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The Songs I’m Not Remembering

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Department Of That’s His Story And He’s Sticking To It

MH traveled to Pasadena last weekend to attend a memorial service for a college classmate.  [1]  He shared a hotel room and rental car with friend with fellow alum DH.  Following the Sunday afternoon service, the two longtime buddies went out to dinner with another friend/CalTech alum – JD, who had also attended the memorial. JD offered to drive and picked up the boys at their hotel – which, BTW and not incidental to this story, had a choice of valet parking or no parking; thus, MH left the rental car’s keys with the hotel parking valet.

Upon returning to their hotel room, the boys found they had a terse/sheepish message on their room phone, saying that they needed to come down to the front desk and see the manager “…about your car.” In his text and photo to me about what had happened, MH, trying to piece together the story, said that the hotel’s parking valet apparently “…had a fun drive in the parking garage…until a cement post got in the way.”

 

 

mcar

“Officially, he hit a puddle and lost control.”

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Department Of Weapons Of A Would-Be Serial Killer

Or make that, squirrel-y-er killer.

Exhibit A, as viewed from our kitchen window: Can you spot the discharged shell?

 

 

ammo

 

 

 

Exhibit B: Can you identify the weapon on the windowsill?

 

gun

 

 

A classy addition to our home décor which I’d hitherto unimagined, a Nerf Uzi [2]  seems to have found a home on our kitchen eating area windowsill during the past few months.  This particular window looks out onto our side yard, a jungle-y area of shrubs and ferns and vine maples. The trees bear the responsibility of holding MH’s growing collection of bird feeders, at least two of which were guaranteed to thwart those nefarious scourges of bird feeder hangers everywhere.

Yep, I’m talkin’ squirrels.

A “squirrel-proof” bird feeder is, as we have discovered, a concept and not a reality. Similar to how Science ® has proved that trailer parks attract tornadoes, hanging a squirrel-proof bird feeder in your tree guarantees that your neighborhood’s most balletic-ally agile, persistent, inventive and dexterous squirrels will be irresistibly, almost magnetically drawn to your yard. Thus, the years-long enmity between MH and sciurus carolinensis which has led my otherwise mild-mannered spouse to keep the afore-mentioned, foam dart-deploying weapon handy.  [3]

Exhibit C: can you spot the mas, which, when donned by a 6’2″ male biped, produces not one iota of dread in squirrels but is most effective in inducing a butt-dragging-crapping-outside-the-box-in-terror reaction in housecats?

 

 

s-head

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Department Of More Fun With Animals

So, thanks to my new car’s radio – and BTW, when you say the phrase, my new car, please use your best Oprah voice…

 

 

Yet again, I digress.

My new car’s radio has, like, a bajillion preset options, [4]  and I’ve only seven or so channels I listen to on a regular basis. Before I selected the presets I did an internet search for Portland metro area music stations, to get my number of presets up to what I thought was a respectable figure (10). More often than not, I find myself leaving the channel on one of these new station “discoveries” – an eclectic oldies station run by local (Hillsboro) ham radio operators.  The station’s programming is all over the oldies map:  I’ll hear a 50s doo-wop song followed by a John Denver’s first hit (Country Roads) followed by one of The Beatles’ lesser-played covers (Carl Perkins’ Honey Don’t) to other hits and misses spanning several decades. Wednesday morning I was treated to a somnambulant edition of Hang on Sloopy I had no idea existed. [5]  The latter version varied greatly in tempo and even melody and was not as swampy/sexy as the more familiar version by The McCoys, but still had its own charm.

Earlier in the week I’d heard the station play, “Remember (Walking in the Sand)” by The Shangri-Las, that classic, romantic tragedy (romagedy?) tale of a teenage girl lamenting the loss and/or unfaithfulness of her boyfriend – which was fundamental fodder of songs written for the girl groups of the late 1950s – early 1960s.

I was familiar with the song, but couldn’t remember the last time I’d heard it…and after I heard it on that radio station I had to consider whether or not I’d ever listened to it all the way through.  Perhaps the radio station’s engineer was having fun with the background volume controls; whatever the reason, the increasingly loud sound effects at the end of the song got me to wondering: are listeners supposed to think that the heartbroken narrator returned to the beach where she once walked (in the sand…remember?) with her boyfriend and, distracted and distraught over her lover’s betrayal, she staggered into a mob of seagulls and was pecked to death?

 

 

 

 

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Department Of More Fun With Radio

Make that, fun with a podcast. And I’m not sure that fun is the appropriate modifier…although I’d like to think that enlightenment of any kind is entertaining, in some ways.

Wednesday morning I listened to an amazing TED talk. Two speakers shared a stage, and shared a story which began almost two decades ago. Listen to it, and you’ll discover that what starts out as the tale of an Icelandic girl and her Australian exchange student boyfriend doesn’t go where you’d expect, to put it mildly.

For the rest of the day I kept thinking about the after effects of sexual violence, and in particular, the paucity of perspectives we have from its perpetrators. Increasingly, women and girls are daring to speak out about their experiences of having been raped, but how many men and boys have you ever heard admit to being rapists, and to talk openly about what that was like?

Rapist; Brute; Savage; Animal; Inhuman. We’ve many epithets and adjectives for those who commit sexual assault.  I vote for eliminating inhuman from that list, because I think societies might make more progress in dealing with sexual assault by ultimately recognizing the humanity of the assailant.

Yep, you read correctly. I know, it sounds almost sacrilegious [6] to refer to a rapist’s humanity. But how can you ever hope to solve a problem if you aren’t willing to think clearly about it?

And clearly, history demonstrates that just as kindness, compassion, empathy, altruism, and sacrifice are bright colors on the spectrum of human behavior, so are the darker shades of human-on-human abuse.

Rape and other acts of assault and violence, from bullying to waging war, are unfortunately common to the human experience. But when we label rapists/sexual abusers as inhuman we enable those human beings who for whatever reasons  [7] force themselves upon weaker/ intoxicated/drugged/otherwise incapacitated human beings, to subsequently and sincerely not consider themselves to be rapists or to have committed sexual assault, because they are not the archetypal inhuman fiend who sprang out from behind a hedge and held a knife to her throat….

 

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Department Of Ending On A Lighter Note

Business sign of the week… or month…or maybe even year:  I saw this sign on the side of the road, meant to entice passers-by to consider the services of a landscaping company to spruce up your yard for the coming warmer months:

“This spring don’t get caught with your plants down.”

 

 

 

 

plantsdown

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May you revel in the small pleasures of a forgotten song remembered;
May you never get caught with your plants down;
May you consider the humanity of the serial squirrel-harasser;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Who died too young after a long battle with rheumatoid arthritis. I shall write a bit about him in another post.

[2] Not its official name.

[3] Yeah, the squirrels flee when he fires it at them. And then they return.

[4] Okay; thirty.

[5] The stations website, such as it is, is quite low tech, and has no playlist, so I don’t know who did that version of HOS.

[6] But I’m a happy heathen, remember?

[7] Usually related to the cultural dictates which teach men that they are entitled to women’s bodies.

The Ancestors I’m Not Worshipping

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Department Of Sourdough Analogy
Hint: An Acorn Is Not An Oak Tree

My sourdough starter, “fed” and bubbling, plus the right proportions of flours, water, salt, an autolyse period, an initial rise, a final shape and rise followed by baking in a properly preheated oven, usually/hopefully (but not guaranteed every time – ask any baker) will yield a loaf of sourdough bread. But the sourdough starter and flour and water and salt, separately or combined, are not a loaf of sourdough bread.

Picture this: At one of MH’s and my dinner gatherings, a friend/guest/family member expresses anti-reproductive choice sentiments just as I am about to pass the basket of homemade sourdough bread.

Yeah – someone getting all anti-abortion-y at a dinner party hosted my moiself? The scenario is a stretch to imagine,  [1] but bear with me:

 

 

 

bearjpg

Well, okay.

 

 

 

Depending on the vehemence of their sentiments (on a scale running from “I’d never have one or be the cause of one myself, but I’d never try to butt in on other people’s medical decisions,” to “A fertilized ovum is the equivalent of a person,” to  “Citizenship for sperm!”) they will be served some combination of the following: the raw sourdough starter, flour, water, salt, the pre-risen bread dough, the risen and shaped but unbaked bread dough – while the rest of us enjoy the actual bread.

 

bread

bread2jpg

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Department Of It’s Almost Worth The Potential Global Destruction
And/Or At Least Worldwide Humiliation Regarding The Functioning Of Our So-Called Democratic Electoral System…

…to have someone like Cheetos Hitler be #45, so that someone could come up with One Of The Best Acronyms Ever ® .

It is a given that most sentient beings with moral compasses larger than a fleck of bellybutton lint refuse to refer to #45 as POTUS. Now – thanks to/may the Flying Spaghetti Monster bless The Internet – we have a most fitting option:  SCROTUS.  [2]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

As regular readers of this blog know (and new or sporadic readers will likely surmise), I am not a religious person. I was raised by church-going, Christian parents; [3] flirted with/researched a variety of denominations during/post college; was a member (even served as a deacon, holy shit!) of a UCC church [4] for many years; happily (read: finally) came out over a decade ago as a lifelong skeptic-atheist-Freethinker-Bright.

While I hold a modicum of respect for some of the ideals and practices of, say, contemporary non-theistic Buddhism and Unitarianism and Jainism, I find all religions to be more-or less silly/offensive/just plain fallacious. There is one “spiritual” practice, however, which I can somewhat understand, if only in that it makes a teesny-tiny, infinitesimally wee bit o’ sense:

Ancestor worship.

 

 

really

 

 

Yes, really.

Make that, ancestor veneration, not worship. For the love of the FSM, get off your knees, open your eyes, and stop bowing your head – nobody should “worship” anything.

Worship: VERB
1.  [with object] Show reverence and adoration for (a deity)
1.1  [no object] Take part in a religious ceremony.
(English Oxford Living Dictionary)

Unlike the claims of religions which have one or more deities, you don’t have to take your ancestors’ existence on “faith” [5] – you know they have lived (you yourself are evidence of that); you’ve likely met them one, or two or sometimes even three, generations back. From the photo albums and other heirlooms to the birth certificates, school and county records, family businesses, homes, farmsteads, and kinfolk near and far, you’ve an idea of what they have “given” you, materially, intellectually and emotionally – you’ve some idea what you might be grateful for.

Best of all, you’ve little incentive to argue or go to war with other people over whose interpretation of what their imaginary friend wants is correct. Your neighbor’s ancestors are their business, and yours are yours.

Of course, the option of ancestor veneration leaves out a small subset of people: those who have little or no knowledge of their forebears, such as certain kinds of adoptees ,[6]  as well as those who have just enough information (e.g., children in the foster care system) to…well, I’ll put it this way: if you come from two generations of meth addicts,  ancestor veneration might not be the spiritual practice to float your boat.

Now then. By ancestor veneration I’m not talking any kind of belief system wherein the dead are beseeched to intercede on behalf of the living – that’s just as silly as all the others. I do not believe that my deceased grandparents and parents have a continued existence in a spirit world, or that their spirits look after moiself and my family in particular or the world in general, or that they somehow can influence the fate of the living. I’m talking about a practice of honor and appreciation, in which a person might use the roads paved and trails blazed by previous generations as a focal point for remembrance and gratitude.

 

 

candles

Thanks for the dimples, Dad.

*   *   *

 

I’m not sure what brought the previous topic to mind. A likely suspect is the recent death of my mother. Anyway, y’all have my permission to honor your ancestors…as well as my fervent wish that that is as far as your theology goes. However, as I look at the state of the world, it appears that the old superstitions have some staying power. As long as people will continue to proclaim and dispute over whose invisible leader is the bestest, I’d like someone to come up with another dog in the fight.

As the Bay Area’s own Huey Lewis, the Bard Of The Bammies, once sang, I Want A New Drug.

Putting it yet another way, y’all have my encouragement (if you are religiously inclined) to come up with a new religion, within the following parameters: in this belief system, it is the men who are required, in one form or another, to cover themselves

That’s it. Yep. That’s the entire theology in a nutshell.  [7]

From a light veil or hijab – make, that, hejab –  to a full-body, Bro burqua, your theology must include all the usual nonsense reasons (modesty; an easily offended diety;  protection from your fellow believers who will beat the holy crap out of you if you show any evidence of human form) as to why certain people –  in this case, those with boy parts –  must be covered in public.

Duuuuude – put a scarf on it.

 

 

 

hejab

We swear on Her Holy name, it doesn’t make your butt look big, no, not at all.

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Department Of Factory Fail

For some reason I’d prefer to think that it was an assembly line glitch, rather than a human judgment call, which was responsible for putting this spice shaker style cap on a bottle of bay leaves:

 

 

bayleaves

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May you choose the appropriate cap for your container;
May you acknowledge if not esteem those who blazed your family trails;
May you continue the resistance and gram ’em by the SCROTUS;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] I do not know each and every political belief of each and every  member of my family and circle of friends. I’ve some anti-choice family members, who have yet to bring up the topic at a dinner table gathering.  With my friends I either know or surmise we are on similar pages re The Big issues .®  

[2] So Called Ruler of the United States.

[3] Lutheran, specifically: what was once called the ALC and now ELCA, for those obsessives interested in denominational nitpicking, It wasn’t one of the “synod” denominations (Missouri & Wisconsin), which are closer to Catholicism in their conservative doctrines (e.g. women cannot be ordained as ministers; liking to snipe about other denominations as being the “not true” faiths) .

[4] Which I have, since leaving, recommended to people who for whatever reasons are looking for a liberal Christian church experience and/or community.

[5] Although, especially at Thanksgiving when someone brings up politics, you may have to take them with a helluva big grain of salt.

[6] If you’re counting “blood” kin as the only kind of ancestors which matter. Which I hope you are not.

[7] Which is the proper receptacle for all theologies.

The Call To Resistance I’m Not Writing

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Clarification: I began to write such a call, and (once again) superior scribes beat me to it.

Last week I started taking notes on the topic of a citizen’s right – responsibility, I’d argue – to peacefully and vigorously advocate for political accountability. This was after I’d started seeing links to articles re actor Matthew McConaughey, in an interview with ChannelFi, advising his fellow Americans to castrate themselves “embrace Trump.”  As in, get over it, he’s the Prez, let’s work with him/give him a chance and….

Huh? Really? Huh? Really? That couldn’t be what he said, moiself said (But, yep, he did).

Okay; he’s an actor – and one who always struck me as having too much artificial turf between his goal posts, so to speak. Nevertheless, does he understand what he’s saying? Is he –  are any of the other “get over it” voices I’ve read about – advising that we forgo our First Amendment rights to petition our government, or that we ignore the warning signs of the rise of authoritarianism and nationalism and….   scribble scribble scribble[1]

 

 

ohm

R.I.P : Resistance Is Imperative

 

 

Earlier this week I was sitting on my mat in one of my yoga classes. This particular class begins with the teacher inviting the students join her in the Om resonant chant, and this week, as I did so, I remembered having recently seen the Ohm sign – the physics symbol for electrical resistance – being applied in political terms. I decided right there and then on the mat that ohm – as in, “resistance” – would be my “mantra.”

After class, back at home, I opened my scribbles document. Before getting to work I check ed on a couple of blogs I try to follow but hadn’t looked at in a couple of weeks. When I saw the wonderful post of author/activist/blogger Greta Christina, which opened with the picture of a large ohm symbol, I felt the literal/proverbial chill run down my spine.

It was as if GC had siphoned my frontal lobe onto the screen. Frankly, her exposition was much mo betta than any rant smartly-worded essay I would have produced (although, judging from my scribbles file, I would have included more, how you say, colorful modifiers   [2] ).  And so I will happily and humbly defer to GC’s superior, Yeah, what she said! composition, by posting some excerpts here and by urging you to read her rousing essay, in all its eloquent pithiness, here. [3]

 

Are you arguing…

 …that citizens of a democratic country…should not, as the First Amendment says, peaceably assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances?
… that once a president is elected, citizens should let him do whatever he wants with no opposition, regardless of whether it’s grossly immoral and indeed illegal?
…. that we should ignore the gross irregularities in this election — the widespread and systemic voter disenfranchisement, the interference from a hostile foreign government, the absurd electoral system that allows someone to become president when they lost by three million votes — and accept the results of this election as if they were normal and legitimate?
… that people who recognize the warning signs of fascism — who are listening to the historians who study fascism when they say that yes, this is what the rise of fascism looks like — should sit back and let fascism rise, for fear of looking like poor losers?

(excerpts from Great Christina’s Resistance, and Being a “Sore Loser”)

 

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Department Of Petty Pleasures

Dateline: Last Friday, on my way to Somewhere ®, listening to a Portland classical radio station on my car’s radio. I tuned in just in time to hear the radio station’s announcer say that the previous selection had been written by Tchaikovsky and performed by the Czech Philharmonic under the direction of conductor Semyon Bychkov.

I had to look up the correct spelling when I returned home, because the announcer most distinctly pronounced the conductor’s name as, Simone Bitch-koff.

The announcer repeated the conductor’s surname several times…was it my imagination, or was she stifling a giggle each time she found an excuse to say BITCH-koff? And yes, I am still immature young at heart-enough to have enjoy a cheap thrill for the rest of the afternoon, imagining how much fun Bychkov’s music school peers would have had with his name, had the (Jewish/Russian-born) future conductor been raised in the U.S.A.

 

 

angry-conductor

“That’s Bychkov, you drek kop!”

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Department Of But It Was Funny At 6:28 am

I awoke earlier this week with My First Ever Broadway Musical/Legal Rights Joke ® stumbling around my cerebral cortex:

  1. Why is creator of the musical “Hamilton” trying to get himself arrested?
  2. He’s looking forward to the police reading him his rights.  [4]

 

 

bad-smell

She didn’t say it was a good Broadway Musical/Legal Rights joke….

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Department Of We Have No Secrets Between Us

I ordered a special card for daughter Belle’s 21st birthday. It arrived last Friday afternoon; I wanted to include it with a birthday package I was sending her, up at college. In order for the package to arrive by her birthday (Monday), I’d have to mail it without MH having seen or signed the card. I took a picture of the card and messaged MH:

Moiself: Here’s the card I ordered for Belle’s birthday. Shall I sign it for you, or do you (even) want your name on it?

MH: I suppose you can sign my name. She’ll know who bought it.

 

 

sadiebdaycardjpg

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Department Of What She Said

“You can’t wring your hands and roll up your sleeves at the same time.”
(former Colorado U.S. Congresswoman Pat Schroeder)

“Given all the changes politically in the United States (and around the world), how can we freethinkers best deal with these challenge in 2017?”

This question was posed to the scientists, professors, authors, and activists who comprise the  Freedom From Religion Foundation‘s honorary board members, by the editors of the FFRF’s Freethought Today. Such a query was sure to elicit a fanny-load of WTF-the-sky-is-falling responses…or so I grumbled to moiself when I saw the article, “Words of wisdom for 2017” in the current (Jan-Feb 2017) issue of Freethought Today.

Sometimes I really, really like to be wrong.

“Words of wisdom for 2017”  was, on the whole, encouraging and moving. Some of the contributors, like Harvard psychology researcher and author Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, did focus on/warn about the bummers, such as the dangers of outrage fatigue:

The tactics of the new presidential administration were laid clear in the campaign and have continued, fast and furious, since Election Day. They consist in so overwhelming us with outrages – sometimes as many as six impossible things before breakfast, as the White Queen said to Alice – that we can’t fully give any single one of them their due before our attention is swept away by yet another.”

Other contributors, including neuroendocrinlogist Robert Sapolsky, pointed out what has become depressingly obvious, before offering a glimmer of hope:

“Critical thinking, counter-arguments, even facts will not make a dent with the new administration. Nor will empathy, compassion and decency. All that’s keeping me from despair is the fact that the young overwhelming rejected Trump….”

And, as cognitive scientist/linguist/professor Steven Pinker added:

“…remember that far more people voted for Clinton than for Trump…and that Trump’s support was concentrated among older voters, who will die someday and be replaced by more liberal cohorts.”

Biology/genetics professor and author Sean B. Carroll reminded us that there have been other eras when “cultures slammed into reverse.” He suggests that we, like the clear-eyed thinkers of those eras who anticipated the reversals:

“…have to summon hope and courage, resist paralysis, and get on with our work – convinced that in time, the tide will turn back in favor of reason.”

I was most heartened by feminist pioneer/activist/author Robin Morgan’s stirring call to action (my emphases):

“Never forget that the reason for this worldwide anti-progressive backlash – in this country whitelash and male-lash – is in fact because we have made such progress.
The ferocity of the response to everything we stand for tells us just how terrified the patriarchal systems are of losing their power. Which they will, they will. As Susan B. Anthony told us, ‘Failure is impossible.’ “

You can browse this and other FT articles here, and also request a free sample of Freethought Today.

 

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Department Of And If That Don’t Stir Your Blood To Action…

 

…maybe you need to see a picture of my daughter’s Bengal kitty checking out her first snow.

Happy 21st, Belle!

 

 

snowyeti

 

*   *   *

May you remember that The Borg were wrong;  [5]
May you forgive Matthew McConaughey for being a dick;

May you appreciate any joke your brain constructs at 6:28 am;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Okay, it was actually click click click or tap tap tap on the keyboard. Which just doesn’t read as cinematically as the writer and her furious scribbles, IMHO.

[2] Which is yet another reason why she did the better job.

[3] And then you should buy and read her  books on Atheism/Freethought/religion, if you haven’t already.

[4] Lyn-Manuel Miranda.  Get it? Getitgetitgetitgetitgetitgetit?

[5] Resistance is NOT futile.

The Solutions I’m Not Providing

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Department Of Do You Think They’ll Print This Letter?

Monday afternoon I sent the following letter to the editor of mindful magazine.

Gentle Editors,

In the December 2016 issue of mindful, the article The Mindful Gift Guide contains the advice, “As consumers we have the power to choose gifts that don’t just speak to those we care about, but that have an impact in the world.”  This is certainly true. Thus, as a writer, I cringed to read the article’s suggestion to “Do a Book Swap:”

“If your family are avid readers, skip the gift-shopping and instead do a book swap…. Each of you walks away with a stack of goodies for little-to-no cost….”

Please be mindful of the reality facing authors, whose income has declined 30% over the past seven years, due to the fact that there are so many ways “for the customer to gain access to a book, without a penny going to the writer.” (The Author’s Guild Bulletin, Fall 2015). The little-to-no-cost you mentioned comes at an increasingly great cost to writers, who receive no payment from used copies or book swaps.

It is logical to assume that avid readers might – or should – respect and care about the labor which produces the books readers admire.  The suggestion should read, “If your family are avid readers, buy them books.”

 

 

mindfulmag

“If your family are avid magazine readers and you’d like their favorite magazines to fail, please give away your copies and discourage people from subscribing to or buying copies of the magazines.”

 

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Part 2, Possible Solutions

I don’t have any. DAMN!

Remember, a mere week ago, my rant articulate and passionate explication of the need for dialogue between trump voters and everyone else, and my promise that I’d offer solutions this week? Here’s the rub: I don’t know how to dialogue with someone who can’t understand – or worse yes, doesn’t want to understand – reality.

Differing opinions, fine. You can have your own opinions (as to what facts “feel like” to you); you can’t have your own facts.  As friend CC recently despaired, if someone for whatever reasons will not or cannot be convinced of the reality of global warming by the decades of evidence that climate scientists have amassed, what good is it going to do for them to hear the same evidence coming from me?

What common ground can be trod by a natural world denizen such as moiself who thinks that people should be in charge of their own bodies, and people who believe that female bodily integrity is subject to (overwhelmingly male led) legislation and superstitious/supernatural (read: religious) prohibitions?

More diplomatic minds than mine will have to work on these and other issues.  The only advice I can offer is hardly original, but also the only thing that has ever worked:

Keep aware, and get involved.

Have your legislators’ office numbers on your speed dial.  [1] Avoid compassion fatigue – there will be no shortage of worthy and even urgent causes; pick one or two close to your heart and support them with time and money, the best you can. Be wary of spreading out, and thus diluting, your resources. As one nonprofit manager told me, better to donate five hours of your time and/or $200 dollars per month to one organization than 15 minutes/$20 dollars per month to ten.

Here’s a worthy cause for those concerned with the far right’s anti-science agenda:

  • So cool!
  • Relevant to all the subjects that I teach [Physics, Chemistry, and Biology]
  • A great resource for students
  • Really improves student learning
  • (Shows them) the scale of time
  • Generates a good amount of discussion
  • [Helps our teachers] know and understand how to better teach evolution to students
  • Amazing resource
  • An awesome addition to my classroom

Surprise! – those are not comments from Satisfied Customers ® who’ve recently began following my blog (but thank you for jumping to that conclusion). Rather, they are some of the raves expressed by science teachers  regarding a superb teaching resource from The Brights. The Evolution Poster Project‘s poster, “Earth and Life: changes over time,” helps students visualize and learn about the scale of evolution by uniquely depicting the course of biological and geological evolution from 13.7 billion years ago until today.

 

 

 

brightsposter

 

 

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Department Of At Least I Have One Thing About Which To Feel Smug

“It’s terrible. I don’t think it sells a single book.  I don’t think social media sells anything.”
(author Ayelet Waldman, in the Writer, on using Twitter as a marketing tool)

A few weeks ago the Twitter universe  [2]  got its collective knickers in a knot  [3] over yet another literary defection from their ranks. Author Chelsea Cain, interviewed on the OPB program Think Out Loud, talked about her decision to deactivate her Twitter account.  [4]

Despite the urging of select publishers and PR people to pursue more social media “exposure,” I long ago made the decision to not expose moiself to the opinions (whether praise or slag) of strangers. Thus, I skipped the first step in what seems to have become almost a literary ritual:

  • join ______ (insert social media site name)
  • amass site followers
  • pen an article/sit for an interview about “Why I am Leaving ____ (social media site).”

 

 

twitter

 

When you’re a writer, the thinking is that you simply must have a social media presence. But is that even true? In the six-plus years I’ve been writing for pay as my exclusive revenue stream, I can’t think of a single time social media got me a job.
I’m also not terribly interested in interacting with my readers, or even knowing they exist. Sorry, guys. The one or two of you that are cool to meet don’t outweigh the legions of semi-literate lunatics still emailing me at least once a month over an article I wrote about hating Pearl Jam four years ago.
(“Why I Left Social Media,” www.manmade.com )

 

By simply not joining Twitter, I never had to worry about how to deal with the distraction, the hate mail, and – special bonus for authors with lady parts! misogyny and death threats.  But, dang, I am thereby disqualified for any future Why I Quit Twitter gigs. Another lucrative career opportunity down the drain.

Still, I treasure the rare opportunity to feel smug. Also, according to computer science professor Cal Newport, you don’t have to be a writer to benefit from stopping the massive time and intellect suck  eschewing the energy drain of social media (my emphases).

Perhaps more important, however, than my specific objections to the idea that social media is a harmless lift to your career, is my general unease with the mind-set this belief fosters. A dedication to cultivating your social media brand is a fundamentally passive approach to professional advancement. It diverts your time and attention away from producing work that matters and toward convincing the world that you matter. The latter activity is seductive, especially for many members of my generation who were raised on this message, but it can be disastrously counterproductive.
…. you’re deluding yourself if you think that Twitter messages, posts and likes are a productive use of your time. If you’re serious about making an impact in the world, power down your smartphone, close your browser tabs, roll up your sleeves and get to work.
(Quit Social Media. Your Career May Depend On It, Cal Newport, writing in the NY Times)

 

*   *   *

To those trump supporters who posted links to the I Am. article on Facebook, and a personal appeal to the article’s author:

iampng

I am not racist. I am not homophobic. I am not sexist. I am not a misogynist. I am for free market. I am for stronger foreign policy. I am for small business. I am for my family….I think it is important to clarify something: just because I am Republican does not mean I am heartless.

 

Blogger Cassie Hewlett wrote the I Am article to “highlight what it felt like to be a Republican college student” after the election:

On November 9th, I went to class and in every single one there was a somber attitude. Pre-lecture discussions were filled with phrases like “I am scared for our future”, “I am scared to be gay”, “How did this happen?”

Ms. Hewlett, I don’t know you, but assume you are around my daughter’s age, and thus am disposed toward viewing you kindly. I will assume you are well-intentioned. And I can’t help but wonder, do you really understand why, post-election, a somber attitude permeated your classrooms?

I am aware that many Republicans did not intend to vote in malicious, fear-mongering, sexist, racist, homophobic ways. I hope you in turn are aware that your party’s candidate campaigned on malicious, fear-mongering, sexist, racist and homophobic platforms and rhetoric, and that this fact is very personal to the majority of us who cast their votes for the other candidates.

You write, I am not racist. I am not homophobic. I am not sexist. Your candidate has:

*  chosen as his Vice President one of the most anti-LGBT rights politicians around.  Pence has been listed as one of the top “villains” on gay and civil rights watch lists for years – this is not mere current election political trash-talking.

* casually admitted to and joked/bragged about committing sexual assault, consistently dismissed and ranked women – including his own daughter – according to their physical attributes, and said he would appoint SCOTUS justices who would overturn my right to make medical decisions about my body.

* told anti-gay conservatives he’d appoint SCOTUS justices who would overturn gay marriage  [5]

* called Mexicans rapists and said that an American judge could not do his job because of his Mexican heritage.

* declared he wants to register all Muslims in the US.

Your candidate has, for crying out loud, been endorsed by the KKK and other white supremacist, Neo-Nazi and secessionist groups.

You are not racist; You are not homophobic; You are not sexist. But Your Candidate has said and done all of these things, and more. Your Candidate‘s blatant and consistent appeal to racist, homophobic and sexist sentiments are not the reasons you voted for him, but his racist, homophobic and sexist appeals did not stop you from voting for him. Thus, the “somber attitude” you detected.

 

 

imnotracist

 

 

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
(variously attributed)

I am for free market. I am for stronger foreign policy. I am for small business. I am for my family.

Sure, Mussolini may have been a fascist dictator who outlawed contraception, raised penalties for abortion, regulated women’s clothing and banned homosexual acts,  used chemical weapons in Africa,  muzzled the free press and imprisoned his political opponents and executed prisoners without trial….but he made the trains run on time.

You personally may not consider yourself racist or bigoted, but you who are willing to overlook – who have the privilege to overlook – a candidate’s bigotries because he supports policies which you’ve decided are of greater/personal good for yourself scares the living feces out of moiself.

Please, Ms. Hewlett (and other self-described non-bigoted trump supporters), remember that talk is cheap. Your words disavowing personal prejudice are cold comfort considering the rise in hate crimes  [6] since the election.  I’m glad you protest that you are not one of the haters; I challenge you to prove your protestation by holding your candidate accountable for the consequences of his rhetoric.

One more thing, Ms. Hewlett: fire your graphic designer.  [7]  Re the GOP elephant-USA flag symbol used to illustrate your article, the stars are [8]  sideways/upside down/backwards (read: just plain wrong). Star points in the USA flag face up, not down.

 

flagstars

Like this.

*   *   *

Department Of It Didn’t Quite Come Out The Way I’d Intended,
But You Know What I Meant To Say

MH was considering whether or not he wanted to make soup for our Thanksgiving potluck dinner we hosted.  He asked for moiself’s advice, as I have been on a soup making kick recently. I went through my notes, trying to find a soup that everyone coming to the dinner would like and, more importantly, that everyone could eat – food preferences and sensitivities among the attendees include severe tree nut, peanut and seed allergies, gluten and dairy sensitivities and “plant-based flexitarian” [9] preferences.

I found just such a soup, a recent culinary experiment of mine that turned out well, if I do say so myself (and I just did).  “Here’s one!” I crowed to MH, pointing to my notes in excitement. “There’s nothing in this soup that anyone could eat!”

 

 

bad-soup

*   *   *

May you dialogue when you can;
May you be mindful of choices which may benefit you yet be costly to others;
May you have (at least) one thing about which to feel smug;
May your soup be suitable for all;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

And a belated but sincere Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Phone calls are more effective than emails or signing on-line petitions.

[2] I know, I know, it’s the “Twitterverse,” but I just can’t bear to use that term.

[3] For a couple of days or so – which is the equivalent of years to many users of the website, who have the attention spans one might expect of people who limit their reflections to 140 characters.

[4] Simply put, for her, the negatives came to outweigh the positives.

[5]I am for my family,” you wrote. What about other people’s families? Overturning gay marriage would dismantle thousands of families, including, to make it personal, that of my daughter’s favorite teacher.

[6] Documented by the FBI, and civil rights groups including the Southern Poverty Law Center.

[7] Or yourself, if that’s the case.

[8] Like the reasoning of trump supporters, IMHO.

[9] Eats certain seafood items, but no meat or dairy products.

The Umbrella I’m Not Raising

1 Comment

 

 

Department Of Welcome To The Kakistocracy

Thanks to observant friend SCM, I was alerted to Monday’s regrettably appropriate word of the day (via the wordsmith folk):

kakistocracy

PRONUNCIATION: (kak-i-STOK-ruh-see, kah-ki-)

MEANING: noun: Government by the least qualified or worst persons.

ETYMOLOGY: From Greek kakistos (worst), superlative of kakos (bad) + -cracy (rule). Ultimately from the Indo-European root kakka-/kaka- (to defecate), which also gave us poppycock, cacophony, cacology, and cacography. Earliest documented use: 1829.

USAGE: “We must weigh our votes carefully. Else we are in danger of turning America’s time-tested democracy into a kakistocracy.”
Dan Warner; The Best Man for the Job Is Not as Easy as it Sounds; The News Press (Fort Myers, Florida); Jan 17, 2016.

 

*   *   *

Department Of I’m No Bridge Expert…

…in fact, I’ve never played the game, not once. But I may take it up, because I’m pretty sure it includes moments when you get to yell, “NO TRUMP!”

 

 

camel

*   *   *

Department Of Okay, So My Rising Above Needs Fine Tuning

I’ve read some amazing and touching exchanges friends have had with their children, about the election. These children are old enough to have heard the odious comments coming from trumpsters and young enough to be confused about how “the man who always yells mad” and “the bad bad guy” won.

One young mother I am privileged to know, who consistently – i.e., not just during election or other trying times –  models positive messages to her two sons, related the following dialog with the “elder” (~ age 3) boy, when he asked her why people voted for someone who “is not kind.”

Wise Loving Mother: “There are a lot of reasons, and I don’t really know all of them. I’m pretty confused too, and I’m a little bit scared and sad. I want you to know it’s okay to feel that way.”

Loving And Confused Son: “Okay.”

WLM: “I also want you to know that you might see a lot of people feeling scared and sad today, and it is your job today and every day to be kind, to be a helper, and to love people just the way they are.”

LACS: “Yeah mom I am a kind helper.”

WLM: “If you see somebody who looks or acts different than you, who has a different color skin, speaks a different language, and they are feeling scared, or somebody is hurting their feelings or bodies, what do you think you can do to help?”

LACS: “I can give them a hug, I can ask them what’s wrong. I can say STOP IT to a bad guy.”

WLM: “That’s right. That is so important for you to do. And know that me and Dad and all the people who love you will do the same thing, and that we will always help you and do what we can to keep you safe.”

LACS: “K mom. Because I love you and you love me.”

WLM: “That’s right. And we love the people around us.”

LACS: “Yeah, yep. We do that.”

 

 

rainbowsloth

 

 

 

I feel like hugging a rainbow baby sloth after reading that, and I hope you do, too.

That’s the kind of Wise And Responsible Counsel In The Face Of Adversity ® (most) parents strive for. It’s also the kind of advice that is more difficult to give, IMHO, the older your children get. Once your kids reach A Certain Age ©, you can’t sugarcoat reality with well-meaning messages about confused fearful people who do things from misplaced fear and anger. They can figure out for themselves the need to raise the shitstorm umbrella. Or, as we do in Oregon, don the shitstorm hat . [1]

 

rainhat

This.

umbrella

And not this.

 

Yet again, I digress.

My offspring are young adults of A Certain Age. Son K graduated college and lives and works not far from us; daughter Belle is a college junior. Both hold passionate and compassionate convictions; both are pro-science advocates, pro civil and feminist and LGBTQ rights, and enthusiastic supporters of Senator Sanders; both subsequently Did The Right Thing ® and voted for Clinton…. Thus, both are understandably distraught about and disgusted with last week’s election results.

MH and I try to offer them words of perspective and comfort, even as we deal with our own disappointments and fears. My efforts – well, I think they need a little work.

Message from daughter Belle last week, a day after the election:

Belle: ugh i hate seeing people wearing those stupid make America great again hats on campus. Why do they go to this school?

Moiself: oh dear…. Well, as Michelle Obama advised, when they go low, we go high. And if going high means we walk around silently but reverently hoping that the largest sea gull on record has a bout of herring-induced diarrhea while flying over someone wearing such a cap, well then, so be it.

*   *   *

Department of Temporary Reprieve From The Stench of Politics

As (what would turn out to be) the heart-piercing election approached, I received brief respite from my worries via a story about another kind of piercing. Friend KW empathized with my recently shared opinions re body piercings, [2] which prompted me to share this memory with him:

I have two piercings in each ear, the first pair of holes acquired in college when one of my apartment-mates sputtered one November evening, “Could you please get your goddamned ears pierced so I’d know what to get you for Christmas?!”  She was frustrated by the fact that I wore no jewelry and wasn’t into accessories or clothing (I wasn’t a nudist, but you get the idea) so there were no inexpensive items that came to mind re getting me a present.

The second ear holes were also somewhat spontaneous: I accompanied a friend and her mother to a mall. Friend’s Mom, after years of wearing (but hating) clip-on earrings, wanted to get her ears pierced, but balked when we went to the jewelry shop. I assured her the procedure was almost pain-free; FM still balked…she sooo wanted to have it done and was embarrassed by her squeamishness. To prove that it was no big deal, I had mine done again, in front of her.

Here’s something I haven’t thought of in years. My mom said, in her later years, that she’d wished she’d had her ears pierced. She’d noticed that “all the interesting earrings” were for pierced ears; the earrings she’d acquired during her young adult years were all clip-on, all painful to wear. When she expressed her regret to me, I reminded her of something she’d said when I was in high school, about who wore what kind of jewelry. She’d said she hoped none of her girls would get their ears pierced, because she’d been told that having pierced ears was “primitive,” and something “only Catholics and Mexicans get done.”

 

 

earrings

Actually, I’m an atheist Swede with a Ph.D.

*   *   *

Department Of Sorry But It’s Back To the Festering Turdbucket of Politics
Kudos For Susan Sarandon, Who Somehow Managed To Not Vote With Her Vagina

Part 1: The Dilemma

“Not everyone that voted for trump is a sexist or a racist,. How many times does the vote not have to go our way before we realize that our argument isn’t won by hurling labels and insults?”
(“Jonathan Pie,” aka British actor/comic Tom Walker)

I apologize to actor Susan Sarandon, for suggesting last week that she perform a physiological impossibility. I should have used my inside words to express my frustration with Sarandon et al, who threw away used their votes to express their frustration with both major party candidates.

Excuse me while I take a moment to allay the gonad-rattling astonishment that comes from doing something I never, in my wildest nightmares, would have believed I’d be doing: referring to donald trump as a major party candidate. [3]

 

catbarf

 

 

 

BTW: The non-capitalization of the surname is intentional. As writer Bryan Vale [4]  put it, in his spot-on  The Writers Rules for resisting trump, “Never capitalize his name. trump has shown no respect to others, so he deserves none for himself. He lost his proper-noun privileges.”

Okay; soldiering on.

I understand Sarandon’s ardent support for Bernie Sanders, and share (most of) her opinions about the DNC. I also understand many of the reasons why she voted the way she did: she did not like Hillary Rodham Clinton’s policies, did not find HRC progressive enough (or at all)…. Thus, for her, voting for HRC would have involved doing so primarily because HRC is a woman. As Sarandon so memorably put it, “I don’t vote with my vagina.”

Ironically, those who felt the same have helped put in power a party that would like nothing better than to control Sarandon’s – and all women’s – va-jay-jays.

At the beginning of the campaign Sarandon, along with moiself and many Sanders supporters, feared that HRC, despite her many years of championing and working for admirable causes, was too conservative, too much business as usual, too baggage-laden, to be an effective candidate. Once Bernie was out, who/what was left to offer a radical change  – or even just the shock to the system that so many voters on both/all sides of the debates seemed to be looking for?

Ms. Sarandon was right, about many things. She was wrong, about other things. As were we all.

I still think Sarandon made the mistake of not holding her nose and voting for the one who had the best chance of defeating That Other One.  [5]  Turns out too many of us didn’t think HRC even needed a “the best chance” – we thought it was a sure thing. We were too complacent, too clueless, to get why all of the polls, why all of our “common sense,” could be misplaced. We were taken by surprise, because the question we kept asking – How could Anyone vote for such an obvious demagogue/racist/misogynist/xenophobe/scientific, political and cultural ignoramus/ nationalist bully !? received no truthful answers because Anyone didn’t trust us to listen.

I’m serious here: one of the more right-on explanations of the USA’s election debacle can be found in the antic, epic rant of a British comedian (Tom Walker, via his satirical leftwing, potty-mouthed persona, “Jonathan Pie”). To wit: Trump’s victory is rightly attributed to the “…penchant of leftwing social justice warriors to hurl insults at their opponents, stifle political debate, and label anyone who disagrees with them as sexist and racist.”

A partial transcript (my emphases):

The left is responsible…because the left have now decided that any other opinion, any other way of looking at the world is unacceptable. We don’t debate anymore because the left won the cultural wars. So if you’re on the right, you’re a freak. You’re evil. You’re racist. You’re stupid. You are a basket of deplorables. How do you think people are going to vote if you talk to them like that? When has anyone ever been persuaded by being insulted or labeled?

So now if you are on the right or even against the prevailing view, you are attacked for raising your opinion. That’s why people wait until they’re in the voting booth…there’s no blame or shame or anything, and you can finally say what you really think, and that is a powerful thing.

And all the polls were wrong….when asked, people can’t admit what they think….They’re not allowed to!…We’ve made people unable to articulate their position for fear of being shut down. Every time someone on the left says, “You mustn’t say that,” they contribute to this culture.

It time to stop ignoring your opponents, or worse, trying to silence them. It’s time to stop banning people from speaking in universities. It’s time to stop thinking that reposting an article on Facebook is political engagement…. that reading The Guardian doesn’t make you a liberal…(and that)….re-tweeting Green Peace doesn’t lower your carbon footprint.

And if my mansplaining is triggering you, you can either fuck off to your safe space or you can engage and debate me and tell me what I’m getting wrong. Because Trump just won the White House. Being offended doesn’t work anymore. Throwing insults doesn’t work anymore. The only thing that works is fucking bothering, doing something, and all you have to do is engage in the debate. Talk to people who think differently to you and persuade them of your argument. It’s so easy, and the left have lost the art. Stop thinking that everyone who disagrees with you is evil or racist or sexist or stupid, and talk to them, persuade them otherwise because if you don’t. I’ll tell you what you get – you get President Donald Trump.

You should watch the video, if you haven’t already. You might not like it; it might make you uncomfortable. It should.

 

 

 

The tape reminded of conversations MH and I had early on, [6] about the possible presidential candidates (neither of us wanted to go back to the Clinton-Bush era…remember when Jeb Bush was considered the likely GOP nominee?), then later, about the fact that neither of us knew the “real reasons” why anyone would support trump and why do trump supporters say they like him but then don’t articulate their reasons why…and why were the polls wrong – because people lied, and why did they do that? In part, because they didn’t want to be labeled a racist misogynist or….

Make no mistake, I have Absolutely. No.  Doubt. that a significant number (if not a majority) of trump supporters hold racist, misogynist, homophobic, xenophobic, alt-right religious feelings and opinions. But not all of them. trump supporters who do not (or claim not to) share those opinions took the pollsters by surprise – they wanted to vote against what they saw as a corrupt system more than they wanted to support trump himself, whom, they felt, offered the only option to give “a thunderous repudiation of the status quo.” [7]

“The Left” and Progressives lost this election. In so many ways, the proverbial ball was dropped. For example, we’ve known for years that the Electoral College system is a disenfranchising institution – a antiquated, dangerous relic of the slave era…and have done piddly-piss-squat to repeal or reform it.  [8] After the election debacle of 2000, Senator-elect Hillary Clinton pledged to help abolish the Electoral College…then did nothing. She failed to act on that pledge, a failure that must haunt her now, as her lead in the popular vote count exceeds 700,000 votes.  [9]

Ultimately, even accounting for the sexism she faced – from both supporters and detractors [10]  – Hillary Clinton was not a good candidate. [11]  Given the alternative, I was a (less than enthusiastic) supporter…as indicated by these bumper stickers I found for our cars.

 

 

hillary

 

 

So.  I am going to give a collegial if somewhat cynical nod to the safety pin you wear on your shirt [12] even as I question the efficacy if not the sincerity of what I consider to be non-action “actions” of solidarity. Translation: “checking in” on Facebook at Standing Rock doesn’t mean you are actually putting your body on the line with the Standing Rock protesters. Clicking like on your friend’s FB post about not defunding Planned Parenthood isn’t worth a warm pitcher of spit if you don’t put your money where your thumbs up is – if you do not follow your likes with consistent financial support and political action that thumbs up might as well be up your own ass.

*   *   *

 

Tune in next week, suckers for punishment, sports fans,  for Part 2: the Solutions.  Yes, as an alternative to continued kvetching, moiself will try to provide some answers. Or failing that, something more entertaining than politic-talk (elephant seal fart jokes, anyone?).

 

 

*   *   *

May you rise above as best you can;
May your actions speak louder than your clicks;
May you don the necessary shitstorm protection garments of your choice;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Umbrellas are for wimps and tourists.

[2] Which I shared in a recent post…for which I was roundly, soundly and articulately chastised.

[3] For any elected office, much less POTUS.

[4] Full disclosure: my nephew, who just happens to be a talented writer in his own right.

[5] A friend of mine, too disgusted to utter his name, refers to him as PuJu, for “Putin Junior.”

[6] Minus (most of the) Adult Language ® .

[7] The Financial Times.

[8] Whining about it is not meaningful.

[9] This makes her the fifth candidate to win the popular vote but lose the election (Al Gore in 2000; Andrew Jackson in 1824; Samuel Tilden in 1876; Grover Cleveland in 1888).

[10] Male candidates are not obsessed over re their “likeability,’ ad nauseum.

[11] “…cozying up to the banks and dry-humping corporations for years…” (Jonathan Pie)

[12] Ostensibly to show support for those frightened by Trump’s election and to declare themselves as allies to immigrants and minorities and LGBTQ and against racism, sexism and xenophobia….

The Hipster Kid I’m Not Running Over

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Department Of Because, You Know, Spooky

 

spooky

*   *   *

Department Of Hipster Dad Fail

Dateline: Sunday, New Seasons market. I am pushing one of the small carts…

 

 

samall-cart

This size

largecart

not this size

 

 

…on my way to a checkout counter, and as I navigate around a display of seasonal candies I encounter a man who could be a model for the iconic Portland Hipster Dad ® .

 

 

hipsterdad

 

By encounter I mean he’s right in front of my cart. He puts his hand out, in a manner I recognize as Stop! Immediately! and steps slightly to his left (my right)…but says nothing. I stop pushing the cart, look down, and see a young boy, approximately 3-4 years old, who is walking, slowly but directly, toward my cart. Hipster Dad’s son  [1]  is holding a small electronic device in his palm; he is intently studying said device and seems oblivious to my presence. In other words, the kid was about to walk right into me…or into the path of my cart…or I was about to run over the kid – which I’m sure, was Hipster Dad’s interpretation of the future scenario.

Hipster Dad says nothing, not to me nor to his child. He continues to look at me intently with his hand out, while his kid is paying no attention to anything but the device in his palm. All three of us are silent; I look expectantly to the father, expecting him to say something to his son about stepping aside or paying attention, but Hipster Dad remains immobile and mute,  [2] holding out that damn hand as if he’s stopping traffic for the passing of the Dalai Lama.

 

 

dalil

Excuse me, I am looking for the kosher foods aisle….

 

 

The boy finally looks up and sees me. He stops his forward movement, maybe a foot in front of my cart, but does not step to the side. I look at the dad again; who remains silent. I favor the kid with a smile/glower and say, “WELL?!?!?” and he moves out of my way.

*   *   *

Department Of Science-Induced Flashbacks

Reading a recent report on jumping spiders was the impetus for the following haven’t-thought-of-that-in-years recollection:

It was a late afternoon in the early spring, during my freshman year in college. About fifteen or so 3rd floor Bixby [3] residents, including moiself, were on our dorm’s rooftop…where we technically weren’t supposed to be, but it was a such a gorgeous, sunny day, why study at the library? Those of us who were finished with afternoon classes donned shorts and/or swim suit-ish attire, schlepped our beach towels and textbooks up two floors and through the forbidden stairway and claimed territory on the roof.

A guy who lived across the hall from me placed his beach towel next to mine. He was clothing-free except for swim trunks, which meant that his massively carpeted torso was on display for us lucky ladies…who, if truth be told, were not all that taken with the blond torrent of chest hairs which formed hurricane spiral-type swirls around his nipples (his dorm nickname, of which he was quite proud, was “The Hun.”).

The Hun opened his textbook for the engineering class he was soon to flunk transfer out of. After a minute or two he closed his book, looked around the rooftop, and decided to make conversation with me about how this was the first time he’d seen this many people up on the roof, and in shorts, and….

“Hey,” he tapped me on the knee. “You don’t shave your legs?”

“That’s right,” moiself said.

“Why don’t you shave your legs?” The Hun’s tone was curious, not hostile.

“Why don’t you shave your legs?” I tapped his knee, or, at least where I assumed his knee would be, under all that leg-wool.

“I’m a man,” he replied.

I shut my calculus book, my mouth gaping in astonishment to realize that, at that very moment, I was witness to

YET  ANOTHER  THRILLING  MOMENT  IN
GENDER  IDENTIFICATION  HISTORY

 

clappingjpg

 

I pointed toward the reddish-yellow tendrils infesting his upper lip and curling down and around his chin. It seemed The Hun had been trying to grow a beard. There were several guys on our floor who had moustaches, but beards were not popular at that time.

“Why have you stopped shaving your face?”

With anyone else, the point would have been easily made, or even conceded. But not the Hun, whose face (which he was no longer shaving) assumed its confused countenance, a look which was his default expression when he was forced to contemplate anything more complicated than when his next beer break was coming from.

I reopened my textbook and smiled benignly – okay, patronizingly – as I considered both the futility of future conversation on the subject and the wisdom of a certain adage.

Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time, and it annoys the pig.

Oh but now, Dearest Reader, I could have directed him to news article and told him, “I don’t shave my legs because, well, Science. Following the example of the sisterhood of Jumping Spiders, I have found a way to increase my aural acuity:

Jumping Spiders Can ‘Hear’ Using Their Leg Hairs

 

jumpingspider

Who’s laughing – yeah, I HEARD THAT!

*   *   *

Department Of It’s Later

Like most women I know – holy fucking festering pigslop, why is this the case ?!?!? – I have my own experience with sexual harassment. I will save that story for later.

In last week’s blog post I wrote about the #notokay, and women and girls sharing their stories of sexual assault and harassment being in the wake of the release of the Donald Trump Grab ’em by the pussy  tapes.   [4]  In light of the truly appalling nature of so many of the stories, it didn’t seem somehow…respectful of me to reference one of my experiences…which was less crude by comparison but still…not okay, to put it mildly.

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away I worked in the Publications Department of a Society which was, at that time, California’s largest business, networking and continuing education organization for a certain profession.  [5] The Publications Department was responsible for putting out a quarterly magazine for all Society members, as well as monthly newsletters for the fourteen regional chapters of the Society. The department consisted of the editor, assistant editor, art editor and classified advertising editor – moiself – who shared a large open office, and the PD Director and his secretary, who had offices down the hall, separate from The Rest Of Us ® .

It was an open secret that the Publications Department. Director, a man in his early forties whose perpetually smirking face sported what would nowadays be called a Porn Moustache, put in as little work as possible, with his secretary covering for him whenever someone higher up in the society needed to ask him a question. His long lunch breaks and frequent absences were fine by The Rest Of Us, who were all similar in age (mid-to-late twenties), who genuinely liked one another and sometimes socialized after work…and who individually and collectively did not like our boss, who gave off a distinctly creepy vibe.

One afternoon when the editor, assistant editor and art editor had gone down to the basement to confer with the mail guy about a magazine packaging, the PDD entered our office. I was alone at my desk, typing up some ad copy. Intent as I was on correcting the mystifyingly common grammatical errors of so-called professionals, I was not aware of the PDD’s presence until he was standing behind me. Very close behind me.

Without saying a work, the PDD placed his hand on my right shoulder. I shrugged my shoulder as if trying to dislodge a tarantula, and cast an excusez moi?! glance over my shoulder. He withdrew his hand. I proceeded to type.  He proceeded to place both of his hands on my shoulders. He remained silent, but the intention of his touch was…ick.

 

iknowwhatyoumwan

 

I ripped the ad copy from my typewriter, stood up and strode across the office, to the editor’s desk. I placed the copy on her desk, crossed my arms and glared back at my boss, who was still standing behind my desk chair. At that moment, my three comrades returned. The PDD made small talk with the art editor and then slithered down the hall returned to his office. The editor began to fill me in about the meeting with the mail guy and asked me something about the ad copy.

I had no idea what to say, or even to think about, what had just happened. So I did neither.

 Two days later the PDD called the four of us to his office, to discuss a few “minor changes” he wanted made to the next edition of the Society’s magazine. He mentioned a few graphics rearrangements he wanted to see on the front page, then announced that the masthead would be streamlined: from the next issue forward there would be just four names listed: The Publications Department Director as Executive Editor, the Editor, the Assistant Editor, and the Art Director/Editor. The position of Classified Ads editor would be deleted from the credits.

The Editor, flummoxed at first, quickly gained her composure. She argued in vain to keep my credit (“The classified ads editor has always been listed in the masthead; it’s an important position – advertising revenues are what supports the….”) while the art director and I exchanged what would nowadays be termed WTF?!?! looks. The PDD quickly quashed any further dissension on that subject and segued to his dissatisfaction with a banner ad the art director had designed.

Although I could have (hopefully) counted on my fellow editors for job references, should I have sought future employment in a related field, [6] my name in the magazine’s masthead was hard copy proof of my job title and experience. And just like that, it was gone.

I knew exactly what had transpired. I’d not yet heard the term sexual harassment, but I knew retaliation when I smelled it.

 

bad-smell

*   *   *

Department Of Remind Me Again Why We Put Up With This

One of the justifications for holding presidential debates [7] is that such forums are supposed to help undecided voters get off their cognitive asses and make informed if difficult choices  make a decision. It’s hard for me to imagine how anyone can be undecided at this point, considering how the GOP candidate has repeatedly demonstrated that not only is he unfit for elected office, he’s unable to ape even the most basic civilized hominid behavior.

At this point, given the evidence amassed which shows he’s qualified for nothing other than Demagogue-In-Chief, it is likely that anything can change Trump supporters’ anacephalic minds. If verifiable video footage surfaced which showed The Donald joining forces with Vladimir Putin and Adolph Hitler to nude mud wrestle and hogtie an endangered baby rhinoceros, Trump supporters would point to it as evidence of Trump’s extensive foreign-policy experience.

 

rhino

Mommy, will I ever be old enough to understand why anybody would vote for that mean man?

*   *   *

 

May you voluntarily wrestle in the mud of reality;
May you be comforted by the baby Rhino of Reassurance;  [8]
May you from this point onward have no #notokay experiences;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] That is what I assumed the little boy to be.

[2] He was not in fact mute, as I heard him say something to his son after I walked away.

[3] One of the high rise dorms at UC Davis.

[4] The tape’s transcript, in all its lewd glory, can be read here.

[5] Not the world’s oldest.

[6] I didn’t, and I left that job about two months later.

[7] Other than providing ready-made material for SNL skits.

[8] If Lithuanians can have a crustacean of  prophecy then I can have a rhino of reassurance.

 The Water I’m Not Standing In

1 Comment

 

 

I want to start a meme. Can I can I can I please please please?

 

 

pick-me

 

 

Thank you. It’s this:

Stand in the water!

It means, show me you care…even if it’s somewhat, or mostly, an act.

This meme inspiration – mimspiration? – comes from watching the various television news crews covering Hurricane Matthew. At some point in the broadcasts a reporter, perhaps even the network’s anchor, would be on the scene at a hurricane affected-area, speaking into a hand-held microphone, and the camera would slowly pan back to reveal the reporter standing in the floodwaters/waves/ocean. Every single newscast I watched did that; I felt as if they were trying to say to me, See, we are here, we are legit reporters and not just armchair journalists, and this is water, and a lot of it wiggling around our ankles and knees means a serious storm, so pay attention to our authenticity.

And then it was “Back to you, Scott,” even as the local authorities were telling people other than the reporter to get the fuck out of there, you dumb schmucks please evacuate to higher ground.

MH did not realize the reporters were doing that water-standing thing until I pointed it out to him. Even then, he failed to grasp my (perhaps just a teensy bit over-the-top) fascination with the phenomena. I began yelling at newscasters [1] who were lurking by a flooded highway – I wanted them to show me that they cared: Stand in the water!

 

 

 

newsjpg

Not good enough, dude – STAND IN THE WATER!

 

 

 

*   *   *

The Abuser I’m Not Castrating…

…only because I lack the materials and expertise to construct a time machine.

Dateline: Sunday morning. I needed an entertainment breather after cleaning up a thinking-outside-the-litter-box accident and then some cat barf, [2]   and opened Facebook on my phone. I read the four sentences from RKK which comprised the first post in my feed. A mere four sentences, which carried a novel’s worth of import. And I had to lie down on the couch.

I was playing 45s in my bff’s bedroom. Her stepfather sat behind me, wrapped his legs around my hips, pressed against me, whispered into my ear what he wanted to do to me, and grabbed my breast. I froze. I was 14.

The post was written under a hashtag started by author Kelly Oxford: # notokay, who’d tweeted: “Women: tweet me your first assaults. They aren’t just stats.” And then Oxford shared her story, using the same vulgar term a certain presidential candidate used in a recently released recording.

Oxford wasn’t sure she’s get more than a few responses, considering the highly personal nature of her request. She received over a million.

I sought and received RKK’s permission to share RKK’s story in this space. I wanted to post it verbatim, as part of the ongoing discussion of sexual assault, a discussion that seems to be the one positive fallout from the recording of the vile musings of He Who Shall Not Be Named.  [3]

I have been trying not to comment about HWSNBN in this space, for a plethora of reasons, including (what is, to me) the DUH-ness of it all: Trump said something/did something outrageous WHAT a surprise! And also because I just feel plain dirty, having the image of his lying, blustering, bullying façade come to my mind for even more than a second.

And then, there is what happened to RKK…and to so many women and girls like her. I wonder, when they read or hear about the loutish HWSNBN bragging about his groping and his aggressive sexual pursuits, if they once again, even if just for an dreadful moment, transported  back to a childhood friend’s room, to a school concert, to a city bus, to a classroom, to a church hallway, to a street, a backyard, where it happened….

Read a roundup of some of the women’s stories here, if you think you can stand do. If you think you can’t, perhaps that’s the more reason you should.

This release of the HWSNBN recording and the responses to it – folks, this is what people are talking about when they talk about rape culture. If you’re put off by that term because you think it’s related to group think and/or political correctness, or for whatever reason, please unclench your jaw, do some breathing exercises, and read on.

It is, simply and profoundly, this: Rape culture is the cultural conditioning of men and boys to feel entitled to treat women as objects. It is a culture that leads all of us – men and boys but also women and girls – to question and second guess and blame females for male sexual harassment and assault. (I would never do such a thing to anyone/ It would never happen to me; she must have done something to provoke him)

Trump’s retort, and his defenders reactions to the tape , are the exemplars of rape culture. The dismissive “it’s just locker room talk” normalizes and justifies the behavior.

Like most women – holy fucking festering pigslop, why is this the case ?!?!? – I’ve my own experience with sexual harassment. I’ll save one such story for later.

*   *   *

Department Of Last Straws

And one more thing, on this subject.

I keep hearing/reading about how more Republican leaders have withdrawn their support [4]  for their party’s candidate. It seems the lewd sex tape was “the last straw.”

Senator McCain, Rep. Ryan, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Senators Murkowski and Collins and Crapo and Portman and Governors Herbert and Bentley and all you other rats scurrying off the GOP sinking ship – really? Finally?  The last straw is…now? There’s been enough straw spewed from Trump’s various orifices to construct a hay bale large enough to feed all the goats in Dumbfuckistan. [5]

 

 

dumbfuck

 

 

Your nominee labeled Mexicans as rapists and murderers and “joked” about his followers shooting Clinton (pass the straw). He incited violence at his primary rallies and mocked a disabled reporter; he insulted a Muslim-American family whose soldier son was killed in service of our country and said that soldiers with PTSD were weak and called for preventing all Muslims from entering the country; he continued to add to his long history of sexist and derogatory comments about women (duck! There’s a straw storm coming in), he trivialized the consequences of workplace sexual harassment and lied repeatedly about issues large and small and committed business fraud after business fraud while passing himself off as a successful business man…

Oh, but now he’s on tape using the p-word. THIS IS THE LAST STRAW.

 

 

shockcat

“No one grabs my pussy and gets away with it!”

 

 

The number of prominent Republicans disavowing/withdrawing their support for Trump increased after the release of the tape. Among other issues, these pols are concerned with how this will affect them in their own upcoming bids for (re)election.

While it warms the cockles of my heart to hear about anyone changing their mind/seeing the light at the end of their sphincter of the tunnel and withdrawing their support from Trump…how can I put this?

When I invite guests to a potluck dinner – a dinner that has distinct start and end times (as opposed to an open house/drop by any time event), I will gladly open the door for any late arrivers. Whether or not they’ve called ahead to alert me of their tardy ETA, I’m glad they were able to make it.

But if you show up just as the guests are finishing their dessert, don’t be surprised if

(1)  someone asks you What the fuck took you so long?, and
(2)  nobody is interested in sampling the hors d’oeuvre platter you brought.

 

 

heyyou

Hey you – Stand in the water!

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Wednesdays Suck

Hopefully next week’s hump day will be better, but for moiself, this week’s was one to be gotten over. There was too much not-good news, including but not limited to discovering that someone I love has engaged in yet another form of self-expression. [6] And then, I had to go and read the latest Authors Guild Bulletin

 

 

facepalm

Will she never learn?

 

 

…which contained yet another well-written, well-documented article on the financial outlook for writers, ominously but aptly titled, “Where Does All The Money Go?”  The article’s summary: There are an increasing number ways for customers to gain access to a book without a penny going to the writer.

Meanwhile, the Authors Guild and other professional writers organizations continue to fight (and lose) legal battles with Amazon and Google over issues including copyright, royalty and fair usage. And, while the AG and other organizations document and report on how writers incomes are declining the, membership dues for these various professional organizations keep rising.  [7]

 

 

bucketosloths

Next time, I’ll toss the journal and contemplate a bucket o’ sloths instead. ‘Tis better for the spirit.

*   *   *

Department Of How To Frost Your Butt

It’s fairly easy: follow MH’s recommendation like I did, and listen to podcast #728 of Planet Money, “The Wells Fargo Hustle.” Then try to restrain yourself from taking a flamethrower to the nearest WFB ATM.

You can read about the logistics of the WFB scandal in many news sites. The podcast cited deals with the human cost of lower level employees being told by their managers that they must meet astoundingly unrealistic goals by any means necessary or we’ll make your life hell, and then when you lose your job with us we’ll make sure you will not be able to get a job anywhere else.

There are only four reasons I’m not insisting that MH and I close all of our WFB accounts (including, perhaps, some we don’t even know we have  [8]) :

  1. The chance that by doing so my cherished friend LMW, employed at WFB for many years, many in some way be negatively affected;
  2. I’ve little trust in banks in general – are others just as bad, and we don’t know about it?
  3. There is no reason #3.
  4. See reason #1.

 

 

 

atm

*   *   *

Department Of Ending On A Positive Note

National Coming Out Day was 10-11-16, and my nephew did just that. KMV’s articulate, passionate, well-considered post on his FB page ended with a line that made my day:

“Not to confirm stereotypes,
but I guess the obsession with Beyoncé now makes a lot of sense, huh?”

 

 

come-out

*   *   *

May you come out of whatever space needs leaving;
May you be a first responder to the last straw;
May you stand for the good guys when you stand in the water;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Ok, yelling at the TV. Don’t think the reporters heard me.

[2] Thank you, Nova and Crow, for those respective early morning eye-openers.

[3] Whom my daughter Belle refers to as te “spray-tanned version of Lord Voldemort.”

[4] As grudging as it may have been in the first place, it was still support.

[5] The lay term for the country formed by the US states which “re-elected” George W. Bush to the Presidency.

[6] In a format I consider self-harm and/or mutilation.

[7] In part so that they can hire lawyers to fight the losing fights.

[8] Wells Fargo was opening bank accounts (perhaps as many as two million fraudulent accounts) without customers’ permission.

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