Home

The Language I’m Not Unlearning

Leave a comment

Department Of The Day After

 

 

No – that *that* day.

Moiself  hopes you found a less-than-traditional way to celebrate yesterday.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of How Come I Never Thought Of This Before?

This is fascinating… At least to moiself.

A recent issue of the podcast Freakonomics (“What’s Wrong with Shortcuts?”)  featured podcast host Stephen Dubner interviewing mathematician Marcus du Sautoy about du Satoy’s book, Thinking Better: The Art of the Shortcut in Math and Life. The author argues that, despite what we’ve been taught, the secret to success is not in hard work, it’s in figuring out and applying shortcuts to solve one problem quickly so we can then move on to another.  Mathematics; music, psychotherapy, politics – du Sautoy claims that shortcuts can be found/applied to practically everything.  But, not everything:

“When you’re going on holiday, I don’t want to shortcut the holiday, because it’s about spending time. The point is, I don’t want you to use shortcuts for everything and spoil something you enjoy doing.”

 

Actually, Mr. Generic Handsome White Dude who is probably a CGI creation, in real life, there are both.

 

C.B.T. (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) has been hailed by many psychologists as being a true breakthrough in mental health therapeutic modes, due to C.B.T.’s pragmatic and short-term approach to handling problems.  Podcast host Dubner noted that Du Satoy’s book dealt briefly with the idea of using shortcuts in psychotherapy, but seemed skeptical of its efficacy, as per the fact that the human psyche is complex and dynamic enough to reject the type of shortcutting that might work in other realms.  Du Sautoy’s response indicated he was at least somewhat in agreement (my emphases):

“… I think that (applying shortcuts) depends on the problem you’re facing…. I talked to Susie Orbach, who’s a psychologist, and she had this nice way of describing some of the problems that people are facing:  it’s hard to learn a language. It’s even harder to unlearn a language. “

 

 

Imagine trying to unlearn English (or whatever your first language is).

Some people come to therapy with ingrained ways of thinking from experiences they’ve had in childhood – the family  “language” they learned does not serve them well, and they need to “unlearn” that language and learn another one.  Such resetting of thought patterns and behaviors will not likely respond to drastic shortcuts.  However, the C.B.T. modality (of learning how to be aware of what your thought processes are) is, in itself, “…enough to short-circuit the algorithm which was always sending you into depression. You’re sort of stuck inside the system of the way you’re thinking. What C.B.T. often helps you to do is to take a step up and look at the way that thought process is happening and understand the trigger which always sends you down….”

 

 

Moiself is a longtime fan of C.B.T.   [1]   But what keeps coming back to me from the podcast is the concept of trying to *unlearn* your first or native language.  I realize the concept is used metaphorically in du Sautoy’s argument; nevertheless, I’ve encountered something like it throughout my life, in the correlated cases of watching people deal with the cognitive dissonance of trying to embrace reality while trying to stay within certain religious traditions and/or worldviews.

A personal example: I was raised within the “language” – both via the wider culture and in my own family of origin – of the Christian religion.  During one of the few conversations with my father I had (when I was an adult) wherein he asked about why I was not/was no longer a Christian, I briefly laid out the fundamentals of the faith, along with why and how I know that those religious tenets are not true and/or are not valid explanations of reality.  I then asked him a question he could not answer:

“How can I pretend to *not* know what I know?”   [2] 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Grinch Does Thanksgiving

The headline had remained on the online Oregonian newspaper feed for several days. I would scroll past it on my phone news app…and finally decided to check it out.

Big mistake; what kind of story was moiself  expecting, given the headline?

With a little help, hunter with cerebral palsy gets his bull elk

I’ll start again.

Perhaps moiself  should title this segment, Department Of the Make A Wish Foundation Achievement I’m Not Celebrating.

Even though I was reminded of that M-A-W organization (the kind of charity which helps dying/cancer-stricken/handicapped kids achieve their “dreams”) when I read about this “achievement,” the hunter in this story is a grown-ass young man, not a child.  My lip is still curling after reading about how this significantly handicapped man – who was apparently raised to think that it is a high achievement to hunt (read: stalk and slaughter) a magnificent creature, not as a way of putting food on his starving family’s table, but for “sport”   [3]  – was able to kill an elk thanks to a group of abettors, referred to in the article as his “guardian angels.”

The article is accompanied by a photograph of three masochistic killers “sportsmen” : the CP-stricken hunter in his ATV wheelchair, and two of his “angels,” one of which holds up the lifeless head of the elk by lifting its antlers.  Some choice excerpts from the article:

“On…the next-to-last day of his northeast Oregon elk season and despite severe impairment by cerebral palsy, DM (hunter’s name) pulled the trigger on the massive six-point Rocky Mountain bull he yearned for.

But not without the help of a flock of good Samaritans.    [4]

Guardian angel 1: DM’s father and one of his primary caregivers, who takes Drew fishing and hunting, has developed a system for Drew to shoot a well-aimed rifle….

Angel 2: The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, which issued DM his disabled fishing and hunting permit after completion of a hunter safety course…..

Angel 3: Youth Outdoors Unlimited of Moses Lake, Washington, which hosted DM years ago on a bear hunt and loaned him the same track and mechanical rifle system he used then…..

Angel 4: Facebook. Yup, social media. Monsey has a large following on the platform….”

The article goes on to list at least three more “angels,” including the veterinarian/cattle rancher who owns the ranchland where the elk was shot.

The picture I mentioned is repulsive (to me…I realize I’m living in a very different world and mindset from those who enjoy hunting).  Here is the only picture of a giant bull elk moiself  finds acceptable. What in the world possesses people to think that the life of such a magnificent animal – which is what attracts a hunter to it in the first place, the fact that it is alive – is best served by becoming a trophy, or a testament to some short-sighted asshole’s twisted sense of accomplishment?

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Message To The PR Department Of KenKen Publishing

…and any other KenKen puzzle books (which moiself  purchases on a regular basis).

 

 

Re your description on the cover of the books, “100 challenging logic puzzles that make you smarter.”  Not that you care what I think, but you have no objective evidence for that claim.

Q. In pop culture, it’s a popular notion that you can do puzzles to ‘train your brain.’ But, as an adult, can you actually do that? To improve memory and cognition?

A. “So, the answer to that is generally, ‘Yes,’ but doing puzzles improves your brain only in doing puzzles…. the way you think about that is like doing sports: If you do tennis, you’re not necessarily going to be good at doing football; you’ll just be good at doing tennis. But overall, doing tennis is helping your general physical abilities and making you sprier.”

(Ausim Azizi, chair of neurology at Temple University’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine, interviewed in “Do Puzzles Really Train Your Brain,” The Philly Voice. )

Also, to make moiself  “smarter” is not why I buy KenKen books. I just like doing the puzzles.  But I suppose, from a marketing POV, “100 challenging logic puzzles that you just like to do” doesn’t quite cut it.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Phrases Which Spark Memories 

It was a phrase or sentiment I had neither thought about nor heard in some time, until it was used by a long-time friend recently.  This made me think back to…

Dateline: over twenty years ago, when my in-laws were out from Florida, visiting moiself, MH, and our offspring.  I was driving my late father-in-law somewhere.  And by late I do not mean to cast aspersions re his timeliness – he wasn’t a tardy man – but late as in, he is now deceased.  But he was (obviously to y’all, as per this story…I hope) alive when I was driving him somewhere; I mean, I’m not the kind of person to schlep a dead in-law around in my vehicle….

Once again, I’ll start again.

So: moiself and MH’s father are out. I was driving; he was in the passenger seat of my car; we came to a stoplight; the car in front of us had a quite noticeable bumper sticker.

 

My ordinarily even-tempered FIL told me that whenever he saw a car with a sticker like that he felt like getting a big shovel of shit, dumping it on the car’s windshield, and exclaiming to the driver, “Look, it’s happening!”

He used a somewhat humorous tone when he made that declaration, but I could tell that it (the bumper sticker) actually upset him.  I asked him why he found the phrase/sentiment so irksome.  He said he thought it to be indicative of a negative, passive attitude about life.

I chewed on that that for a while, then told him that I had a very different reaction.  To moiself, shit happens is merely an…uh, earthier…form of the expressions and adages found worldwide, in many languages and cultures; e.g.,  “C’est la vie;” “Que sera, sera.”

 

 

Translation: shit happens simply (if scatologically) expresses the understanding that there will be things, good and bad and neutral, which will happen to us and which will be out of our control. This doesn’t mean that you therefore go through life as flotsam, simply drifting with the currents and tides of fate – of course not.  You do what you can, but it is realistic – and mentally healthy – to recognize that, ultimately, you are *not*  in control of everything.  Shit happens/que sera, sera: things can and will happen to you – things which may seem as an insult from the universe but which, in fact, are random and have nothing to do with you personally.

I think I was able to successfully communicate my POV.  Or perhaps the genial comments of understanding my FIL made were to thwart me from breaking into the theme song of my patron saint, Doris Day.   [5]

 

 

 

*   *   *

 

 

Punz For The Day
Day-After-Thanksgiving Edition

Q: What smells the best at a Thanksgiving dinner?
A: Your nose.

Q: What do you get if you divide the circumference of a
classic Thanksgiving dessert by its diameter?

A: Pumpkin pi.

 

*   *   *

May you understand that shit happens;
May you do strive to ensure that you are not the shit happening to someone else;
May you do your best to ignore Black Friday;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] To the point that I think, by comparison, most other forms of therapy are basically a waste of time.

[2]  Even though * he* was the one who brought it up, my sweet father responded with his go-to, five-word phrase of circumvention, which he employed whenever we were getting into conversational territory which made him uncomfortable: “Well, that’s enough about that.”

[3] And unless or until the Bull Elk in question, or any other animal so stalked, is armed with the high-powered weaponry of the human hunters (who must also, as their prey is, be naked) and agrees to participate with the human, in the hunting, it is the ultimate in poor sportsmanship to call hunting a “sport.”

[4] Certainly, not a Good Samaritan from the elk’s POV. And in the original Good Samaritan story, the Samaritan did not help one creature by killing another one.

[5] Yes, atheists can have a patron saint, and for a while, Doris was mine.

The Favor I’m Not Granting

Leave a comment

Department Of This May Stop Them From Asking

Moiself refers to Every Writer’s Favorite Situation ®  (insert appropriate, universally understood emojis of sarcasm).    [1]

Dateline: senior year of high school (mine; not yours). I wrote a regular, eponymous op-ed column in our school’s newspaper, in which I took a humorous approach to a variety of school-related issues.    [2]   Toward the end of the year, a school acquaintance approached me, asking for a favor…although, she didn’t exactly phrase it that way.  The way she presented it, it was more of an opportunity, for me.

She had been asked to write and then read something for an upcoming Important Occasion: a work party; a family reunion – for the life of me, I cannot recall *what* it was for, but that’s not pertinent. The thing is, she was supposed to write and deliver an amusing presentation.  And she wanted me to do it for her.

She said that she would give me some basic information – what it needed to be “about’ –  and then I could just whip it out, right?

“I just don’t know how to do that, but you’re so funny.
I can’t be funny, but you can be funny – it’s so easy for you.”

The way she spoke about it, it was if that complement from her would be motivation (and compensation) enough, for moiself – who would know that I had, once again, written something “really clever and funny.”

 

 

In her eyes, moiself  was a “natural” writer.  I’d just sit my witty ass down and the work would flow from my pen to paper. She did not acknowledge the time and effort it might take, and never mind that we were a couple of days from final exams.

Gently but firmly. I declined her brazen solicitation honorable request, in what turned out to be good practice for me, being the first of many such declinations.

Now, I *liked* this person.  She was the first of many people (friends; family; co-workers) over the years who, although they seemed to acknowledge my skills as a writer enough to covet those skills for a project of *theirs,*  did not value those skills enough to offer to compensate me for my work – nor even acknowledge that writing is, in fact, work.  It’s “work” enough that they did not want to do the project themselves or take the time  to acquire and hone the ability to do so, or were intimidated by it (“I just can’t write/I’ve never been able to write, like you can so easily.“)

 

)

 

Y’all probably wouldn’t think of asking your son’s soccer coach, who is a podiatrist, to fix your bunions for free (“I thought it might be fun for you – it’d be easier than our other surgeries, and you’re so good at it”), or try to wrangle a free housecleaning from your neighbor who works for Merry Maids.  But there’s something about knowing that someone works in an “artistic” field which brings out the mooch in otherwise well-mannered people.

Over the years, I’ve compared such stories with other writers (and artist friends).  We’ve come to the conclusion that because writing – particularly fiction writing, but not exclusively   [3] – is seen as one of the arts, and since “art” is perfunctorily lauded yet (the work behind the art) not respected financially, non-artists believe that any time a writer or artist is solicited for their work they should consider it (shudder) an honor to be asked.  Or, even more dreadfully, you get the exposure thing:

“We can’t offer payment, but you’ll get exposure –
we’ll make sure everyone knows it’s your work!”    [4]

 

 

 Noone understands better than Matthew Inman, aka, the mind behind The Oatmeal.

 

It doesn’t even matter to these freeloaders favor-askers, when you protest that you are a writer of fiction, not  ______ (grant proposals/term papers/college essays/office brochures – whatever their project).  In their (non-professional writer) eyes, you can whip up anything, at any time, right? 

 

How I’ve begun every story ever.

 

Moiself, when asked to advise upcoming/wanna be writers, has alerted them to this reality: Your writing and editing skills will be coveted by others, enough that they will ask you to do work  *for* them, yet not enough to be compensated *by* them.   

I can count on the fingers of one hand – if that hand had lost three fingers in a tragic panini press accident – the number of times someone has asked for my writing skills AND let me know the payment they would offer and/or asked what I would charge for the project they had in mind.  In all other cases, I quickly discovered the Favor Asker’s assumption was that I would work for free… (for them; for the honor of being asked; for “the exposure….” y’all get the drill by now).

 

 

What prompted this screed trip down Memory Lane is a recent Carolyn Hax column.  Carolyn   [5]  is the dean and queen of advice columnists, IMO – she could claim those titles from her writing ability alone, but she’s also keenly alert, has a remarkable sense of perspective balanced with compassion, and is excellent at recognizing and pointing out the problems behind the problems advice seekers *think* they are asking her about.

Moiself cringed with weary recognition to read this letter…then my spine straightened in right-on! triumph at Carolyn’s response.

Dear Carolyn: I am a writer by profession — meaning I get paid to do what I do. I am constantly asked to edit someone’s community newsletter, write something about someone’s kid who plays lacrosse to send to college coaches, or write someone’s family Christmas letter. (I hate those things, but anyway.)

When I quote my hourly rate, I get the hurt look and, “Oh, I thought you’d just do it for me as a friend,” or — in the case of a newsletter — “Oh, I just thought it would be fun for you; it is a good cause and probably would not take much time.”

I keep quoting the hourly rate but it is the sad and hurt reactions that bother me. How to draw the line so that people do not see it as a rejection? I have even tried a slightly discounted friends-and-family rate but the problem persists.— Writer

Writer: The sad and hurt reactions bother me, too, but not for the same reason.

These people have just been reminded they’re asking you to work for free, and they think “no” is the wrong answer? Come on, people.

Go ask for free haircuts, housecleaning and brain surgery, and get back to me.

Or don’t. As a society, we’re not exactly at peak manners right now.

Your answer is fine; you are reasonably treating them as polite people looking to hire you for skilled work, and you’re responding accordingly. The burden of their cheek is on them.

But if these exchanges gnaw at you, then, sure, shift your answer a bit: “Thanks for asking. Are you offering a job or asking a favor?” So when they say, “Favor” — blowing through the sawhorse of a hint you just dragged across that road — you can say, kindly, “I’m sorry — if I agreed to those, then that’s all I’d ever do.”

*   *   *

Department Of Oh Yeah, There’s That Holiday Next Week

Ah, yes, and what to cook, which can test the patience of even the most ardent welcomer-of-Thanksgiving.  I’ve been reading that this feeling is common to many if not all contemporary hosts – not  just us plant-based eaters – as we keep in mind our guests’ various dietary preferences, allergies, likes and loathings….

 

 

*   *   *

*   *   *

From Ken Jennings, the man most people know as the winning-est Jeopardy contestant ever, has written several books on humor…the very idea of which, for some reason seems funny in and of itself, to moiself.   I’m currently reading his book Planet Funny: How Comedy Took Over Our Culture.  In the chapter dealing with the history of satire, snark, and ironic detachment (SSI)– specifically the rise, use, and overuse of that and in standup comedy, television shows and other entertainment – and even in protest movements against the government authoritarianism – Jennings has a segment titled “Outgrowing Snark.”  For a lifelong practitioner of SSI,  moiself  found his observations to be both obvious and insightful (my emphases).

Irony as a literary device, as something to observe, is fine. But as a way to live your life? Cloaking every thought, word, action with the implication that you might not mean any of it? That’s a pathology.

Unless ironic distance is the only way to keep government authorities off your back, it shouldn’t be the only pitch in your repertoire. The occasional curveball is only effective if you can throw a fastball and a changeup as well. “A Modest Proposal”    [6] is funny and effective, but let’s not pretend it accomplishes all the same things that a heartfelt plea for starving children would. You don’t always get to the same place by taking the opposite route.

In an age of irony, it will always be a temptation to use it as a cop-out, because it’s easier to smirk at things than solve them.

( excerpt from Planet Funny: How Comedy Took Over Our Culture,
Chapter 7: “Bon Jovi, come Home.”)

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Identifying With A Former Beatle

This something-I-never-thought-I’d-do moment came when I was listening to a recent Fresh Air interview with Paul McCartney.  Sir Paul is making the interview rounds, plugging his  two recent projects: the upcoming release of the Peter Jackson-directed documentary, The Beatles: Get Back, and the book The Lyrics .[7]  

 

 

As McCartney reminisced with FA host Terry Gross, who played clips from some of the Beatles’ well-known songs, I was once again reminded of, inarguably, [8]  the best – as in, the most sheerly unadulteratedly exuberant – opening to a rock n’ roll song ever: McCartney’s count off that begins I Saw Her Standing There.

 

 

Once again, I digress.  Here’s where the identification-with-a-former-Beatle comes in.  Terry Gross was asking McCartney about his age (he’ll be 80 next June), something he says he finds rather astonishing, considering how he feels:

“Hey – I can’t believe I’m a *grandparent.* I mean, like… I’m 25 years old, actually. I just look older and… I think my birth certificate was falsified.”

Bingo.  I have that feeling all the time, as though my age-on-paper has nothing to do with me.  In so many ways, I still “feel” like I’m twenty-five.  I’ve a way to go before I get to Sir Paul’s age, although the “facts” (and my mirror) remind me that I’m most definitely not 25…or even 45, or even….

 

 

*   *   *

PunZ For The Day
Beatles Edition

I’m obsessed with buying old Beatles albums.  My friends say I need help, but
I’ve already got that one.

How did the Beatles’ new skillet introduce itself to them?
“I am the egg pan.”

Did you hear that it’s tricky selling Beatles albums in some Scandinavian countries?
Apparently, when asked if they’d buy any of the group’s albums, a Swede wouldn’t.
But, a Norwegian would.

What did the Beatles eat when they were in India?
Naan, naan, naan, naanaanaanaan….

 

I’d rather poke my bleedin’ eye out than listen to anymore of this.

 

*   *   *

May you never ask artists to work for free;
May you solve as many problems as you smirk at;
May you get up and dance when you hear, One-two-three-FAH!;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] I’m not sure that there are any – hey, you emoji artists, get to it please. And we’ll expect you to do it gratis.

[2] Titled, “Parnal Knowledge.” Yeah, I know.  But what many don’t know is that title was suggested by my paper’s editor, who was also my friend, and who was known for being more…genteel, shall we say, than moiself, which led many mutual acquaintances to refuse to believe that the column’s name was her idea.

[3] I know of writers specializing in journalism and other non-fiction/expository writing who’ve had the same experiences.

[4] Except for that classmate I mentioned – when I questioned her further I found out she’d intended to read what I’d (might have) written, as if it were her own work – with no attribution for moiself   (“I’ll tell someone, if they ask,” she said).

[5] Moiself  likes to think that, had we met, we’d be on a first name basis.

[6] Arguably Irish writer Jonathan Swift’s best known work, “A Modest Proposal” (originally published anonymously in the early 1700s)  was a satirical essay which viciously commented on England’s exploitation of Ireland by using the reasonable tones of an economic treatise to proposes that Ireland could ease poverty by butchering the children of the Irish poor and selling them as food to their wealthy English landlords.

[7] A copy of which now sits on my office desk.

[8] As in, if you’re going to argue with moiself about this, just don’t.

The Temple I’m Not Joining

Comments Off on The Temple I’m Not Joining

Department Of First Things First

Fifty-one years ago today, the blast that was heard around the world.   [1]

Happy Exploding Whale Day, y’all.

 

 

*   *   *

In May 2014, The Satanic Temple scheduled a Black Mass to be held on the Harvard University campus, sponsored by the Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club; the event was forced to relocate off campus due to significant opposition by Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston and school administrators.
(Wikipedia, The Satanic Temple entry)

Department Of Arguably The Best Quote From A Documentary Filled With Zingers

“I think the participants felt discouraged after their permit  (to demonstrate) in Boston was denied.  And then it just occurred to me: this is the Catholic Church in Boston, which covered up decades of child rape, moved priests around, covered it up, let them continue their raping and child abuse… and then had the gall to say what *we’re* doing was sinful? I mean, fuck them.”
(a member of “The Satanic Temple” (TST), as quoted in, Hail, Satan?)

 

 

 

“The mission of The Satanic Temple, a religious organization, is to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense, oppose injustice, and undertake noble pursuits.
The Satanic Temple has publicly confronted hate groups, fought for the abolition of corporal punishment in public schools, applied for equal representation when religious installations are placed on public property, provided religious exemption and legal protection against laws that unscientifically restrict women’s reproductive autonomy, exposed harmful pseudo-scientific practitioners in mental health care, organized clubs alongside other religious after-school clubs in schools besieged by proselytizing organizations, and engaged in other advocacy in accordance with our tenets.”
( mission statement, from The Satanic Temple website )

*   *   *

The Wiccan priest tried (unsuccessfully) to stifle rolling her eyes.  The man interviewing her had asked her to explain Wiccan beliefs but inserted a stereotypical inaccuracy before he gave her time to answer:

“So, you are devil worshippers?”

The Wiccan’s tone indicated that her patience was tried; obviously, this was not the first time she had been asked that question. She replied emphatically, and a bit wearily:

No, *we* don’t worship Satan.
*We* don’t believe in Satan, or devils or demons.
*Christians* are the ones who believe in the devil. Satan is a Christian god.”

 

 

 

The interview moiself  refers to happened many years ago, in a documentary I saw about the connections between Wicca and Paganism and Norse Mythology.  I thought of that interview last week when, thanks to daughter Belle’s recommendation, I watched Hail Satan?, the 2019 documentary which followed the rise of the grassroots activist organization, The Satanic Temple (TST).  Belle thought I would find the documentary entertaining and provocative – she was correct – and we had a fun back-and-forth texting about the subject matter.

Hail Satan?, as one reviewer put it, “puts the fun in satanic fundamentalism.”    [2]  In many places the film is downright hilarious…and also thought-provoking.

“For something that doesn’t move or talk, monuments have been the subject of much debate and deep feeling in recent years. And not just Confederate monuments, but also religious ones. And one of those debates played out in Arkansas, where State Senator Jason Rapert petitioned to erect a statue of the Ten Commandments outside the Capitol building in Little Rock. In response, a group called The Satanic Temple asked to have a monument of their choosing displayed on government property. It was of Baphomet, a goat-headed angel-winged icon. And let’s just say the offer wasn’t that well-received.

That fight and The Satanic Temple more broadly is the subject of a new documentary called “Hail Satan?” – that’s with a question mark. And it follows the founding of this group, which is bringing a puckish new voice to a very thoughtful and actually serious debate over religious freedom.”

( NPR, ” Filmmaker And Satanic Temple Leader Talk New Documentary,
 ‘Hail Satan?’  4-27-19)

 

 

Moiself  was chuckling throughout the film, especially at the moment whence the opening quote in this post is taken:  in Boston 2014, when The Satanic Temple had received permission to perform a Black Mass, and they were being picketed by Catholic priests and nuns and received so many threats they decided to call it off.    [3] A Satanic or Black Mass  [4]  is a grotesque mockery of the Catholic Mass, and is meant to be offensive to RC believers…but then, the Catholic Mass and other Christian churches’ communion rites – with their reenactments of ritualized cannibalism – can be offensive (or at least, bizarre and mystifying) to people of other beliefs.

So, there they were, in the middle ages twenty-first century, priests and nun in their robes, holding rosary beads, crucifixes,chalices, and other artifacts of “catholobelia”… [5]

 

 

and then you have the “Satanists,” in their robes and masks….

 

 

It was so funny, to see both sides in their respective, silly outfits.  Only the Satanists seemed to have any self-awareness about the whole thing – that this (religion) is all play acting/dress up.

Does moiself  think that any of those people involved with TST are, in fact Satanists – that they actually and sincerely “believe in” or “worship” Satan?

Hell no.

The impression I got was that TST organizers and the vast majority of members are part political/Constitutional/free speech activists, and part street theater/Merry Pranksters…with some Cosplay nerds devotees thrown in there as well.

Belle and I bantered with the question: Does TST do more harm than good, by using imagery and tactics that some people find sooooooooooooooooo offensive? Yes, and no.  And admittedly, there is a certain power to be had from disgusting, shocking, frightening, and angering your adversaries.  If you have personal, political, and/or ideological beefs with Christianity, what better way to get under a staunch Christian’s skin than to profess allegiance to that which they view as their polar opposite, whether or not you actually “believe in” your own silly deity (just as you don’t believe in their silly deity).

 

“Who you callin’ silly?”

 

And, analogous to how some rap stars often call themselves the N-word, many people believe that there is power in taking a pejorative which has been used against you and using it (on) yourself. As one of the TST members interviewed noted, for many Conservative and Evangelical Christians, any beliefs other than theirs are evil.  Thus, if you believe something other than their interpretation of their religion, you are under the influence of the devil – they are going to consider you evil or satanic anyway, so why not be proactive about it and claim the title yourself, under your terms, not theirs?

For moiself, one of the more uproarious moments documented in Hail Satan? occurred when TST took a page from the Mormon playbook of performing proxy baptisms (a ritual wherein a proxy for a deceased, non-Mormon person is baptized into the Mormon church   [6] ).  In order to incense and mock the notoriously homophobic Westborough Baptist Church founder, these antics ensued:

” A group of satanists say they’ve given the controversial Westboro Baptist Church a taste of its own medicine, performing a same-sex ritual at the grave of the mother of the church’s founder.
Members of the Satanist Temple performed on Sunday what its spokesman describes as a “pink mass,” an admittedly made-up ritual celebrating gay love, at the grave in Meridian, Miss.
Spokesman Lucien Greaves doffed a headdress made of horns as two male couples and a female couple recited scripture, lit candles, and made out over the grave.
Members then posthumously declared Catherine Johnston, the mother of Westboro’s founder Fred Phelps, a lesbian.”

(“Satanists Perform ‘Gay Ritual’ at Westboro Gravesite,” ABC news, 7-13)

Belle and I went back and forth re the tactics of TST, which we both found…the word “silly’ kept being used.   However seriously you do or don’t take TST, it seems to be a reaction to the abuse of power and religious discrimination promulgated by Christian culture and theology, rather than standing for something on its own.

However….

Many of TST‘s antics are actually well-informed public protests, and not just “giving the middle finger to the evangelical right.”  One high ranking TST organizer pointed out that “…we are really giving the state of Oklahoma a civics lesson,” referring to TST‘s fight to have their group’s goat-headed statue (“Baphomet“) displayed on public ground, after Oklahoma allowed Christian religious artifacts on the State Capitol lawn.   [7]

 

 

One lawyer quoted in the film said, “…from a constitutional law perspective I am really interested in the Satanic temple, because it is basically making these public bodies confront the real implications of their decisions to allow religion into the public square.”

 

 

The documentary gets into some very interesting, and serious and disturbing territory when it revisits the “Satanic panic” of the 1980s , a time when many innocent people’s lives were ruined via a series of bizarre, totally false and fabricated accusations of ritualized child rape. The founders of and teachers at the McMartin Preschool and so many others endured false charges of child abuse;    [8]   meanwhile, as records would later reveal, priests and other religious figures were actually abusing children, with impunity.

One TST member recalled how he, as a boy during the 1980s who loved to play Dungeons and Dragons,  was ostracized by his friends’ religious parents, who thought the D & D game had satanic connections:

“The ‘satanic panic,’ we now know, in an entirely verified and publicly known way, was projection.
*They* (Christian religious leaders) were doing it (abusing children).
I was playing D and D.”

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
The Devil Made Me Do It Edition

I’m writing a book about a guy who peddles shoe parts to Satan.
It’s your basic, “Sold My Sole To The Devil” novel.

Where does the devil do his dishes?
Helsinki.

Why couldn’t the Devil find any cheese?
There’s no whey in hell.

How do I know that Satan works at the DMV?
Because a priest said the devil takes many forms.

If the devil were to go bald…
I bet there would be hell toupee.

I want to get a job as a stunt devil who lights his butt on fire.
It’s just something I asspyre to.

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you keep in mind that the things you take seriously
may be silly – or disturbing – to others;
May you never attribute human failings – or successes – to supernatural beings;
May you honor Exploding Whale Day ® in your own special way;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Well, if your world consists of proud Oregonians.  And it should.

[2]Hail Satan? puts the fun in Satanic fundamentalism.”  The Verge, 4-17-19

[3] Actually, they moved it to another location.

[4] Which TST was going to perform in private, as in, not open to the public.

[5] My term (I think) for such accoutrements.

[6] Yes, this batshit crazyass rite in the LDS church is a thing.

[7] The Satanists won that battle in court, as per a 2015 Oklahoma State Supreme Court decision.

[8]  And were ultimately acquitted of all charges…after a trial that lasted SEVEN YEARS and cost taxpayers 15 million dollars.

The Advice I’m Not Giving

4 Comments

 

Department Of Groovy Natural Phenomena
Part One Of Two In This Post

King tides; we got ’em.  The first of the season along the Oregon coast are today through Sunday, coinciding with overlapping storm fronts and high wave warnings.

Magnificent to observe – from a safe distance, y’all.

 

 

*   *   *

And Speaking Of Groovy Natural Phenomena…

What would ushering in the holiday season be without The Dropkick Murphys?

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of More On Stormfronts

Dateline: earlier this week. Moiself  saw a post from a FB friend, in which they announced that it was their son Oden’s   [1]  birthday…and that they would be celebrating without him, as he is in another state and wants nothing to do with his parents and is “angry angry angry.”

There are few relationships sadder than those involving parent-child alienation. The emotional part of me took hold first.  I wanted to message them privately, until the rational part of me said:

 

 

As in, WTF are you – moiself  – thinking?

Because my message would have been along the lines of:

“Oh, ____ (friends’ names) I am so sad to read this…and the fact that I’m reading this on social media makes me even sadder.
Is Oden on Facebook?  Will Oden’s seeing or becoming aware of this post help him to be less angry?”

Of course it won’t help. Nor would my rhetorical question to them have been of help, no matter how many times I would have tried to “gently” rephrase or reframe it.  And I refer to this hypothetical question as rhetorical, because I can’t think of a sensible reason for someone to believe that making such a public statement  [2]  would help their cause of reconciliation.  Unless…

 

 

duh and ahhh, unless reconciliation is *not* their cause (at this point).  Rather, the only cause I can think of which would be served by such an announcement is to receive pity/sympathy from their friends and family – reactions which could have (should have, IMHO) been garnered privately, by speaking or messaging personally with those who are aware of the long, complicated, parents-child relationship here, rather than by exposing the already-alienated-and-angry son to public scrutiny and even shame.   [3]

If feeding the parents’ sense of martyrdom heartache was the true purpose of the post, then, well-played.

It’s still sad.  No matter what.  I wish that seeing a picture of a *Baby Sloth Wearing Magic Pajamas Of Reconciliation* would make it all better, for everyone.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Yeah What He Said

Moiself  occasionally checks comedian and author and TV host Bill Maher’s “New Rules” segment, and his one last week, Rule: Words Matter , was a doozy.  Maher starts out proposing that instead of putting bibles in hotel rooms people should put dictionaries,

“…because apparently, nobody knows what words mean anymore.”

Maher goes on to illustrate one of my pet peeves – the fact that you dilute the importance of words when you misunderstand and misuse them.  And I couldn’t have given a better example of misusing/redefining than the cringe-worthy one Maher provides. It involves a standup comic, some of whose work I have listened to and liked, commenting on the standup special of another comic, some of whose work I have listened to and liked (and some…nah).

I refer to Hannah Gadsby commenting on Dave Chapelle.

Chappelle, who above all else seems to (consider himself to) be a free speech advocate, is once again testing the limits of that in his new streaming special on Netflix. Certain remarks he has made in the special have raised the hackles of many in the LGBTQ community.  [4]

 

“Dave Chappelle does not make it easy.
He is one of the most brilliant stand-up comics in the business. But he also makes a sport of challenging his audience — putting ideas in front of them that he knows are uncomfortable and unpalatable to those invested in modern notions of how to talk about feminism, gender, sexual orientation and race.
Sometimes, he does it to make a larger point. But at times, especially during his latest special for Netflix, ‘The Closer,’ he also seems to have a daredevil’s relish for going to dangerous places onstage and eventually winning his audience over — regardless of what he’s actually saying. “
(“For Dave Chappelle, punchlines are dares. His new special, ‘The Closer,’ goes too far.”
( NPR, Morning Edition, Tv Review 10-5-21 )

Australian standup comic Gadsby, a lesbian who often features LGBTQ issues in her routines, characterized Chapelle’s special as “…hate speech dog-whistling.”

 

 

Maher points out the glaring misuse of two terms which essentially cancel each other out:

” ‘Dog whistle’ refers to when someone puts something in code because they’re afraid to come out and say what they really think.
That’s what you get from Dave Chapelle –
he’s afraid to say what he really thinks?”

Maher also on touches on my second semantic pet peeve: attaching “-phobic” to any reaction you don’t like.

“…and it’s not hate speech, just because you disagree with it.  Nor is it phobic.  Phobic comes from a Greek word meaning something you fear irrationally, like spiders, or germs. But now it is used as a suffix for something you just don’t like.I’ve been called ‘commitment-phobic.‘  No, I don’t *fear* commitment, I just don’t want any.  Other people do; great!  I don’t call them, ‘single-phobic.’

….And if I talk about how wrong I think it is to force women to wear a beekeeper’s suit all day, that’s not Islamophobic – I just don’t like it.”

 

Objecting to this is not Islamophobia, it’s forcing-women-to-wear-burial-shrouds-while-they’re-still-alive ophobia.

 

“A phobia is a persistent, excessive, unrealistic fear of an object, person, animal, activity or situation. It is a type of anxiety disorder.
A person with a phobia either tries to avoid the thing that triggers the fear, or endures it with great anxiety and distress.
( “Phobia – what is it?” Harvard health a-z.edu )

For those who fling the –phobic suffix with Woke®  impunity: y’all ever met a person with an actual phobia and seen that phobia manifested?  [5]   True phobics endure debilitating symptoms that can mimic a heart attack.  It is a frightening, humbling thing to see.

If you’re gay and someone disagrees with you, about LGBTQ-related public policy or personal relationships – or if he flat out say that the idea of a gay “lifestyle” (translate: sex) makes him uncomfortable, he is just that – uncomfortable…or perhaps immature or ignorant or close-minded or whatever. But unless he slobbers and hyperventilates and screams and has to run out of the grocery store when Ru Paul enters, he is not (homo- or trans-) *phobic.*

If you’re a woman and, come time for the annual extended family Thanksgiving gathering, your strip joint-frequenting cousin Bubba Bocephus argues with every feminist principle you espouse, and freely and loudly expresses his opinion that women’s places are in the kitchen and bedroom as he tells jokes belittling his female co-workers, it is possible that Bubba actually hates women.  But unless he exhibits behavior that indicates he has an irrational, anxiety-producing *fear* of any female relative at the gathering, he is not a “gynophobe.”  He’s a misogynist asshole.

 

Moiself’s screams upon encountering Ru Paul at the grocery store would be those of sheer delight.

 

Related (moiself  sez) to the misuse or “rebranding” of certain words and terms is safe spaces, a concept I find ominous, and even the opposite of “safe.”  Those school boards trying to outlaw any form of Critical Race Theory being taught, or even mentioned, in schools?  They took a page from the far left playbook: they’re trying to keep students (read: white students) “safe” from the reality of the USA’s history of systemic racism.

Ever since I first heard the term safe spaces I’ve had an almost visceral loathing of it (but, I am not safe spacephobic). This is because I think that institutions – in particular universities, which are supposed to challenge and enlighten – being asked or even required to produce “safe spaces” produces just the opposite, and stifles development of one of the most important human qualities higher education should aspire to engender: strength of character, along with the character-building-and-expanding skill of being able to listen to and consider opinions you disagree with, or even find offensive.

 

 

And now I know why I have this reaction, thanks to the series of talks I’ve been listening to (“The Stoic Path,” via this meditation app) .  In the episode, “The Upside of Negative Thinking,” stoic philosopher William B. Irvine puts a name to perhaps the most vital yet an underappreciated part of our body’s defensive systems:

“Most people are born with an immune system.  But for it to be maximally effective it has to be developed, and the best way to develop it is by exposing it to germs.  Suppose then that you’re a parent, who wants her child to grow up strong and healthy.  You know that germs cause illness. The obvious thing to do would be to keep your child’s exposure to germs to a minimum. If you acted on this reasoning, though, and tried to raise your child in  a germ-free environment, you had better be prepared to keep him there for the rest of his life.  Otherwise, as soon as he stepped into the real world, his underdeveloped immune system would likely be overwhelmed by germs.
So what’s a caring parent to do?  As paradoxical as it may seem, she should expose her child to germs, but in a controlled fashion….

The Stoics didn’t know about the biological immune system…but they did intuit the existence of what I am calling a psychological immune system.  Whereas your biological immune system protects you from sickness caused by germs, your psychological immune system protects you from experiencing the negative emotions triggered by life’s setbacks.

Consider the following scenario: suppose that parents, in order to reduce the number of negative emotions that their child experiences, worked hard to prevent bad things from happening to him. They never shared bad news with him; never criticized or insulted him and did their best to prevent other people from doing so.  And whenever a problem arose in the child’s life they would deal with it on his behalf.  Although these parents might have the best intentions in the world, those intentions would likely backfire.  Their child’s psychological immune system would end up dysfunctional; indeed, he would be the psychological equivalent of a bubble boy.  He would be hypersensitive to comments other people made; he would be angered and frustrated by the smallest setbacks, and he might burst into tears upon hearing bad news. 

Caring parents…will take steps to develop their child’s psychological immune system… Their goal is for the child to be emotionally ready to face the imperfect world into which he will emerge in a few year’s time.  He should able to hear bad news, criticism, and even insults, without getting overly upset. And when he encounters a setback, he should be able to calmly and coolly set about to overcoming it.”

 

If only our psychological immunity could be so easily boosted.

 

Ponder this:  Allowing yourself to be exposed to contrary, harsh, even insulting thoughts, words, and opinions is the psychological equivalent of getting a flu shot.

As he expands on the concept of psychological immunity, Irvine considers how the Stoics would respond to “hate speech.” (my emphases):

“One of their (stoicism’s) key psychological insights is that what harms you the most when you’ve been insulted, maybe by a racist or a sexist, is not the insult itself, but your reaction to that insult….

We are presently in the midst of a great human social experiment involving hate speech. The Stoics’ advice for targets of such speech is to toughen themselves up; they need to strengthen their psychological immune system.…
Lots of people reject this advice out of hand. Instead of encouraging people to toughen up, they tell them that they have every reason to be upset.
They might also provide them with “safe spaces’ in which they can recover from understandably devastating insults.

The stoics would argue that dealing with hate speech in this manger inadvertently  undermines people’s psychological immune systems. Even worse, such actions can trigger a kind of downward spiral with respect to hate speech:  the more people are protected from hearing offensive remarks, the more upsetting they find those remarks, and the more upsetting they find them, the more protection they need.  The target of hate speech can thereby end up as the psychological equivalent of the Bubble Boy.”

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Mama Nature’s Psychedelics

Last Saturday and Sunday, we Oregonians had the rare opportunity to witness the aurora borealis, aka, the northern lights.

“A storm that started more than 92 million miles away is sending a spooky light show to skies above the Pacific Northwest…. a powerful solar flare left the sun on Thursday. Now charged particles are heading toward Earth… That’s likely to result in visible aurora borealis, or Northern Lights, in areas where the lights are rarely seen.   The ghostly night-sky phenomenon, which at its brightest can fill dark skies with glowing, dancing sheets of translucent green and purple lights, occurs when electrons from the sun’s solar flares collide with the upper reaches of Earth’s atmosphere….     ( opb.org )

Of course, light pollution in our area (Portland Metro)  bscured any view MH and I and other “space enthusiasts” might have gotten.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Atmospheric Phenomenon Providing A Memory Segue

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away – when I was pregnant with That Who Would Become MH’s And My First Offspring ® –  moiself  made the mistake of sharing some of my baby-naming ideas with my mother.

We now pause for the following announcement.

Hear me, ye who are newly pregnant: do not share your baby name ideas with anyone other than your partner, unless you are actively seeking input (read: criticism) as to your choices.  Because if anyone, especially the expectant grandparents, think there is a snowball’s chance in a California wildfire to change your mind, they will try.  As a Stanford Hospital employee (the records clerk responsible for recording the newborn’s name on vital documents) told me, “Don’t tell *anyone* the name until it’s on the birth certificate – because until it’s on the certificate, *someone* will try to get you to change it to a name they think is sooooooo much better….”

 

 

The afore-mentioned mistake happened during a phone call with my mother, a few days before I’d received my amniocentesis results.  Since my mother had asked I said yes, when we are contacted with the amnio results we would want to know everything, including the 23rd chromosome pair arrangement.  MH and I had just begun to think about names; if the test showed we’d be having a girl, one of the names I was considering was Aurora.

I liked Aurora for several reasons. It can be a tough world for girl-childs, I told my mother, and being named for an awe-inspiring natural phenomenon – the aurora borealis! – is a sign of strength.  Also, Aurora Dupin, the real name of the author George Sand, was a trail-blazing, stereotype-defying, 1800s French writer….    [6]   Aurora was my front runner for a girl, and if we chose that name we’d probably call her “Rory.”

My mother, born of Irish-Norwegian peasant stock, had royal blood when it came to her ability to indirectly express negative feelings rather than openly address them.  Thus, my family’s Queen of Passive Aggression made her standard, “Oh, that’s interesting,”  response to my Aurora story…which rolled right past me until she telephoned the very next day, and the following exchanged ensued.

“I’ve been thinking about your baby name choice,” my mother said.
“Do you know that the ‘R’ sound is the hardest sound for children to make – it’s usually the last consonant they learn to pronounce correctly.”

I asked her if that was a statement or a question, then reminded her that, yep, as one of the THREE of her four children whom she saw fit to give R names – ahem! – I was familiar with that phenomenon.  I thought it was kinda cute that I was called ‘Wobyn’ by toddlers, my peers, kids I babysat – and even by my younger siblings, ‘Woofie’ (Ruthie) and “Wobert’ (Robert) – until they were old enough to master that devilish R consonant.  So, her point would be…?

“I want you to go stand in front of a mirror,” she said.  “Then look at your mouth, and what happens to your face, when you say, ‘Rory.’ “

 

 

Holy fucking non-issue, moiself  marveled.  She’s apparently/actually done this. She stood in front of her mirror, and did this.

I concentrated on keeping my tone as gentle as possible (more gentle than she deserved), but also as firm as the reply demanded:

“Mom, I want *you* to go stand in front of a mirror,
and look what happens to your face when you say, ‘Buttinsky.’ “

There were no further baby name suggestions (or discussions) between us.

 

K, and the freshly hatched Belle. “K, I’m happy you are who you are, even as I want you to know you would have made a fine ‘Rory.’ “

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Baby Names Edition

Seriously, you’re going to name your son, Almondine?
That’s nuts.

Seriously, you’re going to name your daughter, Cintronella?
That’s repellant.

Seriously, you’re going to name your baby, Insurrection?
That’s revolting.

Seriously, you’re going to name your baby, R.E.M.?
You must be dreaming.

Seriously, you’re going to name your baby, KenKen?
That’s puzzling.    [7]

 

*   *   *

May you, some day, be able to see both the aurora borealis and king tides;
May you never have an occasion to look in the mirror and say, Buttinsky;
May the Baby Sloth Wearing Magic Pajamas Of Reconciliation be of comfort to you;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Not his real name.  Not even close.

[2] And as far as this public statement of mine (blogging about this) goes, moiself  is 99% certain they do not read this blog.

[3] for holding a grudge against his parents, who are just sitting there, posting alone in the dark, oy vey….

[4] Disclosure: I have not watched the special in its entirety; just clips.

[5] I have seen several phobic reactions, including this memorable one:  I had to help a friend to the floor and raise her legs, when she began to hyperventilate at just the suggestion that my child might consider getting a pet tarantula (and keep it in the garage, in a covered terrarium, when the spider-phobic friend came over, so she would never see it).  She was horribly embarrassed by her reaction, which she realized was over the top and irrational…but that’s what makes it a phobia.  Quite different from the many people who don’t like spiders or “bugs” but who don’t turn into a quivering mass of quasi-sentient protoplasm at just the *mention* of them.

[6] who, like most if not all women writers of that time, had to use a male pen name in order for her work to be published.

[7] Yeah, but KenKen is the best puzzle, ever.  Sudoku, in comparison and in MHO, is like watching paint dry.