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The Gift I’m Not Pushing

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Dateline: Friday July 27, Cinemark Theatres complex. I’d been in Tacoma since Tuesday, visiting daughter Belle, helping her out after she’d had foot surgery the previous week, and I was feeling lousy. The cold/fever virus which was plaguing MH apparently hitchhiked with me, and by Friday morning I felt like a cheap retread tire left on the side of a highway. But I had promised Belle a movie of her choice, in a theatre with Comfy Chairs –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No not that kind, the “Luxury Loungers” –  those roomy cinema seats with reclining backs and elevating footrests– perfect for Belle’s recovering-from-surgery, boot-encased foot.

After our movie was over,  [1] Belle and I were among the last to leave our theatre, what with her navigating on crutches. Thus, we were privy to the poignant sight of another couple exiting the theatre across the hall, where Dunkirk was playing.  A petite elderly woman, clutching the arm of an older-than-me-but-much-younger-than-her man, was trying but failing to stifle her emotions. She was overcome by wracking sobs. Movie patrons from both theatres quickly gave her and the man space and privacy, the patrons flashing looks of sympathy as they passed the couple by.

As Belle and I headed for the restrooms, I rummaged through my purse to retrieve a packet of travel-sized tissues. “Please, wait here for me,” I said to Belle. “I have to go back.”

I found the woman and her companion, whom I took to be her son, standing next to the theatre hall wall. The woman was leaning against the wall for support and the man had his hand on her shoulder.

“Excuse me; may I?” I extended the packet of tissues toward her. She accepted them with a look of gratitude, and I indicated the theatre from whence she’d come.

“You just saw ‘Dunkirk?’ “

She reached out and clutched my forearm, her grip surprising me with its strength. “I didn’t know it would affect me like this,” she gasped.

I nodded, smiled, and said softly, “You’re British?” It wasn’t really a question I was posing; I was confirming what I suspected.

Her voice quavering, she replied that yes, she had lived in London as a girl – lived through the bombings, through it all.

 

 

 

Britgirl

 

 

 

She began to talk about the movie, and the memories it had brought back.

“It is such a powerful story,” I said, “and sadly, one that few Americans seem to know about. But, maybe now that will change.”

She told me that as much as she was surprised by how much she was reliving those times, her tears were also tears of joy, to see the “rows of teenagers” sitting in the theatre. She was pleased to see young people watching such a movie; perhaps, she said, they would learn something new about the times back then, and have something different to aspire to, “…especially in this world, where things, where leaders, are so…” she wavered, “so mean, and nasty, and cruel…”

“And you are remembering bravery, and a time of service and honor,” I offered.  She nodded, dabbing at her eyes with the tissues. I told her to please keep the tissue packet, and thanked her for sharing her memories with me.

Her son had remained silent, gazing down at his mother with an expression of utmost love and tenderness, while she spoke. He patted her arm and thanked me for “coming back.” I told him that I had to…and then it was my time to struggle with how to put my feelings into words:

…because we’re all human, going through this world together.

And as I was returning to where I’d left Belle I realized I was grateful that neither the woman nor her son had asked me what movie I’d just seen. I still don’t know how I would have answered, had they done so. Would I have tried to deflect from the fact that while they were being blown away by the heart-rending reality of Dunkirk, I was squirming through the raunchy, nonstop booty/fuck-fest joke-filled Girls Trip?

 

*   *   *

Department Of There’s A New Community In Town, And They’re Nuts

 

Opening ad in a Live From the Poundstone Institute, [2] podcast:

“Support for this podcast…comes from Almond Board of California. Did you know that the almond community generates more than one hundred thousand jobs in ….”

Not only did I not know about the job generation, I had no idea there was an almond community…in California or anywhere else.   Almonds grow on trees, so I figured there are almond orchards, and therefore a certain critical mass of almond growers, pickers, and packers and shippers…. But the community thing has thrown me. I just can’t picture it.

 

 

 

almondjpg

The Mayor of the Almond Community considers the upcoming Town Hall Meeting agenda.

*   *   *

Department Of You Had Me Until The WTF?!?! Part

Got a new cookbook, and was enjoying perusing the recipes until I read the author’s [3]  comments on a chard-red bean-peanut stew:

“This is one of my favourite foods to eat on a cold, autumn day…”

Okay; stop, right there. Add a period after day and you’re fine. But noooooooooooo, she had to insert a comma, and….

“This is one of my favourite foods to eat on a cold, autumn day, while wearing a cosy, knitted jumper.”

 

 

confused lady

 

 

Apparently, this is Yet Another Thing About Which I Am Both Unaware And Unimpressed ® . Enhance your appreciation of your meal – perhaps even increase its nutrient density – by wearing the right outfit?

 

Also – a knitted jumper? A garment which is flattering to Cabbage patch dolls no one ever?  I feel like putting on my Mom Voice ® and advising the author, Honey, you may feel cozy cosy, sitting at the kitchen table dressed in your knitted jumper but you look like an ottoman. There, there now, dry your eyes and have some yummy chard stew.

 

 

ottoman

*   *   *

Department Of You’ve Got To Be Fucking Kidding

When I read the letter to the Dear Abby column, I thought I must be hallucinating. It’s the fever (from the previously mentioned virus) I reassured myself. Then the next day, when the fever had abated, I saw the same letter, in the same DA column, in another newspaper. It was from a husband seeking advice from DA. Husband and dad-to-be was concerned about being able to afford to give his pregnant wife a “push gift.” Which (until I read further   [4]) I had no idea what it was, or that it was even a thing.

Concerned Dad-to-be made no attempt to confront or reject this supposed tradition, but just meekly wondered if it was indeed a thing, and if so, how can he do it when he and his wife are tapped out financially?

 

 

 

alfienshock

Is this the galaxy’s most vile tradition, or what?

 

 

 

Now.  I have a husband. I have been a pregnant wife. I have heard of many strange customs (most of them religion-related or mandated) related to the social milestones of marriage and childbirth, ranging from the odd (Bundling or Tarrying[5]) to the shocking (Indian Baby-Tossing [6] ) to the stupid and potentially dangerous (The Tidong Bathroom Ban  [7] ). But I’d never heard of this push gift, which for many reasons strikes me as one of the more ultimately distasteful “traditions.”

I received no push gift after the birth of son K, nor three years later, when I Tarzan-yelled daughter Belle into this world.

 

 

 

 

It is fortunate that no wretched fool had gotten a hold of MH and convinced him that such a thing was necessary. If I had been given some bauble presented as a push gift it is highly likely I would have told MH where to push it.

And what about father and labor partner extraordinaire MH, who never left my side during my 13 hour hospital labor with our first child, even though, as MH confessed after the delivery, he really, really, really had to pee?  [8]  Should I have gotten him a holding-it-in gift?

And the name – push gift?

 

 

REALLY

 

Yeah, really?

Thank you honey, for your sacrifice in bringing our child into the world and thereby ruining your anatomy. I know your vagina and pelvic floor continence will never be the same again – here’s a charm bracelet.

And does this “tradition” not apply to women who are unable or do not have to push out their babies– i.e., those who undergo C-sections? Or do they get a runner-up trinket?

 

 

crackerjack

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

May we remember we go through life together with our fellow humans;
May you tell the well-meaning but clueless humans where to push their push gifts;
May you remember that friends don’t let friends wear knitted jumpers;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Praaaaaaaaaaaise de lawd when it was indeed over. It made me feel so uncomfortable…I’ll just say this: is a movie still pandering to stereotypes if a member of the group being stereotyped freely participates in it? I can’t imagine a white production team getting away with Girls Trip.

[2] A show with the inspiring mission “to gather all of the world’s knowledge,” or, as host Poundstone puts it, “to get less stupid, one topic at a time.”

[3] Brit, as you may notice re the spelling of certain words.

[4] A push gift is a present, often but not always an expensive item of jewelry, given by the husband to the wife on the occasion of her giving birth to their child.

[5] Bundling, aka, tarrying, is..oh, look it up if you’re interested.

[6] A centuries-old ritual in certain Indian towns in the first week of December, wherein babies (from both Hindu and Muslim families – this is interfaith idiocy) are tossed from a temple tower onto a cloth, held by men standing below the tower, and then the babies are passed to their mother. ..

[7] wherein tradition in the Indonesian Tidong community mandates newlyweds must not defecate or urinate for three days after the wedding, lest they bring bad luck upon their marital union

[8] And there was a bathroom, right in the room where I labored. I told him that was so sweet – his staying by my side – but  frankly, had our positions been reversed, I would have left for a minute to pee and he could have done so (like during one of the man times when my eyes were squinted shut and I was yelling invectives) without my noticing.

The Stairwells I’m Not Sniffing

Comments Off on The Stairwells I’m Not Sniffing

Department Of Reasons To Like Tourism

Dateline: Tuesday. Friend CC and I were walking down the stairwell from the 6th floor of the parking structure near Portland’s Fox Tower Theatres, on our way to see The Big Sick[1]  I was purposefully and vigorously inhaling through my nose – in contrast to employing my usual, defensive, mouth-breathing strategy while navigating a Portland stairwell. After three or so flights of stairs I asked CC if she, too, noticed something strange.

The something strange was a pleasant floral aroma, which we both identified as honeysuckle. Which was soooooooo preferable to the pungent stench of urine (and worse) which usually wafts up and down that stairwell (and other Portland urban area access points).

I speculated that some ammonia-odor removal crew was had been on the scene – and also noted how clean the stairwell looked. Not one cigarette butt or crushed plastic cup nor piss stain outline to be seen. CC, who works in downtown Portland, says that in the past few weeks she’s noticed, as she’s made her 16 block walk to and from her commuter train to her office, a marked improvement in the area, which she attributes to the increase in tourists she’s also noticed. Certain streets, corners, alleys and parkways where sketchy-looking people congregated to panhandle (read: extort) passersby or just stare at them menacingly are now seemingly clear of loiterers, and she’s seen Portland Parks employees, wielding large buckets of mysterious but agreeable-smelling cleaning solutions, sprucing up the downtown.

 

 

toilet

” ‘Morning at the Florists’ or ‘Tweaker Takes a Dump’ – which freshener scent shall I use today?”

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of No To Mainlining Tequila Or Acquiring A Chippendale’s Rent Boy – What Kind Of Midlife Crisis Strategy Is This?

My Friend LU, a proud Denver CO denizen,  is in the midst of a month long vacation, whittling down her goal to hike/climb all 50+ of Colorado’s 14ers [2] She has described this mountainous (sorry) task as “…the Peak-a-Day remedy for my midlife crisis”…

Her description made me a bit puzzled, in that LU, who has yet to summit (no more, I promise) her 50th birthday, is a bit too young for a MidLife Crisis ® . Or so I thought. A bit o’ research later and I realized that, once again, moiself was/is the outlier with regard to the pesky MLC phenomenon.

I was an early reader , yet a late bloomer – the latter term used here to refer to common social and/or cultural conventions. For example, I married at age 31  [3] and had my children, K and Belle, when I was 36 and 39 respectively. [4]   Also, I didn’t experience the emotional/existential questioning of identity and self-confidence – what I refer to as the What-now?-ness of The Third Act, and what is more commonly referred to as a Midlife Crisis  [5] – until I was in my mid-late 50s.

The first time I tossed out the term Midlife Crisis in relation to moiself, MH couldn’t help but weigh in with an observation. This man, the apple of my eye, the nectarine of my nose, the tangerine of my toe, the kumquat of my kidney, the apricot of my ass….

 

 

 

iknowwhatyoumwan

 

 

 

 

Anyway, MH, Mr. Supportive incarnate, offered this:

Mid -life crisis? Do you really think you’re going to live to be 110?

The honeymoon never ends, does it?

*   *   *

Department of WTF ?: Lather, Rinse, Repeat

We wouldn’t be in this mess – having to send an astoundingly  immature, tweet-posturing mortification of an excuse for POTUS to G-20  and other world summits [6] –  were our presidential voting system not shackled to an archaic slave state appeasement scheme.

The Electoral College : much has been uttered re the need for its abolishment and/or reform, and little done (as I have carped about before in this space[7] ). There are ways to change this system, and there are people working long and hard to do so….and then our elected officials sit on their asses…until the next time they can bemoan how someone can lose the popular vote by millions and yet be “elected” POTUS. 

So. I am pissed off, disenchanted, and yet (perhaps saddest of all), cynically not surprised by the political action – or rather, inaction – on the matter. I refer to that which has happened in my own beloved state, Oregon, where last week the legislature ONCE AGAIN proved they had no balls by dropping the ball re this issue of national importance and international repercussions.

 

 

wethepeople

 

 

 

Which leads to my first guest blog post. To present a more nuanced, less testicle-insulting illumination of the situation, take it away, MH:

Why I am so disappointed with the Oregon State Senate

The Oregon State Senate failed to pass the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) for the FOURTH time.  Actually, it is more than that, but it’s the fourth time that the House has done its part of the job (2009, 2013, 2015, and 2017), and the Senate has not.  Many of our Senators claim to support it – a majority, even, but it just doesn’t happen.  Eleven other states have had the good sense to pass it.  It is past time for Oregon to do so.

What would the bill do?

It would award Oregon’s electoral votes for the president of the United States to the candidate that receives the most popular votes in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.  It would go into effect only when states that account for a majority of the electoral votes (270) have joined the compact. 

The eleven states that have passed the compact represent 165 electoral votes.  Oregon represents 7 electoral votes.

Why is this bill important?

We have a bad system for electing the president of the United States. 

More than three-quarters of the voters in the United States are politically irrelevant when electing the President.

Oregon’s electoral votes (for example) have gone to a Democrat in the last eight elections.  The vote hasn’t been close enough that either candidate had any incentive to care about gaining a few more votes.  If you don’t win the state, you get nothing.  If you win it, you get it all.  The same is true in nearly every state.    Every vote for the Republican Presidential candidate in Oregon has counted for nothing for the last 30 years.  Conversely, every vote for the Democratic candidate in Texas has counted for nothing since 1980.  

If you don’t live in a “swing state,” your vote is of no importance to a presidential candidate. 

That importance (or lack thereof) carries over into the treatment that states receive from sitting Presidents.

You can watch a video expounding on this far more than I’m doing.

This bill, once enacted by enough states, would make every vote count and be valued equally.

But what about….?

There are several reasons oppositionists present as making the NPV a scary or bad thing to do.  None of them hold up to scrutiny.  The nice folks at National Popular Vote Inc have done an admirable job of addressing the concerns with reason and evidence.  Their videos aren’t exciting, but they are clear and convincing.  If you think this is a bad idea because it would favor big cities, disfavor small states, enable extremist candidates, or some other reason, I encourage you to visit their site and see what they have to say about it.

What now?

Let your state legislators know that you are disappointed in them and that you want them to pass the NPVIC at their next opportunity.   You can find your state representatives here.  You can also contact them through the NPV web site, which gives a history of the efforts in Oregon.

Senator Ginny Burdick was particularly crucial to stopping the bill this session by keeping it from escaping the Senate rules committee.  If you happen to be in her district (Portland, southwest to Tigard), it would be especially helpful to let her know.  In the end, she said that she would only support the bill if it was referred to the voters.  While that sounds like a good thing, it is the legislature’s job (constitutionally) to decide on the method of awarding electors.  In addition, a referendum requires an expensive public campaign (with no one to fund it) to counter the myths about the effects of the compact.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Precious Special Snowflake Of Self-Concern

Content Warning: gender pronoun satire ahead

 

 

content

 

 

MH, for those of you who’ve either (1) figured it out on your own, or (2) checked the about me info on my blog header, is my blog acronym for he who is My Husband.

MH identifies as male; pronouns he/him/his/himself. Or, when dealing with British monarchy (as we are so often called to do), HRH[8]

Moiself  [9]: I identify as Scarlett Johansson; pronouns she so fine/her be wow/hers is the best/herself is the babe of babes.

 

*   *   *

Department Of What An Odd Dream To Wake Up From
Aka, How You Know That It’s Time Go Back To Sleep

Last week, early one morning (~ 5:30 am), I awoke from a dream in which I was watching a TV commercial for what might genteelly be described as a novelty item or gag gift – you know the category (such classy items as fake glass spill, windup talking dentures, fake vomit, remote control fart machines, fake turd-in-the-toilet….).

 

 

 

novelty items

 

 

The advertisement showed a young boy playing in the hot summer sun, running back and forth through the sprinklers in his back yard, while aren’t-we-having-fun-in-the-sun music plays in the background. After about ten seconds of this seasonal fun the boy slips and falls on the wet grass, landing smack on his behind. The boy rolls over and lies face down on the grass, giggling with embarrassment as the camera closes in on the back of his shorts. It seems his siblings have played  a prank on their brother, dressing him in special shorts that, when wet, reveal a heretofore invisible brown stain, as if he’s soiled himself.  The boy’s siblings chortle with glee (off camera) as the boy sings this ditty:

  ♫  Why did you take my Pooh Pooh pants now?
Why did you take my Pooh Pooh pants now?  ♫

 

facepalm

It must be the truth; there’s no way she could have made up something this inane.

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

May your early morning dreams be entertaining if inane;
May you do your part to change Electoral inanity;
May the urban stairwells you have to traverse be sweetly fragranced;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Which you must see. 10 thumbs (or whatever digits float your boat) up.

[2] A “14er’ is a mountain peak with an elevation of at least 14k feet.

[3] Seven years behind the median age of first marriage for females (at that time)…although the timing was just fine by moiself…and also by my parents, who were convinced I would hold to my vow to never marry.

[4] And yep, having kids was also on my list of Things Not To Do.

[5] Once thought to be a mainly male phenomena, midlife crises are now recognized to be gender-inclusive, although tending to hit women earlier – in their mid-30s to late 40s –(or so say People Who Track Such Things.)

[6] Or have to deal with his embarrassing  and inflammatory ignorance at home.

[7] Specifically, then Senator-Elect Clinton’s vow to get rid of the EC after the GWB election debacle.  She – surprise! – and the other senators did nothing, which came back to haunt her oh-so-recently.

[8] Her Royal Husbandness.

[9] in case you’re interested and since I don’t believe I’ve ever specified….

The Acceptance Letter I’m Not Sending

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Content warning: writer’s rant. This would be so much better with a few poop jokes dropped (sorry) [1]  here and there.

This post is related to the fact that Native American author/poet  [2]  Sherman Alexie has a new book out and is making the rounds of radio/TV/print news media publicity.  I recently heard a portion of a radio interview with him, and it sparked a memory of the occasion when Mr. Alexie’s name was last (to my knowledge) front and center, having to do with a brouhaha in the literary world.

Listening to writers talk about writing (or reading about writers being interviewed about writing) is perhaps my least favorite arts news format.  I have learned to skip most Fresh Air podcasts when a fiction author is featured, as I find their discourse (yes, even when they are being interviewed by the mahhhhhvelous Terry Gross) cringe-worthily pretentious. The author’s work itself, independent of their yakking about it, is often quite a different matter. For example, whether or not I’ve heard him speak (about himself), I have quite enjoyed most of what I’ve read by Mr. Alexie (and have heard good things about him from several independent bookstore owners).

Back to the pesky brouhaha: There may be a few of you non-literary (read: sane, or at least moderately well-adjusted) folks who cannot recall reading about a publishing “scandal” two years ago, described by the New York Times as, A White Poet borrows a Chinese Name and Sets Off Fireworks.  Lucky you.

A brief summation of the fireworks: Every year the Academy of American Poets chooses a different guest editor to select 75 poems to be published in their “Best American Poetry” anthology. Sherman Alexie was the 2015 BAP editor.  Both Alexie and the anthology received some rather intense criticism (read: political/cultural Ad hominen attacks)  having to do with the hot button, Are we having fun now? literary and artistic topics of artistic freedom, diversity, cultural appropriation, inclusion, entitlement….  All this and more sniping discussion came about because the anthology included a poem which was written by a “white” poet writing under a Chinese pseudonym.

Like all of the poems chosen to be in the anthology, Yi-Fen Chou’s “The Bees, the Flowers, Jesus, Ancient Tigers, Poseidon, Adam and Eve,” had been previously published.  [3]  After the poem was selected for the anthology, the poet Michael Derrick Hudson revealed (to BAP editor Alexie) that Yi-Fen Chou was his pen name. Alexie did not change his decision to publish the poem in the anthology. He included a note in the anthology’s introduction about Hudson’s pseudonym, and also wrote an essay about the experience and his decision.

Excerpts from the 9-10-15 New York Times article (A White Poet borrows a Chinese Name and Sets Off Fireworks; my emphasis)

In an essay on the Best American Anthology blog on Monday, Mr. Alexie, a Native American, defended his decision, saying he had paid closer attention to the poem because of the author’s name — a kind of “racial nepotism,” he said — but ultimately chose it because he liked it.
When Mr. Hudson revealed his use of a pseudonym, Mr. Alexie wrote, he debated how to deal with this instance of “colonial theft,” but decided that dropping the poem “would have cast doubt on every poem I have chosen” and “implied that I chose poems based only on identity.”
“Never thought I’d see poets using yellowface to get published in 2015 but here we are,” Saeed Jones, a poet and the literary editor of Buzzfeed, said on Twitter. Jezebel ran a post under the headline “If You’re a White Man Who Can’t Get Published Under Your Own Name, Take the Hint.”  [4]
Ken Chen, a poet and executive director of the Asian American Writers Workshop, said Mr. Hudson was guilty of “cynical mischief” in the service of a “reactionary fantasy.”
 “He believes that he’s being cheated, and things will only improve if writers of color are virtualized away,” Mr. Chen said in an interview. “If only they didn’t really exist, and were just white guys with pseudonyms.”

*   *   *

 

I was at once frustrated and not at all surprised by the controversy. I was also pleasantly surprised by Mr. Alexie’s honest admission of a not-so-well-kept suspicion/secret in the Animal Farm world of literary submissions and selections: that all animals’ identities are equal, but some animals’ identities are more equal than others.  [5]

As to the this will get me some press over-the-top outrage expressed by some of Mr. Hudson’s fellow poets, their reeks-of-envy hysteria speaks for itself.  I do have a question for Ken Chen, whose festering turd of vitriol  [6]  is included in the last paragraph of the NY Times article (excerpted above).

He believes that he’s being cheated, and things will only improve if writers of color are virtualized away,”…“If only they didn’t really exist, and were just white guys with pseudonyms.”

What kind of bullshit declaration is that?  Mr. Chen, you know nothing re what Mr. Hudson “believes.” Where is your evidence that this person you disparage – whom you’ve apparently never met nor even spoken to – has a “reactionary fantasy” (whatever that is) and thinks “things” will improve  [7] “if writers of color are virtualized away”?

Dude…some unsolicited advice?

 

 

 

 

keep calm

 

 

 

*   *   *

My sister-in-law, “Billy,” is Chinese, a native of Canton. She has assumed her husband’s (my brother’s) Irish surname when they married, and not long before they met she began using a (typically male-associated) first name which she chose because it was easier (than her given Cantonese first name) for Americans to pronounce.  I wonder, what masquerade might she be accused of, were she to become a writer? What accusations of gender/ethnic/cultural nepotism might be flung her way, should she submit work under her adopted name and some other chip-on-their-self-righteously-authentic-shoulder writers discovered she was born Choi Cheok-Jin and not Billy O’Malley[8]

I snickered when I first read about the BAP anthology controversy – snickered to think that someone’s naive knickers could be knotted over the fact that yet another writer had successfully used a strategy that writers throughout history have employed. For a variety of reasons – from subverting sexism,  [9]  a longing for privacy and/or anonymity, the desire to escape typecasting (type-writing?) [10] or just wanting to test and tweak editors’ and publishers’ assumptions about the author’s background – many writers have submitted and do submit their work using a pen name or two.

The author we’ve come to know and love as J.K. Rowling agreed to publish her Harry Potter series using gender ambiguous initials rather than her given name ( Joanne Rowling, no middle initial), because her publisher thought Harry Potter’s target audience (young males) might be put off by a book written by a woman.    Did Rowling (and her publisher) commit “gender nepotism”  [11]  by doing so?

 

 

 

hermione

Accio Neptosium!

 

 

 

 

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I had a story and several poems published in two different literary journals, each of which aspired, as per their “mission statements,” to give voice to the concerns of (the so-labeled) Generation X.  Not only were Gen X-ers these respective journals’ target audience, the journals – both separately and vehemently in their writers’ guidelines – stated that writers submitting work must themselves be of the Gen-X age range.

Which I am not.  And yet, my story and poems were chosen for publication.

I wonder about journals and publishers which stipulate contributor demographics; specifically, how do they enforce their objectives to publish only writers of a certain background or identity (e.g., age/culture/gender/sexual orientation/ethnicity)? Do they make assumptions based on surnames and/or appearances (and thus, for the latter, require photo IDs)? Do they ask for DNA samples?

 

 

 

submission

“Decoding unknown alien transmission… it reads, ‘please submit your manuscript along with your saliva sample….’ “

 

 

 

Since I was not in the target demographic specified for contributors by those particular journals, I suppose you could argue I “cheated” by submitting my work.  I typically scorn publications which have demographic specifications in their writers guidelines, and do not submit my work to such venues (yeah, that’ll show em!).  But, on those two occasions…well, I guess I was feeling frisky.  I decided to submit my work because I thought it a good fit, and also to remind moiself  about the danger of self-censorship in the face of the write-what-you-know/what-you-are balderbash…and to make my point, even if somewhat anonymously, about the power of literature to both include and transcend identity politics….and also, in my own small, pesky way, to mock the “our only criteria is literary excellence” claim often touted by  touted by literary journals and anthologies and writing contest sponsors.

“Our only criteria is excellence (as long as you fit into our special box). Thank you for your excellent work which we’d like to publish…and what do you mean, you’re outside the box?”

I’d long thought about writing and submitting an essay on this topic, but what publishing outlet wants to admit they’ve been stung? The Literary World ®  is not exactly known for humility and modest egos.

Also, I’d been down that road before. One editor told me the following when I submitted to his journal a humor piece mocking the publication world on a related topic (the ubiquity of literary contests and award-bestowing):  Virtually *every* journal or literary venue has a contest/award of some kind. Your chances of finding an editor who would agree to make fun of their own complicity in what you essentially describe as a scam…Look, you’ve written a fine, witty article that is going to be an orphan. You are not going to find a home for this piece.  [12]

I respect journals’ calls for/specializationin /preference for specific subject matter (thus, e.g. I do not submit my non-murder mystery stories to murder mystery journals).  I have nothing but scorn for journals, editors and publishers who champion a system in which, implicitly or explicitly, a We seek stories about poverty-stricken, disaffected white teenage boy gang members, and we will only consider stories by writers who are themselves poverty-stricken, disaffected Midwestern white teenage boy gang members because only about poverty-stricken, disaffected Midwestern white teenage boy gang members can authentically understand and/or are entitled to write about poverty-stricken, disaffected Midwestern  white teenage boy gang members policy is practiced.  [13]

 

 

 

 

buttocks

It’s high time for a pictorial sanity break. Tomatoes resembling buttocks do wonders for the soul.

*   *   *

 

Although I snorted with derision when I read the afore-mentioned Gen-X journals’ guidelines, I did have select pieces that I thought would be a good thematic fit for them. I also noted that neither journal requested contributor photos nor dates of birth, and thus had no way of confirming an author’s generational affiliation.  Heh Heh heh.

I chose to dishonor the journals’ guidelines by sending them my Gen-X-themed-fiction/poetry-written-by-a-non-Gen-Xer. The editors of the journal which published my story effused in the acceptance letter about how I had captured the particular zeitgeist they sought – about how the tone of my story was “exactly what we are looking for.”

Gee, thanks – oh, and by the way, that’s the point of being a *fiction* writer.  Somehow, miraculously, I was able to get the tone without being the tone. It’s called craft; skill; experience; imagination; empathy. It’s called creative writing for a reason, you ageist, imaginatively constipated twerps.
(excerpt from the acceptance acknowledgement letter I did not send)

*   *   *

Department Of This Post Would Be So Much More Entertaining
If It Had Some Poop Jokes In It.

 

 

 

cpt obvious

Well DUH, Captain Obvious.

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Seemingly Inappropriate Segue to A Dead Mother Reference

Had she not died (last Christmas Eve), today would have been my mother’s 89th birthday.
Just thinkin.’

ChristmasEve1983

Chet and Marion Parnell, Christmas Eve 1983

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you take more pictorial sanity breaks than appear in this post;
May you occasionally indulge in cynical mischief when it is called for;
May you find entertaining poop jokes (or whatever floats your boat) somewhere, if not in this space;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Not really.

[2] And the fact that, in this Identity Politik world, Alexie is commonly introduced and/or described in these venues not as an American poet/author but as a Native American poet/author is also related to the subject of this post.

[3] In venues ranging from large-circulation periodicals to obscure literary journals, small press anthologies or a collection of an individual poet’s work ( and in the case of this particular poem, in the literary journal Prairie Schooner).

[4] Despite Jones’ and Jezebel’s hissy fits to the contrary, there is no “hint” for the poet Hudson to take, as poems under Mr. Hudson’s own name have been published in numerous journals.

[5] This covers a variety of identities and interpretations, having to do with an author’s “name” value just as much (or more) than their cultural identity (i.e. a shitty poem by a well-known poet is more likely to get consideration and even publication than a fantastic poem by a newbie or no-name poet).

[6] No personal attacks in this space – it’s against my principles.

[7] What does that bizarre phrase even mean, in this or any other context – things will improve ?

[8] For privacy reasons, these names are similar to, but not actually, either  her real birth name nor her adopted name.

[9] Emily Bronte (aka “Ellis Belle” for Wuthering Heights and Mary Ann Evans (aka “George Elliot” for Middlemarch) and Karen Blixen (aka “Isak Dinensen” for Out of Africa) and the prolific French author Aurore Dupin (aka “George Sand”) and Alice Bradley Shelton (aka sci fi’s “James Tiptree Jr.” for The Girl Who Was Plugged In) are just a few of the numerous women who’ve used male pen names to submit their works without prejudice. Until relatively recently, most publishers would not even look at manuscripts submitted under a female pen name (and prejudice still exists, as per the J.K. Rowling and James Triptree Jr. decisions re their respective genres).

[10] As in writers known for a certain genre who want their non-genre work to be judged for itself, and not on their prior works…see following footnote for one notable example.

[11] Rowling has also published a crime novel series under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.

[12] He was right…except that I did find a home for it. My essay, You Can Be (or already are) an Award-Winning Writer! was published (retitled as Author! Author!) in Bear Deluxe magazine.

[13] Imagine the likely antacid addiction of the publisher who, had he adhered to such standards, would have forever been known as the douchebag who refused to consider the manuscript for The Outsiders  (and Rumble Fish  and Tex and That was Then..This is Now, and the other young adult novels of S.E. Hinton ) because of who the author was not.

 

The Woman I’m Not Born As

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Dateline: Tuesday eve, post dinner. Son K is staying with his parental units [1] while recovering from jaw surgery. K and I are watching Bright Lights, a documentary about Carrie Fisher & her mother, Debbie Reynolds, and we came to the following point in the film, a segment which momentarily caused my son a reaction which might have endangered his recovery (he is forbidden from jaw-dropping for several weeks).

Singer/dancer/actor Reynolds, a product of the Warner Brothers and MGM studios star systems, was being interviewed about her passion for film history preservation, a passion which she manifested via her extensive collection of movie studio props, costumes and other memorabilia. She was giving the interviewer a tour of her collection, naming or describing the objects in terms of their connections to cinema (e.g., These are Dorothy’s slippers from “The Wizard of Oz”….):

“And this is Elizabeth Taylor’s stool…” Reynolds paused, makeup stool, from Cleopatra.”

OH THANK GOD, K blurted out.

I nearly dislocated my own jaw with laughter, while K sighed with relief and said that he appreciated Reynolds’s clarification, because “People will buy all kinds of stuff….”

 

 

Elizabeth Taylor 2

Cleopatra sits on a * throne, *not a stool, you barbarian schmucks.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Oh Please Not This Again

It is just as well that I’m a writer, not an editor. Were I editing a newspaper or magazine, I might soon be out of a job. For this is an essay in defense of cultural appropriation.
In Canada last month, three editors lost their jobs after making such a defense.
(Kenan Malik, opening lines from, In Defense of Cultural Appropriation  )

I’ve written about this issue before (9-16-16’s post, The Culture I’m Not Appropriating), and likely will again in the future, as this cultural appropriation controversy – this boil on the buttocks of arts & literature – keeps recurring.

The controversy resurfaced recently when Hal Niedzviecki, editor of Write (the magazine of the Canadian Writers’ Union), penned an editorial defending the right of white authors to create characters from minority backgrounds. Within days, a social media backlash forced Niedzviecki to resign.

This brouhaha provided the impetus for writer/broadcaster Kenan Malik‘s mahvelous op-ed in the NY Times. Malik cited the circumstances of Niedzviecki ‘s resignation, along with other controversies in the worlds of arts and literature,  [2]  to examine and defend  the concept known as cultural appropriation.

What has always struck me (or perhaps smote me, given the analogy to come) about this topic is that an accusation of cultural appropriation [3] is the intellectual equivalent to Religion’s  [4] defensiveness and protectionism when faced with analysis and critique. And now, I am happy to know that I’m not the only one smote by the similarity, as per Malik’s opinion that The accusation of cultural appropriation is a secular version of the charge of blasphemy.

Malik understands that although racism and inequality shape the ways in which people imagine others, writers and artists have nevertheless, always and necessarily engaged and examined the experiences of The Other. However, this engagement – which he terms messy interaction – does not always occur on a level playing field; thus, Malik acknowledges the resulting, understandable impulse which leads some artists to call for cultures to be walled off and boundaries to be policed,” even as he wonders how creating gated cultures helps promote social justice.  (my emphases):

But who does the policing? Every society has its gatekeepers, whose role is to protect certain institutions, maintain the privileges of particular groups and cordon off some beliefs from challenge. Such gatekeepers protect not the marginalized but the powerful. Racism itself is a form of gatekeeping, a means of denying racialized groups equal rights, access and opportunities.

In minority communities, the gatekeepers are usually self-appointed guardians whose power rests on their ability to define what is acceptable and what is beyond the bounds. They appropriate for themselves the authority to license certain forms of cultural engagement, and in doing so, entrench their power.

The most potent form of gatekeeping is religion. When certain beliefs are deemed sacred, they are put beyond questioning. To challenge such beliefs is to commit blasphemy.

Ok; if this topic interests you, read the article cited. Or my afore-mentioned post. Yes, I am daring to reference moiself. But only because Georgie Boy  [5] recommends it.

 

I often quote myself. It adds spice to my conversation.
(George Bernard Shaw).

 

 

 

shaw

*   *   *

Department Of Get That Woman A Backbone, A Zoloft, A Shotgun, And An Attorney – In That Order.

Y’all may recall the radio station I’ve mentioned several times in this space – the station I listen to when I am driving; the station I like because of its eclectic playlist. From well-known to incredibly scarce pop songs, interspersed with bizzarre/long forgotten TV theme songs, commercial advertisements, etc. I find it a font of amusement…and an occasional spewer of WTF?!?!?! culture shock.

The latter is best illustrated by a hitherto unheard (to moiself) song the station played this week, when I was out running errands and had to pull my car over to the side of the road to make sure I was hearing what I thought I was hearing.  [6]

I listened, in watching-a-zombie-train-wreck fascination and repulsion, to what just may be one of the most offensive songs ever written. When I returned home I looked it up: Born a Woman  was recorded in 1966 by a female Uncle Tom (Aunt Thomasina?), named Sandy Posey.  The songwriting was credited to “Martha Sharp,” – who apparently isn’t very, as per her misogynistic/masochistic lyrics:

It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor
Or if you’re smart or dumb
A woman’s place in this old world
Is under some man’s thumb

And if you’re born a woman
You’re born to be hurt
You’re born to be stepped on, lied to, cheated on
And treated like dirt

 

 

REALLY

 

 

 

Really.

The song continues with yet another verse depicting the sorry lot of womankind, and then there is a coda, for which there can be no explanation. Other than drugs. Or maybe a temporal lobe lesion or three. Or perhaps, the Stockholm Syndrome?

And when my man finally comes home
He makes me glad it happened that way
Because to be his woman
No price is too great to pay

 Yes I was born a woman
I’m glad it happened that way
Oh I was born a woman (fade out)

 

Fade out, indeed.

 

 

lobotomy

 

*   *   *

Department Of Fun With Religion Continues

Aka, You Can’t Makeup This Shit

Israeli airline employees cannot ask women to change seats to spare a man from having to sit next to them, a Jerusalem court ruled on Wednesday, handing down a groundbreaking decision in a case brought by a woman in her 80s.

Strictly religious Jewish men who refuse to sit next to women, for fear of even inadvertent contact that could be considered immodest, are a growing phenomenon that has caused disruptions and flight delays around the world and prompted protests and social media campaigns. The pressure to switch seats can be particularly acute on El Al, Israel’s national airline. And the issue has become emblematic of a broader battle in Israel over religion and gender in public spaces.

The plaintiff in the lawsuit, Renee Rabinowitz, now 83, boarded El Al Flight 028, bound for Tel Aviv from Newark in December 2015. She had settled into her aisle seat in the business-class section when the passenger with the window seat showed up: an Orthodox man who complained about sitting next to a woman. A flight attendant asked her to change seats to accommodate him….

Israeli Woman Who Sued El Al for Sexism Wins Landmark Ruling, NYTimes, 6-22-17)

 

 

 

jew

Calm yourself, Mr. Tuches, we would be happy to accommodate you with your own private seat in the economy cabin lavatory for the remainder of the flight.

*   *   *

May you be glad you were born, but remember you weren’t born that way;
May you do your part to advance cultural appropriation and appreciation;
May you have the opportunity to appreciate or even appropriate a cinematic icon’s stool;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Which would be MH and moiself.

[2] Including the editor of a Canadian writers’ journal being forced to resign after he defended the right of white authors to create characters from indigenous backgrounds; an artist organizing a petition to have another artist’s work not only censored but destroyed (the work in question was a painting of the corpse of Emmett Till ( an African-American boy murdered by white men in 1955).

[3] C.A. is variously defined as the adoption or use of the elements of one culture by members of another culture –  sometimes it is referred to as cultural misappropriation, when the adoption or use of the elements in question is claimed to be damaging to the intellectual and/or artistic rights of the originating culture…and yes, there are a whole lotta terms being used in those definitions which have not (and cannot) be objectively defined.

[4] Capital R, as in, any or anyone’s religion.

[5] Not to be confused with Boy George.

[6] Isn’t it time for a sixth footnote?

The Headwind I’m Not Appreciating

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Department Of Future Aspirations

Yoga teacher giving instructions on how to perform Supported Bridge Pose:

* Place a yoga block by your side and lie supine on your mat, arms at your side.

*Bend your knees; rest your feet flat on the floor, hips width apart, toes and heels in a line, heels as close to your sit bones as possible.

* Exhale, press your feet into the floor. Inhale and gently lift your hips off your mat, just enough to slide the block underneath you.

* Position the block low against the back of the pelvis, so that your sacrum is supported on the block and your fleshy buttocks are just off the edge of the block….

In my next life I want to be a yoga teacher, if only to have a legitimate, professional reason to use phrases like,  fleshy buttocks.

*   *   *

Department Of Simple Pleasures That Have Me Humming Like An Idiot
For The Rest Of The Day

Last Friday, a few hours after last week’s blog was posted live, I was driving to yoga class, listening to The Local Radio Station With The Eclectic Playlist I’ve Mentioned Before ® (in the 2-24 post). I had to take time for a driveway moment  [1] when I got to my destination (or perhaps in that case, a parking lot moment?).

Whatever the name of the pause, I had to take it. Because, apropos of nothing, the station had begun playing the theme song to the cartoon series, Underdog.

Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve even thought of that show, or heard the theme song? [2]

 

 

 

underdog

♫… speed of lightning, roar of thunder/  fighting all who rob or plunder….♫

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Privilege Schmivelige – Appreciate The Reality Of Your Tailwinds

 

No, this is not an elaborate set up for a fart joke.

 

 

astonishedspock

I find your assurance quite unnecessary, given the fact that all known sentient species appreciate  fart jokes.

 

 

Ahem. I instead refer to the Freakonomics podcast I recently listened to (the March 15 episode). The episode has the provocative if whiny title , Why Is My life So Hard? . This podcast has, IMHO, performed a public service by giving us another metaphor with which to understand the much-debated concept of privilege.

It seems that some white men feel put upon when it comes to any discussion of the white male privilege thing. Or perhaps I should say, some “men who believe that they are white,” as author Ta-Nehisi Coates puts it, in his wonderful book, Between the World and Me.  Coates reminds us that DNA and genetic analysis show there is no such biological reality as ‘race;” rather, the invention of race (and thus, racism) come from the human need to construct a social hierarchy.

Once again, I digress.

It seems that many….

 

 

confusedspock

For example, the Tellarites consider flatulence humor a necessary overture to the establishment of successful diplomatic relations, as I discovered when the Tellarite ambassador mistook my greeting as an invitation to pull upon my outstretched digits in expectation that he would subsequently hear the sound of emissions of a gaseous nature passing through an unobserved part of my anatomy….

 

Yeah. 

I’ll start again.

It seems to moiself that there are white men who feel put upon by any mention of white male privilege. It also seems that most of the men I know personally – compassionate, empathetic and intelligent dudes that they are – do not feel that way.  [3]  For those who do, perhaps it might help to try to understand the reality of social privilege through the metaphor of headwinds and tailwinds.

The stated purpose of the particular podcast to which I refer was to try to understand why it’s so easy for many people to “…feel put upon, to feel resentful, to feel that life has made things harder for them than it has for other people.” The podcast features two psychologists, who study how people make judgments and decisions in their everyday and professional lives, discussing their recently published paper, The headwinds/tailwinds asymmetry: An availability bias in assessments of barriers and blessings.

 

 

 

angry spock

You needlessly complicate matters! Had you heeded my original admonition, you could be entertaining your patient yet bored readers with the “Lethal Atmosphere” video by now.

 

 

 

Thank you for your suggestion, Commander. I’ll keep that in mind.

AS I WAS SAYING….

Both competitive and recreational runners and cyclists know that when you have a headwind, it’s not very pleasant. You’re aware of it the whole time; it impedes your progress and you can’t wait until the course/road changes so that you can get the wind at your back. When you reach that 180 turn and have the wind “on your side,” you are relieved and exhilarated…but only for a little bit.

You remain conscious of a headwind the entire time you’re fighting against it, but you quickly stop appreciating the boost a tailwind gives you – you take it for granted, even to the point of forgetting that it exists.

“…you’re grateful for about a minute. And very quickly, you no longer notice the wind at your back that’s helping push you along. And what’s true when it comes to running or cycling is true of life generally.
We have to pay attention to the barriers in front of us because we have to get over them, or get through them in some way. We have to overcome them. We don’t have to pay attention to those things that are boosting us along. We can just be boosted along. And that fundamental asymmetry in attention is the headwinds/tailwind asymmetry.”
 (Tom Gilovich, Cornell University Professor of Psychology,
known for his research in heuristics and cognitive biases)

In our society, white males – even those born into poverty, as was my father – have had a tailwind for hundreds if not thousands of years. As marginalized groups begin to make gains in access and power, WMs may begin to believe that their advantages – which they probably don’t even think of as advantages, but merely as their “lot” in life or their circumstances – are diminishing. That belief is not entirely incorrect; their advantage is diminishing…just a smidge.  But it’s still there; it’s still an edge they have, over someone not born into their social potential and advantages.  [4]

“…What we’ve shown in the lab is directly applicable to some of the discussions going on in the country right now. There’s this term that “there’s a war on white males these days,” white Christian men, and channeled through the headwinds/tailwinds asymmetry, you could see why that group would think that. That is to say, the influence they’ve had has decreased, and of course that’s the focus of their attention. That decrease. At the same time, if you look at it from the outside, what you see is an enormous advantage that had existed for hundreds of years being reduced just a little bit. And from an outside perspective, it doesn’t look like at all like a war, it looks like just a little bit of rebalancing and we even need to rebalance some more.
(Tom Gilovich, from the Freakonomics interview, my emphases)

 

 

Here. Are you happy now, Spock?

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you appreciate the wind when it is at your back;
May you appreciate the headwinds with which others have to contend;
May you always root for the underdog;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] You are likely familiar with the concept if not the term: a driveway moment is when you just can’t leave your car after returning home, but turn off the engine and stay for a few minutes with the radio on, because you’re captivated by a story – say, something on NPR, or perhaps a Serial podcast – you’ve been listening to.

[2] And the masses respond, their voices raised in unison, Do you know how long it’s been since we’ve cared?

[3] Or at least they do not admit to feeling that way.

[4] Even my father, 4th of 6 children born to a pair of marginally educated, impoverished tenant farmers, had an advantage and potential:  over his sisters and other females, by being male, and over the other tenant farmer families, who were the descendants of African slaves. My father’s father was illiterate, to the point that his wife, who had all of a 5th grade education, had to read his farm contracts to him and then he would sign them with the proverbial X. Yet was made foreman over the other (black) tenant farmers, most of whom could read and write, because, as my father once told me, “You would have had a riot back then if you put a black man in charge of a white man.”

The Toilet Seats I’m Not Believing

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‘Tis The Season

MH and I are hosting a St. Patrick’s Day Dinner tonight. I was going to use a certain Adult Beverage ®  as part of the glaze for the salmon I’ll be roasting; however, one of our guests has celiac disease and I wanted to make sure that by doing so I wouldn’t be poisoning him. I started to Google “can celiacs have…” and before I typed the e in have, the third choice that came up was my question:  can celiacs have whiskey. [1]

 

 

 

whiskey

*   *   *

About those snakes….

The first time I encountered the St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland legend was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (read: the Santa Ana neighborhood of my grade school years). One Sunday afternoon in mid-March, a neighbor boy showed me the Sunday School pamphlet he’d brought home from his Catholic church. When I laughed derisively and pooh-poohed the pamphlet – which presented the legend as fact – my friend retorted with the fact that there are no snakes in Ireland, and there are snakes in every other country on earth…So how did that happen, Miss Non-Catholic smartypants? How did that happen – prove it, huh? Huh? Huh?

My neighbor/friend looked for any opportunity to witness his family’s “one true faith” (Catholicism) to the ultimately doomed moiself, whose family attended a Lutheran church. He was an otherwise very nice boy (his proselytizing phase lasted only a few months in grade school), with whom I enjoyed playing games of cards and tag and turning our bicycles upside down and pretending their wheels were steamboat paddle-wheels. Also, we enjoyed having spirited discussion of adult issues, like politics (hey, it was the 60s) and religion.

When it came to the “miracles” of that carpetbagging harasser of pagans and druids St. P, I immediately and instinctively understood that my friend had his head up his ass [2] – I mean of course, I knew that my friend was mistaken in claiming that I was the one who had to prove that St. Patrick had not done something – the burden of proof weighs upon the person making an assertion. But I was all of seven or eight; concepts like epistemological fallacy did not just roll off my tongue…whereas concepts like stupid dumb-ass were familiar and handy, and I probably applied one or two of them to my friend and/or his argument.

Wearer of Big Girl Pants® that I now am, I know that there are no snakes presently living in Ireland because, herpetologists and their pets aside, there have never been any snakes living in Ireland. Because: Science. As in latitude, and weather.

 

snakesplane

This M*****f****** snake thinks this plane is headed for Ireland!

 

 

 

There is no evidence of snakes in Ireland’s fossil record. Snakes couldn’t get to the island nation because the climate wasn’t (and isn’t) favorable for them to migrate and then thrive there.  [3]

Faith and begorrah, but England ’tis an island, and it has snakes! Yes, but only three species, and snakes only slithered over to England in relatively recent geologic time – about 6,500 years ago.

As we all remember from 2nd  grade science class (or Sesame Street), over time, all plants and animals will migrate through and/or colonize suitable habitats. Cold-blooded reptiles need heat from their environment to survive, and The Ice Age made the European islands incompatible with  reptile migration until ~ 10,000 years ago, when the glaciers began retreating. The glacial retreat gradually exposed a land bridge between Europe and the island of Britain, and also between the isles of Britain and Ireland. Melting glaciers inundated Ireland’s land bridge ~ 8,500 years ago, but the land bridge between Europe and Britain’s persisted another 2,000 years after that. Thus; Europe’s intrepid snakes had more time to heed the reptile version of Westward, ho!

“Other reptiles didn’t make it either, except for one: the common or viviparous lizard. Ireland’s only native reptile, the species must have arrived within the last 10,000 years. [4]   So unless St. Patrick couldn’t tell a snake from a lizard, where does the legend come from?
Scholars suggest the tale is allegorical. Serpents are symbols of evil in Judeo-Christian beliefs—the Bible, for example, portrays a snake as the hissing agent of Adam and Eve’s fall from grace.
The animals were also linked to heathen practices—so St. Patrick’s dramatic act of snake eradication can be seen as a metaphor for his Christianizing influence.”

(“Snakeless in Ireland: Blame Ice Age, Not St. Patrick,” National Geographic News)

St. P) snakes

 

 

 

“Over the centuries a number of legends have grown about St. Patrick, e.g., he drove the snakes from Ireland and used a three-leaf clover to teach about the Holy Trinity. These popular legends have endeared the saintly man to the Irish. The monks who wrote such dramatized stories about St. Patrick “were guided by their knowledge of what popular taste demanded.”
(“Knowing St. Patrick,” Our Sunday Visitor, A Roman Catholic weekly newspaper)

Although there were never any snakes for St. Patrick to “drive out” of Ireland, the dominant church and religious authorities never had a problem crediting a man they would go on to canonize as St. Patrick with a “miracle” that never occurred.

Good thing stuff like that never happens today!

 

 

creationism

*   *   *

Department Of More Petty Things About Moiself

 

I curse at ants  [5] before I crush them with my bare fingers.

 

 

ants

Oh yeah? That murdering bitch should hear what we say about her in our last gasps….

*   *   *

Department Of The Simple Pleasures Of Spring

My family lived in Southern California during my childhood, and one of our favorite camping destinations was the relatively nearby [6] Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. At a very young age I came to have an appreciation for the desert other school kids found difficult to fathom (“What’s the big deal? It’s hot,  it’s a desert –  there’s nothing there!”). Those lucky friends who were invited along on those camping trips became converts to desert appreciation, if not upon arrival then soon thereafter, usually during one of our hikes to the Palm Canyon.

My favorite time of the year to go to the desert was during spring break, which usually coincided with the brief but spectacular desert wildflower bloom. This year, I almost thought about flying down spur-of-the-moment, but even if I did so I probably wouldn’t be able to get near the place: wildflower and desert lovers and sightseers have descended en masse to witness a “super bloom” – Anza-Borrego’s most spectacular in over 20 years.

A super bloom is a user-friendly term to describe what is, essentially, a wildflower KA-BOOM. (I’m sure there is some official botanical term to describe the phenomenon).

Southern California deserts, after experiencing one of the worst droughts in the area’s history, are experiencing the wildflower show due to a variety of reasons, including the due to recent heavy and steady rains. Anza-Borrego, an area which usually gets only 5 inches of precipitation per year, has had  7 inches of rain in the past 8 months.

As ephemeral as a seemingly rational policy statement from a #45  [7]  cabinet member, the super blooms will likely last no more than a week.  Enjoy it while/if you can.

 

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Lady Or The Tiger Or
The Door To Yet Yet Another Bullshit Misogynist Fairytale

A book of fables containing The Lady Or The Tiger was presented to me by my 4th grade teacher, as a reward for finishing first in a reading contest. [8]  TLOTT was the only story I remembered from the book. I thought the story was of ancient origin, and that thought was reinforced when I encountered TLOTT again, in a 5th or 6th grade English class. The story was so…primitive…it had to have come from The Ancients. Only later did I find out it was a (relatively) contemporary short story, published in 1882.

In case you’re not familiar with the plot, it involves a nasty king, his daughter (the princess), and her suitor. A lower-class (i.e. non-royal) subject falls in love with the king’s daughter and attempts to court her. The king is offended by this, and sentences the man to a devious punishment: he will be taken to an arena where he will be forced to choose between two doors behind one door is a beautiful lady; behind the other, a hungry tiger. If the man chooses the door with a lady behind it, he will have to marry her, and if he chooses the door with the tiger behind it, he will be mauled to death.

The princess schemes within the court to find out which door has the lady behind it. She doesn’t want her suitor to have to marry someone else, but she loves him and doesn’t want him to die. At the auspicious moment, she signals him to choose a door….but the story ends as the man opens the door, and readers are left to ponder what choice she led him to make.

TLOTT was presented the ultimate allegory of a tough decision, but my grade school click! radar (aka the feminist eureka moment) came to the fore.  Excuse me, but “The ultimate allegory of a difficult decision?” You people (read: adults, teachers) gotta be joking. To even make the argument that there could be another choice, other than let him choose the other woman and live…

 

 

 

WTF

 

 

 

I didn’t think in WTF speak back then. Nevertheless, I argued strenuously that there should be no suspense as to what happened – she loved him! She directed him toward the lady, not the tiger.  He would live…the real suspense would be how the princess and her suitor could find another way to be together, away from her asshole father.

My various teachers pointed out what they said were the flaws in my argument, with what was, at the time, totally acceptable, totally sexist, “reasoning.” Looking back, their analysis was astonishing for its matter-of-fact assumptions of female pettiness: a woman’s sole or ultimate motivation must be love and security; women are jealous of other women; she’d rather see him dead than with another woman – who by definition must be her rival, because women can’t be friends with other women; if-I-can’t-have-him-nobody-else-can ….

TLOTT, besides being a shitty story, sparked one of the first of what would be an ongoing line of feminist inquiries and realizations: This is how the world is supposed to view women?  This is what women are supposed to think about themselves?

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Department Of But Why Wouldn’t I Believe Them – Do They Have A Reputation For Telling Lies and/or Spreading Misinformation? 
(And If So, Why Aren’t They working For The Current Occupant Of The White House?)

Subject line in an email caught in my spam filter:

You won’t believe these three toilet seats.

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May you believe the toilet seats that must be believed;
May you never be too young or too old to call out fairy-tale horseshit;
May the luck of the Irish be better for you than it has been for the Irish;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

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[1] According to the NIH’s Celiac Awareness Campaign, the answer is yes, for whiskey or any distilled beverage, even those derived from wheat, as the distillation process removes the gluten proteins.

[2] I wonder if he saw any snakes there?

[3] Other islands that don’t have (native, non-introduced by human) snakes include New Zealand, Hawaii, Greenland, Iceland, and Antarctica.

[4] Nigel Monaghan,  keeper of natural history at the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin.

[5] Ants that get inside the house. Free range ants, I have no problem with ’em.

[6] From our home in Santa Ana it was a 2 ½ hour drive – which for Southern Californians, is just around the block.

[7] Aka The Cheetos Hitler. I try not to say his name in my house, unless quoting someone with a stronger stomach.

[8] Looking back, I hate to think that I was given that story to read as a reward of any kind.

The History I’m Not Reading

Comments Off on The History I’m Not Reading

 

Content warning: Yes, content follows. Y’all been warned.

Plus (or bonus, depending on your POV), juvenile fart reference.

 

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Department Of First Things First

Happy (almost) Birthday to the Queen of Hats!  [1]   This chapeau is for you.

 

 

 

hat

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“For the great Gaels of Ireland
Are the men that God made mad,
For all their wars are merry,
And all their songs are sad.”  [2]

MH and I are traveling ’round Ireland in the late spring.

 

 

happy sheep dance

 

 

Thank you! We’re excited, too.

I try to read up on the history of places I’m going to visit, and also sample the destination’s contemporary art (in the form of fiction and films). As per the former endeavor, I am currently and once again reminded of why I loathe reading history: because war and religion, two of the most despicable human enterprises, IMHO, almost always figure so prominently. And in Irish history, the combination of the two is a feckin’ load of ballsch to curl your clackers.  [3]

I cannot recall the source of the nailed-it! quote I ran across, several years ago (I believe it was from an Irish novelist, not a historian), which went something along the lines of this:  Ireland’s cultural and political woes can be attributed to the fact that the Irish are “a twice colonized people – first by the Catholics and then by the British.”

There are many ways to interpret history, and two “sides” I keep encountering, each which urges the reader to keep in mind either (1) “History is written by the winners,” or (2) “History is written by the literate, whether or not they were the ultimate winners.”

 

 

spockskeptic

And your point would be?

 

 

 

Whatever. In either case, and especially with regards to reading Irish and European history, it’s the nomenclature, for lack of a better term, that gets to me. Consider the many, many, many – and did I mention a whole lotta? – pages devoted to the various invasions of “The barbarians.” Some of these pages are contained in a book I recently finished, the presumptuously titled, How The Irish Saved Civilization. HTISC, by it’s very title, presents a (dubious, in some critics’ eyes) supposition as fact. The book essentially argues for the elevation of the importance of the Irish Catholic clergy in preserving Western culture after the collapse of the Roman Empire, when western Europe was “…being overrun by barbarians” (aka the Huns, and the Visigoths and other Germanic tribes).

So. We have the entrenched residents, whose beliefs and actions I would not hesitate to call barbaric, whose priests waged wars and inquisitions to subjugate, torture and kill “heretics” (defined however they chose, from those who simply disagreed with official policy, to philosophers, Jews, “Witches,” Protestant reformers, and other fellow Catholics, the various factions who slaughtered each other over nuances in theology)…  But it’s these guys coming over the hill, they are the barbarians, because….uh…because they are illiterate and thus can’t cite their magic holy books to justify their atrocities.

Pot, meet kettle.

 

 

 

potkettle

 

 

 

My impression and subsequent summation of centuries of Irish history, after reading 600+ pages (and more to come!) in various books, is almost Tweetable  [4] in its brevity:

The ____ (civil articles; treaty; king; bishop) promised religious toleration; the _______ (king; landlord; bishop) saw no advantage in a peace now that victory was secure; the Gaelic infantry was slaughtered.

Lather; rinse; repeat.

 

 

 

irishproverb

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Department Of And Then There’s This

Slogging through the pages of history, I am occasionally rewarded with a gem hidden in the festering bog. Such as this sentence, from a passage about kinship ties between Gael lords and the Catholic clergy:

“One sixteenth-century bishop of Clogher was eulogized on his death as ‘a very gem of purity and a turtle dove of chastity,’ this despite his leaving behind at least fifteen children.”
(Ireland: Land, People, History, by Richard Killeen)

 

 

 

turtledove

Not tonight, dear, I’m the turtle dove of chastity.

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To those dear readers who enjoy such things, pretend there is a clever and apropos segue right here, perhaps one related to the Irish history of being both immigrants and emigrants. For the rest of y’all:

 

Department Of For Your Consideration

The answer to xenophobia cannot be xenophilia.
( James Traub, The Hard Truth About Refugees )

Apparently I’m not the only one who cringes with you-are-so-naive discomfort when I hear Ill-Informed But Well-Meaning People ®  spout the trés liberal, All refugees are innocent victims and we should welcome everyone! stance.

International affairs journalist James Traub, in his recent New York Times op-ed piece (cited above), offers up a smorgasbord for thought on the issue. He uses the Swedish idiom asikstkorridor (“opinion corridor” – i.e., things considered taboo not only to say, but to think) as a metaphor to reflect upon his visit to Sweden during the refugee crisis in 2015. His observations that  “…refugees from conservative Muslim countries, especially poorly educated young men, may not integrate into Swedish society as well as, say, relatively secular and prosperous Iranians or Bosnians,” and “polls find that Muslim immigrants are vastly more conservative than native Europeans on matters of sex, family and the role of religion in public life” are outside the liberal asikstkorridor.

Traub asserts that the truth about refugees and assimilation is complicated. As for the 2015 wave of largely Middle Eastern refugees to Sweden and other northern European countries, the jury is out as per how well refugees from countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria will integrate. How much will they – will they at all – accept and support the extremely secular, extremely progressive cultures of their respective asylum countries?

He argues that liberals’ knee-jerk claims that all immigration has positive effects and that refugees will fit easily into European society are as unsupported as Trump’s knee-jerk claims that refugees are terrorists. Furthermore, the naive embrace of the premise that “…vast numbers of new people on our doorstep is an unmixed blessing, and that those who believe otherwise are Neanderthals” is the perfect door-opener for xenophobes who can point out facts that indicate otherwise. Thus, anti-immigrant/right-wing politicians can “parade their prejudice as truth-telling courage,” which helps spur the rise of leaders like the USA’s Trump, Geert Wilders (aka “the trump of the Netherlands”), and the French National Front president Marine Le Pen.

 

 

 

Swedish-Democrats

Ya, we’re all one big happy family.

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Any cretins out there who are still opposed to women in combat,  [5] please listen to this Fresh Air interview with helicopter pilot Maj. Mary Jennings Hegar, recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross and Purple Heart medals, and author of the new memoir, Shoot Like a Girl. An (edited) excerpt:

Terry Gross (Fresh Air interviewer): What are the arguments that have been used against you and other women being in combat?

Maj. Mary Jennings Hegar: “…They range from concerns that are very legitimate to concerns that are absolutely ridiculous. I think that the number one thing is…whether or not women are physically strong enough to be in combat…. First of all, we’ve already disproven that that’s an issue because there are women serving successfully in combat.
…yes, you have to be strong…but it’s not always the person who has the most brute strength wins. It’s…who is the best with their weapons, who is the best tactical thinker, who’s the best team player, who is the best leader, those types of things – who holds their composure when the bullets fly, because I’ve seen 200-pound men curl up in the fetal position and call for their moms…

I’ve seen firsthand that the warrior spirit is not directly proportional to how many pull-ups you can do. So the physical standards question is important, but the way that you answer that is…you keep the standards very high and you maintain one standard. There shouldn’t be two standards for women and men. There should be a standard for this job, for – to do this job, you should have to do these things. And those requirements should be job specific and not arbitrarily high in order to specifically keep women out.

 

 

 

siryessir

“Sir yes Sir that sexism makes your ass look big Sir.”

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Department Of Sorry But That’s The Way My Mind Works

I am ¾ of the way through an eight week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program. The program requires participants to commit to weekly Thursday night meetings, daily “homework” assignments, and one longer session – a six hour Silent Retreat – which was held last Saturday.  My monkey brain, of course, kept referring to it as the Silent But Deadly Retreat.  I had to use all of my still-nascent mindfulness skills to stop myself from wondering aloud about who would be the first to break (ahem) the silence?

 

 

iknowwhatyoumwan

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May you always know what I mean;
May your silence be mindful and not deadly;
May your history not be a boring read for others;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

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[1] Aka SCM, in this blog.

[2] From The Ballad of the White Horse, by G. K. Chesterton, English Critic, Essayist, Novelist and Poet, 1874-1936.

[3] For the Irish slang impaired, feckin’ = fucking; ballsch = rubbish; clackers = testicles.

[4] If I were a Twitter kind of person, which I am not.

[5] Make that, still opposed to women getting proper credit for serving in combat, because that is what your opposition amounts to, seeing as women have served in combat  in every war since those “barbarians” came over the hill.

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