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The Holiday I’m Not Renaming

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Department Of It’s The Little Things Which Make Life Worth Living
In These Trying Political Times

Dateline: Tuesday afternoon. Apropos of…whatever, my offspring, son K and daughter Belle, have this exchange on our family messenger group, Yep!!!! Cats!!!!     [1]     (sans pix; these are my illustrations):

K:
I did not realize how truly gigantic Fetterman is.
He’s like 6’9.”

Since words and reason don’t work we now have Fetterman

to give the insane senators a swirly.

Belle:
(thumbs up)
First on the list: Mitch McConnell.

 

 

Belle:
Although I think just turning him upside-down would kill him,

probably couldn’t even get to the swirly part.

 

 

 

Moiself  walked around the rest of the afternoon with a big smile on my face, thanks to the imagery provided by my offspring. 

 

Relax, Mitchie-boy. Just think of it as your well-deserved spa treatment.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Another Good Thing ® About Social Media

There’s no shortage of criticisms of the various social media outlets, and most critiques are legit, I’d wager.   [2]   Even as I am encouraging those who complain about supporting a certain megalomaniac to drop their Twitter accounts and stop buying Teslas, moiself  remains on one social media site: Facebook. Here’s one of the reasons why.

Dateline: earlier this week.   A FB friend posts pictures of his grandchild‘s visit to what looks to be an amusement park, and picture shows the child playing that classic arcade game, Whac-a-mole. Seeing this picture prompts a lovely flashback for moiself – a memory I’ve not thought of in decades.

Dateline of memory: A long time in a galaxy far far away (Southern California). I am visiting my parents at their home in Santa Ana.  It’s summertime, and the County Fair is on.  My parents tell me they haven’t been to a state or county fair in ages, and suggest we go. And so we do. As we walk past the various cheesy games and merchandise and food booths, nothing catches our interest, until we come to an arcade. I espy a Whac-A-Mole game, and instantly am obsessed with getting my mother to play it.

 

 

My mother is hesitant, despite my enthusiastic recommendation. She knows nothing about it, she says (Even better!!!, moiself  thinks to  moiself ) I assure her that it’s a straightforward game, no complicated strategy or levels or scenarios: she simply must hold the mallet and whack the heads of the moles as they pop up from the console.

“Why?” she asks me.

“There’s no time to get existential right now,” I reply.  I put my two quarters in the slot, press the game’s start button and put the mallet in my mother’s hand.  “You don’t want me to waste fifty cents, right, Mom? Look – there’s one!  Pretend it’s digging up your rosebushes!”

Unlike the champ in the above video, my mother is exquisitely awful at Whac-A-Mole. Her timing is atrocious; even so, she soon gets into it in her own way, emitting a high-pitched, “Oh!” whenever a mole head appears, followed by her delayed whack at its head. My father and I, standing to the side of the game console, are doubled over with laughter as we watch my mild-mannered mother, with an increasing maniacal look in her eyes, pursues those pesky moles:

“Oh!”
(whack)

“Oh!”
(whack)

“Oh!” (whack) “Oh!” (whack)

“Oh oh oh oh oh oh!”
(whack whack whack whack whack whack)

It is one of my favorite memories of her.

 

This is another one.

 

I haven’t gone to a county fairs in years and it’s been even longer since I’ve even seen a Whac-a-mole game.  So, then:  would that memory have been prompted by anything else, save for a post on social media? It’s not like I would have seen a picture of my friend’s grandchild playing this game – like most of my FB friends, we don’t have a letter-writing kind of relationship.  

*   *   *

Department Of Well That’s Not Up To Their Usual Standards

Moiself  is referring to the recent rerun of an interview with (the late) Loretta Lynn on Fresh Air .

It was a tad interesting, due to the skills of FA host, Terry Gross, arguably   [3]  the best interviewer out there.  But IMO it was not up to the usual FA standards.  This was because Lynn was (again, IMO)….  There’s no easy way to say it.  The guest can make or break the interview.  And it wasn’t that Lynn was a “bad” guest, or an audaciously humorless and insufferably boorish one like a notable few TG has dealt with.  [4]   On the contrary.  Lynn was pleasant enough, but it seemed to me that she was also…well… rather…simple, or basic. Not plucking every string on her guitar, so to speak.

 

In the history of country music, LL’s talent was even bigger than her hair.

 

LL seemed not at all interested in self-reflection and/or discussing or exploring how she writes her songs.  Okay; fine; her prerogative.  But then, why agree to be come on a show where the whole point is to talk about your work as a female singer who broke ground in her genre for writing her own songs?

The point of a FA interview with a musician/singer/songwriter is to reflect upon one’s work, technique, inspiration, and so on.  Which Lynn summed up in sentences like, “Oh, I don’t really know,” or “I don’t like to talk about that.” Lynn’s songs are personal – she’s said in previous interviews that her husband was, in one way or another, “in every song” she wrote, yet she wouldn’t go further when FA  host TG would ask her about *how* or why her husband is in a particular song.

And TG let her get away with it.

LL’s song Fist City is borderline hilarious in some ways and disturbing in others.  And TG did not probe into that, as I have heard her done, through the years – the decades now –  that I’ve been listening to FA interviews.  Gross is insightful and persistent as an interviewer, and respectfully so.  She typically does not give up after one attempted conversational diversion by a guest.  And her guest was country music legend Loretta Lynn, who has written all these classic country songs about women trying to take her man (including, wait for it: “You Ain’t Woman Enough To Take My Man”), and… hello? What are those lyrics about?

 

 

If it had been any other songwriter, I think TG would have asked more persistently about the song’s implications.  She did try, but Lynn wasn’t having any of it.  “Oh I don’t want to talk about that,” LL would purr, in her soft Kentucky lilt.

I wanted TG to get LL to at least to consider why people might want LL to talk about that problem – about how she was really singing about, writing about, the wrong problem.  When LL sang about how some women were ‘after,’ (her words) her man, the underlying problem wasn’t those women.

Loretta Lynn, the woman who wrote so empathetically about birth control liberating women from the life of a brood mare (“The Pill”), and the trials of a divorced woman having people think that just because she’s divorced she’s loose/available (“Rated X”) didn’t seem capable of, or willing to, consider the fact that it was her husband who was the problem. He married her, but chased after other women.  But Lynn…wouldn’t go there.
And TG, in deference to Lynn’s age, status and/or “sweetness,” didn’t seem willing to push it the way I think she would have with another musician…or politician, or writer or artist or sports figure or…..  Is that ultimately respectful, or patronizing?

 

 

   *    *   *

Department Of The Big Day Next Week

The more I know about the origins and mythologies (read: lies) about Thanksgiving, the less I want to call it that.

I’ve always had a certain ambivalence regarding Tday.  Even as a child, I suspected we weren’t being told the truth about that much vaunted Happy Time Between Indians and Pilgrims ®.  Historians are starting to speak up, and…how can I put this?  Folks, if the Readers Digest, hardly The Socialist Review, is willing to address this issue, that means it’s way past time the rest of us did.

 

 

“Thanksgiving is both uniquely American and full of treasured traditions. But this rosy picture of modern celebrations leaves out most of the real history of Thanksgiving….
Yes, you can still settle down with family to give thanks. But it’s important to know what you’re celebrating and unlearn some long-held myths.”
…. What’s the harm in believing the happy version so many of us grew up with? It’s just a story, right? This whitewashing downplays the long and bloody series of conflicts between white settlers and Native Americans that would occur over the next two centuries…..
‘Narratives of a harmonious Thanksgiving celebration were created to justify westward expansion and Manifest Destiny,’…. The term Manifest Destiny, coined more than two centuries after the first Thanksgiving, was the belief that settlers were destined by God to expand across America and prosper….

Myth: The “first Thanksgiving” started the tradition that founded the holiday.
Truth: The harvest celebration of 1621 was not called Thanksgiving and was not repeated every year. The next official ‘day of thanksgiving’ was after settlers massacred more than 400 Pequot men, women and children. Governor Bradford’s journal decreed, ‘For the next 100 years, every Thanksgiving Day ordained by a governor is in honor of the bloody victory, thanking God that the battle had been won.’

We should add that to our list of favorite Thanksgiving quotes as a stark reminder of the real history of Thanksgiving.”
(“The Real History of Thanksgiving,” Readers Digest, 11-15-22)

 

 

I like the idea of a holiday involving gratitude, and one in which friends and family get together for a celebratory meal.  As for what is in the meal, as the years have gone by, my own dietary preferences have changed – although even as a child I never was all that fond of the big bland boring turkey and wondered what all the fuss was about.    [5]  Moiself  likes the idea of variety feast, rather than a fixed menu.  [6] 

Moiself  also likes that which is practiced by our neighbors to the north.  Canadian Thanksgiving, which I and my family have experienced thanks to the generosity of a dear Canadian friend and (former) neighbor, is more of a general harvest celebration, without a traditional fixed menu.

Hmmm, so, how’s about Harvest Fest Gratitude DayGrativest Day? Harvitude Day?

 

Yeah, like that’s gonna fly.

 

Perhaps I’m being persnickety here.  After all, I’m the one who points out the secular origins of Christmas, which I don’t insist on renaming it, for the same reasons that, for example, I call the middle day of the week Wednesday even though I do not worship the Germanic god for whom the day is named.  Still, knowing the origins of Thanksgiving and the subsequent mythologies which promoted it, I can’t help but wish for a name change.

But that’s about as likely to happen as Elon Musk is likely to gift the running of Twitter to the Southern Poverty Law Center, sell his holdings in Tesla and donate the profits to Greenpeace, then take a vow of abstemious living and join a Buddhist monastery.

Ah, but it’s good to dream.

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Tday Edition

How did Ziggy Stardust express his gratitude to the Thanksgiving host for serving her tasty sweet potato casserole?
“Wham, yam, thank you ma’am.”

My family advised me to stop telling Thanksgiving jokes,
but I said I couldn’t quit cold turkey.

How does rapper Sir Mixalot, who loathes pumpkin pie,
express his Thanksgiving dessert preference?
“I like big bundts and I cannot lie.”

 

I’ll give her points for not eating us, but really, these jokes are fowl.

 

*   *   *

 

May you have a good feast with friends and family, whatever you call it;
May visions of Mitch-getting-a-swirley warm the cockles of your heart;
May you find a whac-a-mole game and go to town;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] So named, by MH…I can’t remember the specifics, but it had to do with one of us commenting about all of us posting cat pictures yet again.  It has evolved into a family message board…with – yep! – lots of cat-sighting pictures.

[2] Wager, rather than aver, because I’m not on most social media and thus can’t speak from direct experience.

[3] As in, you could argue with me about this, but you’d lose.

[4] As in her FA interviews with Bill O’Reilly and Gene Simmons.

[5] My most memorable Tday was when the friend of a host brought a huge chinook salmon he’d caught the previous day in Alaska, and the hosts, my aunt and uncle, roasted it simply, with herbs and lemon juice.  I WAS AMAZED.

[6] Also, I haven’t eaten meat for years, so there goes that feast centerpiece.

The ‘Bitch’ Book I’m Not Requiring You To Read…

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…even though you damn well better, if you ever want to make any pronouncement about sex/gender and behavior in the animal kingdom.

Department Of I Am Woman Hear Me Roar    [1]

 

 

The book club moiself  is hosting – so unprecedentedly named, “Book Club” – is reading a book that, despite being entertaining in and of itself, has some of the more enthusiastic and engaging reviews I’ve run across in years.

But there is one adjective (most of) the reviews have left out.  Time and time again they mention how educational and entertaining the book is – you’ll laugh, you’ll gasp, you’ll shake your head and say WTF?!?!? – but they left out the anger part.  As in, for all readers with an IQ above their shoe size, this book should also, IMO, make you angry.  Angry in that the information contained in it is considered new and/or controversial to some people; angry that, even in the sciences, in fields of (supposedly) open inquiry, so many minds were closed for so many years and so many prejudices and social mores were passed along as biological realities.

 From what I’ve written, and from the review excerpts (my emphases) which follow, can you guess the subject of the book?   [2]

 

“I know you can, girls and boys.”

 

“Fun, informative and revolutionary all at once…should be required reading in school. After reading this book one will never look at an orca, an albatross, or a human the same way again. And the world will be better for it.”
( Agustin Fuentes, professor of anthropology at Princeton University)

“….blows two centuries of sexist myths right out of biology. Prepare to learn a lot -and laugh out loud. A beautifully written, very funny and deeply important book.”
( Alice Roberts, author of Evolution )

“astonishing, wildly entertaining, and massively important.” 
 (Mary Roach, American popular science author )

“An important corrective to the ‘accidental sexism’ baked into so many biological studies… [and] a clarion call that the remaining terra incognita of female biology merits far more comprehensive mapping.”
(  Financial Times )

“[An] effervescent exposé… [A] playful, enlightening tour of the vanguard of evolutionary biology.”
( Scientific American )

“… shows what a difference women make to scientific inquiry, asking questions and proposing studies their male colleagues didn’t think of — or didn’t bother with.”
( Bethanne Patrick, LA Times )

“By analyzing numerous animals, this sparkling attack on scientific sexism draws on many scientists — of multiple genders — to correct stereotypes of the active male versus passive female.”
( Nature )

 

“Who you callin’ passive?”

 

“In compelling and often hilarious prose, using the scientific authority she has earned as a trained biologist…(the author) confronts the long history of androcentric assumptions baked into evolutionary biology and begins to set the record straight.”
( Jessie Rack, Science )

“…demolishes much of what you probably learned about the sexes in biology class. This may be disconcerting, even confronting for those who feel comfortable in the warm embrace of Darwinian order. But it’s also exciting, and fascinating, and very well might change the way you see the world.”
 ( Science News )

“…dives into sex and gender across the animal kingdom, dispelling all the misogynist notions of females being the weaker sex…This book elevates not just the science itself but the scientists that have been marginalized for too long.”
 ( Lucy Roehrig, Booklist )

“In this delightful, revelatory survey of cross-species sexism, (the author) treats readers to an information-dense reframing of the many misunderstandings around sex and sexuality that burden ‘girls’ of all kinds. Come for the promise of some really neat nature facts. Stay for Cooke picking apart the misogynistic underpinnings of Charles Darwin’s fundamentally flawed theory of evolution.
( AV Club )

“A dazzling, funny and elegantly angry demolition of our preconceptions about female behaviour and sex in the animal kingdom… I read it, my jaw sagging in astonishment, jotting down favourite parts to send to friends and reading out snippets gleefully.”
( The Observer )

 

The male sage grouse’s mating dance has got to be one of those snippets.

 

“The author has a charmingly irreverent style that, among other things, pokes holes in the sexist scientific research of old that used cherry-picked data to conclude females weren’t worth studying.
( Publishers Weekly )

“A top-notch book of natural science that busts myths as it entertains.”
 ( Kirkus )

“Brilliant… readers will never see the world the same way again… inspires awe in the breathtaking diversity of nature and the evolutionary roots of our behaviour.”
 ( Times Literary Supplement )

 “A glorious rebuttal of everything we have believed about gender since Charles Darwin got it all wrong.”
( Daily Mirror )

*   *   *

The book is Bitch: On The Female of the Species, by Lucy Cooke.   [3]

 

 

Since 99% of us have had a least some exposure to Darwin’s works on evolution (On The Origin of the Species; The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex), we owe it to ourselves to read the scientific updates/corrections that have been over 160 years in the making.

In other words, if you *think* you know at least something about natural selection and animal behavior, you need to read this book.

“…since Charles Darwin got it all wrong.”

Pay close attention to that review fragment.

Darwin didn’t get it *all* wrong.  He and his peers,   [4]  whose work led us to the beginning of understanding evolutionary biology, were able to challenge the substantial religious barriers of their time and publish their findings. But when it came to sex and species, they were still men of their times, emphasis on both men and times.  They were unable to shed, nor even recognize, their blinkered, Victorian male mindset when it came to observations of pronouncements about the females of the species they studied – any and all species which used sexual reproduction.   [5]

Except that they mostly *didn’t* study the females of the species.

One of the most encouraging aspects of science is that, being science, it progresses.  Contemporatry scientists add on to the knowledge of the past, and correct the errors.  Still, this progress is often glacial, as science was done and continues to be done by human beings, with their flawed assumptions and hidden (even –  especially – to themselves) biases. Broadening the scope of knowledge and correcting errors can takes many years, and in the case of Victorian male scientists projecting their cultural assumptions and male privilege onto that of their theories and observations (or lack thereof) re females, it has taken tens of decades – approaching two centuries – for the “phallocracy of evolutionary biology” to be challenged in theory and overturned by the evidence.

Closing in on 200 years after Darwin and Wallace began organizing their theories of evolution, the old boys network many contemporary male scientists still hold on to the past.  Even when presented with the DNA analysis confirming what ethologists and biologists observed in the field – that, for example, in the nest of the assumedly monogamous/pair-bonded songbirds, only two of the clutch of the female’s six eggs are actually fathered by the male of the pair – some scientists still cling to the myth that only the males of a species are promiscuous.  The lower their blinders; they protest and bluster and try to explain away the evidence right under their prudish noses.  [6]

 

“Close your eyes and think of England.”

 

“Even the most original and meticulous scientists are not immune to the influence of culture….  The leading academic minds of the Victorian era considered the sexes to be radically different creatures – essentially polar opposites of one another. females were believed to experience  arrested development; they resembled the young of their species by being smaller and less colorful…. Essentially, males were considered to be more evolved than females.

These sentiments were all incorporate by Darwin into The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, which, as the title suggests, used sexual and natural selection to explain human evolution and the sex differences upheld by Victorian society.

‘The chief distinction in the intellectual powers of the two sexes is shewn by man’s attaining to a higher eminence, in whatever he takes up, than can woman – whether requiring deep thought, reason or imagination, or merely the use of the senses and hands,’ explained Darwin. ‘Thus, man has ultimately become superior to woman.’

Darwin’s theory of sexual selection was incubated in misogyny, so it is little wonder that the female animal came out deformed, as marginalized and misunderstood as a Victorian housewife.

….because of (Darwin’s) godlike reputation, biologists who followed in his wake have suffered from a chronic case of confirmation bias.  They looked for evidence in support of the passive female prototype, and saw only what they wanted to see.”
( excerpts iv-xv, Introduction, Bitch: On The Female of the Species )

 

 

Moiself’s   summary/teaser for the book.  In Bitch… you will learn how the sexist scientific research of old

* projected their cultural assumptions and male privilege on to that of their theories and observations

* ignored and/or marginalized the science (and scientists) which contradicted their inherited stereotypes of the active male versus passive female

*used cherry-picked data to conclude females weren’t worth studying, and ultimately defined the females of species in terms of the males   [7]

*drew conclusions from studying male animals’ behaviors – and even anatomies – which they applied to females

These points cannot be emphasized enough.  Thus, I intend to do so, at least 23 times per post, in every blog of mine from here on out.

 

Just kidding.

*   *   *

Department Of Moiself’s Favorite Story From This Book Full of Favorite Stories

From Bitch’s Chapter Four: Fifty Ways to Eat Your Lover: the conundrum of sexual cannibalism.

“Most people don’t think of the word flamboyant when describing a spider… (however) the male peacock spider is the Liberace of the arachnid world – an outrageous peformer who just like his avian namesake, employs an estraordinary iridescent tail-fan to win his mate….
When approaching a female…this fuzzy little four millimetre wonder stages an unexpectedly elaborate dance routine by abruptly lifting his furry abdomen into a vertical position and unfurling two shimmering flaps decorated with graphic blues, oranges and reds that could have been designed by Gianni Versace. This peacock arachnid wagles his gaudy butt-fan whilst bobbing his body up and down, stomping his feet and waving a pair of oversize legs in the air. This exhuberant toutine, part Fred Astaire and part Village People, can go on for up to an hour until he’s close enough to make his move.

It is an undeniably charming spectacle, made all the more endearing by the fact that the peacock male is, of course, dancing for his life. Up to three quarters of peacock suitors are terminally dispatched by an unimpressed female.”

 

Betcha I’d be the spider who survived the odds.

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Biology and Evolution Edition

Some people don’t believe in evolution.
They’re primate change deniers.

If evolution’s really a thing,
why haven’t hummingbirds learned the words yet?

How do you identify a male bald eagle?
All his feathers are combed over to one side.

 

Oh, honey, don’t be so sensitive.”

 

*   *   *

May we always be willing to question the conventional wisdom;
May we continue to update our knowledge base;
May we enjoy watching footage of the ludicrous sage grouse booty call dance;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] And if I am a woman lion hear me roar as I mate with every male lion I encounter…much to the distress of many male biologists….

[2] Yeah, I’m going to make you read further before I give the title.  Such a tease.

[3] In the running for Best Book Title Ever. ®

[4] In particular, British naturalist Alfred Wallace.

[5] As opposed to asexual reproduction.

[6] “The female songbird must have been raped!”  Cool story, bro, except that, like most birds (97%), male songbirds do not have a penis, and cannot rape their mates.  Both genders have a cloaca and must cooperate to share their genetic material, mating with what ornithologists call a “cloacal kiss.”

[7] Male lions are the default; females are the afterthought, the “-ess”es.

The Weird Carpet Walking Man I’m Not Following

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Much to my surprise, moiself  received a text from the campaign of Christine Drazan, the Republican candidate for Oregon governor.   [1]  The message said that Drazan “has a plan” (no details of course) for Oregon’s homeless situation, and asked for a donation.

My cell phone has been inundated by texts from political candidates, mostly from the Left side of the spectrum.  I block the caller# and delete them all, even when they are from candidates I support  (I do *not* give candidates my cell # and resent them finding and using it).  And what in the name of a purple Planned Parenthood placard…

 

Like this one.

 

…would make anyone on the Drazan campaign think that *I* would forget Drazan’s anti-abortion politics because of some mysterious “plan” she has?

Moiself  just had to respond to this text, before blocking/deleting:

If you are not pro-choice then you are no choice.
Shame on you.
Do not text this number again.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Thanks For Sharing

The streets of Manzanita are a crap minefield. 

 

Like this, only with crap.

 

Welcome Fall; welcome to the roaming elk and deer, pooping while they’re roaming, pooping while they’re standing still…stepping on their own poop; stepping on the poop that their herd comrade just dropped in front of them; stepping in the dried poop from three days ago…

A small price to pay for living in and/or visiting a bit o’ paradise on earth – the Oregon coast – in autumn.

And yet another reason to take your shoes off when you enter a home.  If you’re walking around here, whether on the streets, sidewalks, trails, or beach, you’re stepping on poop, in some form or another.

Although it doesn’t show up well in this picture, this poop pattern continues up the street, on both sides.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Playoff Game That Wasn’t

Early last week daughter Belle messaged me, wondering if she should get a ticket to Game 4 of the Seattle Mariners-Houston Astros American League Division series playoff game.  The division playoffs are a best-of-five series; Belle’s company, Schilling Cider, is a Mariners sponsor, and was guaranteed a certain number of tickets to purchase for playoff game 4.  Belle checked to see how many tickets her company would be allotted, and found out there would be enough so that she could get one for moiself  as well…and would I be interested?

It warmed the cockles of my heart, to hear that Belle was interested in going. How Belle’s grandparents would have liked that, I told her.

Chet and Marion Parnell were longtime baseball fans.  They once told me they’d always wanted to go to a playoff game but never had the opportunity. I grew up going to LA Dodgers and Anaheim Angels games, then in the 80s I lost – or rather deliberately misplaced – my interest in the sport.  I don’t remember the exact year; it was when there was yet another player/management strike.  Free agents had become the thing; it seems like you didn’t know the players anymore (“Wait…he was a Dodger and now he’s a Yankee?”), there was no team loyalty or team identity on either side of the management/players…it used to be you could follow the career of a player, having come up through the farm system….

 

LA Dodgers: The 1970s Cey to Russell to Lopes to Garvey era.

 

Then came the latest the player/manager/owner strike.

I remember thinking,

“Hmmm, which group of multi-millionaires do I feel sorry for?”

And that was that.

I became a fair weather fan – one who would watch The Big Games ®,  particularly if there’s a team I had an interest in (rooting for California or West Coast teams, and against CHEATERS like the Houston Astros…or just arrogant assholes like the Yankees).

BTW: Why do we sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” when we are already out at the ballgame?

 

 

Yet again, I digress.

When Belle asked if I were interested, moiself  realized that *I* had never been to a MLB playoff game. And when your 26-year-old daughter solicits a visit from her (much older, ahem) mother…

I started gettin’ spontaneous.  I booked train passage to and from Tacoma, found a (very expensive, yikes   [2]) hotel room, and crossed fingers for our odds in getting the tickets, which would be for sale depending on what happened in the first three games.

Game 4 would be on Sunday (10/16). My train reservations were for Saturday afternoon. MH advised me to get to the Portland train station early, as President Biden was in town that weekend. I took his advice to heart; I’d not been paying attention and had no idea Portland was in for a presidential visit, but I remembered a story I’d read about our most recent decent President:   An Average Person ® had traveled many miles to attend a political rally, where she got to speak with Obama.  She invited him to visit her state, because “…it would be such an honor to have a presidential visit.” Obama thanked her for the invitation, then warned her in good humor that, in reality, a presidential visit is a massive inconvenience to the area of the visit.  Presidential visits cause backups and delays for motorists, pedestrians, cyclists, even public transportation users, and are difficult to plan for, as, for security reasons, the presidential limo motorcade (and the decoy limo) and entourage routes can’t be announced in advance.  So, maybe the people who are invited to the speech or meet-n-greet or whatever consider it an honor, but for almost everyone else, it’s an irritation.  I like the fact that Obama was aware of/acknowledged that.

 

“Okay, remember, the decoy limo stops at Starbucks.”

 

As it turned out, Biden’s visit impacted a train’s departure four hours earlier in the day, but as I checked in I was told that my train (departing at 3:38p) was on time.  Then, for the next two and a half hours, Amtrak moved our departure time ahead, first in 5 minute increments, then ten, then….. Train station personnel on their intercoms and passengers googling on their cellphones were trying to find out what was going on.  The delay wasn’t due to the presidential visit (Biden’s entourage was already out of the area)…something about how due to a “police action” our train was stopped across the river.  Turns out there was a person “laying on the tracks.”   [3]

Our train finally arrived and we boarded, coming on three hours after our scheduled departure time.  Then, the train just sat at the station.  And sat.  Sat sat sat sat.  What now? Eventually, the conductor announced that “someone up ahead had set a fire next to the train tracks.”

Fucking Portland, I texted to Belle, who had already moved back and then cancelled the dinner reservations we’d had.  She passed the time on her end by giving me updates on the game. It was do or die for the Mariners: they’d lost the first two games; thus, if they lost game 3 (which I – mistakenly, as it turns out – assured Belle ALMOST NEVER HAPPENS    [4]   )  there would be no game four.

The hours went by; the game went into overtime.  Belle messaged at one point,

“Heading into the 15th inning now still 0-0.
Maybe we’ll just end up going to game 3 tomorrow.”

After 18 innings the Mariners lost “the longest 1-0 playoff game in MLB history.”     [5]

There would be no ballgame on Sunday.  Still, I had a very lovely day with my daughter, which included taking the ferry to Vashon Island. Belle, who works at Schilling Cider, wanted to show me another cidery she and her fellow Schilling-ers had visited.  We got to-go sandwiches and enjoyed a picnic on the orchard grounds of Dragon Head’s Cider. We sampled their amazing Columbia Crabapple blend, chatted with the affable DH employees, and just chilled out on an unseasonably   [6]    warm October afternoon.

 

 

After our island visit Belle wanted to go to her apartment to see her cat and rest up for the evening.  When she dropped me at my hotel moiself  noticed that the area  –The Point Ruston development in Tacoma’s  Ruston Way Waterfront – was hoppin.’  I got in the hotel elevator along with four other people – two couples, both of whom asked me, “Are you going to the concert tonight?”

Now, you could hear music coming from outside the hotel, and I said something about how I’d just told my daughter that it was such a nice night, you’d think someone would have scheduled a band to play outside in the amphitheater (where they have a summer concert series)…but then this weather is unexpected so it would be hard to book a group at the last minute…

My elevator buddies all looked momentarily confused, and one of them said, “No, not that – Elton John.”  I thought she meant an Elton John cover band was playing outside.  I laughed, and said, “Yeah, right, I don’t think so,” and another one of them chimed in and told me that Elton John was playing at the Tacoma Dome

Later that afternoon I went out to a nearby market, and returned to the hotel for another Elevator Encounter ®.  A couple who’d just checked in got in the elevator and didn’t know how to operate it.  I showed them how; they punched the button for floor 5.  Another man who got in the elevator at the lobby floor didn’t say anything, and didn’t make a floor selection.  When I got off at my floor (3) the couple wished me an enjoyable evening.  I turned around and asked, “Are you going to the concert?” they enthusiastically replied, “Yes!” and asked if I was also going.  I laughed and said that no, “…and I had no idea it was even taking place until people in elevators started talking about it.”    [7]

 

The Amphitheater Where Elton John Is Not Playing.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Weird Carpet Walking Man

That evening over dinner I told Belle the story of my elevator encounters, and also about what happened after the second encounter. The previously-mentioned man in the elevator, whom I thought gave off “didn’t belong” vibes (and wore a big scraggy beard, torn jeans and dirty shoes) exited the elevator when I did. I lagged behind; I let him go first, to keep an eye on him, lest he turn out to be the El Creepo Guy® who follows lone females off of hotel elevators to see what rooms they go to.

So, he’s walking ahead of me, verrrrrry strangely, weaving from side to side, sometimes taking large steps and sometimes tiny steps. As I observed him I realized he was walking so as to avoid stepping on the dark(er) blue spots on the hotel’s carpeted hallway – like a kid does when playing the “Don’t touch the lava!” game or “step-on-a-crack-break-your-back.”  I got out my phone to film him, stopped moiself, then relaxed when he removed a key from his picket and let himself into a room.

After dinner Belle came up to my room to get something I had for her. On her way out of the hotel I got this series of texts from her:

Belle:
I JUST SAW THE GUY WALKING WEIRD ON THE CARPET.
It had to be the same guy. He was avoiding the dark spots.

Moiself:
YES!

Belle:
Large beard.

Moiself:

YES!

Belle:
Wow amazing.
He’s like a natural phenomenon.

 

The carpet.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Carolyn Hax    [8]    Gem Of The Week

Context: re advice to a letter writer who is being told by her husband’s family that if she objects to his extravagant spending habits she will be “emasculating” him.

“Is there a worse word (or concept) than ‘emasculating’?
It’s basically a verbal encapsulation of the concept that the genders must
work in concert toward preserving the standing of men.”

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Baseball Edition

What’s the difference between a pickpocket and a second base umpire?
One steals watches and one watches steals.

Did I tell you the joke about the pop fly?
Never mind; it’s way over your head.

Why was Cinderella kicked off the baseball team?
She ran away from the ball.

Did you hear about the baseball player who can spot a fast-food restaurant a mile away?
He leads the league in Arby eyes.

 

“What did I say about encouraging her?”

 

*   *   *

 

May you remember that those who are not pro-choice are no choice;
May you read Carolyn Hax’s column – what are you waiting for?;
May you one day be enchanted by a Weird Carpet Walking Man;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Don’t make me use the term gubernatorial, which is a word that ought to be banned in public, IMO.

[2] For reasons revealed later in this post.

[3] A protestor? A drunk or loony?  We never found out. Just pick ‘em up and toss ‘em aside, disgruntled passengers helpfully suggested, to anyone who would listen.

[4] A sweep in a MLB series playoff.

[5] 18 innings, 1-0.  Sounds to me like a soccer score.

[6] As in record-setting for the Seattle area.

[7] And that’s why I had to spring for the pricy hotel rooms, as so many places were completely booked up, with the Elton fans, I assumed.

[8] What do you mean, who is Carolyn Hax?  Just about the best advice columnist ever.

The Color Coordinated Outfit I’m Not Wearing

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Dateline: Monday ~ 7:45 am.  I am on my elliptical exercise machine, which is in our family room, across from the kitchen.  I hear MH walking downstairs.  As he approaches the kitchen he pauses, gives moiself  a long look, and says…nothing.

“I know, I know,” I say.  His expression tells me he is wondering about my shirt-pants combo. “My other (yoga/workout) pants are in the laundry,” I explain.

 

 

 

“That looks like something a kid would wear.” MH laughs.

“A kid like *me,* you mean,” I say.  “Remember that picture?”

He says he does.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, MH and moiself  were visiting The Folks® in Santa Ana, looking through an old photo album with my mother.  When I came across that picture, moiself  burst out laughing.  My mother reminded me that that combination of clothing items – corduroy leopard print cutoffs and a blue/green Hawaiian midriff shirt – comprised my favorite “outfit” that spring and summer.  Not that I dressed in outfits (I knew the difference, as I had friends whose parents bought their children – read: their daughters – outfits.).  It was just that those two items of clothing – both hand-me-downs from older neighborhood children – were my favorite shorts and top, respectively.  Therefore, in my 10-year-old mind, they were a perfect match.

“You wore them constantly,” my mother told me.  She said she’d sneak into my room at night while I was sleeping, get the shorts and top from the end of my bed and put them in the laundry basket, only to discover the next morning that I’d gone through the basket and was wearing them again. I told her how much I admired her for letting me go outside like that, knowing what the neighbors must think (“She lets her kid dress like that?  Every day?!?!”).

The black and white photo doesn’t do it justice; use your colorful imagination.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Generalizations

Sitting across from me at the breakfast table, MH asked if I’d read about “the soccer game.”

“The one in Indonesia? Where people, uh, died?” Moiself  was unsure re the details.

MH scrolled to a news site on his phone and read a summary aloud:

“A stampede at a soccer stadium in Indonesia has killed 125 people and injured more than 320 after police used tear gas to quell a pitch invasion….
Officers fired tear gas in an attempt to disperse agitated supporters of the losing home side who had invaded the pitch after the final whistle in Malang…
‘…They started attacking officers, they damaged cars,’ (the police chief) said, adding that the crush occurred when fans fled for an exit gate.”

(“Indonesia soccer stampede kills 125 after police use tear gas in stadium.”
reuters.com 10-2-22 )

Although generally disdainful of gender stereotypes, I felt compelled to comment on the baffling-to-moiself  phenomenon of crazed sports dudes rushing the pitch, or rushing anything, for any reason.

“Women don’t do that,” I grumbled.

“If they had testosterone shots, they might,” MH noted.

 

Won’t vote for female politicians because he says women get too emotional.

 

*   *   *

*   *   *

Department Of Apropos Of…Something

I was listening to a blog, the name of which escapes me now, where in one of the subjects being discussed was apologies and holding grudges. It got me to thinking about the conventional teaching re that particular, delicate, interpersonal relations territory.

We have all heard of, or have been on the receiving (or giving) end of what has been termed the insincere or “false” apology, which is some variant of:

“I’m sorry you feel that way.”

I’ve little quarrel with the conventional apology-psychology which has decided that I’m sorry you feel that way  is not a sincere apology, but instead is a way of *not* expressing contrition, of *not* taking responsibility.

Notice I didn’t say, *no* quarrel, but little quarrel. The little is this:  I think there may be more to it than that.

In some cases, sincere-apology territory is clear cut: let’s say I step on your foot, either intentionally or as a (poor) joke or because I’m a klutz.  You yell, “YEOUGH, you stepped on my foot! That hurt!” My saying, “I’m sorry you feel that way” would indeed be an inappropriate, callous (and clueless) non-apology.

In defense of the other cases of the “non”- apology [1] :  Sometimes, under some circumstances, I’m sorry you feel that way is the only sincere and/or accurate expression Person1 can offer to Person2 if Person2 feels injured or slighted or by Person1.

As in: If Person2 feels poorly (sad, angry, resentful, and/or slighted) because of something they think Person1 said or did, Person1 may indeed be sorry to learn that Person2 is feeling poorly.  But, if Person1 disagrees with Person2’s interpretation of whatever happened (or even in some cases if the incident even happened in the first place), what can Person1 say that would be sincere, and which would truly satisfy Person2?

 

 

One of the most memorable times I have been in the position of having to deliver what might be interpreted as a non- or insincere apology was during a phone call I received from (someone I considered to be) a friend, who was also a fellow member of the church MH and I attended.  This was over 16 years ago; moiself  (and soon after, MH and our offspring  [2]  )  had recently “come out” as religion-free and had stopped attending the church.  This person, whom I’ll call “FJ,” called to tell me how hurt he was by my decision to leave the church.

Three sentences into the conversation, it became obvious that FJ felt *he* had been wronged by me.  I disagreed, even as I felt sincerely sad for FJ.  I was sad that he took my decision/action so personally (in his words, it was a “personal affront” to him); I felt sorry for him, even as I felt in no way responsible for his feelings, which, IMO, were his alone to hopefully/eventually experience and analyze.

FJ was hurting; it seemed to moiself, from what he was saying to me, he was determined to take it personally – to take *what* personally?  It’s not like I went to church during a worship service, stood up after the opening hymn and declared that I was leaving the church because of FJ.  Nothing about FJ, either personally or representationally, had led to my decision. So, what was he taking personally – that I’d decided to live the truth about my life and beliefs?

 

 

 

 

It was one of the oddest phone calls I’ve ever received. I kept rephrasing/repeating to FJ what he was telling me, to make sure I was hearing him correctly (I was).  As bizarre as it seemed to me, he made it plain:  If I left the church, he was going to take it as a personal affront.  When it became obvious that FJ expected me to apologize to him, all I could honestly say was, “FJ, I’m sorry you feel that way.”.

I could not say what he wanted (or thought he needed) me to say – “I’m sorry for leaving the church [3]/rejecting religion” – because I wasn’t.   [4]

Then I elaborated, along these lines:   [5]

“I’m sorry that you feel that way; however, you do not have my ‘permission’ to feel that way.  If you decide to take my feelings, *my* beliefs, as a personal affront to your feelings and beliefs, then that is on you – that is your decision.  I did not make my decision based on what I thought would “hurt” (or please) *you*, or any other member of the congregation, but rather on what was the right thing to do, for me.”

 

 

Another observation re the so-called non-apology: our contemporary counseling culture advises us that when we are having an argument or expressing our feelings to another person, we shouldn’t say, “You make me angry/sad when you ____ (do or say this anger/sadness-causing thing).”  Rather, we are supposed to say, “I feel angry/sad when you _____.”  In other words, by reframing, rephrasing what we say, we express our anger/sadness while also taking responsibility for our reactions and feelings, and not blame the other person for them. Now, isn’t that, in some, way, interwoven with the non-apology?

Interpersonal relationships; apologies, sincere and otherwise…. Complex territories, fraught with emotional landmines. I need to think about this for a while.

And if you disagree with my ruminations, well, I’m sorry you feel that way.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Things We Keep To Ourselves   [6]

Sub-Department Of, Who Says I Don’t Have A Filter?

Dateline Saturday night/early Sunday morning:  MH has been battling a rhinovirus for the past few days (surprise! COVID is not the only player left in the world of virology   [7] ).

 

So, monkeys get credit for the pox: I get the common cold virus…not that anyone asked.

 

He’s been sleeping with his head elevated, but that night the congestion got to him…and to me, even through my earplugs (translation: loud snoring).  Moiself  tries the usual tricks of loudly adjusting my pillows and rearranging/tugging the sheets, which sometimes get him to change position without fully waking him up.   [8]

Finally, I jostle his shoulder and speak to him, gently but firmly.

“Roll over.”

What he says: (in very clear voice, as if he’s just sprung into full-awakeness, even though one second before he sounded as if he were clearcutting an endangered forest):

“Why – was I making noise?”

 

 

 What I think (and want to say):
“WTF? Seriously –  ‘Am I making noise?’
What are the circumstances where in the past, in the middle of the night, I have asked   [9]   you to roll over?  Why would there be any other reason to ask you to roll over?  Because I heard the cat barf and it’s your turn to clean it up?  How would you rolling over clean up the cat barf?  Because I heard someone trying to break in the house, or I heard the toilet running, or the sounds of the TV left on downstairs, or family photos falling from the fireplace mantle and hitting the floor? My getting you to roll over would accomplish nothing in those situations.

‘Am I making noise?’ Oh, no, of course not –  I just woke myself up out of a sound sleep and decided that, for aesthetic purposes and/or achieving universal peace and harmony, I wanted you to roll over.”

What I actually say:
“Yes.”

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Losing My Religion Edition

Q: How many atheists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Two. One to actually change the bulb, and the other to videotape the job so fundamentalists won’t claim that their god did it.

What do you call a ruling on Islamic law made by an overweight imam?
A fatwa.

What is the Dalai Lama’s favorite margarine advertising slogan?
“I can’t believe it’s not Buddha.”

Why don’t churches have free wifi?
They don’t want to compete with an invisible power that actually works.

 

 

*   *   *

May you give yourself permission to dress like a kid;
May you never, under any circumstances, rush onto the pitch;
May you roll over when so requested;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Which I have been on the receiving end of, when a blatantly sincere apology was called for, so I’m not taking this lightly.

[2] Who were quite delighted that they didn’t “have” to go to church anymore.  Even though they had friends there whom they liked, they didn’t accept Christian theology or any religion’s theology) and wondered, in their words, “Why do we (our family) go to church when it’s obvious you don’t believe in any of that?”

[3] Or “rejecting the church/religion/god”…and all the many other ways my decision has been categorized by religious family and friends – ways which are, of course, their terms, and not mine.

[4] Sorry?  I was fucking elated.

[5] My recollection is not verbatim, but it’s the gist of what I conveyed.

[6] Until, of course, “we” blog about them.

[7] And he did do a COVID test, just in case.

[8] Awfully considerate of me, don’t you think, to be concerned for the sleep state of one who has already woken up moiself.

[9] Demand, in some cases, when moiself  be desperate for sleep.

The Highways I’m Not Renaming

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Department Of I Have Questions…But To Whom?

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

I shall explain.

 

 

 

 

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

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

Yet again, I digress. 

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

 

 

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

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

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

*   *   *

Department Of Blast From The Past

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Writer,

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

The Editors

********

Dear Writer,

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

The Editors

********

Dear Writer,

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

The Editors

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

********

Dear Writer,

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

No; really.

The Editors

********

 

********

Dear Writer,

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

The Editors

********

Gentle Writer,

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

Vaya con Queso,

The Editors

********

Dear Writer,

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

The Editors

********

Dear Writer,

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

The Editors

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

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Writing Punz Rejection Generator Edition

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

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

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

 

 

 

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

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

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

[3] Of a certain age, ahem.

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

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

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

[7] Since retitled…still unpublished!

The Elephant I’m Not Ignoring

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Thanks for checking in, so to speak (…er, write).  I am taking moiself  on holiday.  From this Friday and through June, I will be posting blogs from the same time period of eight years ago (late May-June, 2014).  New posts will return in early-mid July.

Until then, I hope y’all enjoy these reruns (or at least gain a modicum of petty amusement from making fun of them, and/or noting how NOT perspicacious my 2014 blatherings observations turned out to be).  Perhaps they may spark some sense of déjà vu in you, or cause you to contemplate what you were doing and thinking in those pre-pandemic, pre-idiocy epidemic times (i.e., before the debacle that was #45).

Moiself  apologizes for the fact that visuals (pictures; video clips) in the original posts may or may not be included.
*   *   * 

 

As promised (threatened?) in earlier missives, a picture of Belle’s tattoo.

She did the artwork herself. The tattooist was pleased at having to do (almost) no alterations to translate Belle’s fine art into body art.  There is, of course, a story behind the design.

Belle included a triangle for several reasons, including her love of the strength and purity of the strongest geometrical shape, and because it is the mathematical operator (delta) ∆, for change.  The cicada also has multiple personal references for Belle.  She is in awe of the cicada’s dramatic emergent cycle (13 – 17 years, depending on the species), and a cicada  symbolizes her years of dedication to the Oregon ZooTeens program.  Last summer Belle and other members of the program’s Leadership Corps travelled to a nature preserve in Costa Rica, where they were serenaded by an abundance of cicadas.

 *   *   *

 Too bad not all things that creep and crawl are as benign as cicadas.

White Guy Killer Syndrome: Can I go ahead and scream yet? It’s time for America to admit what it’s long resisted: White male privilege kills.  (by Brittney Cooper [1])

There have been many articles published this week about the Santa Barbara killings. Cooper’s is one of the more incendiary and thought-provoking.  She writes forcefully about the latest, maddening, frustrating – and worst of all, hardly atypical –  mass killing scenario in the USA.  It seems that “every few years, the American public has to watch in horror as some white kid goes on a rampage, killing everything from babies to old people,” when yet another young white guy decides “….his disillusionment with his life should become somebody else’s problem.”

Cooper rails against the inability of the press, the law, of society itself, to have the conversations  “…about white male pathology and the ways that systems of whiteness and patriarchy continue to produce white men who think like this. ”

(The killer) had been posting strange youtube videos of himself talking about killing people over the last several weeks, so much so that his family was reportedly disturbed enough to call the police and have them come do a welfare check. But “officers concluded that he was ‘polite, courteous,’” and downplayed any difficulties.

 In the manifesto he released he said he was relieved that officers did not push the matter further because they would have found his weapons.

 Can I go ahead and scream yet? A black or brown man would have been violently hauled into a jail and locked up at the first sign of such machinations. His property rights would have been thoroughly violated, and no matter how “polite” and “courteous” he might have been with officers, no reports would have reflected such language.

 These coded terms mean that these officers were incapable of seeing this clearly troubled young white man as a threat. How many mass killings must it take to recognize that white male entitlement is potentially deadly?”

*   *   *

The Department of No, I’m Not Done Yet
Aka The Santa Barbara Killings and Male Defensiveness:

We’re not all like that!”

Who. Fucking. Said. That. You. Are?

If, just one more time, I hear/read one more variation on that comment….

I recently posted a link on my FB page to a Greta Christina blog post that addressed the killings.  The atheist/feminist/LGBTG activist, author and blogger linked to a compilation of excellent blog posts on the subject of why we are, still and again, told to ignore blatant misogynist fanaticism when it is implicated in acts of violence.  “You see,” we are assured/lectured, “it’s just the unbalanced, socially awkward dudes who commit such atrocities, and there is no relation to misogyny…” No matter how many female-loathing manifestos were spewed from the very killer’s mouth/computer.

 “A man who was part of a community of extremists who hate women, wrote a manifesto about his hate for women, then went to a female sorority house to kill women.  But it definitely wasn’t about his hatred of women. Oh, no sir…. “
(Martin Robbins, quoted in Butterflied & Wheels post, What Elephant in What Room?)

 The GC-linked posts show that a whole lotta intelligent, articulate and thoughtful men understand Why  (the Killer’s) Misogyny Matters.

And then, there are others.

A FB comment on my afore-mentioned post:

“Because white supremacists don’t want to live with blacks, anti-Semites don’t want Jews to exist, ____(killer’s name) [2] failed to obtain to obtain what he (wanted? sic) from women and then converted it into a conspiracy against him. If you read further there was also bullying involved in his life. This is a complex situation which apparently been going on for years which the therapist was unable to identify how serious it was but was on top of the last email to notify his parents. Remember his first victims were male, so its (sic) not all about you.”

Really.

I wanted to frost the commenter’s well-intentioned, I’m-going-to-sound-like-the-voice-of-let’s-stay-calm-folks, privileged, clueless assterior.  But since there is no frost-the-assterior button [3] on FB to click, I instead commented on his comment.

Uh, (FB poster), that some of (the killer’s) victims were male – just as victims of anti-Semitic or racist or gay hate crimes are often not Semitic, or of the “majority” ethnic group, or straight – does not mitigate the misogyny as his (self-identified) primary motivation.

I would hope my response to those bringing up anti-Semitism as the motivation for a mass killing would not be, “but Catholic Poles also died in the gas chambers, so it’s not all about you Jews.”  I would hope, listening to someone who is trying to get people to consider the broader reasons and motivations that drove the murders of Civil Rights activists, to be just a tad less defensive, so that my knee-jerk reaction would not be to defend whatever group I am in that, I think, is related to the killer(s): “But, white activists were also slain in the Civil Rights movement, so it’s not all about you Negroes.”

It’s not all about you.  Sadly, that comment just proves the pathetic, dangerous poin: [4] of people being averse to and uncomfortable with talking about misogyny.

We all want to believe we live in a “post-racial,” “post-gender inequitable” world, because then that would remove us from the responsibility of equalizing the imbalances.

If I am a man who considers myself to be the kind of man who does not hate women, who would never consciously disparage, harm or discriminate against someone based on their gender, then I can generalize from my own attitudes to assure myself that whatever individual or societal misogyny maybe-waybe still exists a teesny-weensy bit, golly gee, it’s not my problem, because…well…just look at me!  I’m evidence that we’re not all like that.  So, uh, yeah.  We’re not all like that.  Therefore, let’s pretend the ones that are like that don’t matter, have no influence, and never do any harm like that.

*   *   *

We take a break from this week’s ranting to contemplate a soothing picture, brought to you by the makers of A Baby sloth in a Bucket. ®

No ranting here, just enough cuteness to make you piss through your eyeteeth [5]

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

*  *  *

Operation Plain Speaking

Post Memorial Day rant musing: How I loathe, loathe loathe – and did I mention abhor? – the euphemistic, spin-meister monikers which Those in Charge of Such Things ® have applied to our recent and ongoing wars.

I get that “Desert Storm,” “Operation Enduring Freedom” and “Operation Iraqi Freedom” sound nobler than, “Thanks fer nuthin,’ Ex-Prez Bush-wad, now we’re the latest arrogant blowhards to get stuck in these historical shitstorms,” and are easier to fit on tombstones.

“Enduring Freedom,” my uncles’ and father’s (WWII) and grandfather’s (WWI) asses. People have died for those pompous pretenses.  “Enduring freedom” is translating into “never-ending confrontation.” Call ’em what they are.  The Iraq War; the Afghanistan War.

*   *   *

Speaking of plain speaking, and desperately looking for a rant-free segue into coming attractions, I have been practicing my French survival phrases:

Aider! Un home avec une poitrine velue volé mon vin! [6]

 and

J’aime votre chevre [7]

 and of course

 Où est votre coude ?[8]

 

Breathe deeply, fight the good fights, speak plainly, and S’il vous plaît, me passer le caillé de fromage, [9] and – but of course! – the hijinks shall ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

[1] Educator and contributing writer at salon.com .

[2] Name redacted; I refuse to type it.

[3] Why is that, Mr. Zuckerberg?

[4] Just as how “The comments on any article about feminism justify feminism;”aka, Lewis’ Law.

[5] An old Southern saying.  Actually, not.  But it should be.

[6] “Help!  A man with a hairy chest stole my wine!”

[7] “I like your goat.”

[8] “Where is your elbow?”

[9] “Please pass me the cheese curds.”

[10] Il n’y a pas de footnote ici.

The Destiny I’m Not Fulfilling

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Department Of Podcast Feeds I’m Deleting

 

 

I post frequently about the podcasts moiself  listens to (and this entire post, unintentionally, is devoted to that).  Recently I did a trial listen to a new (to moiself) pocast, titled,  Tell Me.

TM is hosted by actor/producer Ellen Pompeo, best known for her seventeen year stint as Dr. Meredith Grey on the TV show, Grey’s Anatomy.  I can’t remember how I heard of TM – most likely via an ad on a podcast moiself  already listens to – so I checked out the show’s website:

” …Ellen Pompeo sits down with a wide range of guests and celebrity friends who inspire her and who do extraordinary things. Through in-depth, candid conversations, Ellen shines a light on people and issues that are important to her and the world at large….
Ellen is also an outspoken activist for issues including equal pay for women in Hollywood and beyond, social justice, voting rights, and women’s rights.”

Hmmm. I’ve had the ass-tearing-with-boredom experience of trying out podcasts, supposedly highly-rated, which feature “celebrities” (read: comedians and actors) who seem genial enough and are good at their profession, and then the podcast consists of them talking with their friends…and the conversations between them and their fellow, A- and B-list celebs don’t hold my attention for long. It’s like being on the bus listening to Joe Schmo and Kathy Whoa sharing their in-crowd jokes, etc., only these Joes and Kathys have famous names…but you still don’t know them personally.  Despite how funny/talented they are on stage, they start with the seemingly obligatory Celebrity-Host-to-Celebrity-Guest podcast Intro ®, which is a session of mutual ass-kissing (“I love your work!” “And I love *your* work…!”)…and then…who really cares?

 

 

However, when I read about Pompeo’s activism I assumed that would be a prominent feature of her podcast, so I gave it a try.

In the past week I listened to three of her interviews…or tried to.  I couldn’t make it all the way through: in at least two of them, Pompeo and/or her guests brought up their “signs,” as in astrology, and chatted about their respective and supposed zodiac attributes (along the lines of, “Ah yes, as a Scorpio…” ).

 

 

I…just…cannot….

She’s off my feed now.  I’m still a Grey’s Anatomy fan, but I simply cannot take Pompeo seriously as a podcast host of “… issues that are important to…the world at large.”

“It turns out that astrologers can’t even agree among themselves what a given horoscope means. In careful tests they’re unable to predict the character and future of people they know nothing about except the time and place of birth.
Also, how could it possibly work? How could the rising of Mars at the moment of my birth affect me then or now? I was born in a closed room. Light from Mars couldn’t get in. The only influence of Mars which could affect me was its gravity. But the gravitational influence of the obstetrician was much larger than the gravitational influence or Mars.
Mars is a lot more massive but the obstetrician was a lot closer.”
( Carl Sagan )

 

 

In the year 2022, the idea that some people would give even a modicum of legitimacy to the medieval hokum that is astrology….

And yes, I realize a lot of people throw around astrology references in a casual, “fun” way and probably don’t take it seriously (or even understand what they are alluding to).  However, facts matters – or at least, they should.  Look around the world, read y’alls selves some history, and see what happens when people do not understand and misrepresent reality.

Again, I know, some folks play with the astrology thing for fun, but in the name of all that is rational, please, when someone asks, “What’s your sign?” the only polite response you should give should be:

 

 

If the sign-seeker is balks, kindly yet firmly refer them to The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark .   [1]   This glorious book, described by the LA Times as “a manifesto for clear thinking,” is an entertaining, accessible, thought-provoking read, in which Carl Sagan and co-author/science communicator/producer Ann Druyan

* describe the scientific method to laypeople;

* illuminate critical and skeptical thinking;

* teach readers how to employ skeptical thinking and rigorous questioning, and other methods to equip ourselves with a “baloney taction kit” to help distinguish between valid science and pseudoscience.

Enjoy this brief history (and debunking) of astrology by the late great astronomer and cosmologist, Carl Sagan.   [2]

 

“Dr. Yang, you will be taking over all of Dr. Grey’s surgeries until she stops refusing to operate on a Libra during the full moon.”

*   *   *

Department Of Destiny, Schmestiny

And one more thing. 

 

In two of the three podcast episodes I listened to, Pompeo’s guests were people she knew personally (former Grey’s actors), and she brought up with them a concept which was obviously authentic and important to her, but which (along with the astrology) also strayed into woo-woo/squishy territory:  destiny.

It’s hard to describe what she was trying to describe – in part because she was more enthusiastic than articulate about it, and in part because the subject itself is so subjective.  To do it justice would require me relistening to those interviews (and I have no desire to do so) .  Pompeo is not the first person to hold and express such sentiments, which go, basically, like this:

* Certain people come into your life, and you into theirs, because the two of you separately yet somehow reciprocally give off this kind of aura which attracts them; thus, you were “destined” to meet because of these mutualities  [3]….

Pompeo brought this up with her former co-star Patrick Dempsey, and as part of the proof that they were fated to meet and work together and be friends, she told him that they used to live down the street from each other, before they knew each other.

 

 

So, two actors, in an area (LA) where you can’t spit without hitting an actor or would-be actor – two people working in the same field, living near one another, ending up working together and ended up getting along with and liking each other, and therefore, it’s destiny?

Destiny; fate?  How about good fortune, brought about by coincidence?  Star-crossed lovers and even besties-for-life have a prominent place in literature and the arts, which loves the meet-cute and “meant-to-be” scenarios.  But in our non-fictional lives, when we step back and look at the facts and statistics, what we might consider destiny is in fact more accurately framed as a result of proximity or geography.

 

“My darling, geography hath conspired to bring us….nah.  Dialog coach, hello ?!”

 

The vast majority of people become friends with and partner up with people who live near them and are from the same or similar educational, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds.   I have friends with whom I share deep intellectual and emotional connections and/or have profound commonalities of interests and perspectives, but we didn’t meet because we were destined to.  We met because we were in proximity; because, due to school or work or socia/neighborhood and/or or other activities, we encountered each other, and our relationships gradually grew from there.

My friend CC is a wonderful person and playmate and confidante, and I’m grateful for and have been enriched by her friendship.  But I do not think in the slightest that these things mean that we were destined to become friends.  If I were living in Hillsboro and she in Hanoi, or somewhere else across the globe, it is highly unlikely that the tides of fate/destiny would have brought us together.

 

In other words, destiny is not destined.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Advice Of The Week

“I do suspect that many, many people would be much happier
if they did less, better.”

This provocative quote is from a podcast I’m *not* deleting – a podcast where I doubt I’ll ever hear anyone cite astrology. I’m referring to PIMA (People I Mostly Admire), and the advice comes from PIMA‘s recent episode, “Turning Work Into Play,” which features psychologist, author, and academic, Dan Gilbert.

Gilbert (described on the podcast as someone who went “…from high school dropout to Harvard professor”) brings an intriguing perspective to concepts of being “lazy,” and how to bring about joy, as illustrated by this excerpt from the podcast, where Gilbert is being interviewed by PIMA host Steve Levitt.  Levitt, like many academics, has had to teach as part of his university contract.  Levitt also, like many academics, prefers research to teaching.   [4]   Thus, Levitt has been intimidated by and/or found teaching to be a chore, and so he asked Gilbert how he seemingly excels at it (my emphases):

GILBERT:
“I would say that the reason I put so much time and effort into my teaching is because I’m lazy. And lazy people don’t like to work. Somewhere very early on in life, right around the time I dropped out of high school, I think, I decided I never want to work again. All I want to do is play. And what I discovered is that to the extent that you put your whole self into almost any task — even if it’s washing the dishes — it stops being work and it starts becoming play.

I wonder if I can wash the dishes by holding them in my right hand and scrubbing with my left hand. Is it faster if I do it that way? Is there an interesting way to stack them so that they dry faster rather than slower? Anything that you are creative and playful with is a joy…..putting your entire self into things turns it into joy.”

 

“Doing the dishes them with my left hand brings me almost as much joy as doubling up on my Prozac.”

 

LEVITT:
“So, you were the first person I’ve ever heard say so succinctly this idea that a 100% focus is associated with joy, no matter what the task. It’s implicit in a lot of, like, Eastern philosophies of enlightenment…. I think you’re probably right. And yet in my own life, I don’t do very much of that…. How did you figure this out?”

GILBERT:
“I probably have a talent you don’t. Which is, I can say ‘No.’ I can say, ‘No’ very easily. I say, ‘No,’ to almost everything. My guess is you say, ‘No,’ a lot, but you say, ‘Yes,’ too much. And as a result, you have seven different things you’d like to put yourself fully into, but you can only put one-seventh of yourself in, because you said, ‘Yes,’ to all of them.
So, early on, when I decided I want everything I do to be a joy, I realized I would only be able to do very few things. So, I just say, ‘No,’ to just about everything. And ‘Yes,’ to just enough that I can constantly be putting my whole self into the teaching or into an article. I mean, I’ve published a quarter of the articles most of my colleagues at my stage of career have published. Because I write very few articles. Because I’m not going to write one that isn’t just as beautifully written and as smart as I can possibly be at that moment. Because that brings me joy. And I’m lazy. I like joy.”

LEVITT:
“I always ask my guests when they come on to give advice. I think I just heard you give advice — which is maybe the single most important thing anyone can do is to learn how to say, ‘No,’ and to say, ‘No,’ much more often.”

 

 

GILBERT:
….I do suspect that many, many people would be much happier if they did less, better. Publish fewer papers and make them better papers. For God’s sake, publish one paper and make it a great paper. Not only will you be happier, but the world will be happier without all the crappy papers you didn’t publish. Reading this one that you put your heart and soul into, and everybody can tell you did because it’s just such a pleasure. Don’t you think the world would be better with fewer books that were better books? Fewer X that are better X? I’m not sure what you could substitute for X that wouldn’t be true.”

LEVITT:
“I think that’s right. And I have gotten better at saying, ‘No,’ but as you described my life — seven things that I do, each of them pretty poorly…. And it’s probably four too many. And I’ve yet to figure out how to get from seven down to three.”

GILBERT:
“…I know you can go from seven to three very easily. My guess is that when somebody says, ‘Steve, I’ve got this idea for a project.’ You go, ‘Wow, that would be really fun.’ And this is what we call ‘affective forecasting.’ You’re imagining how great it will be to do the project. And we know from a lifetime of research that there’s a whole bunch of things you’re not imagining. Particularly how it will impinge on all the other things you already said, ‘Yes,’ to.”

*   *   *

Department Of My To-Do List: One More Item To Check Off

Dateline: Sunday am, listening to No Stupid Questions podcast, episode 97: Are Women Really Less Happy Than Men?, which is about the supposed gender gap in happiness.

Midway through the podcast, psychologist and NSQ cohost Angela Duckworth   [5] read a teaser —  a quote from an article in The Guardian — that to be happier, women should “…give up on being good.”   [6]

Another entry on moiself’s  To-do list:  Give up on being good.

Check!

Happier!

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Happiness Edition

Why are horses so happy?
Because they live in a stable environment.

Why can’t tennis players ever find happiness?
Because love means nothing to them.

I’m so happy with my financial savvy – my credit card company calls me every day to tell me that my balance is outstanding!

What is the best blood type for happiness?
B positive.

 

*   *   *

May you make the world happier “…without all the crappy papers you didn’t publish;”
May you say “no” more often so that you can joyfully say, “yes;”
May you equip yourself with a baloney detection kit;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] And read it yourself, even if you consider yourself a good hokum detector and/or already know why astrology is bunk.

[2] And enjoy, as well as the facts Sagan presents, his distinctive speech patterns and intonations.

[3] Damn right, that’s a word.  Now…here…at least.

[4] Some of us may remember how disappointed we were in college, when we had such professors.

[5] Psychology professor and author of the book, Grit.  That’s why you recognize her name.

[6] This calls for another footnote.

The World Languages I’m Not Learning

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Department Of How Did I Not Know Until Now About This Song !?!?

Dateline: Monday am, 7:30 ish.  Morning walk/podcast listen: Clear + Vivid: Bette Midler: How She Became Divine.

 

 

The Divine Miss M herself was regaling host C+V  host Alan Alda with tales of her first European tour, and how the following ditty Midler performed on stage “…went down really well” in Germany.

(sung to the tune of the theme song of the movie, The Bridge Over The River Kwai) :

♫  Hitler…
had only one big ball
Goering…
had two but they were small
Himmler…
Had something similar
And poor old Goebbels
had no balls
at all.  ♫      [1]

I’d vaguely known about Hitler’s goofy gonads (he suffered from right-side cryptorchidism – an undescended testicle).  But the fact that this detail was woven into an anti-Nazi ditty delighted the spirit of the 11-year-old Girl Scout who still resides in me – the girl who wanted to sit in the back during the boring troop meetings and exchange bawdy jokes with the other so-inclined scouts instead of listening to yet another boring lecture on how we were supposed to be working on our camping merit badges.

 

“All in favor of skipping reciting the Girl Scout Promise and singing the Hitler song instead, raise your hands.”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Yet Another Podcast Citation

The most recent episode of the People I (Mostly) Admire podcast – website description: “Steven Levitt, the unorthodox University of Chicago economist and co-author of the Freakonomics book series….tracks down other high achievers and asks questions that only he would think to ask….” – had me hooked with the opening:

“My guest today, John McWhorter, likes to stir things up….
He’s a linguistics professor at Columbia university, author of over a dozen books, and has emerged as one of America’s most prominent public intellectuals. He’s an opinionated centrist, and chances are, whatever your politics, you’ll love his views on some issues, and despise his stance on others.”
(intro to People I Mostly Admire, episode 72: “Leaving Black People in the Lurch” )

 

 

 

I was immediately intrigued by the host’s description of his guest: “an opinionated centrist.”  Not being fond of political labels (at least for moiself ), I don’t consider moiself  to be a centrist.  Rather, I approach issues as a Does this make sense?-trist.” When some folks on The Far Left ® find out my liberal/religion-free/ flaming feminist viewpoints, they assume that I’ll tick off all their boxes on particular issues.  And when they find out that I do not, *they* get ticked off.

My intrigue-ears perked up for other reasons as well, including the fact that McWhorter is a linguistics professor.  Being a linguist, as in studying the cultural and cognitive development and application of languages, is one of my “if-I-were-to-do-it-all-over-again” professions.   [2]  Now, just because I maintain an interest in that area of study doesn’t mean that I have any current and/or particular skill in or aptitude for languages – far from it, as anyone who has heard me mangle the French language could attest to.  And while moiself  is on the subject I’d like to offer a shout-out to all you Parisian shopkeepers and restauranters who, despite the stereotype of the snooty French, were most patient and gracious with me when I was visiting your merveilluse ville and tried to order a pain au chocolat in every venue possible.

 

Let me guess, *elle demande* the entire tray, again?

 

Once again, I digress.

Back to the podcast opening.

Steve LEVITT:
“In your day job, you (McWhorter) are a linguist at Columbia University and you also moonlight as a commentator on American society, especially around issues of race. But I’d like to talk first about linguistics, because I suspect if we start on race, we’ll never make our way back to linguistics.”

Linguistics/ race – I wanted to hear it all.  Any author of a book called “Nine Nasty Words: English in the Gutter,” is all right by me. Then, after the first 15 minutes of linguistics talk, I was surprised by McWhorter’s choice in an answer to a certain question.

LEVITT:
So, English is obviously emerging as something of a world language, and that’s mostly for accidental, historical, social, political reasons. And in my very first episode of this podcast, I had Steve Pinker, the Harvard linguist, on. And I tried to get him to make a vote for what the best world language would be. I had no luck. He would not bite on that at all. Is that a question you’ll bite on?”

MCWHORTER:
” Hell yeah.
….If all of the world were going to use a single language, it should be not English….
Really, the language of the world should be Indonesian.”

 

 

Really.  He chose Indonesian.


MCWHORTER:
“…Not the way it’s written, but the way it’s typically spoken, where you have almost no suffixes, almost no prefixes. (Indonesian is) not a tonal language. It’s very low on throwing you with things like, what does ‘pick up’ mean?  You can pick up a disease; you can pick somebody up from school; speed is about picking up speed. Why deal with that? There’s very little of that. …. even though most people who don’t speak Indonesian would find it hard to learn just the words themselves….if you could pick up 500 of them, say 600 of them…the grammar would be very, very easy. You could make yourself understood. I would say it’s better. It’s easier for everybody — colloquial Indonesian would be the one.”

McWhorter’s quotes about the reasons why a language like Indonesian would be a better “world” language  [3]  made me think about Turkish, which I studied for a few days in an online course (until Putin’s aggressive assholery changed my travel plans   [4]  ).

Here are nine encouraging and refreshing observations I made during my brief foray into the Turkish language:

  1. Turkish is phonetic; thus, pronunciation is easy!
  2. Every letter in a word is pronounced!   [5]
  3. Each letter has only one sound!
  4. Two or more letters are never combined to make a new or different sound!
  5. Turkish contains no articles at all!
  6. It is also not a gendered language; nor is it tonal!
  7. There is no 7th observation!
  8. There are standard rules for making plurals!
  9. Word Order is set: Subject-Object-Verb. The verb is always at the end in written Turkish!    [6]

 

You’d spin with delight, too, if you spoke such a sensible language.

 

After twenty-five or so minutes of Fun With Words®,  podcast host Levitt ventured into topics where McWhorter’s opinions have made people who are prone to look for divergent poles line up into their default defensive positions…such as McWhorter’s book, Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America.

LEVITT:
“I was talking to a white friend of mine, someone who is deeply sympathetic to the anti-racist cause. And she said to me recently, ‘My daughter is friends with a Black girl in her nursery school class….and I’d like to invite that Black girl over to my house for a play date, but I’m afraid to because I don’t know the appropriate way to acknowledge my white privilege to the girl’s parents. And I don’t want to insult them by not acknowledging it.’

 To me, what a disaster – when kids can’t build friendships because parents are so paralyzed by fear of not doing the right thing.”

MCWHORTER:
“You know what? That woman is who I wrote Woke Racism for.
That is exactly what I mean. That is somebody whose heart is very much in the right place, but she’s so afraid of being called the dirtiest-name-other-than-pedophile in our current cultural vocabulary that she’s basically hamstrung.

After a while, it might be that you end up avoiding Black people because you don’t want to take a wrong step. And then you get accused of being a racist. And where does that get us?  To actually say, ‘What is the result of all this?’ is seen as somehow beside the point.

Rather, what’s considered important is smart people stating that racism still exists; racism is systemic. Now, what’s actually happening out on the ground, whether we’re improving Black lives by stating that, is considered subsidiary…..

And yet, that’s the situation that I saw us slipping into starting after the hideous murder of George Floyd. I saw us dealing with a kind of semaphore, where we say things and we say things and we say things, and what we’re really doing is fostering a kind of general guilt and engaging in a kind of passion play…. But the result is not anything that any civil rights leaders of the past would have recognized as meaningful. We need to get back to doing the real thing.”

 

Fine; you’re awake. Now, make the bed and start cleaning up the mess you left in the kitchen.

LEVITT:
“I always ask my guests to give advice to my listeners. And I’m curious what advice you would give to young people trying to build a good life for themselves.
And would you give the same advice to a young white person and a young Black person?”

MCWHORTER (my emphases):
“… at this point, in the way our national dialogue goes, I would say this to kids of any race: Distrust your impulse to suppose that people who don’t think like you are either naive or evil.

It’s very easy to think that if they don’t think like you. It’s either they don’t have the facts that you have, or if they do have the facts that you have, there’s something sinister about them. They’ve got motives that they’re not quite letting onto.

And the sad thing is that these days, young people are being taught to think that way by an awful lot of grown-ups.

It’s an easy misimpression to fall into because we tend to be binary thinkers. But with any debate that’s uniquely challenging or frankly, interesting, about which you might argue, that’s different from decreeing that people are either stupid or bad. And that’s what a diverse and large society is all about. That’s what diversity of opinion is.”

Moiself  highly recommends that y’all’s selves listen to the entire interview, and pay attention to McWhorter’s insightful analysis re how “3rd wave anti-racism” (a term he borrows from the feminist movement) “is a religion.” It’s guaranteed to offend at least a few third wave anti-racists and religionists.  Now, that’s my kind of a podcast guest.

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Woke Politics Edition

Why were environmental activists protesting outside the elementary school?
That heard a rumor that the kids were singing, “Rain, rain, go away.”

What do you call a woke Star Wars droid?
R2-Me2

Did you hear about the laundromat manager who had her Facebook account cancelled?
FB monitors read that she told her customers to separate the whites from the colors.

One night I dreamt that I was a muffler…
I woke up exhausted.

 

“There’s woke jokes, and then there’s woke jokes.”

 

*   *   *

May you choose meaningful action over virtue-signalling;
May you have fond memories of your bawdy joke-telling, scout-meeting (or the equivalent) ignoring days;
May you enjoy singing the song about Hitler’s balls;    [7]

…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Yes, this is the first footnote of this blog.

[2] Which would also include neurobiologist and astronaut.

[3] Better than, say, English, with its jumble of grammar, spelling, and pronunciation variants.

[4] We (MH and I) had planned a trip to Turkey in late May-early June.  Maybe…next year?

[5] With one exception – ğ, lengthens the sound of the vowel preceding it.

[6] Spoken Turkish allows for some flexibility.

[7] You know you’re going to hum it, at least once, if only to yourself.

The Russians I’m Not Absolving

1 Comment

Department Of Scapegoating

Moiself  would like nothing better than to wake up tomorrow morning to the news that Vladimir Putin has

* kicked the KGB bucket
* cashed in his commie chips
* bit the Chernoyl dust,
* bought the fascist farm,
* given up the glasnost ghost
* won his last rabid dog lookalike ® contest…

 

 

 

you know – died.  Whether through “natural” means or otherwise; hey, I’m not picky.

Still, it doesn’t seem…wise…or right…or fair…or historically accurate, to blame Russia’s assault against Ukraine solely on that festering turd of a genocidal despot one leader.

Russia is a big ass country.  Even with an oligarchy-stained kleptocracy of a dictatorship masquerading as a federal republic, moiself  doesn’t think the P-boy can do what he’s doing unless he’s got a whole lotta other Russians – if not the majority – on his side.

This is the 21st century, and Russia is not North Korea.  In “First World” countries whose people have access to First World technologies (internet; cellphones) is impossible to completely control the narrative; it is impossible to make the majority of the Russian populace believe that Ukrainians are “neo-Nazis”,  or the other delusional justifications the P-pants-boy offers for invading a sovereign country, unless there are those who, for whatever reasons, want to believe such bizarre, totally unsubstantiated falsehoods.

Are Russians who support their country’s actions also victims (of P-face’s propaganda), as I have heard more than one person surmise,?  Or are they collaborators?  I’m not sure it matters, at this point.  Not to the dead Ukrainians, that’s for sure.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Thanks For The Imagery

Dateline: Saturday, March 26; circa 7:45 am; morning walk; listening to the People I Mostly Admire podcast’s latest episode:  No One Can Resist A Jolly, Happy Pig.  Host Steven Levitt is interviewing naturalist and author Sy Montgomery, who gets the following introduction on the PIMA website:

My guest today is bestselling author and naturalist Sy Montgomery. The Boston Globe describes her as “part Indiana Jones and part Emily Dickinson.” Her best-known book is The Soul of an Octopus, which was a finalist for the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 2015. But she’s written about everything from tarantulas to hyenas to hummingbirds to pink dolphins. And as far as I can tell, she’s fallen in love with every one of them.

Levitt asks Montgomery how she got to where she is, in her profession – combining her two loves, of journalism and animals. Montgomery talks about visiting various people she knows who devote their lives to studying some obscure species, including a friend who is currently studying “the southern hairy-nosed wombat”…

…which caused moiself  to actually speak the following picture’s caption aloud.  To moiself, but ALOUD.

 

“Hey, Buford, y’all going to the barn dance tonight?”

*    *   *

Department Of Dietary Motivations

Back to the above-referenced podcast: Montgomery’s years of study of numerous animal species has caused her to refer to these animals as “people” (in aggregate) or “somebody” in particular. She explains her vocabulary choice:  not only do many of the scientists who study these animals attribute consciousness and emotion to them, but scientists who study animal brains consistently find the same or remarkably similar neurotransmitters and hormones that, in primates such as our homo sapiens selves, are responsible for the production and transmission of emotions.

 

 

Montgomery and Levitt had an interesting back-and-forth about such discoveries and attributions.  (Excerpts from their discussion; my emphases.)

LEVITT:
Now, I’m no expert on ethology, which is the study of animal behavior, but I suspect that the scholars in that area might be upset by your books….  I’m sure they would consider it a no-no to anthropomorphize animals, but that’s not even exactly what you do. You speculate about the unique ways each creature might experience the world. Am I right that some scientists complain that you go too far in that direction?

MONTGOMERY:
It’s not so much the scientists, but sometimes it’s the philosophers because they want humans to be the top of everything. Now, it is true that in science they use different words than I would use. Of course, in their scientific journals, they have different readers than I’m going to have, but things have changed a bit since, for instance, Jane Goodall first published her findings about tool use in chimps. No one wanted to publish that groundbreaking paper because she named her chimps instead of numbering them.

LEVITT:
Woah. Uh-huh.

MONTGOMERY:
Now things have changed…. There actually is a field of study that’s looking into animal personalities. I went on a personality survey with some of the top octopus researchers in the world…The person who headed that study…was the one who pointed out to me that if we fail to talk about emotions in animals, we are overlooking a central fact of neurobiology. And that is that every animal that has ever been studied, when you try to look for the hormones or neurotransmitters responsible for all of our feelings, like joy and fear, like stress and love, we find the exact same neurotransmitters. Even in taxa as different from ourselves, as octopuses, from whom we have been separated for half a billion years of evolution.

 

 

LEVITT:
The scientific, conventional wisdom for decades, hundreds of years, insisted that humans were unique on so many dimensions, like consciousness, the use of tools, ability to problem solve. Do you have a take on how these past scientists just got things completely wrong?

MONTGOMERY:
Yeah. I think it’s human supremacy, just like white supremacy. We wanted to be at the top, which would justify our exploitation of everybody else….

LEVITT:
Here’s something I strongly suspect will happen. When people look back in a hundred or 200 years, they will be shocked and dismayed at the cruelty that our society subjects animals to with factory farming. Do you agree?

MONTGOMERY:
A hundred percent. We will be appalled. And that’s why I became vegetarian years ago. Now there are farms that raise animals and slaughter animals in a more humane way, but I’m still delighted that I’m not eating them.

LEVITT:
You made a really powerful case for the wonder of pigs. Do you think for people whose goal it is get away from factory farming that maybe the strategy they should be taking is trying to teach people about the wonderful personality that pigs have?

MONTGOMERY:
Oh, I have gotten so many letters from people telling me that my book was the end of their bacon. And also, after Soul of an Octopus, many people wrote and said, “You know what? I used to love to eat octopus. I don’t eat it anymore.”

I love food and I love making food, but the taste of that item is on your tongue for less than a minute before you swallow something else. And for someone to lose their life for a taste on your tongue, that just seems like an enormous waste when there’s so many other delicious and nourishing things that we could have and not take away somebody’s life, somebody who thinks and feels and knows.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Inquiring Minds Want To Know

“She holds a PhD in neuroscience, but I couldn’t find whether she ever actually worked as a neuroscientist. It’s obvious that her understanding of ‘strong science’ doesn’t mean what she thinks it means. I doubt if she reads Science-Based Medicine or understands the principles we go by.”
Harriet Hall, MD aka “The SkepDoc”   [1]  )

 

 

Any claim that has the word “actually” in it must be true.

 

Moiself  saw a commercial the other day in which Mayim Bialik, the child actor turned adult actor turned part-time Jeopardy host,  has apparently now become a vitamin supplement shill. The ad was for Neuriva-Plus, a supplement which, its manufacturers claim, can make you smarter by increasing brain levels of “brain-derived neurotrophic factor” (BDNF, and shame on you for thinking that the acronym refers to some kind of S & M practice).

Why should you trust the celebrity who is promoting such a product?  Well, you silly goose, because the ad begins thusly:

“I’m Mayim Bialik, and I love brains.  It’s why I became a neuroscientist.”

 

 

Uh, yes.  Several spring to mind. 

Elsewhere Bialik has also claimed:

“Neuriva Plus is backed by strong science — yes, I checked it myself —
and it combines two clinically tested ingredients that help support six key indicators of brain health.”

Not only does Bialik claim to be a neuroscientist, in another, longer Neuriva ad she describes herself as, “America’s favorite neuroscientist” 

 

 

Ooooooookaaaaaaay.

Bialik went to college, studied neuroscience at UCLA, took a break from studies to return to acting, returned to school to earn her Doctor of Philosophy degree in neuroscience from UCLA, had two children, then went back to acting.   [2]  But nowhere in her (admittedly impressive) resumé can I find any reference to her working in the field of neuroscience.

I’m not concerned about how many reputable sources, including Psychology Today, have called the product Bialik is endorsing “Neuriva nonsense” and “just another snake oil.”   [3]    Moiself assumed that from the get-go.

 

 

Rather, I’m curious about the validity of her claim to be a “neuroscientist” when she doesn’t appear to be doing neuroscience.  She studied neuroscience; I get that.  But she’s not doing neuroscience.

I’m wondering what actual (ahem) neuroscientists might think. Sam Harris? Brenda Milner? Any other neuroscientists care to weigh in on this?

If you go to law school, get your law degree ( a J.D. in the USA ), then become a carpenter – i.e., for whatever reasons you decide you want to earn a living crafting furniture and do not practice law, either with a firm or in a partnership or by “hanging out your shingle” (solo practice) – is it accurate to say about yourself,

“I actually am a lawyer.”

 

“Don’t blame this one on me.  You want snake oil?  I’ll show you some snake oil.”

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Snake Oil Edition

Which snakes are best at mathematics?
Adders.

I got mugged by a cobra when I was walking through the park.
I told the police I couldn’t recognize it in a lineup, as it was wearing a hood.

Why don’t rattlesnakes drink coffee, or any caffeinated beverages?
Because it makes them viperactive.     [4]

What do you call a snake that builds houses?
A boa constructor.

 

*   *   *

May you never feel compelled to refer to yourself as an “actual” anything;
May you have fun imagining a southern hairy-nosed wombat;
May you be delighted by those creatures which you choose not to eat;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Hall is a retired family physician who researches and writes about pseudoscience and questionable medical practices.

[2] as per her Wikipedia bio.  

[3] “Mayim Bialik’s Neuriva Commercials Make Questionable Claims,” Science-based Medicine, 7-6-21

[4] No snake footnotes here.

The Hotel I’m Not Bonking

Comments Off on The Hotel I’m Not Bonking

Department Of The Fail-Safe Therapy Tool For Kids Of All Ages

 

 

Before I commence to deal with some Serious Subjects ® , I’m going to play for a few seconds with the farty putty (aka, “noise putty”) device MH got me as a Christmas stocking stuffer.  ‘Tis such a primal amusement, and also an effective stress reliever.  I think the American Psychological Association should recommend it to their counselors, to have on hand for sessions that get really intense:  “It’s time for a farty putty break.”  😉

Lest you think moiself  jests about its therapeutic applications, feast your eyes on this, from the National Autism Resources website (my emphases):

“Kids of all ages love to play with noise putty! It has an unusual squishy texture that you can squeeze between your fingers. Push it back into its jar and listen to it make funny, gastronomical sounds. Use it to work on fine motor skills….”

And not to worry, for y’all who consider yourselves to be technically-challenged.  It even has handy-dandy instructions:

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Not Up To Their Previous Standards

Moiself  is referring to the latest installment of Serial, the Peabody award-winning investigative journalism podcast (developed by This American Life)  which made a name for itself in the past ten or so years with its episodic, documentary-style presentation of compelling non-fiction stories.  Past seasons included an investigation of the 1999 murder an 18-year-old student at Woodlawn High School in Baltimore, and an in-depth look at what happened to Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, an American Army soldier who was held for five years by the Taliban, then charged with desertion.

The Trojan Horse Affair, Serial’s latest installment, claims to take a closer look at the 2013 scandal in England which involved claims of a conspiracy to introduce Islamist tenets into several schools in Birmingham – claims which were set out in an anonymous letter  [1] sent to Birmingham City Council.  TTHF is hosted and reported by American veteran producer Brian Reed and a novice journalist, Hamza Syed, a British doctor-turned-reporter from Birmingham, England.

 

 

“This is my first story as a journalist. I don’t plan for it to be my last story as well, but given what’s happened in the years I’ve been working on this, it probably will be.”
( Hamza Syed, from his interview on NPR’s Fresh Air 2-15-22)

Syed’s provocative quote, and my enjoyment of Serial’s previous installments, got me interested in listening to the series. After having done so, I’ve concluded that if, indeed, TTHA turns out to be Syed’s last story as a journalist it won’t be because of his concerns, both overt and implied, of anti-Muslim prejudice against him.  It will be because he proved to be a lousy reporter.

Besides displaying a rather volatile temper, Syed made a major faux pas which cast doubt on the integrity of his methods and motives, and on his ability to distinguish between his personal identity and an investigation’s subject matter.

“Long story short” territory:  In a latter episode of the TTHA series (# five or six, I think, of eight total episodes) it was revealed that, at one point in Syed’s and Redd’s investigation, Syed, frustrated with being unable to get sources to confide in him, played the Muslim card:  [2]    Syed wrote a letter to a potential interviewee (a Muslim man), saying he has never believed the accepted narrative around the case, nor many of the people involved in the investigations around it, and that his (Syed’s) identity as a Muslim takes precedence for him in his investigation.

MH and I each (separately) listened to the podcast, and each of us had similar, jaw-dropping reactions to what Syed had done.  Given the opportunity to provide feedback to Syed, I’d have phrased my reaction thusly:

Why should I take *anything* from you seriously, when you’ve just admitted that you do *not* have journalistic integrity at heart, in a story that especially demands it?

Like the evangelical creationist who admits he views science through the lens of how he interprets Christian scriptures, you have told a person – from whom you are trying to get information – that, like him, you are ultimately and firstly a Muslim.

Now, were you lying to get him to trust you? Or were you telling the truth?  Either way, I can take nothing you say or do as if it were coming from a serious journalist striving for truth, integrity, and objectivity.

Despite our respective shock and disgust at what the reporter had done, both MH and I found the TTHA story intriguing, and continued to listen to the rest of the series. But we weren’t the only ones to have an issue with it, and with more matters than its rookie journalist’s whopping boner of a tactic. There was also the assumption the series seemed to take, from the beginning of the podcast: that anti-Islamic sentiment was behind and/or ultimately responsible for  *everything* in the scandal.  Accusations (including incidents of verifiable and disturbing behaviors   [3]  )  about sexism, anti-LGBTQ teachings, and child abuse on the part of some Muslim men – alarms raised by Muslim women – were mentioned in several TTHA episodes, in marginal ways, then dropped.

We weren’t the only ones who were disturbed by this. To quote only one critique:

“The Trojan Horse Affair presents a one-sided account that minimizes child protection concerns, misogyny and homophobia in order to exonerate the podcast’s hero…  In doing so, it breaches the standards the public have the right to expect of journalists, with cruel consequences for those it uses and abuses along the way.”

( “The Trojan Horse Affair: How Serial Podcast Got It So Wrong,”
Sonia Sohad, The Guardian 2-20-22

 

Shaka Ssali is a (recently retired) Uganda-born journalist.

 

*   *   *

Department Of How Other Journalists Are Getting It So Right

What comes to mind when you read the words of a critic and writer at The Washington Post, who called an Academy Award-nominated film “…the most inspiring journalism movie — maybe ever”?

Are you thinking of the award-winning  All The President’s Men, or Spotlight?  Or The Post, or The Killing Fields, or….?

Nope.  The WAPO writer refers to a documentary (among five nominees for this year’s Academy Award for best documentary feature) which takes place in India.

 

 

Indian politicians would have you believe that their country is a major power in the modern, 21st century world, yet they do the bare minimum to change aspects of their culture which hark back to 1500 BCE, when the caste system was established.

 

 

The good news:  in India, one of the most dangerous countries in which to practice journalism,   [4]   there is an astoundingly brave and persistent group of reporters committed to the ultimate tenet of good journalism: holding the powerful to account.  What’s amazing about this group is that is it composed of people with inarguably the least amount of power in their country:  Dalit (the lowest caste, aka “untouchables”) women.

Writing With Fire is the documentary which tells the story of these reporters and their newspaper/news outlet, Khabar Lahariya (translation: “News wave”).  Moiself   urges you to see it (streaming on Amazon, and available via other venues).

 

 

” In India’s millennia-old caste system, Dalits fall entirely outside the structure. Once pejoratively referred to as ‘untouchables’…over centuries Dalits have remained oppressed by tradition and the rest of Indian society.

‘I tell my daughters, their caste identity will always follow them. This is how our society is structured, but it’s important to keep challenging the system,’ says Meera Devi, the outlet’s chief reporter who is the main protagonist of the film.

But day after day, the women defiantly expose sexual violence against women and the corruption of illegal mining operations in rural India.

‘We don’t trust anyone except you. Khabar Lahariya is our only hope,’ the husband of a woman who has been repeatedly raped by a group of men in their village tells Devi in one of the rare moments in the film in which a man acknowledges the organization’s value and impact.”

(“Opinion: The most inspiring journalism movie — maybe ever”
Jason Rezian, The Washington Post, 2-1-22 )

Writing With Fire has a bajillion   [5]   story levels to it (other than that of the newspaper itself and the stories it covers), including the reporters’ uphill battle against centuries of patriarchy, and gender and caste prejudice.  It’s also an excellent briefing on what makes a good journalist, in any culture.

Some standout moments of the film, for moiself , include:

* Two of the reporters, while preparing a meal, are discussing questions they will be asking of participants in an upcoming election. One reporter asks the other,“Tell me something honestly, why do we call our country ‘mother India?’ Why celebrate the country as a mother?…. I get very irritated watching the celebrations on TV glorifying our democracy. But where is the democracy? Neither are we a democracy, nor are the women free.”

* Later in the documentary one of the more the most promising young journalists of Khabar Lahariya is interviewed about her having to leave the newspaper. She’d spoken earlier about not wanting to succumb to the pressure to get married, and about what happens to women in her society.  And then…

“What can I say? At one point I thought of not getting married at all. Many things were on my mind. So I thought, why get married? But I’m under a lot of pressure. I need to protect my parents, because being a single woman is not an option here.

People are questioning my integrity as well as my family’s. They were saying that they (her family) want to live off my earnings, ‘…and at night your daughter…’
 It tortures the family and creates a lot of tension. So I realize marriage is inevitable. I don’t want to be the cause of my family suffering.
Let’s think that whatever will happen will be for the best. Things have a way of working out, and that’s what I’m hoping for….”
  (She pauses, shakes her head, holds back tears)
“I’m finding it difficult to speak anymore.”    [6]

 

 

The film depicted scenarios both horrendous, and uplifting, depressing and emboldening, What affected me the most? It wasn’t…

* the husbands and families of these brave journalists showing lackluster (if any) support for their work;

*  the frustrations of the reporters trying to learn and use digital technologies when most of them have never been able to afford a cell phone, and then, when they are issued smart phones and/or touchscreen tablets by the newspaper, they can’t charge the equipment because their homes lack electricity;

* the rising influence of the Anti-Muslim bigot Hindu nationalist, Prime Minister Modi, and the prevalence of his inflammatory rhetoric using that most unholy of alliances – politics and religion;

* the danger and threats (physical, emotional, and sexual) the women face; nor the way way sexual slurs are used to try to cow and humiliate them and their families…  

One small, domestic scene really got to me, probably because I took it to be illustrative of what these reporters, as women in a seemingly women-denigrating culture, have to deal with: with the should and should not limitations all women face, in a world still dominated by patriarchal attitudes.

The scene took place early in the morning.  Meera Devi, who like her Khabar Lahariya peers has worked all the previous day (and well into the night), is braiding her daughter’s long hair before school.  Like all of her married reporter peers, the vast majority (if not all) of household tasks fall upon Devi, even as she works full-time out of the home.  Her daughter is insisting on two braids (“plaits”), as Devi wearily (if good-humoredly) grumbles about not having time for that…one plait should be enough.  But the daughter pleads, telling her mother that she will be (and has been) scolded at school if her mother doesn’t do her hair in two plaits, “…because teacher says all girls should have two plaits.”

All girls should….
All girls are ….
All girls must…
All girls should never….

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of International Relations

MH and moiself  are doing some much anticipated traveling overseas this summer.  For some of the travel we’ll be in a Scandinavian tour group.  The tour begins in Stockholm; following savvy traveler advice, I booked us rooms in a Stockholm hotel two days ahead of when the tour begins, so that we can adjust to the time difference and all that pickled herring and Swedish chefs, etc.

Moiself  got an English translation while booking online, but the confirmation the hotel emailed to us was in Swedish.  It began with a cheery greeting which I was mostly able to figure out, except that I transposed two letters in the fourth word, which made for an interesting impression/translation: “Tak För Din Bokning!”

Me, to Moiself:
” ‘Thanks for the bonking ?!?!? ‘
Wow – this really is an all-service hotel!”

Moiself:
Ahem, that’s, bokning.  [7]

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Swedish Edition

Swedish inventors have created cyborgs which are hard to distinguish from real humans.
Critics are concerned about the use of artificial Swedeners.

Why does the Swedish military put barcodes on their ships?
So when the ships return to port they can scan da navy in.

My neighbor drones on and on about his notoriously unreliable Swedish sports car…
It seems like a great big Saab story to me.

Did you hear about a new Broadway show that combines magic with Swedish pop songs?
It’s called ABBA-Cadabra.

 

Mamma Mia, there she goes again.

 

*   *   *

May you enjoy the therapeutic applications of “funny, gastronomic sounds;”
May you watch Writing With Fire (then maybe Spotlight and other journalism-themed movies) and appreciate the absolute necessity of a free press to a vital democracy;
May you put on ABBA’s “Waterloo” and dance around your living room
(you know you want to);
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

[1] Which was later deemed to be a hoax.

[2] About which he was confronted, and chastised, by Reed.

[3] Including sexual abuse of a 14 year old girl by one of her male teachers.

[4] Over forty journalists in India have been killed since 2014.

[5] Fortunately, the reporters of Khabar Lahariya, constrained as they are by sound journalistic principles, would never stoop to using such sensationalistic exaggerations as those employed by moiself.

[6] Later still there is footage of her at her wedding, in her wedding finery.  Moiself wanted to cry; I’ve never seen a more downhearted looking bride…or woman in almost any situation, for that matter.  But, in the documentary postscript, it was reported that she had rejoined the newspaper several months after her marriage.

[7] Uh, that would be, booking, as in, booking a room with them.  Nudge Nudge wink wink.

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