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The Intentions I’m Not Setting

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Department Of First Things First:

Happy International Blasphemy Day, y’all.

 

 

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Department Of It’s Not Working
#397 In A Never-Ending Series

Dateline: Monday morning, 9 am, at the beginning of my streaming Vinyasa yoga class.  The teacher announces that, in case we weren’t aware, September is National Yoga Awareness Month. She says that before the pandemic a group of yoga teachers in the area used to gather on the first Sunday after the Equinox to do 108 Sun Salutations in an open space, such as a public park.  They would begin the practice by “setting an intention” for world peace.  For this morning’s practice she was going to lead us in a series of Sun Salutations – but don’t worry, she assured us, *not* 108 of them.   [1]

 

 

Moiself  is aware of the practice of yogis doing 108 Sun Salutations to mark the changes of the seasons, and I’ve done them for the past few years, by moiself,   [2]  on the day of the solstices and equinoxes.  I hadn’t heard of the first-Sunday-after/intention-for-peace ® thing. And, after Monday morning’s class, when the teacher again mentioned the intention-for-peace, I couldn’t help but siggle (a combo sigh and giggle).

For thousands of years, thousands of monks and nuns – whether in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries or Roman Catholic abbeys, have devoted their lives to the practice of praying for world peace.

 

 

Yo, all you well-intentioned monastics (and any like-minded yogis):  it isn’t working.

One true thing: while occupied with doing yoga poses my fellow yogis and I were not outside the studio and/or our homes, fomenting armed conflicts.  And all those folks praying for/meditating on world peace, while they are so engaged, they also are not participating in any wars.    [3]    But prayer and good intentions…dudes, really?  These and other elements of “spiritual warfare” may give you a temporary dose of the warm fuzzies, but they didn’t stop the Romans or the Huns or the Nazis then, and they don’t stop Putin’s army now.

Nevertheless…. Yeah, it is a nice “intention.”  Namaste, y’all.

 

I’d prefer one yoga pose which does not effectively put all of my weight on my boobs…but hey, whatever works for you.

 

 

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Department Of International Celebrations Of Yoga

Meanwhile, Irish yogis marked the Equinox with their traditional celebrations.   [4]

 

 

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Department Of Particularizing

“The best argument in the world won’t change a single person’s point of view.
The only thing that can do that is a good story.”
(novelist Richard Powers)

Recently I was listening to an interview with Ken Burns, who was promoting his latest documentary series, The US and the Holocaust.  When discussing with the interviewer how to get past the numbness of such atrocities, Burns said something at once common-sensical and dazzlingly insightful:   [5]

“If you don’t particularize, you anesthetize.”

Burns was referencing how one can try to illustrate or explain seemingly unimaginable numbers, such as this disorienting fact:

There were nine million Jews living in Europe before World War II; afterword,
there were only three million left alive.
Six million Jews died.

How many of us can imagine six million, of anything?  But, as Burns explained, you can tell the story of a family of three; you can show the pictures of a mama and a papa and their child, and tell how only one of the three will be alive at the end of the war.  *That* can touch people; that is something people can relate to.

I immediately thought of the movie The Martian, one of my favorite films of the past…well, ever.  Many is the discussion I’ve had with MH about that movie; more specifically, about the idea of sending people on manned missions to our moon or other planets.  Moiself  is in favor of that; I am keen on extra-Terran investigation of our cosmos and don’t see it happening otherwise.  I see the need for humans in space exploration as an inversion of the old astronaut’s axiom.  “No Buck Rogers, no bucks.”    [6]

 

 

MH’s position, held by some scientists and laypeople alike, is that it makes no sense to undertake the higher costs and logistics of sending astronauts to (for example) Mars when robots and probes, etc. can do similar jobs of exploration more efficiently and less dangerously.   [7]   But I say it depends on what kind of “sense” you are talking about.

If a probe crash lands or simply runs out of juice, the scientists who have worked for years (in some cases, decades) on the mission will be distressed, of course.  But no one will be scrambling to mount a rescue mission.

Exactly.

 

 

Without human involvement – not just in the design, but in having human/astronaut “boots on the ground” – you will not capture the wider human attention for the mission.  In the real-life case of Apollo 13, millions of people around the world were watching.  Even if only temporarily, people set aside personal concerns and were united in their hopes that the three imperiled astronauts would make it back to earth alive.  Three men in a space can.  Meanwhile, 100,000 times as many people were dying across the globe every day, some from (arguably) treatable causes such as famine, war, and poverty.  But we don’t relate to those numbers; it is the particular stories which can capture our hearts and minds.

Figures like 100,000 deaths anesthetize.  But a particular story can, I firmly believe, unite people across seemingly intractable political barriers, as when, in the fictional case of The Martian, an international crew of astronauts faced tragedy, and Chinese scientists persuaded their government to essentially give up their secrets in order to help a stranded fellow scientist.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Podcast I Couldn’t Listen To All The Way Through

But first, a flashback.

Dateline: a long time ago in a galaxy far far away, during one of those late-night, discussing-Deep-Topics®-while-sitting-in-someone’s-dorm-room conversations.  One of the Deep Topics® participants, in whose room the conversation was taking place (there were a total of five of us), was considering majoring in psychology.  While we bantered about various subjects, “Tim,” a dorm friend of ours, appeared in the open doorway of the room.  Reeking of dead skunk and beaming a beatific smile, Tim looked down at us five, spouted some stoner nonsense, and continued staggering down the hallway, loudly humming a Grateful Dead song.

Deep Topics® host chuckled, then offered a provocative discussion topic. With the caveat that psychological survey claims cannot ultimately be tested, they said they’d read a survey wherein religious believers generally claimed to be happier than religious skeptics. 

“And your point would be?” moiself  snarked.   I pointed out that, right now, Tim would no doubt “survey” as being happier than all five of us combined.  Little did I know that Someone Smarter Than Moiself ® had already nailed that one.

 

 

Back to the podcast I couldn’t finish.  It was a recent episode from one of my favorites: Alan Alda’s Clear + Vivid podcast.  In that particular episode, Alda was up to his usual high standards of affable yet probing interviewer, and his guest was equally amiable and engaging.  But the episode, Bridging Science and Faith, was about a subject at which guest Francis Collins tanked, IMO.

There was no bridge constructed.  Not even an inflatable pontoon.

 

 

Collins is a noted a physician and researcher, former director of the NIH, and one of the Human Genome Project leaders.  The episode had this teaser:

Head of the National Institutes of Health for 13 years and now interim science advisor to President Biden, Francis Collins is that rarity in the scientific community – an outspoken evangelical Christian.
For him, science is “getting a glimpse of God’s mind.”

In the interview Collins ultimately (even cheerfully) did not offer any “evidence” for his belief in a (Christian) god, except for the fact that he did believe.  He openly admitted that he could make no argument for the evidence affirming the particulars of Christian theology over those of other religions.  It quite surprised me, coming from a scientist – his offering of the shopworn, “oh gosh all these things I am studying it must have come from something, and it looks like there is some kind of order to it, yet we don’t know what it is…”  reason.

You don’t know something, and so you conclude that the something must be a supernatural deity, aka, a god?  That’s quite a leap, for which there is no evidence.  And science is all about the evidence.  Thus the fact that scientists consistently survey as the least religious professionals.

Then, when Collins decides to embrace the concept of a deity, he happens to choose a religion which would be the most comfortable and familiar and acceptable in his culture and country: Christianity.  It was a giddy, circular concept, as dizzying as a child’s playground roundabout.  Collins said that by studying what he studied (biology/the human genome), by examining the “evidence,” he became convinced of the existence of a creator, which led to his religious faith – however, this same evidence does not convince other scientists who have studied the same things (the vast majority of scientists) that there is anything supernatural guiding the cosmos….  So, Collins talks about the evidence leading him to faith even as he admits that he takes his faith on faith, because there *isn’t* objective evidence to prove his faith.

 

 

Scientists, of course, are human beings, raised by and living among other human beings.  Whether or not they actually believe in their particular culture’s religions, many scientists do not object to being identified with the religion of their family or “tribe,” or they continue to hold on to some kind of religious identity for cultural and social reasons (and for professional and personal safety reasons, as in some societies you do not have the freedom to be open about religious disbelief, no matter what your profession is).

“I have no problem going to church services because quite often, again that’s a cultural thing,” said a physics reader in the U.K. who said he sometimes attended services because his daughter sang in the church choir. “It’s like looking at another part of your culture, but I have no faith religiously.”
( “First worldwide survey of religion and science: No, not all scientists are atheists.”
Rice University news and media relations 12-3-15 )

Even as I kept those contingencies in mind, moiself  started doing that thing – have you ever done it? – feeling embarrassment for or on behalf of a person I have never met, a person who is not even in the same room but whom I think is speaking…well…foolishly.

I wish Collins would have just said, “I have chosen to believe this,” instead of claiming that some kind of evidence – which, unlike the evidence used to map the genome, is not evident to his fellow scientists – is what led him to faith.  Like the vast majority of religious folk, no matter their profession or education, Collins’ decision to embrace the supernatural is not (IMO) the result of response to objective evidence;   [8]  rather, it is due to that most human of traits: credulity.  For whatever reasons, he *wanted* to believe.  And so he did. 

Don’t get me wrong – I think Collins is a great guy.  And I love the fact that he had a friendship with the late great British journalist and author, Christopher Hitchens. “Hitch” trashed Collins in public debates (re the existence of a supernatural deity) but got to know Collins personally.   [9]

 

 

We now pause for a break in our regularly scheduled program to take advantage of this opportunity for segue.

Many is the person, however witty and wise they had previously seemed to be, who regretted debating Christopher Hitchens.  Hitchens was acknowledged by admirers and detractors alike as being one of the best debaters to ever take the stage.  In 2007 at an FFRF convention I had the pleasure of hearing Hitchens speak, then answer questions from the audience.  One of the audience questioners…oh, dear.  I felt so sorry for the man, but he phrased his disagreements with several of Hitchens’ opinions – disagreements I moiself  actually held – somewhat inanely and very clumsily.  And Hitch pounced.  I witnessed a phenomena that (at the time) I didn’t know had already been given a name:  the man had been Hitch-slapped.

 

Hitchens response to the biblical story of Abraham obeying god’s command to sacrifice his son Isaac.

 

Definition: when a person overwhelmingly lost a debate with Christopher Hitchens or was the subject of a devastating Hitch putdown, s/he was said to have been “Hitch-slapped.”

Most of the people Hitchens debated with wound up Hitch-Slapped within a few minutes of making their first remarks. You can check out one of my favorite H-S moments here.

Christopher Hitchens was an annihilative debater, seizing on logical weaknesses and often dominating the discourse with his vast vocabulary and Oxford-honed debating skills.  No matter the subject, Hitch would have all the facts at his disposal and an overwhelmingly witty way of presenting them, in his unpretentious British accent.  Some of his finest moments were when he had the audience on his side and he turned his powerful forensic skills on them, if he felt they’d mistreated his opponent:

“The liberal…audience members were on Hitchens’ side, of course….  They cheered him on and loudly booed (his opponent) ….  Instead of basking in the adulation, he stopped the debate to scold the audience for treating (his opponent) so shabbily.
As a leftist way outside of the mainstream, he knew what it was like to have his opinions shouted down, and he objected to his own partisans engaging in such behavior.”

( “Christopher Hitchens…outrageously fierce, outrageously classy…” Isthmus12-16-11 )

 

 

Hitch called his and Collins’ friendship despite having differing opinions on religion “The greatest armed truce of modern times,” and he praised Collins’ devotion to the Human Genome and other scientific projects.  I do appreciate how over the years Collins has been the point man in getting other evangelical Christians to consider the facts of science.  But I don’t think “the facts,” other than the those of Collins’ own humanity and credulity, are what caused Collins to undertake the most human of endeavors: religion.

 

 

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Punz For The Day
Autumn Edition

What’s the best vehicle to drive in the fall?
An autumnmobile.

A pumpkin got a job at a public pool, watching children swim.
I guess you could say it was a life-gourd.

My husband lets people blame him for anything bad that happens in Autumn.
What can I say; he’s a Fall guy.

How do you fix a broken pumpkin computer program?
With a pumpkin patch.

 

 

*   *   *

May we do more than visualize what we want for the world;
May we be aware of our own credulility and never deserve to be Hitch-slapped;
May we remember that all great truths began as blasphemies;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

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[1] It was more like 27.

[2] And once in the studio, in a pre-pandemic group.

[3] Except of course for the war on rational thinking.

[4] I’m half Irish, and thus claim the right to make fun of my peeps.

[5] Hardly surprising, from the person who has had a (if not the) most profound influence on how Americans see and understand their own history.

[6] That phrase, from The Right Stuff (movie and book) refers to the reality understood by the USA’s early space program participants, from NASA scientists to astronauts: No money, no space travel.  Thus, the space program courted the press (well, the “right kind” of press) and public interest, without which they knew the funding for their program would not likely be approved.

[7] As in, your average homo sapiens does not (yet) equate losing a robot with having an astronaut die.

[8] As contrasted with people who are religious and admit not to have examined their religions’ theology and/or tenets – they are religious because they were raised to be and have accepted it.

[9] Collins played the piano at Hitchens’ memorial service.

The Mirror Universe I’m Not Occupying

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Department Of Aging Well

As soon as you’re within sniffing distance of The Medicare Age ®, look out.  I thought all the television and mail (smail- and e-) solicitations were over-the-top, but lately moiself   has been running across ads for podcasts about that subject-most-subjected-to-stereotyping:  aging.

“In this podcast, reporter ___ ___ explores the challenges of aging.”

“Aging is inevitable.  We can fight it (despite knowing we can never win) or we can learn how to embrace it.”

“(podcast series name) is about why and how to live a long healthy, fit, energetic and vital life and never be OLD at any age. ____ will offer you mind, body, spiritual proven (sic) tips and strategies that (sic) guarantee will help you resolve most health challenges and age fearlessly and never be old.”   [1]

 

 

 

I get the impression that many of these programs and podcasts are going to perpetuate the stereotypes they purport to address.  Never be OLD [gasp!] at any age gee, no pejoratives about aging there.

The problem is not with aging; it’s with ageism.  Yeah, I’ve brought this up before; yeah, as we get older we might tend to repeat ourselves.  But this is something that bears repeating, until we all get it.

 

 

 

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Department Of Apropos Of Nothing,
I Recently Remembered The Most Apropos Tribute Ever.

It was a billboard erected by Star Trek fans, upon hearing of the death (2-27-15) of actor, poet, director, author and photographer, Leonard Nimoy.

 

 

 

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Department Of Sometimes (Translation; Many, Many, Times)
Moiself  Thinks About These Things

Dateline: Tuesday morning 7:45 am-ish.  [2]   I’m walking in a neighborhood near Shadywood Park in Hillsboro. A person is approaching me; she is also, moiself  deduces, taking a morning constitutional.   [3]

As we get within eye-contact-making-distance (approximately 15 feet away from each other) we each, almost simultaneously, say to the other, “Morning.”  Not, “Good morning,” or even its truncated version, “G’morning.”

And not for the first time in my life moiself  thinks about that.  I think about why, as a form of greeting-a-stranger-in-passing, we each say a word which could be taken, in another culture or by an alien anthropologist, as a statement of fact.

Morning.  Well, yes, as per the time of day, it is morning. Why don’t we exchange some other factual/descriptive word(s)? The walker approaching me could’ve said Sidewalk (she was walking on the sidewalk) and I could’ve said Asphalt (I was walking in the street). Or, I could have said, Trekking poles (which I was using) and she could’ve responded with, New Balance Nergize Sport (or the name of whatever shoes she was wearing).

Perhaps if Star Trek was/is correct and there are mirror or parallel universes, even as I type this there is a parallel moiself, a behavioral scientist studying this question of upmost importance to…well, to me.

Or, perhaps mirror moiself  has a real job.

 

 

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Department Of Why People   [4]   Don’t Like Christians

In the past few months Florida governor Ron DeSantis has used several bastardizations of a certain bible passage to rally his like-minded cretin stormtroopers motivate his conservative base.  DeSantis referenced the apostle Paul’s “Armor of God” passage in the New Testament’s letter to the Ephesians while speaking to, respectively, the national student summit for Turning Point USA; the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority conference, and another rally in February:

“You gotta be ready for battle. So put on the full armor of God, take a stand against the left’s schemes, stand firm with the belt of truth buckled around your waist. You will face fire from flaming arrows, but the shield of faith will protect you.”

“It ain’t going to be easy. You got to be strong. You got to put on the full armor of God. You got to take a stand, take a stand against the left’s schemes, you got to stand your ground, you got to be firm, you will face flaming arrows, but take up the shield of faith and fight on.”

“We need people all over the country to be willing to put on that full armor of God to stand firm against the left.”

 

 

Here is the actual passage:

“A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:10–12, NLT)

DeSantis – surprise! – conveniently stops his misquotes before verse 12, which inconveniently (for DeSantis and other right wing Christian politicians) states that Paul is not talking about politicians or citizens, or earthly opponents of any kind, but spiritual ones.  Surprise again, DeSantis replaces taking a stand against “the devil” with taking a stand against “the left,” leaving no doubt for his listeners:

Y’all paying attention, kids:  The Left/Democrats = Satan.

 

 

At least one Christian blogger noticed and took issue:

“Politicians quoting the Bible in an effort to garner votes or appeal to the religious beliefs of their supporters is nothing new; politicians quoting a verse completely out of context is equally common….
A politician blatantly changing the wording of the Bible is something else entirely, especially when it’s done to gain the support of the very people who should be outraged by it. Christians of all stripes (liberal, conservative, moderate) and all denominations (Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant) may disagree on the interpretation of the Bible, but few if any would go so far as to change the actual words to fit their worldview.”

(“Ron DeSantis Changes a Well-Known Bible Verse to Fit His Own Agenda,”
medium.com 8-3-22 )

 

 

 

Moiself  disagrees with the blogger’s last statement (in the above excerpt). Experience and observation have taught me that the opposite is true.  It’s not few if any – it’s most if not all religious believers have no problem fiddling with “the actual words” (of their scriptures, of anyone else’s scriptures, of anything) to fit their worldview.

The above-quoted blogger went on to wonder/despair at the lack of concern – or even recognition – other Christians have shown re DeSantis’ hyperbolic scriptural contortions.  Moiself’s concern is how those who identify as Christians will handle the most recent “un-Christian,”  [5]   headline-grabbing stunt pulled by DeSantis (who’s a proclaimed Christian).

“A couple of weeks back, The Economist published a long cover story on ‘The Disunited States of America,’ detailing how, on issues such as abortion, guns, voting rights, and immigration, America’s red and blue states are engaged in a “new politics of confrontation.” As if on cue, Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor who often seems as if he is campaigning to succeed Donald Trump as the nation’s Provoker-in-Chief, staged his latest political stunt: using Florida taxpayers’ money to charter two planes to fly about fifty undocumented migrants, mostly Venezuelan, to Martha’s Vineyard. DeSantis was not even relocating the group from his own state—the flights originated in Texas.”
( DeSantis’s Heartless Migrant Stunt Provides a Preview of 2024,
newyorker.com, 9-17-22 )

I felt no pressing need to condemn DeSantis’s cruel, political stunt…even though (and of course) moiself  eventually did, when I found that someone else had edited, DeSantis-style, the very scriptural passage I’d been thinking of:

 

My comment to this FB repost:  “All these Christians ignoring one of the few unambiguous statements in their scriptures…all of those mega churches in Texas apparently open their pocketbooks (and hearts) only for themselves and their rapacious ‘pastors.’ ”

Yes, The Immigration/Undocumented Migrant Issue ® is a problem that is intractable and almost/ultimately seems unsolvable.  But, however you purport to solve this problem – any problem – you don’t do it by exploiting the vulnerable. Tell me, Ron-DeS-boy, whom would your Jesus manipulate?

DeSantis’ hard-hearted action condemns itself. Here’s a thing which keeps coming back to moiself.

Decades ago, before designated dog parks were a thing, I remember reading a newspaper article about a town’s escalating disagreement between neighborhoods:   Some of the townsfolk living in one neighborhood discovered a nearby neighborhood which contained two adjacent, un fenced, empty lots owned by the city.  Neighborhood #1 folks were advocating for those lots to be designated as a dog-walking/play area. Many people living in the neighborhood by the empty lots were opposed to that idea: they feared that such a designation would attract dog owners from outside the neighborhood, which would exacerbate the dog feces problem they already had (not-so-long ago, when taking their dogs for a walk, most dog owners let their pooches poop with impunity without picking up after them).  As the debate heated up, some of the “anti-dog-yard” people gathered up bags of dog feces and deposited them on the front porches of the “pro-dog-yard“ people.

That is literally the first thing I thought of when I read about DeSantis’s vile act:

he’s treating vulnerable human beings like bags of dog shit.

With all the migrants have been through, having their dignity dissed is perhaps the least of their worries at the moment.  However, I’m sure the humiliation will come back to haunt them.  The Humiliation of being treated like bags of dog shit – like something people would be aghast to find on their front porch.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of A Sure-Fire Mood Uplifter After Reading The Nasty News
Made By Ron DeSantis And Other Nasty People

The following made my day…week…month…  Say what you will about social media (and moiself  does), but without it, I might have missed seeing this.

 

 

 

Ballerinas can fart, too!

This is going to be my new mantra.  It is applicable to sooooo many situations, including those involving the kinds of discrimination and injustices which can only be mitigated by the realization of our shared humanity:  remember; we are all human.  Ultimately, we are all ballerinas, and yes, ballerinas can    [6]  fart.

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
MGE   [7]

I started reading a book about anti-gravity. It’s impossible to put down.

I dream of taking a sailing adventure in an ocean of orange soda.
It’s just my Fanta sea.

Wife to husband: “Honey, it sounds like elk are falling from the sky!”
Husband to wife: “No, it’s just reindeer.”

Doctor to patient:  “The tests confirm that you drank a bottle of food coloring,
but you’re going to be fine.”
 Patient: “But doc, I feel like I’m dyeing inside.”

Biologists made a lab frog immortal by removing its vocal cords.
Now it can’t croak.

I was going to make my husband a belt of watches…
but then I realized it would be a waist of time.     [8]

 

*   *   *

May you fight ageism and not aging;
May you be remembered, vis-à-vis the Vulcan saying, Live Long and Prosper,
as someone who did;
May you remember that ballerinas can fart, too;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] And never having to worry about being able to construct coherent sentences.

[2] Not amish.

[3] Which sounds so much more posh than “going for a walk”  — it sounds downright British, in fact.  My tribute to Queen Elizabeth.

[4] As in people who are not Christians, whether they claim a different religious affiliation or are religion-free.

[5] The words of others, not moiself.

[6] And evidently do.

[7] Miscellaneous Groaners Edition.

[8] No, this does not require a footnote.

The Novel Characters I’m Not Liking

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Department Of Things Are Never Going To Get Better
Until We Start Asking The Correct  Questions

 

 

Whether posed from a pro-choice supporter who encourages openness as being essential to  debates over reproductive freedom and (ironically) privacy, or from a rape hotline volunteer who is working to bring the statistics of sexual assault into the public consciousness, IMO people – well-meaning and otherwise – keep asking the wrong questions.

Question, posed to a woman:
Have you ever had an abortion?

Question which *should* be posed to a man – either preceding or following the previous question – but never rarely is:
Have you ever, even potentially,   [1]  been the cause of an abortion?
(Translation: have you ever had sexual relations with a woman, consensual or otherwise, in which your intent was not to father a wanted pregnancy? )

 

 

Question, posed to a woman:
Have you ever been sexually assaulted?

Question which *should* be posed to a man – either preceding or following the previous question – but never rarely is:
Have you – or any male friend/relative/acquaintance you know of –
ever sexually assaulted anyone?

 

 

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Department Of Doing the Thing I Wasn’t Going To Do

Moiself  has started a book club.

Always the vanguard of creativity and novelty, I am calling it, Book Club.

 

 

The reason why I wasn’t going to do it: my experiences in the previous BCs I’ve been a part of.

The BCs dealing with nonfiction were fine, and more than that – highly enjoyable and educational.  But when it came to BCs that included – or were totally centered around – works of fiction…not so much.  What would happen: at least one of the other BC members would find out that I was a published author of fiction (something I tried to keep under wraps) and “out” me to the group.  This revelation tainted the BC experience for moiself, and also, it seemed, for many if not all of the other members.  I noted a deference, toward moiself, from the other members, which frustrated, saddened, and frankly nauseated me.

The other BC members would noticeably defer (sometimes downright obsequiously) to my opinions, or change theirs if they’d spoken first and then it was my turn to speak  [2]  and I offered a different perspective, or ask me to express my thoughts before they’d offer theirs. They’d even come right out and say something along the lines of:

“Well, as an author, you know more than I do about….”

Ick, ick, ick.

And no amount of encouragement on my part –  that their opinions and feelings as readers were equally valid (or even more so) than mine as a writer  [3]  – seemed to relieve that deferential dynamic.

The straw which broke my BC camel’s back…

 

“Ooh, thank you for that.”

 

…you’re welcome.

As I was saying typing, the straw which broke my BC camel’s back was when we members of BC #4 were discussing A Thousand Acres, author Jane Smiley’s contemporary retelling of Shakespeare’s King Lear.

ATA was a book I did not care for.  As it turned out, not one person in the group did, although the other members were initially hesitant to express their distaste for ATA, seeing as how the literary critics were coming in their pants over their eagerness to heap praise upon it (in my opinion…which I managed not to express to the BC  in the words moiself  has used here).

So; none of us liked it.  But, whyMoiself  kept her mouth shut until everyone else had spoken, when I found out that everyone else in the group didn’t enjoy reading ATA because “There were no likeable characters in the book.”

Um, okay.  Moiself  didn’t partucularly “like” any of the book’s main characters. But, what about the story itself – the plot, the pacing, the way the story of those unlikeable characters unfolded?  I tried to present the idea that a story can be compelling without containing characters which you, the reader, find likeable or “identifiable-with-able.”  I mean, seriously, dudes: who is “likeable” in Macbeth?

Moiself  didn’t like the book because I didn’t like the story being told, in the way it was told.  I didn’t care for the plot content and trajectory, which never engaged my attention, and…oh, never mind.

I tried, very carefully and respectfully, to offer an alternative perspective to not-liking-something, which some of the other BC members took as me trying to talk them out of *not* liking the book – which, as I ‘d already stated, moiself  Also. Did. Not. Like.

 

 

Fast forward to at least two decades later. The first meeting of “my” BC was last Thursday, and seemed to be a rousing success. A nice mix of life backgrounds and opinions among the members;   [4]  moiself received good feedback; everyone seems looking forward to next month’s meeting.  The format, which is open to modification as per members’ suggestions and preferences,    [5]   is fairly simple:  Once a month; my place; all who are able to do so bring a plate of appetizer/canape/”finger food” type goodies to share (and/or conversation-stimulating beverages);  we nosh and sip and talk about the book.

 

 

At the end of the evening we offer suggestions for next month’s book, based on the month’s theme, which has been announced in advance.

I wanted this BC, instead of specializing in genres, to offer a wide variety of reading options.  I didn’t want to host (or participate in) an all fiction or all nonfiction group. In order to offer the widest variety of possibilities – and perhaps force moiself  to read at least one book a year in a category I don’t normally opt for (e.g., history), moiself  came up with a list of themes (and a clarification of them), which I shall ever-so-humbly share with y’all now, in case this idea is also appealing to you.    [6]

 

 

Book Club Monthly Themes

* January: Literary Classics You Should Have Read
I never made it through War and Peace (and have no desire to do so now), how about you?  But there are plenty of other classics I’d like to give a go (or would be willing to re-read, since I’ve probably forgotten most of, say, Moby Dick).  What constitutes a “classic”? Think of your high school/college literature class reading lists.

* February: Short story collections
“If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.”
This quote (variously attributed to everyone from Twain to Voltaire) is related to a category that never quite gets its due recognition, but in which (so-called) New World authors have excelled, from past practitioners like Mark Twain and Ray Bradbury (The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and other stories; The Illustrated Man) to relative newcomers Edwidge Dandicat and Tim O’Brien (Ghosts; The Things They Carried).

*  March: Feminism  “I Am Woman; Hear Me Roar (and see me read).”
Sisterhood is powerful, as we’ll see when we delve into/revisit the classics of first and second wave feminist thought (Mary Wollstonecraft’s The Vindication of the Rights of Women; Betty Freidan’s The Feminist Mystique; Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch; Gloria Steinem’s The Truth Will Set you Free But First It Will Piss You Off ) as well as the “Third Wave” feminists’ updates (Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist; Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me).

* April: Regional – “She flies with her own wings” (and reads with her own eyes).
Did you recognize Oregon’s state motto? Yeah, it’s somewhat…lame, but it’s a great state and region we are privileged to live in. In April we’ll affirm that by reading and discussing a book either written by an Oregon/Pacific NW author, or one that deals with Oregon/Pacific settings and/or subjects.  From Ursula LeGuin’s sci-fi novels to Stephen Ambrose’ history of the Lewis & Clark expedition, this theme could include almost any literary category.

* May:  Freethought  “Having faith is believing in something you just know ain’t true.”
This quote from Twain leads us to themes of humanism, skepticism, and freethought. We’ll be choosing from the writings of those who are-religion free, such as the provocative manifestos of Sam Harris (The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason) and Christopher Hitchens (God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything), the memoir of activist Dan Barker (Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America’s Leading Atheists), and the historical works of Susan Jacoby (Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism).

* June: “Pride Month” writers
From the semi-autobiographical fiction of Rita Mae Brown  (Bingo; Six of One) to the essay collections of David Sedaris (Me Talk Pretty One Day) to the novels of James Baldwin (Giovanni’s Room) to the poetry of Justin Chin (Harmless Medicine)– this is yet another category which can encompass all genres.  From poetry to political manifestos, the only requirement for a June book is that the book’s author identifies as LGBTQ. 

 

 

 

 

* July: History and other Non-fiction
The broadest category of all, this could cover anything from self-help to ancient civilizations to true crime to WWII narratives….

* August: Memoir/Biography/Autobiography
From the thought-provoking, introspective life story of an esteemed philosopher to the behind-the-scenes memoir of a pivotal political figure to the how-it-all-happened tale of a groundbreaking scientist to the riotous recollections of a ribald rock musician, books in this non-fiction category must tell a story about someone’s life  (note: I reserve the right to have veto power when it comes to books about Kardashians and their ilk).

* September: International Literature. “The world is my country….” (Thomas Paine).
The timeless works of England’s Jane Austin; the complex novels of the Russian “masters”  (but please, no War and Peace); the contemporary stories of India’s Arundhati Roy;  the poetry of Chile’s Pablo Neruda; the essays of Nigeria’s Chinua Achebe – a September BC book can be fiction or nonfiction, as long as its author is/was a citizen of a country other than the USA.    [7]

* October:  Controversial Authors
This theme could (and hopefully will) spur conversations about how we separate artists’ work from their personal lives (and whether or not this should even be a goal). 

Charles Dickens critiqued the poverty and social stratification of Victorian England via his characters’ memorable stories.  Yet historians who’ve read Dicken’s personal letters tell us that the man known as a compassionate champion of family values – the man who wrote so sympathetically about the plight of Tiny Tim – was a SOB to his own family. [8]

Are the stories of Sherman Alexie still worthwhile, after the critically-acclaimed author was accused of (and admitted to) sexual harassment?  Will you read J.D. Vance’s best-selling memoir about poverty-stricken Appalachia (Hillbilly Elegy) now that Vance has embraced ultra conservative politics?  If a writer is unrepentant when confronted with a racist remark from his past but wrote a damn fine  [9]  novel, do you give yourself permission to read his work?

* November:  Books Made Into Movies. “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”  [10]

When it comes to film adaptations of novels, avid readers often declare, The book is always better.  Here’s your chance to affirm that, or discover that, in some cases, the opposite may hold true.   From Jaws to Sense and Sensibility, from The Color Purple to The Maltese Falcon, from The Wizard of Oz  to The World According to Garp, this category is for cinephiles as well as literature lovers. Perhaps we’ll be introduced to books we didn’t even know were adapted into movies (I bet more of us have watched the movie Forrest Gump than have read the novel).

* December:  Embarrassing Or Guilty Pleasures.
Is That A Nora Roberts Novella In Your Pocket Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?”   We’ll end the year with books we may not so eager to admit we like, because they aren’t literary enough.  We know we’re supposed to read books which challenge us intellectually (that effin’ War and Peace again) – titles that would look impressive on our Goodreads resumes.  Still, there are times when we want to rest our brains with a “light” read, be it a murder mystery, romance, fantasy/sci-fi, action/adventure, western – whatever your favorite genre.   And sorry, although it provided a plot point for a cute movie (Book Club), as BC host and instigator I reserve my power to veto all shades of 50 Shades of….

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Books Clubs Edition

Our Book club is reading a novel about anti-gravity. It’s impossible to put down.

I finally got my book Club to read Jane Austen. They just needed a little Persuasion.

Our new Book Club member says she doesn’t like Lord of the Rings,
but she doesn’t know what she’s Tolkien about.

Our book Club bartender recommended we read his favorite book:
Tequila Mockingbird.

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you like a book with unlikeable characters;
May you remember to ask the right questions;
May you enjoy the last week of summer;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Potentially, as in, you had unprotected intercourse with a woman, wherein the intention was not to get her pregnant, and she did not get pregnant (but could have).

[2] In one of the BCs the format was to go around the circle, each person speaking once so that everyone got a turn, and then it was open to everyone to take it from there.

[3] Although I wasn’t there, at those groups, as a writer, but as a fellow reader.

[4] Except where politics are concerned…which came into the conversation and it seems we’re all on the left side of the page, if you know what I mean and I think you do.

[5] Although for simplicity’s sake I offered to be permanent host (hoping that *not* having to host will make it easier on someone who is interested but hesitant if a rotating host schedule is required, which I’d seen in other groups), I made it clear that it is our, not *my* group, and we can change the meeting time/place/format as we see fit to do so.

[6] Steal borrow these if  you like.  I’d be flattered…with a bit of attribution.

[7] This month we read The Story of My Teeth, by Valeria Luiselli.  A book I really enjoyed, but probably never would have discovered, had I not created this themed list.

[8] Dickens hated his mother, was cruel to his wife and schemed (unsuccessfully) to have her institutionalized when he was having an adulterous affair. With his children he followed a pattern of initial enthusiasm followed by utter disillusionment and disparaged them to his friends (even hoping for the death of one son who’d disappointed him).

[9] Keeping in mind that “damn fine,” like any artistic judgment, us ultimately subjective, even though the “crimes” and deficiencies the author is being accused of may be more objectively defined.

[10] A quote from the movie “Jaws,” the memorable line was not in the novel but was adlibbed by actor Roy Scheider.

The Highways I’m Not Renaming

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Department Of I Have Questions…But To Whom?

Dateline Tuesday am.  Driving Highway 26 from the Oregon coast to Hillsboro, moiself  comes upon a portion of the highway with has a new-ish sign on the side of the road which announces: “POW-MIA Memorial Highway.” I’ve seen the sign several times before, and have often thought, why?

Is this –  naming portions of a road for a person or group of people – considered an honor, *by* that person or group of people for whom the road is named?

I know that that is a thing – roads being named for people.  But what I don’t know is why having a thoroughfare named for or after you is considered to be…an act of respect  [1]  ?

Here’s what a bit ‘o googling got me:  I was mistaken in thinking it’s only that particular portion of the Highway 26 (where the P-MMH sign is) which is now the P-MMH.  The whole damn highway, which I’ve always known as The Sunset Highway, was renamed – excuse-moi, “officially dubbed” – the P-MMH.  This happened in 2020. I didn’t get the memo, nor was moiself  invited to the ceremony.

 

 

 

 

“Highway 26 has now been named the POW-MIA Memorial Highway. This designation was celebrated in cities across the state, including Boring, on National POW-MIA Recognition Day, Sept. 18, and came as a result of the efforts of Lt. Colonel Dick Tobiason (Ret.) and his nonprofit, The Bend Heroes Foundation.”   [2]

(“Highway 26 officially dubbed POW-MIA Memorial Highway,”
Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs, 9-24-2020)

I wish for a relative (of a POW or MIA) whom I know well enough to be comfortable asking them, “Does having a road named after your soldier-uncle make you feel warm and fuzzy, or honored, or that his sacrifices were not in vain, or….?”

Not that I’m against honoring or acknowledging soldiers, particularly POWs and MIAs.  Anyone   [3]  remember the POW and MIA bracelets from 1970-on, during the Vietnam War era?

 

 

The idea was for people to wear the bracelets to keep the recognition of POWs and MIAs in the public eye. I wore two such bracelets, but can’t remember from whom/where I got them.  I recall that, for some nominal fee to the organization which started the campaign,   [4]   you would receive a copper or nickel-plated bracelet, engraved with the rank, name, and capture or loss date of an American serviceman known to be captured or missing in action during the Vietnam War.  You were supposed to wear the bracelet until said soldier (or his remains) was returned to the USA.  [5] 

I was as anti-Vietnam war as teenager could be, but didn’t blame soldiers for our country’s massive FUBAR of a military campaign.  Thus, when someone asked me if I would “help” soldiers by wearing one of the bracelets I said sure, and shelled out my nominal bracelet donation (~ $3).  I first wore a POW bracelet, then a MIA bracelet.

I never got the chance to return the bracelet to “my” POW.  Whether or not he was part of the group set free in the 1973 liberation of North Vietnam-held American POWs, I’ve no idea.  His name is lost to the abyss of my long term memory, the bracelet known to only the residents of Davey Jones Locker.

I shall explain.

 

 

 

 

My POW’s bracelet was liberated from my wrist during a body surfing incident at Newport Beach in the summer of…1971, I think.  My younger sister’s friend, JT, was swimming with me, trying to catch the same (way-too-big) wave as I was riding.  She attempted to cut underneath me, and we both wiped out.  As we tumbled t-over-a in the foamy surf, the edge of my bracelet “pantsed” JT, catching on her bikini bottom and pulling it down to her ankles.  When we both surfaced, sputtering and laughing, she pulled up her bikini bottom and handed me my POW bracelet, which had been stretched beyond its tensile strength – when I tried to crimp it back to its normal size it broke in half.  As JT and I stood gasping and giggling in water up to our elbows, another wave knocked both of us over…and my POW bracelet became one with the briny.

I got a MIA bracelet after that, but cannot remember its fate (nor that of the unfortunate soldier whose remains were still – or never – to be found.)   [6]

Yet again, I digress. 

Another Oddly Named Thing ® on Highway 26, that I think of every time – yes, every gawddamn time I see it – is the Dennis L. Edwards Tunnel.  “Oddly” is being kind; I consider the naming of the tunnel to be somewhat macabre, seeing as what Mr. Edwards had to do to acquire his namesake.

 

 

The Dennis L. Edwards Tunnel is a highway tunnel in northwestern Oregon that carries the Sunset Highway (U.S. Route 26) through the Northern Oregon Coast Range mountains….
The tunnel was originally known as the Sunset Tunnel until 2002. It was renamed in honor of Dennis L. Edwards, an Oregon Department of Transportation worker who was killed on January 28, 1999 when part of the tunnel collapsed while he was inspecting it for damage caused by heavy rains.
(Wikipedia entry for Dennis L. Edwards tunnel)

When moiself  sees the tunnel sign, I briefly ponder: what does Edward’s family think, when they are driving to or from the coast and approach the tunnel?  Or perhaps, after the tunnel was renamed, they said uh, yeah, thanks for remembering and now just avoid THE SUNSET HIGHWAY altogether?

Inquiring minds want to know.  But perhaps we never shall.

*   *   *

Department Of Blast From The Past

Updating/cleaning out my writing documents on my computer, I stumbled upon a contribution I had been thinking of making, several years ago, to the literary journal Stoneslide Collective’s Rejection Generator Project.  As described on their website, the rejection generator was…

“…a tool to help anyone who faces rejection. The Rejection Generator rejects writers before an editor looks at a submission. Inspired by psychological research showing that after people experience pain they are less afraid of it in the future, The Rejection Generator helps writers take the pain out of rejection….The Rejection Generator Project is built on the premise that the most painful rejections ultimately help writers build their immunity to future disappointment.”

Moiself  had completely forgotten about that project of theirs, until I came across notes I’d made for my planned contribution (which I can’t find any record of having been sent).

Stoneslide Corrective had published a story of mine, “The Aunt” (October 2012) , which was an excerpt from my then novel-in-progress.  [7]   A few months after publication of my story I received this email from SC’s editor:

I hope all is going well with you and your writing. We at Stoneslide are planning a celebration to mark the one-year anniversary of our Rejection Generator Project. As part of that, we are inviting some of the writers we’ve published to provide “Guest Editor” rejection letters. Please let me know if you’d like to participate.

Evidently, I had fun with the Rejection Generator Project…but in my records there is no indication if I ever sent it in (and SC ceased publishing in 2016 or 17).  Here are the rejections I (apparently/evidently) would have contributed.

***************************

Dear Writer,

We are returning your manuscript.  As per your request for feedback:  Don’t quit your day job.  If you don’t have a day job, find one with a benefits package that includes adult literacy classes.

The Editors

********

Dear Writer,

We are returning your collection of poems, any one of which makes the bathroom stall ode, “Here I Sit So Broken-Hearted” read like Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 by comparison.

The Editors

********

Dear Writer,

While our standard rejection letter begins with the phrase, Thank you for thinking of us, we are anything but thankful that you considered us an appropriate venue for your manuscript of “erotic verse.”  If for some inexplicable reason we’d desired to be assaulted by expressions of juvenile sentiment and vulgarity we’d have install listening devices in the nearest junior high school boys’ locker room.

The Editors

P.S. and F.Y.I. – nothing rhymes with “bulbous.”

********

Dear Writer,

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

No; really.

The Editors

********

 

********

Dear Writer,

Please excuse this form rejection letter.  Frankly, your mediocre manuscript does not merit a personal response.

The Editors

********

Gentle Writer,

Do bother to acquaint yourself with the most basic understanding of submission guidelines.  When an English language journal states that it accepts translations, this means that the work submitted must be translated from its original language into English.  Whatever dialect your short story was written in, none of us – not our Da Bronx native fiction editor, not our Appalachia-born, Kentucky-raised poetry editor, not our intern from the Ebonics exchange program – could decipher it.

Vaya con Queso,

The Editors

********

Dear Writer,

Please excuse what appear to be coffee stains on your returned submission. By the time she made it to paragraph three of your putrid prose our fiction editor was laughing so hard she spewed a mouthful of her espresso bean kale smoothie on the manuscript.

The Editors

********

Dear Writer,

Should you wish to submit to us in the future, please heed our guidelines – specifically, our request that you “Send us your best work.”  If what you sent was your best work, you have our sympathy, as well as our enduring request that you ignore our future submission periods.

The Editors

*****************

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Writing Punz Rejection Generator Edition

What kind of references do physician writers insert in their research papers?
Podiatrists use footnotes; proctologists use endnotes.

What is a car’s favorite literary genre?
Autobiography.

What mantra did the Star Wars screenwriters use to remind themselves to put more figures of speech in their scripts?
“Metaphors be with you.”

 

 

 

*   *   *

May no one ever have cause to name a highway after you;
May your rejection notes be few, and facetious;
May the metaphors always be with you;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Or something else?  I cannot think of another concept.

[2] For y’all non-Oregonians, Bend is a city in the central high desert area of Oregon. So, the Bend Heroes Foundation refers to the location of the veteran’s organization, and not to their limberness or exercise routine.  And Boring – yep, that’s an Oregon town as well.

[3] Of a certain age, ahem.

[4] I think it was a couple of college students.

[5] At which time, via the organization, you could send the bracelet to the serviceman and/or his family.

[6] An older veteran once I spoke to told me that MIA essentially meant KIA, but that in some cases, where a soldier’s death was witnessed by others and the death was in such a gruesome manner that there could be “no body parts left to identify,” the MIA label was reassuring to the family…which I never understood, unless it was a tacit agreement on their part to not acknowledge the unimaginable?  A soldier blown to pink mist by a bomb is still dead, even if there was not enough of him left to be identified at the time, in the battlefield, with the forensic methods then available.

[7] Since retitled…still unpublished!

The Slip I’m Not Adjusting

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Department Of It Didn’t Happen

Dateline: yesterday, September 1.  For as long as I have lived in Oregon,    [1]  something has happened on September 1.  Whether or not I’ve been aware of the date, on the first day of September when I go out for a morning walk (or just to pick up the newspaper, back when we subscribed to four “dead tree” news sources), the air is…different.  Not only the temperature, but the air *feel,* and the smell.

After the first eight or so years of this happening, I’d think to moiself, Oh yeah – today must be September 1.

On September 1 we still have three weeks left of (technical) summer. But, even if the next day we go back to August air temps and “feels;” and even if this going-back continues for another two days or two weeks…something about September 1 is a gateway to autumn.

But not yesterday.

Yesterday morning felt like the previous morning, and the morning before that:  a warmer than usual August day.  Is this a September 1 an outlier?  Or another global warming harbinger?  [2]

I was 30 minutes into my walk before my phone buzzed and I looked at it, saw the date, and realized it was September 1…and something was missing.

 

l

Autumn on Sweet Creek Trail, Oregon Coast Range  [3]

*   *   *

Department Of Random Acts Of Oddness

Dateline: last Friday afternoon; a local grocery store.  I’m slowly pushing my mini-cart down an aisle.  I stop for about thirty seconds, no doubt sporting the Scanning The Shelves For The Item I Cannot Find,® blank look on my face.  Then I hear a voice:

“The slip – it just keeps slipping up.”

I turn to look behind me and to the right, from whence the voice, and behold the woman who just uttered those nonsensical profound words, apparently, to moiself  (there is no other human in this particular aisle).  Her left arm is resting on one of the store’s standard-sized grocery carts, which is about 25% filled with various items.  She flashes me an ample, somewhat sheepish smile as she points to her hips and tugs at…something below her waistband, with her right hand.

“My slip; it just keeps slipping up.
It’s supposed to be down, but it keeps coming…up.”

Slip Woman is clad in a white blouse, a navy-blue shirt, some clog-like shoes, and her wavy brown-going-gray-hair is pulled back in a ponytail.  Although she looks a little frazzled,   [4]  she doesn’t have that street person vibe about her.  Nor do I recognize in her the kind of eyes that stare at you but don’t really see you – eyes that stare *through* you, as in, when a Certain Kind Of Person approaches you (and by you I mean, moiself ) and starts in with the non-sequiturs…which has happened to me quite often in my time on this planet, particularly in my after-college years, when I was automobile-less and rode public transit.

 

 

It happened to me so often that I once asked a friend, as I was preparing to take a bus to a job interview, to check the back of my jacket to make sure there wasn’t a neon sign affixed there which flashed some version of the following message:

“Are you angry? Lonely? Irrationally exuberant? Confused? Tired?
Frustrated with politics or sex or irresponsible chihuahua owners?

You *really* should tell this woman all about it, RIGHT NOW.”

At one point I thought that, unbeknownst to me, moiself  must have ridden a bus wherein Weird Al Yankovic was a passenger, and as Weird Al observed what happened to me he was thus inspired to write Another One Rides The Bus – his parody of the Queen song, Another One Bites The Dust.

 

 

Once again, I digress.

 

 

Okay: Slip Woman keeps tugging at the waistband of her skirt and repeats her line about how troublesome it is that her slip won’t stay…wherever it is supposed to stay.  Since I deem her *not* to be a Crazy Person Who Talks To Strangers ®, I think that perhaps her slip was indeed riding up and she was trying to fix it as she turned her cart into this aisle of the grocery store, where she saw me and suddenly became self-conscious about adjusting her undergarments in a public place…  As in, she is assuming – incorrectly – that I’d noticed her doing so…and now she has to explain herself so that I don’t think she’s just randomly tugging at her hindquarters.

 

 

Still, no matter what “sense” is behind her statement, it strikes me as an odd thing to say to a stranger.  So, I decide to not be a stranger, for a moment.  I make what I hope is a knowing, reassuring, Ahhhhh noise, followed with a comment about how “these things” always happen in public places, don’t they?

And I smile and push my cart up the aisle, on to another part of the store…when what I really want to say to her is,  “You’re wearing a slip…really?  Why?”

As I walked to my car in the store’s parking lot, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  Who wears slips anymore, anyway?  Is that still a thing?  [5]

 

 

I can’t remember the last time I wore a slip; I can only remember the last time I *didn’t* wear a slip…and someone thought I should have.

 

 

 

Thank you for asking.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away,    [6]  moiself  was attending the wedding of my older sister’s eldest daughter.  The wedding was held in a chapel in the Irvine hills, on a brilliantly sunny, So Cal afternoon.  After the ceremony, as I was standing by the pew where I’d been seated and had begun chatting with a family member, a Well-Meaning Church Lady Friend ® of my sister’s sidled up to me.  WMCLF® leaned her mouth close to my ear and, with a deadly serious sotto voce,– as if she were warning me that I should not panic but please be advised that a tsunami is headed this way and we’ve all five minutes to live – earnestly informed me that, standing as I was (with my back to the blinding sun which streamed in through the chapel’s floor-to-ceiling glass walls),

“…you can see your legs through your skirt!”

 

 

 

 

I’m not sure which of the following three things disappointed WMCLF® the most:    [7]

(1) My somewhat laconic reply (“Uh…yeah…I do have legs underneath my skirt.”);

(2) My somewhat not-hiding-the-fact-that-I-didn’t-consider-her-telling-me-that-to-be-the-equivalent-of-sharing-our-nation’s-nuclear-launch-codes, lack of enthusiasm as to the importance of her observation, which she thought was so urgent to share;  [8]   

(3) There was no third thing, somewhat or otherwise;

(4) No fourth thing either.  However, if WMCLF® had known the least bit about me, she would have realized what a big deal it was for me to actually be wearing a skirt.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Causes To Fight For

How can moiself  be so petty as to devote almost an entire blog to stories about a superficial piece of a  women’s undergarment, when there are so many pressing social, political, and cultural issues to be addressed?  Such as, my beef with the NY Times word game, Spelling Bee.

Along with Wordle and Quordle and a couple other NY Times games, Spelling Bee is a game I enjoy playing in the early morning.  Spelling Bee  is a word game “…that challenges players to construct as many (minimum 4 letters) words as they can using pre-selected letters. Each word must include the center letter provided in the puzzle.”  The game’s creator uses a “curated list” of words, as I discovered over a year ago when, although among that day’s SB‘s seven letters were C A L R, I constructed “caracal,” only to be told that that the name for that magnificent African wildcat was not acceptable.

 

 

What word nerd of a hairball doesn’t think I’m acceptable?

 

 

I was so cheesed off about it that I wrote to the editor/curator, who replied with the lame excuse  reasonable explanation about curating a list so as to reach a wide audience.  I’ve noticed that many words I try to use in SB which have a biological or scientific meaning are rejected with SB’s “not in word list” message,  [9]    which makes me think that the editor/curator has rather low expectations re his target audience’s educational and curiosity levels.

Apparently I’m not the only person who takes issue with the curated list policy. Under the Spelling Bee site’s FAQ is this exchange, between a player and the game’s curator:

(SB player):
Occasionally I spell a legitimate word, but the Bee rejects it.
What deems a word unacceptable?

(Sam Ezersky, journalist and NYT Puzzles Editor):
Two dictionaries I use are the built-in Apple dictionary, which is based on New Oxford American, and Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary. I like using Google’s News tab, so if there is a technical word, I’ll see if it’s being used in articles without much explanation.
Ultimately, the decisions can seem arbitrary because every solver has a different background and vocabulary….
I can understand the frustration, but my mission is not to be a dictionary. I want to do my best to reflect the Bee’s broad audience and the language we speak.

 

 

 

 

What kind of broad audience doesn’t know – or would benefit from knowing – about the magnificent caracal?

And earlier this week, I reached my next-to-last straw with SB:  included in the seven letters were U T R and D, so naturally one of the words I entered was turd, only to receive SB’s negating response, “not in word list.”

Oh, come on.  What kind of humorless turd will not allow that word on his list?  Thus, my blog’s coveted, rarely bestowed   [10]   Golden Turd Award ® goes to you, Mr. Ezersky.

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Dressing Up Edition

I was about to go to a fancy party dressed as a can of anti-perspirant.
My husband stopped me and said, “Are you Sure?”

So, I reconsidered and put on this real slinky dress…
I looked great going down the stairs.

Which music star is known for her rapid onstage wardrobe changes?
Tailor Swift.

Not all fashion designers are conservative,
but I think
most of them are clothes-minded.

What do you call a nudist who will angrily don clothing when it’s required?
A cross-dresser.

My friend arrived at my Halloween costume party dressed like a bank vault.
”Wait,” I said, “I thought you were coming dressed as an apology?”
She said: ‘Well, I thought I’d better be safe than sorry.”

 

 

“Six bad puns – you really found it necessary to torture us with six?”

 

*   *   *

May your acceptable word lists always include “turd’
(with or without the modifier, “festering”);
May you, sans shame or explanation, freely (and discreetly) adjust any undergarment
of yours that needs adjusting;
May we all have such untroubled lives that stories like those I have shared here are the worst of our worries;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

[1] Some 32 plus years.

[2] Ha!  Harbinger, as in “omen or indication”?  Too late for that.

[3] Photo credit: Hasegawa Takashi via Flickr, The Fall Foliage At These 10 Places in Oregon Is Incredible.

[4] But then, what did I look like to her, I wonder, in my needs-laundering yoga pants and wrinkled t-shirt?

[5] Asks the woman perennially clad in a tie-dyed t-shirt and off-white capris.

[6] Or maybe 18 years ago.

[7] And from the look on her face, she was disappointed.

[8]  In other words, I didn’t give a flying fuck that anyone could or would be able to see my legs through my skirt.  Now, had I just exited the bathroom with my blouse tucked into my underpants or with toilet paper trailing from my shoe, then by all means, sidle up and whisper to me.

[9] As well as other words that might have more than one meaning, with one of the meanings being a derogatory slang word, such as coon.

[10] I think it’s been several *years* since moiself  has seen fit to give out this dubious honor.