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The History I’m Not Reading

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

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

 

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Department Of First Things First

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

 

 

 

hat

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

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

 

 

happy sheep dance

 

 

Thank you! We’re excited, too.

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

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

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

 

 

spockskeptic

And your point would be?

 

 

 

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

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

Pot, meet kettle.

 

 

 

potkettle

 

 

 

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

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

Lather; rinse; repeat.

 

 

 

irishproverb

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Department Of And Then There’s This

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

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

 

 

 

turtledove

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

*   *   *

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

 

Department Of For Your Consideration

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Swedish-Democrats

Ya, we’re all one big happy family.

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

siryessir

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

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

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

 

 

iknowwhatyoumwan

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

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

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[1] Aka SCM, in this blog.

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

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

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

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

The Speech I’m Not Accepting

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Department Of Sneak Previews

truth

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And The Oscar Goes To….

Arrival
Fences
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Lion
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight

 

I love movies, and love going to the theatres to see them. By the end of the year I’ve usually seen a good many of the films which will garner Golden Globe and Academy Award Nominations.  [1] Every year I strive to see every movie nominated for best picture (and also as many movies as I can that have writing and acting awards). Every year, I fail to achieve this goal.

This year I succeeded! Well, as per my scorecard. I saw eight of the nine films nominated for Best Picture.  (The one directed by Mel Gibson…no need for me to frost my butt in the theatre for that.)

 

 

theaward

 

 

IMHO, awards for any kind of performing arts are, in essence, silly and subjective PR fests. Many talented and influential actors, films, etc. which we now consider classics were either overlooked at their time of release, critically panned and/or never won awards.  [2]  Although I happily concede to the ultimate insignificance of it all, moiself has opinions.  When I’m watching the Oscar telecast I usually have definite preferences about who should win what award. Then ask me two years (or sometimes as little as two months) later which movie won Best Picture or which writer won for best adapted screenplay or who for Best Supporting Actor, and it’s…huh?

As last Sunday’s Academy Awards show began I looked over the list of nominations, and loved the fact that, for the first time in many years, I thought that all the nominated films were mahvelous. I’d high hopes for my underdog favorite, Hell or High Water, but was prepared to toast any of the other nominees (with the exception of the one directed by that religious fanatic/racist/misogynist/anti-Semitic/drunken hack Hacksaw Ridge).

MH and I hosted one of our Movie Awards Dinners ® . These MAD events consist of us providing “movie food” (hot dogs in all permutations, [3] popcorn, Junior Mints, plus chips and guacamole [4] and champagne) served up on TV trays. The feast is lovingly consumed by MAD attendees as we watch the broadcast and mark our very own Oscar ballots as each award is announced: MAD attendees each have a ballot containing the list of nominees for the 24 broadcast award categories. We mark each category twice – in red ink to indicate, for example, which actor we personally want to win the Best Actor award, and in blue ink the actor we think is most likely to actually win the award.

At the end of the ceremony we tally up our scores in two categories: how many of our red ink/personal faves actually won Oscars, and how many of our blue ink/predictions took home a trophy. We have our own brief awards ceremony for our two categories: Me and Them. Winners receive a $25 gift certificate to a local theatre chain. [5] And the losers…well, we know it was an honor just to be nominated.

 

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Department Of Acceptance Speeches I Loathe
Aka You Are A Working Actor And Not A Special Snowflake

 

 

speech

 

 

As per the afore-mentioned balloting game, I was pleased when Viola Davis’ name was announced for winning the Best Supporting Actress award. Besides the petty thrill of having chosen the winner (she was my personal fave in a strong field, and I also guessed correctly that she would be the Academy’s choice), she is an actor whose other work I have admired.

My admiration quickly faded as I listened to her acceptance speech.  Several days later, when I kept running across articles touting how “inspirational” her words were, I wondered if anyone besides me had actually heard what she’d said?

Let’s face it: most acting award acceptance speeches are faux-humble paeans to Self. Those in which the actor’s invisible friends are mentioned are the most cloyingly and self-righteously annoying of all – how nice of you to hold us captive while you praise your Lawd for taking time out from his busy schedule of ignoring the cries of schoolgirl Boko Harem rape camp victims to personally direct your career and give your parents the oh-so-extraordinary honor of raising you.  [6]

This declaration in particular, early on in Ms. Davis’ speech (transcript here), I had a hard time getting past:

I became an artist—and thank God I did! —because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.

 

 

facepalm

Would someone initiate time warp so that we may go back and save this person from uttering her civilization-warping crap?

 

 

The magnanimous part of me is hoping that Ms. Davis was caught up in the moment and really had no idea what she was saying. The more sarcastic pragmatic part of me thinks her speech sounded just like what it was: rehearsed. Which means she had to have thought about that pretentious, self-congratulatory, elitist declaration before she spoke it.

Tsk tsk tsk upon cynical moiself. I suppose I should actually be relieved – thankful, even – on behalf of the rest of us little people.  From teachers to social workers to engineers to radiologists to landscape crews to mail clerks to hospice care nurses to nursing home attendants to baristas to food cart vendors to journalists to Peace Corps workers to fire department EMTs to parents and day care workers – good news for us all! After putting in long hours every day caring for others and ourselves, which often includes sharing our hopes and dreams and victories and defeats with friends and family and co-workers, we no longer have to bother with thinking about or even remarking upon anything related to existential, meaning-of-life issues. We can and should shift that burden to actors and other artists and stop wasting our time contemplating that which we can never truly understand, because “they” occupy the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.

Calling all (self-considered or otherwise labeled) artists: [7]  what y’all do is important in its own way – at the very least, you ofttimes afford the rest of us a bit o’ momentary entertainment. But holy fucking inflated-sense-of-self-importance-disguised-as-cinematic-celebration – maintain some perspective. Clutch your trophy, say Thank you, humbly and briefly reflect upon the whimsies of luck and your red carpet privileges, and then sit your designer-swaddled buns down.

 

 

pretensioius

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Department Of Nobody Is Listening To Me, But If They Were…
How To Make The Oscar Awards Show Telecast Better…

Or at least shorter. Which would be better, I think we can all agree.

I have many opinions on the subject. Attention, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Scientists, y’all can start by considering this one: The Oscar Awards telecast should not have any musical performances, whether by the original artist/songwriter or guest singers, of the songs which are nominated for Best Song. These individual song performances plus their intros add 25 – 30 minutes to the show.

The Oscar telecast usually features brief (as in 15 second, tops) clips of the nominated acting performances, but doesn’t have anyone  – either the nominated actors themselves or stand-ins – acting out the pivotal, five minute scenery-chewing soliloquies which merited each nomination. Why can’t you do the same with the nominated songs? A measure or two is all we need.

We can and will hear the movie’s songs by watching the movies, just as we can see the acting by seeing the movies…just as we can see the movies, by seeing the movies.

 

 

sally

“If you’d only really like her suggestion…what a better show this could be!”

 

 

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“When a woman writes a book that has anything to do with feelings or relationships, it’s either called chick lit or women’s fiction, right? But look at Updike or Irving.  Imagine if they’d been women.  Just imagine.  Someone would have slapped a pink cover onto ‘Rabbit at Rest,’ and poof, there goes the Pulitzer.”
(From the J. Courtney Sullivan novel, Commencement)

 

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Department Of Gloria Steinem Stole My Neologism!

 

But since I like her so much, she can have her variant, with my blessing.

Background info: For years (a search of my documents shows at least since 2010) I’d been sharing my idea/gripe with friend and fellow writer SCM and others, about how we need counterpart terms for the almost-always-used-dismissive literary and cinematic classifying labels, chick lit and chick flick.  I decided it was only logical that dick lit and dick flick were up to the task. But I’ve never heard anyone else, outside of my circle of disaffected cynics acquaintances, use the term….

That is until yesterday, when the eminently quotable Gloria Steinem, in a NY Times op-ed, wrote about the quandary of a fellow passenger on her recent New York to Seattle flight. When passengers were offered free movie viewing to placate them during a long tarmac delay, a young man, frustrated by the available movie choices, sputtered, “I don’t watch chick flicks.”

Chick flick; chick lit. We all know what is meant by the terms. [8] Steinem briefly used the man’s dilemma to illuminated the double standard (read: sexism) that has been long-noted by and for women in fiction reviewing and classifying…

I wasn’t challenging his preference, but I did question the logic of his term. After all, much of what we read as great literature in school may well have been called “chick lit,” especially if it had been written by women.
Think about it: If “Anna Karenina” had been by Leah Tolstoy, or “The Scarlet Letter” by Nancy Hawthorne or “A Doll’s House” by Henrietta Ibsen — if “The Invisible Man” had been “The Invisible Woman” — would they have been hailed as classics?

… before advocating, rather tongue-in-cheekily, that the young man deserved a label to direct him toward films he might prefer (my emphases):

I realized the problem began with the fact that adjectives are mostly required of the less powerful. Thus, there are “novelists” and “female novelists,” “African-American doctors” but not “European- American doctors,” “gay soldiers” but not “heterosexual soldiers,”….
As has been true forever, the person with the power takes the noun — and the norm — while the less powerful requires an adjective. Thus, my fellow passenger was left with only half a guide.
Bias is, as always, unfair to everyone. Inspired by the blood-and-guts, monosyllabic war movie that had taken us off the tarmac and into the air, I realized the answer by the time of arrival. The opposite of a “chick flick” is a “prick flick.” 

I nearly jumped out of my chair when I read that. For some reason, I felt as much like crowing, “You’re welcome,” as Right on!”

 

 

 

gloria

Back at ya, sister!

*   *   *

 

 

 

May you have the chance to share a collective consciousness moment with Gloria Steinem;
May you enjoy the simply if petty pleasures of watching silly awards shows;
May you know when it’s time to gush and when it’s time to sit your ass down;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Except for the years when the BOOM BOOM CRASH CRASH PUNCH PUNCH FIGHT FIGHT pictures dominate.

[2] Peter O’Toole, nominated for Best Actor eight times – zip. I tried to pass this wisdom along to younger members of my extended family who were incensed about certain Grammy awards: (“What does Beyonce have to do to win record of the year?!?!?”)

[3] Read: some vegan/veggie dawgs for us wimps.

[4] Not standard movie theatre fare but that’s what we like…and I make a hot damn fine guacamole if I do say so moiself (and I just did). Secret: white pepper and finely diced white onion.

[5] Go big or go home, I always say.

[6] (“My parents―I’m so thankful that God chose you to bring me into this world.” Really?  I mean, sure, thank your parents for their support, but get over yourself, Ms. Viola.)

[7] And as a  fiction writer I would be and have been included by some in this category.

[8] In movies, a chick flick is a movie which has, as Steinem succinctly puts it, “more dialogue than car chases, more relationships than special effects,” and its plot depends more on how people live than how they are killed.

The Call To Resistance I’m Not Writing

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

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

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

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

 

 

ohm

R.I.P : Resistance Is Imperative

 

 

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

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

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

 

Are you arguing…

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

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

 

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Department Of Petty Pleasures

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

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

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

 

 

angry-conductor

“That’s Bychkov, you drek kop!”

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Department Of But It Was Funny At 6:28 am

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

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

 

 

bad-smell

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

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Department Of We Have No Secrets Between Us

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

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

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

 

 

sadiebdaycardjpg

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Department Of What She Said

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

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

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

Sometimes I really, really like to be wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

*   *   *

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

 

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

Happy 21st, Belle!

 

 

snowyeti

 

*   *   *

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

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

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

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

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

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

[5] Resistance is NOT futile.

The Metaphor(s) I’m Not Ignoring

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Department Of It’s The Apocalypse…
And Here I Am, Still In My Yoga Pants

“…what does not kill me makes me stronger.”
(often paraphrased “That which does not kill me/us makes me/us stronger,” from Twilight of the Idols, by German philosopher and scholar Friedrich Nietzsche

While inspiring at first glance, that line always makes me think of…the alternatives. That which does not kill me may make me stronger, OR it may…

* suck all the energy out of my nostrils and leave my withered parsnip of a body slouched on the couch, good for nothing but cat hairball storage….

* ricochet off my lower jaw, leaving a nasty scar and ruining my burgeoning career as a WaterPik ® model while also taking out the totally innocent dude who had the misfortune of sitting  next to me on the light rail train…

* leave me with hemorrhoids and stretch marks and a petty yet profound, WTF?!?!? resentment of those who remember the excruciating pain of unmedicated childbirth as the happiest day of my life….

Not that any of the above are bad things.

*   *   *

sloth

Also not a bad thing – cute animal pictures.

*   *   *

 

Speaking Of What Does Or Doesn’t Kill You

Longtime friends and former neighbors, a Swedish-Canadian couple, temporarily relocated to Sweden last month. Over the years I have enjoyed getting their perspective on American culture and politics. In response to a recent lament from moiself re the current state of affairs, the female Swenadian had this to say:

We’re fine on this end of the ocean. Like everyone one at home we are sickened by Trump’s reign of terror so far….We’ve decided we need to have Trump-free conversation times so every dinner isn’t hijacked by the a******….

She encouraged me to hang in there by passing along this observation from the other Swenadian: He (Trump) is old, doesn’t eat healthy, and is always mad. Shouldn’t that add up to a heart attack?

Ah, sweet dreams are made of these…

…until I considered the fact that, in my experience, such people don’t have heart attacks, they cause them in others. They are carriers. Typhoid Mary, meet Cardiac Agent Orange.

*   *   *

Department of Fuck, Yeah

For a moment I sez to moiself, can you believe it’s gotten to this – I’m hoping for a heart attack on someone? Considering the alternatives….

 

 

 

martha

*   *   *

 

Ever since the Women’s March I keep having these epic/spectacle, Cecil B. DeMille cast of thousands/ dreams…and I am so dating myself by are using that reference. Perhaps it should read, George Lucas/CGI cast of green screen avatars….

Yet again, I digress. Y’all may get the point, anyway. In these dreams, I am living in a society attacked by outside forces which have mind-controlled many of the society’s citizens. There is a Resistance Movement, organized and guided by a young woman who looks like a cross between the lead actor in Rogue One  and the child actor who played Laura Ingalls in the TV series Little House on the Prairie…which may not bring to mind visions of smart/cutting/courageous leadership, but trust me, she’s effective.

Although I am an active participant in the dreams I am also vaguely aware that the scenarios are dreams, and keep trying to get myself out of them because, frankly, they are exhausting. I manage to wake myself up, get a drink of water, return to bed, go back to sleep…then, despite my best subconscious efforts, the pattern repeats.

After three nights of this I realized what my subconscious was/is telling me: I feel like we are in some kind of resistance, in our own country, against those who presume to lead us. Those who present us with frightening Orwellian concepts like alternative facts seem to be totally unaware that they are doing so, and likely have no firsthand knowledge of the concept Orwellian. They seem to be as culturally illiterate as they are morally bankrupt, even to the point that their leader, the Agent Orange/Predator-in-Chief essentially bragged about how he doesn’t read books.

Yet we marvel at Orwell’s prescience, as his Newspeak, Blackwhite, Doublespeak and other totalitarian obfuscation concepts have gone from to dystopian fantasy to Trumpian reality, in the form of what the CHOTUS [1] himself, his inner circle, and his supporters are saying, with jaw-droppingly straight faces.

Alternative facts.

 

 

grannyshock

I never thought I’d live to see the day when such cognitive buggery was flaunted!

 

 

 

The Rest of Us ®  can help out by refusing to use the far-right’s language of obfuscation. The Alt right movement sounds…relatively harmless, like a genre of rock music. [2]   Call those people and organizations what, upon examination of their beliefs and ideals, they actually are: social media savvy versions of the White Supremacist/NeoNazi/White Identity movements.

Facts do not have “alternatives.” Five is not an alternative answer to the question, What does 2+2 equal?  You may have your own feelings and opinions about what a fact means to you, but you can’t have your own facts. The alternative to a fact is, in fact, a falsehood…a fiction…a fabrication…an untruth – an ignorance at best, but most realistically and expediently as per the Trumpsters, a lie.

 

 

dumpsters

I wrote Trumpsters, not dumpsters.  On second thought….

*   *   *

Department Of And Now For…(oh, you know)

different

 

 

Blast from the past: Fifty years ago, Bobbie Gentry’s haunting ballad, Ode to Billie Joe, became a national and international hit song. Fifty years later, the song’s lyrical linchpin is still one of the popular music’s best kept secrets, one that, IMHO, continues to best even the theories regarding who was the you in Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain.

Speculation abounds, and we still don’t know what was the somethin’ the song’s narrator and Billie Joe McAllister threw off the Tallahatchie Bridge.  And that, along with the fact that OTBJ is one marvelous, Southern Gothic tragedy of a tale, is what makes OTBJ so compelling, even after all these years.

Bobbie, Carly – girlfriends, are you listening? Please, for the sake of those of us who appreciate the art of a finely drawn mystery: continue to be the class acts you have shown yourselves to be, and take your respective lyrical secrets to your respective graves.

 

otbj

*   *   *

Department Of Once Again I Find Myself Yelling Into Thin Air

Make that thin, windy air, as was the case Wednesday morning when, out for my morning constitutional, I was listening to a Radiolab podcast.  As is often the cast with Radiolab episodes, there were several orbital tales which circled a central issue/event/story – in this case, how the people of Guadeloupe [3] held a special place in their hearts and minds for the Guadeloupe raccoon, largely because the destructive omnivores cute creatures were  thought to be a separate species distinctive to the region, and then how Guadeloupians reacted when taxonomic and genetic analysis done by scientists and natural history museums revealed the Guadeloupe raccoon to be a common raccoon native to North America.  [4]

The episode, titled Stranger In Paradise, was one I enjoyed on many levels, including the fact that it made me think of my daughter Belle, and her work with her school’s Slater Museum Of Natural History. What got me yelling to the podcast myself was when the episode’s host was discussing, with one of the scientists involved in the GR’s “de” classification, the ramifications of the scientific revelation. Most Guadeloupians were not at all happy to have an animal they’d elevated to an unofficial national symbol turn out to be an imposter (re its distinctiveness). The host asked the scientist whether or not it was a good thing for a biological truth to override or correct a cultural legend – essentially, whether or not the truth about GRs should matter:

“One of the deep questions to this story is…you came to a scientific truth, and the question becomes, should that scientific truth win the day?”

“Are you fucking kidding?!?!? I screamed to myself. Withhold facts (aka the truth, the most up-to-date evidence) from people because it might upset them?

 

 

 

 

I was momentarily furious with the host for even asking such a question, until I realized its inevitability. The Guadeloupe raccoon brouhaha: yet another for human cognitive biases, who knew?

We humans like our stories – particularly those which make us feel special. Our own species [5]  tends to criticize, discount and even ignore that which contradicts our beliefs, sometimes to the point of doing the intellectual equivalent of covering our ears with our hands and chanting Nyah Nyah Nyah blah blah I CAN’T HEAR YOU when confronted with new evidence.

Upset our alternative facts with your pesky reality and you’ll deal with the cultural consequences.

 

*   *   *

Department Of
You Mean You’re The Lunatic Who’s Responsible For Destroying My Country Ship?!

 

Speaking of metaphors….

We need one or two (or a dozen or more) Republican and Democrat representatives with the cojones/ovaries to assume command from a lunatic. Right now, in our country, the in-over-his-head, thinks-he’s-Da-Boss-but-is-actually-the-delusional-maniac-who-will-lead-us-all-to-our-deaths, Commodore Decker is being played by….can you guess?

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you be as taxonomically distinctive as your heart desires;
May you listen to your head when your heart desires stupid shit;
May our current political nightmare stop happening during the daytime;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Cheetos Hitler of the United States, he who is not worthy of the POTUS acronym.

[2] Yeah, Emo music could sound a little too much like “Ricky Nelson doing the Sex Pistols,” but it’s not like it was a danger to society.

[3] A French region consisting of islands in the Lesser Antilles island chain of the Caribbean Sea.

[4] Thus, not only was the RG nothing special, it was likely an invasive species, posing a danger to the islands’ limited ecosystem.

[5] Arguably, the most invasive species on planet Terra.

The Resentment I’m Not Hoarding

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Dateline, Sunday 1/15: another sun-drenched SoCal day, the luminosity belying a certain surrounding darkness. Although there has been much circumspection and little to no (direct) talk of politics, it has become evident that some of my family are Agent Orange [1]  supporters.  How did I get born into this clan?

And yet I’m glad I did, as I have had enough delightful, witty, bawdy, touching conversations with those of my nieces and nephews and their spouses and partners who make me realize that the darkness has, with a few exceptions, hopefully skipped a generation. I find myself comforted by a cliché thought: The Younger Generation ® shall save the world.

My mother’s graveside funeral on Saturday (1/14) was…tolerable, given the religious nature of the ceremony. There were several blackbirds cavorting around a palm tree just in front of and to the left of the canopy under which the attendees sat; the birds’ aerial acrobatics provided a welcome distraction from the service’s Christian theology and clichés, [2] which I find inane and pathetic. How I wished for a service like many I had attended, consisting of simple and heartfelt sharing of remembrances by friends and family. At least, there was one break in the minister’s come-to-Jesus blather recitations: my younger sister gave a wonderful “life overview” of our mother, which was quite touching, and which had many of us reflecting on the value of hearing from/keeping in touch with someone  [3] who remembers you as a young adult.

 

Get to know your parents. You never know when they’ll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They’re your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.
Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.
( Mary Schmich, Chicago Tribune columnist and author of the commonly-misattributed-to Kurt-Vonnegut “Wear SunScreen”-commencement-speech )

 

 

marionatolivest

Marion Alberta Hole, [4]  Santa Ana, CA, ca. mid-early 1950s

 

 

The after party, however, was an unqualified delight – a wonderful, noisy, mess of fun with family, neighbors and friends.  I was once again reminded of why my friend SCM loves funerals, and even prefers them over weddings: with both events you get to visit with acquaintances, friends and relatives you may have lost touch with or aren’t in close geographic or emotional proximity to…and while those holding grudges might not attend (or be banned from attending) a wedding, most folk seem to put things in perspective and set aside their differences to attend a funeral.

*   *   *

The funeral was both preceded and followed by days of my siblings and I, with invaluable help on several of those days from nieces and nephews and spouses  [5]  going through my parents’ house, sorting and arranging and keeping and discarding, [6] preparing the house for an estate sale which will be followed by putting the house up for sale.

For these tasks, we rented a VLD (Very Large Dumpster), and completely filled it…and this was after 30-plus other yard waste-sized trash bags of stuff were delivered to the Goodwill and other charitable donation centers (much of which will end up in their dumpsters, I’d bet). And STILL we left behind behind a house full of things for the estate sale.

Each of the four Parnell siblings took items of sentimental or practical value, and encouraged our spouses and offspring to do the same. There were items deemed schlep-worthy, like a photo of my older sister NLPM and moiself ( on the left) wearing the kimonos our father brought back for us from San Francisco, during one of his rare business trips.

 

 

 

nancyandiinkimonos

 

 

 

And then for each keeper there were approximately 1,003 items of complete and utter mystery, interesting and/or valuable to no one save for extraterrestrial anthropologists.

Many of the items, from the valuable (to us) to the inexplicable (to anyone with an IQ higher than their shoe size), had post-it notes pinned to them, with what were meant to be explanatory labels, written in my mother’s distinctive, military-precision script. We unfortunately misplaced the note belonging to my uncle Bill’s World War II paratrooper’s dress jacket, a true treasure which was already well-known to the family. I was happy to be able to bring it home with me, as my father deeply regretted not keeping his own paratrooper jacket.

 

 

 

billomalleyparatrooperjacket

 

 

 

And then there were the notes that ranged from the stupefying to the hilariously mortifying.

There was one note-pinned item I wanted to send to Whoopi Goldberg. Not that we’re BFFs or anything, it’s just that I remember reading a magazine article years ago about the award-winning actor/comedian/author/talk show host’s extensive collection of what she calls “Negrobilia” – i.e., objects made by white people which stereotypically depict and degrade black people.

 

negrobilia

 

 

The item to which I refer is the Aunt Jemima appliance cover my mother’s eldest sister, my aunt Erva, had made. I remember how appalled I was when (mid-1970’s) Erva showed me her handiwork and asked if I’d like her to make one for moiself. It was a two-gasp moment, the second gasp occurring when I realized she was serious. Since she was not deterred (she didn’t even blink) by my brief but passionate explanation as to why such an object was offensive, I segued into the excuse that as a poor college student, I didn’t actually own any appliances. My aunt assured me that the industrious Jemima could do double duty as a “toilet paper roll hider.”

My mother, to my chagrin and embarrassment, halfheartedly accepted her sister’s “gift” but, at my insistence, did not display it. I had completely forgotten about its existence until my niece found it, in a back bedroom closet filled with a random assortment of Christmas decorations and WWII memorabilia.

Jemima was discovered on Thursday, and had taken her place in our Dumpster? or Donate? or People-will-buy-anything-so-save-for-the-estate-sale-as-an-object-of-curiosity? pile in the back bedroom. On Friday MH and our son K had flown down for house-decluttering and funeral attending. While helping the Parnell sisters with the former task, K spotted Jemima and could not believe his good fortune. He snatched it up, exclaiming, “Really – nobody wants this?” He felt it would be the perfect home decor addition for his multi-ethnic household.

 

jemima

The Post-it note reads: “Appliance cover. Not politically correct (But a fact of history!) which of course makes me wonder what “fact” she was referring to – that Black women at one time dressed in full Gone With The Wind mammy regalia and willingly perched atop appliances, or that white people made those hideous “craft” objects?

 

 

Once again, I digress.

*   *   *

“You kids are going to have quite a job going through…all of this.”
(Prediction/warning given to my older sister by one of my mother’s caretakers, when my mother’s demise seemed imminent)

Really, it is impossible for moiself to adequately describe how sad/appalling/embarrassing it was to discover pile after pile of dust and spider egg sack covered shit precious mementos in yet another drawer and closet, under each and every bed and every piece of furniture and behind the under the furniture, all covered with layers of dust which merited carbon dating.

We knew our mother had turned into a hoarder in her later years (and discovered that our father was one as well, but mildly so, in comparison to his beloved wife). Still, the enormity of the task was daunting.  All the clothing,  baseball caps, fifty year old frayed and yellowed linens, clothing and accessories never worn, books, decorations, dishes, costume jewelry, coins, picture frames, souvenirs, dishes and kitchenware, photo albums, pre-purchased Christmas and birthday gifts for children and grandchildren (labeled but never sent), [7] cassette tapes, videotapes, 8 track tapes, travel-sized soaps & lotions and an entire room’s worth – as in, you could stack the items from floor to ceiling [8] – of Christmas “decor” (most of it of the kitschy/really cheap Lillian Vernon catalog variety…and the knickknacks, a word which from this time forward is likely to give me a panic attack – and ALL OF IT duplicates of crap they already had “out” on display or in use.

It was interesting to see how, one by one, the siblings, spouses, and grandchildren all began to manifest the fight-or flight reactions when reality of the mission ahead of them sunk in. And we all tried to provide each other with breaks and levity, as well as practicality and concern for each other’s health and safety.  [9]

And we kept joking about – then seriously posing to anyone nearby or muttering to ourselves –  variations on the question that had no rational answer: How is it that people who lived through The Great Depression ® and who subsequently cited the hardships endured and the resulting appreciation for simplicity and frugality which TGD privations imbued in them – how is it that such people ended up amassing all that stuff which could fill a landfill the size of Gambia?

It was at once distressing, frightening, mystifying, annoying, hilarious, and six other emotions I can’t quite describe.

 

 

buckley

Have you tried stupendiflying superflu-otic?

*   *   *

 

Just as frightening as having to deal with the house cleanup was having to keep reminding myself how much good stuff I received from my parents, including what was, for the most part, a loving and secure childhood.  I had to do this because I realized I was starting to resent them for leaving their children this horrendous mess to deal with.

Attention, all you hoarders: (okay, I’m probably pissing in the wind here because hoarders rarely see themselves as hoarders [10])  please, stop, right now, and do whatever it takes to reverse course. Do NOT do this to your children.

Attention, all you children of hoarders: have your parents diagnosed/treated, while you can. Failing that, hide their credit cards in the middle of stack 15 of 32 stacks of Trailer Life magazines.

 

 

hoard

We’ll want to read through these someday, I just know it.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Painful Reminders

Dateline: Tuesday, PDX airport, just having returned from SoCal. I waited at the baggage claim area while MH tried to summon an Uber ride. I chose a spot close to the baggage carousel, and saw that ten feet to my right was the frail, elderly woman in a wheelchair whom I’d seen boarding our flight during the initial those-who-need-special-assistance pre-boarding call. She was accompanied by a woman I judged to be her attendant, and she was distressed to the point of shedding frantic tears. er shaking  Her shaking hands rummaged through her handbag, frenetically searching, as if she’d misplaced something. She began to sob and moan.

No no no – it was right here.”

The attendant remained calm – almost heartlessly and diffidently so…or so it seemed to me, even as I reminded myself that I did not know these people and should not judge the situation.  In the elderly woman’s distress I recognized the fear and confusion my own mother displayed when, sporadically at first and then increasingly during her last days…and months…and years, she was beset by bouts of dementia, fear and forgetfulness, and their companions, panic and paranoia. But your mother is no longer afraid, or upset, I coached myself. She was able to remain and die at home, which is what she wanted.

I sidled over and spoke to the elderly woman’s attendant: I apologized for any intrusion and gently asked if I could be of some assistance – could I fetch a drink of water, or…something? The attendant smiled and politely refused my offer. In a broken English accent I took to be Russian, she said that the elderly woman was merely confused (“She think she lose something”). I smiled at both women and inched back toward my waiting spot as the baggage carousel began to roll out our luggage

The elderly woman, who had calmed down for a moment, resumed her sobbing and rummaged through her handbag.

“No, no, no, why? I had it right there, and now it’s gone. I wish I was dead…”

Her quavering cry of despair hit like a sucker punch to my innards. I remembered my mom expressing that sentiment in her moments of desperation and fear – my mother, who was right there and is now right gone, and all her “stuff” gone as well.

 

 

*   *   *

May you learn not to binge so as not to have to purge;
May you realize that even if you love your stuff it doesn’t love you back;
May you have patience with those who fear what they may have lost;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by. 

Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Yet another appellation for He Who Shall Not Be named in this space. You know – Putin Junior.

[2] “Marion had been in our prayers for years…” Well, if that don’t show the inefficacy of appealing to a nonexistent sky god, what else will?

[3] In this case, my sister read memories shared by one of my mother’s nieces, who was only ten or so years younger than my mother.

[4] No question about her wanting to keep her birthname. Hole may have been a fine, upperclass Norwegian surname, but in America…not so much.

[5] Read: we’d still be there, trapped under layers of old ultility bills and sixty year old packages of rotting tinsel had they not shown up to help.

[6] And discarding and discarding and scratching our heads and asking, “WTF did they keep that for?” an discarding some more and sneezing and sneezing and sneezing

[7] Some labels were specific (“_____ {grandchild’s name) birthday” or cringingly age and gender nonspecific and stereotypit (“for 12 yerd old boy)

[8] Although the items were distributed throughout the house and in the rafters and cabinets of the two car garage.

[9] My younger sister’s college age son, gazing at the boxes in the garage he was asked to get down, wisely decided that a trip to Home Depot to purchase protective eye goggles and dust masks was called for.

[10] Especially if they watch one of those Hoarders of La Habra reality shows, which allow them to delude reassure themselves that, “Well, I’m not as bad as that so I’m not really a hoarder.”

The Solutions I’m Not Providing

Comments Off on The Solutions I’m Not Providing

 

 

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

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

Gentle Editors,

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

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

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

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

 

 

mindfulmag

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

 

*   *   *

Part 2, Possible Solutions

I don’t have any. DAMN!

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

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

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

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

Keep aware, and get involved.

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

brightsposter

 

 

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

twitter

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

*   *   *

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

iampng

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

imnotracist

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

flagstars

Like this.

*   *   *

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

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

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

 

 

bad-soup

*   *   *

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

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

[7] Or yourself, if that’s the case.

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

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

The Coffee I’m Not Fetching

4 Comments

 

Department Of Oh That Explains It

I opened turned to page 2 of The Oregonian and saw the reassuring headline for the Editor’s Notebook column:

We’ve redesigned with our readers in mind.

I guess I’m not one of the readers Those Who Redesigned had in mind, because I couldn’t get beyond the column’s next sentence, [1] which contained this gem of an explanation:

We’ve redesigned The Oregonian to be easier to read.

All these years, I’ve wondered about the decline of print media. Newspapers have seemingly lost their appeal; circulation and subscriber bases have dropped precipitously. Could it be related to competition from internet and other electronic media/online sources, including revenue loss from online advertising sources which made newspaper classified ads dated and/or irrelevant?

Noooooo. It’s just because newspapers have become SO  DIFFICULT  TO  READ.

 

newspaper

“Article continued on A13?” This. Is. So. Hard. For. Me.

*   *   *

Department of Eat, Prey, Write, Gloat With Cynicism

Did I ever tell y’all about the time in 2006 when I was subject to special screening by TSA agents because I was the only woman in the PDX airport  [2] who was not toting a copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love in her carry-on bag?

That’s right – I didn’t tell you. Because that never happened. But it felt like it did.

 

 

tsa

Now, turn your head and cough, Ma’am, because if we don’t find a copy of that book you will not be allowed to board your flight.

 

The more EPL was recommended to me [3] the more I resisted jumping on the EPL bandwagon. Besides, after reading interviews with Gilbert, I got the feeling the no-detail-of-my-life-i$-too-private-be-$hared author wasn’t done with exploiting her personal life seeing as how it sold so much better than her fiction sharing her searching-the-world-for-wisdom-so-you-don’t-have-to exploits. I thought I’d bide my time and wait for the box set.

A sequel soon followed, which picked up with the author’s falling in love with/marriage to the Brazilian businessman she met at the end of EPL. The sequel was inaptly titled, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage. “Inaptly,” I daresay write, because the peace the author supposedly made with marriage turned out not to be with her own.

In June, Gilbert announced she’d ended her 12 year old marriage (emphases mine):

“Our split is very amicable. Our reasons are very personal. At this time of transition, I hope you will respect our privacy. In my heart, I know that you will do so, because I trust that you understand how this is a story that I am living—not a story that I am telling.”

Privacy?  Oh yeah – that thing defined as the right to keep one’s personal matters and relationships secret. It’s that thing practiced by other people, not Gilbert, who despite her protestations has been telling the story she has been living for the past 12 years.

Sure, I snorted when I read her press release, She wants privacy, I can (continue to) give her privacy. I can also, from experience,  [4]  give her or any privacy-requester a smidgen of advice: if you want your request for privacy to be taken seriously you can start by not giving interviews/press statements/making a living from writing about your private life.

With a publicist’s masterful timing (never reveal everything at once if there’s a chance people will pay for a sequel!), three months after her divorce announcement Gilbert made another spotlight-grabbing broadcast: she’d ended her marriage because she’d fallen in love with a (terminally ill) female friend.

Do I smell another self-serving revelation soon-to-become another LET-ME-TELL-YOU-ABOUT-MY-AMAZING-LIFE-JOURNEY memoir?  [5]  It needs a catchy title:

Eat, Pray, Love, Regurgitate Triumphs And Heartaches, Write, Marry, Regurgitate Some More, Write, Divorce, Ask For Privacy – Holy Misguided Solitude, There’s No Money Or Attention In Discretion! – Write, Discover Gender Fluid Sexuality – Now I’ve Really Got Something To Write About….

 

 

eat_pray_love

Didn’t see the movie, either.

*   *   *

Department Of Wednesday Digressions

The Worst Types Of Workplace Sexists—And How To Fight Them

I cannot recall where I came across the article referenced above, but I am grateful for the memories it brought back.

 

really

 

I’ll try to explain.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I worked in the women’s reproductive health care field. Stints with Planned Parenthood clinics bookended six years at a dual practitioner (an M.D. and a N.P. [Nurse Practitioner]) [6] OB-GYN practice near Stanford hospital.

Before y’all get the wrong idea, there were no sexists working at that practice. Both of my bosses were wonderful people, as were (most of) the office staff. But as for some of our dealings with other “professionals”…. Let the story hijinks ensue.

Although Dr. B’s office was open Monday-Friday, with rare exceptions neither he nor the NP saw patients on Wednesdays. The day was plenty busy: the practice hosted a new parent support group which met in the waiting room every Wednesday morning. Meanwhile, “backstage” there was catching up on charting and non-emergency callbacks, exam room cleaning/stocking/organizing and preparation for the upcoming week’s patients…and on many Wednesday mornings and/or afternoons, Dr. B would consult, on the phone or in person, with attorneys.

Dr. B had a lucrative “side job” serving as a consultant/reviewer and expert witness  [7] for medical malpractice cases. He loved the work, and not just because of the money. He had a keen, forensically detailed intellect; he found reviewing and analyzing the case files fascinating, and had a knack for explaining complex medical issues to laypersons. The only thing he didn’t like about such consulting was having to deal with lawyers.

Q: What’s the difference between a vacuum cleaner and a lawyer on a motorcycle?
A: The vacuum cleaner has the dirt bag on the inside.

 

 

shark

 

The attorneys I met during those six years were poster children for every lawyer gag you’ve ever heard. They were, with one exception I can recall, all male, and without exception the boy lawyers were sexist, arrogant, self-aggrandizing, windbag asshats. I tried to have as little to do with them as possible, and was mostly successful in that endeavor. Our office manager’s duties included lawyer-wrangling; patient care/education/advocacy was my gig. But there were certain Wednesdays when there was no avoiding the bastard barristers. Like a pair of cheap underpants, they crept up on you.

Dr. B would meet with lawyers in his private office. More often than not, he’d leave his office door open during these meetings. [8]   It’s not that the doc was indiscreet; I figured he just couldn’t stand to be alone with a conniving weasel lawyer (and, much to my surprise, Dr. B confirmed this when I told him my theory about the open door).  [9]

I picked up on Dr. B’s lawyer loathing. On those (mercifully few) occasions when there was no avoiding them, I took petty pleasure in tormenting the malpractice attorneys [10]  in the most passive-aggressive ways possible.

Anecdote the First
Sitting at the front desk with a pile of patient charts and pap smear lab reports, I reluctantly answered the phone (the office manager was taking a potty break). The caller cut short my standard work greeting, “Dr. B’s office, this is Rob…”

Car Phone Lawyer: “Yes, I’m calling from my car phone….”

It was the attorney who was scheduled to meet with Dr. B that morning for a malpractice case consult. The attorney informed me that he was calling from his car phone, and that the purpose of his call was to let us know that he was going to be late for his appointment. He was quite determined that I know he was calling from his car phone – he stated this twice in his opening remarks, mentioned it two more times in what should have been a brief, sorry-I’ve-been-detained-I’ll-get-there-as-soon-as-I-can apology, and ended the call with this fascinating bit of information.

As I mentioned, I’m calling from my car phone….

This was way back in pre cell phone days when, apparently, for Certain Kind$ of People ® there wa$ a certain amount of pre$tige a$$ociated with anyone who had a car phone. Moiself didn’t give a flying fuck if he was calling from a Maxwell Smart shoe phone. Had I asked from where or with what he was calling, and what did it have to do with…anything?

 

 

shoephone

 

 

“So, you’re going to be late…” I wrote a note for Dr. B, who was standing right behind me, his eyes almost audibly rolling toward the ceiling as he drew his index finger across his throat – his sign for I do not want to talk to this asshole until he gets here. Stifling my laughter, I waited for the Car Phone Lawyer to add something relevant, such as his ETA, or perhaps even a brief apology/explanation for his tardiness.

 “Yes,” CPL repeated. “As you know, I’m calling from my car phone…”

“Oh,” I pitched my voice to approximate the oral equivalent of a Sweet Young Thing’s ® smile. “That must be why it sounds like you’re talking into a tin can tied to a string.”

Anecdote #2
Dr. B was in his office, consulting with a malpractice attorney. I walked down the hallway, on my way to inventory amniocentesis kits in the supply closet and prep the ultrasound exam room for the procedure scheduled for the following morning. The office’s ever-brewing coffee pot was on the counter in the lab area, directly opposite Dr. B’s office and clearly visible to anyone sitting in the chair beside Dr. B’s desk…like, say, that attorney.

As I passed by Dr. B’s open door the attorney called out to me. He snapped his fingers – yes, he snapped his fingers – as he did so. “Hey,” (snap snap),”how about a cup of coffee?”

“Oh, no thank you,” I cheerfully replied, without breaking my stride.  [11]

We didn’t know about mic drops back then, so I’ll ask the Notorious RBG to give a belated Bam! on my behalf.

 

 

rbg

*   *   *

Department of Life’s Simple Pleasures

Dateline: 7:50 am-ish, [12] near the tail end of my morning walk, I exit a neighborhood park via a pathway that leads through a cul-de-sac. I am at a nexus in the neighborhood space-time continuum: parents are walking their children to the elementary school one block south, preteens are schlumping toward the junior high two blocks northwest, and high school students are either heading for their bus stop or getting into cars with their parents.

I walk down the middle of the street and approach a house on the left just as a boy and his (presumed) mother exit the house and head for a car parked at the curb. The boy is tall, refreshingly skinny, with skateboard-sized feet which indicate much gangliness in his future. His childlike face belies his height – he looks all of 12 or 13 to me, yet he’s dangling car keys from his right hand. He heads to the passenger’s door, hesitates for a moment, then circles around to the driver’s door, his expression equal parts fear and anticipation.

I smile as I stride past the car, and chuckle to myself: Ah, driver’s permit. First week.

 

 

student-driver

*   *   *

May you have patience with student drivers;
May you appreciate how truly easy it is to read a newspaper;
May you savor life’s mic drop moments;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Read: I was overcome by a snort/laugh attack.

[2] Consistently rated one of American’s best airports. Not that we want you to come here all that much….

[3] including by More Than One Well-Read And Intelligent Friend Who Said The Author’s Writing Style Reminded Them Of Me ©

[4] Admittedly, not the kind that get$ paid a$ well a$ writing about Gilbert’s private life.

[5] To be followed by seminars and workshops advising mere mortal women on how they can do the same.

[6] who were also husband and wife (although not all of their patients knew this).

[7] The vast majority of malpractice cases settled out of court.

[8] something that would never happen these days, what with HIPAA and other privacy concerns and regulations.

[9] Was the good doctor joking or not? I may never know.

[10] Which had the bonus of thoroughly entertaining my bosses, both the doc and the NP.

[11] By doing so, I had won Dr. B’s eternal respect. I swear, after that Wednesday morning, the good doctor looked for ways to finagle attorneys into asking me that question. And it happened more than once. The attorneys would never ask directly/politely for anything, as in, “May I kindly trouble you for a cup of coffee?”

[12] As in morning-ish, not as in Amish..ish.

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