Department Of The Words I Never Thought I’d Want To Say to George Takei:
Or at least, George, you’re acting like one.
From common folk to Star Trek nerds fans, most sentient US citizens know about William Shatner’s ride into space last week. Many of us in the latter category (ST nerds) also know about the long-standing feud between Shatner and his ST:TOS co-star, George Takei. A brief summary of the childish spat:
Takei  has long held grudges about Shatner. The former Lt. Sulu has told stories which revolve around his perceptions that Shatner was a self-centered ham,  and that Takei and other supporting cast members resented playing second fiddle(s) on the show. Over the years and in his biography (which moiself has read) Takei has presented a plethora of mostly petty incidents justifying (in Takei’s opinion) his resentment of Shatner. Many of the stories ring true; however, IMHO, they are hardly relevant to the present moment. The series (and films) were over *thirty to fifty years*ago.
Here’s the thing: a second fiddle is what Takei was hired to play. The Kirk, Spock, and Dr. McCoy characters were the show’s triumvirate, and Shatner was hired as the star of the show – the captain of the USS Enterprise. It is a tribute to the actors playing Uhura, Scotty, Sulu and Chekov, that they became so beloved, given their minor roles and the fact that, unlike Kirk, Spock and McCoy, their characters were *not* in every episode of the series. Uhura, Scotty, Sulu and Chekov (and Yeoman Rand, Nurse Chapel, and others) – those roles were written and cast as *supporting* players.
But Takei (second fiddle row, far left, in the above picture) can’t seem to step out of his anti-gravity suit and rise above it all.
“William Shatner’s brief trip to outer space this week wasn’t the final frontier in his grudge match with former co-star George Takei…..Takei, who played Hikaru Sulu to Shatner’s Capt. James T. Kirk in the iconic TV series and films, fired the latest blast in the pair’s decades-long feud Wednesday. This time, he criticized the 90-year-old’s Wednesday flight aboard Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space capsule, which gave Shatner the honor of being the oldest person to launch into space.
“He’s boldly going where other people have gone before,” Takei, 84, quipped…riffing on the series’ catchphrase (and a number of headlines about Shatner’s 10-minute voyage.)
Upon returning to Earth Wednesday, Shatner was moved to tears over the ‘profound experience’ Bezos gave him and was surveying ‘the enormity and the quickness and the suddenness of life and death.’
Takei put it more bluntly: ‘He’s a guinea pig,’ he said. The outspoken actor and prolific Twitter user then threw even more shade at Shatner’s physical fitness and age.
‘Ninety years old and it’s important to find out what happens,’ he added, noting that Shatner’s advanced years will ‘show a great deal more on the wear and tear on the human body’ and that ‘he’ll be a good specimen to study’ — a specimen ‘that’s unfit.’ “ (“Beam him down, Scotty: George Takei isn’t impressed by William Shatner’s space trip.” LA Times 10-14-21 )
Sharpening your claws much, George?
Mr. Takei, I think you owe Mr. Shatner an apology. Why did you feel the need to pitch snark? Why is your opinion relevant at all – why should it matter what *you* think about *his* trip to space? Your comments make you look petty, jealous, and attention-seeking. Why not be gracious – if you have to say anything, why not wish him, or anyone in that situation, the best?
And the not-so-thinly-veiled fat jokes?
Mr. Takei, I’ve admired you for your advocacy on behalf of LGBTQ issues – even as you came to it very, very, very late in the game  – and your involvement in raising awareness re the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII. That’s still and all good. However, your advocacy for those or any other noble causes in no way gives you an impunity shield for acting like a dick.
Shatner, of course, fired back after being attacked. And in this case, I think Captain Kirk’s shade laser topped Lt. Sulu’s dick torpedo:
Mr. Takei, is this how you want to be remembered? Yeah, Shatner is old (wow, thanks for pointing that out), but so are you. It’s likely that neither you nor Shatner will live very much longer. What if Shatner died next week, and your ungenerous, uncalled for critique of his space ride turned out to be the last public words you’d spoken about him?
Your and Shatner’s combined ages are 174; your vindictive verbal volleying makes the figure seem more like 24. Whiny juveniles, still bickering over who did what to whom on the playground ( Did not! Did so! ).
Get over it. Please, grow up and shut up.
* * *
Department Of Living Someone Else’s Dream Life
Moiself is continuing my commentary on the series of talks about the practice of Stoicism – “The Stoic Path,” by William B. Irvine – which I’ve been listening to, from Sam Harris’ “Waking Up” meditation app.
As I am learning, part of the stoic path toward emotional equanimity involves engaging in something called negative visualization, which I’ll deal with more in next week’s post. Although the episode for my comments this week, “You are Living the Dream Life,” also utilizes a form of negative visualization.
Yep, that’s me – I’m living the dream life.
It’s strange for us to consider that we are living the dream life. The thing to realize is that we likely are…only, it’s someone else’s dream. The idea is to get us to appreciate what we have. As I tried to periodically remind my offspring, happiness/contentment comes *not* from getting what you want, but wanting what you get.
When we are in the midst of life’s everyday tribulations, from minor irritations (an overdue utility bill) to major events (a burst water pipe causes our house’s floor to collapse; our spouse develops a serious illness) it’s easy to snort at the idea that we should consider ourselves fortunate (“count our blessings”). It’s easy to *not* consider the fact that someone, somewhere around the world (possibly even in our own community) could look at what we might dramatically think of as our nightmare, and to them, it’s a dream. We have a roof over our heads, an abundance of material possessions, indoor plumbing, antibiotics, and a palm-shaped device which helps us communicate with others, watch cat videos, and search the sum of human knowledge.
I’m certain that moiself doesn’t fully understand the concept of negative visualization, because my first thought when I head the terms was, I don’t want to engage in this – I get enough of it from the daily news. I don’t want appreciate what I have by imagining how things could be worse. My “writer’s mind,” (imaging and trying out all possible scenarios of a story) already tends to go in that direction, thank you very much. But, moiself supposes, if negative visualization were done intentionally – as part of a meditative practice to give you perspective on present circumstances – it could be quite useful.
I was reminded of my own experience with living the dream – someone else’s:
Dateline: a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (late 1980s). My housemate and I are living in a rented cottage, situated behind the landlord’s son’s house, in Palo Alto. My bedroom is the slant-floored, enclosed (and un-insulated) back porch of what was originally constructed as a one-bedroom cottage. The cottage’s kitchen (the kitchen closet, LP and I call it) literally cannot accommodate two people standing side by side.
Ours had a smaller yard but better siding.
My housemate is also my friend; we are both “foodies,” and regularly get together with another friend, PF, for theme dinners, which we take turns hosting.  On this night PF is hosting; she has chosen a date where her “roommates” are out. For the past year PF has been living with her sister’s family (sister, husband, two teenaged daughters), in one of the wealthiest of Bay Area suburbs (Atherton). PF’s sister’s house, a large, craftsman-style, three story mansion filled with art and artifacts collected from her sister’s travels, is stunningly beautiful. LP and I can barely hide our admiration – or control our drool – as we survey its spacious, well-appointed kitchen.
A couple of hours into our dinner, as we begin to clean up the kitchen, PF’s sister and her family return to their home (from whatever activity they’d been doing which got them out of the house and gave PF the chance to invite friends over). PF introduces us to her sister’s family. They are all beautiful people, strikingly attractive in both physique, visage, and personality. PF later tells me (I had to ask) that Sister and Husband have a great relationship and truly are each other’s best friend. 
Oh, really? That’s too bad so nice.
Petty, petty moiself had hoped for a cliché, along the lines of, money can’t buy happiness. I wanted to see that these are people who are rich in things, but miserable (or at least lacking) in their personal relationships. Nope. Looks like they got it all.
As LP and I help PF clean up our dinner dishes, I engage in friendly conversation with PF’s sister, who excuses herself after a few minutes to join her husband in their study. She and her husband are going to plan their next vacation to Peru.
On our drive back to our cottage, LP and I engage in stunned conversation about what we’ve just seen: The Good Life ®, which we so obviously do not have. I silently compare our friend’s sister’s evening activities with what awaits me when I return home: turning on the miniscule portable electric heater I purchased which (barely) keeps the container of hand lotion in my room from freezing.
LP and I begin listing everything PF’s sister has which we are lacking, followed by our mutual reassurances that, although we are not wealthy (and, in fact and especially in my case, barely making ends meet), “we are rich in love.”
“Could you believe that kitchen? They’re not even professional chefs.”
But, we are rich in love.
“And that bathroom, with the clawfoot tub, and the…”
Yep. We, however, are rich in love.
“And the view out the window, with their orchard and the hills and…”
We are rich in love.
“And they’ve been married over twenty years,
have two teenagers, and they look that good
and still banter and flirt with one another…”
LP begins to rattle off a list of our family and friends who value us, until moiself feels compelled to point out the obvious:
“Yes, we have family and friends who value us; we are rich in love. They, too, are rich in love…and, they’re rich.”
* * *
Department Of Seasonal Scenery
It’s too beautiful a day to be inside and write; moiself needs to get outside and kick through some leaves. I suggest y’all do the same, right now.
Except, what if you’re living somewhere without quick access to the deciduous foliage show of autumn (like the above, which I can see out my window)? Maybe you’re in the Southwest, and the plants surrounding you don’t have leaves. Maybe the flora adjacent to your locale consists of chollas, saguaros, barrel cacti, prickly pears?
Do cacti have any kind of seasonal shedding of their…uh, they don’t have leaves, so I guess it would be, their spines?
I’m trying to imagine that scenario:
Moiself (or yourself), living in the Arizona desert, calling out to a friend:
“Would you look at that pile of spines underneath the saguaro grove?! What a stunning panoply of…uh, browns and tans. Don’t you want to just wade through them, to get into the Fall spirit?
I suggest y’all do the same, right now. It occurs to me that I’ve given you Southwestern and/or desert dwellers advice that you can’t follow. Well, that’s what you get for living in a state where you have to steal other people’s water. 
* * *
Punz For The Day Rich People Edition
One hundred years ago everyone owned a horse, and only rich people had cars.
Now, everyone has a car and only rich people have horses. My, how the stables have turned.
The genie asked, “What’s your first wish?” Cathy exclaimed, “I wish I was rich!” The genie said, “Okay; granted. What’s your second wish?” Rich exclaimed, “I want lots of money!”
What do you call a rich European architect who goes bankrupt? Baroque.
What do you call wealthy garbage men? The Filthy Rich.
What do kind of nuts do rich people wear on their feet? Cashews.
* * *
May you remember what it’s like to kick through a pile of autumn leaves; May your dream of living the life you dream of living not be a dream; May George Takei survive a successful surgery to remove the proverbial burr from under his saddle of resentment; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 along with several of the ST:TOS supporting players
What could be of the most help to you in a dangerous situation – pepper spray? Martial arts proficiency? A concealed weapon permit?
Awarenessis the most important aspect of self-defense.
How to recognize and harness our body’s intuition for danger – a sense we evolved to survive – is the subject of the book I am recommending to almosteverybody. Almost, because the book might be anxiety activating for people who’ve had recent experience with violent crimes. Thus, my trigger warning.
But for the Almost Everybody Else, ® I highly recommend the book moiself finally got around to reading.
For years I’ve run across references and referrals to Gavin de Becker‘s The Gift of Fear: And Other Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence. I’ve lost count of how many times various advice columnists, and journalists covering violent crimes, have recommended or cited it. The book even got a mention in actor/comic/writer/producer Amy Poehler’s delightful 2014 memoir. I can’t recall the exact context; I believe it had something to do with how when a woman answers a man’s question or request with “no” – in situations ranging from business negotiations to dating – the guy persists, as if she hadn’t answered him, and attempts to elicit the response he wants instead (read: he bullies and/or manipulates you):
“Gavin de Becker talks about this in his wonderful book The Gift Of Fear.
He talks about how the word ‘no’ should be the ‘end of discussion, not the beginning of a negotiation. ‘ ” (Any Poehler, Yes Please )
Last week I read a letter from yet another advice seeker, writing to a columnist about a personal relationship problem, and asking something along the lines of, “I am very concerned…but am I overreacting?” Part of the advice the columnist gave was to trust your own instincts, and to learn how and why to do so, read The Gift of Fear.
No one in my life is threatening or gaslighting me; I haven’t been in a workplace shooting or walked into a 7-11 just as it is about to be robbed. However, I have been in dicey situations in the past, wherein trusting my gut reaction ( “something’s really wrong here” ) and paying attention kept me safe. Statistically, as a human,  I am likely to encounter such situations again, be they personal (targeted and hassled by a stranger on public transit) or coincidental (walking into a mini-mart just as a robbery is about to take place). So, I let this other person’s question be my own “trigger” for reading The Gift of Fear. And now, I’m recommending it to *everybody.* 
Gavin de Becker is an American author and specialist in security issues and threat assessment. He founded a private security firm and works as a consultant to everyone from governments, large corporations, public figures, and private individuals. He was instrumental in developing the MOSAIC threat assessment systems, which evaluates threats in a variety of situations (e.g., threats in the workplace; threats by students against other students and/or school staff; threats against judges and other judicial officials; threats made to celebrities and public officials; stalking and domestic abuse).
The premise of GdB’s TGOF is that our (unfortunately, often discounted) intuition is a far better judge than our logical mind when it comes to recognizing and reacting to – and learning to anticipate and escape from as much as possible – dangerous situations. Simply put, his aim is to teach you how to avoid people who will do you harm.
This intro is from the book’s blurb on Amazon (my emphasis):
True fear is a gift.
Unwarranted fear is a curse.
Learn how to tell the difference.
A date won’t take “no” for an answer. The new nanny gives a mother an uneasy feeling. A stranger in a deserted parking lot offers unsolicited help. The threat of violence surrounds us every day. But we can protect ourselves, by learning to trust—and act on—our gut instincts.
…this empowering book…shows you how to spot even subtle signs of danger—before it’s too late. Shattering the myth that most violent acts are unpredictable, de Becker…offers specific ways to protect yourself and those you love, including…how to act when approached by a stranger…when you should fear someone close to you…what to do if you are being stalked…how to uncover the source of anonymous threats or phone calls…and more. Learn to spot the danger signals others miss.
The world we live in can be dangerous, especially for women, whom, TGOF claims, evolved a higher sensitivity toward intuition – that is, picking up nonverbal cues – than men. That skill was critical for our female homo sapiens ancestors to survive in a world where they were generally smaller and less muscular than men: they needed to quickly detect who around them was “safe” and who was a threat (to them, and to their children).
“It may be hard to accept its importance, because intuition is usually looked upon by us thoughtful Western beings with contempt. It is often described as emotional, unreasonable, or inexplicable. Husbands chide their wives about ‘feminine intuition’ and don’t take it seriously. If intuition is used by a women to explain some choice she made or a concern she has, men roll their eyes and write it off….. Americans worship logic, even when it’s wrong,
and deny intuition, even when it’s right….
Men, of course, have their own version of intuition – not so light and inconsequential, they tell themselves, as that feminine stuff. Theirs is more viscerally named a ‘gut feeling,’ but it isn’t just a feeling. It (intuition; gut feeling) is a process more extraordinary and ultimately more logical in the natural order than the most fantastic computer calculation. It is our most complex cognitive process and at the same time the simplest.” ( TGOF Chapter 1: In The Presence of Danger )
“Intuition” or “a gut feeling” is your body’s and mind’s response to thousands of years evolution, of picking up on cues which alert you that something’s off. GdB offers case studies of violent crimes, going through a step-by-step dissection of the situation with the survivors who said, regarding their feeling of impending doom, “I don’t know where it came from/it came from out of the blue.” By asking specific questions, GdB helped them to see that their feeling of fear didn’t just comeout of the blue; rather, their minds noticed an A-B-C-D list of aberrant or “off” behaviors, which their guts put together.
The Gift of Fear aims to teach you to listen to your instincts and heed them. Trust your gut; don’t suppress your intuition. Don’t worry about hurting some stranger’s feelings or “being judgmental;” don’t endanger yourself to “be polite” – all of which are particular traps for women, who are socialized to “be nice” and “don’t make a fuss.”
Although many of the incidents recounted in TGOF are hair-raising, the book’s intent is not to scare you. The message is: Don’t be afraid; do be *aware.*
It’s not that GdB advises readers what clothing to wear or where not to go (although he cites taking common sense precautions, as in, should the businessman walking alone late at night through a dicey neighborhood known for strong arm robberies really be flashing his expensive Rolex?). Rather, he presents ways where we can all learn to pay attention to the things we should be noticing, and offers strategies as to how we can choose to react. His advice is not earth-shatteringly new, but it’s presented more succinctly and effectively than I recall seeing elsewhere.
So yeah, I really liked TGOF, even as moiselfrecognizes the book’s knotty areas.
TGOF Problematical Issues:
* There is some dated material (including more than one mention of pay phones !?!).
* Some of his ideas may seem counter-intuitive and are likely controversial. For example, he believes that not only do Protective [aka Restraining] Orders not help in most domestic violence/stalking situations, they are frequently the catalyst for escalating violence from the offender (GdB cites law enforcement data to back his opinion.)
* Much of the advice given is repetitive. Seeing as how we’ve been trained to distrust or ignore our intuition, this is why (I think) he keeps repeating the salient points.
* A gender-related issue. GdB is a strong ally for women – so much so that he has received some miffed feedback from men when he points out the prevalence of male violence.  Still, some of GdB’s advice re domestic violence situations might be taken as very subtle victim-blaming, even as he does acknowledge the reasons why a woman might not (be able to) choose to leave a violent home.
This is a judgement I moiself struggle with. I am a strong believer in the wisdom behind the adage, “Fool me once; shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” If I stay after a first violent encounter, am I not resigning myself to being the victim again? GbD says as much.
However, he is also a long-time advocate for women, and in the partner-abuse cases he cites (the book is filled with case stories of and interviews with crime survivors), I truly believe his experience drives what could initially be seen as harsh – but is in fact is very good and even life-saving – advice. He proceeds from the premise that all people, even abused women, are not just flotsam, and can be empowered:
“Though leaving is not an option that seems available to many battered women, I believe that the first time a woman is hit, she is a victim and the second time, she is a volunteer. Invariably, after a television interview or speech in which I say this, I hear from people who feel I don’t understand the dynamic of battery, that I don’t understand the ‘syndrome.’ In fact, I have a deep and personal understanding of the syndrome,  but I never pass up an opportunity to make clear that staying is a choice. Of those who argue that it isn’t, I ask: Is it a choice when a woman finally does leave, or is there some syndrome to explain leaving as if it too is involuntary? I believe it is critical for a women to view staying as a choice, for only then can leaving be viewed as a choice and an option. ( TGOF Chapter 10: Intimate Enemies [domestic violence]. GdB emphasis, my emphases )
Gdb also decries the disturbing scenarios we have about romance. Our culture’s myths, literature, and stories told by TV shows and movies, have devolved into a formula (into a drug, I’d go so far to call it), which is marketed to both women and men as romantic. In this formula, a male’s aggressive behavior and stalking – so creepily and mistakenly labeled as “persistence” – is rewarded and even celebrated:
“This Hollywood formula could be called Boy Wants Girl, Girl Doesn’t Want Boy, Boy Harasses Girl, Boy Gets Girl.
Many movies teach that if you just stay with it, even if you offend her, even if she says she wants nothing to do with you, even if you’ve treated her like trash (and sometimes because you’ve treated her like trash), you’ll get the girl…..
There’s a lesson in real-life stalking cases that young women can benefit from learning: persistence only proves persistence – it does not prove love.
The fact that a romantic pursuer is relentless doesn’t mean you are special – it means heis troubled.”
( TGOF Chapter 11: “I Was Trying to Let Him Down Easy” [Date stalking/violence] )
“This isn’t a movie; no means no.”
GdB tells many stories in TGOF, involving both institutions and individuals, wherein warning signs (re violence-prone people) were ignored, and tragedies followed. Some of the stories can be hard to contemplate. But, as the author emphasizes repeatedly, his aim is not to frighten, but to *enlighten.* And he acknowledges that in almost all cases, from a manager ignoring signs that a worker was intent on shooting his officemates to an aggressive suitor who becomes a wife-beating husband,
“…the people involved….were doing the best they could with the tools they had at the time. If they’d had the knowledge you (readers of the book) now have, I believe they’d have made different choices…. my observations are not about blame, but about education.”
* * *
Last Sunday eve, when I was just a few chapters into the book, son K joined MH and I for dinner. I mentioned that moiself was reading TGOF and could tell that I would likely be recommending it to all. We had interesting dinner table conversation centered around the most striking of what I consider to be the book’s problematic areas, which is:
* We (Americans) have a racially-directed fear response. How are we supposed to tell the difference between our systemic, racist social conditioning and our true, useful intuition?
Excuze-moi,but some truthfulness in narration is called for. We *could* have had an interesting conversation about those issues. Ahem. I began to relay GdB’s points about paying attention to fear and intuition, and in their zeal to point out something they’d both simultaneously thought of, MH and K interrupted me. They did not wait to see if moiself was going to bring up the problem of instinct being mistaken for internalized racism (I was). They also didn’t seem to notice that I had snapped at them (“Let me finish!”) before they astutely (in their minds) pointed out that problem with the gut-feeling-heeding. It wasn’t exactly mansplaining; it was…manterrupting?
What about the fact that our instincts and gut reactions might, in some cases, be based in prejudice and stereotypes? What about the fact that police officers (of any background) often react to a gut feeling which tells them that a black man, no matter what he is doing ( just walking down the street or driving a car, FFS! ) is inherently more dangerous than a white man?
I told my menfolk that as I was reading the book moiselftoo wondered about the gut feeling-racism issue. Seeing as how I was just into the first few chapters, I was expecting GdB to address the issue later on.
Except that, he didn’t.
Study after study has shown that White Americans (both men and women) experience a gut fear response to the sight of Black men in certain situations. As a Criminal Justice major back in the day,  I encountered the statistics that African-American men commit more violent crime than White American men – BUT – those statistics also showed that those same violent crimes are overwhelmingly directed at and experienced by other Black men, and that most violent crime is intra-, not inter-, racial.
I wasn’t sure if those statistics still held true.  Perhaps GdB can be excused for not addressing “race” on that basis: he was aware of the stats when he wrote the book, and since most violent acts are perpetrated by members of the same ethnic group as their victims, identifying a victim’s and/or perpetrator’s ethnicity was, in his mind, superfluous.
Or, perhaps I’m trying to rationalize GdB’s neglect of this issue and/or explain it to myself, other than to say that GdB himself just doesn’t know how to resolve the prejudice/instinct dilemma. Regardless of why he didn’t do so, the two-ton, rainbow-colored, gender-inclusive elephant in the room is that most of us have a racially-motivated fear response. It would do us well to recognize that, when it comes to trusting our instincts.
Having said that….in the heat of the moment, I’m likely to trust my instincts (this guy is giving off creepy vibes) regardless of skin color, and err on the side of offending someone/being called bigoted or other names. Hey, better alive and insulted than dead but “woke.” Still, it’s a crappy dilemma, a problem for which I’ve yet to read a good solution. Someone much smarter and wiser than moiself needs to figure out this shit.
* * *
Punz For The Day Violent Crime Edition
Uh…maybe something totally unrelated is called for, to lighten this up. Make that, Punz For The Day, Kitties and Pirates Edition
What’s a cat’s favorite color? Purrple.
Why don’t pirates need to go on vacation? They get all the arrr and arrr they need at work.
Why don’t felines do internet shopping? They prefer catalogues.
What is a one-legged pirate’s favorite restaurant? IHOP.
Shiver me tim-purrs…and please don’t encourage her.
* * *
May you trust your gut feelings; May you educate your mind and gut so that your instincts are trustworthy; May you err on the side of keeping yourself from harm; …and may the hijinks ensue.
 Keeping in mind your own capacity for being exposed to some frightening stories. And sorry for the crappy book jacket picture.
 Sorry, dudes, but the guy has the sad statistics on his side.
 de Becker survived a childhood which was filled with domestic abuse. His unstable mother was abused by multiple husbands; she in turn threatened and abused her son, tried to shoot at least one of her abusive partners, and also turned the gun on her son. GdB’s survival, due in part to the kind adults he credited with taking interest in and mentoring him, led to his interest in the field of recognizing threats and preventing violence.
 Chapter 9: “Occupational Hazards (Violence in the workplace).”
 A pre-law major who later decided against law school. You’re welcome.
 I looked ’em up, and they do, as per the latest Department of Justice figures, compiled by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting and reported here.
“Join ‘America’s funniest science writer’…on an irresistible investigation into the unpredictable world where wildlife and humans meet. What’s to be done about a jaywalking moose? A bear caught breaking and entering? A murderous tree?…. as New York Times best-selling author Mary Roach discovers, the answers are best found…in the curious science of human-wildlife conflict, a discipline at the crossroads of human behavior and wildlife biology.” (excerpts from book blurb for “Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law” )
I just finished Fuzz, and now an armed with a plethora of animal-human encounter trivia with which to annoy entertain friends and family. Previous books by Roach (which I have read and highly recommend) include
The thing about Roach: not only is her writing informative, amusing and accessible, even her footnotes are thought-provokingly droll. One of my favorites in Fuzz is re “Compound W,” which was a code name used for ricin during WWII by the National Defense Research Committee, which was doing experiments in a quest for new rat poisons. 
“Did the makers of the wart-removal product Compound W realize this when they named their product? I don’t know, because Prestige Brands, which owns Compound W, doesn’t return calls, their online media query form is a dead-end, and they’re not on Twitter. But while we’re on the topic of inappropriate names, let’s consider “Prestige Brands.” Because here are some more of their prestige brands: Fleet enemas, Nix for lice, Beano for flatulence, URISTAT, Nōstrilla decongestant, Summer’s Eve douche, Boil-Ease, Efferdent denture cleaner, and Boudreaux’s Butt Paste.” (footnote from Chapter 8, “The Terror Beans: The Legume as Accomplice To Murder,” ( Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law )
* * *
Department Of Can You Guess Who Is The Diplomat In My Family?
Last week a cousin of MH’s sent an email to MH’s extended family, to suss out interest in a family reunion the cousin is organizing for Spring 2022. MH’s cousin wrote that recipients of the email should feel free to ask questions, make comments, etc.
This cousin is a Good Person. ® The location for the reunion he’s planning is his town of residence, a city widely known as the most liberal in the state. However, the state is Texass. Thanks in part to my recent blog post, y’all know how moiself feels about that.
MH’s and my reactions were similar. Here is mine, which I shared only with MH:
I will attend nothing held in Texas…. Please feel free to pass that along – even the more liberal residents in Austin need to know what Texas voter suppression and anti-reproductive choice policies are costing them (yeah, like our family not coming is a *big* loss to their tourism, but still….).
I also suggested to MH that, since the reunion organizer requested feedback, MH share his opinion. And he did, succinctly and eloquently:
This is probably not what you meant when you included the word “comment,” but while I would enjoy seeing all of you, I’m currently not of a mind to spend my time or money in Texas. I know that Governor Abbott and the state legislators won’t care that I find their actions repugnant enough to avoid the state… but I will.
Miss Tammy Wynette her-own-self couldn’t have been prouder of her man than I was of MH, when I read his reply.
* * *
Department Of The Movie I’m Deliberating Seeing
The Eyes of Tammy Faye. It’s about the rise and fall of televangelists Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker, and their religious broadcasting empire, in the 1970s-80s.
Those of you us who are old enough may remember how Tammy Faye became a cultural “thing” (and also, in a delightful twist as per religious conservatives’ antipathy to LGBTQ folk, an icon to drag queens), due in part to her liberal (sorry) use of eye cosmetics.
Here’s the thing: I’ve enjoyed the work of the movie’s two lead actors, Jessica Chastain and Andrew Garfield. I don’t think I’ve ever seen either of them give less than a terrific performance, which I can also say about another actor in the movie, Vincent D’Onofrio, who plays Jerry Falwell.
Here’s the second thing.
Does moiself really want to spend two hours with those characters? As in, the people…
* who are responsible for getting the Religious Right in bed with conservative politics?
* who preached against the supposed immorality of others while they themselves were embroiled in sexual and financial scandals, robbing their supporters blind and demonizing ethnic, sexual and gender minority groups in order to spread fear and ratchet up their quest for donations?
* who included the Bakkers’ fellow carnival barking snake oil salesmen televangelists:
(Moiself’s favorite Swaggartism: “The Lord told me it’s flat none of your business,” Swaggart said, when confronted with evidence of his dalliance with prostitutes, despite Swaggart having exposed the extramarital affairs of a fellow Assembly of God minister, which led to that minister being defrocked )
(a mere sampling of Fallwell’s decades of WTF?!? pronouncements include, * “AIDS is not just God’s punishment for homosexuals; it is God’s punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals.” * “The true Negro does not want integration… He realizes his potential is far better among his own race.” * “If you’re not a born-again Christian, you’re a failure as a human being.” * “The National Organization of Women is the National Organization of witches.”)
(* “The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.” * ” You’ve got a couple of same-sex guys kissing, do you “like” that? Well, that makes me want to throw up. To me, I would punch ‘vomit’ not ‘like,’ but they don’t give you that option on Facebook.” * “So, can demonic spirits attach themselves to inanimate objects? The answer is yes. But I don’t think every sweater you get from Goodwill has demons in it…but it isn’t going to hurt you to rebuke any spirits that happen to have attached themselves to those clothes.” * “Just like what Nazi Germany did to the Jews, so liberal America is now doing to the evangelical Christians! It’s no different! It is the same thing! It is happening all over again! It is the Democratic Congress, the liberal-based media and the homosexuals who want to destroy the Christians! Wholesale abuse and discrimination and the worst bigotry directed toward any group in America today! More terrible than anything suffered by any minority in history! … And it is happening here and now! Same thing, but directed against Christians by the liberal government and media! Send money today or these liberals will be putting Christians like you and me in concentration camps!”  )
Hell, that was easy. The answer to Thing Two is a resounding, fuck no.
I’d read a recommendation for the cookbook in a plant-based cuisine magazine. The cookbook takes its name from a food website – make that, *took* its name.
Reading through the book I found many recipes I was eager to try, and my sides were sore from laughing at how the authors had written the “potty mind” thoughts I often have when thinking or talking about food (or anything, for that matter). When I googled the book to learn a bit more about Thug Kitchen, moiself discovered (yet another) New Controversy ® about which I’d been previously unaware: digital blackface.
“Popular vegan cooking website ‘Thug Kitchen,’, which has published three vegan cookery books under the brand, has announced it has changed its name to Bad Manners following years of criticism. Bad Manners, which is run by its Los Angeles-based founders Matt Holloway and Michelle Davis, has stated that it will discontinue the use of ‘Thug Kitchen’ as the title of all of its previous cookbooks and aims ‘closely re-evaluate’ the content shared on its site. The duo has relied heavily on their use of Black English and hip-hop vernacular in the captions of their posts and cookbooks, which has long drawn criticism from many who have accused them of ‘digital blackface’ and cultural appropriation. ‘Thug Kitchen’ first faced controversy after an interview published to promote their first cookbook revealed that Holloway and Davis were white, as many believed that the blog’s creator was a POC. Followers were under the assumption that the use of the term ‘thug,’ which is a racially charged term often used to portray Black males as violent criminals, was an attempt to reclaim the racially-charged word. In more recent years, the term has been reclaimed by hip-hop artists such Tupac, leading followers to believe the bloggers were trying to redefine the term to promote veganism to communities of colour.
( ” ‘Thug Kitchen’ rebrands following accusations of cultural appropriation and ‘digital blackface,’ ” veganfoodandliving.com June 2020 ) 
Moiself didn’t know (or care about) the background of the authors when I purchased the book. I still don’t care what “color” they are; I do have yet another opportunity to ponder That Thing ®, of taking a pejorative or “forbidden” word and modifying or elevating it (depending on your POV) by using it: e.g., Black rappers and comedians who use the n-word; women who affectionately call each other bitch. Which got me to thinking: if the cookbook authors considered themselves to be badass women, would I object to them calling their book/website, Cunt Cookery?
“Not my chickens – not my circus.” That’s what friend CC might say, re this particular version of the brouhaha about who gets to use what terminologies AND who gets to be the police of such things.  What counts for moiself is that the Thug Kitchen recipes are tasty and “doable.” Also, the recipes’ text and descriptions are consistently (and profanely) amusing:
“This captures the smoky flavor of a falafel without all the fucking work.” (Spiced Chickpea wraps with tahini dressing)
“Pour all this shit together in a jar and shake the fuck out of it.
Taste and add more of whatever-the-fuck you think it needs.” (Basic Thug Kitchen vinaigrette)
“Tired of boring-ass lettuce wraps? Try these crunchy fuckers out and remember why it’s fun to eat with your hands.” (Yellow Split Pea and Green Onion Lettuce Wraps)
“This shit is a little complicated but well worth it. Make it when you’ve got people to
impress or when you’re really fucking lonely.” (Mixed Mushroom and Spinach Lasagna)
“There are two kinds of people in this world: people who like enchiladas and people who
have no fucking taste. Which are you?” (Sweet Potato, Squash and Black Bean Enchiladas)
“Quit fucking with that tired-ass take-out. You can make better shit at home in no time.
Plus, you don’t have to put on pants to answer the door.” (Vegetable Pad Thai)
Interesting note: the book and its two companion cookbooks have been rebranded as Bad Manners. The book with the original Thug Kitchen title, which I purchased a week ago new for $17.95, is going for $49 on Amazon.
* * *
Punz For The Day Cookbook Edition
After five years, I’ve finally finished my fresh herb cookbook. It’s about thyme!
My other cookbook will have recipes for flatbreads and other unleavened bake goods.
I’m taking the path of yeast resistance.
The members of Aerosmith recently wrote a Chinese cookbook. It’s titled, Wok This Way.
* * *
May you cook and eat like you give a f*ck; May you be the diplomat in your family; May you read at least one Mary Roach book this year; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 The last which proves that she is capable of coming up with primary book titles of more than one word.
 A poison found in the beans of the castor oil plant.
 During the war rats were “sabotaging factories, destroying food needed for our allies, and spreading disease among our armed forces.”
 A great word, isn’t it? I think all religious ordination rites should be referred to as “Frocking.”
 Fallwell had the audacity of fronting the group he called The Moral Majority, which, as critics pointed out, was neither.
 This and more filth fun can be referenced at Pat Robertson’s Wikiquote page.
 CC’s farmer-husband has a yearly chicken circus. I’ve seen the tents.
Department Of I’ve Told You Before, I Can’t Make This Up This Shit
“Michael Flynn, the former national security advisor under Donald Trump, claimed during an appearance on a conservative radio program that COVID vaccines were being added to salad dressing….
‘Somebody sent me a thing this morning where they’re talking about putting the vaccine in salad dressing…..’ said Flynn.
‘These people are seriously thinking about how to impose their will on us in our society and it has to stop,’ he added. “
( “Michael Flynn claims salad dressing is being infused with COVID vaccine,” The National Post, 9-23-21 )
With the right vinaigrette, I could RULE THE WORLD !!
* * *
Department Of A Blast From The Past
Fortunately, I don’t need a really big time machine to go back only two years…
…to December 2019, when I first blogged about the yogic tradition of performing 108 sun salutations to mark the change of the season (solstices and equinoxes):
Department Of If My Hamstring Muscles Are Still Sore After 36 Hours, Have I Reached Enlightenment?
Yoga Class: “Why 108 Sun Salutations?”
Yoga Teacher: “It’s an auspicious number in yoga; I know 108 sounds like a lot…”
Moiself: “That’s because it is.”
Last Sunday (12/22/19), to celebrate the winter solstice, my yoga studio held an “Om-a-thon,” which is what Someone In Charge Of Marketing ® called an hour and a half class consisting of 108 Sun Salutations. A sun salutation, for you non-yogis, is a yoga exercise incorporating a sequence of nine or more linked asanas, or yoga poses/postures. The asanas are linked by the breath – inhaling and exhaling with each movement – and Sun Salutations involve moving from a standing position into Downward and Upward Dog poses and then back to the standing position, with many variations and modifications.
Why 108? It’s apparently an auspicious number (in the parts of the world where yoga originated), for many reasons. Non-woo reasons include the fact that the distance between the Sun and Earth is roughly 108 times the Sun’s diameter and ditto for the ratio of the moon’s diameter and the distance between the moon and earth – scientific realities not likely surmised when the originators of yoga decided 108 was a magic special number.
There are plenty of woo reasons for venerating the number 108, and the teacher leading the class mentioned a few of them: there are 108 Upanishads (a series of Hindu treatises ca. 800–200 BCE); there are 108 beads in a mala (a meditation tool, an idea early Christian/Catholic missionaries stole “adapted” from the Hinduism & Buddhism, and morphed into the Catholic rosary beads  ); there are nine planets and twelve astrological signs, and 9 x 12 = 108 ….
Oh, and most significantly of all, a Uno deck contains 108 cards. That’s gotta be a sign.
҉ ҉ ҉
That was then; this is now. On Wednesday I celebrated the Autumnal Equinox by doing 108 Sun Salutations at home. How does one keep count, inquiring minds want to know? Moiself has a glass bowl, containing 108 small, smooth glass beads, which I keep on the dining room table. Four times a year, when I’m doing the 108 Sun Salutations (Winter Solstice; Vernal Equinox; Summer Solstice/ Autumnal Equinox) I dump out the bowl in front of my yoga mat. At the end of each sun salutation I move one bead into the bowl.
This year I decided to do 109 sun salutations, adding my avatar (visible in the above picture) to the bead count. It just felt like the right thing to do, and if we’re going for auspicious numbers and all, 109 is a prime. 
* * *
Department Of Is This Either/Or…On Or Off?
Dateline: Saturday 7 am-ish, walking along a totally deserted beach – deserted in terms of fellow bipeds. There is a light rain falling, a welcome change after a previous night’s wind/raid downpour/power outage. Leaving the house, moiself noticed the wind had skejewed my yard sign, which I straightened up before heading down to the beach.
I mention the yard sign because the podcast I was listening to reminded me of the sign, in a way the podcast host and producers likely didn’t intend (nor would care about, I’d imagine). Moiself, however, found it a fun coincidence.
The podcast, No Stupid Questions (co-hosted by research psychologist Angela Duckworth [author of Grit] and Stephen Dubner [co-author of the Freakonomics books and host of the Freakonomics podcast] ), is one I’ve mentioned several times in this space. This episode of NSQ, “How Can You Escape Binary Thinking?”, made me smile from the moment I heard the title.
“One of my life goals is to help people *not* binarize so much…. It turns out that for almost everything that psychologists study, including things that seem categorical, they really are continuous…and you do have to, at the end of the day, either allocate a therapist for this person or not, based on a diagnosis, but if we all *knew* that the underlying phenomena were continuous for *most* things, in psychology and maybe most things in life, that would be an advance.”
Stephen Dubner: “Plainly, there is value in binary thinking. Literally, the fundamental building block of computing, as far as I understand it, is the bit, which is short for binary digit, which is either a zero or a one, and the reason that’s useful is that it makes it easier to do huge computation, which means you require less circuitry, less cooling, things can be smaller, things can be cheaper…
AD: “It’s a massive data compression.”
SD: “Yeah! So, it is a heuristic for computers, but I’d like to think maybe this is one way we could be better than computers, is not having to compress. On the other hand, I am a fan of what I believe is called, generally, categorical thinking. I just want more categories than two….“
(excerpts from NSQ episode cited above)
Although I concede its utility in certain areas, I’m not a fan of binary thinking.  The yard sign I’d previously mentioned was a product of my distaste for that kind of thought.
An employee of the sign shop where I had my yard sign designed and printed asked me if I was critiquing “those other yard signs.” I told him that my sign was 95% just for the fun of it…and, yeah, maybe, 5% satirizing “those others:”
One “The Others” variant
I agree with most of the sentiments expressed by the variants of Those Other Signs ® …but not all of them. There are so many complexities and nuances to the positions alluded to in various versions of Those Other Signs ® I’ve seen. In an ideal world, I’d hope that if my neighbors wanted to know my thoughts on certain issues, instead of having to read my lawn signage and extrapolate from there, they’d ask me, and we’d have a thoughtful and civil discussion about it.
Yep; happens all the time.
For example, as per illegal/undocumented immigration. A line like, “No Human Is illegal” is a form of data compression. No human is illegal– what does a particular person mean, when they say or write that? Certainly, it is a pejorative to refer to a person as illegal – is that what they are objecting to – the un-charitableness of referring to a person as “an illegal?” Also, and just as certainly, some people do things that are illegal, including violating the immigration laws of a country. So, what is it that the no human is illegal line is conveying or signaling to others – your position on immigration, or your concern with word choice when referring to a person who is in a country unlawfully?
Binary thinking; data compression. I didn’t have the words for it when I was younger, but the first time moiself ran across these terms I thought, *That’s* why I never felt at home a political party – the world is so much more complex than left and right.
Alas, binary thinking/data compression seems to be the norm for politics. “You either agree with all of these things (insert your political checklist and/or party platform) or you’re not with us,” or, expressed in another way, “You must *disagree* with *everything* promoted by The Other Side ®, or you’re not with us.”
Zero or one; on or off. Data compression is great for computing, but can be disastrous for human relations. Very few people are completely ‘”on or off,” “this or that,” as per anything. To think otherwise is to opt for the safety of categorization versus risking seeing (and dealing with) complexity.
Lest y’all think I am perfectly consistent on avoiding the pitfalls of binary thinking…
…I recognize that moiself has my own litmus tests when it comes to certain issues. I’ve had some interesting discussions with a few people who’ve called themselves feminists but who are also anti-reproductive choice – as in, not only do they say that they personally would not have an abortion under any circumstances, they would go further and deny the choice for others.  I have not decreed to them that an anti-choice feminist isn’t actually a feminist, as I am not the boss of that word.  I havepresented my take on the matter: people make decisions all the time, about matters trivial and momentous – decisions that I sometimes don’t like or vehemently oppose. This is part of living in a pluralistic society. But when it comes to this particular issue, I’ll go all binary on your ass: you either support a person’s bodily autonomy, or you don’t.
* * *
Department Of What I’m Listening To… (Sub-department Of Not That You Care….)
I mistakenly watched a rerun of a recent Stephen Colbert show where Buckingham was the musical guest – the “mistakenly“part was watching the show right before bedtime. The energy of the song Buckingham played was so infectious and the melody/lyrics so catchy, I could not get to sleep after that.
The song (“On the Wrong Side“) seems to be a meditation on looking both backward and forward, with references to life in a touring band (Fleetwood Mac’s halcyon days, I assume) and living in the present, acknowledging the passage of time. Not the lightest of subjects, yet the rumination is encased in an incredibly catchy pop rhythm and melody, with soaring and layered harmonies. ‘Tis a song that could easily be mistaken for a new Fleetwood Mac single.
♫ Waitin’ for the night to come Waitin’ for the moon to rise Wondering just what have I done That I never realized
Time is rolling down the road Love goes riding in a hearse We were young and now we’re old Who can tell me which is worse ♫
Buckingham’s solo work reveals just how much he brought to Fleetwood Mac, and how so much of the band’s sound  was due to his influence and contributions.
I dare you to listen to On the Wrong Side and then *not* walk around having the chorus stuck in your head for the rest of the day.
♫ I’m outta pity/I’m outta time Another city/ another crime I’m… on the wrong side… ♫
* * *
Q & A Punz For The Day Popular Music Edition
Name a rock group where none of the members sings or plays music. Mt. Rushmore.
What kind of music do bunnies like? Hip Hop.
Why did the hearing-impaired jazz musician bring a sweet potato to rehearsal? He thought he’d been invited to a yam session.
How many guitarists does it take to play Stairway to Heaven? Apparently, all of them.
Sorry about the bicycle wheel, but I couldn’t find any yams.
May you enjoy listening to at least one song from Lindsey Buckingham;
May you embrace your humanity by holding fast to at least one binary opinion; 
…and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 Although the Catholics halved the number to 59 beads, in perhaps an effort to claim originality or refute charges of plagiarism.
 Except of course/again the originators of such superstitions did not know there were nine planets…and now we all know (though some of us refuse to accept the fact) that there are not nine planets, but eight. And longtime readers of this blog can likely surmise what I think of astrology.
 A prime number is a whole number which is divisible only by itself and 1.
Binary thinking (urban dictionary): “Denotes a system of thought that predominantly considers things in an “either, or”, “right, wrong”, “black, white” way, ignoring any subtleties or consideration of third or more alternatives.”
 As in, they support making abortion illegal, or at least highly restricting its availability.
For a few glorious days, we could only hope that the reports were accurate.
Moiself refers to reports surfacing which claimed that ivermectin –
a livestock de-worming, anti-parasite veterinary drug, deemed by the brilliant minds of certain people who were too smart to waste time going to medical or veterinary school, to be an ideal treatment for the COVID-19 VIRUS (which is *not,* ahem, a parasite), to be taken by people, who are notlivestock (except for the horses’ asses which thought up the idea in the first place and the sheep who followed them) –
can cause sterility in men.
When I first heard the reports moiself praised the gawds I don’t believe in, and immediately changed my opinion about people who would try such an unproven and dangerous “treatment.” Instead of thinking that such people should be locked up for their own protection,  I decided to lobby to make ivermectin mandatory (and free!) for any man who wears a MAGA hat and/or refused to be vaccinated/wear a mask…and please, can there be a study showing that ivermectin produces infertility in women as well?
Some things are just too good to be true. It turns out there are problems with the ivermectin-causes-sterility study being cited, as Forbes and other sources have reported. C’est la vie; it was a nice fantasy, while it lasted.
“There, there; I too was disappointed. It’s good to dream, Spock.”
* * *
Department Of Podcasts I Mostly Admire…
Or used to.
Dateline: earlier this week, listening to the latest People I Mostly Admire podcast (Episode 44 ). After the first twenty or so minutes of his interview with his guest, the podcast takes a break. During the break the show’s host, author and economist Steven Levitt, had a letter from a listener read to him by the show’s producer, Morgan A. Levey. This is the podcast’s typical format; the letters usually involve questions about recent podcast topics. This week’s questions led to….well, read on.
Morgan Levey (reading a letter from “Jordan,” to Steve; my emphases): ” ‘Steve, since you have quite a large family and are a thoughtful person, I want to get your opinion on the morality and ethics of having children in the face of climate change.’
It sounds like Jordan is thinking of starting a family, and he wants your opinion on having kids, since you have six of them.”
The host at home.
Steve Levitt: “So Jordan, I do have six kids, and I have to say, in having those kids, I don’t think climate change ever crossed my mind. Here’s the thing: there are 8 billion people on the planet, so if you add one more, it doesn’t really matter. And, what I do, doesn’t affect anyone else’s behavior. If my having a kid led hundreds of other people to have more kids, then it’s a different story.
To me, it’s a microcosm of the exact problem we face on climate change generally: no individual’s behavior actually matters very much, but collectively, we all have to act together.
When I think of climate change, I really look to other kinds of solutions, whether it’s technology to take carbon out of the air, or doing something at a larger scale….
So if it feels wrong to you to have kids, that’s totally your prerogative…. but at least for me I would not put climate change near the top of my list to have or not have children….
ML: “So Jordan also wanted to know if you thought that your kids will struggle in the future with the result of climate change-induced issues, such as food security, pandemics, water shortages, if this is something you thought about and were worried about.”
SL: “I’m not a climate scientist, and I don’t know the exact answer. It certainly is an impression people have that weather patterns are getting wilder, and it’s probably true. I also think there’s a bias toward people assuming that every time something extreme happens, that’s caused by climate change ….but my impression is that the really destructive impacts of climate change are much farther in the future. That, at least for Americans, in the next fifty or a hundred years, there’s no reason to think that our quality of life is going to dramatically degrade. As I sit here just pondering whether I think my kids will have a better or worse life than I had, I think probably better.
Morgan, I don’t think Jordan is going to like my answer very much.
What do you think?”
I didn’t hear his producer’s retort until days later. I had to stop listening. My butt was frosted to hear Levitt’s casually dismissive statements about the effects of climate change – effects which are “probably true,” he admits, yet not enough to trouble him as he sits there “just pondering” whatever it is he ponders (apparently, not the plight of other people), from the POV of his privileged, upper class, white American ass — pondering his ignorant defenses which excuse himself from any personal responsibility to act…or care.
How convenient for him, to convince himself that an individual’s behavior doesn’t matter much, and that what he does doesn’t affect anyone else. Dude, your six children are watching you. Even more than what you say, they watch what you do…and don’t do.
Levitt admits the obvious – he’s no climate scientist – then ignores the facts climate scientists have been stating for some time, in favor of his flippant description of extreme weather events as an “impression people have“? Holy cruising down the river of De Nile.
But then, what should moiself expect from someone with six children,  who doesn’t even include them in his statement of how what he does doesn’t affect anyone else.
Levitt is correct as to the need for global/larger solutions, but he is wrong about the individual’s impact, thinking it’s negligible because he’s one person out of 8 billion. Eight billion people – how did we get here? Holy compounding multiplication! We got to that absurd number via one individual decision at a time. Multiply one person thinking having four to six biological children is fine times “only” one billion other individuals, and where will that get us?
As for Levitt’s comment about how his actions don’t influence people, how does he know that? Whether or not he ever gets up on a podium and overtly decrees, “Everyone should have a large family, like me!” the fact of him having done just that that may cause others to think, “Oh, hmm…an educated and successful person does this, perhaps I can as well.”
Back to his producer’s response, to his question. At least she called him out about his cluelessness and privilege (however mildly, given the circumstances).
SL: “Morgan, I don’t think Jordan is going to like my answer very much.
What do you think?”
ML: “To be honest, Steve, *I* don’t like your answer very much.
I think what you said sounds a little  insensitive, considering the fact that that there’s already millions of climate refugees around the globe – people who’ve had to move because their home are unlivable.
We’ve just had the hottest month on record in human history, AND extreme weather HAS been *undoubtedly* linked to climate change. When I think about just ten years from now, *I* worry about my own future, let alone if I have kids, what their future would be.”
* * *
Department of Beating Around the Bush…and Reagan…and Clinton….
” On May 12, 2015, potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush could not fully commit to an answer when asked if he would have voted to authorize the Iraq War in 2002, using the phrase “simple fact is, mistakes were made” on Sean Hannity’s radio show. He was lambasted by both liberals and conservatives for his answer.”
Remember the rightful disgust y’all have likely experienced over the years, whenever you heard the hideous passivity of, “Mistakes were made.” It’s the ultimate phrase of non-accountability, whether spouted by President Reagan re the Iran–Contra affair (the “arms-for hostages” debacle), or President Clinton as per a Democratic party fundraising scandal, or President G.W. Bush’s political advisor defending neocons re the Iraq War…as well as too many times before and after.
Mistakes were made. By an unknown, but distressingly prevalent, almost mystical Mistake Maker ®, apparently.
We’ve all been trained to use this passive voice; most of us don’t even know when we’re doing it. But, think for a moment of the world it constructs.
I often get impatient when people nitpick language. My fear: people often judge/dismiss and don’t really hear *what* someone is saying because they are too busy critiquing the *how* someone is saying it.
Still, the writer in moiself tries to never forget why word choice is important: it not only conveys, but shapeshow we feel and think about issues.
Consider the different images that come to mind, when describing a disabled person’s mode of mobility:
“He rides (or uses) a wheelchair.”
“She is confined to a wheelchair.”
A wheelchair, for someone who has need of one, is actually a device of liberation. Yet the second phrasing evokes images of shackling, and pity.
These subtle differences are why (as I’ve mentioned in this space, “The Speech I’m Not Policing” ) I think certain scholars and activists are correct in advising that we should retrain ourselves to use the term “enslaved” person, rather than “slave.” The active voice is needed as a reminder, that people are not just born slaves, as they might be born a Swede or a redhead or with a certain eye color:
Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones won a Pulitzer Prize for creating the 1619 project at The New York Times, which tracks the legacy of slavery. In Terry Gross’s Fresh Air interview with journalist Hannah-Jones, (which I referred to in a recent blog post as influencing my opinions about reparations for slavery), TG asked Hannah-Jones about why she uses the term “enslaved person” and not “slave” in her writing (my emphases):
“It was very important in the 1619 Project and whenever I write about this, to not use language that further dehumanizes people who every system and structure was designed to dehumanize.
I think when we hear the word “slave,” we think of slavery as being the essence of that person. But if you call someone an enslaved person, then it speaks to a condition. These people were not slaves. Someone chose to force them into the condition of slavery, and that language to me is very important, as is using the word “enslaver” over slave owner because these people didn’t have a moral right to own another human being, even though the society allowed it, and I think it needs to be active, that this was an active system of people choosing to treat other human beings as property.”
I recently saw the following on social media, and it was another click moment for me. I’m referring to it as The Real Problem:
Let’s resolve to use the active voice. To take responsibility – and to point the finger and accuse as well – when necessary.
* * *
Punz For The Day Climate Edition
What do you call a weatherman who destroys dinosaurs? A meteorologist.
It was a terrible summer for Humpty Dumpty, but he had a great fall.
People using umbrellas always seem to be under the weather.
What’s that Arabic country with loads of sheep and very wet weather? Baaarain.
* * *
May we keep in mind The Real Problem and lose the passive voice; May we never comfortably think that our individual actions don’t matter; May we all anticipate having a great fall; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 Whatever happened to just drinking bleach? That wasn’t idiotic enough for them?
 I think two of them were adopted by Levittand his wife, from China.
 “And by ‘a little,’ Steve, I mean, absolutely fucking…”
Click! In the 1970s that word signaled the moment when a woman awakened to the powerful ideas of contemporary feminism. Today “click” usually refers to a computer keystroke that connects women (and men) to powerful ideas on the Internet. (Click! The Ongoing feminist revolution, cliohistory.org )
Department Of Veracity For Sale Sub-department Of The Suspect Authenticity of User Reviews
This was underneath a peel-off sticker on a product I recently purchased from Amazon:
Yeah. It’s not so much that they are trying to bribe me, but do they really think my integrity can be bought so cheaply. Considering what the product cost, a 50% refund means they think moiself – any of their buyers – can be had for $6.99? 
* * *
Department Of I Was Not Made For This World
As I was writing this post, I received an email notification from my blog host platform:
Moiself has received these notifications one to five times per week, ever since the “birth” (or onset…although that sounds like symptoms of a disease) of my blog, some nine years ago. So, to get the approximate number of followers of this blog…do the math, if you’re interested. I, however, am not, so I won’t.
“In social media, a follow represents a user who chooses to see all of another user’s posts in their content feed. Getting users to follow their accounts is a primary objective for online businesses with a social media presence.” ( “What is ‘following’ and what does it mean on social media?” bigcommerce.com )
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away,  I had a conversation with a friend (who also wrote a blog), which went something like this:
A Blogging Friend ® :  “How many people follow your blog?”
ABF ® :
“Follow your blog – readers who subscribe to get an alert so that they can read it on a regular basis.”
Moiself: “Yes, I know what it means. I was “Huh”-ing you because I don’t know how many people follow my blog.”
ABF ® :
“Well, you know you can find out by checking your blog post, the administrative page, under stats, and….”
Moiself: “Yep, I know about that option. I just don’t care about the numbers;
so, what would be the point in knowing?
That’s not why I write it.”
ABF ® :
“But aren’t you curious?”
Moiself: “About many things, but this? Nope. Although, *you* obviously are.”
ABF ® :
“No, really – don’t you want to know?”
Moiself: “If I did, I would. Okay: I assume my blog has fewer followers than someone who posts cat-fart videos on YouTube, and more than my dead grandmother
– oh yeah, who doesn’t even blog, so there’s that…. Besides, where I come from, knowing that people are ‘following’ me – that’s not a good thing.”
ABF ® :
” ?!?!?!?!? “
‘Tis a sad thing, to see an otherwise witty person not get the joke.
* * *
Department Of Hahaha – That’s Not Funny
Content Warning: Yes.
Moiself showed this picture (from a social media post) to MH. We both found it mildly amusing, and also mildly annoying. The picture’s caption flaunts the inherent ageism that people posting pictures and memes are seemingly okey-dokey with. We bantered about the fact that most people seem to have no problem making fun of the cognitive deficits that a minority of people experience as they age, thus reinforcing that stereotype of the Doddering Elderly. Whereas, making fun of the cognitive deficits experienced by the majority people with certain, non-age-related, genetic conditions, life situations and/or circumstances is a big NO NO NO NO what’s wrong with you?
“What do you think would happen,” MH wondered aloud, “if, instead of making fun of ‘old people,’ the picture’s caption read, ‘Corn maze for retards’ “?
* * *
* * *
Don’t listen to that doddering old goat – the following is, in fact, something quite similar.
Department Of If I Ran The World… This Would Be The First “Ism” To Be Dealt With
Translation: dealt with = “cured.” I’m talking about  the ismof ageism.
Synonyms & Antonyms of old (Entry 1 of 2) being of advanced years and especially past middle age
Synonyms for old aged, aging (or ageing), ancient, elderly, geriatric, long-lived, older, over-the-hill, senescent, senior, unyoung
Words Related to old centenarian, nonagenarian, octogenarian, septuagenarian, sexagenarian, oldish adult, grown-up, mature, middle-aged, pensioned, retired, superannuated, matriarchal, patriarchal, venerable, anile, decrepit, doddering, senile, spavined, tottery,  overage (also overaged)
Phrases Synonymous with old long in the tooth, of a certain age dating or surviving from the distant past
Synonyms for old age-old, aged, ancient, antediluvian, antique, dateless, hoar, hoary, immemorial, venerable ( Merriam-Webster thesaurus, entries for “old” )
Dateline: Several months back; a gorgeous spring afternoon; sitting with friend CC on her back porch overlooking her and her hubby’s pastureland. We are having one of our regular, COVID-distance-safe, takeout-Thai-lunch-and-chat sessions. As we look out at the farmlands behind CC’s pasture  we chew the proverbial fat  about everything from family stories to political opinions. As per the latter, we basically (and succinctly!) solve the problems of the world, as long-term friends are wont to do.
CC and moiself spoke of our mutual pleasure at our reactions to the new Presidential administration – of how refreshing it is to (once again) have a national leadership team which is too busy trying to do good to have the time (or inclination) to snipe at critics on social media.
Joe and Kamala and cabinet – this hamster thumb’s up is for you!
We were pleased and surprised by what a fine job Joe Biden is doing, and surprised to realize the source of our surprise, which came from the fact that each of us had not wanted him, at first, to be the Democratic nominee. It’s not that we thought Biden was unqualified or didn’t have good ideas – far from it! It’s that we wanted him and the other members of his age group to hand things to the younger folks. His generation had done their share; it’s time to move on.
It was, simply and ultimately, about his age. It was ageism.
And there we were, both pleased and embarrassed to see what he is doing. He’s diving right in, being quiet and mostly not having press conferences because there are so damn many problems to fix and he’s in there doing it, working the system with the knowledge he’s acquired after years in Washington, with a sure and steady hand…. Being pleased about that is obvious; the embarrassment came from the fact that his commitment and passion for this job – fixing the country – might have been denied the country, if ageist biases, like the ones we both held, had prevailed.
And that led to our conversational “tour on ageism.” We spoke of our own issues and challenges with the physical aspects growing older (while acknowledging that the things we complain about are actually privileges denied to many  ). We’ve both become beyond frustrated with the way aging is portrayed in – well, in *everything,* from literature and film and media to medicine to product marketing. This has always been especially true for women; however, men are starting to get more of it, too, when it comes to the detestable, “anti-aging” label which is attached (as if it “stopping aging” should be a desirable, attainable goal) to every sort of thing which can be merchandised, from clothing to vitamins to exercise equipment and regimens to, of course, cosmetic products and surgical procedures.
Allow me to introduce you to the ultimate anti-aging products.
The only sure-fire, anti-aging product is death. Wrinkle cream, shrinkle cream – die now, at age 59, and you’ll never look like you’re 60!
No matter what your age, you are older today than you’ve ever been, and are younger today than you will be tomorrow.
…just thinking about that.
“It’s not that aging is wrong, it’s just that people will judge you and treat you differently if you look old,” is the advice I have actually heard (translation: ” ‘Other people,’ but, uh, not me…the one who is telling you that your gray hair and wrinkles need erasing”). And, gawddammit, that is (at least partly) true…but it’s not going to change if these Judging People don’t have positive models of those who gracefully accept getting older sans product intervention.
The stop-aging/anti-aging product world has learned from criticism: recently, most of its advertising (that moiself has seen) takes the proactive approach, emphasizing the “be the best that you can be/look the best you can, at any age!” messaging. That’s a tiny step up from “Your naturally graying hair makes you look like a hag;”however, it still conveys the undercurrent message, which is that “looking your age,” which is whatever you look like at whatever age you are, is not a good thing. Those wrinkles that you earned, the gray hair, all of the physical changes which are the natural, inevitable result of being alive – get rid of ’em! You don’t want to look “old,” because in our culture equals incompetent, senile – and, and creepiest of all, in a way – ugly. Old equals ugly.
I’ve seen many movies (back in the movie theater, yay! ) this summer, and also, during the previews, several trailers for a M. Night Shayamalan movie, which I’ve decided to put on my fuck no no thanks list. The movie is being marketed in the horror genre. Just the title alone is insulting – I mean of course, so descriptive. As in, what could be more horrifying than…becoming this:
A Curiosity Daily podcast I’d recently listened to presented studies showing that younger people who saw themselves as advocates for equality are most likely to hold discriminatory views re older adults. Yep, it turns out that those often involved in fighting, say, racism and sexism (and such people are in their twenties, thirties and even forties) are likely to discriminate against older folk because they view the oldsters through the lens of their own ageism – they think that people older than themselves are more likely to be racist and sexist.
“Social justice movements, such as Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, have done huge amounts to address racism and sexism in our society…. However — and this is a big however — people who are keenest to advocate for women and racial minorities harbour more prejudice against a group that reports almost as much US workplace discrimination as these two: older people…. Ageism is so condoned in American culture that many do not see it as an ‘-ism’, in the same manner of other forms of prejudice… …people who scored higher on (egalitarian advocacy study tests) scale were more disapproving of racism and sexism but also more likely to endorse ‘Succession-based ageism’ — the idea that older people should step aside to improve younger people’s job opportunities… … researchers found that the more that (study participants) endorsed egalitarian advocacy, the more money they wanted to go to women and racial minorities — and the less they wanted to go to older people. Questionnaire results showed that this was driven by a belief that older people block women and racial minorities from getting ahead….this research suggests that when it comes to egalitarianism, equality for all may only mean equality for some….”
( “Advocates Of Equality For All Are More Like To Show Prejudice Against Older Adults At Work,” The British Psychological Research Society Digest, 3-4-21 )
Oy, the futility of it all. Ageism, in moiself’sopinion, is the stupidest of the isms. It should be the one discrimination which is in everyone’s self-interest to combat. So, why don’t we? It seems that everything else which divides us – country of origin, religious and worldviews, political affiliations, culture, gender, sexual orientation – cannot be fully reconciled, and I have heard people (well-meaning, sincere, actively-working-for-the good-for-all people ) despair that, ultimately, there is no commonality. But, there IS.
White and black; female and male; hateful redneck third generation Texan and hopeful Latino immigrant; blustery climate change denier and introverted renewable energy supporter; nattering homophobe and flaming drag queen – we all have one commonality: We will all be Old People ® someday.
Only death will relieve or prevent you from joining The Senior Set ®, that denigrated demographic. Thus, it is in everyone’s best interest to work to eliminate the stereotypes of old age. One of the most effective ways to do that is to make sure that vibrant aging minds and bodies still have vibrant and ample opportunities to contribute to society.
If, as a young person, you do notsee people decades older than you being ( or, being *allowed to be* ) active and engaged members of any and all professions; if all you see of “the elderly” is images of people being warehoused (whether in their own homes or in golf course-infested retirement communities); if you can’t joke about someone’s gender or ethnicity but sharing a meme about feeble-minded old dudes who can’t navigate a corn maze always gets a laugh – well then, of course, what will you think?
One of my solutions: Unless it can be scientifically demonstrated that no one over age 65 can continue to be, for example, an airline pilot, get rid of age-related mandatory requirement. *Do* require training and testing, not forced departure, for certain jobs at a certain ages. It’s no secret that certain physical capabilities and mental facilities can decline in some (but not all) older people. And there are ways to test for these deficits, ways that, unlike mandatory retirement regulations, do not discriminate. A lot of the removal of people from physically and mentally taxing jobs is voluntary; for where it’s not, yearly/periodic training or retesting could help weed out those who are no longer performing at the proper capacity for their particular profession.
Consider The Notorious RBG, who even months before her death from pancreatic cancer – hell, who, even from the grave – could run intellectual circles around SCOTUS colleagues decades younger than herself. ( Yeah, I’m talkin’ *you,* Brett “I like Beer” Kavanaugh and Amy Originalist Conehead Coney Barrett.) .
Two of my cousins (both now deceased) were firefighters in LA County. Years ago, when there’d been some public consternation about firefighter recruiting and testing requirements, firefighter/EMT cousin TTB told me the following story: TTB’s captain had surprised his crew one afternoon by ordering the crew – all of whom were at least fifteen-year veteran firefighters – to take the physical abilities testing given to recruits. The crew, like all firefighters, participated in regular training drills, but the captain without warning made them do the grueling physical test give to wannabe firefighters. Almost all of the veterans failed.  Yet, they were good at their jobs. Should they have been fired/dismissed on the spot? Just the previous day, the crew had responded to a fire and a medical emergency, and had done everything that needed to be done, in each case. Apparently, their lack of peak/youthful brute strength was more than compensated for by their years of experience.
Also, the strapping young man who easily passed the physical challenges tests at age 21 might not be able to do so again, even at the relatively young age of 32 (like my cousin; see footnote). But if the skills testing is not done across the board (i.e., is only given to people above a certain age), by virtue of his youth, he may be allowed to continue on the job for which, according to that test, he is no longer qualified…or, it just might be that his experience will outweigh the somewhat random application of a physical skills test.
* * *
Punz For The Day Reverse Ageism Edition
Why do Generation Z-ers always type in lowercase? Because they reject capitalism.
Why are today’s youth are so odd? Because they can’t even.
Why does Santa Claus outright refuse to employ any Gen Y’ers to work as elves? There are already too many snowflakes at the North Pole.
What do you call a bird that likes avocado toast? The Millennial Falcon.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
* * *
May you have fun getting lost in a corn maze, no matter your age; May all of your product reviews be kickback-free; May you, if you so desire, have people “following” (and not stalking) you; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Unless you are living in a Masterpiece Theater production of Downton Abbey, this *is* the twenty-first century.
Thou shalt refrain thy ass from using any the above, and any other suffix used to form “feminine” nouns or adjectives – the application of which reinforces the mistaken and sexist notion of male default.
There are male and female lions and tigers. Just say so; none of this “lioness” and “tigress” shit.  Female pilots are pilots, not pilot-esses. My doctor is not my doctress.
Female-gender-denoting suffixes convey the implicit message that occupations – or mere states of being – are inherently male; thus, females are something special that need to be noted. If you (for some inexplicable reason) name me as the executor of your estate, then I will be the grown-ass woman doing the job of executor. I will not be your execu-trix.
Why is this important?, some clueless buffoons curious persons may ask? As moiself has harangued remarked in a previous post:
It’s important because girls often grow up into women who lack the confidence to move through the world as easily and powerfully as men do, because they don’t think that the world belongs to them. Unintentionally and sometimes deliberately, girls get presented with skewed perceptions of their “place” – even of simply how many of them there are  – in the world. In the images and examples girls *and* boys are shown, the default for everything is male, especially if the thing in question is perceived as being big and powerful.
It’s important because a person will want to care for the world and that which is in the world, to seek education and take action – from studying to be a geologist to learning to do their own basic auto maintenance and repairs – if they think these things are truly and equally theirs. If it belongs to you, then you feel a sense of responsibility for it. Despite the progress made in the past few decades, girls (and boys) still look at the world, at the images and descriptions presented to them, and see it as primarily belonging to, and inhabited and ruled by, boys and men.
Dateline: sometime last week, listening to the podcast, People I Mostly Admire. Host Steven Levitt and guest Aicha Evans were discussing …” the big promises the A.V. industry hasn’t yet delivered — and the radical bet Zoox (the driverless vehicle company of which Evans is CEO) is making on a driverless future. ” 
The subject of driverless vehicles is one on which I have (surprise!) more than a few thoughts (some of which I might deal with next week). But moiself never made it through the episode. I got sidetracked during the halfway point of the podcast, at the Q & A section, where host Levitt and his guest read letters from listeners who’ve sent in questions relating to previous episodes.
Several weeks ago, Levitt conjectured an inverse relationship between the need for feeling control in somebody’s life and how happy that somebody is. Levitt then said that he had changed in his own life (regarding the feeling of the need for control); that he was happier now than he used to be. Several listeners asked questions about Levitt’s comment. The question Evans chose to read to Levitt came from one such listener, who wrote “… that she would love to hear you elaborate on how you were able to let go of the need to feel in control all the time.” Levitt responded that he did have an answer to her question, although he warned listeners that it was a bit “heavier” than they might be expecting.
I was glad to hear the careful phrasing about the need for *feeling* you are in control, rather than, the need to be in control. Recognizing the difference is the key to managing that feeling, because if you think control under all circumstances is possible…there is at least one self-help book out there that you need to read. 
Oncd again, moiselfdigresses. In answer to the question, Levitt said two events in his life have profoundly affected the way he thinks about control. He briefly mentioned the first one,  then said, “it’s going to get heavy.”
“The other experience in my life that deeply affected the way I think about control was by far the most tragic thing that’s ever happened to me. I had a son named Andrew; he died suddenly, nine days after his first birthday, from meningitis – completely out of the blue.
And I had always feared something like that – losing my child was probably the deepest fear that I had. And I wish that I could say that the reason I could let go of control was that ‘my worst fear came true and it turned out not to be that bad…’ But actually, it was the opposite.
My worst fear came true, and losing a child was *so* much worse than I ever imagined it would be, and really, the only escape from that for me was surrender – surrender to the universe.
And it was just…the pain and the loss was so great…I just kind of gave up. And I don’t even know if that will make sense to people listening, but to move on in life, I just gave in to it, I just gave in to the idea that I had no control, that I was nothing, that the world was going to do what it was going to do to me, and I had no choice but to accept that.
And there was virtually nothing good that came out of his dying, but I have since then been more or less free of the need for control…and I wish it could have happened in any other way than the way it happened.”
I don’t know about y’all, but right now I need a picture of sloths hugging.
* * *
* * *
Department Of Music Appreciation 101
Bassist Dusty Hill of the rock band ZZ Top died last week. When asked to describe the sound of his particular playing style, Hill once said,
“It’s like farting in a trashcan. Raw, big, heavy, and a bit distorted.” (The Week, 8-13-21)
Hey, what’s going on in there?
* * *
Punz For The Day Music Bands Edition
If Iron, Arsenic, Lead, Mercury, and Cadmium formed a musical group, would they be a heavy metal band?
Four magicians formed a band which plays Swedish pop music from the 1970s. They call themselves Abba-Cadabra.
Have you heard the Creedence Clearwater Revival tribute band,
composed wholly of sheep and cow musicians?
They do a great version of “Baa Moo Rising.”
Keep staring; maybe we can make her stop.
* * *
May you excise enne/ess/ette/trix from your vocabulary; May your musicianship never be described with flatulence analogies; May you, in all circumstances, be comforted by pictures of baby sloths; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 And shame on a so-called “science” podcast, which should know better. Yep, I’m talkin’ *you,* Curiosity Daily.
 Or perhaps it’s always been more of a lecture than a conversation.
 The world human population male/female ratio consistently hovers around 50-50, but you wouldn’t know that if your only statistic in this matter came from your consumption of popular media, where the male characters consistently and overwhelmingly outnumber the female.
 Evans is the first female African-American CEO of such a company company.
As the Tokyo Olympics Games enter the final week, I’m realizing I will soon be going through the withdrawal I experience every two years, after watching two-plus weeks of (summer or winter) Olympics events. I’m not normally a frequent televised-sporting-events fan, but moiself does enjoy The Games ®.
As always, besides the events themselves, I find interest (and sometimes, petty and/or snarky entertainment) in “the human drama of athletic competition;” that is, the stories behind the stories. Does anyone else remember the ABC Wild World of Sports intro?
In the second week, with track and field events predominating, moiself is thinking about a conversation I had with daughter Belle, several weeks back, about how the USA’s track star Sha’ Carri Richardson received a suspension for testing positive for marijuana, and thus would not be participating in the Olympics.
Belle was peeved that Richardson would not be able to compete, due to what Belle sees as an unfair and archaic drug testing system. I mentioned that Richardson’s competitors might also be disappointed in Richardson’s absence from the games. As I understand it, when you’re at the top level of your sport you want to compete against the best. Also, whatever your accomplishments, you don’t want an asterisk next to them (as in, ” * ___ won the gold medal for the 100-meter race, but the favorite ____ was disqualified”).
We agreed that athletes should be tested for steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs; definitely-absolutely-go-for-it. But Belle and I had fun wondering back and forth about why athletes are tested for alcohol and marijuana. Perhaps I don’t know enough about the subject, but it seems to moiself that weed and booze, with their relaxant and depressive properties, would diminish, not enhance, athletic performance. And really now: in what sports could marijuana be considered a performance enhancing drug? Competitive eating? Belle suggested.
You’d think athletes would *want* their rivals to get the munchies before competition: here comes Richardson, strolling across the finish line in last place, giving the other racers a, “What’s up with all the hurry?” look as she heads for the pizza roll vendor….
“I’d like to thank my coach, and my training partner, Maui Wowie.”
So, lobby to change the Olympics’ drug testing rules, if you think it would be worthwhile to do so. Until then, it would be unfair to other athletes to make exceptions for some and not others, in terms of how existing drug rules are applied. 
Also, the athletes know full well what they will be tested for. My advice to them  is, don’t act surprised and/or disappointed if you used a banned substance and then get caught. Take responsibility. Don’t play dumb when you’re not.
* * *
Department Of Levar Burton, Please Reconsider And/Or Retract
We must believe in luck. For how else can we explain the success of those we don’t like? ( Jean Cocteau, French novelist and director)
The acknowledgment of luck, circumstance, and “accidents” in our lives (and in the universe) is one of the hallmarks of wisdom, maturity, and humility. Sure, sometimes the cream rises to the top all by itself; sometimes, someone achieves fame and fortune not because they were the most talented writer/actor/scientist in the room, but because they were the *only* writer/actor/scientist in a room that needed their skills At That Very Moment…or they just happened to be in the right room at the right time, with the Right People to notice and promote them.
To some degree we can choose how we respond to luck, happenstance, and accidents, but we can neither totally nor consistently control nor predict these accidents (which is why such things are called…all together now…accidents).
On the first bumper sticker (or, maybe it was a chariot sticker) known to humankind, an ancient philosopher wrote a vulgar yet tersely wise summary of the existential acknowledgement of the fact that life is filled with unpredictable events:
Yet, some folks just don’t seem to get this.
Dateline: Wednesday 6:50-ish a.m., warming up my on elliptical exercise machine while listening to comedian Tig Notaro’s “advice” podcast, Don’t Ask Tig. Tig’s guest was producer-actor-writer Levar Burton, best known for his role as Chief Engineer Geordi La Forge on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and for being host of the beloved PBS children’s series, Reading Rainbow.
Moiself has always enjoyed Burton’s work. Thus, my WTF ?!?!? indignation when he said something in the capacity of advice-giver on the podcast, something which made me want to dust off my old Asshat Of The Week award and bestow it upon him.
Asshat Of The Week. Just waiting for the right recipient….
Burton and Notaro were responding to a letter from an advice-seeker when he flung this:
“I have had to learn over time that there are no accidents in the universe – that everything has purpose.”
The rest of Burton’s advice, about being mindful of one’s patterns and intentions, etc., would have been fine. But he had to insert that boner of a bogus bromide.
“There are no accidents in the universe – everything has purpose.”
No, Mr. Burton, that is not what you have “learned* over time” – that is what you inexplicably *believe.* Not only do you have no evidence for that belief, I would think that, looking around the world – excuse me, the UNIVERSE (using Geordi LaForge’s electromagnetic scanning VISOR, if necessary) – with a truly open mind, you would have to admit that there is quite the evidence to the contrary.
There areaccidents, or random incidents, in the universe. All. The. Time. Call them what you will; there is happenstance/luck/circumstance. The “purpose” of the series of tornadoes which struck Tennessee on March 2-3 2020 was not to kill the 25 people that they did; the tornadoes were accidents/incidents which occurred due to the particular combination of topography and weather patterns which spawn any tornado.
That execrable “There are no accidents in the universe” statement to the contrary, you’ve always seemed to moiself to be intelligent, curious, and kind. Thoughtful person that you seem to be, have you neglected to take under consideration the logical conclusions of such there-are-no-accidents beliefs?
Dude: the denial of accident/chance/luck/circumstance is Blaming The Victim 101.
What about that woman who was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was attacked by a serial rapist? What purpose did it serve; what part did she play in it, or what lesson did she need to know – after all, if there truly are no accidents then everything happens “on purpose;” i.e., for a reason.
And the historical and ongoing oppression of people of color? You spoke briefly of experiencing racism in your life, but you also mentioned something indicating that you believe in “karma,” so then, there’s no accident there. You were born into an oppressed minority, through no choosing of your own…or….? Did you, do you and other people who have experienced discrimination, somehow have something to do with it? That’s what the philosophy of karma would say: that subconsciously or otherwise people choose their fates.  And since there are no accidents and everything has a purpose, what greater purpose (for those enslaved) did the enslavement of millions of people serve?
I’ve written about this before (most extensively, here) , and likely will again, as the “everything happens for a reason” horseshit philosophy is blithely held and repeated by too many otherwise non-rational well-meaning people.
Thank you for your attention. We now return to our regular programming.
* * *
Department Of a Memory Seemingly Apropos Of Nothing…
Whatever the prompt (or whatever Levar Burton might say is its “purpose”), I am grateful to recall the incident.
Dateline: 7-24-2015. The memory is from the day when a friend and I made some hastily scrawled protest signs and did an impromptu picketing of the anti-choice protesters who themselves were picketing outside of Portland’s Lovejoy Surgicenter.
Our adventures were recounted more extensively by moiself in this blog post; the specific remembrance I’m referring to was when my friend and I entered the clinic after the protestors had left, and chatted with a few members of the (all-female) clinic staff. This blurb still deserves the title I gave it six years ago:
Department of Possibly The Best Answer to a Question, Ever
We stayed until the Antis left, then entered the clinic. The Ladies of Lovejoy got quite the kick out of our signs and expressed their gratitude for our support. We chatted with them for several minutes, trading protester stories and shop talk. 
As per the latter, one of the clinicians mentioned that the clinic had expanded services to include male healthcare, and that she “really enjoys” doing vasectomies. I, of course, had to ask her why she found vasectomies so enjoyable. After working with women’s health all day, she said, “It’s a nice change of scenery.”
* * *
Pun For The Day Vasectomy Edition
What do a Christmas tree and a vasectomy have in common? The balls are only ornamental.
What do you call an artist who had a vasectomy? Seriously, does anyone know? I’m drawing a blank here.
Is there much difference between a man who’s had a vasectomy and a man who hasn’t? Yes, there’s a vas deference.
Most men can take having a sore arm or leg. But a vasectomy? That’s a whole different ball game.
* * *
May you enjoy the human drama of athletic competition ®; May you understand and accept the reality of luck and circumstance; May you always appreciate a change of scenery; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 Richardson claimed she used weed to cope with receiving the news of the unexpected death of her biological mother. I that’s the case, I’m wondering why she didn’t alert officials before she was tested, along the lines of, “BTW, I used this substance for this reason,” to try to explain or at least warn them that she wasn’t trying to sneak anything past them.
 Which they clamor for, night and day…it gets soooooo annoying.
 The karmic premises of cause and effect: “each action (as well as a person’s thoughts and words) a person takes will affect him or her at some time in the future,” and “like causes produce like effects”
 Even if you don’t recognize the trigger at the time.
 A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, I worked in women’s reproductive health care, both in a public clinic setting (Planned Parenthood) and in a private OB/GYN practice.
Department Of Marital Bliss, Lowered Expectations Division
Earlier in the week I read a New York Times article about a crime that has scandalized Iran: an elderly couple was arrested for drugging, suffocating, stabbing, then dismembering three people. The couple expressed no remorse, even though the murder victims were their son and their daughter and her husband.
“I have no guilty conscience for any of the murders,” (the husband) said in a TV interview from detention. “I killed people who were very morally corrupt.”
“We decided together, the two of us,” (the wife said)….My husband suggested it and I agreed. I have a great relationship with my husband. He doesn’t beat me or curse at me.”
( “They Were the Nice, Older Couple Next Door. Then the First Body Turned Up,” NY Times 7-5-21 )
As bizarre/disturbing as the murders are,  that is not what lingered in my mind after reading this story. Rather, I was drawn to the WTF?!?!? criteria of the wife’s “great relationship” with her husband.
Moiself may be slogging into the “cultural differences” swamp, so grap your hip waders. The thing is, this is not the first time I’ve come across such an anemic description of the qualities of a good husband. Many is the time I have read a quote, from a woman living in a highly conservative/patriarchal and (often, but not exclusively) Islamic society, as to what a good husband is. And most of the time, it is a list of “non-negatives.” 
My husband and I have a good relationship because he DOESN’T * beat me
* curse at me
* force me to have sex
* pull out chunks of my hair if he sees it peeking from behind my head scarf
*forbid me from leaving the house without a male escort
* burn my books and prevent me from obtaining an education
* steal my food
* lock me outside in the cold because he said I made lumpy hummus
* siphon from our children’s sons’ college fund to pay his sports gambling debts
“Before my husband murders our adult children, he tells me about it. We have a good relationship.”
* * *
Department of Back To School Daze
“Ultimately life is disease, death and oblivion.
It’s still better than high school.” ( Dan Savage )
Dateline: last Sunday. MH was out of town; son K came to dinner. Moiselfcannot remember the exact prompt or context for the story K shared with me (and neither can he; I checked), but it was about a play on words he’d recently heard, which he thought was clever and funny, but which someone else said was insulting. K and I talked about the “that’s funny – no, that’s insulting” controversy which sometimes arises when a person takes words or sounds from different languages (or even your “own” language) and uses the sounds to form puns and/or humorous words. “Remember the Car Talk credits list – their Russian chauffer?” K asked. How could I forget? That show was one of our family faves. K and I began sharing “the best” titles and names that we could remember, from the show’s infamous credits list.
Engineersscientist/car repair enthusiasts Tommy and Ray Magliozzi (aka “Click and Clack – the Tappett brothers”) hosted the NPR show Car Talk from 1977 – 2012. They ended each broadcast by reading select entries from their ever-expanding list of recently acquired staff, a mere sample of which follows:
– Accounts Payable Administrator Imelda Czechs – Accounts Receivable Supervisor, Mumbai Office Vishnu Payup – Bad Joke Interpreter Nadia Geddit – Book Critic Odessa Paige Turner – Child Transportation Specialist Minnie Van Driver – Coordinator, 12-Step Recovery Program Cody Pendant – Director of Gender Studies Amanda B. Reckondwyth – Director of Japanese Cooling Systems Emperor Overhito – Director of Pavlovian Research Isabelle Ringing – Elvis Impersonator Amal Shookup – French Dogwalker Poupon Degrasse – Gastroenterologist Cameron Diaz – Gum Surgeon Perry O’ Dontal – Head of Working Mother Support Group Erasmus B. Dragon – Latin American Bullfighting Specialist Gordon Diaz – Liaison to the British Isles Isaiah Oldchap – Marine Biologist Frieda Wales – Plumber’s Crack Apologist Lucy Lastik – President, Disgruntled Hatchback Owners Club Ivana Trunk – Restroom Attendants Trudy Door & Donna Hall – Russian chauffer Pikov Andropoff – Staff Meteorologist from the Seattle Office Wayne Goaway – Swedish Attorney Bjorn Liar – Teenage Valet Lao Tse Parker – Tom’s Personal Matchmaker Robin D’Craydell – Undergarment Inspector I.C. London – Visually Impaired Parking Lot Attendant Dale Neverknow – Wine Taster from the Abu Dhabi Office Hassen Ben Sober – Women’s Hockey Team Manager Miss Inga Tooth
K brought up his favorite incident involving phonetic names mashup/entendres: the notorious “pilot name scandal” which arose after the crash of a Korean Jetliner. In July 2013 Asiana flight 214 crashed on its final approach to San Francisco International Airport. Later that day, while reporting on the incident, a San Francisco TV news anchor was pranked by her staff, which led to her reading, with a straight face, straight from the teleprompter…  I’ll let the Wikipedia entry of the incident take it from here:
San Francisco television station KTVU fell victim to a prank which led news anchor Tori Campbell to report the names of the (flight 214) pilots as “Captain Sum Ting Wong,” “Wi Tu Lo,” “Ho Lee Fuk,” and “Bang Ding Ow” in the immediate aftermath of the crash. Viewers quickly realized that these “names” were in fact phonetic double entendres for “something’s wrong,” “we’re too low,” “holy fuck,” and the sounds of a crash. The prank was described as racist and unprofessional, and led to the firing of three veteran KTVU producers. While the source of these joke names remains unclear, the NTSB admitted in a statement that one of its summer interns had confirmed the erroneous names when they were stated by the news station.
Moiself, after I recovered from a severe case of ROTFLMAO when I watched the video of the prank newscast, was offended by those who were offended. Now, *of course* a plane crash is no laughing matter, but that wasn’t the point of the prank. See the above Car Talk credits list. The pilots’ names stunt was unprofessional…and, c’mon, admit it, fucking hilarious…but racist? As in, per the adjective form of the overused pejorative,
“based on racial intolerance” or
“discriminatory especially on the basis of race or religion”
The pilot-name-joke used the phenomenon of phonetic double entendres to imagine the conversation among the pilots as they realized their landing was going wrong; the joke was not disparaging of nor discriminatory against Korean airplanes, Korean pilots, or Korean people. I’ve little doubt that, had it been an American or French plane which had crashed at a Korean airport, some Korean smartass could’ve fashion a similar joke, using phonetic double entendres, from the English or French languages – names or phrases which would mean nothing to French or English speakers (and which we wouldn’t even recognize) but which would be hilarious to people fluent in Korean.
The pilot joke names were no more “racist” against Koreans than the Car Talk guy’s faux staff credit names were racist against Russians (“Russian chauffer, Pikov Andropoff”) or the French (“French Dogwalker, Poupon Degrasse”) or Indians (“Accounts Receivable Supervisor Mumbai Office, Vishnu Payup”) or Japanese (“Director of Japanese Cooling Systems, Emperor Overhito”) or Latinos (“Latin American Bullfighting Specialist, Gordon Diaz “) or Scandinavians (“Swedish Attorney, Bjorn Liar”) or Arabs (“Wine Taster from the Abu Dhabi Office, Hassen Ben Sober”), or members of the UK (“Liaison to the British Isles, Isaiah Oldchap”)….
If you don’t get understand why, or if you think you need to convince people who aren’t offended by this prank that they *should* be, please stop reading this blog, right now.
It was a classic, brazen, guerilla humor stunt; I hoped that the fired KTVU staff took their dismissal with equanimity – surely, they understood the risk they were taking. (I also hoped that they later found jobs as comedy writers for late night TV.)
K and I had fun re-living (and re-laughing at) our favorite Car Talk credits names…
…and I was struck by a memory of an incident which, although primal, was one I hadn’t thought of in years. I prefaced the sharing of this incident by telling K about a time, when I was in high school, when the phonetic double entendre thing was all the rage amongst a certain group of friends. We’d trade off fictious book titles and their authors’ names, ala,
“Under the Grandstand” By Seymour Butz
“One Hundred Yards To The Finish Line” By Willie Makeit Illustrated by Betty Wont
Yuk yuk. Yes, that passed for rapier-like wit in the tenth grade (and apparently also to K, who periodically shook his head and snickered, “Seymour Butz,” for the remainder of the evening). Then I asked him, “Did I ever tell you about what happened to me in high school, when the use of phonetic double entendres proved…troublesome?” K said no. Thus, what follows, my longest blog post to date, is kinda/sorta his fault. 
It was election time for next year’s SAHS student government officers. Moiself, my sophomore buddy, SG, and fellow senior DB, while eating our lunch in the Student Activities Office, lamented the election posters we’d seen posted – we were aghast at how BOOORRRRIIIINNG the signs were. No creativity or originality; most didn’t even give a reason why you should vote for this person for this particular office.
We decide to remedy the situation. Within minutes we’d designed election signs of our own, with fictitious candidate names for actual student body offices. SG and I were the main text composers; SG and DB, due to their superior artistic skills, did most of the graphics. The signs can be found at the end of this blog, before the footnotes.
We printed out several copies of each sign. And by printed out I mean mimeographed, boys and girls, because there were no photocopiers in public schools at that time.
All three of us were involved in a variety of student activities, including being teacher’s assistants. That, plus SG’s being a photographer for the school yearbook, DB’s being a cheerleader and former student body officer, and moiself holding various student government offices for three years straight, had given us familiarity with and access to the mimeograph machine located in the teacher’s lounge. Not one teacher batted an eye when SG and I entered the lounge, removed a stencil from the mimeograph machine (teachers were always leaving/forgetting to remove their stencils – a detail crucial to this story, later on), and ran our sign copies.
We taped the signs on our and our friends’ lockers and on a few of the halls around campus, next to or underneath the other (“real”) election signs. Constrained by the 8 ½ ” x 11″ paper capacity of the mimeograph machine, our signs were smaller and in black and white, unlike the larger, colorful (if boring) signs and banners put up by legit candidates. Thus, we weren’t expecting many people to even notice them (other than our friends and fellow student body officers, whom we planned on alerting to the prank). The lunch period ended, and we returned to our respective classrooms.
Our school had six classroom periods per day. Fifth period for me was Journalism (I wrote for the school newspaper). I left the class early on to run an errand for Mr. Clucas, the class teacher and school newspaper advisor.  The errand took a mere 5 minutes; when I returned to class Mr. Clucas told me that I’d just missed a school security guard (!!!), who had come to class, looking for me. The guard told Clucas that one of the school’s Vice Principals, “LM,” wanted to see me in the Student Activities’ office. It seems a teacher had alerted LM to “…something about ‘illegal election signs,’ ” Clucas said, his eyebrows raised in an And what are you up to now? manner. I grabbed a textbook I’d brought to class and, with Mr. Clucas’ blessing, left to go find and warn my fellow “illegal sign” cohorts.
I found SG in his advanced Spanish class – where español only was spoken. In my very unadvanced español I managed to convey to La Señora (the class teacher) that I needed to speak with Señor SG in private. As SG and I stood in the hallway outside SG’s class, exchanging what is going on?!?!speculations, a security guard approached us, and asked for our names. I can’t remember the exact name I gave – Al Capone, or some other gangster. SG immediately, brilliantly, gave another fugitive-from-justice moniker: Patty Hearst. After waiting an appropriate comic beat, I flashed the guard my best, oh-aren’t-we-silly smile. I told him my real name, said that I understood he’d been looking for me, and that SG and I were going to get our other friend who was involved “in this” and then we’d all go to the activities office.
SG and I turned toward the doorway which led outside, to where DB’s cheerleading class met. The guard said he was going to take us to the Activities Office, “right now.” He grabbed my arm and pulled me toward him; “You’re not going anywhere,”he said.
I yanked my arm from his grasp, flung my textbook to the ground, turned to face the wall, and assumed the classic perp spread: palms on the wall, legs apart, prepared for a pat-down. SG tried his best not to giggle at the guard’s obvious embarrassment/confusion at my reaction, as I called out, “You gonna search me for weapons?”
“Book ‘er, Danno.”
The guard made no further attempt to touch either moiselfor SG as he escorted us to the Activities Office, where we were joined by DB. The kangaroo court “meeting” consisted of five people: The Gang Of Three (“TGOT”: SG, moiself, DB), Vice Principal LM, and the Student Activities Director, “MTT.”
What followed was…confusing…infuriating… and saddening. We, TGOT, were in big trouble, the adults told us (LM did most of the talking). LM held up a handful of our election signs. How dare we put up fake, obscene, off-color, and racist election signs/? How dare we mock students running for office….
Wait a minute, TGOT protested, in indignation and legitimate confusion. Our signs (we were not told how TM figured out they were “ours”) mocked no actual person. And, “obscene,” “off-color,” “racist”? We made no obscene or racist signs – what signs are you talking about?
LM flipped through the signs he held, and pulled out the allegedly “racist” sign: “Vote for a true worker: Manuel Labor, Commissioner of Publicity.” TGOT’s reaction:
The pun on the name Manuel makes it racist? SG, who was Jewish, pointed to the Ben Dover for ASB President sign, noting that Ben, short for Benjamin, is a Jewish name. Using the name Manuel as a phonetic pun was no more racist than using Ben was anti-Semitic, SG declared.
Seeing as he was going to get no admission of malintent from us, LM moved on to the “obscene/off-color” sign. “Told ya,”I cracked at SG, when LM held up the sign for the Student Relations (“Want to relate? Well then vote for E.Z.! E.Z. Lay for Comissioner of Student Relations!“) (That was the one sign that I’d thought, if any adult paid any attention, might be considered a little iffy…but it was sosilly; who would take it seriously? It was SG’s idea and he had drawn it).
I looked straight into LM’s beady, petty eyes and haughtily informed him, in (what I hoped was) my best journalistic, I-have-a-larger-vocabulary-than-you, you-power-mad-ignorant-bureaucrat tone of voice, that the text of the sign employed juvenile sexual innuendo, not obscenity, and I proceeded to wonder aloud how any supposed adult did not understand the difference.
The meeting went even further downhill from there (surprise!). It became obvious that LM was determined to find malice where there was none, and that TGOT were getting no support from MTT…and why was MTT even there? What hurt us most was the lack of support from MTT, the Activities Director. MTT said he was being blamed “for this”…. As it turned out, there were other things going on, things between MTT and the administration, which we were not privy to.
MTT was in some kind of trouble with someone higher up; there were also other “issues” involving both the Vice Principal and the Activities Office. SAHS was facing external, staff, and parental pressures, including changing demographics  and the growing presence of gangs in Santa Ana schools. The administration faced accusations from Chicano-identified  students and their adult supporters, accusations of, as LM put it, “Mexicans get picked on and Whites get away with everything.” LM began to give examples, such as students getting in trouble for writing or painting gang symbols and signals on their lockers, “…but here are the three of you, putting up “illegal’ election signs and thinking you can get away with it….”
LM was comparing violent gang symbols with bad puns?
TGOT exchanged knowing looks. We were being sacrificed on the altar of a term we couldn’t have used at the time because it didn’t yet exist. LM (who happened to be SAHS’s first Latino Vice Principal) had essentially clued us in as to what was going on: he felt it politically expedient to make examples of us, as in, we gotta get some white kids, for something.
TTM, alluding to the trouble he was in, told us that “when word got out” the “heat” would fall on him for our antics. I noticed his usage of the future tense – “when” and “would”…and I wondered what was going on. Did anyone else in the administration, other than LM and MTT (and the teacher who reported the signs  ) know about this? My response to MTT was tersely unsympathetic: “Well, you know what they say – if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen.”
I immediately regretted my response, and to this day, I cringe to think of it. I’d lashed out in anger, but also, mostly, in pain. Of all the adults in the school, I’d thought MTT would have stuck up for us. The Activities Director was the advisor of the Student Government; SG, DB and I had all known and worked with MTT for years and were quite fond of him, and he of us. Earlier in the year, another student government officer and I used the Activities Office PA system – which we had permission to use for announcing pep rallies, school dances and fundaisers, etc. – for a prank. Over the PA, which was broadcast in every classroom, we announced, “Attention, all students and teachers: There is a change in today’s school schedule. Please note that the fifth period bell will ring at ten minutes to two, instead of at 1:50.” We did this at noon, and when MTT heard the announcement, he thought it was so funny that *he* got on the PA an hour later, and reread the announcement. He received one objection, from a flustered teacher who harumphed about why he hadn’t been informed earlier as to the change in his class’s schedule. 
Back to the meeting, which was going to the proverbial nowhere: LM informed TGOT that the security guard would escort us as we removed every sign we’d posted, then we were to return to our respective homes immediately. Our parents were being contacted by telephone, and we would find out later this evening the consequences of our actions, which could likely result in multi-day suspensions for each of us, and possible marks on/withholding of our school transcripts (a vague threat to DB and I, who had already been accepted to our respective colleges).
When I got home my mother was awaiting me, all aflutter in concern and confusion. She’d been telephoned by a secretary from the school office, who told her I’d gotten in trouble for…I can’t remember her exact description. My mother told me that when the secretary told her that “Robyn and two other students had been involved in an incident with school staff members,” and that the Vice Principal would be calling later that evening to explain things, her first thought was, “Oh, no – did Robyn punch a teacher?”
That revelation led to her hearing a well-deserved, Moooootttthhhhhher – how could you even think that?!?! from me. But then, the kicker, which made my mother realize that something funny was going on: Mom said that when she asked the secretary for details re the “incident,” the secretary lowered her voice to a whisper, barely suppressed a giggle, and said, “Well, actually, some people might think is’s kind of funny….”
DB’s and SG’s mothers had also received phone calls. DB’s mother, after speaking with DB about what had happened, went on the proverbial warpath. She made calls of her own to the school, speaking first with LM and finally reaching the Principal. After the initial, late afternoon phone calls, each of TGOT’s households received calls later that evening, but not from the Vice Principal, as had been promised. Our parents were contacted by an assistant to the Principal, who told them that SG, DB and I should return to school as usual the next day, and that after school we would all meet in the Principal’s office, with the Principal, LM, TMM, and any of our parents who wanted to attend.
You might want to take a bathroom break; there’s still more to come.
The Day After: Meet “The Butt Out” Gang
What SG, DB and I suspected turned out to be true. LM had overreacted, had gotten MTT involved, and attempted to turn a molehill prank into a mountain. He’d threatened draconian disciplinary action against three students who had spotless disciplinary records (and each of us members of/involved in the school’s gifted program/Honor Roll, sports/arts/activities/student government) *without* running any of it by the Principal.
The Gory Details ®
At 4 pm SG, DB, moiself, and my friend RR – whom I’d brought along and introduced as “my attorney” – sat down across a rectangular table from LM and MTT. Principal “JW” sat at the head of the table. None of the TGOT parental units were there. After DB’s mother had contacted the principal, gotten the situation “straightened out,” and then phoned SG’s and my parents, our folks didn’t think their presence was necessary.
” Hairstyles change, and skirt lengths, and slang, but high school administrations? Never.” ( Stephen King )
Principal JW informed TGOT – to the obvious discomfort of LM and MTT – that there would be no suspensions or other disciplinary actions taken against us. However, we students did need to understand the seriousness of “the concerns” re our actions:
(1) “Some people” felt our signs had mocked student government and student activities, and thus by extension, students involved in such;
(2) the sensitive nature (“obscene/off-color”; “racist”) of some of our signs;
(3) the administration’s main concern: our unauthorized use of school property (the mimeograph) for personal purposes when that machine was strictly for “school business only.”
RR, like any good advocate, brought a yellow legal notepad with her, and wrote down the concerns as they were listed by the Principal. TGOT referred to her list as we proceeded to dismiss and/or refute address each of the stated excuses for adult hysteria concerns.
(1) You’ve got to be fucking kidding (we did not phrase it thusly). Hello; look at us?! We, each of us, have been involved in student government and activities for the entirety of our high school years. Whom would we be mocking – ourselves? Not only have we not disparaged student government, we’ve encouraged others to run for office. Holy post-Watergate lack of cynicism – Robyn (as my “attorney” noted), as voted in by her peers, is the Senior Class Vice President!
And, by the way, who exactly, allegedly, expressed “concerns” about the signs? Why couldn’t we face our accusers? (We never received names of anyone who was offended by the signs. Since we’d had to take down all the signs the previous day, after our meeting with LM and MTT, they’d only been posted for a couple of hours, and few people had actually seen them).
(2) The two signs in question (“Manual” and “E.Z.”) were neither “obscene,” “off-color” nor “racist.” Other than admitting to mild/harmless vulgarity on the E Z. sign, we did not concede to those pejoratives. We were certain that, had students had the opportunity to actually see the signs, they would have found them at least mildly amusing (if they paid any attention to them at all). And if our respective parents – all politically and socially conservative, and all of whom had been informed of the content of the signs –  had not been shocked or even bothered by them, what was the administration’s problem?
C’mon– “obscene” signs? The “E.Z.” sign is mild compared to the sexual innuendo contained in the cheers which the school-sanctioned pep squad *leads* the audience – students, and parents alike – in reciting during football and basketball games:
Get it up/put it in/do it, do it !
Grab a piece – Grab a piece…(of yardage; of yardage!)
It’s all sniggering, adolescent, nudge-nudge-wink-wink. Why make a big deal out of it?
Nothing we chant is off-color if we shake our pompoms and smile.
(3) Interesting, that this “main concern” had not been mentioned, by either LM or MTT, when they read us the riot act the previous day. I thought – but did not say aloud – that it had been added last minute, by either the Principal or LM, so that they’d have at least one accusation that stood a chance of sticking. The other two charges were subjective, and slowly evaporating, fading away due to their inherent flaccidity (there I go again, with the juvenile innuendo).
TGOT admitted we’d used school equipment to make copies of the signs, and we were prepared to reimburse the school for the cost of paper and mimeo printer fluid. I removed a five-dollar bill from my jeans pocket, at which point Principal JW told me to “Butt out,” even though we (TGOT) were the ones speaking, and hadn’t interrupted any adults in the room. SG came to my rescue, and posed a question to the principal: if the main issue of concern was the use of the school mimeograph for personal, as in, non-school/academic matters, did that also apply to the teaching staff? And if not, why?
The three adults/administrators exchanged wary looks, and SG and I began to share our stories,  of having both first and second-hand knowledge of teachers using the mimeograph not only to run off copies of their math and grammar tests, but to print party invitations, baby announcements, and other personal papers. One student we knew had been sent by his teacher to use the mimeograph to make a class vocabulary list. Before the student could do so he had to remove the stencil left by a previous user of the machine – a paper which appeared to be a teacher’s annual family Christmas letter.
SG gave two more examples; I related one of the many examples I was prepared to cite. Earlier in the year I’d been given flyers to mimeo (from TMM) and post around campus, for a student activity. When I went to the teacher’s lounge to use the mimeograph I had to remove a stencil the previous user had left in the machine – a stencil of an invitation to a housewarming party given by a teacher (I’d recognized the teacher’s name). “We could give you more examples,” I said, “but we’ve made our point, that…”
LM interrupted me, which gave my “attorney” the moment she’d been waiting for: she actually said, “Objection! My client is testifying.” 
I rephrased SG’s query/statement: since item (3) is supposedly the administration’s “main concern,” what are the consequences for teachers – these adults and authority figures, who supposedly set the examples for students – who violate the school’s policy against using school equipment for personal use?
Hard to believe, but my question was not well-received. Principal JW once again told me to “Butt out.” (And for the brief remainder of the school year, SG, DB and I referred to ourselves as, The Butt Out Gang.)
Principle JW addressed TGOT, restating the “concerns” she’d hoped we’d taken to heart. She then looked pointedly at me and said, “You’re not going to write about this, are you?”
Although it was a question, JW’s tone and facial expression said, “You’d better *not* write about this in that #!$? smartass column of yours.” Which of course, made me want to…if only for a moment.
It was the butt (out?) end of the school year. The school newspaper was published every two weeks, with one issue slated in the coming days, which left only two or three issues to go, and I’d already given the outlines for my columns to the editorial page editor. I knew Mr. Clucas would have granted me the editorial freedom he’d insisted upon all year – not only for my op-ed column (which was titled, “Parnal Knowledge” ) but for other articles I’d written. It’s likely he would have given me space in the news section or in another part of the editorial page, had I requested it, to write about the election signs incident. But I was sick of it all: sick of Those People ® in particular and the petty machinations of high school in general. I’d been accepted to my first-choice university; mentally and emotionally, I had nothing left for SAHS – I was outta there. The last thing I wanted to do was to waste my time and creative energy dignifying the Obscene Election Sign Non-Scandal by writing about it.
The meeting was concluded in less than 45 minutes, with no admissions of guilt from TGOT, little input from LM and MTT, and no apologies from anyone. JW’s closing remarks were that the election sign incident had been “overdramatized by everyone,” and things would return to normal if we’d all let it, forget it, and move on.
We three accused did not gloat, but could barely suppress our righteous indignation. Overdramatized, by everyone?
It was clear to us that JW had called the meeting to do damage control. She was shrewd enough to realize that her VEEP and Activities Director had overreacted (read: lost their shit) over a minor prank, but she would not undermine their authority by declaring so in front of students. She tried to help her administrative staff save face; JW was in damage control mode – in large part (I’d bet) due to her having been contacted by two parents (DB’s and SG’s mothers  ) who raised holy hell and threatened to go public (i.e., to the school board and The Register, the local, editorially libertarian rag newspaper which was anti-public schools) if LM’s threats against TGOT were enacted.
Of course, that’s not *all.* But hasn’t this been enough?
* * *
Pun For The Day Marital Bliss (“We have a great relationship”) Edition
Two antennas got married. The wedding was a bit disappointing, but the reception was great.
My husband tells me I’m a skeptic, But I don’t believe a word he says.
Two melons tried to get married in Las Vegas, but they didn’t have the right documents.
It’s a shame they cantaloupe.
My husband is my favorite aquatic mammal. That’s right – he’s my significant otter.
“I otter punch your lights out for that one.”
* * *
May you look back with equanimity upon the petty pains (and pleasures) of high school; May you have a truly “great relationship” with your spouse; May you listen to rebroadcasts of Car Talk, if only to hear the credits; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
Sit down, fix yourself a stiff drink, and be prepared to clutch your pearls in horror at the foul content to be found within.
(time and mimeograph fluid has taken its toll on the original stencils)
* * *
(“Can she do the job?…. Shirley U. Jest” )
* * *
Finally, the footnotes
 The couple are undergoing psychiatric evaluations, officials told Iranian media.
 From which you can derive her likely point of reference, as in, “Oh, crap, this is the norm she sees, all around her, so comparatively, she things ‘great’ equals not getting beaten.”
 Their tag line for the credits list: “It takes this many people to produce such a lousy show? Who knew!”
 KTVU’s Managing Editor said she thought the names sounded suspicious but approved the list, as she was told that an official at the NTSB confirmed their authenticity. The NTSB “official” turned out to be a summer intern at the news station. The station fired several staffers but spared the newscaster.
 I have written previously in this space about the late great Theodore “Teddy” Clucas, a much-adored (and tolerant!) teacher, journalism mentor and 1st amendment advocate – for many students, including moiself.
 by the time I graduated the majority of the SAHS student body was Hispanic-surnamed.
 That was a term used by some – not all — Latino cultural activists at the time, as a political signifier.
 We never did find out who alerted the vice Principal, other that it was “an adult staff member.”
 Sadly, this was not an isolated incident, in terms of the great academic minds of SAHS demonstrating that they were…sometimes not paying attention, shall we say (and we just did).
 We’d each taken copies home, to show our parents. I held on to the original stencils, and have them to this day.
 DB did little talking during this meeting. Apparently, her mother reading the riot act to the Principal the previous evening was enough for her.
 I think that got under LM’s skin more than anything.
 Speaking of innuendo…yeah, I know. But, guess who gave me that nickname, and suggested it be the title of my column? Twas the highly respected, squeaky clean, universally liked and respected, daughter of a school board member and winner of our school’s highest honor (“The Coterian Award”), the Editor-in-chief of the newspaper.
 Other than the phone calls they received from the school, I asked my parents to stay out of it. I did not, however, tell them to “butt out.”
Department Of Why Are Some People Still Doing This?
“Summer is synonymous with barbecues, parades and fireworks. The National Safety Council advises everyone to enjoy fireworks at public displays conducted by professionals, and not to use any fireworks at home. They may be legal but they are not safe.” (National Safety Council, “Leave Fireworks to the Experts” )
Please don’t purchase or use fireworks. Moiself doesn’t give a roman candle’s flaming buttcrack about how fondly you look back on those childhood July 4th fireworks parties  – such an activity should be considered anachronistic at best.
“*I* can celebrate with a safe and sane fireworks display, I know it!”
I was surprised by my own visceral reaction (barely suppressed rage; an urge to approach the owners and employees and shame them into leaving) when I saw a fireworks stand this year. *WTF are they doing here?* This was before the heat wave that pummeled the Pacific NW (and western Canada). But folks, we’ve known for years about why, even if Some People ® just can’t get it up for Uh-Mur-ica without viewing explosive pyrotechnic devices, fireworks displays should be left to a few professional or civic shows.
Fireworks suck. For fleeting moments of pyrotechnic entertainment, we also get
* extensive air pollution produced in a short amount of time, leaving metal particles, dangerous toxins, harmful chemicals and smoke in the air for hours (sometimes days) and which find their way into our soil and water systems; 
* fear, acute anxiety and distress, risk of hearing loss (especially for dogs) for our pets; 
* habitat destruction and degradation for wild animals, which is particularly “…energetically costly and physiologically stressful for wild birds, which leave their roost in explosive panic and can smash their skulls or break their necks as the result of flying into trees, fences, billboards, houses and other solid objects that they cannot see in the gloom and smoky chaos (and survivors of the original explosive panic flight remain in danger because these birds are forced to find a safe place to roost in the middle of the night).” 
* over 19,000 fires set – from home roof blazes to wildfire – and over 9,000 people (most often children and teens) sent to emergency rooms due to severe burns and other injuries caused while using consumer fireworks. 
The 2017 Eagle Creek wildfire consumed 50,000 acres of the picturesque Columbia Gorge. Embers of the fire were still smoldering eight months after major containment. Hiking trails and other areas of that scenic wilderness were heavily damaged; U.S. Forest Service and other officials estimate that some trails may remain closed for years. The devastating conflagration was, like so many other wildfires and brushfires, started by fireworks.
Life is all about change, about altering our behavior to accomodate altering circumstances. We didn’t always have firework stands and home fireworks shows; we can survive, thrive, and celebrate without them.
Does this boy represent an ignorant, self-centered, head-in-the-sand danger to the humanity and environment…or is he just another cute dork in a silly costume?
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Department Of The Cinematic Story Strategy Which Annoys MH
That would be time travel. Moiself appreciates (and mostly shares) MH’s aggravation with the over-used, cheap-way-not-to-have-to-deal-with-reality plot device.
Moiself cannot recall the name of the podcast I heard recently, in which the podcast hosts and guests discussed a (non-scientific) survey conducted about time travel. Random bench sitters were asked questions along the lines of,
“If you could travel in time, (1) would you choose to do so? (2) if you said yes to (1), would you choose to travel to the past,
or to the future?”
The surveyors seems to have the idea that time travelers going to the past would do so with the motivation of having the opportunity to change something that they did, or neglected to do – an action which, the time travelers hoped, would right a wrong and/or increase happiness or success in their present lives. (Indeed, some people questioned gave answers supporting that idea.)
There was a bit o’ surprise among the surveyors re the number of people over age 50 who wanted to travel to the future, not the past. Some of the younger folk – even a few children – said there were things in the past they’d like to change (words spoken; actions they wish they could do over). But most of the 50+ folk surveyed expressed little desire to go back in time to change some pivotal event (whether it be in their own/personal lives, or re world history  ). The podcast guests and hosts bantered about why that was so, and the answers of a few of those who were surveyed gave them a clue: older people know, from decades of experience, that there are innumerable incidents large and small which make up a lifetime; thus, going back to change what might seem like a pivotal moment would probably not make much of a difference in one’s long-term outlook and prospects.
I don’t know how the episode ended; I stopped listening midway through, as I was consumed with the thought of what *my* time travel choice would be. Seeing as how traveling to one’s past is Not One Of Those Things That Will Happen At All, Or At Least In My Lifetime ®, I dismissed that option, for a clear-eyed – and ultimately more fulfilling, moiself thinks – embrace of reality: I hold that each of us are, already, “one way” time travelers.
“Please elucidate, in a non-sesquipedalian manner.”
We are time travelers to the future. True, it’s on a smaller scale as compared with sci fi cinematic conceits, but that doesn’t change the fact that today is the future we were envisioning twenty years, ten months, two weeks, one day ago. Right now is yesterday’s future. With every breath and step I take, I travel into the future.
Although…how cool would it be to join Ms. Frizzle and the gang and ride The Magic School Bus back to the time of the dinosaurs?
* * *
Department Of The Best Way To Begin A Podcast
…is with an opening line comparable to this, from a recent episode of Curiosity Daily :
“The butt – way more versatile than you may expect…” ( Curiosity Daily, “Mammals can breathe through their butts,” 6-25-21 )
And why, you may ask, is such a possibility worthy of notation, or research? Researchers are hopeful that this discovery may lead to treatments for humans suffering from severely diminished lung capacity.
Well, of course they are.
As for moiself, although I generally avoid reality TV, I could be persuaded to tune in to see a butt-breathing act on one of those “America’s Got Talent”-type shows.
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Punz For The Day Time Travel Edition
I used to be addicted to time travel, but that’s all in the past now.
If you time travel to the future and get decapitated, you really are a head of your time
If I travel back from the future and carry a bratwurst with me, do I have a link to the past?
I’ve invented a device to harvest herbs from the future: it’s a thyme machine.
“Please, Doc, take us back to before there was this blog.”
* * *
May you enjoy fantasizing about your own Magic School Bus destination; May you help your pulmonary-compromised friends and relatives practice butt-breathing (discretely, please); May you liberate yourself from the desire to buy and/or use fireworks; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 I have such memories. For many years now I’ve have realized that that’s just what they should be: memories, as in, in the past.
Active, reliable, sarcastic, affectionate, bipedal, cynical optimist, writer, freethinker, parent, spouse and friend, I am generous with my handy supply of ADA-approved spearmint gum and sometimes refrain from humming in public.