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The Meaningful Lessons I’m Not Learning

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Department Of I Moiself  Apparently Have A Very Different Standard
For Usage Of The Word, “Meaningful”

Copy from an ad in Thursday’s  New York Times Arts section,  [1] by Penguin Publishing, to promote their new book, Lessons: My Path to a Meaningful Life :

“Meaningful lessons from supermodel and philanthropist Gisele Bündchen.”

 

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Department Of Answering Your Most Pressing Questions About
Post-Thanksgiving Dinner Personal Hygiene…    [2]

As the holiday season continues, many people would like to find an easy way to remove the noxious body odor which seems to linger after Thanksgiving. This tang du corpus can best be described as the effluence of a combination of bitter disappointments stemming from:

(a) the invading caravan of potato rolls lined up on your dinner plate, which you meant to stop at the border of your mouth when you realized it was headed for your waist line,

(b) despite having promised not to get into “such subjects” at the holiday dinner table, both your grandfather and uncle derided your political beliefs, then asked when you were going to get a real job…

 

 

 

 

…and you feel if you could just rest in the stress-soothing, steamy torrent of a hot shower, all would be well.

Think again.

Long, hot showers can combat the skin’s natural functions as a protective barrier and deplete natural oils from the surface while also stripping hair of its own protective oils and weaken your complexion altogether. Hot showers adversely affect the skin’s most outer layer, the epidermis, full of substances that provide a tough defense against outside conditions while retaining moisture.
Heat from hot water combined with soap will soften your skin and slowly strip away its natural, oily protective barriers. Some of this can good like removing dirt, sweat, or body odor. However, we want to keep in the skin’s natural moisture where possible and prevent dry or irritated, itchy skin.
Basically, the longer and hotter the shower, the worse it is for your skin’s health.
(“Why Long Hot Showers Are Bad For Your Skin,” metrin.com

 

 

“And I need to know this because…?”

 

 

 

Most dermatologists caution that even shorter daily showers are not only unnecessary but “bad” for you, in that daily bathing recudes skin hydration and strips the skin of its natural oils, which can disrupt the ‘good’ bacteria that supports people’s immune systems. According to infectious-disease expert Dr Elaine Larson from Columbia University, “most people bathe in the belief it will reduce their risk of illness, however, it actually does little more than remove body odor.”

But there is that pesky odor issue, which we (read: Americans) tend to be overconcerned with. Chill out; if it’s been a day since you showered, even if you’ve done a moderate aerobic workout you probably don’t smell as badly as you think you do  (unless the workout included doing your triathalon training lap swimming in a pool of dead herring).

 

 

 

So, what to do if you’re concerned about body odor (as young adults especially tend to be) after, say, a trip to the gym, and you don’t like the thought of skipping your shower? You need to learn how to give yourself a mini-sponge bath. If the term sponge-bath stirs up too much semi-comatose-person-in-a-convalescent-hospital imagery for you, just think of it as what I have for many years, after having being introduced to the term by an elderly friend: a whore bath.

 

This image may seem like a non sequitur, but do you really a want a picture illustrating the previous paragraph?

 

 

How to give yourself a whore mini-sponge bath: you need one clean towel for drying and three clean washcloths. Moisten each washcloth with warm water and use them to wipe down three key body areas, using a clean washcloth for each area. You’ll sponge-wash the three parts of the body that have the highest concentration of sweat glands per surface area:

(1) the under arms, (2) the chest, (3), and the groin.

Hmmm, now what was it that I was supposed to wash? Make it easy to remember by using the following jingle, which immediately came to moiself’s mind when I first read the whore mini-sponge bath instructions  [3]  :

“Pits, tits, and naughty bits.“

 

 

“Can you say that, boys and girls? I knew you could.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of My Nominee For The Nobel Peace Prize

Once again, the folks at Poo-pourri have outdone themselves with their new product advertisement, this time for what they call the “Assistant“.

Not only do I think Poo-pourri should win the Nobel Peace Prize,  [4] I also and hereby nominate them for a Clio Award for Best Advertisement Ever – in a tie, with their original product ad:

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of I’m Still Shaking My Head Over The Sublime Juxtaposition

Supermodel and philanthropist

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of A You Know What In A You Know What

A neighbor out for a walk, stopping on our sidewalk, pointing at the laminated picture hanging, along with colored lights, from the fruit tree in our front yard:

“Is that who I think it is, and is this tree…oh, please tell me it’s a pear tree?!?!”

After a hiatus of a couple of years, MH and I decided it was time to return to putting up outdoor Christmas lights, and the “bonus” hidden within, to our pear tree.  MH surprised me by going four better than my original setup: he returned from a trip to Office Depot depot with five laminated pictures of The Partridge Family members: Mom Partridge, plus all the kids except for the little drummer boy (there were two actors who played the part, and nobody really liked them, so, meh).  We decided Laurie could start out the week.

 

 

We’ve decided to do a rotation – a different Partridge, every week. Pictures will be posted here, for your viewing enjoyment.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Wishing I’d Been Kinder To A Partridge

The anecdote I am going to relate took place in the summer of (most likely) either 1971-1972, when The Partridge Family was new enough that its cast members were doing promotional appearances during the show’s summer hiatus.

For many years, my family’s summer vacation followed the same pattern: my father took no vacation days until summer, and then took ’em all at once: we hitched up our trailer  [5]   to our station wagon and headed north from SoCal.  Sequoia; Yosemite; The Redwoods; Crater Lake; Bryce; Zion; Yellowstone; The Grand Tetons – depending on the year, we alternated between visiting many of the West’s National Parks or just going up through Oregon and Washington, staying for a week or so at favorite campsites along the Rogue River, etc., on our way to visit to my mother’s older sister and her husband, who lived in Spokane (WA).

On one of the latter such itineraries we stopped in Seattle, because my parents wanted to see the Space Needle. Their kids, not so much…but we weren’t the ones setting the itinerary. It was a slow day; not many visitors, and the Space Needle employee who boarded us onto the elevator announced that the top deck (of the SN) was closed due to a private event. After the elevator door shut I think I pressed the button for that floor anyway – somehow, we ended up being able to go to that floor.

When we got off the elevator the floor was empty of tourists or other people, except for three adults and one adolescent who were milling about in the center of the floor, near a counter-bar setup of some sort. My parents and siblings wandered about the perimeter, trying to find a way to get out to the SN’s observation deck, while I sulked as only a 13 year old can (this is boring…can we go now).  I wasn’t interested in any stupid Space Needle, wanted to get back on the road, and besides, it was foggy – in Seattle! Imagine that – and you couldn’t see anything from the observation deck anyway.

I turned my attention to the other four people near that bar/counter. Two of the adults were just old men in suits, but why did the other adult and the kid look familiar? I quickly figured it out – the kid’s flaming red hair and freckles were a giveaway.  The adult was the actor who played Reuben Kincaid, the Partridge Family manager (the actor’s name was Dave Madden,) and the kid was Danny Partridge, the precocious/smart ass middle brother and bassist (played by Danny Bonaduce).

 

 

 

 

 

(The private event the elevator operator had told us about was a promotional tour for those two TPF actors; later on, when my family was exiting the Space Needle, I saw a black stretch limousine, parked at the curb by the SN’s front entrance, sporting a banner stretching across the driver’s side which read something like, “Meet Reuben Kincaid and Danny from the Partridge Family”).

The three adults (the Two Suite Men and “Reuben”) talked shop, while Danny, obviously bored out of his gourd, looked for ways to entertain himself. He hung upside down from a velvet rope barrier that snaked around the bar/counter area, then gradually made his way to where I stood, and attempted to engage me in conversation.  We were close in age – I later found out the age difference was about 2 ½ years although of course I considered myself much older than this…this what? Who was this jerk, trying to impress me because he had a role on a cheesy sitcom?  Puh-leaze…

I was determined to maintain my facade of jaded nonchalance. Although I didn’t turn my back on him I crossed my arms, grunted a few unintelligible responses, and generally made my body language as unwelcoming as possible until I found an excuse to rejoin my family.

These many decades later, I see the encounter for what it likely was: he was just a kid, stuck on a trip he probably didn’t want to go on, looking to relieve the tedium with…perhaps another bored kid around his age who was also stuck with uncomprehending adults (in his case, booking agents, in my case, parents).

And, so what if he had been trying to impress me? Would it have hurt me to humor him, to have joined in some banter…or simply to have been kind?

Decades later, after TPF was cancelled, Bonaduce became notorious for running afoul of the law due to various drug and alcohol problems. Yeah, it was probably my fault.

 

*   *   *

May you settle for philanthropy if supermodel just isn’t in the cards for you;
May you be kind o Partridges in and out of pear trees;
May you enjoy the bath that fits your pits tits and naughty bits;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] The placement of which ruined the crossword puzzle for me, gawddammit.

[2] Which you haven’t (yet) asked, but you know you want to.

[3] In a dermatology magzine, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, when I worked in the medical field.

[4] As well as being considered for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry and/or Physiology and Medicine.

[5] Looking back, especially in comparison with today’s rigs, it was amazingly small,  for a family of six.

The Boat I’m Not Floating

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Halloween; The Nun;  Predator;  Hereditary; The First Purge….. There have been a lot of horror movies released in 2018, and also two Stephen King books.  But arguably one of the scariest stories of the year comes from the real life experiences of Linda Kay Klein’s book, Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement That Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free.  

This is FRESH AIR. I’m Terry Gross. We’re going to talk about the evangelical sexual purity movement, its insistence on sexual abstinence before marriage and the impact the movement has had on women who were brought up in it, women like my guest, Linda Kay Klein. She says the movement has traumatized many girls and maturing women who are haunted by sexual and gender-based anxiety, fear and shame. Her new book, “Pure,” is part memoir, including the story of how she left the movement. The book also draws on the interviews she did with other women in their 20s, 30s and 40s,…about how the evangelical purity movement has affected their sense of identity and their sex lives.

The purity movement grew in the 1980s during the Reagan administration, which funded abstinence-only programs for community organizations, schools and health departments. A whole industry of purity-related products developed around the movement, including purity rings, T-shirts, mugs, even a purity Bible. Klein describes the purity movement as conveying the expectation that all unmarried girls and women must maintain a sexless body, mind and heart to be pure. Klein is also the founder of Break Free Together, which tries to help people escape the sexual shame they were raised with.

 

 

fear

 

 

 

Listen, if you dare, to the rest Fresh Air interview about Klein being raised in and breaking free from the Evangelical “Purity Movement“, but keep the lights – this is scary shit.

Like many if not most horror stories, there is somewhat of a happy ending.  However, like many horror stories, the monster is not ultimately killed – it just, IMHO, assumes a different, more benign-seeming form.

Translation: the author still calls herself a Christian.  At least now she (thinks) she is practicing her faith on her own terms. Still, her answer to the host’s question about her relationship with her parents – it just about broke my heart, listening to that.  [1]

GROSS: It was your mother who brought you into evangelical Christianity. When you left the evangelical church, was your mother upset? And if she was, did you feel guilty about making her upset by following your new thinking and leaving the church?

KLEIN: My mom was heartbroken when I left and moreover, I think, scared. You know, for my mom, the fact that I was a Christian was her very favorite thing about me. She literally told me that, as did my father. On separate occasions, they both told me their favorite thing about me was my Christianity when I was younger. And so, you know, when I left, I lost my parents’ favorite thing about me.

If you haven’t heard of the Christian Purity Movement and you have a strong stomach and are curious, put on your sterile gloves – nitrile, for those of you with a latex allergy – and Google away.

It is unlikely I will be reading Klein’s book, for same reason I do not watch the Hulu series, The Handmaid’s Tale.  Although I “enjoyed”   [2]   the Margaret Atwood book upon which the series is based, I rarely find depictions of misogynistic, joy-sucking dystopias to be sufficient diversionary or amusing forms of entertainment.

 

 

puritygif

 

 

 

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Department Of Crimes I Don’t Understand

On March 18, 1990, 13 works of art valued at a combined total of $500 million were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston…. Despite efforts by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and multiple probes around the world, no arrests have been made and no works have been recovered.
(Wikipedia entry on the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum theft)

I just don’t “get’ art heist – the theft of famous works of art. What good is it, to the thief, to steal a painting valued at $25 million? It’s not like you can take it to the local pawn shop, fence it at the flea market, or put a notice on Craig’s List:

 

thescream

Moving sale, Scandinavian picture, good condition, only two previous owners, $20 million OBO

 

 

The point of most thievery, as moiself understands it, is to sell (or barter) what you steal. You can’t turn around and sell a famous painting – anyone who would be interested in it or who would or who would be able to afford to buy it would know it’s stolen.

The second, less common motivation for theft is a desire to acquire that which you want but do not have and are unable and/or unwilling to acquire honestly and/or legally (for example, when a grade school friend of mine swiped my mini spy camera). [3]   Simply put, you take something because you want it for yourself.

So, you’re a passionate art lover, and you somehow are able to filch the Mona Lisa. The work of genius is yours, at last! And now you have…a masterpiece millstone, around your neck. What can you do with it? Hang it on your wall and admire it…all by yourself…forever? You can’t ever have guests or family over because, once again, anyone who sees it will  eventually figure out that it’s stolen.   [4]

Perhaps the real crime I’m thinking of is one of mislabeling: art theft really isn’t theft, it’s essentially kidnapping. The permanent acquisition of the object is not the point; the ransom is what the Renior robber is after. The thief negotiates via intermediary to return the art to the museum for a payment, with both parties grudgingly agreeing to a charade of sorts (“Look what fell off the back of my cousin’s girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend’s truck!”). If investigations by The Proper Authorities ® are going nowhere the museum agrees to this; the board of directors and curators just want their “priceless” object returned and are willing to pay a pittance of its estimated value to do so (which will still likely be a pretty penny for the thief).

 

 

steal

I wonder, did Hoffman receive any royalties (or ransom?) for this?

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Just Wondering

Dateline: Wednesday morning, 8 am. I am walking around the grounds of the Kaiser Permanente Medical center in Hillsboro, where I have taken a friend for an appointment. It is a brisk-cool-melting into sunny, gorgeous autumn day, and so naturally I start wondering about the medical center’s name.

Kaiser Permanente.  I know – or assume – where the Kaiser part of the moniker comes from: a doctor and/or founder/benefactor of the HMO.   [5]   But, whence Permanente, and what does it mean?   Were the Kaiser founders unsure, all those years ago when the idea of managed care was rather unique, that their institution would survive, and thus they named it optimistically: “It’s not Kaiser Temporaria or Kaiser What-the-hell-it-just-might-work-out, it’s Kaiser Permanente!

 

 

confusedspock

I find that explanation highly unlikely…but whatever floats your boat.

 

 

 

I decided to ask the staff people I was encountering on the footpaths around the center’s grounds –friendly, smiling employees on their way to and from the various clinic buildings, who sported Kaiser name badges.  I gave up after three tries; I’d begun to feel  rather guilty to be the cause of the seemingly perpetually beaming faces slumping into confused, Why are you asking/is this a trick question? expressions.

Never mind. I suppose I could Google it….  But…sometimes…I just like to wonder. After all, knowing the answer to everything would, as the Monty Python sketch put it, “take all the mystery out of life.”

 

 

NehalemAug2012

It’s my boat, and it’s floating. Now what?

 

*   *   *

May you never stop walking and wondering;
May your boat always float;
May you bitch-slap-until-they-soil-themselves those cretins who try to teach children
that “purity” has anything to do with sexuality;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] What a monstrous worldview, that causes a mother to fear that, as Klein later states in the interview, her child “…would no longer be with her in heaven, that she would have to spend eternity without me and that she would look down and see me in eternal damnation and know that there was nothing she could do to save me.”  Yikes.

[2] Wrong word…but don’t know how to describe my reaction. It was excellent, well done, but depressing/ chilling.

[3] Which I had purchased – “redeemed” was the term, I believe – from the makers of Bazooka bubble gum, for fifty cents and a whole bunch of Bazooka gum wrappers. My friend had admired the teeny camera and tried to pressure me into trading for it, but I refused. One day she came home with me after school to play at my house, and after she left I noticed my camera was missing. The next day I went to her house to play, and when she was called to the kitchen by her mother for some reason, I snooped in her room and found my camera in a box on her dresser. She had peeled off some of the decorative paper on the camera’s body, no doubt in an effort to “disguise” it.  I quickly pocketed the camera and made up some excuse why I had to go home. I never confronted her about it; she had a sad family situation, and I felt sorry for her.

[4] The “Oh, it’s just a print” cover story will only work so long.

[5] “Kaiser Permanente is an American integrated managed care consortium, based in Oakland, California, United States, founded in 1945 by industrialist Henry J. Kaiser and physician Sidney Garfield.” – from Wikipedia entry.

The Lot I’m Not Accepting

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Department Of At Last, An Honest Answering Device

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

 

 

ID

 

 

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Department Of It’s Just Where My Mind Goes

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

CAMEL

 

 

 

Speaking of unkind cuts…what a convenient segue to

 

 

Department Of Name Dropping And Saint Shaming

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

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

(Consider yourself warned.)

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

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

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

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

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

 

weinterrupt

 

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

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

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

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

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

This ends the name-dropping portion of our programming.

 

 

reliefjpg

 

 

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

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

 

 

Mother

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

pajamasloth

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

 

A summary of the reality behind the Mother Teresa mythos:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

 

[1] for the movie, We the Animals.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[9] Something Beautiful For God.

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

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

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

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

The Routines I’m Not Going Back To

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There is something different for me this year, about this time of the year – this particular end of August. I couldn’t put my finger on it, until I realized that Belle’s graduation from college in May means that for the first time in twenty years, there is no Back to School ® component to my life. The end of summer/resumption of school, the preparation and routine and rhythm of such, it was not so all-encompassing – for both my personal and the family’s schedules – when the kids were in college.  Still, it was…there.   [1]

 

 

 

parents.schooljpg

 

 

 

I’ve noticed how “out of it” I’ve sometimes felt, during the past four years, with regards to schedules of other families – including even the approaching of holidays – by not having at least one child with a public school schedule. There was no compelling reason for me to keep track of certain things, and so I didn’t…and then I found myself frequently (and sometimes sheepishly) surprised by the mundane.

Why is there less traffic these past couple of morning? Why are there so many kids wandering around in the early afternoon…oh..yeah….it’s probably a teacher conference/grading/”staff development day” off for the schools….”

 

 

DUH

 

 

 

Friends would ask MH and I what we were doing for, say, Spring Break or the President’s Day holiday weekend, and we’d be caught by the question...uh, just when is spring break this year? Did we miss it?

And what’s with all the aisles of boxes of crayons and notebooks and Transformers backpacks front and center at Fred Meyer stores – it’s only August!?  Ahem, you mean, it’s already the end of August, and school starts the day after Labor Day, remember?

 

 

teachers

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Yet Another Podcast Promo

Arguably my favorite podcast of the past week was the Hidden Brain episode Originals, in which the show’s host, NPR’s social scientist correspondent host Shankar Vedantam interviewed Wharton School of Business professor Adam Grant. Grant’s book, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World,  “investigates who comes up with great ideas, how, and what we can do to have more of them.”

In the latter portion of the interview the host asked Grant about “who gets the chance to be original and how parents can foster this quality in their kids.” This led to a brief discussion between host and guest about a parenting-style dichotomy which has always fascinated moiself: those who parent by emphasizing values-based advice vs. those who instill rules-based behavior.

 

 

newrule

 

 

 

Vedantam: Why is it that rules-based behavior doesn’t produce the same thing as values-based advice?

Grant: When you focus on rules in the family a lot of times kids learn to follow it, which means accepting the status quo and essentially becoming an excellent sheep. When you go to values, kids actually have to think for themselves.

Grant admitted that as a parent it’s easy to find yourself barking, “new rule” every time your children misbehave, when instead you should be talking about the value behind the rule. When asked for an example, he provided a scenario familiar to most families:

We’re sitting at dinner, and one of our family values is respect, so we (the parents)  like for them (the children) not to get up from the dinner table until every is done eating. And they start to get up and it’s, “No, you must sit in your seat.” And then I realize what I need to say is why this is important to us.  It’s not about having the rule, it’s about – look, the reason we all like to sit at our seats is we like to have a family meal and it’s a great way to show respect for each other.

 

 

 

dinnertable

And who wouldn’t want to extend such heart-warming family moments?

 

 

 

K and Belle, MH’s and my two children, are young adults now.  The vast majority of our “active parenting” opportunities, re trying to influence their developing values and behavior, are in the past.  Back when MH and I were doing the heavy lifting in that department, we didn’t didn’t have a name for it – i.e., the particular label the differing parenting styles was given in the podcast – but I’m fairly certain MH and I followed the values-based advice model. As per author/educator/philanthropist Dale McGowan’s excellent series of books, Parenting Beyond Belief and Raising Freethinkers, we thought that teaching our children (and, hopefully, modeling for them) values-based advice seemed the best way to enable their moral, emotional and intellectual development based on reason, vs. unquestioning acquiescence to authority.  [2]

 

 

pbbjpg

 

RF

 

 

 

In the past few days, since listening to that podcast, I’ve found moiself thinking back to my own upbringing, and in particular, where my parents would have fallen on the values-based advice vs. rules-based behavior spectrum.  I think my parents, like most of their peers, employed (deliberately and sometimes unintentionally) a combination of the two styles. However, my memories  [3] reinforce my notion that, given many factors, including my parents’ generation, their adherence to religious doctrine, their own respective upbringings and temperaments – the latter which included an almost total lack of introspection and valuing consideration of “big” and/or existential questions of Life ® –  their parenting methods tilted most heavily to the rules-based behavior end of the scale.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Happy To Have Slept Through It, Thank You Very Much

An earthquake and aftershock have been reported off the coast of south-central Oregon.
The United States Geological Survey says an initial quake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.2 struck just after 1:30 a.m., more than 170 miles (264 kilometers) west of Coos Bay, about 220 miles southwest of Portland.
Robert Sanders of the USGS says there is no tsunami threat associated with the quake. He says people as far away as Portland reported feeling the temblor.
(8-22-18 Oregon Public Broadcasting)

 

*   *   *

 

Department Of More Musings Sparked By Podcast Listening
Sub-Department Of Morning Walks Are Time For Reflection…
Or Sometimes Just Snickering

Dateline: yesterday, 7 am. Listening to a Freakonomics podcast, Two (Totally Opposite) Ways To Save The Planet (episode 346) , in which the host (Stephen Dubner) interviews Charles Mann, a journalist who “…writes big books about the history of science.” Mann speaks about the decades-old debate between environmentalists (“we’re doomed if we don’t drastically reduce consumption”) and  technologists (“human ingenuity can solve just about any problem”). Mann titled his latest book The Wizard and the Prophet, which are his embodiments of those two respective worldviews. The book’s subtitle is Two Remarkable Scientists and Their Dueling Visions to Shape Tomorrow’s World.

It was a misty morning at the coast. My mind was wandering as I walked on the pathway heading toward Nehalem Bay State Park; I was thinking more of blackberry-picking than the “prophets vs. wizards” presentation coming through my earbuds,  [4] and wasn’t paying the closest of attention to Mann’s comments about “the prophet” of his book, WilliamVogt, “the progenitor of the modern environmental movement,”  and Vogt’s influential (in 1948) but now largely forgotten book, The Road to Survival:

MANN: “Much of (The Road to Survival) is a passionate screed for population control, sometimes written in language that makes you cringe….”

DUBNER: “So when you say that his discussion about population growth makes you cringe, was it from a classist perspective…or racist — how would you describe it?”

MANN: “… it’s hard to avoid noticing that although he was very, very hard on rich, white people being wasteful and destructive and so forth…the brunt of the population-reduction stuff he’s talking about are on poor, brown people…And he sometimes described them in language that is really kind of appalling — he talks about Indians breeding with the irresponsibility of codfish….”

That certainly got my attention.  Codfish – any cold-blooded aquatic vertebrate, for that matter – have never come to my mind as exemplars of anything other than being codfish., and certainly not as examples of human traits, particularly those related to responsibility.

Are not codfish merely yet profoundly the gold standard for being codfish? And why shouldn’t codfish breed prolifically? Considering that they are a highly-preyed-upon species, it would be irresponsible of them not to breed like…codfish.

 

 

codfish

It’s none of your business what we’re doing. Besides, it’s not like we can get a room.

 

 

 

 

I thought about this for a lot longer than perhaps I should have. Then I thought about my thinking about it: is this an example of my propensities for both being easily amused (read: distracted)  and easily stimulated to ponder the existential questions of life? And what would a codfish think of such drawn out deliberations  – would she consider them to be a responsible use of my intellect? Or would she use me as an exemplar to her fellow codfish of how warm-blooded, land-going bipedal vertebrates waste valuable mental energy that could be used to devise strategies to convince people to eat less codfish?

 

*   *   *

 

 

May you rarely cast metaphors of irresponsibility upon species other than your own;
May you find ways to value the routines you may one day forget to miss;
May you treasure those incidents you are Happy To Have Slept Through;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Son K graduated three years earlier.

[2] Sure, we had rules, but it was never, “Because this is a family rule, that’s why, and we are the parents/authority and you therefore must respect us and obey our rules.” We explained the “whys” behind the “rules” – the values behind the guidelines.

[3] Which include years of fruitless attempts to get them to engage in healthy discussions (or so I viewed them, as an optimistic if not yet out-of-the-closet freethinker teenager and young adult) about the basis for living ethically in this world.

[4] The prophet (environmentalist) sounds the alarm and wants us to reduce consumption, population growth, and habitat destruction. The wizard (technologist) pushes for us to keep going and invent/use even more, believing that history shows us that technology will solve our problems.

The Scandal I’m Not Surprised By

2 Comments

commie money

 

Department Of Maturity   [1]

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

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

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

 

 

money2

 

 

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

 

 

money1

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of What Will It Take?

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

 

 

wall

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

 

 

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

I refer to the latest grand jury revelation of…

 

welk

A one and a two, all together now:

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

sin

 

 

 

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

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

Host: “Are you still a Catholic?”

Faluszczak: Absolutely.

Host: Why?

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

 

 

REALLY

 

 

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

 

 

wtf

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

*   *   *

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

 

 

Dawkins

 

 

 

 

*   *   * 

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

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

 

*   *   *

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

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

 

 

 

 

yetipee

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

 

 

 

*   *   *

 

 

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Book I’m Not Finishing

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Department Of I Should Have Known Better

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

What am I, some kind of intellectual coward?

 

 

chickens

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of You Had To Be There

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

 

 

big truck

This about captures the size ratio.

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

bearmeme

 

 

Sorry.

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

 

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

we are not amused

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

ass

“You want to cook out of my what?”

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of And One More Thing

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

 

 

 

yolk

 

 

*   *   *

 

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

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Deal I’m Not Smelling

Comments Off on The Deal I’m Not Smelling

Department Of Why I’m Typing With (Mostly) One Hand

In answer to the question (which no one is asking), Are those mandoline blades as sharp as they say?  [1]

 

 

fingers

 

 

 

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Department Of Any Questions, Class?

I’ve been seeing this quote requoted quite a lot, which leads me to believe that there is a need for clarification in the matter it addresses.  Apparently, there are people who are confused as to the responsibility of journalists to give “equal” ___   (time/weight/consideration) to “both sides” of an argument/issue/statement.  For example, if 98 out of 100 climate scientists say they have evidence showing that human activities are causing global warming, and the other two say it is uncertain whether or not human activity is causing global warming, interviewing one scientist “from each side of the debate” is not proportional or “fair and balanced” reporting on the issue.

This quote, a pithy yet profound guideline from a journalism teacher, says it best:

 

journalism101

 

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Department Of Life Imitating Art

I await the juicy revelations that are sure to come from the case of the recently arrested Russian spy, Marina Butina – who seems to be a real live red sparrow, nesting right here in the US of A. Butina is allegedly a “… covert agent (who) pursued a brazen effort to infiltrate conservative circles and influence powerful Republicans while she secretly was in contact with Russian intelligence operatives.”  Among other charges, Butina is accused of having traded – surprise! – sex for favors, which included having access to an

“…’extensive network’ of influential Americans through ‘US Person 1,’ widely believed to be GOP strategist Paul Erickson….
The DOJ added that on at least one occasion, “Butina offered an individual other than US Person 1 sex in exchange for a position within a special interest organization.”
(Business Insider, 7-18-18)

Pictures have surfaced of Butina attending that most odious of conservative religious/political US Constitution mindfucks, the National Prayer Breakfast.  It will be interesting – if not totally predictable – when her other sex-for-favor contacts turn out to be, like Erickson, the prayer breakfast moralizer types; i.e., Republicans who are also active in ultraconservative religious causes.

 

 

 

 

I once read a seemingly sincere question in an advice column about the phenomenon:  Why is it that, for example, the politician who spouts virulent anti-gay rhetoric will be the one later caught with a rent boy?  The columnist gave an articulate psychological explanation about sublimation, cognitive dissonance and denial….an explanation which I forgot a week or so after reading it.

But it seems obvious to me that many of humanity’s most complex and seemingly contradictory behavioral and rhetorical conundrums can be explained in terms a nine year old can appreciate – namely, fart analogies:

“He who smelt it, dealt it.”

 

 

spocklogic

 

 

 

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Department Of Stop Denigrating (Intentionally Or Otherwise) Things
About Which You Are Obviously Ignorant

Sub Department Of Things That Make Me Pull Over To The Side Of The Road While Listening To A Podcast And Take Angry/Frustrated Notes

I referred to the July 23  Fresh Air podcast, which featured an interview with writer Michael Arceneaux promoting his new book, a collection of essays titled, I Can’t Date Jesus: Love, Sex, Family, Race, and Other Reasons I’ve Put My Faith in Beyoncé.  [2]

Arceneaux is, of course, his own expert when it comes to his experiences growing up “black, gay, and Catholic in Texas.” I’ve no beef with that,  [3]  and am likely to read his book.  But when FA host  Terry Gross ask Arceneaux, who claims to have left the church, about what he believes now with regards to religion, his response revealed an annoying lack of knowledge about a designation he rejects:

Gross: So you write that…you struggle with what it is that you do believe in, but you know you’re not an atheist. Why – if you’ve given up basically on your religion, what’s the difference between that and being an atheist?

Arceneaux: …But I wouldn’t call myself an atheist because I do believe in something….
I don’t want to call myself an atheist though. I think my mom would hit me with a Bible. But, yeah, I believe in something. I’m still wrestling with that, Terry Gross.

 

facepalm

 

 

Oh. Dear.

Mr.  Arceneaux, I’d say you’re definitely not an atheist.  Because if you were, you’d likely be smart enough – i.e., a rational enough thinker –  not to say that you don’t call yourself an atheist because you “still believe in something,” which implies that (you think) atheists believe in nothing.

Look, it is okay to reject any other person’s designation of your beliefs, but make sure you understand the definition before you do so. Many of us who are religion-free call ourselves Humanists and/or Skeptics and/or Freethinkers and/or Brights, and a variety of other positive identification terms. Some of us do call ourselves atheists, or will accept being so labeled by religious people, even as we may have objections to the term. 

The biggest objection in the term, for moiself, is that it supplies very little information. By definition, an atheist is simply an a-theist – that is, someone without theism, which is a belief in gods/deities/a “supreme being.”  Thus, the term atheist defines a person in terms of what they are not, and says nothing about what they are.

A seemingly minor point, in some people’s eyes,  [4] although I’d argue that this is a very crucial distinction, one worthy of a far greater exposition than will – and has been  – found in this blog. 

 

 

 

lions and tigersjpg

Skeptics, Freethinkers and Brights, oh my!

 

 

 

 

We who are religion-free hold so many viewpoints and opinions – we don’t “believe in nothing.” I have diametrically opposed political opinions, musical tastes, etc., than other “atheists” I’ve met. Our commonality is that our worldviews are (almost always  [5] ) free from supernatural and mystical elements.  We do not believe that the natural world is the way it is because of an alleged supernatural world.

There are many things other people put great faith in which I don’t believe in – astrology, homeopathy, the trickle-down theory, “one size fits all” as an accurate clothing label – and I don’t want to be labeled by those rejections.   If you are a religious believer, then you are a theist, and you probably don’t want your beliefs framed in reference to mine, or even to be so narrowly labeled (you’d likely want to claim a more specific form of theism, such as Lutheran or Baptist or Orthodox Jew or…). Thus, I’m not going to call you an afreethinker or an –ahumanist.

 

 

hellowerethehendersons

 

 

“In fact, “atheism” is a term that should not even exist. No one ever needs to identify himself as a “non-astrologer” or a “non-alchemist.” We do not have words for people who doubt that Elvis is still alive or that aliens have traversed the galaxy only to molest ranchers and their cattle. Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs.”

( Sam Harris, Letter to a Christian Nation )

 

*   *   *

 

 

 

May you always remember, when given conflicting actual or metaphorical forecasts, to check for yourself – i.e., look out the !#$%?! window;
May you understand the labels you reject, and embrace;
May you trust that the blades are, indeed, sharp;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

 

[1] The pain of the cut(s) pale to the pain of realizing moiself’s own stupidity in obtaining them.

[2] Title of the year, or what?

[3] Although, being a plant-eating pescetarian, I’ve no beef with…well…anyone.

[4] And if you’re one of those people, open your eyes a bit wider, please.

[5] Thus, for example, people who reject traditional religions’ theologies but believe that their astrological signs are accurate depictions of reality, or who believe in crystal healing – while these folks may technically be atheists, they are definitely Supernaturalists.

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