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The “Carnus” Bias I’m Not Displaying

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Department of Victory Day

Yesterday marked the second week after my second (Moderna) COVID vaccination.  I feel…not quite invincible, but superb, nonetheless.

 

*   *   *

Dept Of Shame On The Shamers

I have a…how shall I describe it?…not, love-hate, but more, mostly like/sometimes WTF relationship with certain podcasts. The obsequiousness with which podcast hosts and their guests begin their show ranges from mildly annoying to barely tolerable. No matter the subject, from arts and entertainment to politics and science and comedy, it’s as if the podcast hosts and/or producers all received the same Podcast Handbook which decreed that each show must start with a mutual gushing session.

“I *love* your work!”
“Oh, and *I* love *your* work!”

This week, on standup comic/actor Tig Notaro’s Don’t Ask Tig podcast (one of my regular, mostly like/sometimes WTF listens), her guest was “outspoken journalist/author/activist” Jane Velez-Mitchell.   As soon as Velez-Mitchell  described herself as a “fellow lesbian/sober/vegan,” moiself  girded my aural loins for some particularly self-righteous gushing between Notaro and her guest..  After it subsided, I thought they would get on to the supposed raison d’etre for the show – reading listener’s letters.  [1]   It should have come as no surprise to moiself  that their mutual dietary sanctimony took center stage, prompted by Notaro, who asked V-M when she became “plant-based.”

 

 

V-M  told story of the “advice” she personally received from, Howard Lyman, the “Mad Cowboy” rancher-turned vegetarian-then-vegan.  Background info: Lyman got his 15 minutes of fame in 1996 on The Oprah Winfrey show, when the former rancher’s comments on the practices of the American beef industry caused Oprah to declare on the air that she was done with hamburgers. (Oprah, and Lyman, later got more than their 15 minutes of famous lawsuits from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association).

V-M said she’d met Lyman when she had her own news/opinion/interview show, and she interviewed him. After the interview…

V-M:
Lyman and his publicist walked up to my cubicle and said, “We hear you’re a vegetarian.” At that time I was a vegetarian. And I said yes, and they said, “Do you eat dairy?” And I kind of hung my head and because he had just talked about ——– (various horrors of the dairy industry) and I had said ‘yes’ and then he stuck his finger right at my nose and said, ‘Liquid meat!’ and that was the moment I went vegan.”

So. Lyman was able to shame V-M into doing something she probably was headed toward doing anyway. But is that a tactic she would endorse across the board?  Subtle hints brazen evidence surfaced in her comments when she and Notaro got to reading letters, the first from a self-described, “time-strapped single mom” who wanted to know how to prepare healthy meals for her nine-year-old son, who recently declared himself vegan “…oh and did I mention that I am also cooking for his ninety- and eighty-eight-year-old grandparents?”

V-M began her advice with,

“But see there’s the inherent carnus bias in the question – that somehow it’s going to take longer to make something that’s vegan, so we always come from that carnistic bias that it’s going to be more expensive, it’s going to take longer …”

 

 

Not one complete sentence into her advice and she’s already invented two words: “carnus” and “carnistic.”  [2]

V-M did have some actual advice for the advice-seeker advice re recipes, and getting the child involved re the cooking process, but she had to go further:

“…So, get your  child involved in the cooking process, and then you can feed that vegan food to your elderly grandparents so that they live longer, because the best way to ensure longevity is to go plant-based.
So it’s a win-win for everybody; you son is clearly smarter than everybody else in the family….”

 

 

The letter writer had said nothing about the grandparents wanting to live longer or that they were seeking a change in *their* dietary habits. Nor had she mentioned her son’s intelligence vis-à-vis that of the other family members.  But, because he wants to eat vegan, a vegan evangelist just *knows* that he’s “smarter than everyone else.”

As is the way of vegan proselytizers, V-M took (or made) an opening and ran with it. Reacting to another letter, from a man who wanted to tell his friend that opening a bakery is a terrible idea (the friend is not the best cook and her baked goods are atrocious), here’s how V-M dove in:

“First of all, I hope that if she does create this business that’s it’s a vegan bakery, because you don’t need eggs to make cake, or milk…”

Fellow Vegan Notaro could not suppress herself:
“Or milk! You do not need it! You do not need it!”

V-M:
“But the bigger thing is, people are on their journey, and it’s very hard for us to steer people on their journey.”

Except of course when it comes to steering them toward vegan land, when it is not hard at all for her to offer unsolicited advice, bordering on shame.

 

 

I used the term evangelists and proselytizers, because for hardcore vegans, their philosophy is truly a religion.  Notaro and V-M obviously and sincerely believe that their veganism is saving the planet.   [3]   There are people who believe – just as passionately as Notaro and V-M believe in the benefits of plant-based nutrition – that all people have an eternal soul, and that a certain god has a plan for that soul, and that nothing is more important than that.  How receptive would V-M be toward a conservative Christian who “stuck his finger right at your nose” and told her that being lesbian (even a sober, vegan one) is damning her to hellfire, harming heself and the planet, ad nauseum?

And yes, it’s the fucking same thing.

*   *   *

Department Of Random Thoughts At The Stop Light

I love my Subaru, and am impressed with Subaru’s’ reputation for quality and reliability. But when it comes time to get a new car I know I will not be going with their latest (and largest) SUV, due to my gut reaction when I became aware of the model’s name.

Dateline: Wednesday afternoon; running errands.  Moiself  was in my Outback, at a stop light, behind a model of Subaru I’ve never heard of.  I looked to the right of the six-star Subaru logo on the car’s trunk to see the model’s name:  Ascent.  My kneejerk reaction/comment, which moiself  uttered aloud to moiself:

“I guess that name must have market-tested better than Buttsmell.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Downside Of Unmasking

Dateline: last week speaking with an acquaintance who works in the personal services industry.   [4]   We talked about nearing the end of social/physical distancing, and about getting – or having – to see people without masks again.  Moiself  listed a few of the advantages of mask wearing, including the fact that I’d gotten used to running errands without feeling guilty for not having washed my face that morning or having showered in three days (distancing + mask…who’s gonna notice?).  Acquaintance laughed heartily, even more so when I added, “No, I’m serious.”

I started to mention the return of something else which *wasn’t* missed by millions of women…then thought better of it, and chided moiself  for being so cynical.  Turns out, others have been thinking along same lines:

So in less than an hour out of the new CDC mask guidance, I just went outside and pulled mine down. A nearby construction worker immediately told me to “Smile.”
I will miss masks for some reasons that are not pandemic-related.
(tweet from @ Sarah_boxer, quoted in the article mentioned below).

For M. ___, the pandemic marked the first time in decades she hadn’t felt any pressure to adopt an obsequious, apologetic smile when asking for help at the grocery or the hardware store or the car dealership. For women, “the smile sort of neutralizes you. It implies that you’re more pliable, you’re not going to give them trouble,” she says.
With the smile suddenly out of the equation…“it made me go a step further. I decided to not be the type of person who asks for something. Instead I would tell them what I wanted. I would say, ‘I need this.’ ” She plans to keep doing so even when she quits wearing a mask.
(“Masks are off — which means men will start telling women to ‘Smile!’ again.”
Washington Post, 5-22-21 )

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Next Time I’m Going To Shout It To The Cosmos

Dateline:  a long time ago in a galaxy far far away.  Moiself, taking a bus to a job interview….

Oh lawwwdy, those were the days. Out of college, interviewing, no car, dependent upon a sketchy public transportation system.  I became convinced that there were signs posted on my forehead and back of my head.  These signs, invisible to moiself  and normal  [5]   bus riders, apparently flashed neon clarion calls to every loud and loony and delusional and horny street person:  “Talk to this one – she’ll listen to anything and she loves unsolicited advice.”

Yet again, I digress.

I was riding the bus, passing the time by reading a magazine article.  The bus slowed as it approached my stop; I looked up from my magazine and saw a man seated across the aisle, who was staring at me.  I stood up and moved to the front of the bus; Staring Man said, loud enough for the other passengers seated at the front of the bus to hear:

“You’d look prettier if you’d smile.”

I muttered as I exited the bus, “And you’d sound smarter if you’d never open your mouth.”

 

 

Back in those days, I swore that Weird Al wrote his parody of Queen’s Another One Bites the Dust for me.

♫  Ridin’ in the bus down the boulevard
And the place was pretty packed,
Couldn’t find a seat so I had to stand
With the perverts in the back
It was smellin’ like a locker room
There was junk all over the floor
We’re already packed in like sardines
But we’re stoppin’ to pick up more, look out

Another one rides the bus, another one rides the bus
And another comes on and another comes on
Another one rides the bus
Hey, he’s gonna sit by YOU, another one rides the bus…

( “Another One Rides the Bus,” full lyrics here )

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Poetic License

I write and mail two letters every Friday, one to son K and one to daughter Belle. Just because. They don’t get much in the way of snail mail these days (who does?); I thought it would be a nice for them to get something other than advertising flyers, and a fun discipline for moiself, and that it would give them the opportunity to say holy crap, not another one” and reach for the recycling bin lovingly tuck away these personal missives and review them later with fond nostalgia.

Each letter begins with either a haiku or a limerick I have composed, themes varying from personal to political to the weather or a new month/the passage of time…whatever.  Usually I personalize the compositions, but last week they both got the same:

A Haiku For Those Counties Who Want To Leave “Liberal” Oregon
Begone, ingrates, and
take your tR**p-licking mindset
With you when you go.

You diss Portland, yet
have no qualms about taking
Liberal money,

disbursed by the state,
from higher earning/urban
cities, to your schools.

Wave bye-bye, and don’t
let the door hit your Proud Boy
asses when you leave.

That purple prose was inspired by a recent event in Oregon politics:  the majority of voters who cast ballots in advisory special elections in seven eastern/southern Oregon counties approved measures for their counties to leave Oregon and join Idaho.

I should turn in my Scout’s current events badge; I had *no idea* that this issue was A Thing ® . My Not Paying Attention ® may be an example of one of the reasons why the people voting to “secede” did so: they think they play second fiddle to urbanized Oregon (i.e., the  Portland and Eugene metro areas ), and that urbanites, such as moiself, don’t know (or care) about their concerns.  And, in a democracy, that’s kind of true – the “second fiddle” analogy, that is.

The seven counties that  voted to leave, Jefferson, Union, Baker, Grant, Lake, Malheur and Sherman, constitute almost 75% of Oregon’s landmass.
BUT – and it’s a big but here ­–

 

And also here.

 

BUT…all that land is meagerly populated, as in, only ~ 114, 000 total residents.  The state’s entire population is ~ 4,238,000…so those leaving constitute ~ 3% of the total population. Those seven counties poll and vote “red.” And there is, of course, a conservative advocacy group behind this: ” Citizens for Greater Idaho.”

In all the excitement to thumb their noses at those damn liberals,  it is likely that the people who voted to leave have not fully considered several factors in joining “Greater Idaho.”  Two prime factors are:

* A good percentage of the jobs in those counties are minimum wage. Translation: those counties who want to leave are essentially agreeing to a pay cut for hourly workers, as the minimum wage in Oregon ($11.25) is a whopping four dollars higher than in Idaho.

* Speaking of higher, weed is illegal in Idaho.  Are those disgruntled voters trading Oregon buds for Idaho spuds? Those (wanna-be) seceding Oregon counties have made a lot of money from legal marijuana sales (and, in the opinion of some of us, are obviously heavy users of the stuff themselves, as an Oregonian who would vote to join Idaho must be stoned).

Another reason not to miss those who want to go involves something Oregon’s urbanites have grumbled about for years when they hear criticism from the smaller eastern/southern counties:

Oregon is a state that disproportionately gets tax money from its most economically productive citizens — and regions — and which disproportionately spends its resources in economically struggling communities.
(Oregon’s Fiscal Flow)

When it comes to contributing to state coffers and these smaller counties have usually received more, percentage wise, than they give.  The much-despised liberal urban areas pay more than their share for the educational and other social services consumed by the smaller/rural areas.

Here is what Citizen’s For Greater Idaho Envision:

 

 

Here is moiself’s  equally probable pipe dream, of redoing the borders of our entire nation, ever since the re-election of GWB:

 

 

Moiself’s personal take on all of this:  I’ve no problem with those counties leaving (assuming Idaho is willing to take them).  I actually think it would be a good thing, for our country, to see how it turns out.  If it is a success (however that would be measured), I hope that California would then consider a split, or four, of its own.   [6]

From what I’m reading, the secession of these seven counties is unlikely to happen, as per the layers of bureaucracy that have to be dealt with.  Despite what the citizens of those counties voted for, they are dependent upon the approval of other government bodies: both the Oregon and Idaho state legislatures would have to agree to redefine their respective boundaries and redistrict their legislatures. And then the US Congress has final approval.   [7]

Gee, does this dilemma sound so familiar?  The majority voted a certain way; now, the will of the people being thwarted….  Hey y’all in the by-bye Oregon movement, do you now understand why so your fellow Americans want to get rid of the Electoral College?

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
COVID Pundemic Edition

Why do they call it the novel coronavirus? It’s a long story….

Ran out of toilet paper and started using lettuce leaves.
Today was just the tip of the iceberg, tomorrow romaines to be seen.

We had a run on toilet paper in the USA,
but in Germany there was panic-buying of sausage and cheese – the wurst-kase scenario.

The World Health Organization announced that dogs cannot contract COVID-19; thus, dogs previously held in quarantine can be released.
Yep: WHO let the dogs out.

 

*   *   *

 

May you enjoy the new-car smell, no matter what your new car model’s name;
May you soon (if you haven’t already) celebrate your vaccine victory day;
May you hold the door open for anyone you know who wants to secede to Idaho;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] The podcast is an “advice column” in podcast form, although I wonder how many of the advice seekers are legit, or are just making up letters to get some airtime.

[2] I’m not sure re the spellings…but does it matter with a made-up terms?

[3] And as a 99% plant-based eater moiself, I’m in agreement with that idea…but not with how she’s promoting it. And yep, I manage to bake without (dairy) milk and eggs.

[4] And shame on you for immediately going to Euphemism Land.  Think more along the lines of hair salon. 

[5] “normal” as in polite, discreet, keeping their opinions and personal hygiene to themselves.

[6] It’s ridiculous that the 39+ MILLION Californians have less say in their lives than the 580 THOUSAND Wyomingites as per Senate representation. Such incredible power-skewing is not what the framers of the US Constitution envisioned.

[7] The U.S. Constitution (Article IV, section 3) allows for states to be subdivided if the affected states’ legislatures consent and U.S. Congress approves,

The Digestion I’m Not Promoting

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Department Of Teasers I Can’t Resist

Dateline: Monday, doing a 7:45 am warm-up on my elliptical thingy before my streaming yoga class begins. I tune in to the Curiosity Daily podcast, which begins (as always) with a brief preview of the day’s topics:

“Today we’ll learn about why introverts fared better than extroverts
during the pandemic;
that time people were afraid that astronaut farts were a fire hazard…”

Wait – “that time?” What time was that?  Please oh please oh please tell me that there was that time, because I really want to find a way to revisit it.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Everything Has Its Price

Dateline:  last weekend.  The man from the Home Maintenance Business  [1]  stood in our entryway, chatting with MH as I began to write out a check. This company provided us with a service which required several visits.  I asked him to confirm that the price for the day’s visit was $158.  He did, then said that if I would go online and give his company a five-star review, which he would very as coming from us, he’d knock it down to $150.

 

 

“I knew there was a reason I didn’t trust those reviews!”

Although my tone was humorous, I made no attempt to hide the are-you-fucking-kidding-me? indignation in my eyes, which met his above our respective face masks.  He immediately (and defensively) added that, what with all the competition out there, reviews were essential to small businesses like his, and….

Yes, I imagine they are, I thought. And shouldn’t something essential be, essentially, honest?

I let him babble on as I continued to write the check for the original amount. 

Had he merely asked me to review the company online, I probably would have done so.  But he went further, in a way that flummoxed me, the more I thought about it.  He offered me a laughably paltry discount contingent upon the kind of review I would write – AND, which he would “verify,” whatever that meant.  Seeing as how he was prepared to take the check I wrote at that moment, how would he later enforce such a verification?  If he went online, read my review, and discovered it wasn’t five stars, what was he going to do – return to our house, rifle through our petty cash drawer, and take eight bucks?   [2]

The review I might have given would have been a positive review, but not five stars.  As a matter of principle, I generally do not give five stars (or eighteen thumbs up, or whatever the highest rating is, depending on the system).   Moiself  be suspicious of anything reviewed – from movies and books to restaurants and services – which has all top-rated/glowing reviews.  Such hyperbole makes me think that the maker of the product being reviewed guilted and/or blackmailed convinced family and friends to rave about it.  And then, there is the “everyone gets a trophy for participating” phenomena.  If every rating is five stars, then a five-star rating is nothing special.

Perhaps, for him, it was business as usual. Thus, it’s possible that he didn’t think of his request in the same way MH and I did.  As in, Dude, do you realize that you tried buy our integrity for $8?

Now, if it had been $50….

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Return To Normalcy (?)

Dateline: Tuesday, 1:20p, a Cinemark theater.  I saw “Those Who Wish Me Dead.” My first movie in a movie theater in well over a year (since mid-March of 2020).

Daughter Belle, when I proudly texted her re my outing, pointed out that I could have watched the same movie via Netflix (as she did).  Yep, and duh.  But I didn’t want to, and was glad I didn’t.  It was the kind of movie whose cinematic presentation demanded…well…a cinematic presentation.  Montana; wilderness; wildfires – big screen stuff.

There were about fifteen of us intrepid cinephiles scattered about the theatre.  We all made ISN’T THIS GREAT ?!?!?!?! eye contact with one another as we entered the theater and found our respective (reserved online; generous spacing) seats. One older gent seated near the entrance greeted everyone with a lifting of his popcorn bag in a toasting gesture; no words were necessary to convey his meaning.

Moiself  is hoping to return to regular (as in, weekly) movie-in-a-theater viewing.    [3]  Now I just have to hope for suitable movies available to see.    [4]

*   *   *

Department Of They Only Want What’s Best For America

Dateline: May 14 (last Friday). I posted the following on Facebook:

Department of irrefutable evidence:
I thought I was doing fine after my second COVID vaccination yesterday – just a sore arm; no other reactions.  But later that evening, I allowed Amazon to charge me $3.99 to watch “Gidget Goes Hawaiian.”
Should I report this to the CDC?

 

Trigger Warning


Apparently, my inclusion of the words “vaccination,” “reaction,” and “CDC” triggered Facebook’s Vigilant Guardians of Factual Information Monitors. ®   MH alerted me to the fact that, within minutes of posting my post, Facebook had added a comment/post to my post, which read:

COVID-19 vaccines go through many tests for safety and effectiveness and are then monitored closely.
Source: World Health Organization.

The comment included a blue-highlighted “Get vaccine Information” link.

This amused me to no end.  I had to comment further:

Isn’t it funny, that, because my post mentions the COVID vaccine, it got flagged for a warning? In case all my moron friends think that a desire to watch dreadful movies is a side-effect and decide to remain unvaccinated.
They couldn’t protect us from Russian hackers stealing our elections, but my golly, FB monitors are gonna protect y’all from Gidget!

 

Carefree American teenagers riding surfboards, or Russian anti-vaxxer spies atop giant radioactive tongue depressors?

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Reaction I’m Not Reporting To Social Media

Dateline Friday afternoon, lounging on the sofa, languishing with my post second vaccine 100.6° temperature.    [5]   Following the CDC guidelines for recovery from illness, I fall asleep while watching TV.  I doze off to a 2019 surfing championship program and awake 45 minutes later to see the cheery visage of the host of a “raw vegan” cooking show.

Moiself  watches with fever-influenced interest as the host/chef works her way through several recipes, some of which look delicious, and others…not so. The show ends with a picture of the final recipe, accompanied by a voice-over listing the recipe’s ingredients, and three lines of text listing why you should make this recipe yourself.  As in, this recipe is

* Easy

* Tasty

* Promotes Digestion

 

 

Wait a minute.  Even with a fever, I recognize the gobbledy-gook nonsense of that line #3.

That last line is one of those claims which, at first glance, can seem desirous (digestion is good, right?)  but which in fact conveys…well, nothing.

Be specific.  Do you mean to say that the casserole you’ll concoct by following this recipe is guaranteed to give you astronaut-worthy flatulence?  Do you mean to convey, “People who suffer from intestinal blockages will be thrilled to know that this recipe contains ten times the amount of fiber found in a Douglas Fir floor joist, which is enough to clean out the colon of a constipated bull elephant….”

The recipe *promotes digestion.*  Well, sure, it does. That’s what all foods do, when you ingest them.  Even non-food items will do the same, when swallowed.

Digestion is your digestive system’s raison d’etre

 

“Hey babe, let’s promote *me* as your raisin d’etre.”

Ahem.

Digestion is your digestive system’s raison d’etre – that’s what it does. You don’t need to “promote” it.

Anything that manages to wriggle down your esophagus and into your stomach – whether it’s a lima bean, a raw vegan energy bar, or a piece of cardboard    [6] – activates that organ’s digestive processes.  Holy baloney on rye.   [7]

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Promoting Digestion Edition

A surgeon told me that he once dropped a tool into a patient’s stomach.
It was a gut-wrenching story.

I had some Greek food that upset my stomach.
Now I falafel.

My mother, a doctor, told me that the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach.
I’m guessing that’s why she failed her cardiac surgery internship.

 

*   *   *

 

May you experience the bliss of promotion-free digestion;
May you be wary of five-star reviews;
May your social media post be sprinkled with trigger words;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] The company’s name I will keep private, for obvious reasons.

[2] We don’t have a petty cash drawer.  And although I have many petty pleasures in life, cash isn’t one of them.

[3] Last week’s blog had a bajillion footnotes.  I’m  behind pace; it’s time for another one.

[4] Previews are helpful in weeding out what I do not want to see: nothing featuring a scowling Bruce Willis or his macho-actor-saves-the-world equivalent, nor lots of explosions, nor grunting hordes of The Undead…and enough with the Superheroes, please.

[5] Which returned to normal less than 24 hours later.

[6] A kid who sat across from me in the second grade had this thing about eating paper.  Sadly, that was his most memorable quality.

[7] Which sounds indigestible, to moiself.

The Coyote I’m Not Leashing

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Department Of The Importance Of Looking At The Warning Sign Head-On

Dateline: Wednesday. Moiself  is visiting a Tillamook County campground, to purchase day use passes for the county’s parks and boat launches.  While waiting at the campground’s registry building I see a bright yellow sign posted to the right of the registry’s service window.  As the camp registry clerk prepares my day use passes, I turn my head to look at the sign, which warns campers of coyote sightings in the vicinity.  From where I am standing I can only see the sign from an angle. This slight but significant limit to my field of vision means that I miss two key words in the warning.  The clerk looks up from her paperwork and eyes me questioningly when I begin laughing.  I point to the sign, and say,

“I don’t know about that requirement – from what I understand, most coyotes are very resistant to leash training.”   [1]

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of All We Religion-Free Folks Ask For Is A Little Perspective

MH’s chuckles as he looked at his phone prepped me for the why-haven’t-I-ever-thought-of-that?  moment that was to come.  I was not disappointed, as he read me a social media rumination from a prominent atheist activist:

Christians claim Jesus “died for their sin” ( whatever that means   [2]  ).  However, they also claim that he rose from the dead after three days – crucified on a Friday, alive again on Sunday.  So, essentially, Jesus gave up a long weekend for their sins.

 

“Goddammit! Sooner or later, someone was bound to notice….”

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Literary Biography I Definitely Won’t Be Reading

“I have a terrible confession to make—I have nothing to say about any of the talented women who write today…. I do not seem able to read them.  Indeed I doubt if there will be a really exciting woman writer until the first whore becomes a call girl and tells her tale.”
( Norman Mailer, Advertisements for Myself )

 

 

I was introduced to the “Beat Generation Writers,” in junior high and high school, via recommendations from both teachers and several classmates.  The Beats (e.g., Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg) influenced the 20th century writers who followed them, practitioners of the aggrieved-male-viewpoint-dominated school of fiction. Exemplars of the latter, who came to prominence in the 1950s and 60s, included Norman Mailer (credited for spawning the creative non-fiction movement, aka, “New Journalism”) , Philip Roth, John Updike ad nauseum et al.  These were the writers, I was told, who were influential, and “happening.”  And, you know, cool.  Because they wrote about the anger and angst of contemporary life (read: sex) and weren’t afraid to tackle controversial issues (more sex).

When I first started reading their works, I thought I must be missing something.   [3]  Not wanting to be thought uncool, I mostly kept those thoughts to moiself …then I just stopped pretending I was interested.  Other than an amusing passage about his father’s constipation that I remember from Portnoy’s Complaint, I loathed Philip Roth, and Mailer as well.  Fairly soon after being introduced to their works (after reading one or two novels, essays, short stories from the authors) I stopped reading them altogether.

I loathed the fact that their alleged “hip contemporary” outlook was a thin veil for their raging misogyny.  Yes, they could string together some impressive sentences, but…ick.  And I didn’t need to know the biographical facts of those writers – for example,  [4]   that Mailer had stabbed his wife (# two in a series that would eventually total six wives) –  to figure out that their raging hetero-masculinity  [5]  hid – or fed – a simmering hatred and fear of women, and of anything they deemed feminine (including homosexuality   [6]  ).

I didn’t have the vocabulary to express it at the time, but I knew what those writers’ works reeked of.  The Beats and “New Literature” works were presented to me – to the world – with the implication that to be “literary” (read: not a prude) you have to appreciate them.  Yet I found little either neither new nor literary in those men’s work.  It was the same old, age old sexism, repackaged in more contemporary (i.e., profane and sexual) language.

Those male authors simply and profoundly didn’t like women.  To them, women were a class (or perhaps, caste?), and were lower than men on the intellectual, moral, and consequential totem pole of humanity.  If you were a female you were in one of two of their thematic camps.  You were either their mothers, whom they resented and blamed, or a girl they wanted to fuck (and, later/eventually, resent and blame).  If you didn’t fit into either of those categories you had no use to them.

Thus, my appreciation of a recent essay in The Washington Post, about the controversy behind the release of the latest Philip Roth biography (the biography’s author is accused of sexual assault).  The following excerpt is from that article, which is titled, “Philip Roth and the sympathetic biographer: This is how misogyny gets cemented in our culture.  Roth’s issues with women are well-documented. One of the prime documenters has been accused of rape.”  The essay is by Monica Hesse, and can be read in its entirety here.

“I can’t help thinking about how readers and viewers have been repeatedly presented narratives as the factual observations of great minds rather than as the ax-grinding of men whose judgment on gender relations might be questionable.
Roth, who died in 2018, was not so much a male writer as an archaeologist of maleness, excavating his own concepts of what men desired, needed and hated….’There is in him a dark distaste for women,’ book critic Linda Grant wrote. ‘A repugnance that can only be described by the word misogyny.’  In her essay, a review of his 2001 work, “The Dying Animal,” Grant describes a particular passage, in which a cancer-stricken woman uses her last day before a mastectomy to visit her former professor/lover so that he may fondle her chest and say goodbye. Grant notes that every woman she discussed this passage with burst out laughing at the preposterousness of this idea.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of And While We’re On The Subject

If women write about their inner lives it is considered “confessional.” When men do the same it is called “literary.”  When men write about their lives and feelings, they are said to be writing for and about the human condition, while women doing the same are accused of navel-gazing.

A recent example of this age-old literary hypocrisy can be found in the New York Times article about the writer Kate Baer, aka “The Mommy Poems author.”  The article deals in part with the criticism that because much (not all) of Baer’s subject matter involves motherhood, her work is not considered serious enough…at least, to some (envious, in my opinion   [7])  literary critics.

 

 

A subject that all of humanity experiences is not universal or relevant or serious enough (to the entrenched bastion of male-lens literary criticism) to write about?  Almost half of the human race will be mothers, at some point in our lives, and *all * of us, no matter our class, nationality, religion, ethnicity, political viewpoints, or gender, have mothers.  But how dare a poet write about it – and, even worse, be successful  (my emphases)!

“Since the pandemic, the 35-year-old mother of four (Kate Baer) has been working from the Panera parking lot, sitting in her Honda minivan with her laptop propped against the steering wheel, attempting to catch a Wi-Fi signal….
It was there that she wrote “What Kind of Woman,” a poetry collection that topped the New York Times best-seller list for paperback trade fiction….

( “Kate Baer Is Speaking Truth. From Her Minivan.
Who says motherhood can’t be literary, even poetic?” NY Times 3-13-21 )

The title of Baer’s collection came from the last line of an Instagram message she received from a (male) freelance book reviewer:

“Hi, my name is ___ …and I’d love to pick your brain about being a mommy writer. …my questions are on content. I find your work well written, but the subject matter was not necessarily what I want to read about. Not unbearable, but also not universal.  I’m wondering if studying some of the classic writers (Poe, Hardy, Thoreau) would help hone in (sic) your work to be more relatable. Also the way we have allowed poetry in any space concerns me.  How can we determine what is good from otherwise? I’d love to take at least an hour on the interview…. Afterward we can shape the piece to include excerpts of your work and perhaps explain what kind of woman you are!    ”  

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Getting COVID Vaccination #2

Which moiself  did, yesterday.  Oh, I feel like dancing.  [8]

 

 

*   *   *

Puns For The Day

(male) Authors’ Edition

The author of Webster’s dictionary committed suicide with the book he wrote.
At least he died on his own terms.

Why did the author suffer writers’ block after rectal surgery?
He was left with only a semicolon.

 

“I’m begging you, make it stop.”

*   *   *

May you rejoice in getting completely vaccinated;
May you trust your own judgement in deciding what kind of literature is truly cool;
May you beware of unleashed coyotes;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] The words I could not see were “All pets” (preceding  ” MUST be kept on leash….”).

[2] Yeah, I know what it’s supposed to mean, but it’s so bizarre and primitive – an appeasement of an angry deity through blood sacrifice…it’s nice to watch believers squirm when they try to explain such antiquated theology in 21st century terms.

[3] And for those writers, I was.  I was missing male anatomy, which to them, was everything.

[4] I did not know this at the time I first read anything by Mailer.  Mailer stabbed wife #2 at a party wherein he’d intended to announce his candidacy for New York City Mayor.  “Mailer appeared the next day (after the stabbing) in a scheduled interview on The Mike Wallace Show, where he spoke of the knife as a symbol of manhood and continued to plug his mayoral bid.” (Wikipedia, quoting the article, “Norman Mailer: Stabbing Your Wife as an Existential Experiment.” )

[5] In the case of Roth and Mailer.  Updike’s sexism was a more laid-back, suburbanite version.

[6] Mailer and Updike were particularly known for their homophobic sentiments and comments, even book reviews.

[7] I mean, a best-selling book of poetry?  That just doesn’t happen.

[8] Even if I am having the not-uncommon reaction of feeling a bit punkish afterwards.  My immune system is working; good to know.

The Mission I’m Not Volunteering For

Comments Off on The Mission I’m Not Volunteering For

Department Of Roads Not Taken

Dateline: May 1.  A social media post caught my attention: several pictures of our friends’ daughter, who attends a university overseas.  She and her fellow undergraduates, clad in their distinctive red academic gowns, were preparing for one of her school’s traditional activities: the May Dip[1]    Everybody into the North Sea!

It was all so gorgeous.  Romantic, even.  I visited the school’s website, and was entranced by the many pictures: of the academic gowns (students can chose to wear them for formal occasions, or all the time); the other traditions of the centuries-old institution (you gotta love an event called, “Raisin Weekend”); the beauty of the campus and the landscape….  Some of the pictures on the school’s website had moiself  thinking, “That place *has* to be the inspiration for Hogwarts.”

 

 

 

My vicarious joy for my friends’ daughter’s college experience surprised me when, later that afternoon, it resurfaced in the form of an unexpected spasm of a wistfulness at the realization:

҉    There are some things you cannot do over.    ҉

Not complaining.  I was able to attend and graduate from college – an opportunity denied to many around the world.  I received a good education (and, for the most part, had a helluva good time) at the college which was my #1 choice, one of the top schools in The University of California system, (which was at the time) the highest-rated state university system in the nation.

Still, contemplative pangs plagued me the next few days, and I felt drawn to revisit that overseas college’s website, and do the what-if ? thing.  Speculating on alternative realities.  I shared these speculations with friend LAH and son K, who joined MH and I for dinner Sunday night.  Did they ever have similar thoughts/feelings, even regrets, such as wishing they had sought an adventure by going to university out of the country, or ___  fill-in-the-blanks?

The adventure that entices me now is one which never occurred to me to pursue at the time I was applying to colleges.  Sure, I’d heard that some universities   [2]  had semester-study-abroad programs, but to do your entire undergraduate degree oversees?  No teacher or guidance counselor ever mentioned that to me; I didn’t know that that was an option.  And, realistically, it wouldn’t have been, for moiself.

Despite my high GPA and SAT scores in the 90th percentile, what with my family’s finances I would’ve needed a full scholarship to do four years of college abroad.  Given my mindset then (and now), I *never* would have taken out a student loan.  My parents were able to pay for one year of college; I put myself through the rest by doing something that isn’t possible for students today, given the exponential rise in the cost of a college education over the past 30+ years:  While being a full-time student I worked approximately half-time hours at various student jobs   [3]  during the academic year (and full time during the summers).  Working at a student job, even finding a job, is not always an option when you are a “foreign” student.

MH, LAH and K’s responses to my “do-you-ever-look-back?” questions/speculations were generally…nah.  Like me, going overseas for college hadn’t occurred to them (although, with the encouragement of our Swenadian  [4]  friend, K investigated a few Canadian universities and made an on-campus visit to one of them).  And, as MH reminded me, the young woman whose European college adventures I was so smitten with is the daughter of two scientists/academics, who have traveled much overseas (ofttimes with their offspring) and who have more knowledge of/exposure to those kinds of academic possibilities.  K did express mild regret at not being more adventurous at the college he had chosen, in terms of getting more involved in intramural sports and games, and exposing himself to different kinds of art….

 

 Not in that particular way.  [5]

… and music and other activities which were out of his comfort, or even interest, zones.  I would have liked to have heard daughter Belle’s answer to the same question, and may pose it to her, when I next see her in person.

Moiself  came to the conclusion that these longings are my subconscious reminding me that I need to get out more. Preferably, out of the country.  MH’s and my second vaccine doses are next week, and I’ve been having dreams of having the opportunity to, say, sip New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc   [6]   in an Irish pub while listening to a Canadian using a Spanish bagpipe   [7]  to play Celtic music….

*   *   *

Department Of Surprises That Shouldn’t Be Surprises

The light. As in, Hey, there’s so much more of it!

Yes, this happens every year. Lighter in the morning; lighter in the evening; here comes the summer solstice.  Still, I am, once again, surprised by and appreciative of the phenomenon.

 

Not so appreciative that I would devote my life to building one of these, but yeah, the light is nice.

*   *   *

Department Of Answer This Burning Question, Please

What is a Mom Joke, and why is that not a thing?

We all (think we) know what Dad Jokes ®  are, right? Quintessential examples:

What kind of noise does a witch’s vehicle make?
Brrrroooom, brrroooom.

What time did the man go to the dentist?
Tooth hurt-y.

Me: “Dad, make me a sandwich.”
Dad: “Poof, you’re a sandwich!”

Why is there no Mom Joke category? Is it because Dad is the ultimate Mom Joke?

 

 

*    *   *

Department Of Pleasant Thoughts To Meditate Upon Before You Go To Bed

Just when the general public seemed to be paying attention to our excessive (and usually/totally unnecessary) use of hand sanitizers and “anti-bacterial” soaps and wipes, enter, COVID-19 and “germ” hysteria.  I wonder how many super bugs have been incubating during this pandemic?

 

“Good night; sleep tight; don’t let the bedbugs bite….”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Other Things I Think About At Night:  The Mars Problem.

 

 

“No bucks, no Buck Rogers.”   [8]

You might not even think there is a Mars Problem ®  (except inside my tortured brain). Read on, you glutton for punishment, thoughtful person.

In order for people of all nations – including the folks who live next door – to be enthused about missions to Mars, and to feel that the gazillion hours of research and the gazillion $$$$ required to do so are time and money well-spent, what do we need?

Thanks for asking:  we need to send humans to explore Mars (and other planets and/or moons), not just more probes.   

We’ve already had a glimpse of the future of space exploration, which will entail a mixture of government and private funding – it won’t all be NASA or other governmental agencies.  Even the corporations and gazillionaires willing to entertain such a partnership also need motivation (other than their self-aggrandizement).  And psychologists and behavioral scientists have figured out that human activities are what attract the most human interest (and thus, human investment).

Yep, manned space exploration is horribly expensive, and dangerous…as were earlier explorations in their day.  Homo Sapiens evolved as explorers. The reasons we have for exploring our solar system correspond to the reasons that prompted our ancestors to risk “sailing off the edge of the earth” to explore new (to them) oceans and lands on Earth. In sending a manned mission to Mars, we would be continuing a tradition, exercising a defining “trait” even, of human beings: exploration.

There are sound economic reasons for sending probes (or robots), vs. humans, to Mars. I won’t take issue with the naysayers, except to say my own version of nay.

 

Did I hear, neigh-sayers?

 

Regardless of whether “life” (or even enough usable mineral resources to, say, to make a tin can) can be found beyond our own planet, Mars exploration would boost our citizen’s pride in their country, spark renewed interest in the science and engineering necessary to achieve such a feat, and help lift the U.S. image abroad (Uncle Sam is in need of a face lift, after the worldwide embarrassment that was the  #45 administration).

Alden Munson, a senior fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, noted that,

A lot of the warmest feelings people have had around the world have had to do with the space program. It’s hard to put a value on that.”    [9]

We need humans in space because what interests most humans *about* space is humans *in* space.  The whole world would be rooting for the first earthlings on Mars, just as they did for the Apollo moon landing.  And we’ll want (and need) the rest of the world to get involved in research, designing, tracking, and maybe even the funding, of a manned Mars mission.  The human appeal – yes, even (or especially) re the dangers involved – tugs at our intellectual and emotional strings in ways that seeing a robot or probe – as cool as that is! –  does not.

 

 

Also, human explorers can do things that robots/AI devices cannot, including playing hunches, making last-minute decisions in emergency situations, and noticing objects and phenomena that can turn out to be significant, but which missed the programmers’ viewscreens, so to speak.

The most important factor of any manned space mission is the human factor.  Our behavioral science knowledge points to the fact that the most difficult part of any space exploration will likely be the crewmembers, getting along with one another, in the years-long mission (at least 7 months there/7 months to return, and a stay of…months/years?).  

Thus, the rigorous psychological profiling and testing required for astronaut candidates.

So, we come to (my version of) The Mars Problem.   [10]  Moiself  be thinking: you need a crew with a mix of temperaments, interests and skills.  You don’t want carbon copies, not at all Type A/gung-ho Marines on the one hand or all introverted science geeks on the other hand; you need a mix of diverse but also stable personalities.  A mission as fraught as going to Mars will involve years of commitment, not only to the training beforehand, but to get there, stay there, then return…or, not?  Many of Those Who Know What They Are Talking About ® suggest that mission-to-Mars astronauts who volunteer for the program should assume that they will not return. 

 

There goes the neighborhood.

 

““How can you leave forever?” “What does your family think about this?” “Your husband’s O.K. with you leaving him?”
These are the questions I’m peppered with when I tell people this is a one-way trip. And these are reasonable questions, perfectly understandable, and they deserve well-considered answers.”
(Sonia Van Meter, Mars 1 candidate, “Why I’m volunteering to die on Mars” )

This kind of trip will be unlike any before it.  Not just crossing an ocean to a land you heard of (no matter how stormy the seas, you can stick your head out of the porthole for some fresh air) and much farther than humans have ever attempted. Thus, you need a crew who are, essentially, willing to volunteer for a suicide mission. Are well-adjusted humans really capable of this (even though we who will volunteer will say that we are) ?

Other than someone who’s already under a death sentence   [11]  (“What the heck, my oncologist gives me another seven years”/”I’ve nothing to lose – Huntington’s disease will get me in a decade”),  who’s gonna think this is okay?  What kind of person is willing to say, this is somehow worth it, to die for this mission? What kind of person could prioritize that ‘”mission” abstraction over the reality of the loss that will be experienced by their loved ones – spouses and children, family and friends –  who will be 34 million miles away?

How does being able to parse that death/loss/grief v. mission equation mesh with being psychologically healthy? So, you’ll need a crew composed of people who are intelligent and skillful…and are in denial about statistics and reality in terms of their chances of survival…or who simply don’t give a flying fuck.

My conclusion:  For such an undertaking, you’ll need a sane, insane crew.

Just wondering out loud.

As should be obvious by now, moiself  fully supports a manned mission to Mars.  In my younger days I’d have considered volunteering for it, but only, if I’d been unencumbered by family and friends –  people who loved me.  I would have volunteered if I’d had no one who loved  and/or cared about me…which would have meant that I was, what?  An isolated jerk.  Just the kind of person you’d want to share limited space and resources with for a couple of years, eh?

OK, all y’all who think you are smarter than moiself – Elon, for the last time, put your hand down and return to your desk! – figure it out and get back to me.

 

The perfect space crew? Just clone me five times!

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day: Space Exploration Edition

Did you hear how NASA recruited the first cow astronaut?
They told her she could land on the mooooooooooooon.

My astronaut friend divorced her astronaut husband.  She calls him her SpaceX.

 

Please don’t waste our precious oxygen supply by laughing.

 

*   *   *

May you enjoy the extra light, whether or not it surprises you;
May you be loved enough that you would never volunteer to die on Mars;
May you be inspired – but not haunted – by roads not taken;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

[1] At dawn on May Day, after staying awake all night, students run into the North Sea as they are serenaded by madrigals sung by the university’s Madrigal group.  

[2] Those tended to be the wealthier/private schools, or so it seemed.

[3] Including typing other student’s reports and term papers. I charged those engineering students – for some reason, their reports were always a last minute/emergency thing – twice my per page fee when I had to work past midnight.

[4] Longtime readers will recognize that appellation as my friend the Canadian, married to a Swede.

[5] Many people are unaware that, in this infamous poster, the “flasher” is Bud Clark, the eccentric and beloved former Portland mayor.

[6] I’m not a beer drinker; thus, no Guinness or Harp for me.  It seems that the pubs of Ireland have some sort of deal with New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc distributors, because that is the wine I found in every Irish pub MH and I visited, when we were there four years ago.

[7] That happened to us, in the wee town of Kinsale.

[8] No money, no space travel. The phrase comes from The Right Stuff, a movie about the beginnings of US space exploration…. “Buck Rogers” was a space-traveling comic strip character in the early 20th century. (The Free dictionary)

[9]Is Exploring Mars worth the Investment?“)

[10] It would be a similar problem re a mission to Europa, or another planet, but for discussion’s sake, I’ll stick with the closest target: Mars. 

[11] Which, you’d think, would disqualify them on medical grounds.