing very well, thanks, and that I hope the day will be good for her.  “Yes, yes it will be,” she says, as we both reach the point where the path ends. She begins to head right, toward the light rail station, and I am headed left.

I stop, turn to face her, and call out, “By the way, thank you for asking.” She gives me a cheerful wave and we go our separate ways.

And I was…content. I had the proverbial warm and fuzzies, which lasted all day. Two strangers made a connection, brief yet significant, heartfelt if ephemeral, with the subtext of, in these stressful pandemic times, intentionally acknowledging a passerby beyond the usual, “G’morning.”

It takes no time at all and only a few kind words to acknowledge a fellow human being.  “Hi there – I’m here; so are you. I wish good things for us both.”

 

“If she starts singing ‘Kumbaya’ I’m gonna stop reading her insipid blog and turn on a WWF match.”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Something New To Do When You’re Bored

Take out your canned food, your cereal boxes, your condiments and beverage cartons from the frig, your vitamins/nutritional supplements, and line them up on the kitchen counter.  One by one, read the items’ ingredients list, out loud, and wherever it lists “extract” substitute the word, “urine.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Just Wondering

Moiself  is imagining something of a sticky wicket situation for women in science.  Specifically, in the branch of biology known as zoology.

Say you’re a female British ornithologist curating your university’s natural history museum. A visiting American professor of ornithology wishes to review your collection of native European bird species.  You invite him to the museum to do so.

Now, are you technically responsible for his reaction, when he sees your display case of Parus major specimens and exclaims,

“Wow!  You have great tits!”    [2]

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Yet Another Reason To Never Fine-Tune
My Cellphone’s Voice Typing Feature

Dateline: Sunday; MH and I both away from home, separately running errands.  As I’m entering a grocery store I receive a text from him, alerting me to the fact that we are out of hairball chews  [3]   and asking if moiself’s  errands are taking me anywhere near a pet supplies store which might have them?

I reply in the affirmative. Except, dictating through my mask (and, as always, sending it before proof-reading), my text comes out thusly:

I will go to PetSmart to get the hairball truth.

When I read what I’d sent, moiself is transported into existential-mode.  First, I follow up that text with

Chews! I will get the chews! That’s the truth.

But I can’t stop thinking about it.  What *is* the hairball truth? Is it something that can be gotten, or comprehended – or merely contemplated – by mere bipeds?

 

 

YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE HAIRBALL TRUTH !

 

*   *   *

Department Of Did You Know About This?

Woman in Motion is now available for streaming.  And you are going to watch it, right?

I knew that actor Nichelle Nichols, best known as the iconic Lt. Nyota Uhura from Star Trek’s original series, is quite beloved by the sci-fi aficionados for her knowledge of the genre and passion for space travel, the latter of which included working to recruit astronauts for NASA.  I did not know of the extent of her involvement.

“Woman in Motion: Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek and the Remaking of NASA,” tells the story of how Nichols, in the late 1970s, led recruitment efforts at NASA to bring in more women and people of color. According to the film’s synopsis, “In 1977, with just four months left, NASA struggles to recruit scientists, engineers and astronauts for their new Space Shuttle Program. That is when Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek’s Lt. Uhura, challenges them by asking the question: Where are my people? She embarks on a national blitz, recruiting 8,000 of the nation’s best and brightest, including the trailblazing astronauts who became the first African American, Asian and Latino men and women to fly in space.”
(Daily Star Trek news 2-8-21 )

 

“I am so much more than ‘Hailing frequency open, Captain,” and don’t y’all forget it.”

 

*   *   *

Department Of What I Aspire To (Metaphorically. If Not Literally)

You’ve seen your pet  [4]  do it:  find that sunny spot on the rug or floor or windowsill or bed (or, if it’s your cat, your computer keyboard), plop down atop it, and bask in the simple pleasure of basking.  They’re not trying to figure out where the coveted sunny spot came from, what causes it, or where it’s going. they’re just…there.

Moiself aspires towards, at least occasionally, achieving an equanimity akin to the cat-on-the-sunny-spot-on-the-carpet  moment.  And when the spot “moves” I’ll move with it, or realize that what I had was enough, and get up and go on with whatever.

 

Sometimes, just the paws are enough.

*   *   *

Department Of Huh?

Dateline: Sunday 2-21. I am posting a for sale notice on a classified ads internet site.  MH suggests I also post on the FB marketplace, so I check it out. I find several local/neighborhood groups, and request to post on four of them.  Two of these groups have questions you must answer before you can be “‘approved” to join (and thus post on) them.

The first group has only one question: Are you advertising for a business?  The second group, for my city, has two questions: What is your zip code?  (I assume to make sure you really live in Hillsboro, and/or weed out scammers), and:

“What is your favorite thing about Hillsboro?”

That question strikes me as odd. It’s not relevant to my intent, nor the intent of others posting on the group who, I assume are, like moiself – listing items we wish to sell to anyone who might wish to purchase them, regardless of what they like (or don’t like) about the city.

My answer:

“The capital H!”   [5]

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

My musician friends formed a quartet called “Duvet.” They’re a cover band.

 

“A-one and a-two and a-nobody laugh.”

 

*   *   *

May all of your food item’s extracts be bona fide extracts;
May you exchange greetings with amiable strangers at every opportunity;
May you find your sunny spot on the rug;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] “Celebratory Cannon Salute at Baby Shower Ends in Death,” (NY Times 2-7-21); “…An Iowa woman was killed when her family inadvertently built a pipe bomb as part of their gender-reveal party” (The Atlantic 11-11-19); A fire sparked by a “pyrotechnic device” during a celebration meant to debut the sex of the hosts’ baby-on-the-way has scorched more than 10,000 acres of Southern California (The Washington Post 9-10-20)

[2] The great tit is the actual name of a species of bird in the songbird/perching bird family known as the tit family (Paridae), which includes chickadees, tits, and titmice.  I think it is safe to assume that some British dude is responsible for the name.

[3] For one of our cats, who really needs them.

[4] Or someone else’s, if you’re not a pet person.

[5] Hell yeah my request was approved.

The Rovers I’m Not Naming

Comments Off on The Rovers I’m Not Naming

Department Of This Is Why I’m Not In Charge Of Such Things

Dateline: Thursday (yesterday), 2-18-21, 12 noonish; watching coverage of the Perseverance rover landing on Mars.  [1]  There was plenty of time to consider the ground-breaking implications of space exploration for humanity while all the TV talking heads filled the time until the actual landing.  Thus, I got to wondering: what is it about the names of these planetary probes – who gets to choose them, and what are the guidelines?

Spirit; Opportunity; Curiosity; Pathfinder; Perseverance

It seems NASA’s Mars program is partial to names denoting desirable/adventurous personality traits.  The launch and landing stages of the probes are certainly WOW events. But I’m thinking of the decades of the less glamorous work behind the scenes to get these devices to those stages.  What about honoring the less flashy but essential characteristics necessary for progress and harmony, when you’re working for years with a team of people, sometimes under stressful circumstances?

I humbly submit my nominations for the names of future Mars (or, Jupiter or…?) rovers:

Diligence

Reliability

Punctuality

Maturity

Tolerance

Composure

Sufficiently Caffeinated

Respectful Personal Hygiene

 

Introducing NASA’s next Mars Rover, “Fiscal Responsibility”

 

*   *   *

Department Of More Lists

I overheard a conversation in a grocery store between two employees, something about “…best inventions of the century.” We’re only one fift  into the 21st century, but of course (as moiself  discovered when I returned home and Googled the concept) individuals, news organizations and other companies have already started compiling lists.

Most of them overlap; “best” is of course a subjective rating; some of the entries, it could be argued, span both centuries (do you count an invention as being of this century on the date it became available to the public/was put into use, or the date when someone first started working on it?) .  [2]   All that considered, the more common entries include

*  Smart phones
*  Online banking
*  3-d printing
*  CRISPR  gene editor
*  The contraceptive patch
*  Augmented reality
*  Blockchain platforms
*  High density battery packs
*  Online streaming

After scanning the fifth such list, I noted a glaring omission common to all of them:

Where was the inclusion of Poo-Pourri ?!?!?!?     [3]

Not only it is a great product, the makers of Poo-Pourri are responsible for arguably The. Funniest. Product. Commercial. Ever.   [4]   If you have never seen this commercial, then you obviously have a more fulfilling and important life than I do need to inform yourself as to this cultural milestone of marketing:

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Bill Gates Please Save The World

“Gates isn’t just looking to cut future carbon emissions, he is also investing in direct air capture, an experimental process to remove existing CO2 from the atmosphere. Some companies are  now using these giant fans to capture CO2 directly out of the air, Gates has become one of the world’s largest funders of this kind of technology.”
( “Bill Gates: How the world can avoid a climate disaster,” 60 Minutes 2-15-21 )

Three times in the past three weeks I’ve encountered the term direct air capture, used in relation to our global warming crisis. Each time, the part of my heart that is still 12-years-old jumps for joy.

Direct air capture (as per Wikipedia):
Direct air capture (DAC) is a process of capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) directly from the ambient air (as opposed to capturing from point sources, such as a cement factory or biomass power plant) and generating a concentrated stream of CO 2 for sequestration or utilization or production of carbon-neutral fuel and windgas. ….DAC was suggested in 1999 and is still in development….

Actually, a form of DAC was suggested by moiself, over two decades earlier than 1999.  I, like, invented DAC.  In your dreams, you may say. Well, literally, yes.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (Southern California, early 1970s) we had smog alerts several times during my 7th grade year, when the air quality got so bad it hurt to breathe, and PE classes were cancelled.

 

You’re not supposed to “see” the air, right?

 

During that PE downtime I would think about why we weren’t doing our 800 yard run trials.  Air pollution – not only do we have to stop adding to it, we need to get that existing gunk out of the air.  What about some kind of sieve or filter – which work for liquids, so why not tweak the concept to strain the air?  I would dream about it at night; I had dreams about enormous fan-type devices which would suck in air, filtering out the pollutants and spewing out clean air while compressing the particulate matter into bricks and other building materials which could be used for housing, road surfaces, bridges….

Yes, dreams, as in plural. It was weighing heavily upon my mind. For a period of several weeks I thought about it a lot, even confiding in my math teacher after class one day.  I asked him if he knew some science teachers, maybe in high school,   [5]  with whom I could talk to about my idea. He laughed at me – not cruelly, but certainly patronizingly, and said that I had no concept about the complicated technology which would have to be involved – which would have to be invented – for such an undertaking.  [6]

My school stopped having smog alerts and I stopped having those dreams.  Moiself  looks forward to not having to dream about such things, ever again, in the very near future.

 

How complicated could such an invention be?

 

*   *   *

The Commercial I’m Not Filming

Yours truly came across the following ad recently.

 

 

Imnagine that, an ad for yet another product or regimen to stop/reverse “the aging process.”   [7]

Moiself  fantasized about shooting a commercial for *my* secret tips to stop the aging process.  Seven seems an excessive number, so I’ll cut it down to five.  The commercial will open with scenes of people sending me money for my secret/sure-fire tips to stop the you-know-what process, followed by scenes of my anti-aging goon squad who show up at said people’s houses or surprise them on the streets, and stop their aging process via:

  1. pushing them in front of a bus
  2. running them over with a bus
  3. dropping a bus on top of them as they stand at a bus stop
  4. lacing their morning coffee with arsenic
  5. slipping a sedative in their dinner wine and setting fire to their house while they sleep

The final scene shows friends at the deceased’s open casket funeral, murmuring enviously to one another, “She doesn’t look a day older than yesterday.”

 

“Did you see her – she’s actually dead!”
“Yes, but at least she’s not getting any more wrinkles.”

 

 

*   *   *

“One of the things that Teller and I are obsessed with, one of the reasons that we’re in magic, is the difference between fantasy and reality.”
(Penn Jillette, of the magic duo Penn and Teller)

“It isn’t automatic that if you learn magic you’ll become a skeptic of the supernatural,” said D.J. Grothe, president of the Virginia-based James Randi Educational Foundation, which debunks supernatural claims and was founded by Randi.
    “But knowing magic does give you a leg up on how the mind works and how easy it is to be deceived. And from there, skepticism can be a fortunate result.”
(“Magicians say their craft makes them see faith as just hocus-pocus,”
The Christian Century, 10-27-11 )

I have long been drawn to the philosophy of modern-day magicians, even though the what-they-do part – the actual “magic” –  doesn’t particularly hold my interest.  It has been years since I’ve been to a magic show, and although I avoid Las Vegas like the proverbial plague (I think moiself  is allergic to neon), if I were there, The Penn and Teller show is the one show I’d try to get tickets to.

 

Well, that and a show featuring Amazonian-stature women dressed as roosters.  Because, you know, culture.

What interests me is (something which magicians themselves have pointed out) the similarity of “tricks” used by magicians and politicians and religions.  Magic acts, religious leaders and texts, and extreme political ideologies are similar in that they employ physical and psychological methods to fool people into believing something that they otherwise would have/should have known is patently untrue ( The man did not pull a quarter from your nose…but gosh darn it, it sure looked like he did).  Ultimately, magicians and demagogues and priests don’t have to fool people, because by using a combination of visual, oral, and intellectual illusions, they get people to fool themselves.

 

 

I recently tuned into my favorite podcast on communication and science, Clear + Vivid , and was pleased to hear that C+V host Alan Alda’s guest was Penn Jillette (aka “the talking half “of Penn and Teller).  In Magic, Tricks, and Us, Penn explored this question:


When we see a magic trick, is the magician fooling us,
or are we fooling ourselves?

 

 

Jillette’s thesis is that “magic tricks” are a test of how we process reality:

“If you’re lying to somebody, they’ll catch you. But if you get someone to lie to themselves, you’ve got ’em.  And that is what we’re (magicians) always trying to do: get people to make assumptions…because they’ll put up a wall around me, but if I can come around the edge, we can fool ’em that way.

He talks about illusions v. tricks, and how he prefers the latter:

“Tricks are ideas that you get someone to…to lie to themselves. Because the trick, instantly, deals with one of the most important subjects we can deal with, which is how we establish what’s real; how we agree on a reality.  For me, doing magic is a playful epistemological experience. We are playing around, in a safe zone, with how we establish what’s true.  We’ve seen what happens when truth is played with on a real stage, in the real world…and it’s horrific.   If you come to see a Penn & Teller show and you say, if these two guys can make me think something that’s patently not true, what can people with a real budget, and a lack of morals, do?”

Penn, an atheist and advocate science and of reality-based thinking, briefly addressed criticism that atheists don’t accept or appreciate “mystery” in the world.

“Atheists are often accused of ‘not accepting the mystery,’ and it’s exactly the opposite. Atheists are very happy going, ‘Hmm, I don’t know.’
Reality-based thinking is actually more in love with mystery than magical thinking.  When scientists said, ‘I don’t know,’ they had more love of the mystery than someone who said, ‘I do know, and it’s god.’
The three most important words of the scientific method are, ‘I don’t know.’ Those were not said until 500 years ago. Priests and rulers and kings, they always knew. Scientists came along and went, ‘I don’t know.’  Those three words are to me the scientific method.”

What spurs scientific investigation in the first place is recognizing and admitting what we don’t know, followed by harnessing the curiosity and freedom to investigate. We all benefit from the science that springs from admitting what we don’t know about a natural phenomenon, rather than being “given” incomplete, incorrect, or simply nonsensical non-answers (“Allah willed it;” “Jehovah did it,” “Pele/Isis/Jesus sent the plague/rains/tornado/volcanic eruption to punish/reward/bless/remind us….”)

 

 

“I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong.”
“I would rather have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned.”
( Richard Feynman, theoretical physicist, professor, and avid bongo player )

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

Harry Houdini used to use lots of trap doors in his magic act.
He’s stopped that now; he was just going through a stage.

 

*   *   *

 

May you appreciate the difference between questions that can’t be answered
and answers that can’t be questioned;
May you be careful what you wish for when it comes to “the aging process;”
May we all realize how truly cool it is that we have another rover on Mars;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Did you see it?  The announcers did a great job of transmitting the NASA/JPL team members’ “Seven Minutes of Terror,” as you think about how butt-frostingly complicated such a mission is, and how many things can go wrong….

[2] Foer example, the contraceptive patch was first available to the public in 2002 but had been in development and testing long before then.

[3] Aka, “The before-you-go toilet spray.”

[4] Yes, of course, that’s in my opinion. This is my blog; whose opinion were you expecting?

[5] Solving the world’s air pollution problems might be too ambitious for junior high, I reckoned.

[6] Neither did he, of course.  I often wonder if I’d been a 13-year-old boy instead of a girl, and come to him with the same idea, would he have encouraged me to study engineering and solve that problem?

[7] As in, wrinkled skin.

The Songs I’m Not Censoring

1 Comment

Gung hay fat choi!

Happy Lunar New Year to my Chinese friends and family, and all who celebrate it.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of At Least They Didn’t Start A Forest Fire

“A 26-year-old Michigan man died on Saturday after he was hit with shrapnel from ‘a small cannon type device’ that exploded when….”

This is how the news article began. What words, would you think, could possibly complete the article’s lead sentence?

“… it was fired in celebration at a baby shower….

 

 

Because celebrating babies and pregnancy and impending parenthood – one immediately thinks: Ah, yes: armaments!

“A cannon type device.” As in, a cannon? It was a friggin’ baby shower; it was not a Civil War reenactment, nor battle enactment of any kind…although – WARNING: BAD PREGNANCY PUN AHEAD – many a woman in her ninth month of gestation has felt like she is personally fighting the Battle of the Bulge.

 

The story continues:

“The man, Evan Thomas Silva, a guest at the party, was about 10 to 15 feet from the device when it blew up in the backyard of a home. Metal shrapnel hit Mr. Silva, three parked cars and the garage where the shower was being held, the police said…..
The night Mr. Silva died, he was among the guests…attending a baby shower — not a gender reveal party….”
( “Celebratory Cannon Salute at Baby Shower Ends in Death,” NY Times 2-7-21

Interesting that the article took pains to mention that this was *not* a gender reveal party, as per the idiotic trend in which celebratory pyrotechnics employed by excited parents-to-be inadvertently yet efficiently caused *more than one* wildfire in the past year (a trend which yours truly had mocked in a previous post).

Attention, expectant parents: stop this. Right now. Stop throwing such events for yourselves and stop attending them in your “honor.” Your friends and family will thank you:  no matter what they are saying to your face, under your nose and behind your back they are embarrassed and appalled that you apparently find the fact of *your* impending parenthood – an event so ordinary that it happens worldwide, 385,000 times PER DAY  – to be so special that it is the cause for the type of celebration usually reserved for a nation’s liberation from a dictator or the opening of yet another Disney theme park.

Have a party if you want to, of course!  Keep it simple – those kind of celebrations are remembered most fondly, and are less stressful to plan *and* attend. Do the potluck thing, play music and silly games.  [1]  But have some perspective, puuuuuhhhhllleeeaassee.  NO cannons, no fireworks – nothing which intentionally or otherwise explodes… with the exception of your Uncle Beauford’s mouth (and other orifices) after his third helping of your elderly neighbor’s double-chili-bean-cabbage-beer-garlic casserole.

 

“We’re so excited about baby’s first artillery!

*   *   *

Department Of What To Serve At Your Baby Shower
Sup-Department Of Maybe Reconsider The Chicken Wings

“Torture a single chicken in your backyard, and you risk arrest. Abuse tens of millions of them? Why, that’s agribusiness.”
( “The Ugly Secrets Behind the Costco Chicken,” NY Times, 2-6-21 )

 

 

Selective breeding by agricultural scientists for larger overall size and enormous breasts – the white meat consumers prefer – has produced  “exploding chickens” that put on weight at a monstrous clip….The journal Poultry Science once calculated that if humans grew at the same rate as these chickens, a 2-month-old baby would weigh 660 pounds…. The chickens’ legs, unable to support the weight of their out-of-proportion bodies, often splay or collapse, making some chickens topple onto their backs (and then they cannot right themselves) and others collapse onto their bellies, where they lie in mounds of feces and suffer bloody rashes called ammonia burns – the poultry version of bed sores.

*   *   *

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Memory Sparking

The film class moiself  had in college: I hadn’t thought of it, nor of the class’s professor, in years.  Now, twice in the past two months both have come to mind (and thus, to this blog).

The first time was two months ago, during the brouhaha manufactured by a Wall Street Journal columnist who chided Jill Biden, who holds a Ph.D. in education, for using her professional credentials. I’d remembered how I’d gotten a kick out of how Robert Miller, my film class’s professor,  [2]  made his point as to how he wished to be addressed.  Miller, who had a Ph.D. in literature, introduced himself as “Professor Miller.” When a student speaking in class prefaced their remarks with, “Dr. Miller…” Miller would interrupt with, “Yes, nurse?”

The second time was last week, when I was listening to a recent Fresh Air interview with former writer  [3]  and current professional observationist  [4]   Fran Leibovitz.  Leibovitz was promoting a new Netflix docuseries, “Pretend It’s a City,”  in which the series’ director (Leibovitz’s longtime friend, Martin Scorsese) talks with Leibovitz about…well, about Leibovitz, and whatever Leibovitz thinks about any and every thing she thinks about.   [5]

In the Fresh Air interview Leibovitz talked about her “career” background. Before enjoying her fifteen minutes of fame as a writer in the 1970s  [6]  Leibovitz held a series of menial/odd jobs. She claims she took housecleaning jobs and drove a taxi because, “I don’t have any skills. I didn’t know how to do anything else.”

“I also didn’t want to do the job that most of my friends did, which was wait tables, because I didn’t want to have to be nice to men to get tips or to sleep with the manager of my shift, which was a common requirement then for being a waitress in New York.”

My film professor, who was a writer as well as a teacher, didn’t (to my knowledge) require any of his students to sleep with him – that’s not why this memory was sparked.  He *did* do something which I thought was an abuse of power, although at that time I hadn’t the emotional or intellectual context to frame it as such, given its complexity.

One afternoon in class the topic was screenplay adaptation.  As an example of how you would turn a literary story into a cinematic one, Professor Miller announced that our next assignment, due the following week, would be to write up a proposal for adapting a piece of short fiction he would give to us.  We’ll spend the rest of the class time discussing the assignment, Professor Miller said.  He began passing out photocopies of – I stifled a gasp when I read the byline – a short story *he* had written.

 

 

I remember thinking, “Uh, this a good idea?  HELL NO.”

Would any student dare say, “This story is not adaptable,” or, “There’s no way I would want to adapt this even if I thought I could because I just don’t like it.…” or express any other critique, from mild to scathing, knowing that it is the professor’s own work?

I tried to stifle my instinctive, lip-curling expression as I read the story, which was a Mailer-Hemingwayesque male fantasy, about a backpacking trip taken by an Older Man ® (an artist-teacher of some kind) and the Much Younger Woman ® he is mentoring and – surprise! – fucking dating.   Meanwhile, Professor Miller read aloud from the story’s campfire scene, a scene which, he told the class, would be particularly visually appealing for a screenwriter (the following is my summation of the scene):

OM and MYW are sitting around their campfire, their conversation terse and tense. There is a sense of growing strain between them for a variety of reasons, including the status of their relationship, and signs of bear activity in the vicinity. When MYW excuses herself  (presumably to go behind the tent to take a pee break),  OM ruminates about how their relationship will likely be coming to an end, as he is older, more educated and world-wise, and she is…well…she is what she is (young and beautiful).

MYW returns, tossing an item into the campfire as she sits down; OM sees a tampon briefly blaze before the flames incinerate it. He begins to panic…. 

Already feeling nauseated by the retch-worthy cliché of the older male teacher/younger female student predatory romantic relationship scenario, I had another thought that made me want to puke in class: he’s not going to incorporate the macho woodsy myth about bears being attracted to menstruating women in his story, is he?   [7] 

OM starts asking MYW about why she didn’t tell him she was having her menstrual period – they’re in bear country, FFS! That explains his feeling that a bear has been stalking them.  Now, they are in danger….

Several students (all male) took turns praising the scene and shared their ideas as to how they would script it.  I remember Professor Miller looking at me several times, as if he expected my feedback – me, who remained silent, despite usually speaking up in class discussions; me, the one student (or so the professor  told me a week earlier, when he’d returned an assignment of mine   [8]  ) whom he allowed to turn any assignment into a prose-writing opportunity.   [9]

I remember looking around at the class, paying particular attention to the expressions on the other female student’s faces, and having a click-worthy moment of realization:

Oh, so *this* is how women learn to fake orgasms.

 

“Do tell?”

 

Up until that moment, the class as a whole had had little problem tearing into films we had been told were “classics” but which one or more of us found poorly made, reductive, or just plain boring.  But for this assignment, what choice did we have, other than to act as if we liked the story?  He was our professor; it was his story. We had to pretend to like or at least approve of it in order for us to succeed in that situation.

Somewhere near the end of class time moiself  raised my hand and asked if we had other options for the assignment – for example, adapting works of…other authors.  I remember phrasing my question as delicately as I could, and squeezing in some (faux) compliments of his story, compliments which were bland enough that I didn’t hate myself for wimping out on what I wanted to do, which was to object to the inherent hubris of him assigning his own story.  Fortunately for me, several of the professor’s suck-ups acolytes weighed in on the subject, and my tacit criticism of his self-indulgent ego trip of an assignment didn’t seem to register (or at least not for long, as I got an A in the class).

*   *   *

Department Of Sometimes I Miss The Good Old Days Of Censorship

“When I’m good, I’m very good, but when I’m bad, I’m better. ”

“I’ll try anything once, twice if I like it, three times to make sure.”

― Mae West

 

The Good Old Days ® of any kind were usually not-that-good, just old.  I am not condoning censorship; continuing with this post’s cinematic theme, I am remember the day in my film class where we learned about the Hays Code, aka the Motion Picture Production Code.  The Hays Code was used, for almost four decades, by film studios to require that their pictures be “wholesome” and “moral” and free from a list of no-nos (e.g. nudity, overt violence, sexually suggestive dances, discussions of sexual perversity, characters which engendered sympathy for criminals, unnecessary use of liquor, making fun of religion, interracial relationships, “lustful kissing,” ridicule of law and order….)

A lively class discussion about the Hays Code ensued.  Several students, and the professor, gave reasons for favoring some kind of code or guidelines (although not outright censorship), due to the artistic ingenuity such guidelines inevitably inspired.

This idea that “guidelines up the game” is one which crosses artistic genres. I recall experiencing a joy I don’t think can be replicated today, when I realized that 13-year-old moiself  “got” The Kinks’ song, Lola, and my parents   [10]   and the radio censors didn’t.  Presently, pop vocalists can call for the execution of people they don’t like, can call each other obscene and racist epithets, can brag about the…uh, humidity level of their intimate parts….  There are few if any lines to subversively read between. 

 

A fun factoid about “Lola” is that the word “Coca-Cola” in the original recording had to be changed ( ♫ “I met her in a bar down in old Soho where you drink champagne and it takes just like Coca-Cola…” ♫ ).  Singer Ray Davies dubbed in “cherry cola” for the song’s release, due to the BBC Radio’s policy against product placement.

 

Son K and I had an interesting IM session about the subject of censorship when, apropos of what-I-cannot-now recall, K came across some info about the Parents Music Resource Center, asked me some questions, and began searching for and then watching videos of the PMRC’s congressional hearing.

[ The PMRC, as some of y’all may recall, was an American governmental “advisory committee” formed in the 1980s which sought to increase parental control over children’s access to music with violent, sexual, and drug-related themes. The PMRC lobbied the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America)  to develop a music labeling system, ala the MPAA’s film rating system.  Because the PMRC was founded by four women whose husbands had political connections (including Tipper Gore, married to Senator and later Vice President Al Gore) the group was sometimes derisively and dismissively referred to as “The Washington Wives.” ]

K: man so reading about the PMRC. what was tipper gore’s problem

Moiself What made you read about the PMRC?
Some say Tipper Gore was looking for a “cause,; others, including herself and her husband, say she was a concerned parent who became shocked when she listened to the lyrics of one of her daughter’s favorite songs…and then started acquainting herself with other lyrics to popular music.
I think it’s probably a combination of both motivations.  The PMRC was actually a milder version of other parental groups at the time which were calling for censorship – the PMRC wanted parental warning labels as to content….

I gave K a brief history lesson: at that time, many kids didn’t buy their own records – their parents or grandparents did.  As a parent and “consumer,” I wouldn’t want to spend my money on songs that used racial epithets or promoted homophobic or misogynistic viewpoints to my kids. And in the ’80s lyrics were getting really explicit, which made me actually wish for the days of radio content restrictions…because then singers and songwriters had to be clever.  It was so much fun when, ala my “Lola” reference, you knew something was slipped by the sensors – you caught a reference that even the supposedly hip radio programming directors, as well as your own parents, didn’t “get.”

K: just looking through it, (the PMRC hearings) all comes across to me as one of those bullshit moral crusades. a need to either feel self superior, or a need to control anything that doesn’t appeal to X person’s personal tastes, or both.
it just reminded me of a milder version of McCarthyist witch hunting.
demonizing something for political gain

Moiself: Yes, but the latter is a proven technique.

Later on, in an in-person dialogue, I shared with K my opinion that any form of guideline or structure-free art risks…well, think of the criticism of free verse poetry as playing tennis with the net down.  I’m not lauding censorship per se, but, to reiterate, IMHO guidelines can actually make people more creative – or sneaky, which has a strong element of creativity to it. Because when you can’t just come out and say Certain Things ® you have to be subtle and sly, employing cheeky imagery and evocative dialogue.  You have to be more poetic, in a way.

A movie critic once asked the late great writer/screenwriter/director Nora Ephron if Ephron agreed with the critic’s observation that there seemed to have been stronger roles for women actors, and better plots and dialog, in the earlier days of cinema. Ephron agreed, and lamented contemporary movies’ lack of witty dialogue and snappy repartee – and distinctive, self-assured female characters – which were found in the movies of the 30s and 40s and even 50s.  Beginning in the late 60s, along came the “New Cinema” movement, which emphasized so-called gritty realism. You no longer had to employ clever camera angles and witty, double-entendre laden repartee – now you can just show (instead of imply) a graphic murder, have the protagonists jump into bed together (which had the effect of valuing, defining – and casting – female actors as per their sexual appeal)…and then what?

In an atmosphere where nothing is considered to be off-limits, you will never have the delightful shock value of experiencing, say, the judicious use of “strong” language.  I fondly recall my mother telling me about her most memorable movie experience, when as a child she saw Gone With The Wind. She said she’d never forget how she was both scandalized and thrilled – and how “the entire theater gasped” –  when Rhett Butler delivered his infamous parting line:

 

 

 

*   *   *

Pun(z) For The Day

Moiself : Did you hear about that actress, Reese, who just stabbed a guy to death?
Innocent bystander: Witherspoon?
Moiself : No, she used her knife.

  1. Q.  How does award-winning actor Reese eat her Cheerios?
  2. A.  Witherspoon.

I suppose I have to be a good sport about this.

*   *   *

May you shun any event mixing pyrotechnics and babies;
May you neither actively nor passively contribute to “exploding chickens;”
May you challenge yourself to both follow and subvert the guidelines;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Of course, have these events safely, distanced/outdoors, and masked until this damn COVID-19 thing peters out …do I really need to say this? Apparently.

[2] A pseudonym.

[3] Leibovitz has famously suffered from writer’s block for years, and now seems to get by with having people pay to listen to her talk about the things she used to write about. Not a criticism – she has a keen, sardonic eye, and is quite witty.  I have enjoyed the series, so far (haven’t as of this writing finished listening to all episodes).

[4] I’m not sure if “observationist” is a thing, but Leibovitz seems to be making a living from it.

[5] Which centers around her technophobic life in New York city; specifically, Manhattan.

[6] Using her satirical, NYC-centered wit, she opined on American life in two best-selling collections of essays,   Metropolitan Life and Social Studies.

[7] After class I found a couple of Wildlife Fisheries Biology majors who confirmed that was a myth.  Even so, it was a myth that got a lot of traction, and it wasn’t until in the 1980s and ’90s that biologists did studies proving that bears – or sharks – are no more attracted to menstruating women than to any other kind of human.

[8] storyboarding a dada-esque, vignette-style commercial for the soft drink, 7-Up, which he graded A+.

[9] We’d had and would continue to have various projects over the quarter, from “making” a short films or advertisements or animation. I’d no interest in filming anything or doing animation, and always chose to interpret “making” as doing the screenplay, storyboarding and/or writing portion of the project.

[10] When my friend’s très conservative mother was singing along to “Lola” on the radio while was driving us to the beach, I somehow resisted the urge to ask if she knew she was enjoying an ode to a naïve young man’s romance with a transvestite.

The Mental Note I’m Not Making

Comments Off on The Mental Note I’m Not Making

Dateline: Thursday, returning from my morning walk. A black van slowly drives by my house, then pulls up in my driveway just as moiself  punches in the code to open the garage door.  The car is unmarked; I figure it for a delivery vehicle, and indeed, the driver leaves the motor running as he exits the vehicle and approaches me, carrying a white, pizza-delivery-shaped box and three other items in his arms. He likely cannot discern my confused expression that slowly crosses my face (I am masked) when I see that the “packages” he’s toting all bear the Krispy Kreme logo.

“Excuse me,” I say, “I think you have the wrong address.” His eyes and forehead denote that he is smiling beneath his mask, but I’m not sure he understands me. “Do you have the correct house number?” I ask again.  “We didn’t order….uh, we don’t eat…” I gesture toward his armful. “…any of that.”

He says MH’s name, in heavily accented (Russian?) English, and points to the top of the box, where MH’s first name and last initial are written in black ink. Seeing that I have my hands full (hat and gloves in one hand and walking poles in the other) he leaves the items on the front porch and waves to me as he scampers back to his van.

I enter the house via the garage and tell MH, who is in the kitchen, about the delivery.  He fetches the items from the porch, and tells me that yesterday afternoon someone from work messaged him with the news that there would be a “sweet treat” delivered to him tomorrow, in honor of his 30 years with the company.

“I was hoping,” MH shakes his head, “for chocolates.”

Here is what MH got:  a donut assortment and a bucket of coffee and eight cups and enough creamer to drown a possum (*eight* coffee cups?  Whom do they think he’ll be having over during these COVID social isolation times?).

 

 

MH does not drink coffee (thirty years, and they don’t know this?), and doesn’t eat donuts.

Yeah, team!  Way to know and value your employees!

Even as I type this MH is receiving “very nice” calls and messages from people he works with, regarding his 30 years with the company, and I can tell he is touched by their individual expressions of congratulations.  “The company” as such does have an interesting history of less-than-stellar acknowledgements of significant anniversaries, as moiself  noted in this space, five years ago. What the heck; it all makes for a better story than a gold watch.

*   *   *

Department Of What Have I Ever Done To Deserve This?

Thursday was quite the day.  I awoke Thursday morning at 3:30 AM – a good five hours before the surprise KK delivery – and, as always when I awaken in mid-eve/early am, an earworm was infecting my brain.

This time, the song was a particularly odious one.  I’m not talking Osmond Family odious, but almost.

 

“Oh, did you say something insulting? We’re too busy urging agents of the Mormon church to buy controlling percentages of Proctor & Gamble stock – the makers of the Crest Whitening Strips ® we heartily endorse! – to pay attention to your gentile gibes. ”  [1]

 

It was a Bobby Goldsboro song: The Straight Life.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Stranger’s Post I’m Responding To.
Sub Department Of Why. Do. I. Do. This.

A friend posted the following on Facebook (passing it on, I’m guessing, from someone else’s’ post).  Underneath a faded photo of a baby girl and her adorable sisters (all of whom appeared to be under age three), was this entreaty (I removed the names; other than that, the post is as originally written and punctuated.):

PLEASE HELP!!
51 years ago our mother _ _ ___ (nee ____).     Walked out of these 3 little girls lives ___ &  ___ & ___ (last name) Castle . For what reason were really not sure, we have had several failed attempts to find her this is now our last chance of any hope of finding her.  she could have moved abroad Australia or Canada. She will be 74 now born 9th December 1942. Social media seems to help with good things, life can never be  complete when you  don’t know who or where your mother is. We need this to go WORLD WIDE….. PLEASE HELP ….

I kept second guessing moiself  as I typed my comment.  I don’t know these people; they aren’t asking for my advice….except that they *are,* in that internet way.  By asking for their post to go WORLD WIDE they are seeking a worldwide reaction.

As a citizen of this world, I still feel a keen loyalty to a part of the world with which I have a significant history: working in women’s reproductive health care clinics.  Some of the women and girls I served were mired in the myriad of situations which might cause a woman to “walk out” of her children’s lives and resist any attempts to be found.  Also, I cringed to read the post’s – unintentional, I assume, yet inherently presumptuous  – dis of the lives of adoptees and orphans, and others who may not know their biological mothers but who nonetheless live lives filled with love, fulfillment, and purpose.

So yeah, moiself  had to dive in:

“For what reason were really not sure, we have had several failed attempts to find her….” Do you really think it is wise to pursue this? There are probably reasons your “failed attempts to find her” have in fact failed….can you accept that there are likely reasons she may have, that have to do with her not wanting to be found, reasons that might be painful for you to know and impossible (in her mind, at least) for you to truly understand?
I worked in women’s reproductive health care for years, and the stories I heard and was witness to….would take years to describe. Are you prepared for where this might lead?
I’m sorry for your pain; even as I can’t let a statement like “life can never be complete when you don’t know who or where your mother is…” stand uncontradicted, as it is patently false, given the fact that people all over the world have lived fulfilling lives, having to deal with far more in terms of pain and uncertainty.
I wish you and your sisters – and your biological mother, be she alive or dead – all the best, including peace in this matter.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Calling All Math Nerds

Help me out on this one. Dateline: Tuesday, circa 7 am, listening to a podcast while doing The Morning Walk Thing ® .  The podcast (the name of which escapes me now)  [2]  featured an interview with a guest who was a mathematician.  Mr. Math Man was talking about the “perfect number,” a mathematics concept wherein the divisors of said number add up to the number itself.  For example, 6 is a perfect number because 3 + 2 + 1 = 6.

But wait one darn minute.  Just prior to revealing this Perfect Number equation, Math Man said that the divisors of 6 are the numbers 3 and 2 (3 x 2 = 6), *AND* 6 and 1 (6 x 1 =6).  If you add all of those together you get 12, not 6.  Why was he leaving out 6 when he’d just said it was a divisor – as is 1, and he included the 1 in the “perfect number” equation?

 

 

No doubt there is some, because-we-define-it-this-way-that’s-why explanation that makes the less-than-perfect (IMO) definition of the perfect number more perfect – an explanation that would have to involve the divisors of the number but not the number itself being included in the “perfect” addition equation.

But wait, there’s more!

 

Too late.

 

Since every whole number is divisible by itself and one, that leaves the number one as a partnerless divisor in those perfect number equations…and you could never have a perfect number, using the definition of perfect number which the guest presented, unless the number itself was excluded from its divisors addition – again, which leaves the number one missing its divisor partner.  Which seems kinda lonely, to me. Can any number even be considered a divisor without the action of another number?

Yeah, I could google this.  I’d just rather throw out to the universe this silly rumination of arcane concepts question of burning importance to the very nature of our existence.

 

Make that, the divisor stands alone.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Momentarily Missing The Point

Moiself  has been using a new meditation app. One recent morning in a guided meditation, the narrator instructed me to “…make a mental note in my mind…”

Well…yeah…that is where I would make a *mental* note.

The note I was advised to make had to do about breathing, but instead and immediately moiself  started making mental notes about the delightful redundancy of the suggestion.

Yes, my mind is where I make my mental notes,
as opposed to my elbow or my spleen…
Wow! Am I so ahead of the practice, or what?!?!?

That went on for…way longer than it should have.

Although my investigation of the phenomenon assures me that it is common to all humanity, I’ve always thought that the dictionary definition of monkey mind should include a picture of moiself .

*   *   *

Department Of Silver Linings

The Presidential Inauguration.

As much as I was thrilled for the new Prez and Veep to be sworn in, moiself  girded my loins for the inevitable yet no-less-offensive-just-because-they-all-do-it invocation.  Of all the things that should *not* be heard in a secular democracy’s inauguration ceremony, religious rhetoric of any kind tops my list.  It turned my stomach for a variety of reasons.

I don’t care about Biden’s personal religion – that’s the point, it should be *his* personal business.  A nation based on a deliberately crafted, god-free constitution does not need to hear anything resembling advice or entreaties from a minister when we are installing our head of state – in particular, we don’t need the nonsense from a priest who quotes  the head of state of the worldwide cabal of celibate (ha!) sexists and altar boy buggerers.   [3]  

I was saved from my disgust when I realized what was to follow the putrid  proselytizing invocation.  The Inauguration announcer, who used his Solemn And Important ® voice to announce the Supreme Court Justices, and Harris and Biden, and then the invocation speaker, was also going to use that same voice to introduce she-who-was-to-sing-our-national-anthem.

Mere words cannot describe the petty thrill that tickled moiself  from eyebrows to tootsie-toes when I heard those stentorian tones used for the words I never expected would be part of an inaugural ceremony:

“Please welcome Lady Gaga.”

If only Her Ladyship could have worn her meat dress….

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of If I Had My Life To Live Over Again…

…I just might choose a multidisciplinary field of study which would have qualified me to be an “expert” on the recent  Freakonomics podcast I found so entertaining.  “The Downside of Disgust” (Ep. 448, 1-20-21) dealt with the human biological response and reflex known as disgust.

I imagine teaching an undergraduate course in the science and sociology of disgust. I would call moiself , Professor Eeeeeewwwwwwwwww.   [4]

*   *   *

Department Of Blast From The Past

Typing the previous section about disgust led me to trip down the Memory Lane staircase, where I landed spread-eagle on the floor of a recollection I posted about, way back on 10-19-12 (yikes – moiself  has been blogging for that many years?):

October 19, 1945, is the birthdate of Harris Glenn Milstead.  Better known as his stage name, “Divine,” the flamboyant transvestite starred in ten John Waters films,     [5]  and would have been 67 today had he not died 25 years ago from an enlarged heart.

Divine holds a special place in my normal-sized heart ever since we shared an elevator ride in our nation’s capital.  I was in town on a business trip, installing a computer system at WWDC.   [6]  The groundbreaking radio station    [7]   was located in a high-rise office building in downtown D.C. One morning after returning from our daily get-away-from-these-crazy-radio-people fresh air break, my installation partner R and I boarded an empty elevator in the building’s lobby. The elevator stopped at the next floor, and Divine and his PR agent (or so I guessed, from what I heard of their conversation) got on.

Although he lacked his customary stage attire and fright wig, the bald, 300 lb, self-proclaimed “Drag Queen of the Century” was (for me, at least) immediately recognizable. He was in full, eyebrow-elevating makeup, and looked petty much like the picture (below), despite his oddly conservative attire of a Hawaiian shirt, khaki pants and brown loafers.

R and I observed proper Elevator Etiquette and rode in silence, me using the elevator doors as a focal point as I tried to suppress my shit-eating grin.  R stole several furtive/suspicious, OMG glances at Divine, who chatted with his agent about an upcoming promo appearance.

The men exited the elevator two floors before our stop. As soon as the elevator doors closed I turned to R and gushed,
“That was Divine!

R’s cheeks nearly exploded with the force of her sputtered retort:
“That was disgusting!”

Turns out R had no idea who Divine was.

I explained. It didn’t help.

 

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

With great flourish, the Spanish magician exclaimed,
“On the count of three, I shall make myself disappear!
Uno!  Dos!” …and then he vanished, without a tres.

 

*   *   *

May you discover the cheap thrill of using your lowest, most somber voice to say, over and over again, “Lady Gaga;”
May you honor longtime colleagues with appropriate gifts – better yet, just tell them something you like about them;
May your favorite memories be Divine (or at least never disgusting);
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Mormons (usually privately) use the term “gentiles” to refer to anyone – yes, even Jews – outside of their LDS faith.

[2] Gasp – ’tis a podcast host’s worst nightmare, to have the name of their show less memorable than a listener’s random memory of it!

[3] Yes, that would be The Pope.  A fucking pope, the most anti-democratic kind of  “leader” there is…

[4] And on the first day of class, I’d ask Lady Gaga if I could borrow her meat dress….

[5] Most notably in “Pink Flamingoes,” as Babs Johnson, the film’s “Filthiest Person Alive,” dog-excrement eating heroine (just imagine what the film’s villains had to do).

[6] A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I worked for a company that designed computerized “traffic” systems for radio and television stations.

[7] “DC-101” was the first American radio station to play a Beatles song: “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” in December 1963.  DC-101 was where DJ Howard Stern was paired with news anchor Robin Quivers and honed his “shock jock” persona.