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The Superhero Unmentionables I’m Not Wearing

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Department Of Theme Songs Previously Unheard…

Until now, that is.

Thanks to a radio station I frequently listen to when I’m driving – a station which treats the ears with old advertising jingles and televisions theme songs as well as “oldies – I recently heard part of the “Wonder Woman” theme song for the first time.

That show was on during the no-TV years for me. I never watched it, nor even knew it had a theme song with lyrics.  As soon as I returned home I had to search the web and check the lyrics, to make sure I was hearing what I thought I was hearing:

Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman/All the world’s waiting for you,
and the power you possess.
In your satin tights/Fighting for your rights….

 

 

REALLY

 

 

 

Really.

In your satin tights/Fighting for your rights….

Ahhhhhh, yes. Perhaps I have inadvertently stumbled upon an explanation for just one of the many, many reasons why both my lifelong quest for superhero status and civil rights have fallen short of my dreams:

no satin tights.

Now I can’t help but think of alternative verses commending the magical underwear of superheroes:

☼  In your lingerie/Showing us the way….

☼  In your undergarments/Chasing evil varmints….

☼  In your silken thong/Righting all that’s wrong….

In your tighty whitey/Looking fierce and mighty….

☼  In your boxer shorts/ Rescuing cohorts….

☼  In your granny pants/Evil has no chance….

☼  In your woolen bloomers/Saving Baby Boomers….

☼  In your BVDs/Fighting Killer Bees….

☼  In your magic drawers/cleansing zit-clogged pores….

☼  In your skanky skivvies/.…

Feel free to stop me anytime.

*   *   *

Content warning:

SOAPBOX

 

Department Of How To Do More Than Just Gripe

…. meat production funnels far more resources through animals than it gets out of them…. even the most efficient sources of meat convert only ~ 11% of feed energy into human food.
And to grow all that animal feed, the industry is constantly converting more native lands to agricultural operations—burning and clear-cutting the Amazon and other forests to make way for feed fields. Today, a whopping 30% of Earth’s landmass goes to meat, dairy, and egg production, according to the United Nations. As the UN also reports, livestock production causes “an even larger contribution” to climate change “than the transportation sector worldwide.” That’s right: Factory farmed animals contribute more to climate change than all the world’s cars, trucks, planes, trains and ships combined.
(Fortune, “How Your Diet Can Save the Planet,” )

Governments of the Most Powerful and Influential Nations ® , especially ours, are doing little to nothing when it comes to initiating effective solutions to combat climate change. We need a global Marshall Plan devoted to such. Absent that, it is easy for individuals to become cynical and think that our ordinary, Best Efforts ®  (I wash and reuse my plastic ziplock bags!) mean diddly-squat.  But… and this is a big but…

 

 

bigbutt

Even bigger than this, if you can imagine.

 

 

…. there is something every individual can do that will make a difference:

Switch to a plant-based diet.

The human population has reached 7.6 billion and could number 9 billion or 10 billion by midcentury. All those people will need to eat. A sobering report published in the journal Nature argues that a sustainable food system that doesn’t ravage the environment is going to require dramatic reforms, including a radical change in dietary habits.
To be specific: Cheeseburgers are out, and fruits and veggies are in.
The 23 authors of the report, hailing from Europe, the United States, Australia and Lebanon, reviewed the many moving parts of the global food system and how they interact with the environment. The authors concluded that the current methods of producing, distributing and consuming food aren’t environmentally sustainable and that damage to the planet could make it less hospitable for human existence.
A core message from the researchers is that efforts to keep climate change at an acceptable level won’t be successful without a huge reduction in meat consumption.
(“Earth’s population is skyrocketing. How do you feed 10 billion people sustainably?” Washington Post)

uncle sam

…to eat your veggies!

 

Despite your best intentions, a weekly Meatless Monday or Steak-less Saturday ain’t gonna cut it. The numbers have been crunched: our patterns of producing, distributing and consuming foods – specifically, animals and animal products – are not sustainable.

New research shows moving away from animal protein towards legumes makes sense nutritionally and environmentally.
… A substantial amount of (greenhouse gas emissions, which exacerbate climate change emissions) comes from livestock farming with the production of the gas, methane….
switching diets towards plants as sources of protein as opposed to meat, is much more sustainable….plant protein sources (have) the lowest environmental production cost, while at the same time demonstrate the highest density of nutrients. “Peas have a nutrient density to environmental footprint ratio approximately five times higher than equivalent amounts of lamb, pork, beef or chicken.”
(“A switch to plant-based protein could help tackle climate change and hunger,”
Science X Network”)

You care about climate change and environmental degradation, don’t you?  [1]  You can do something. Not only about The Planet ®, but about yourself, as well.  If this concept (plant-based nutrition) is new to you, you’re in for a treat. You’ll discover a tasty, healthier way of fueling your body, as opposed to the SAD (Standard American Diet) you’ve likely been following.   [2] And despite the food-as-entertainment and eating-as-sport mindset our industrialized food culture has spawned, our intake of food is ultimately and primarily to provide fuel for our bodies.

If physicians know of a treatment that could prevent and reverse disease, then it seems like that treatment should be the first-line method of care prescribed to patients. Researchers at Kaiser Permanente, one of the largest managed care organizations in the country, found that there is, in fact, such a treatment. In their official materials, they now advise the 17,000+ physicians in their network to recommend the most powerful, yet least-used prescription to their patients: a healthy, plant-based diet and active lifestyle.
(“Why the Nation’s Largest Health Plan Wants Its Doctors
to Recommend a Plant-Based Diet”, Wellness)

Talk to someone who’s made the switch.  Yeah, you’ve fallen for all the advertising that makes it seem cool to brag about adding bacon to every meal, but your body and mind….

 

 

wilbur

…and Wilbur….

 

 

will thank you for wising up.  [3]  

You’ll also, hopefully, derive some satisfaction for not personally contributing to the myriad of environmental degradations caused by industrial meat production, which includes the lagoons of pig shit which overflow after hurricanes and other natural disasters…

 

 

lagoon

No palm trees to decorate these festering lagoons…are your Jimmy Dean sausage patties really worth it?

 

 

   [4] …and the totally preventable/unnatural disaster of the contamination of rural communities’ water supplies from manure and nitrates, which are the “natural” and unavoidable by-products of industrialized meat farming.

And no, if you change your eating habits and go plant-based, you don’t have to go around tossing buckets of blood on people who wear fur,  [5] or call yourself a vegan – or anything special, for that matter. Treat it like any other issue you care about and may, for example, disagree with a family member about. Your Uncle Anus takes every opportunity to crow about why he doesn’t “believe” in global warming; to keep the peace at Thanksgiving you might not counter his beliefs with the facts right there at the table, but you encourage him to do the research  [6]  and get back to you. Ditto, here.  Do the research. Then, be a responsible person and make the changes you can make,  [7]  rather than literally or figuratively sitting on your (expanding, animal products-fed) ass and pissing and moaning about why your government doesn’t ban all coal production or whatever.

 

 

 

turkeys

*   *   *

Department Of Ouch

Dateline: one week ago. I am on the phone with a Very Helpful Young Woman ® who is setting up an account for a new utility billing for MH and moiself. In order to establish credit and bill us, as opposed to requiring payment at time of service, she needs to run a brief credit check on moiself. The only info required is my name, last four digits of my SSN, my mother’s birthname, my date of birth, and occupation.  She goes down the list of questions, and when it gets to occupation, she says, “I assume you’re retired.”

Now, then. Ahem. We’re communicating by phone, so I’m guessing the VHYW made the assumption based on my birth date (which still, IMHO and experience, is a young date to retire). No one’s ever told me my voice sounds old, but maybe to her I sounded like this?

 

 

OLD

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Touchy Issues  [8]

I remember, at the beginning of the modern gay rights movement, how there were some vocal, disgruntled black Americans who complained, in a my-experience-of-prejudice-is-greater-than-yours kind of way, that with regards to discrimination (I’m paraphrasing here), “It’s harder to be black than gay, because you can’t hide that you’re black.”As in, people look at you and know your “race,” while homosexuals can “pass” or get by and no one will know unless you want them to.

 

 

flaming

Of course, it’s harder for some folks to pass than others.

 

 

I’ve been thinking about this issue – that of coming out, to family, friends, neighbors, co-workers – for many years now. On last week’s National Coming Out Day, I wondered if it would be appropriate to, say, on a Facebook post, encourage those of us who are religion-free (but unknown as such, to family and friends) to do the same, on that day?

I decided not to steal the fire, so to speak, from LGBTQ issues. Still, many of us who are religion-free (we People Of The Many Monikers ®, including, atheists, humanists, Freethinkers, Brights, Skeptics, et al) have long realized that we need to take a page from the LGBTQ’s civil rights playbook.  It is far too easy for us to “hide’ or to have our worldviews remain unknown, especially in the USA where prejudice against non-religious believers is common.

A 2013 Harris Poll…found that 23 percent of all Americans have forsaken religion altogether. A 2015 Pew Research Center poll reported that 34 to 36 percent of millennials (those born after 1980) are” nones” and corroborated the 23 percent figure, adding that this was a dramatic increase from 2007, when only 16 percent of Americans said they were affiliated with no religion...(The Rise of the Atheists,” Scientific American)

Despite the fact that there’s been a dramatic increase in the percentage of Americans who claim no religious affiliation, unless you are “out” the default assumption is that you hold (some kind of) religious beliefs.

It was only when LGBTQ people began to come out that the myths surrounding them began to be destroyed. It is easier to express or hold hateful (or just well-meaning but ignorant) opinions and beliefs about what “those people” think or do when those people remain unknown to you – you never have to confront your mutual humanity.

When you find out those homos or those godless commies include the person in the cubicle next to yours, your next door neighbor, your cousin, your mom’s favorite auntie, the man sitting across the dinner table or the woman who sits beside you in the pew every Sunday,   [9]   your opinions almost have to become enlightened…or at least, a bit more in touch with reality.

Wait a minute, I’ve always thought that gays are __ (insert favorite stereotype), but now I found out that cousin Andy is gay, and so is Susie in accounting and my best friend’s brother, and these people are all nice, intelligent, decent, hard-working and principled citizens — not the kind of people at all to cause tornadoes to hit Midwestern trailer parks….hmmm…maybew the 700 Club was wrong about that, and other things….

 

 

Ateed

 

*   *   *

 

May you come out, come out, wherever you are;
May you fight the cynicism and make the changes you can;
May you send me your list of superhero undergarment rhymes;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] If not, stop reading this blog right now, slit your arteries open and dive heart-first into a vat of suet.

[2] Not that you’re a bad person, but we’ve all mostly been raised that way.

[3]  And if for whatever selfish personal reasons you continue to eat meat, climate concerns aside, you do know why you should not eat processed meats…don’t you?

[4] “Lagoons of Pig Waste Are Overflowing After Florence. Yes, That’s as Nasty as It Sounds,” NY Times.

[5] As fun as that might be…I mean, you can still do that, if you want (but I hope you don’t).

[6] This is an easy one to start with: (“Hidden Costs of Industrialized Agriculture“,
Union of Concerned Scientists)

[7] while you can still do so voluntarily and proactively, before all your “numbers” (BP, blood sugar, cholesterol & triglycerides, etc. ) skyrocket and you get your doctor’s ultimatum to go veggie.

[8] As if the whole “go plant-based!” screed wasn’t touchy enough.

[9] Yep, many religious non-believers (including MH, son K, daughter Belle, and moiself) continued to be active church members, for a variety of reasons and for various periods of time, after personally acknowledging that they do not hold religious beliefs.

The Letter I’m Not Sending

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That letter would be to orthopedic surgeon and Oregon State representative Knute Buehler (R-Bend), the Republican party’s candidate in the Oregon governor’s race.  [1] The subject matter of the letter would be the why behind the fact that although there are reasons I might consider voting for him, I cannot vote for him.

And the reasons have nothing to do with the fact that Oregon has elected only one Republican governor in the past 43 years.

I gotta have some respect for a Republican who receives the following critiques:

…Buehler frequently found himself getting into hot water with party activists who didn’t think he was conservative enough. They particularly criticized him for refusing to embrace President Donald Trump and for describing himself as pro-choice on abortion. Buehler’s recent vote in favor of a gun-control bill related to domestic abuse also rankled many gun-rights activists.
(“Republican Buehler Nominated To Face Brown
In Oregon Governor’s Race,” OPB 5-18-18)

After reading about some of Buehler’s positions on various issues, MH wondered aloud, something along the lines of, How/why is this man was even a Republican?

 

 

confusedspock

I have no logical answer at this moment.

 

 

 

I have found the incumbent governor who is running for reelection, Democrat Kate Brown, to be…. mostly acceptable. What I find unacceptable is her campaign’s advertising campaign  [2] against Buehler.  I am particularly disappointed with the way the Democrats are trying to smear Buehler re his claims of being prochoice, despite his repeated public proclamations as such.

“I’m going to vote for you, but I sure wish you were pro-life,” (a Republican voter tells Buehler at the Oregon state fair).
(The Republican voter) says he finds abortion offensive and posits that Buehler’s position is just an appeal to the liberal western portion of the state. Buehler sympathizes with his perspective, but confirms he supports abortion rights. Efforts should be made to make abortion as rare as possible, Buehler says, but the decision to have an abortion should be between a woman and her doctor.
(“Buehler’s ‘pro-choice’ stance: Disliked by conservatives, discredited by Democrats,”
Salem Statesman Journal 9-6-18)

That seems straightforward to me, and expresses sentiments similar to those I’ve heard from both prochoice conservatives and liberals. But many Oregon Democrats don’t like the fact that Buehler disagrees with them on related issues – “it’s my way or the highway” seems to be the attitude they are taking. He must agree with every issue they, or the Oregon chapters of NARAL or Planned Parenthood – organizations which I support, both philosophically and financially – deem to be related to abortion and/or reproductive health care, or they feel entitled to take away his prochoice label.

Example: there was an Oregon House Bill, signed last year by Gov. Brown, which required insurance companies to cover abortions and other reproductive health services at no cost to the patient. (I favored that bill, BTW). Buehler opposed the bill because he considered it “fiscally irresponsible to fund a new program as others were losing funding.” So, Those Who Think They Own The Label ® declare he “really isn’t pro choice.”  Which means I am seeing and hearing political ads featuring Concerned Women ®  saying, “We just can’t trust Knute Buehler,”  and implying that Buehler would somehow do away with women’s rights. And that just frosts my butt.

 

 

slothpeekaboo

While this picture is in no way illustrative of the issue addressed in the previous paragraph, wouldn’’ you rather see a cute sloth than the writer’s frosty butt?

 

 

 

In 1969, Oregon was one of the first states to legalize abortion, even before Roe v. Wade hit the law books. “Our policies are borne out of Oregon exceptionalism,” says (the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon). “We are progressive and libertarian. Voters on the east side of the Cascades may or may not agree with a woman’s right to access abortion, but they sure as heck agree that the government has no place in that decision.”
(“Why Oregon is the Only State that Doesn’t Limit Legal Access to Abortion,”
Portland Monthly)

Oregon’s long record as a prochoice state makes us the envy of many other states; thus, the issue of abortion in this particular political race is not a “biggie” for a staunch prochoice advocate such as moiself. And although he crosses his party’s line in his prochoice stance, I know there are other issues about which Buehler likely toes the Republican party line. But he is willing to tackle what is one of the most important state political issues for me, and one that the Democrats have repeatedly failed to address: the fact that Oregon’s growing public pension obligations are crowding out the rest of the state budget – what the NY Times refers to as a severe, “self-inflicted crisis.”

Oregon…is caught in a fiscal squeeze of its own making. Its economy is growing, but the cost of its state-run pension system is growing faster. … its spiraling costs are notable in part because Oregon enjoys a reputation for fiscal discipline. Its experience shows how faulty financial decisions by states can eventually swamp local communities….
Oregon’s costs are inflated by the way in which it calculates pension benefits for public employees. Some of the pensions include income that employees earned on the side. Other retirees benefit from long-ago stock market rallies that inflated the current value of their payouts.
The bill is borne by taxpayers. Oregon’s Public Employees Retirement System has told cities, counties, school districts and other local entities to contribute more to keep the system afloat. They can neither negotiate nor raise local taxes fast enough to keep up. As a result, pensions are crowding out other spending. Essential services are slashed.
 (“A $76,000 Monthly Pension: Why States and Cities Are Short on Cash,”
NY Times, 4-14-18)

I like Buehler’s willingness to address Oregon’s need for PERS ( Public Employees Retirement System) reform. The PERS as it stands, IMHO as well as the opinions of financially astute people on all sides of the political aisles, is a disaster in the making. The system is unsustainable as currently calculated and implemented, and yessiree Bob, it will be a complicated and a “dirty” fight to reform it.  The spineless Democrats haven’t done a @#$?! thing about it, except to criticize Buehler (or anyone who has a plan to reform PERS), as being anti ____ (teacher, firefighter, or other public employees    [3]  ).  Thus, every four years when it’s time to elect a governor, here come the ads showing Concerned Teachers ® – mostly female, from what I’ve seen – talking about how ____ (insert name of non-Democratic candidate…this year, it’s Buehler) is “against” them.

My butt grows frostier by the minute.

 

 

slothbucket

Oh, no! Don’t worry; we’ll save you from the pictorial representation of her wrath.

 

 

No no no no no – and did I say, no? Teacher Ma’am, those who point out that your purse is leaking dollar bills and that you need to either get a new purse or fix the existing one – or at least stop walking down the street with your purse hanging upside down – are not “against” you, or your profession. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Someone who is trying to save you from inevitable bankruptcy is not out to get you (boys and girls, can you ask your economics teacher to explain what happened in Detroit, or Greece ?). But the critics of those who offer PERS reform, time and time again, year after year, offer nothing substantial in response, except for the occasional mealy mouthed admission that “something” needs to be done…eventually…by someone….

Buehler has proposed a sound beginning approach to PERS reform, and the response is ad homimen criticism from Democrats and teachers’ unions: “Why does Buehler hate teachers/public employees!?!?!?  Their distract-from-the-real-issue hysteria reminds me of the rabid, irrational criticism from conservatives leveled at football players who take a knee to protest racial injustice. Instead of actually listening to and considering the grievances which inspired the players’ actions, it’s,  WHY DO YOU DISRESPECT OUR FLAG AND OUR SOLDIERS ?!?!?!?!?

 

 

cowfish

But everyone respects a picture of a lovely cowfish, so let’s all take a deep breath and think before we yell.

 

 

 

There is a sad truth I am getting back to, in the letter I am currently not sending to you, Rep. Buehler. Despite just having expressed disgust with the black/white, you-must-agree-with-me-on-every-thing-or-you’re-against-me attitude and despite admiring you for your ideas on an issue that is of paramount importance to all Oregonians, I cannot seriously consider voting for you as long as you are willing to remain affiliated with the Republican party.

People who know most of my political positions probably assume I usually vote “for the Democrat,” and that is (usually) correct. For most of my voting life  [4] I have been registered as independent or decline to state for political party affiliation.  [5]  I have, at times, temporarily registered  in a variety of parties – mostly in the two “biggies” (Democrat or Republican), depending on how I wanted to vote in a primary election (or in a couple of cases due to my curiosity as to what kind of political mailers I would receive by being on, say, the Peace and Freedom Party’s membership roll  [6]).  In each case, after the primary election was over, I left skidmarks switching my status back to Independent.

I have never felt a strong affiliation for a political party, in any personal or “loyalty oath” kind of way, and have always loathed (what I view as) the kneejerk, no-thought required tendency of many people to always vote for their party’s candidates, no matter what.  I have voted for Republican candidates who, like you, Mr. Buehler, seemed willing to tackle difficult issues in a meaningful way and “reach across the aisle” to do so. But, as I have previously stated in this space, I will never vote for a Republican again, as long as your party continues to support/does nothing to oust #45.  [7] 

Now, you may point out that the governorship to which you aspire is a state office, not Federal.  It doesn’t matter; I will not vote for a Republican for any political office. If you claim the party affiliation, you share that affiliation with those who support the affront to human decency and civilization that is The Current Occupant of The White House. Your Republican brethren at the top seem impervious to criticism from the top, so I’m holding all of y’all down the totem pole responsible.

I’m sorry, Mr. Buehler, because you seem like a thoughtful, intelligent, just plain good person in many ways, and one who is trying to do his best for the state he loves. But the continued presence of #45 shows, to me, that those who support him have turned a blind eye to their country and their humanity – as particularly and abhorrently illustrated by the events of recent weeks  [8]  – which leaves me ethically unable to support anyone at any governmental level who is willing to remain on the Republican team.

 

 

 

ladyliberty

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of A Possible Exception To The Previous Proclamation

I could vote for a Republican who was actively and publicly working to remove #45 from office via impeachment or by invoking the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Oh And One More Thing

The above political cartoon, by Bruce MacKinnon for The Halifax Chronicle Herald, should be a shoo-in, IMHO, for the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning.

*   *   *

 

 

May you carefully weigh the costs of your affiliations;
May you accept my thanks for abiding with me through one-issue rants posts;
May pictures of sloths warm your frosty butts;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Notice I did not use the term, Gubernatorial, and when you’re around me, please don’t you use it, either. I find the word offensive, as in unnecessarily fancy…and just plain nasty.

[2] An objectionable political advertising campaign – what a surprise!

[3] Which include some OHSU physicians and Oregon University football coaches, some drawing grotesquely inflated pensions of more than $76,000…per MONTH.

[4] Since I register to vote at age 18 I’ve never missed an election for which I was qualified to vote.

[5] The label has varied from state and county, etc.

[6] The mailers were never as interesting – or out and out loony tunes – as I’d hoped they’d be.

[7] Whose name is not spoken in my house.

[8] I of course refer to the SCOTUS nomination and confirmation of Judge “I love beer so much I can’t remember the women I tried to rape when I was drunk but I love beer don’t you love beer and nothing’s gonna happen to privileged white preppie boys like me, boy ya gotta love beer!” Kavanaugh.

The Beauty Pageant I’m Not Entering

Comments Off on The Beauty Pageant I’m Not Entering

Although the current events of the past two weeks have been almost unbearably rant-worthy, y’all may notice I haven’t posted much on “politics.” At this what-could-be-pivotal-but-may-only-be-a-blip-in-obtaining-justice-and-reining-in-misogyny-and-privilege moment in history, I’m a bit…pessimistic…re my fellow citizens’ ability to Do The Right Thing. ® 

To employ – actually, create – a WTF? metaphor, let me just say that were I to be a contestant in the Ms. Human Nature Beauty Pageant – I mean of course, Scholarship Pageant – the judges would likely throw me out after the first round…and the other contestants would unanimously vote me, Miss Anthropic.   [1]

 

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of “What’s That Bitch Sayin’—what’s a Igneous —Fish Loggin’?’

It’s odd, sometimes, what sparks a memory.

From ages 18 through 28, I ran in the morning, every morning, for my primary form of exercise. When I was in college I would set my alarm to get up and going while it was still dark but approaching dawn;  [2]  I found it… aesthetically pleasing, would be the best way to describe it, to finish my run with the rising sun.  ‘Twas a nice way to start the day.

There was a grassy field near my (freshman year) dorm, and every day during the late winter through spring early mornings I’d run past a dozen or so rabbits which were out in the field, nibbling on whatever munchies they could find.  The first few mornings they fled at my approach, but as the weeks went by their little bunny brains apparently got used to the sight of a lone biped loping past – not at – them.  Once they realized I posed no threat they’d stand their ground, heads up, chins bobbing sideways with chewing, acknowledging me (or so I liked to think) as I passed by.  I often wondered what they thought – if they thought, at all – about what I was doing or where I was going. Perhaps, they figured, I was on my way to my own field of greens.

 

 

bunnies

It’s her again. Everybody act normal.

 

 

 

I would not keep that particular schedule now. Translation: I would not run or do any form of exercise outside alone, at night or in the early morning darkness, without carrying some kind of personal protection device. [3]   Never-you-mind-how-many years ago, it never occurred to me to feel unsafe on campus. I was never hassled by anyone when I was running (but then, I almost never encountered anyone, during those early hours).  That changed after graduation

My morning routine did not change: I still got up early to do my run/exercise/shower routine, only now it was to do these things before work instead of before classes. And instead of running on campus I was now running on the sidewalks and streets in areas surrounding whatever apartment/rental house I was occupying.  Thus, I became privy to the phenomenon of men (mostly plural, but the occasional lone male), usually in passing cars (some on bicycles, on foot, or in nearby buildings), who feel compelled to “comment” on women they pass by.

By comment I mean, as almost every female above the age of eight knows, spew a series of masturbatory grunts, groans and whistles. Their auditory emissions occasionally contained an intelligible world or two, typically of the hey baby woo-hoo ilk.

 

 

manboobss

I can run outdoors every day, dressed like this, and nobody yells about my boobs!

 

 

 

I never said anything in reply – although there were times….oh, lawdy, there were times…when my middle fingers practically begged for extension. My only reaction to the comments was to momentarily heighten my alert level – for example, I’d make sure that the car from which came the cretinous comments had indeed kept on going in its original direction and was not turning around to follow me.

It happened All. The. Time. As in, on an almost daily basis. It was so frequent that I noted the “aberration” of those days when my run was harassment-free. This is not an exaggeration.

One Saturday I allowed moiself the luxury of sleeping in, and went for a run at (what for me was) a later time, around 8 am. I decided to do a new route, and went downtown, where I approached…a construction site. For a moment, I considered changing my route:  nah, it’s early on a Saturday, and I don’t see any construction crews on site, and shame on me for holding that stereotype.  Then, as if out of nowhere, there they were: three men in hardhats standing around bright orange construction cones surrounding a manhole.  Sure enough, they produced the commentary as I ran past them.  I kept going for a few seconds, then thought, Nope, not today.

I did an about face and strode, slowly, deliberately, back to where the manhole-assholes stood. They eyed me suspiciously as I approached them; the smirks so evident in their voices a mere five seconds earlier had morphed into wary silence.  I stopped when I was about 10 feet away from them.

Do you realize, I said, when you say things like that to women, you perpetuate the stereotype that male construction workers are ignorant misogynists?

Although I didn’t have the acronym back then, their facial expressions were classic WTF?… and became even WTF?-er when I chuckled aloud at my silent realization: Holy thesaurus, they need a translator – they have no idea what those words mean.

I resumed my run.

 

 

ava

Say there big fella, my girlfriends and I find it oh-so-sexy when men comment on our bodies as we’re walking in public…said no woman ever.

 

*   *   *

Department Of High Praise, Indeed

Dateline: last Saturday, MH and I discussing ways to make the drive to the coast less boring for the two cats  [4]  we take with us when we go for the weekend.  We put them in their respective carriers and lock the carriers into the back seatbelts; they are safe that way,  [5]  but of course confined, and have not much to do, or even look at.

MH, wondering aloud:   “There should be a way for them to look out the window, like you see dogs doing.”

Moiself, responding even aloud-er: “Yeah, there should be a…cat-traption, for that.”

MH: “Cat-traption – I like that word. It should be in a crossword puzzle.”

My work here is done.

 

hatcat

This is not the cat-traption to which I refer.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Why All Sports Announcers Should Be British

Should you doubt that proclamation, listen to the Freakonomics podcast How Sports Became Us. Not the whole thing (unless you’re interested, of course), but just the archival tape of the announcement from the 1954 radio broadcast when middle distance runner Roger Bannister had broken what had been thought to be an unbreakable record for track athletes: the sub four minute mile. The announcement comes at 3 minutes 25 seconds into the program, when the British announcer declares Bannister’s feat to be:

“…the Everest of athletic achievement.”

Really; you have to listen to it – perhaps not the way I’ve been doing it, over and over and over. It’s just so succinctly British – I’ve no idea what the announcer was wearing, but you know it had to be upper class twit tweed.  And the way he crisply enunciates each syllable – The Ev-er-est of ath-let-ic-achieve-ment – you can practically smell the tea and crumpets.

 

 

 

twit2

 

 

 

*   *   *

 

“Never accept a ride from a strange man, and remember, all men are strange.”  [6]

 

remember

 

*   *   *

May you attain your own personal Ev-er-est of achieve-ment;
May you know “what those words mean” when you are being confronted;
May you smell the tea and crumpets;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Regular or even sporadic readers of the blog will correctly surmise that I hold all the classic feminist/humanist objections to meat market parades “beauty contests.” But for the purposes of this blog and the horrible mixing of yet another metaphor, a gal can always fantasize….

[2] Wouldn’t you have loved to have been my roommate? Although, I did warn them in advance of my early rising habits.

[3]  A can of mace? A strobe light/alarm/pepper spray device?  Or the ultimate “feminine protection” – an extra strength tampon which transforms into a 9mm Glock?

[4] We are currently a four-cat household.  I know…I know.

[5] Or as relatively safe as any creature is in an automobile.

[6] Second wave feminist quote; source disputed.

The Lot I’m Not Accepting

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Department Of At Last, An Honest Answering Device

Last week I was gob smacked by the picture MH sent me of our answering machine’s display of a caller ID (for the phone call he missed):

 

 

ID

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of It’s Just Where My Mind Goes

My first thought upon reading the following review  [1] excerpt: The film isn’t circumcised?

New York Times Critics’ Pick!
An uncut gem of a movie…..

*   *   *
Department Of No, I Can’t Just Leave It Alone

Whaddya mean, I’ve never told you my favorite circumcision jokes?

Q. What did the receptionist say to the patient waiting in the circumcisionist’s office?
A. “It won’t be long now.”

Q. How much does a circumcisionist earn?
A. One hundred dollars an hour, plus tips.

 

CAMEL

 

 

 

Speaking of unkind cuts…what a convenient segue to

 

 

Department Of Name Dropping And Saint Shaming

Mother Teresa’s work was part of a global enterprise for the alleviation of bourgeois guilt, rather than a genuine challenge to those forces that produce and maintain poverty.
(“Mother Teresa as the Mirror of Bourgeois Guilt,”
Indian journalist/historian Vijay Prashad )

The following rant thoughtful explication was prompted by a recent comment I overheard, which I list in the paragraph after the warning.

(Consider yourself warned.)

Should you ever attempted to deflect a commendation (within earshot of moiself ) regarding an act of generosity or kindness on your part  by using the intended-to-be humble qualifier, “Well, I’m no Mother Teresa…”, brace yourself for my rejoinder:

“Yes, but Mother Teresa was, in fact, ‘no Mother Teresa.’ ”   [2]

The first time I recall doing this was at least fifteen years ago, during the book study group I attended at a UCC church (where we the still-closeted atheists – MH and I – were active members). I cannot recall the book under discussion nor the particular comment which elicited a fellow book group member’s poorly-timed, Well, I’m no Mother Teresa….

“Poorly-timed” translation:  I’d been reading up on Mother Teresa, having come across criticism from liberal Catholics regarding MT’s entry into what amounted to the RC church’s “Ten Items or Fewer” saint checkout line.  [3]  In doing so I’d encountered a surprising number of informed and rational voices – from British journalist Christopher Hitchens to Australian academic and social critic Germaine Greer [4] to Indian physicians and activists and others. These voices had dared to question –  and more importantly, to examine – MT’s previously unexamined reputation as a humble, selfless humanitarian devoted to the poor.  And I began to share some of my “encounters” with the book group.

Pity that unfortunate I’m-no-Mother-Teresa comment-dude…. I did later apologize to him   [5]  for getting the group “off track.” (And the always tolerant and circumspect book group leader practically left skidmarks getting us “back to the subject at hand.”)

 

weinterrupt

 

As per the name-dropping: In October 2007 I attended the Freedom From Religion Foundation‘s annual convention, held that year in Madison, WI. Christopher Hitchens, one of the featured speakers, gave a rousing speech for his acceptance of the FFRF’s The Emperor Has No Clothes Award   [6].  Later that evening, a New Friend I Met At The Convention ® and I went to the hotel bar/cafe, to discuss the day’s events over wine and a tasty hummus platter.   [7]  There were no tables available, so NFIMATV and I took a seat at the bar.  NFIMATV noticed that Mr. Hitchens was seated at the end of the bar, a mere six barstools down from us, and decided we should commend him re his speech.

Although never averse to chatting up strangers, I was reluctant to “pester” someone who was…well, a celebrity of sorts.  I reminded NFIMATV of Hitchens’ reputation for not suffering fools;  [8]  also, he’d just spoken in front of hundreds of people and might want to simply unwind and sip his drink….

NFIMATV would have none of my protestations. “He came to a crowded, public place! If he wanted to be left alone he’d have gone up to his suite and ordered room service.” She grabbed my arm and literally dragged me down to the end of the bar.

NFIMATV briefly introduced herself and I to Hitch, and complimented him on his speech. Moiself said WTF to moiself, and then aloud to Hitch: “I thought you might appreciate knowing that you’ve been quoted…uh, by me…in a church book study group, when someone said the usual obsequious nonsense about Mother Teresa.”

Hitch winked at me, replied, “Indeed,” and raised his whiskey glass in a toast. Then it was my turn to be the arm-grabber as I led NFIMATV back to our end of the bar.

This ends the name-dropping portion of our programming.

 

 

reliefjpg

 

 

“I just thought that this myth [re Mother Teresa and the Catholic charities providing compassionate care in the slums of India] had to be challenged”….
Over hundreds of hours of research, much of it cataloged in a book he published in 2003, Dr. Chatterjee said he found a “cult of suffering” in homes run by Mother Teresa’s organization, the Missionaries of Charity, with children tied to beds and little to comfort dying patients but aspirin.
He and others said that Mother Teresa took her adherence to frugality and simplicity in her work to extremes, allowing practices like the reuse of hypodermic needles and tolerating primitive facilities that required patients to defecate in front of one another.
(from “A Critic’s Lonely Quest: Revealing the Whole Truth About Mother Teresa,
NY Times profile of Dr. Aroup Chaterjee )

It is highly likely that what you “know,” and what most people think they know, about MT comes from a book about her  [9] – and the media coverage about the celebrity visits to MT’s clinics, which followed publication of the book – written by Malcolm Muggeridge.  Muggeridge, a zealous Roman Catholic convert and conservative British social commenter, was derided by  Christopher Hitchens as “that old fraud and mountebank.” Hitchens largely credited Muggeridge for providing the propaganda tool which spawned MT’s becoming “the focus of a fawning cult who used the suffering of the poor for her own political and ideological ends.”

 

 

Mother

 

 

Christopher Hitchens was MT’s most vocal – but by no means only –  detractor.  He described her as a “thieving, fanatical Albanian dwarf,” and charged that the missions she ran in Calcutta were humanitarian humbugs serving as a masquerade for her “cult of death and suffering.”  What Hitch did by investigating MT and her work is what any good journalist – and citizen – should do, and yet because he was one of the first to do so he was considered radical and contrarian when he was in fact being sensible and straightforward: he judged Mother Theresa‘s reputation by her words and actions.  What was being promoted by the myth makers, saint manufacturers was the opposite – they wanted you to judge MT’s words and actions by her reputation.

Okay, perspective timeout. If you’re interested in this subject, or just perplexed because this is the first time you’ve heard about the MT controversy, you can find much more information than the crumbs I offer in this space.  There have been books, articles, even a documentary  [10] on the subject, by writers and investigators far more experienced and eloquent then moiself.  If you find your defensive hackles rising at the mere thought of criticizine a “saint”–  if you prefer the PR to reality – it’s likely you won’t be convinced by the evidence, no matter the source.

Evidence – and her own words – show that Mother Teresa was not so much a “champion of the poor” but a religious fanatic who took pleasure in their suffering. Not only did she refuse to alleviate the pain of her patients but she gloried in it. As she herself said: “I think it is very beautiful for the poor to accept their lot, to share it with the passion of Christ. I think the world is being much helped by the suffering of the poor people.”
(“Mother Teresa ‘a friend of poverty, not of the poor,” Carol Hunt, independent.ie)

Here’s the main point, which I think cannot be overemphasized:  Mother Teresa did not love the poor and the afflicted; she was in love with poverty and affliction. The difference is astronomically crucial, particularly in understanding her motivation – which is most adamantly not an excuse – for the way she treated her patients and ran her organization.

Did she see the Calcutta slum dwellers for who and what they were, and respect them as (non-Catholic) individuals? Or did she see them as mere objects sharing a “lot” she considered to be some kind of blessed condition bestowed by her deity?

People who are in fact poor and genuinely suffering do not idealize their misery. The destitute want to rise out of poverty, and the afflicted want to get well. To think (and act) otherwise about their situations is patronizing, not compassionate.

 

pajamasloth

Is it time for some kind of cute picture to relieve the tension?

 

A summary of the reality behind the Mother Teresa mythos:

* Critics have pointed out a host of ways in which MT’s mission of mercy was not all that it seemed, including but not limited to her shady ways of caring for the sick, her problematic political contacts, her irregular management of the vast sums of money she received, and her harsh, dogmatic views on social and cultural issues.  Examples include:

* Doctors and journalists who visited MT’s clinics accused her of perpetuating the suffering of destitute patients by not giving them easily obtainable painkillers and by having the dying spend their final weeks on wooden pallets in communal dormitories, fed only on boiled rice and water;

* Families who took their loved ones to MT’s clinics to receive care for, e.g., a broken leg, complained that their loved ones were treated as if they were dying (i.e., given only hospice-type care and not transferred or referred to another, actual medical clinic) and thus did die, from lack of treatment of totally non-lethal, treatable ailments.  [11]  Meanwhile, MT herself traveled out of the country to California clinics when she got sick and required treatment.

* Several visitors who traveled to see MT’s Calcutta clinic, impressed by the mission to help the poor but appalled by the clinic’s primitive conditions and lack of supplies, made substantial donations to MT’s order (“The Sisters of Charity”) for the express purpose of updating and supplying the clinic. When these donors returned months or years later to see what their monies had wrought, they were shocked to find the clinic was as rundown as it had always been (and MT’s order refused to publish any audit of its funds).  Meanwhile, MT’s order was opening religious schools around the world – by MT’s own claim she opened 500 convents in more than one hundred countries – most of them bearing her name.  [12]

* Germaine Greer called MT a “religious imperialist” bent on evangelism,” and Indian human rights activists accused MT of a covert agenda – trying to convert the poor to Christianity, under the guise of treating the sick. Witnesses observed MT and her staff performing the Catholic rite of baptism upon dying and delusional non-Christian patients while pretending to cool the patients’ heads with wet cloths.

* MT accepted donations from – and provided photo ops for – sleazy public figures who gave her donations –  including the brutal Haitian dictator “Baby Doc” Duvalier (whom she praised in return), the disgraced British publisher Robert Maxwell, and the thieving American banker, Charles Keating (remember the S & Loan crisis?) – while refusing to comment upon (or claiming ignorance about) their atrocious human rights violations.

This last * is particularly galling to me, because if you can for some reason excuse the other criticisms of MT, how can you justify, other than for brazen $$ interests, her cozying up to such horrible people and regimes? Do you know about her astonishing personal involvement in the prosecution of Charles Keating?

MT wrote a letter, on behalf of Keating to the judge who tried Keating’s case, asking for mercy and leniency in Keaton’s sentencing…despite claiming in the letter to know nothing about his business nor the criminal charges levied against him. The Deputy DA who worked on the prosecution of Keating wrote an eloquent letter back to MT, detailing the charges against Keating and the sources of the money that Keating had donated to MT, thus providing, as Hitchens put it, the “clearest and best-documented proof against the customary apologies about (MT’s supposed) innocence and unworldliness.”

The DA was so appalled by MT’s efforts on behalf of her benefactor  – and her seeming lack of concern for those Keating had swindled – that he allowed Hitchens to print his response to MT in its entirety, in Hitchen’s MT expose, The Missionary Position.  An excerpt from his letter:

“The victims of Mr. Keating’s fraud come from a wide spectrum of society. Some were wealthy and well-educated. Most were people of modest means and unfamiliar with high finance. One was, indeed, a poor carpenter who did not speak English and had his life saving’s stolen by Mr. Keating’s fraud….

You urged (the judge) to look into his heart – as he sentences Charles Keating – and do what Jesus would do. I submit the same challenge to you. Ask yourself what Jesus would do if he were given the fruits of a crime; what Jesus would do if he were in possession of money that had been stolen; what Jesus would do if he were being exploited by a thief to ease his conscience?

I submit that Jesus would promptly and unhesitatingly return the stolen property to its rightful owners. You should do the same. You have been given money by Keating that he has been convicted of stealing by fraud. Do not permit him the “indulgence”  [13]  he desires. Do not keep the money. Return it to those who worked for it and earned it.

If you contact me I will put you indirect contact with the rightful owners of the property now in your possession.”

Mother Teresa neither replied to the letter nor returned the money.

*   *   *

May you always judge the reputation by the deeds, and not vice-versa;
May you always be able to provide an accounting;
May you know (at least as per circumcision jokes) when to leave it alone;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

 

[1] for the movie, We the Animals.

[2] And be relieved if I stop at the mere rejoinder and do not go into full lecture mode. 

[3] Bypassing traditional procedures for canonization, a move by Pope John Paul II which bothered many Catholics.

[4] Greer was once on the same airplane flight as MT, and noted that while she (Greer) rode in economy class, MT, who had taken a vow of poverty, rode in first class.  Greer had critiqued  MT and the Catholic charitable orders and their policies and politics before and after that plane ride, and infamously referred to MT as the “glamour girl of poverty” and MT’s Missionary order as an “order of clones.”

[5] And he later thanked me for bringing up a hitherto unknown (to him) perspective.

[6] An award bestowed by the FFRF, for public figures who use “plain speaking” on the shortcomings of religion.

[7]  We had to settle for stale pretzels. But the wine was nice.

[8] Which had been fully on display that evening during a Q & A session after his speech, when “Hitch” calmly, wittily, and effectively verbally eviscerated those who were less than prepared/articulate in framing their questions.

[9] Something Beautiful For God.

[10] “Hell’s Angel,” produced by Hitchens and journalist Tariq Ali. Hitchen’s research for this film, which first ran as a BBC television program in 1994, spurred him to write the book, The Missionary Position.

[11] And these poor families (who later spoke with journalists) told of how when they complained to the local  authorities, they were either disbelieved or hushed up, due to MT’s reputation.

[12] So much for her claims of modesty and humility.

[13] The purchase of “indulgences” (i.e.. buying one’s way to forgiveness)  was once an acceptable method of seeking forgiveness in the Catholic church. It was one of the theological abominations cited by Martin Luther which led to The Protestant reformation.

The Scandal I’m Not Surprised By

2 Comments

commie money

 

Department Of Maturity   [1]

I refer to what one friend has described as “that thing you do with money.”   [2]

Moiself has previously, in this space, mentioned doing that thing, which is “fixing” paper currency in order to reflect the way it should be – the way our money was, before amidst the 1950s Here Come the Commies! scare, when a minister talked President Eisenhower into adding In God We Trust to the back of the USA’s various dollar bills.

Wednesday, after receiving change from a purchase, I whipped out a pen and began my usual currency corrective.

 

 

money2

 

 

Only this time, for reasons that still eludes me, I turned the bill over and added a couple of facial hair adornments to our Boy George.  Doing so made me feel forty years younger, I swear.

 

 

money1

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of What Will It Take?

Stronger than the compassion I feel for the person who accidentally bumps his head into a brick wall is my WTF ?!?!?! mystification regarding, and contempt for, those who continues to beat their heads against a wall and then complain about having a concussion.

 

 

wall

“I don’t get it, why does this keep hurting?”

 

 

Again, and again, and again.  Folks, remaining in an organization which has committed atrocities and crimes, even if you voice your disapproval and intend to work for reform “from the inside the tent,” is acquiescing to – if not abetting – those very offenses.

I refer to the latest grand jury revelation of…

 

welk

A one and a two, all together now:

 

♫  Decades Of Child Sexual Abuse By Priests  ♫     [3]

 

This time, the grand jury report hails from Pennsylvania. The report, resulting from over two years of investigation and compilation, reinforces the impression that the most sophisticated crime syndicate could take a page from the Roman Catholic Church’s playbook when it comes to systematic, systemic and strategic cover-ups of felony behavior.

Drug lords paying off district attorneys and cops pales in comparison to the church’s:

…breathtakingly horrific…scope of sexual abuse of children. (the report) chronicles in detail how the Catholic hierarchy from the diocese to the Vatican worked not only mitigate the church’s legal exposure, but to maintain strategies to “avoid scandal.”
( The grand jury report about Catholic priest abuse in Pennsylvania shows the church is a criminal syndicate, Anthea Butler,
Associate professor of religious studies, University of Pennsylvania)

 

 

sin

 

 

 

Yesterday morning I was listening to (the NPR radio show) Here & Now ‘s interview with James Faluszczak, a former Catholic priest.  Faluszczak was himself molested by a priest and was one of the many victims – out of an estimated one thousand in Pennsylvania– who testified to the grand jury about the abuse.

Near the end of the interview, the Here & Now host wondered aloud if Faluszczak still identifies with his church.  Alone in my car, I yelled out the answer I hoped to hear from any sane and sentient being: an indignant, FUCK NO. Instead, I listened in sorrowful – if unsurprised – disgust to the following exchange:

Host: “Are you still a Catholic?”

Faluszczak: Absolutely.

Host: Why?

Faluszczak: “I have a sense that God has a relationship with me, that I have a relationship with Christ, and that is mediated through ritual, and so the rituals of the church are still important to me….

 

 

REALLY

 

 

Bingo.  This is why such abuse happens and even flourishes: the fact that there are too many people who do not remove their allegiance from that which is corrupt. Such abuse will continue to happen, in one form of another, if people have the credulity to embrace superstition and mythology and allow reality to be “mediated” in any way, but especially “through ritual.”

 

 

wtf

 

 

Mr.  Faluszczak….dude.  I’m sorry for what happened to you, and thanks for testifying to the investigation.  [4]  I’ve no doubt think you are a force for good, but by continuing to stay in the church/identify as a Catholic you are in fact an enabler of the very evil you claim to be disgusted by.

You say you “sense” you have a relationship with this Christ, who, according to your Catholic/Christian theology, is your “savior.” Your god/savior did nothing to save – let me pick just one example from the thousands upon thousands of cases worldwide   [5] –  a seven year old girl from the physical and emotional brutality of having one of your god’s mediators rape her while she was hospitalized for a tonsillectomy.   [6]

Such a deity, if it actually existed, deserves to be spat upon instead of having “a relationship with.” 

 

 

“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”
(Voltaire)

*   *   *

Department Of There’s More Than One Way To Abuse A Child

 

 

Dawkins

 

 

 

 

*   *   * 

cant-we-talk-about-something-more-pleasant-a-memoi

A great book, as well as a good segue to a slightly less icky topic.

 

*   *   *

Department Of In God(s) You May Not Trust, But Believe Your Nose

If, when you get dressed in the morning to go for a walk, you sense that your daughter’s otherwise adorable Bengal kitty – which you are caring for while your daughter is doing a six-month post-college internship in a wildlife sanctuary in Arkansas – has peed in your basket of exercise socks, ditch the incredulity, for that is indeed what has happened.

 

 

 

 

yetipee

What a cute object. I think I’ll piss on it.

 

 

 

*   *   *

 

 

May you have the courage not abet the abominable;
May you neither believe absurdities nor commit atrocities;
May you trust your nose, especially when putting on your socks;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Which, I am told, is going to happen to me any minute now.

[2] And moiself is not the only god-free person who does this. It is an easy form of activism, meant to provoke thought on the issue (or knotted knickers for the Christian Fundies – I’ll settle for either).

[3] Which should be the name of a punk rock band.

[4] And for attempting,as he did for decades, to report his abuse, to his superiors and then fellow priests, only to have his testimony – SURPRISE! – totally ignored. He of course should have gone directly to the police….

[5] There are so many they merit their own Wikipidia page, which lists the scandals per country.

[6] “The depravity of the abuse…I can’t even begin to describe,” Faluszczk said during the interview, when he was asked if the revelations shocked him.

The Book I’m Not Finishing

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Department Of I Should Have Known Better

It was a podcast that sent me back to the book, this time.  By the book I mean the book I should have finished reading several ( as in, almost ten ) years ago.  Do you know what I mean?

 

Of course you don’t. Because I am the only person on this planet who does what I am about to describe.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali came to the attention of the wider world in an extraordinary way. In 2004 a Muslim fanatic, after shooting the filmmaker Theo van Gogh dead on an Amsterdam street, pinned a letter to Mr. van Gogh’s chest with a knife. Addressed to Ms. Hirsi Ali, the letter called for holy war against the West and, more specifically, for her death.
A Somali by birth and a recently elected member of the Dutch Parliament, Ms. Hirsi Ali had waged a personal crusade to improve the lot of Muslim women. Her warnings about the dangers posed to the Netherlands by unassimilated Muslims made her Public Enemy No. 1 for Muslim extremists….
The circuitous, violence-filled path that led Ms. Hirsi Ali from Somalia to the Netherlands is the subject of “Infidel,” her brave, inspiring and beautifully written memoir…..
Ms. Hirsi Ali describes a journey “from the world of faith to the world of reason,” a long, often bitter struggle to come to terms with her religion and the clan-based traditional society that defined her world and that of millions of Muslims all over.

The book I’m not finishing is the much-praised (as per the above excerpts from William Grimes’ review in the New York Times) Infidel: My Life, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

I have had the Infidel book for…I don’t know how long.  [1]  And I have started reading it….I don’t know many times. Last weekend, as I have done before (and before and before and before), I found the book in my stash pile, started over (it had been at least a year since my last attempt), then, once again, set it aside.  I haven’t been able to read past the chapter in which the author – using an almost journalistic,  dispassionate prose style I’ve come to recognize as being common to PTSD survivors – describes her horrific torture and mutilation at that age 5, when she (and her younger sister) underwent the barbaric procedure of FGM or female genital mutilation (which was, and in some cases still us, euphemistically and mistakenly referred to, by the countries and cultures and religions that practiced and/or mandated it, as “female circumcision”  [2]  ).

Ms. Hirsi Ali’s bravery seemingly knows few bounds; she is a passionate and articulate activist for feminism,  human rights, free speech and freedom from religion, despite being under constant fatwas or death threats from Muslim extremists  (ala another ex-Muslim writer, Salman Rushdie, who lived for years in virtual exile).  [3]    I’ve read/heard  excerpts of Hirsi Ali’s other works and speeches;  I know she is respected in the free speech and Freethinker communities, and I feel that, in order to respect her work, I need to read her influential memoir in its entirety….

And yet I just can’t get past her recounting of the misogynistic, life-negating, barbarism, which – as is the norm in FGM – was arranged and abetted by trusted family members. I know she survives her ordeal and eventually escapes from other self -negating circumstances (including an arranged marriage)…but the FGM was done to her when she was only five years old, and moiself, perhaps immaturely but self-protectively, wonders how much more deprivation, ignorance and brutality is going to be served up until I can get to the Triumph-Over-Adversity ® chapters?

What am I, some kind of intellectual coward?

 

 

chickens

 

 

 

As a long-time feminist activist with a background in reproductive health care, I am no stranger to the horrific reality of FGM.  Still, it affects me in ways that reading about other brutalities (e.g. war; serial murders) do not, possibly in part for the personal/worldwide/political ramifications of such a primitive, atrocious, spirit-crushing, female-hating ritual.

I’m wondering if others have had the same problem, when it comes to reading about gruesome trauma?  There have been other books I’ve read, usually memoir other non-fiction, where I have been unable to get past certain passages, then felt it was somehow disrespecting the integrity of the work as a whole to continue reading the book via skipping problematic passages or chapters, so I set the books aside for a few months…but eventually tackled them again and was able to finish. But, in this case, I’m talkin’ years of avoidance.

And now, once again, the Serious Book ®  – which I’ve come to view as a literary equivalent to cleaning behind the refrigerator, taking cod liver oil, and memorizing the capital cities of all fifty states (i.e., daunting tasks that are supposed to be “good for me”) sits on my nightstand, atop my I’ll-get-to-it-eventually pile.  [4]  Not that I’m paranoid or anything, but I swear the book’s front cover has been glaring at me disapprovingly, each night since I set it atop my reading pile, as it sees me open the literary equivalent of Twinkies on my Kindle reader: two other memoirs (one of a recently deceased actor and the other of a punk/pop “princess”).   [5]

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of You Had To Be There

Sighting of week: Dateline, Monday morning, just before 7: 30 am. A big ass truck (y’all know the kind) pulls into the driveway of a house I am approaching on my morning walk.

 

 

big truck

This about captures the size ratio.

 

 

 

The driver’s door opens, and inside the big ass truck I espy a very petite, very blonde, very, very pregnant young woman. Dwarfed by the mammoth vehicle, she exits the cab by somehow sliding down the side of it (the truck has no cab step). She manages to land gracefully and delicately on her tiny feet, then waddles toward the house.

On the one hand, nothing remarkable, right? On the other hand…I have different fingers.

 

 

bearmeme

 

 

Sorry.

On the other hand, it seemed like a noteworthy feat for me to bear witness to, let alone for the Very Petite, Very Blonde, Very, Very Pregnant Young Woman ® to accomplish. The image has been coming back to me all week, and has served as a reminder that there is a kind of extraordinary grace – even beauty – to be found in ordinary situations.

 

*   *   *

Department Of If You Haven’t Got Anything Nice To Say, Come Sit By Me

Dateline: last week, driving to the beach.  I took one of my favorite “shortcuts” from the Sunset Highway to the coast – a very windy, two lane road snaking through the Nehalem River Valley, Route 53,  which MH and refer to as Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride – and stopped for lunch at a café off of Highway 101. I’ve eaten at the café many times in the past few months; I’ve found the service is friendly, and the food a notch above standard diner fare if mostly unremarkable.

There was much food remarking that day, however, between a young man working at the café and an older couple who were seated at a table near the door. The café is small, and I couldn’t help but hear the conversation, which began with the couple complimenting their lunches (“This is hands down the best food we’ve had on the coast!  [6]  ) to the young man when he refilled their water glasses. They asked him for dining recommendations as they headed north; the young man enthused about a Thai restaurant up north of Astoria, then the three of them began discussing other local dining options

The couple said they’d heard about a new restaurant in Manzanita, which several people had recommended to them, but it had a crazy (to them) name:  YolkWhose idea was it to call a restaurant, Yolk? the man chuckled. It’s not very appealing, but their food is good, I hear. Maybe, a little on the fancy side?”

“It’s hard to imagine it would be as good as this,” said the woman, indicating with her fork the mass various yellow, fried items on her plate.

Young Café Man thanked them again, and said he thought that his café’s food could stand up to that of any other restaurant, including the “high end” ones, like Yolk.  He treaded lightly at first – he said he had friends who’d dined at the new place and liked it – then he dove right in.

“I don’t want to knock another local place…. Young Café Man said (as he proceeded to do so). “Fancier places like Yolk have a impressive menu and all. But most people don’t realize we local restaurants all  get our food from the same suppliers, then they serve the same thing – they serve the same French fries we do – only  call it something different and charge four bucks more a plate for it….”

And there I sat, eating my Gardenburger, trying not to smirk as I realized that holding my tongue when I first heard the mention of Yolk was a good idea. I was going to offer, after the man had said their food is good, I hear, that indeed, IMHO, Yolk’s food is not only good but great – in fact, Yolk was my favorite place in on the coast for breakfast and I would highly recommend it, for the incredible, tasty, creative menu items, a visually appealing dining space and friendly service….

But if I had done so, perhaps I wouldn’t have had the guilty pleasure of listening in on Young Café Man’s bogus claim about Yolk’s food sources.

Yo, Young Café Man: it’s one thing to share your opinion – to which of course you are entitled.  But when you start making allegedly factual statements that are untrue….

“… then they serve the same thing – they serve the same French fries we do – only  call it something different and charge four bucks more a plate for it….”

 

 

 

we are not amused

 

 

 

 

Young Café Man, I have many meals at your restaurant, and also at the restaurant you unjustly disparaged.  Not only does Yolk have an entirely different menu than your establishment,  [7]   they do not, in fact, “serve the same French fries.”  Thus, I assume you were just talking out of your ass.  Let’s hope your restaurant doesn’t cook that way.

 

 

 

ass

“You want to cook out of my what?”

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of And One More Thing

BTW, when you’re in Manzanita, be sure to get either breakfast or lunch at Yolk. Owner Connie and staff will take good care of you. Their lemon ricotta pancakes are rave-worthy, their take on huevos rancheros (served atop a delectable grilled cornmeal patty instead of a corn tortilla) is sublime, and whatever you order, be sure to get the molasses oatmeal bread. My go-to favorite is their roast veggie hash (with just the right touch of harissa, a simple yet inventive touch rarely found in a breakfast dish.  Yummers!).

 

 

 

yolk

 

 

*   *   *

 

May you be able to see the grace and beauty in mundane situations;
May you have the courage to finish the books that need finishing;
May you know the difference between expressing an opinion
and unfairly dissing a competitor;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

[1] I purchased it not long after it was released, so it could be as long as 10+ years.

[2] FGM could only be compared to male circumcision if male circumcision involved the excision of the entire penis, rather than a portion of the skin of the tip of the penis.

[3] And then in the good ole USA, Hirsch Ali had an invitation for an honorary degree withdrawn from the university that extended the honor, after her telling the unvarnished truth criticisms of Islam’s treatment of women was called, “hate speech.”

[4] Well, at least it’s at the top of the pile.

[5] Respectively, IN THE PRESENCE OF GREATNESS: My Sixty-Year Journey as an Actress, by Patty Duke, and Lips unsealed: A Memoir, by the Go-Gos Belinda Carlisle.  I purchased both of them within minutes of putting down Infidel.

[6] To which I thought, “This is your first day on the trip?”

[7] I double-checked, both in person and online, to make sure my memory was correct.

The Cemetery I’m Not Visiting

Comments Off on The Cemetery I’m Not Visiting

 

Department of AAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHH

Radiolab is one of moiself’s favorite podcasts, as readers of this blog may have surmised from my mentioning it several times in this space. Recently the show has featured episodes of a themed series on sex and reproduction, titled, Radiolab Presents Gonads . During a recent morning walk I was listening to the July 26 episode of the Gonads series, Sex Ed. About half way through the episode the announcer made (what moiself considered to be) a startlingly inaccurate announcement:

“So far we’ve talked about condom demos without any condoms, periods, we even went on to talk about the deeply important topic of what happens to all the bananas after condom/banana demos….”

You know how NPR is proud of producing (inducing?) what they call “driveway moments?”  Hearing that announcement was, for moiself, yet another stopping-on-the-street-silently-screaming-to-nobody-who-can-hear moment.

Attention, well-meaning hosts of the Gonad series: No, you have not talked about “periods,” as in, menstrual cycles. Instead, you have presented one story about endometriosis[1]

 

 

 

PSA

 

 

 

Over 90% of women do not have endometriosis.  But you Gonadians used the story about one woman’s struggle with a rare, painful medical condition as somehow representative or emblematic of “periods.” A consequence of this is, that some of the people who don’t know much about or have no personal experience of menstrual periods – and as you Gonads hosts mentioned, “half the people on the planet do not get them”– are going to conflate this phenomenon of repeatedly experiencing toe-curling pain as being common to all women. And there is enough weirdness when it comes to public knowledge of and discussion about menstrual cycles without focusing on an aberration.

 

 

iknowwhatyoumwan

 

 

 

Go out people-watching one day, to some public place where you can watch the crowds (and not look like a stalker).  Watch the people passing by, and try to figure out which of the women, on their way to and from work or the market or the park or the theatre, are having their menstrual periods. You can’t, because for most women it’s just another day of the week, except perhaps they needed to remember to pack a tampon in their purse….and where’s the sturm und drang   [2]  in that?

Radiolab Presents: Gonads is a multi-episode journey deep into the parts of us that let us make more of us. Longtime staff producer….explores the primordial roots of our drive to reproduce, introduces a revolutionary fertility procedure that sounds like science fiction, reveals a profound secret about gender that lives inside all of us, and calls on writers, educators, musicians, artists and comedians to debate how we’re supposed to talk to kids about sex.

Check out Misconceptions, part of a special exploration of fertility and reproduction from Romper & Radiolab.
(intro to the series, from the Radiolab site)

I’m well aware of the reasons why aberrations make for a “better” story. Like how the proverbial squeaky wheel gets the grease, the story of pain and inconvenience gets the attention. But please, earnest Gonadians, if you want to make a meaningful contribution to, as you say in your show’s description, how we’re supposed to talk to kids about reproduction and sex, why not focus on the more common reality? You could still produce an entirely entertaining segment about periods – say, by focusing on the myths and stereotypes and folklore and personal stories  [3] –  filled with interviews with people like…well, like the millions of women resembling me and my friends   [4] who experienced menstrual periods as just another bodily waste product to, ahem, periodically….

 

 

elvis

 

 

…. have to deal with, just another reality which was sometimes inconvenient but which, like with other normal bodily function, we did not customarily go around complaining or even talking about it (Goddamn it, I have to pee again and I just peed yesterday!) unless there was a major inconvenience – or entertaining story – related to it (I foolishly drank 6 cups of coffee before getting on the train only to discover there were no working toilets aboard and no stops for three hours and I was so desperate I tried to find a discrete corner where I could take a camel’s bladder-sized whizz into my briefcase….”).

 

 

CAMEL

 

 

 

And hey, Gonadians, about that last sentence in your intro: I realize the pun refers to another show, but speaking of misconceptions, there are so many about “periods,” and y’all have not serve to clear any up.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I worked in the reproductive health care field, in both “public” and “private” settings.  [5]  I saw firsthand how the depiction of severe menstrual pain as a normality can keep women from seeking medical help when they have an untreated STD or an ovarian cyst or uterine fibroids or other abnormalities which can cause extreme discomfort. Just as importantly, the normalization of extreme period pain fits right into the script of fundamentalist religions and the patriarchy – that girls and women are somehow damaged and crippled).

 

 

 

sarcasm

 

 

 

So. Nice try, Gonadians, for tackling “periods,” a – what did you call it, a once “taboo subject” –  and focusing on the less than 10% thing that would put the boo in taboo, rather than the 90% which would make it seem like what it is – another natural, essential, biological process.

Yep, I’m annoyed by PMS – Period Misrepresentation Schmucks.

 

 

 

wellofcourse

 

*   *  *

Department Of Little Known Gems Used As A Post-Rant Segue

What do references to an obscure Michael Caine-Christopher Reeve-Dyan Cannon movie, velcro, Harry Potter & Dracoy Malfoy, and NASCAR  have in common?  Why, that would be the song, Two Guys Kissin’ Ruined My Life:

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Whistling Through The Graveyard

My two other siblings and I recently received an email from our older sister, which contained pictures of our parents’ respective grave markers.  The occasion was the arrival and installation of our mother’s marker. 

I am not a Gravesite Visiting Type Of Person ® .   [6] It’s not that I deliberately avoid going to the cemetery where my parents’ caskets  [7]  are buried in adjoining plot: I don’t have to be deliberate about it, since the cemetery is in So Cal and I live in Oregon.  Cemetaries; gravesites – it’s just not how I remember people. Should I be in So Cal visiting relatives and, for whatever reason,   [8] a trip to the cemetery is on the agenda, sure, I’ll tag along.  But there will be no purposeful pilgrimage on my part to see the graves.

Nevertheless, I appreciate the pictures my sister sent, and the stories behind them.

 

CBP marker

 

The inscription on my father’s (below the “Beloved husband….”) is an oft-repeated tagline of Chet’s – his mantra, if you will:  “These are the good times.”

When our mother’s gravestone arrived, my sister was surprised to discover that the headstone company had given us a stone slightly larger than the size she’d ordered for our father (and for no extra charge!), even though she thought she’d ordered the same size for our mother.

 

 

their headstones

 

 

 

 

I like the idea of Marion’s headstone being just a wee bit bigger than Chet’s, seeing as how in life, my introverted mother was often (if unintentionally) overshadowed by the “bigger” personality of my outgoing father.

 

 

 

MAPheadstone

 

 

 

There was joking relief expressed by one of the Parnell siblings, that the arrow for Mom’s inscription is pointing the right direction – toward her husband’s marker, indicating with whom she enjoyed the “good times.”  Although I got a kick out of imagining what if it wasn’t – what if the arrow pointed toward the right, to the next gravesite over, to another man’s gravestone.  ‘Twould give passers-by  [9] something interesting to speculate about.

 

*   *   *

 

May you always have something interesting to speculate about;
May you remember to focus on the 90% ;
May you watch that Michael Caine-Christopher Reeve-Dyan Cannon movie;   [10]
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Involving endometrial tissue which, for reasons not understood to medical science, growing outside of a woman’s uterus.

[2] I need to start using more German phrases in this blog. Suggestions are appreciated.

[3] Almost every woman I know has a hilarious story or six about how their own mothers/grandmothers/aunts had to navigate a world in which “such things” were not discussed.

[4] Ok, back when we were young enough to still be having periods.

[5] Respectively, Planned Parenthood clinics and a private OB/GYN medical practice.

[6] Yes, that is one of the lesser known “types” included in the earlier versions of the Briggs Meyers personality inventory, along with Intuitive, Judging, Thinking, Perceiving, Feeling, Gravesite-Visiting, Dentist-Avoiding….

[7] I am also not a casket-approving person. If it were up to me, all burials would be replaced by cremations.

[8] “Your entertainment choices are a trip to the cemetery to visit Mom’s and Dad’s gravesites, or attend your nieces’ and nephews” school talent show where each grade competes by singing their version of “Tomorrow” from the musical Annie.”

[9] Including that anonymous (to us) man’s family members.

[10]Deathtrap.”

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