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The S-Words I’m Not Mispronouncing

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Department Of Starting The New Year With A Memory Of Teacher Appreciation

Someone once lost an argument with me….

 

 

No; really.

Someone once lost an argument with me….

 

Who does she think she is, ME ?!?

(hint: this is called, foreshadowing)

I’ll try again.

Someone once lost an argument with me re the correct the answer to the question, “What is the USA’s ‘National Pastime’?'”  Someone said the answer was baseball; moiself  pointed out that our national pastime is criticizing other people’s parenting skills.  [1]  Someone began his rebuttal, then quickly conceded.

Another easy target for critique is K-12 schoolteachers. I recently ran across some grousing about teachers, which caused me to reflect upon how it is so easy – too easy – to look back and criticize schools and teachers, to parse what they neglected to do, or what they did do, but did wrongly or inadequately.    [2]   I wanted to take a different tack, to start the new year.  And so, here is A Good Thing ® which happened to me, when I was in grade 3, courtesy of select staff members of Wilson Elementary School.

 

“I have to have that Parnell girl in my class?  Give me a minute while I check my Valium supply….”

 

Background info (as in, a memory spark):  Dateline: a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (college, late 1970s).  I was out to dinner with my Boyfriend. In a tender moment ® and apropos of something I cannot now recall, BF reached across the table, used his index finger to brush a strand hair off of my forehead, and said he’d noticed that, sometimes when I was tired and/or had something cold to drink  (I was drinking a glass of ice water at the time   [3]  ), I spoke with a soft lisp. BF said he found that little tic of mine to be “adorable.”

I thought he was nucking futs, and told him so.

 

 

What was he talking about – nobody had ever said anything like that to me?!  For some reason, moiself  was…not pleased. But I asked a couple of close friends, who confirmed BF’s observation.  The next night I telephoned my parents, and my mother filled me in.

“Oh, I haven’t thought of that in years – don’t you remember?” she began.

Up until age eight or nine I apparently spoke with a slight lisp. I say “apparently” because I have no recollection of having done so.  But after the afore-mentioned memory spark inspired me to phone home, my mother confirmed that, yes, I’d spoken with a “minor” lisp as a child.  Mom said that they (my parents) had consulted with my early teachers (grades K-2), who advised *against* giving me any speech treatment or therapy. Their reasoning was that I was an early and confident reader, a “social leader” among the other students,   [4]  and a straight A student. In other words, my lisp did not seem to be an impediment in my life. It was barely obvious to adults, and I wasn’t teased about it by other children.  Why risk singling me out and making me feel like there was something wrong with me?

However, my third-grade teacher advocated for speech therapy, which my parents agreed to. Thus, for a couple of months I got excused from class, twice a week in the afternoon, to go to a special group therapy meeting, with other kids in the school who also lisped.

Wait a minute, Mom, seriously? Wouldn’t I remember this?

It took me a moment, and then I had the face-palming realization:

Holy Misarticulated sibilants –THAT was speech therapy?!?!?

 

 

I had completely forgotten about that group.

Indeed, for a period of a little less than two months, third-grader moiself  got to leave class a couple of times a week, during afternoon reading sessions, to join a group of four or five other kids (all of them younger than I and in the first or second grades), and we got to play board games.

As the memory came back, I recalled thinking at the time that the games were somewhat childish – but, hey, it got me out of class and doing something different.  Also, my teacher and the nice young woman (the speech therapist, although I didn’t know that that’s what she was) who ran the games acted like it was an honor to be chosen for the group.

The games consisted of the participant students rolling dice and hopping their game tokens around a game board.  When you landed on certain squares you had to draw a card from the pile of cards next to that square, and pronounce the words or describe the pictures and/or actions being depicted on the cards – all of which…hmmm…started with an S, or sometimes a Z or Th  (“Three sealions are serving seaweed soup and sandwiches to Sally.“)   The speech therapist looking on would make some comments about pronunciation, but after the first few sessions she mostly hung back, as the students began to correct one another.  And then we’d get candy, or some kind of prize.

 

 

Here is where the Teachers  [5]  Doing Their Job Right ® comes in.

I’ve heard other adults tell of how they (or their children) were embarrassed for needing special help in school – whether for speech or physical or academic impediments – in part because of how they were singled out and/or removed from class to receive the tutoring they needed.  Not only did I have no shame whatsoever in going to (what I did not realize was) speech therapy, I thought it was yet another privilege I was given, like being able to go to The Back Of The Class without asking for my teacher’s permission.

The Back Of The Class, consisting of a table and two bookshelves, was the class’s mini-library.  Those students who finished their work early during individual project times (and who had been deemed by the teacher to be mature enough to self-monitor their behavior) could get up from their desks, quietly go to the back of the room, and take whatever book they wanted from the library back to their desk.

 

 

I consistently finished my in-class assignments earlier than the other students. My teacher noted this early on in the school year; she also noted how I got easily bored (and prone to mischief involving distracting my peers) when I had nothing to do.  She wisely instituted the “class library policy,” and so I got to read Kon Tiki (for what seemed like 20 times) and other adventure stories, instead of just sitting in my seat fidgeting while my classmates finished their math worksheets, handwriting practice, etc.

My teacher had already enlisted me in helping other students with their multiplication tables and spelling lists; it was an easy leap for moiself  to think that the speech therapy board games were yet another way in which I was being recruited to help Other Kids ®.  The teacher’s and therapist’s deft handling of the situation – aided in part by my own cluelessness – had me thinking that I was getting rewarded for academic success by being able to leave class –  *not* having to stay after class, or miss part of recess or lunch break – and go play games (even if it was with other kids who talked funny).

 

*   *   *

Departments Of One Of The Word’s Cruelest Ironies

BTW: Whose brilliant idea was it, for the word lisp to have an s in it?

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Keeping The Relationship Fresh,
Chapter 198 In A Never-Ending Series

Dateline: January 2; MH and I go for a “Second Day”   hike  [6]  at the newly opened Chehalem Ridge Nature Reserve. The reserve is home to upland forests, oak woodlands wetlands and other habits, and its ten miles of intersecting trails offers several lovely views of the Tualatin Valley, Mt. Hood, and other Willamette Valley/Portland Metro area sights.  The area’s recent snowfalls were an added hiking bonus (read: a challenge, re icy trails), and were a good backdrop for other kinds of nature observations, such as this picture MH took, and posted on FB:

 

MH’s caption: “Can anyone identify this scat with a size 13 shoe for scale?”

 

MH received comments, ranging from helpful to guffaw-worthy, in response to his question.  The science/biology-minded folks got into comments re color and texture, while others just enjoyed the possibility for thinly-disguised poop jokes.

Moiself’s contributions included:

– It’s slightly greenish, with the striations that may be… Plant matter?… Fur? But it’s not pellets so it’s not a deer or other ungulate
– Our biology-trained daughter (who has also worked with big cats) thinks it’s bobcat scat, and that the striations are fur, not plant matter.

 Other scoops on the (presumed) poop:

– The tapered end and size makes me think Coyote.
The green is odd, was it near a wetland?
-To me it looks like a cat’s fur ball hack…
which would explain the fur and greenish liquid oozing.

Then, this past Monday morning, I saw that MH had made an addition to his post:

“I tried googling for bobcat hair balls. There’s a video of a bobcat bringing one up, but I didn’t come across any good pictures. There was this lengthy page that includes stories of domestic vs bobcat….”

To which moiself  had to reply:

“I tried googling for bobcat hair balls.”
Now, there’s an afternoon well spent.

I have heard that *gentle* teasing can keep a relationship young.   [7]  That may be debatable, but surely one of the more fulfilling aspects of a decades-long relationship is discovering something that you are surprised to know about your partner. Never would I have predicted, as a new bride over thirty-some years ago, that a sentence containing the phrase “…googling for bobcat hairballs” would ever be used by my beloved.

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Scat Edition

Did you hear about the monkey who was arrested for throwing its feces at zoo patrons?
She was charged with Turd debris assault.

Why did the Packy the elephant bring toilet paper to the zebra’s birthday bash?
Because Packy was a party pooper.

Remember, dog owners, when you walk the dog you have to pick up its poop.
It’s your doo diligence.

Why is Chuck Norris’s dog trained to pick up its own poop?
Because Chuck Norris doesn’t take shit from any one.

Chuck Norris doesn’t flush the toilet.
He scares the shit out of it.

Yeah, I know, scat is typically used to denote animal feces, but I’ve heard that making at least one Chuck Norris Joke ®  – aka, reciting a Chuck Norris “fact” – at the beginning of the year is a guarantee of good fortune in the weeks to come.   [8]

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Bonus Round Of You-Know-Who Jokes

(Happy New Year to son K, who once brought me to helpless tears of stomach-cramping, snotty-nosed laughter when he loaned me his Chuck Norris Factbook to read while we were seated in a booth in a restaurant, waiting for our lunch to arrive).

* Chuck Norris doesn’t read books.
He stares them down until he gets the information he wants.

* The flu gets a Chuck Norris shot every year.

* When Chuck Norris plays dodgeball, the balls dodge him.

* Chuck Norris doesn’t worry about high gas prices. His vehicles run on fear.

* The Dead Sea was alive before Chuck Norris swam there.

* When Chuck Norris was born, he drove his mom home from the hospital.

* There is no theory of evolution, just a list of animals Chuck Norris allows to live.

 

* Death once had a near-Chuck-Norris experience.

* There is no chin behind Chuck Norris’ beard. There is only another fist.

* MC Hammer learned the hard way that Chuck Norris can touch this.

* Chuck Norris has been to Mars. That’s why there are no signs of life there.

* Chuck Norris can strangle you with a cordless phone.

* If Chuck Norris traveled to an alternate dimension in which there was another
Chuck Norris and they both fought, they would both win.

* Chuck Norris’ farts smell like freshly baked cinnamon rolls.

*   *   *

Okay; I gotta get control here.  Seriously; somebody stop me; this could go on forever.

* Chuck Norris counted to infinity — twice.

 

 

*   *   *

May you have a legitimate reason for “googling hairballs;”
May you cherish memories of a really good teacher;
May you read a series of Chuck Norris jokes that makes you laugh so hard
you fear a proverbial pants-wetting session may ensue;

 

Chuck Norris peed here.

 

…and may the (continent) hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] All together now: specifically, mothers.

[2] I am not in anyway implying that teachers should be immune from critique…and I have *plenty* of I-can’t-believe-they-did-this examples from my own life as a student, who had to deal with massive teacher fails.

[3] His theory was that the ice numbed my tongue, making it easy for my mouth and tongue to slip back into my former lisp, which I was subconsciously controlling…or something like that.

[4] Is that teacher-speak for, “bossy?”

[5] I include the speech therapist in that category.

[6]  “First Day Hikes are part of a nationwide initiative led by America’s State Parks to encourage people to get outdoors.  On New Year’s Day, hundreds of free, guided hikes will be organized in all 50 states….” (from “First Day Hikes,” American Hiking Society )

[7] That, and appreciation – or at least toleration – of fart jokes.  And, this should go without saying (so I’ll type it,) farts.

[8] That is something I just made up.  But it makes as much sense as any of the “Doing _____ will guarantee good luck in the new year!” prescriptions I’ve ever heard.

The ID I’m Not Showing

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Department Of I Am Going To Wear A Mask!
Everywhere!  Forever!

Dateline: Monday, circa 5 pm.  After seeing a movie I stopped in at a grocery store near home.  It was raining; I had on my ever-present rain hat (OR’s “Seattle sombrero“), and, of course, a mask .

I unloaded my items onto the checkout belt. When the clerk rang up the bottle of Pinot I intended to purchase she paused, then said, “I’m going to have to ask to see your ID.”

I thought she must be joking, and said so.  But she leaned across her checkout counter for a closer look.

“Seriously?Moiself  leaned toward her, pulled down the corners of my mask and pointed at the corners of my eyes, then pulled up on the mask and pointed at my neck.  “Is that ID enough for you?”

She seemed momentarily flustered, then laughed when she realized I was neither upset nor insulted.  “I’m sorry,” she said, “but with the mask and your hat… .”

“Please, don’t apologize,” I reassured her.  “You have just made my day.”

 

Toss those wrinkle creams – a hat and a mask and you look 21 again.

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Partridge Of The Week

It’s that time of the year again. As has become a tradition much maligned anticipated in our neighborhood, moiself  will be hosting a different Partridge, every week, in my front yard.    [1]

Can you guess this week’s guest Partridge?

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Let’s Get The Complaining Out Of The Way

Dateline: Sunday 6 am.  In the meditation app I was using, moiself  picked a “waves of breathing” guided meditation to listen to.  After the session, I checked the app and saw that the teacher for that session was listed as, “The Venerable (Billybocephus, or whatever his name).”

Venerable – adjective
Definition of venerable
1a: calling forth respect through age, character, and attainments
broadly : conveying an impression of aged goodness and benevolence
b: impressive by reason of age

2: deserving to be venerated — used as a title for an Anglican archdeacon or for a Roman Catholic
who has been accorded the lowest of three degrees of recognition for sanctity

3: made sacred especially by religious or historical association
(definitions from Merriam-Webster)

 

Welcome to the venerable hat society.

 

The Venerable…
The Reverend…
The Right Reverend… (who is, uh, I presume, more correct than a mere Reverend?)
The Most Reverend… (self explanatory?)
His Holiness…
Your Eminence…

I’ve always wanted to ask someone who uses one of the above titles:  What is the purpose of being addressed as such?  Is it for you – to remind you of your own status –  or is it for we peons mere mortals, the non-venerable masses?

Moiself  assumes, what with being venerable and all, the meditation teacher – or any of y’all  –  is fully capable of saying, “Yeah, that’s my title, but you can just attribute this to (Billybocephus).”

If a person is truly venerable – as in, worthy of respect via their character and attainments – moiself  thinks that their ego would be secure (and humble) enough that they would *not* want to be addressed with adjectives and/or titles touting their supposed superior qualities.

 

 

*   *   *

Remember my post, a mere two weeks ago, re Hallmark Movie Syndrome? (“The Swedes I’m Not Chasing“).  In my first ever foray into the wonders of The Hallmark Channel, I marveled at the ads for the seemingly interchangeable movies the channel produces and broadcasts, without end, during the holiday season:

Meet The Plucky Protagonist,®  an attractive white woman estranged from/bored with her family and/or disillusioned with/burnt out by her High Stress Job In The Big City ®, who returns to flyover country her home town where she meets the simple-minded mild-mannered incredibly handsome dude who shows her the holiday sausage fest she’s been missing all her life real meaning of Christmas.

THC’s moldy cheese Christmas romcoms are likely the same basic plot, recycled with variations in ages of the participants and locales.  I don’t know why THC’s programming executives even bother to give them different names.  Why not just run night after night of,

Hallmark presents:
“A (Heterosexual) Hunk for Christmas.”

Thanks to my astute and alert friend, EK,  moiself discovered that greater minds than mine have come up with a Scientifically Validated ® chart, to help us navigate the world of Hallmark Holiday romcoms. Should you, for whatever reason, decide to give your neurons a rest, or just want to dissolve into an intellectual and emotional puddle in front of the TV, here’s your guide:

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Yoga Holiday Fun

Dateline: Wednesday, 9 am. Moiself was already somewhat sore from doing 108 Sun salutations on Tuesday to celebrate the Winter Solstice, then my yoga teacher had a surprise for her class.  She led us yogis, those in the studio and those streaming the class at home, in  “The Twelve Days of Yoga Christmas,” a series of poses, each chosen for a verse of the classic song.

Apparently, there *is* a partridge pose in yoga, but it is quite difficult,   [2]  so, we settled for Tree Pose, sans partridge, for verse one.

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Holiday Reruns
(as in, this one, from three years ago)

The Department of Feasting

My family – the one MH and I created – has several holiday season traditions, some of our own making and some adopted/adapted from our respective families of origin.  The elves that hide in every downstairs room to watch you from atop the curtain rod, hanging from the bathroom lights or peeking out from a potted plant  – that’s from my family.  The every-piece-of-art-with-a-face-wears-a-Santa-hat mandate, that’s from the weirdo festive mind of moiself.

 

A clock may not be art, but it has a face.

 

Many of our traditions involve (surprise!) dining.  There is a menu which, according to the *other* family members, magically (hah!) is posted, sometime in mid-December, on the refrigerator door.  Depending on when the Solstice falls, there are several days in a row of special meals.  Solstice Soup & Salad Supper; Little Christmas Eve (to be mentioned later);  and of course, Christmas Eve.    [3] 

 

Mmmmmm….lefse.

 

On Christmas Day we go out for lunch to a fancy-schmancy restaurant, then for dinner it’s homemade pizza…or a leftovers coma.  Come Boxing Day, I swear I’m never going to cook/eat again…a vow that I am most happy to break in the New Year.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of About Those Elves….

“Oh, yeah, so you all liked that Elf on a Shelf thing?”
(Misinformed persons who feel compelled to ask about all the elves

in our house during this time of year)

Much of moiself’s holiday décor, in all its tacky seasonal glory, is in homage to my mother, who died five years ago today, on Christmas Eve.

Marion Parnell loved Christmas and especially her Christmas decorations, which included the tradition (which her family started and mine continues) of placing certain kind of elves – the kind with small plastic, doll-like faces and bendable, felt costume-clothed bodies,  [4]  all around the house.  

 

Like this one, a rare, yellow-green costumed variant.

 

The idea was that from any vantage point, whether you are sitting in the living room or getting a drink from the kitchen sink, an elf is casting a friendly eye upon you.  Some of our elves indeed are on a shelf, but most perch atop curtains, peek out from bookcases, lurk behind candlesticks, nestle behind dishes and clocks and art and….

But, this “Elf on a Shelf” thing? Never heard of it, until recently.  EOAS is, apparently, a picture book about…honestly, I don’t know or care what it’s about. I looked it up:  the book has a 2005 publication date.  Neither I nor MH knew about it, nor had our two children (DOBs 1993 and 1996) grown up with EOAS as part of their kiddie lit repertoire.  My extended family on my mother’s side has been putting up elves since the early 1920s, so none of these EOAS shit fruitcake feces references applies to elves on MY shelves, okay?

Y’all must excuse moiself  if (read: when) I respond with a yuletide-inappropriate profanity should you mention that book to me. Actually, moiself finds it funny how much it irritates me  when someone, after seeing or hearing about our houses elves, makes a reference to the book – such as the antique store owner two years ago who, when I asked if her store had any elves and began to describe what I was looking for, said, “Oh, you mean, like that book?”   My customary cheerful/holiday visage darkened, and I answered her with utmost solemnity.

No.
Nothing.
Like. That. Book.

Which might not be entirely accurate, seeing as how I’ve never read nor even seen the book…which may indeed be about something akin to *our* family tradition.  I just want…oh, I don’t know…attribution, I suppose.  WE THOUGHT OF IT FIRST, OKAY?  So, stick that Elf-on-a-shelf in your Santa Hat and….

 

*   *   *

Department Of It’s Now Later
(re: …”to be mentioned later”)

Little Christmas Eve: LCE is the Eve before Christmas Eve, an obscure – to everyone but my family – holiday supposedly celebrated by my paternal grandfather’s ancestral, tiny Norwegian village.  The LCE dinner was a special meal, but, unlike Christmas Eve dinner, which always featured lefse, the LCE menu varied year to year, and after dinner, each child got to open one of their Christmas presents. The most memorable aspect about LCE, to moiself  as a child, was the “rule” that our house was lit only by candlelight, during the dinner meal and thereafter, until bedtime.

I was fascinated by candles; thus, it was a magical night for moiself.  Candles everywhere no electric lights allowed!  If you went to the bathroom, you carried a candle.

How we never managed to burn the house down, I don’t know.  Guess those elves were watching over us.

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Santa’s Helpers Edition

Q.  Why can’t you borrow money from an elf?
A.  Because they’re always a little short.

An elf tried to organize a strike at the North pole, then quit Santa’s workshop.
He was a rebel without a Claus.

Q.  What’s the difference between a dwarf and an elf?
A.  Very little.

I just drew a totally cool picture of a creature that’s half-mouse, half-elf.
I know I shouldn’t brag, but I’m really proud of mouse-elf.

Q.  What’s an animal that never forgets Christmas?
A.  An elfant.

 

“I’m trying to forget I ever read this blog.”

*   *   *

May you never merit being addressed as, “Your Holiness;”
May you be braver than moiself, and watch a Hallmark holiday movie;
May someone ID you in a way that makes your day;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Specifically, in our pear tree.

[2] Partridge Pose (Kapinjalasana) is also called “the Side Plank Variation Hand To Toe Knee Bend…a challenging arm balance pose….”  Yeah.  Let’s stick to tree pose, with maybe a pigeon roosting in one of its branches.

[3] CE menu never varies: Norwegian lefse and meatcakes (of some kind) are front and center.

[4] Many of the oldest ones have a tiny Made in Japan sticker on them and date from the 1950s, or so I was told by one antique shop dealer.

The Favor I’m Not Granting

Comments Off on The Favor I’m Not Granting

Department Of This May Stop Them From Asking

Moiself refers to Every Writer’s Favorite Situation ®  (insert appropriate, universally understood emojis of sarcasm).    [1]

Dateline: senior year of high school (mine; not yours). I wrote a regular, eponymous op-ed column in our school’s newspaper, in which I took a humorous approach to a variety of school-related issues.    [2]   Toward the end of the year, a school acquaintance approached me, asking for a favor…although, she didn’t exactly phrase it that way.  The way she presented it, it was more of an opportunity, for me.

She had been asked to write and then read something for an upcoming Important Occasion: a work party; a family reunion – for the life of me, I cannot recall *what* it was for, but that’s not pertinent. The thing is, she was supposed to write and deliver an amusing presentation.  And she wanted me to do it for her.

She said that she would give me some basic information – what it needed to be “about’ –  and then I could just whip it out, right?

“I just don’t know how to do that, but you’re so funny.
I can’t be funny, but you can be funny – it’s so easy for you.”

The way she spoke about it, it was if that complement from her would be motivation (and compensation) enough, for moiself – who would know that I had, once again, written something “really clever and funny.”

 

 

In her eyes, moiself  was a “natural” writer.  I’d just sit my witty ass down and the work would flow from my pen to paper. She did not acknowledge the time and effort it might take, and never mind that we were a couple of days from final exams.

Gently but firmly. I declined her brazen solicitation honorable request, in what turned out to be good practice for me, being the first of many such declinations.

Now, I *liked* this person.  She was the first of many people (friends; family; co-workers) over the years who, although they seemed to acknowledge my skills as a writer enough to covet those skills for a project of *theirs,*  did not value those skills enough to offer to compensate me for my work – nor even acknowledge that writing is, in fact, work.  It’s “work” enough that they did not want to do the project themselves or take the time  to acquire and hone the ability to do so, or were intimidated by it (“I just can’t write/I’ve never been able to write, like you can so easily.“)

 

)

 

Y’all probably wouldn’t think of asking your son’s soccer coach, who is a podiatrist, to fix your bunions for free (“I thought it might be fun for you – it’d be easier than our other surgeries, and you’re so good at it”), or try to wrangle a free housecleaning from your neighbor who works for Merry Maids.  But there’s something about knowing that someone works in an “artistic” field which brings out the mooch in otherwise well-mannered people.

Over the years, I’ve compared such stories with other writers (and artist friends).  We’ve come to the conclusion that because writing – particularly fiction writing, but not exclusively   [3] – is seen as one of the arts, and since “art” is perfunctorily lauded yet (the work behind the art) not respected financially, non-artists believe that any time a writer or artist is solicited for their work they should consider it (shudder) an honor to be asked.  Or, even more dreadfully, you get the exposure thing:

“We can’t offer payment, but you’ll get exposure –
we’ll make sure everyone knows it’s your work!”    [4]

 

 

 Noone understands better than Matthew Inman, aka, the mind behind The Oatmeal.

 

It doesn’t even matter to these freeloaders favor-askers, when you protest that you are a writer of fiction, not  ______ (grant proposals/term papers/college essays/office brochures – whatever their project).  In their (non-professional writer) eyes, you can whip up anything, at any time, right? 

 

How I’ve begun every story ever.

 

Moiself, when asked to advise upcoming/wanna be writers, has alerted them to this reality: Your writing and editing skills will be coveted by others, enough that they will ask you to do work  *for* them, yet not enough to be compensated *by* them.   

I can count on the fingers of one hand – if that hand had lost three fingers in a tragic panini press accident – the number of times someone has asked for my writing skills AND let me know the payment they would offer and/or asked what I would charge for the project they had in mind.  In all other cases, I quickly discovered the Favor Asker’s assumption was that I would work for free… (for them; for the honor of being asked; for “the exposure….” y’all get the drill by now).

 

 

What prompted this screed trip down Memory Lane is a recent Carolyn Hax column.  Carolyn   [5]  is the dean and queen of advice columnists, IMO – she could claim those titles from her writing ability alone, but she’s also keenly alert, has a remarkable sense of perspective balanced with compassion, and is excellent at recognizing and pointing out the problems behind the problems advice seekers *think* they are asking her about.

Moiself cringed with weary recognition to read this letter…then my spine straightened in right-on! triumph at Carolyn’s response.

Dear Carolyn: I am a writer by profession — meaning I get paid to do what I do. I am constantly asked to edit someone’s community newsletter, write something about someone’s kid who plays lacrosse to send to college coaches, or write someone’s family Christmas letter. (I hate those things, but anyway.)

When I quote my hourly rate, I get the hurt look and, “Oh, I thought you’d just do it for me as a friend,” or — in the case of a newsletter — “Oh, I just thought it would be fun for you; it is a good cause and probably would not take much time.”

I keep quoting the hourly rate but it is the sad and hurt reactions that bother me. How to draw the line so that people do not see it as a rejection? I have even tried a slightly discounted friends-and-family rate but the problem persists.— Writer

Writer: The sad and hurt reactions bother me, too, but not for the same reason.

These people have just been reminded they’re asking you to work for free, and they think “no” is the wrong answer? Come on, people.

Go ask for free haircuts, housecleaning and brain surgery, and get back to me.

Or don’t. As a society, we’re not exactly at peak manners right now.

Your answer is fine; you are reasonably treating them as polite people looking to hire you for skilled work, and you’re responding accordingly. The burden of their cheek is on them.

But if these exchanges gnaw at you, then, sure, shift your answer a bit: “Thanks for asking. Are you offering a job or asking a favor?” So when they say, “Favor” — blowing through the sawhorse of a hint you just dragged across that road — you can say, kindly, “I’m sorry — if I agreed to those, then that’s all I’d ever do.”

*   *   *

Department Of Oh Yeah, There’s That Holiday Next Week

Ah, yes, and what to cook, which can test the patience of even the most ardent welcomer-of-Thanksgiving.  I’ve been reading that this feeling is common to many if not all contemporary hosts – not  just us plant-based eaters – as we keep in mind our guests’ various dietary preferences, allergies, likes and loathings….

 

 

*   *   *

*   *   *

From Ken Jennings, the man most people know as the winning-est Jeopardy contestant ever, has written several books on humor…the very idea of which, for some reason seems funny in and of itself, to moiself.   I’m currently reading his book Planet Funny: How Comedy Took Over Our Culture.  In the chapter dealing with the history of satire, snark, and ironic detachment (SSI)– specifically the rise, use, and overuse of that and in standup comedy, television shows and other entertainment – and even in protest movements against the government authoritarianism – Jennings has a segment titled “Outgrowing Snark.”  For a lifelong practitioner of SSI,  moiself  found his observations to be both obvious and insightful (my emphases).

Irony as a literary device, as something to observe, is fine. But as a way to live your life? Cloaking every thought, word, action with the implication that you might not mean any of it? That’s a pathology.

Unless ironic distance is the only way to keep government authorities off your back, it shouldn’t be the only pitch in your repertoire. The occasional curveball is only effective if you can throw a fastball and a changeup as well. “A Modest Proposal”    [6] is funny and effective, but let’s not pretend it accomplishes all the same things that a heartfelt plea for starving children would. You don’t always get to the same place by taking the opposite route.

In an age of irony, it will always be a temptation to use it as a cop-out, because it’s easier to smirk at things than solve them.

( excerpt from Planet Funny: How Comedy Took Over Our Culture,
Chapter 7: “Bon Jovi, come Home.”)

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Identifying With A Former Beatle

This something-I-never-thought-I’d-do moment came when I was listening to a recent Fresh Air interview with Paul McCartney.  Sir Paul is making the interview rounds, plugging his  two recent projects: the upcoming release of the Peter Jackson-directed documentary, The Beatles: Get Back, and the book The Lyrics .[7]  

 

 

As McCartney reminisced with FA host Terry Gross, who played clips from some of the Beatles’ well-known songs, I was once again reminded of, inarguably, [8]  the best – as in, the most sheerly unadulteratedly exuberant – opening to a rock n’ roll song ever: McCartney’s count off that begins I Saw Her Standing There.

 

 

Once again, I digress.  Here’s where the identification-with-a-former-Beatle comes in.  Terry Gross was asking McCartney about his age (he’ll be 80 next June), something he says he finds rather astonishing, considering how he feels:

“Hey – I can’t believe I’m a *grandparent.* I mean, like… I’m 25 years old, actually. I just look older and… I think my birth certificate was falsified.”

Bingo.  I have that feeling all the time, as though my age-on-paper has nothing to do with me.  In so many ways, I still “feel” like I’m twenty-five.  I’ve a way to go before I get to Sir Paul’s age, although the “facts” (and my mirror) remind me that I’m most definitely not 25…or even 45, or even….

 

 

*   *   *

PunZ For The Day
Beatles Edition

I’m obsessed with buying old Beatles albums.  My friends say I need help, but
I’ve already got that one.

How did the Beatles’ new skillet introduce itself to them?
“I am the egg pan.”

Did you hear that it’s tricky selling Beatles albums in some Scandinavian countries?
Apparently, when asked if they’d buy any of the group’s albums, a Swede wouldn’t.
But, a Norwegian would.

What did the Beatles eat when they were in India?
Naan, naan, naan, naanaanaanaan….

 

I’d rather poke my bleedin’ eye out than listen to anymore of this.

 

*   *   *

May you never ask artists to work for free;
May you solve as many problems as you smirk at;
May you get up and dance when you hear, One-two-three-FAH!;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] I’m not sure that there are any – hey, you emoji artists, get to it please. And we’ll expect you to do it gratis.

[2] Titled, “Parnal Knowledge.” Yeah, I know.  But what many don’t know is that title was suggested by my paper’s editor, who was also my friend, and who was known for being more…genteel, shall we say, than moiself, which led many mutual acquaintances to refuse to believe that the column’s name was her idea.

[3] I know of writers specializing in journalism and other non-fiction/expository writing who’ve had the same experiences.

[4] Except for that classmate I mentioned – when I questioned her further I found out she’d intended to read what I’d (might have) written, as if it were her own work – with no attribution for moiself   (“I’ll tell someone, if they ask,” she said).

[5] Moiself  likes to think that, had we met, we’d be on a first name basis.

[6] Arguably Irish writer Jonathan Swift’s best known work, “A Modest Proposal” (originally published anonymously in the early 1700s)  was a satirical essay which viciously commented on England’s exploitation of Ireland by using the reasonable tones of an economic treatise to proposes that Ireland could ease poverty by butchering the children of the Irish poor and selling them as food to their wealthy English landlords.

[7] A copy of which now sits on my office desk.

[8] As in, if you’re going to argue with moiself about this, just don’t.

The Holiday War I’m (Still) Not Declaring

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Department Of Here They Come

Halloween (aka All Hallow’s Eve); Samhain; All Saint’s Day; El Dia de los Muertos; Mischief Night, Diwali

In the USA and in northern hemisphere countries around the world, there are multiple holidays with a relationship to “our” Halloween.  The relationship is as per the time of year and/or the theme, underlying beliefs, customs or origins of the various celebrations.

Many of these holidays originated as dual celebrations, acknowledgments of times of both death and rebirth, as celebrants marked the end of the harvest season and acknowledged the cold, dark winter to come.

And after Halloween, the holiday season really gets going.

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Department Of Life Is Tough But It’s Even Tougher If You’re Stupid
Chapter 22467 in a (never-ending) series

“The idea of a “War on Christmas” has turned things like holiday greetings and decorations into potentially divisive political statements. People who believe Christmas is under attack point to inclusive phrases like “Happy Holidays” as (liberal) insults to Christianity….

Christmas is a federal holiday celebrated widely by the country’s Christian majority. So where did the idea that it is threatened come from?

The most organized attack on Christmas came from the Puritans, who banned celebrations of the holiday in the 17th century because it did not accord with their interpretation of the Bible….”

(“How the ‘War on Christmas’ Controversy Was Created,” NY Times, 12-19-16)

 

 

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Department Of If Something Seems Familiar, That’s Because It’s Time For
My Annual Holiday Traditions Explained ® Post

What do vegetarians, vegans, non-meat and/or plant-based eaters
do on Thanksgiving?
( Other than, according to your Aunt Erva, RUIN  IT  FOR  EVERYONE  ELSE.   [1]  )

The above question is an existential dilemma worthy of Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher, who wrote eloquent discourses on the subjective and objective truths one must juggle when choosing between a cinnamon roll and a chocolate swirl.   [2]

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of I’ll Take Those Segues Where I Can Find Them

Four weeks from today will be the day after feasting, for many of us. Then, just when you’re recovering from the last leftover turkey sandwich/quiche/casserole/enchilada-induced salmonella crisis and really, really need to get outside for some fresh air, here comes the Yule season. You dare not even venture to the mall, lest your eardrums be assaulted from all sides by Have a Holly Jolly Christmas, Feliz Navidad, ad nauseum.

This observation provides a convenient segue to my annual, sincere, family-friendly,  [3]

Heathens Declare War On Christmas © post.

 

 

As to those Henny Penny/Chicken Little hysterics proclaiming a so-called “war” on Christmas, a rational person can only assume that they are not LGBTQ, or Jewish or a member of another minority religion, or an ethnic minority – in other words, they’ve never experienced actual bigotry (or actual combat). If they had, it’s likely they would not have trivialized discrimination (or war) with their whining.

The usage of “Happy Holidays” as an “attack on Christianity” is an invention of right-wing radio talk show hosts.  Happy Holidays is nothing more nor less than an encompassing shorthand greeting – an acknowledgement of the incredible number of celebratory days, religious and otherwise, which in the U.S. is considered to start in October with Halloween and November with Thanksgiving (although our Canadian neighbors and friends celebrate their Thanksgiving in October) and extends into and through January, with the various New Year’s celebrations.

It is worthwhile to note that while many if not most Americans, Christian or not, celebrate Christmas, there are also some Christians who, on their own or as part of their denomination’s practice or decree (e.g., Jehovah’s Witnesses and The Worldwide Church of God), do not celebrate Christmas   [4]   (nor did our much-ballyhooed forebears, the Pilgrims).  Also, the various Orthodox Christians use calendars which differ from most Protestant and Catholic calendars (a biggie for them at this time of the year is the Nativity of Christ, which occurs on or around January 7).

Happy Holidays — it’s plural, and for good reason.  It denotes the many celebrations that happen during these months.  People in the northern hemisphere countries, from South Americans and Egyptians to the Celts and Norskis, have marked the Winter Solstice for thousands of years, and many still do.  And some Americans, including our friends, neighbors and co-workers, celebrate holidays that although unconnected with the winter solstice occur near it, such as Ramadan, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa.

 

In 2022 the Chinese (lunar) New Year begins on Feb. 1

 

Most folks are familiar with the “biggies”- Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day. But don’t forget the following holidays, many of which we’ve learned about (or celebrated with) via our children’s teachers and fellow students, and our neighbors and co-workers.

* The Birth of the Prophet (Nov. 12) and Day of the Covenant (Nov. 26) are both Baha’i holy days  (our family has had Baha’i teachers and childcare providers and neighbors).

* St. Nicholas Day (Dec. 6)

* Bodhi Day.  Our Buddhist friends and neighbors celebrate Bodhi Day on December 8 (or on the Sunday immediately preceding).

* Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Dec 12)

* St. Lucia Day (Dec. 13) Our Swedish neighbors and friends celebrate St. Lucia Day, as did Belle’s and K’s school, when they were in grade school (Belle, as the oldest 3rd grade girl, got to play St. Lucia).

* Bill of Rights Day (Dec 15) and Forefather’s Day (Dec 21)

* Pancha Ganapati Festival (one of the most important Hindu festivals, Dec. 21st through the 25th,  celebrated by many of MH’s coworkers)

* The Winter Solstice (varies, Dec.  21 or 22)

* Little Christmas Eve (Dec.  23) Celebrated by my family, supposedly a custom of the small Norwegian village of my paternal grandfather’s ancestors.

* Boxing Day (Dec. 26), celebrated by our Canadian-American and British-American neighbors and friends.

*Ramadan and/or Eid, the Islamic New Year (as Islam uses a lunar calendar the dates of their holidays varies, but these holidays are usually November-December)

* The Chinese New Year.  I always look forward to wishing my sister-in-law, a naturalized American citizen who is Cantonese by birth, a Gung Hay Fat Choy.  (The Chinese Lunar calendar is the longest chronological record in history, dating from 2600 BCE.  The New Year is celebrated on second new moon after the winter solstice, and so can occur in January or February).

That is not a complete list. See why it’s easier to say, “Happy Holidays?”

The USA is one of the most religiously diverse nations in the world.  To insist on using the term “Merry Christmas” as the all-encompassing seasonal greeting could be seen as an attack on the religious beliefs of all of the Americans who celebrate the other holiday and festivals.  At the least, it denotes the users’ ignorance of their fellow citizens’ beliefs and practices.

 

 

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Department Of Did You Know…

…that the Reverend Increase Mather of Boston observed in 1687 that, “the early Christians who first observed the Nativity on December 25 did not do so thinking that Christ was born in that Month, but because the Heathens’ Saturnalia was at that time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those Pagan Holidays metamorphosed into Christian ones.”   [5]

Because of its known pagan origins, Christmas was banned by the Puritans, and its observance was illegal in Massachusetts until 1681.   [6]

 

 

“Do you celebrate Christmas?”

We Heretics/apostates non-Christians Happy Heathens often hear this question at this time of year.  The inquiry is sometimes presented in ways that imply our celebration (or even acknowledgement) of Christmas is hypocritical.  This implication is the epitome of cheek, when you consider the fact that it is the early Christians who stole a festival from our humanist (pagan) forebears, and not the other way around.

Who doesn’t like a party, for any reason? And we who are religion-free don’t mind sharing seasonal celebrations with religious folk – sans the superstition and government/church mumbo-jumbo –  as long as they accept the fact that the ways we all celebrate this “festive season” predate Christianity by hundreds of years.

 

 

Early Roman Catholic missionaries tried to convert northern Europeans to the RC brand of Christianity, and part of the conversion process was to alter existing religious festivals. The indigenous folk, whom the RC church labeled “barbarians,” quickly discovered that when it came to dealing with missionaries, resistance is futile. The pagans intuitively grasped the concept of natural selection and converted to Christianity to avoid the price (persecution, torture, execution) of staying true to their original beliefs.  But they refused to totally relinquish their traditional celebrations, and so the church, eventually and effectively, simply renamed most of them.    [7]

Pagan practices were given a Christian meaning to wipe out “heathen” revelry.  This was made official church policy in 601 A.D., when Pope Gregory the First issued the now infamous edict to his missionaries regarding the traditions of the peoples they wanted to convert. Rather than try to banish native customs and beliefs, missionaries were directed to assimilate them. You find a group of people decorating and/or worshiping a tree? Don’t chop it down or burn it; rather, bless it in the name of the Church.  Allow its continued worship, only tell the people that, instead of celebrating the return of the sun-god in the spring, they are now worshiping the rising from the dead of the Son of God.

( Easter is the one/odd exception, where a pagan celebration was adapted by Christians without a name change. Easter is a word found nowhere in the Bible. It comes from the many variants (Eostra, Ester, Eastra, Eastur….) of a Roman deity, goddess of the dawn “Eos” or “Easter,” whose festival was in the Spring.)

The fir boughs and wreaths, the Yule log, plum pudding, gift exchanges, the feasting, the holly and the ivy and the evergreen tree….It is hard to think of a “Christmas” tradition that does not originate from Teutonic (German), Viking, Celtic and Druid paganism.   [8]   A celebration in the depths of winter – at the time when, to those living in the Northern Hemisphere, the sun appears to stop its southerly descent before gradually ascending north – is a natural instinct. For thousands of years our Northern Hemisphere ancestors greeted the “reason for the season” – the winter solstice – with festivals of light and gift exchanges and parties.  The Winter Solstice was noted and celebrated long before the Roman Jesus groupies pinched the party.

But, isn’t “Jesus is the reason for the season”?

The reason for the season?  Cool story, bro.  Since you asked; actually, axial tilt is the reason for the season.  For *all* seasons.

 

 

And Woden is the reason the middle of the week is named Wednesday.   [9]   My calling Wednesday “Wednesday” doesn’t mean I celebrate, worship, or “believe in” Woden.  I don’t insist on renaming either Christmas, or Wednesday.

 

“Now, go fetch me the brazen little sheisskopfs who took the Woden out of Woden’s Day!”

 

The Winter Solstice is the day with the shortest amount of sunlight, and the longest night. In the northern hemisphere it falls on what we now mark as December 21 or 22.  However, it took place on December 25th at the time when the Julian calendar was used.   [10]   The early Romans celebrated the Saturnalia on the Solstice, holding days of feasting and gift exchanges in honor of their god Saturn. (Other major deities whose birthdays were celebrated on or about the week of December 25   [11]   included Horis, Huitzilopochtli, Isis, Mithras, Marduk, Osiris, Serapis and Sol.)  The Celebration of the Saturnalia was too popular with the Roman pagans for the new Christian church to outlaw it, so the new church renamed the day and reassigned meanings to the traditions.   [12]

In other words, why are some folk concerned with “keeping the Christ in Christmas”   [13]  when we should be keeping the Saturn in Saturnalia?

 

 

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Punz For The Day
The Approaching Holiday Season Edition

What is a jack-o’-lantern’s favorite literature genre?
Pulp fiction.

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

My cousin is terrified by all of the St. Nicholas displays at the shopping mall.
You might say she’s Claustrophobic.

 

I told you not to encourage her.

*   *   *

Whatever your favorite seasonal celebrations may be, moiself  wishes you all the best.

May you have the occasion to (with good humor) ruin it for everyone else;
May you find it within yourself to ignore the Black Friday mindset;
May you remember to keep the Saturn in Saturnalia;
…and may the fruitcake-free hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] You have an Aunt Erva, somewhere.  We all do.

[2] Damn right I’m proud of that one.

[3] Well, yeah, as compared to the usual shit I write.

[4] And a grade school friend of mine, whose family was Jehovah’s Witnesses, considered being told, “Merry Christmas” to be an attack on *her* beliefs.

[5]Increase Mather, A Testimony against Several Prophane and Superstitious Customs, Now Practiced by Some in New England” (London, 1687).  See also Stephen Nissenbaum, The Battle for Christmas: A Cultural History of America’s Most Cherished Holiday,” New York: Vintage Books, 1997.

[6] Stephen Nissenbaum, “The Battle for Christmas: A Cultural History of America’s Most Cherished Holiday.”

[7]Paganism in Christianity.”

[8]  “Learn not the way of the heathen…their customs are vain, for one cuts a tree out of the forest…they deck it with silver and gold…” Jeremiah 10:2-5

[9] Wednesday comes from the Old English Wōdnesdæg, the day of the Germanic god Wodan (aka Odin, highest god in Norse mythology and a big cheese god of the Anglo-Saxons until the seventh century.)

[10] The Julian calendar, adopted by Julius Caesar ~ 46 B.C.E., was off by 11 min/year, and when the Gregorian calendar was established by Pope – wait for it – Gregory,  the solstice was established on 12/22.

[11] The Winter Solstice and the Origins of Christmas, Lee Carter.

[12] In 601 A.D., Pope Gregory I issued a now famous edict to his missionaries regarding wooing potential converts: don’t banish peoples’ customs, incorporate them. If the locals venerate a tree, don’t cut it down; rather, consecrate the tree to JC and allow its continued worship

[13] And nothing in the various conflicting biblical references to the birth of JC has the nativity occurring in wintertime.

The Book I’m Not Recommending To Everyone

Comments Off on The Book I’m Not Recommending To Everyone

What could be of the most help to you in a dangerous situation – pepper spray?  Martial arts proficiency? A concealed weapon permit?

Awareness is the most important aspect of self-defense.

How to recognize and harness our body’s intuition for danger – a sense we evolved to survive – is the subject of the book I am recommending to almost everybody.  Almost, because the book might be anxiety activating for people who’ve had recent experience with violent crimes.  Thus, my trigger warning.

 

 

But for the Almost Everybody Else, ®  I highly recommend the book moiself  finally got around to reading.

For years I’ve run across references and referrals to Gavin de Becker‘s The Gift of Fear: And Other Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence.  I’ve lost count of how many times various advice columnists, and journalists covering violent crimes, have recommended or cited it.  The book even got a mention in actor/comic/writer/producer Amy Poehler’s delightful 2014 memoir.  I can’t recall the exact context; I believe it had something to do with how when a woman answers a man’s question or request with “no” – in situations ranging from business negotiations to dating – the guy persists, as if she hadn’t answered him, and attempts to elicit the response he wants instead (read: he bullies and/or manipulates you):

“Gavin de Becker talks about this in his wonderful book The Gift Of Fear.
He talks about how the word ‘no’ should be the ‘end of discussion, not the beginning of a negotiation. ‘ ”
(Any Poehler, Yes Please )

 

 

Last week I read a letter from yet another advice seeker, writing to a columnist about a personal relationship problem, and asking something along the lines of, “I am very concerned…but am I overreacting?” Part of the advice the columnist gave was to trust your own instincts, and to learn how and why to do so, read The Gift of Fear.

No one in my life is threatening or gaslighting me; I haven’t been in a workplace shooting or walked into a 7-11 just as it is about to be robbed. However, I have been in dicey situations in the past, wherein trusting my gut reaction ( “something’s really wrong here” ) and paying attention kept me safe.  Statistically, as a human,   [1]   I am likely to encounter such situations again, be they personal (targeted and hassled by a stranger on public transit) or coincidental (walking into a mini-mart just as a robbery is about to take place).  So, I let this other person’s question be my own “trigger” for reading The Gift of Fear. And now,  I’m recommending it to *everybody.*   [2]  

 

 

Gavin de Becker is an American author and specialist in security issues and threat assessment.  He founded a private security firm and works as a consultant to everyone from governments, large corporations, public figures, and private individuals.  He was instrumental in developing the MOSAIC threat assessment systems, which evaluates threats in a variety of situations (e.g., threats in the workplace; threats by students against other students and/or school staff; threats against judges and other judicial officials; threats made to celebrities and public officials; stalking and domestic abuse).

The premise of GdB’s TGOF is that our (unfortunately, often discounted) intuition is a far better judge than our logical mind when it comes to recognizing and reacting to – and learning to anticipate and escape from as much as possible – dangerous situations.  Simply put, his aim is to teach you how to avoid people who will do you harm.

This intro is from the book’s blurb on Amazon (my emphasis):

True fear is a gift.
Unwarranted fear is a curse.
Learn how to tell the difference.

A date won’t take “no” for an answer. The new nanny gives a mother an uneasy feeling. A stranger in a deserted parking lot offers unsolicited help. The threat of violence surrounds us every day. But we can protect ourselves, by learning to trust—and act on—our gut instincts.

…this empowering book…shows you how to spot even subtle signs of danger—before it’s too late. Shattering the myth that most violent acts are unpredictable, de Becker…offers specific ways to protect yourself and those you love, including…how to act when approached by a stranger…when you should fear someone close to you…what to do if you are being stalked…how to uncover the source of anonymous threats or phone calls…and more. Learn to spot the danger signals others miss.

The world we live in can be dangerous, especially for women, whom, TGOF claims, evolved a higher sensitivity toward intuition – that is, picking up nonverbal cues –  than men. That skill was critical for our female homo sapiens ancestors to survive in a world where they were generally smaller and less muscular than men: they needed to quickly detect who around them was “safe” and who was a threat (to them, and to their children).

 

 

“It may be hard to accept its importance, because intuition is usually looked upon by us thoughtful Western beings with contempt.  It is often described as emotional, unreasonable, or inexplicable.  Husbands chide their wives about ‘feminine intuition’ and don’t take it seriously.  If intuition is used by a women to explain some choice she made or a concern she has, men roll their eyes and write it off…..
Americans worship logic, even when it’s wrong,
and deny intuition, even when it’s right….

Men, of course, have their own version of intuition –  not so light and inconsequential, they tell themselves, as that feminine stuff. Theirs is more viscerally named a ‘gut feeling,’ but it isn’t just a feeling. It (intuition; gut feeling) is a process more extraordinary and ultimately more logical in the natural order than the most fantastic computer calculation. It is our most complex cognitive process and at the same time the simplest.”
( TGOF Chapter 1: In The Presence of Danger )

“Intuition” or “a gut feeling” is your body’s and mind’s response to thousands of years evolution, of picking up on cues which alert you that something’s off.  GdB offers case studies of violent crimes, going through a step-by-step dissection of the situation with the survivors who said, regarding their feeling of impending doom, “I don’t know where it came from/it came from out of the blue.”  By asking specific questions, GdB helped them to see that their feeling of fear didn’t just come out of the blue; rather, their minds noticed an A-B-C-D list of aberrant or “off” behaviors, which their guts put together.

The Gift of Fear aims to teach you to listen to your instincts and heed them. Trust your gut; don’t suppress your intuition.  Don’t worry about hurting some stranger’s feelings or “being judgmental;” don’t endanger yourself to “be polite” – all of which are particular traps for women, who are socialized to “be nice” and “don’t make a fuss.”

Although many of the incidents recounted in TGOF are hair-raising, the book’s intent is not to scare you.  The message is:  Don’t be afraid; do be *aware.*

 

 

It’s not that GdB advises readers what clothing to wear or where not to go (although he cites taking common sense precautions, as in, should the businessman walking alone late at night through a dicey neighborhood known for strong arm robberies really be flashing his expensive Rolex?).  Rather, he presents ways where we can all learn to pay attention to the things we should be noticing, and offers strategies as to how we can choose to react.  His advice is not earth-shatteringly new, but it’s presented more succinctly and effectively than I recall seeing elsewhere.

So yeah, I really liked TGOF, even as moiself  recognizes the book’s knotty areas.

TGOF Problematical Issues:

* There is some dated material (including more than one mention of pay phones !?!).

* Some of his ideas may seem counter-intuitive and are likely controversial.  For example, he believes that not only do Protective [aka Restraining] Orders not help in most domestic violence/stalking situations, they are frequently the catalyst for escalating violence from the offender (GdB cites law enforcement data to back his opinion.)

* Much of the advice given is repetitive.  Seeing as how we’ve been trained to distrust or ignore our intuition, this is why (I think) he keeps repeating the salient points.

 

 

* A gender-related issue.  GdB is a strong ally for women – so much so that he has received some miffed feedback from men when he points out the prevalence of male violence.   [3]  Still, some of GdB’s advice re domestic violence situations might be taken as very subtle victim-blaming, even as he does acknowledge the reasons why a woman might not (be able to) choose to leave a violent home.

This is a judgement I moiself  struggle with. I am a strong believer in the wisdom behind the adage, “Fool me once; shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”  If I stay after a first violent encounter, am I not resigning myself to being the victim again?  GbD says as much.

However, he is also a long-time advocate for women, and in the partner-abuse cases he cites (the book is filled with case stories of and interviews with crime survivors), I truly believe his experience drives what could initially be seen as harsh – but is in fact is very good and even life-saving – advice.  He proceeds from the premise that all people, even abused women, are not just flotsam, and can be empowered:

“Though leaving is not an option that seems available to many battered women, I believe that the first time a woman is hit, she is a victim and the second time, she is a volunteer.
Invariably, after a television interview or speech in which I say this, I hear from people who feel I don’t understand the dynamic of battery, that I don’t understand the ‘syndrome.’ In fact, I have a deep and personal understanding of the syndrome,   [4]    but I never pass up an opportunity to make clear that staying is a choice.
Of those who argue that it isn’t, I ask: Is it a choice when a woman finally does leave, or is there some syndrome to explain leaving as if it too is involuntary? I believe it is critical for a women to view staying as a choice, for only then can leaving be viewed as a choice and an option.
( TGOF Chapter 10: Intimate Enemies [domestic violence].
GdB emphasis, my emphases )

 

 

Gdb also decries the disturbing scenarios we have about romance.  Our culture’s myths, literature, and stories told by TV shows and movies, have devolved into a formula (into a drug, I’d go so far to call it), which is marketed to both women and men as romantic. In this formula, a male’s aggressive behavior and stalking – so creepily and mistakenly labeled as “persistence” –  is rewarded and even celebrated:

“This Hollywood formula could be called Boy Wants Girl, Girl Doesn’t Want Boy, Boy Harasses Girl, Boy Gets Girl.

Many movies teach that if you just stay with it, even if you offend her, even if she says she wants nothing to do with you, even if you’ve treated her like trash (and sometimes because you’ve treated her like trash), you’ll get the girl…..

There’s a lesson in real-life stalking cases that young women can benefit from learning: persistence only proves persistence – it does not prove love.
The fact that a romantic pursuer is relentless doesn’t mean you are special – it means he is troubled.”

 ( TGOF Chapter 11: “I Was Trying to Let Him Down Easy” [Date stalking/violence] )

 

“This isn’t a movie; no means no.”

 

GdB tells many stories in TGOF, involving both institutions and individuals, wherein warning signs (re violence-prone people) were ignored, and tragedies followed.  Some of the stories can be hard to contemplate.  But, as the author emphasizes repeatedly, his aim is not to frighten, but to *enlighten.*  And he acknowledges that in almost all cases, from a manager ignoring signs that a worker was intent on shooting his officemates to an aggressive suitor who becomes a wife-beating husband,

“…the people involved….were doing the best they could with the tools they had at the time.  If they’d had the knowledge you (readers of the book) now have, I believe they’d have made different choices….
my observations are not about blame, but about education.”   [5]

 

 

*   *   *

Last Sunday eve, when I was just a few chapters into the book, son K joined MH and I for dinner.  I mentioned that moiself  was reading TGOF and could tell that I would likely be recommending it to all. We had interesting dinner table conversation centered around the most striking of what I consider to be the book’s problematic areas, which is:

* We (Americans) have a racially-directed fear response. How are we supposed to tell the difference between our systemic, racist social conditioning and our true, useful intuition?

Excuze-moi, but some truthfulness in narration is called for. We *could* have had an interesting conversation about those issues.  Ahem.  I began to relay GdB’s points about paying attention to fear and intuition, and in their zeal to point out something they’d both simultaneously thought of, MH and K interrupted me. They did not wait to see if moiself  was going to bring up the problem of instinct being mistaken for internalized racism (I was).  They also didn’t seem to notice that I had snapped at them (“Let me finish!”) before they astutely (in their minds) pointed out that problem with the gut-feeling-heeding.  It wasn’t exactly mansplaining;  it was…manterrupting?

 

 

Nevertheless….

What about the fact that our instincts and gut reactions might, in some cases, be based in prejudice and stereotypes?  What about the fact that police officers (of any background) often react to a gut feeling which tells them that a black man, no matter what he is doing ( just walking down the street or driving a car, FFS! ) is inherently more dangerous than a white man?

I told my menfolk that as I was reading the book moiself  too wondered about the gut feeling-racism issue.  Seeing as how I was just into the first few chapters, I was expecting GdB to address the issue later on.

Except that, he didn’t.

 

 

Study after study has shown that White Americans (both men and women) experience a gut fear response to the sight of Black men in certain situations. As a Criminal Justice major back in the day,  [6]  I encountered the statistics that African-American men commit more violent crime than White American men –  BUT – those statistics also showed that those same violent crimes are overwhelmingly directed at and experienced by other Black men, and that most violent crime is intra-, not inter-, racial.

I wasn’t sure if those statistics still held true.    [7]   Perhaps GdB can be excused for not addressing “race” on that basis: he was aware of the stats when he wrote the book, and since most violent acts are perpetrated by members of the same ethnic group as their victims, identifying a victim’s and/or perpetrator’s ethnicity was, in his mind, superfluous.

Or, perhaps I’m trying to rationalize GdB’s neglect of this issue and/or explain it to myself, other than to say that GdB himself just doesn’t know how to resolve the prejudice/instinct dilemma.  Regardless of why he didn’t do so, the two-ton, rainbow-colored, gender-inclusive elephant in the room is that most of us have a racially-motivated fear response. It would do us well to recognize that, when it comes to trusting our instincts. 

Having said that….in the heat of the moment, I’m likely to trust my instincts (this guy is giving off creepy vibes) regardless of skin color, and err on the side of offending someone/being called bigoted or other names.  Hey, better alive and insulted than dead but “woke.”  Still, it’s a crappy dilemma, a problem for which I’ve yet to read a good solution.  Someone much smarter and wiser than moiself  needs to figure out this shit.

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Violent Crime Edition

Uh…maybe something totally unrelated is called for, to lighten this up.
Make that, Punz For The Day, Kitties and Pirates Edition

What’s a cat’s favorite color?
Purrple.

Why don’t pirates need to go on vacation?
They get all the arrr and arrr they need at work.

Why don’t felines do internet shopping?
They prefer catalogues.

What is a one-legged pirate’s favorite  restaurant?
IHOP.

 

Shiver me tim-purrs…and please don’t encourage her.

*   *   *

May you trust your gut feelings;
May you educate your mind and gut so that your instincts are trustworthy;
May you err on the side of keeping yourself from harm;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] And particularly, as a human *woman.*

[2] Keeping in mind your own capacity for being exposed to some frightening stories. And sorry for the crappy book jacket picture.

[3] Sorry, dudes, but the guy has the sad statistics on his side.

[4] de Becker survived a childhood which was filled with domestic abuse.  His unstable mother was abused by multiple husbands; she in turn threatened and abused her son, tried to shoot at least one of her abusive partners, and also turned the gun on her son.  GdB’s survival, due in part to the kind adults he credited with taking interest in and mentoring him, led to his interest in the field of recognizing threats and preventing violence.

[5] Chapter 9: “Occupational Hazards (Violence in the workplace).”

[6] A pre-law major who later decided against law school.  You’re welcome.

[7] I looked ’em up, and they do, as per the latest Department of Justice figures, compiled by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting and reported here.

The Movie I’m Not Seeing

Comments Off on The Movie I’m Not Seeing

Department Of How Did This Happen?

It’s October, y’all!

( design from The Brights logo )

*   *   *

Department Of A Reason To Rejoice:

Mary Roach has another book out.

 

 

“Join ‘America’s funniest science writer’…on an irresistible investigation into the unpredictable world where wildlife and humans meet.
What’s to be done about a jaywalking moose? A bear caught breaking and entering? A murderous tree?…. as New York Times best-selling author Mary Roach discovers, the answers are best found…in the curious science of human-wildlife conflict, a discipline at the crossroads of human behavior and wildlife biology.”
(excerpts from book blurb for “Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law” )

I just finished Fuzz, and now an armed with a plethora of animal-human encounter trivia with which to annoy entertain friends and family.  Previous books by Roach (which I have read and highly recommend) include

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers;

Gulp: Adventures On The Alimentary Canal;

Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife;

Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex;

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void.   [1]

The thing about Roach: not only is her writing informative, amusing and accessible, even her footnotes are thought-provokingly droll.  One of my favorites in Fuzz is re “Compound W,” which was a code name used for ricin   [2]  during WWII by the National Defense Research Committee, which was doing experiments in a quest for new rat poisons.  [3] 

“Did the makers of the wart-removal product Compound W realize this when they named their product? I don’t know, because Prestige Brands, which owns Compound W, doesn’t return calls, their online media query form is a dead-end, and they’re not on Twitter.
But while we’re on the topic of inappropriate names, let’s consider “Prestige Brands.”  Because here are some more of their prestige brands: Fleet enemas, Nix for lice, Beano for flatulence, URISTAT, Nōstrilla decongestant, Summer’s Eve douche, Boil-Ease, Efferdent denture cleaner, and Boudreaux’s Butt Paste.”
(footnote from Chapter 8, “The Terror Beans: The Legume as Accomplice To Murder,”
( Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law )

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Can You Guess Who Is The Diplomat In My Family?

Last week a cousin of MH’s sent an email to MH’s extended family, to suss out interest in a family reunion the cousin is organizing for Spring 2022.  MH’s cousin wrote that recipients of the email should feel free to ask questions, make comments, etc.

This cousin is a Good Person. ® The location for the reunion he’s planning is his town of residence, a city widely known as the most liberal in the state.  However, the state is Texass.  Thanks in part to my recent blog post, y’all know how moiself  feels about that.

MH’s and my reactions were similar.  Here is mine, which I shared only with MH:

I will attend nothing held in Texas….
Please feel free to pass that along – even the more liberal residents in Austin need to know what Texas voter suppression and anti-reproductive choice policies are costing them (yeah, like our family not coming is a *big* loss to their tourism, but still….).

I also suggested to MH that, since the reunion organizer requested feedback, MH share his opinion.  And he did, succinctly and eloquently:

This is probably not what you meant when you included the word “comment,” but while I would enjoy seeing all of you, I’m currently not of a mind to spend my time or money in Texas.
I know that Governor Abbott and the state legislators won’t care that I find their actions repugnant enough to avoid the state… but I will.

Miss Tammy Wynette her-own-self couldn’t have been prouder of her man than I was of MH, when I read his reply.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Movie I’m Deliberating Seeing

The Eyes of Tammy Faye.  It’s about the rise and fall of televangelists Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker, and their religious broadcasting empire, in the 1970s-80s.

Those of you us who are old enough may remember how Tammy Faye became a cultural “thing” (and also, in a delightful twist as per religious conservatives’ antipathy to LGBTQ folk, an icon to drag queens), due in part to her liberal (sorry) use of eye cosmetics.

 

 

Here’s the thing: I’ve enjoyed the work of the movie’s two lead actors, Jessica Chastain and Andrew Garfield.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen either of them give less than a terrific performance, which I can also say about another actor in the movie, Vincent D’Onofrio, who plays Jerry Falwell.

Here’s the second thing.

 

 

Does moiself  really want to spend two hours with those characters? As in, the people…

*  who are responsible for getting the Religious Right in bed with conservative politics?

* who preached against the supposed immorality of others while they themselves were embroiled in sexual and financial scandals, robbing their supporters blind and demonizing ethnic, sexual and gender minority groups in order to spread fear and ratchet up their quest for donations?

* who included the Bakkers’ fellow carnival barking snake oil salesmen televangelists:

* Jimmy Swaggart

(Moiself’s  favorite Swaggartism: “The Lord told me it’s flat none of your business,” Swaggart said, when confronted with evidence of his dalliance with prostitutes, despite Swaggart having exposed the extramarital affairs of a fellow Assembly of God minister, which led to that minister being defrocked   [4]    )

*  Jerry Fallwell,    [5]

(a mere sampling of Fallwell’s decades of WTF?!? pronouncements include,
* “AIDS is not just God’s punishment for homosexuals; it is God’s punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals.”
* “The true Negro does not want integration… He realizes his potential is far better among his own race.”
* “If you’re not a born-again Christian, you’re a failure as a human being.”
* “The National Organization of Women is the National Organization of witches.”)

* Pat Robertson

(* “The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.”
* ” You’ve got a couple of same-sex guys kissing, do you “like” that? Well, that makes me want to throw up. To me, I would punch ‘vomit’ not ‘like,’ but they don’t give you that option on Facebook.”
* “So, can demonic spirits attach themselves to inanimate objects? The answer is yes. But I don’t think every sweater you get from Goodwill has demons in it…but it isn’t going to hurt you to rebuke any spirits that happen to have attached themselves to those clothes.”
* “Just like what Nazi Germany did to the Jews, so liberal America is now doing to the evangelical Christians! It’s no different! It is the same thing! It is happening all over again! It is the Democratic Congress, the liberal-based media and the homosexuals who want to destroy the Christians! Wholesale abuse and discrimination and the worst bigotry directed toward any group in America today! More terrible than anything suffered by any minority in history! … And it is happening here and now! Same thing, but directed against Christians by the liberal government and media! Send money today or these liberals will be putting Christians like you and me in concentration camps!”  [6]  )

 

 

Deliberation over.

Hell, that was easy.  The answer to Thing Two is a resounding, fuck no.

*   *   *

Department Of Cancel Culture Cookbooks

My latest cookbook acquisition: Thug Kitchen: Eat Like You Give a F*ck.

 

 

I’d read a recommendation for the cookbook in a plant-based cuisine magazine.  The cookbook takes its name from a food website – make that, *took* its name.

Reading through the book I found many recipes I was eager to try, and my sides were sore from laughing at how the authors had written the “potty mind” thoughts I often have when thinking or talking about food (or anything, for that matter).  When I googled the book to learn a bit more about Thug Kitchen,  moiself  discovered  (yet another) New Controversy ® about which I’d been previously unaware: digital blackface.

“Popular vegan cooking website ‘Thug Kitchen,’, which has published three vegan cookery books under the brand, has announced it has changed its name to Bad Manners following years of criticism. Bad Manners, which is run by its Los Angeles-based founders Matt Holloway and Michelle Davis, has stated that it will discontinue the use of ‘Thug Kitchen’ as the title of all of its previous cookbooks and aims ‘closely re-evaluate’ the content shared on its site.
The duo has relied heavily on their use of Black English and hip-hop vernacular in the captions of their posts and cookbooks, which has long drawn criticism from many who have accused them of ‘digital blackface’ and cultural appropriation.
‘Thug Kitchen’ first faced controversy after an interview published to promote their first cookbook revealed that Holloway and Davis were white, as many believed that the blog’s creator was a POC. Followers were under the assumption that the use of the term ‘thug,’ which is a racially charged term often used to portray Black males as violent criminals, was an attempt to reclaim the racially-charged word. In more recent years, the term has been reclaimed by hip-hop artists such Tupac, leading followers to believe the bloggers were trying to redefine the term to promote veganism to communities of colour.

( ” ‘Thug Kitchen’ rebrands following accusations of cultural appropriation and ‘digital blackface,’ ” veganfoodandliving.com  June 2020 )    [7]

 

 

Moiself  didn’t know (or care about) the background of the authors when I purchased the book.  I still don’t care what “color” they are;  I do have yet another opportunity to ponder That Thing ®, of taking a pejorative or “forbidden” word and modifying or elevating it (depending on your POV) by using it: e.g., Black rappers and comedians who use the n-word; women who affectionately call each other bitch.  Which got me to thinking: if the cookbook authors considered themselves to be badass women, would I object to them calling their book/website, Cunt Cookery?  [8]

“Not my chickens – not my circus.” That’s what friend CC might say, re this particular version of the brouhaha about who gets to use what terminologies AND who gets to be the police of such things.    [9]    What counts for moiself  is that the Thug Kitchen recipes are tasty and “doable.”  Also, the recipes’ text and descriptions are consistently (and profanely) amusing: 

“This captures the smoky flavor of a falafel without all the fucking work.”
(Spiced Chickpea wraps with tahini dressing)

“Pour all this shit together in a jar and shake the fuck out of it.
Taste and add more of whatever-the-fuck you think it needs.”
(Basic Thug Kitchen vinaigrette)

“Tired of boring-ass lettuce wraps? Try these crunchy fuckers out and remember why it’s fun to eat with your hands.”
(Yellow Split Pea and Green Onion Lettuce Wraps)

“This shit is a little complicated but well worth it. Make it when you’ve got people to
impress or when you’re really fucking lonely.”
(Mixed Mushroom and Spinach Lasagna)

“There are two kinds of people in this world: people who like enchiladas and people who
have no fucking taste.  Which are you?”
(Sweet Potato, Squash and Black Bean Enchiladas)

“Quit fucking with that tired-ass take-out. You can make better shit at home in no time.
Plus, you don’t have to put on pants to answer the door.”
(Vegetable Pad Thai)

 

 

Interesting note:  the book and its two companion cookbooks have been rebranded as Bad Manners.  The book with the original Thug Kitchen title, which I purchased a week ago new for $17.95, is going for $49 on Amazon.

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Cookbook Edition

After five years, I’ve finally finished my fresh herb cookbook.
It’s about thyme!

My other cookbook will have recipes for flatbreads and other unleavened bake goods.
I’m taking the path of yeast resistance.

The members of Aerosmith recently wrote a Chinese cookbook.
It’s titled, Wok This Way.

 

*   *   *

May you cook and eat like you give a f*ck;
May you be the diplomat in your family;
May you read at least one Mary Roach book this year;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] The last which proves that she is capable of coming up with primary book titles of more than one word.

[2] A poison found in the beans of the castor oil plant.

[3] During the war rats were “sabotaging factories, destroying food needed for our allies, and spreading disease among our armed forces.”

[4] A great word, isn’t it? I think all religious ordination rites should be referred to as “Frocking.”

[5]  Fallwell had the audacity of fronting the group he called The Moral Majority, which, as critics pointed out, was neither.

[6] This and more filth fun can be referenced at Pat Robertson’s Wikiquote page.

[7] CC’s farmer-husband has a yearly chicken circus.  I’ve seen the tents.

[8] Well, in this case, yeah.

[9] Such issues ( who “owns” language, thoughts, and ideas) are of keen interest to moiself, as regular readers of this blog know well.

The Relationship Advice Book I’m Not Buying

2 Comments

Department Of Inquiring Minds Want To Know   [1]

Commercial heard between podcast segments:

“At ____ (regional grocery store chain), we go out of our way to ensure
that all of our produce is fresher than fresh.”

The word fresh is repeated several times during the commercial; apparently, that is the produce standard for which the store strives – a standard which, if you believe the commercial, the store exceeds.

So: what exactly, is *fresher than fresh,* and how would I recognize it if moiself  saw it?

How can a thing be more than it claims to be?  If I am “happier than happy,” then maybe I’m something else…like, ecstatic, or elated. It seems like there should be a word above fresh, and that the advertisers should use it, instead of going for for the “-er” option.

Or, how’s about lowering expectations and going for humility instead:

“At ____ we guarantee our produce was delivered some time earlier this week, and none of it is slimy.”

If you, like moiself , find yourself thinking about such things, perhaps you have the proverbial Too Much Time on Your Hands ®…which gets me to wondering.  Why, when one is said to have Too Much Time, it accumulates on your hands, instead of on your feet, or your shoulders?

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Graceful Segue

 

 

The podcast I was listening to, wherein I heard the “fresher-than-fresh” commercial, was the July 26 episode of Curiosity Daily, which began with the following teaser:

“Learn about the ‘Dog Days of Summer;’ why scientists did magic tricks for birds; and the smallest conceivable length of time.”

“…magic tricks for birds.” That phrase inspired such wonderful scenarios in moiself’s   mind, it almost seemed unnecessary to actually listen to the segment.

 

“Forget the top hat and the stupid wand! I’m telling ya, watch his sleeve, watch his hands!”

*   *   *

Best Definition Of A Construct, Ever   [2]

Culture is trying to please other people.

There’s a lot to unpack in a mere seven letters.

 

 

But, I can’t remember where I heard that…

Sotto voce:  Later that same day….

Oh, now I remember.  “Culture is trying to please other people.” I heard it on the most recent episode of Don’t Ask Tig.   [3]  It came from Tig’s guest, sociologist, author, and “Life Coach”   [4]   Martha Beck.  Beck likely knows more than your average bear about unpacking cultural expectations and people-pleasing: she was born into an influential Mormon family; she left the LDS church as an adult and accused her father (one of Mormonism’s most well-known  “apologists“) of sexual molestation; she chose to give birth to a handicapped child; she divorced her husband and came out as a lesbian.

Later in the podcast Beck made another interesting observation. It was a jest about her next book, inspired by the please-give-me-advice letter Tig read, sent in by a Quaker minister. The minister was dreading what we all (say we) have been hoping for: the return to “normal.”  Things had been well for the minister’s congregation during the COVID-mandated, Zoom-only gatherings; the minister was anxious about going back to in-person meetings. This was due to a dynamic the minister had realized about the congregation, a dynamic made even more clear during the year-plus of physical isolation:

“We really don’t like each other.”

On the subject of resuming “normal” post-pandemic social relationships, Beck noted that she and her partner joked that Beck’s next book should be titled,

How To Keep Your Loved Ones At Bay
Now That Covid Won’t Do It For You Anymore.

 

“I love Jesus, but y’all are flaming a-holes!”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Yet Another Smoooooooth Segue

Now that we have some of Life’s Most Profound Questions ®  out of the way (can produce be *too* fresh; what is culture; where on your body does Too Much Time rest),  we turn to mindless pursuit of intellectually void diversions the simple joys of watching an interesting sporting event. And when The Olympic Games are held, we’ve seemingly hundreds to choose from.   [5]

Depending on what floats your boat (and there are several boat-related events to choose from  [6] ), many of the sports might not be in your category of things you find “interesting” to watch.  Say you’ve don’t know (or even care) much about cycling.  Why not take this opportunity to expose yourself to something new?

 

 

Many sports can be fun to play, but are not inherently exciting enough to capture your attention if you are merely observing them. A good sports color commentator can give you enough background information (without making you feel like you’re in a lecture hall) to get you to appreciate facets of a sport you previously felt was fundamentally tedious.

(Except for golf.  There’s just no hope there, for moiself ).

 

“It even bores me, when I’m playing it.”

 

*   *   *

Department Of This Is Why I Watch The Olympics

To paraphrase (read: plagiarize) Lindsay Crouse’s recent article in the NY Times, I’m tired of being cynical about everything. I read every day about how the ship I’m on is sinking…and, certainly in both this blog and out of it, I’m one of the ones pointing out the gaping holes in the ship’s hull.  But, right now, I want to rearrange the lawn chairs in the Titanic’s deck and listen to the band.

Read Crouse’s This NY Times op-ed for a more nuanced explanation.

Or, consider this:

 

 

Dateline Monday, 7:30 PM-ish. Sport: swimming. Event: the women’s 100m breaststroke final.  In an upset that stunned everyone, including and especially the winner, the gold medal was won by 17-year-old Lydia Jacoby, from Alaska.  Yep, Alaska, a state with only one fifty meter pool in the entire state and, prior to this event, no Olympic gold medalists.  She beat out the two favorites, including a fellow American.

 

 

Just as glorious as the look of disbelieving delight on Jacoby’s face was when the telecast cut to an event “watch party” in Seward, Alaska, where the crowd went apeshit.   [7]

As per the Washington Post:

“Seventeen-year-old Lydia Jacoby won gold for a tiny town in Alaska, a state that has one Olympic-sized pool, while overwhelming favorite Lilly King claimed bronze. Please watch the intoxicating video of Alaska celebrating:”

*   *   *

Department Of A New Sport To Appreciate

Well, it’s not a new sport, particularly to me, who played it competitively in high school.  But I haven’t played it…well, since high school, and have never watched it played in the Olympics or in any other professional settings, by Serious Athletes ®.  Both MH and I are surprised at how much we enjoy watching the matches.

We’re talking badminton.

 

 

Really.  Mixed doubles, in particular.

We’re not talking the backyard piffle fest played with the $39.99 plastic racquets-birdies-net set you got on sale at Walmart.  Badminton, played by people who know what they’re doing, is incredibly fast-paced.  And I enjoyed watching the games, once I got past feeling flummoxed (and a wee bit humiliated) to realize that I couldn’t remember the rules.

Moiself was both laughing and marveling when I watched the service – for doubles teams, that is.  The singles players serve as I remember having served, way back when.  But in the doubles games we observed, the servers did this awkward backhand, almost inversion placement of their racquet, while grasping just the very edge of the shuttlecock, as if it were something icky they’d picked up off the carpet but they didn’t have gloves and there was no tissue to protect their fingers but they wanted the icky thing off the carpet RIGHT NOW – something like picking up an errant cat turd from the litter box.

 

“Ew, I touched it!”

 

All the doubles teams we saw served that way; I didn’t know if it was a rule or just a tradition/or strategy (and moiself  decided *not* to Google it, to preserve the “errant turd” imagery in my mind). The team receiving the serve were also entertaining in their own right, stretching out their racquets and/or hands in a warding-off-demons manner, or as if they were casting a spell.

Moiself  mentioned earlier having played badminton competitively in high school.  I must qualify that statement.  It’s hard to even think of the word “competitively” applied to my high school’s badminton teams, after watching the Olympic players.  Their skill level is so high, their reflexes so lightening-fast – my high school doubles partner and I would not be worthy to merely stand on the sidelines during the Olympians’ games, gazing at them in awe, and picking up loose feathers from their shuttlecocks…or birdies, as some people call the cone-shaped projectile used in the game of badminton.  Either term is fine; it’s fun to have an excuse to say (or write), “shuttlecocks.”

 

 

DLF was my high school doubles partner.  Senior year we were the #1 doubles team of our school, which meant that we played the #1 badminton doubles teams of other schools in our league, which was composed of three beach-city high schools (read: spoiled rich kids), a few other “normal” Orange County high schools, and Santa Ana High School, which was considered (by the other schools) to be inner city and gang-infested.  This was not (exactly) true. However, the reputation helped us during matches with other schools; thus, we did little to dispel it. It especially worked to our advantage in contact sports, such as field hockey.  But even in a non-contact sport like badminton we had the intimidation factor…until, a few minutes after meeting and observing us, the wealthier schools figured out they had nothing to fear (i.e., we did *not* have switchblades taped to our racquet handles) and their anxiety transformed into patronizing distain.

Watching Olympics badminton games has caused me to take a stroll down Memory Lane.  [8]   My badminton doubles partner, DLF, went on to have a career as a science writer.  She was and is a woman of many abilities, but during our senior year badminton partnership she exhibited a heretofore unknown (to moiself ) talent for mimicry.

On the afternoon we played the most obnoxious beach city team (for privacy’s sake I will call them Newport Harbor High, because, oh yeah, that’s who they were), DLF entertained me (read: tried to distract me from my evident disgust with The NHH rich brat antics) during breaks and timeouts – and all through the rest of the season, when we were playing other schools – by imitating the NHH doubles team we played.

DLF (fluttering her fingers over her mouth, while smiling obsequiously
and giggling, in a high-pitched voice):

“Oh my goodness golly gee, was that out?”

There we were, the SAHS low lifes [9]  in our white and red striped shirt and red shorts – the same “uniform” we had for every sport.  Our NHH rivals wore matching outfits: white shirts, bright skirts designed with patterns featuring their school’s colors, matching hair ribbons and barrettes (also in the school colors) festooning their (same length, same shade) blonde hair, and – for some reason, this is the accessory that drove me nuts – bandannas tied around their necks, the material of which matched their skirts. 

Thus, losing to those Barbie twins was humiliating enough on sartorial grounds, but also, and mostly, for *how* they played – particularly, the patronizing way they made their baseline and sideline calls.   [10]

Badminton Barbies:
“Oh, Gee – do you think that was out?”
(Exchange giggles; smile; giggle again and tug at hair ribbons)
“I don’t know, I think it was out…what do you think?”
(more giggles and racquet-twirling)

Moiself: (thinking, but not – usually [11]  – saying aloud):
“Of course it was out, you twit.
You were at the baseline, and I was aiming for your tits and you stepped aside.
FFS, use your big girl voice, call it out, and take the serve.

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Olympic Sports Edition

The Olympic volleyball teams’ website is down.
I think they are having problems with their server.

Why was the fencing champion born in France, but raised in the U.S.,
able to play for both countries in the Olympics?
Because she has duel citizenship.

Is plate-throwing worthy of being an Olympic sport?
Discuss.

Did you hear about the naked toddler competing in the Olympics’ 100m dash?
He was running a little behind.

How does the Olympic torch, which is lit near Athens, manage to stay lit all the way to the opening ceremony?
Because it’s hard to put out a Greece fire.

The divorce rate is high among Olympics tennis players – love means nothing to them.

 

Enough! Even an Olympian has limits!

 

*   *   *

May you occasionally enjoy listening to the band while the boat sinks;
May you appreciate playing or watching a sport that uses shuttlecocks;
May all of your produce be fresher than slimy;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] It’s too early for a footnote.

[2] Or at least, in a long, long time.

[3] With perhaps the best description an “advice” podcast can have:  “Comedian Tig Notaro doesn’t have all the answers, but that won’t stop her from giving advice on your questions about life’s many challenges in this podcast.”

[4] Yeah, I know.

[5] Actually, the 2021 Summer Olympics have 33.

[6] Canoe/kayak flatwater and slalom; rowing; sailing)

[7] Or, the Alaskan equivalent.  Whaleshit?

[8] Which, is an actual street in Santa Ana.

[9] Actually, the SAHS school mascot/sports name was, so inappropriately, “The Saints.”

[10] The teams made their line calls, on the honor system.  Girls’ competitive athletic programs were minimally funded and there was no money (or staff) staff for referees.

[11] There were a few exceptions.

The Virtues I’m Not Signaling

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Department Of My Work Here Is Done

My entry into the virtue-signaling yard sign challenge.

 

 

*   *   *

Department of WTF, HILLSBORO ?!?!?!?!?!

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Food For Thought, And For The Planet
Sub-Department Of It’s Just Too Damn Big A Problem For One Person…

…which is what keeps most of us, moiself  included, from taking definitive actions regarding global warming/climate change.  The problem is so big, so overwhelming, it’s easy to think we’ve gone too far already and nothing can save us so why drag out the inevitable – let’s all switch to coal-burning cars and get it over with….

 

 

However, “most of us,” as individuals, adds up to most of the planet, and if “most of us” made a concerted effort to change certain deleterious habits and adopt a more climate-friendly lifestyle, we could do the equivalent of sticking our fingers in the hole in the dike while our world leaders figure out a global energy strategy.  [1]

The following excerpts are from the recent Curiosity Daily podcast:  “The Climate Diet: 50 Simple Ways To Trim Your Carbon Footprint.”

The Climate Diet author Paul Greenberg:
“A very simple one would be to switch from beef to chicken. A lot of your listeners are thinking, ‘Oh, no, we have to go vegan…’  but it turns out actually that if we could get the real solid meat eaters to not necessarily go for the bean burger but go to chicken they would cut their (contribution to carbon) emissions per pound by 75%….
That is pretty big and pretty significant, so if you’re going to start with anything, why not start with that?

CD Host:
You also mentioned less cheese – what about that?

PG:
“…when I was in college everybody loved this cookbook called The Moosewood Cookbook – it was the vegetarian cookbook that everybody embraced, but man, is there a lot of cheese in there! Is it turns out that cheese is actually worse from an emissions standpoint than chicken….  If you’re choosing your diet based on (carbon) emissions, eating vegetarian with a lot of cheese is really not the best choice – actually chicken or even fish is even better…. I don’t want to de-emphasize veganism – veganism is absolutely the best way to go if you want to be your very best, but if you can’t get there, then moving away from beef and cheese is a good start.

So let’s just put it in perspective: a vegan diet, it  just blows doors off of everything:   [2]…a lentil, you’re talking about 0.9 kilos of carbon emissions per kilo of food; chicken is between 6 or 6, but beef is up at 27.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of There’s Always Something

 

 

 

“…Fetterman called for universal health care, marijuana legalization, and a much higher minimum wage well before it was popular. Now…Fetterman wants to convince his fellow Democrats that their party’s future depends less on fighting over fracking and more on embracing legal weed and embracing their populist roots. “This idea [of climate change] that every climate scientist in the world agrees [on] — we need to run on that,” he says. “We also can’t tell a bunch of workers, ‘Go work at Duolingo.’ That’s not fair. We still need to be a manufacturing powerhouse, too.”

…I actually don’t use marijuana. But I think you should be able to, or any adult should be able to, legally, safely, taxed, and not label them a criminal. We need to expunge all criminal convictions. If there is anybody serving jail time for a marijuana conviction, get them out immediately.

…You want to heal this country? Let’s start by acknowledging some universal truths. Health care is a basic human need and right. You can’t fucking live off $7.25 an hour.…Why are we imprisoning people in the failed war on drugs? These are things that transcend politics.

Run on the truth, and that’s what I’ll do. Run on the truth. And if you win, great. If you lose, great. But I will always run on the truth.”

( excerpts from “Big John Fetterman Can Save the Democratic Party —
if the Democrats Let Him,” Rolling Stone, 11-12-20 )

Recently on our family message group, son K alerted us (MH, his sister Belle, and moiself  ) to the above article.  John Fetterman is running for the Senate in what will be a key or battleground state; K thought we might want to send some support ($$) his way, as Fetterman seems to be ‘right on” on many issues we consider common sense. This led to a fun and thoughtful family IM-discussion, some of which is excerpted here.

I had heard of John Fetterman; the RS article was a better introduction than the vague, “I-think-he’s-this-guy” ideas I’d had, and I checked out his website as well. I liked most of what he said and was impressed with his background story.   [3]    I did send a donation…but there was something that gave me pause.

About the pause: Enter and-what-else-is-new? territory:  No candidate is every going to be perfect, or check off on all your favorite issues.  [4]   I fully realize that, and strive not make the perfect the enemy of the good.

 

 

The RS reporter said that Fetterman has “…been out ahead on…issues that have since come into vogue: a higher minimum wage, marijuana legalization, same-sex marriage…” and Fetterman commented,

“I’ve never had to evolve on one of my positions on that because I’ve always said what I believe is true.”

 

 

Fetterman’s campaign website expands on this:

“You’ll always know where I stand. I haven’t had to evolve on the issues, because I ‘ve always said what I  believe is true and I’ve been championing the same core principles for the last 20 years.”

Hmmmmm.

As my bumper sticker so eloquently and succinctly puts it:

 

 

The sticker pokes fun at the creationists’ anti-evolution/science, but I’ll apply it to politics as well.  My opinions have evolved over time, as they should have, and as they will continue to do. The reasons moiself  holds the opinions I do is because I try to engage with the facts, and update my viewpoints as the what-we-know-about-this-issue changes. No issues, no opinions, are – or should be, IMHO –  static; it is unlikely that Fetterman or any candidate has been or will be on the right side of history when it comes to *every* issue.  Our country – our world – needs political servants who understand that, and who have the self-awareness and strength of character to change their minds when necessary.

You can also admire someone for “spine,” which can be evident in, as K pointed out, their willingness not to compromise on “insane [ political] [5]   demands.”

K:
“I’ll take uncompromising but passionate at this point since we have too many lackluster moderate democrats who don’t do shit.”

MH:
“I hope he’s willing to evolve his position even if it is one I currently agree with.”

Belle:
“I appreciate the intent behind the statement, but I agree that I’d want a representative who is willing to change their views and isn’t ashamed of it or tries to hide it.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of This Is Why Life Is Worth Living…

… For hearing stories such as this.

Dateline: Thursday morning; returning from a walk; listening to the end of the podcast Gates McFadden Investigates: Who Do You Think You Are?

Actor/dancer/choreographer Cheryl Gates McFadden is best known for playing Dr. Beverly Crusher on Star Trek: TNG.  Her podcast is “…a series of conversations featuring close friends and former co-stars reminiscing on careers, personal life and more.” 

Yesterday I listened to “more” – part II of McFadden’s interview with actor, dancer and fellow Star Trek alum, Nana Visitor, who played Major Kira Nerys on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine[6]    At the end of the podcast, McFadden and Visitor were sharing stories about their family members.  The theme of the sudden realization that children – as well as adults –  can have, wherein a familiar sight or regular activity suddenly, inexplicably, seems confounding or amazing (e.g., re brushing your teeth: “What am I doing? I am putting a stick in my mouth and moving it up and down and around my jaw and teeth – why do people do this, and who invented it?“) was fertile ground for McFadden’s “shower story.”

“When my son was three…we have a very open, big bathroom…and we have an open shower.  I’m in the kitchen, and he runs in and says, ‘Mommy mommy, c’mere, c’mere, c’mere – mommy, mommy, come come come!‘  And we’re running, and he runs me right up to the shower, where his father is taking a shower.  And he points to his…(father’s penis)…and he says,
HAVE YOU SEEN THAT ?!?!’ 

And I said, ‘Yes, I have.’ “

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Global Warming Edition

Where did scientists get the idea that the ice caps are melting?
They just thawed it up.

Global warming will kill every single person on this planet.
It’s a good thing I’m married.

Did you know global warming is reducing terrorism?
The ISIS melting.

What is it called when vermiforms take over the world?
Global Worming.

 

 

*   *   *

May your positions on “the issues” be always evolving;
May you compose your own virtue-signaling yard sign;
May you hear stories (or see yard signs) that remind you why life is worth living;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Yes, there is a buttload of optimism in that last part.

[2] And not just because of all the legumes you’ll be eating! Sorry, but I’ve been suppressing fart jokes, with all the talk about diet and emissions, for a couple of paragraphs now, and I just need to let ’em rip….

[3] Three cheers for anyone running for office who is *not* a lawyer!

[4] And if you find one that does, you’d better look again, because it’s likely either you – or the candidate – are missing something.

[5] Read: Republican.

[6] Be forewarned: if you listen to part one of the interview – and I think you should – it  contains the story of Visitor’s near death experience (she was kidnapped and raped by two men, who followed her when she drove home after a late night on the ST:DS9 set and discussed with each other what to do with her body [they’d planned on killing her] after the attack).  She suffered from trauma-induced PTSD for years afterward; her recovery plus her ongoing work in and advocacy for mental health issues is an amazing story of courage and resilience.

The Theory I’m Not Solving

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Department Of Strange Bedfellows

 

Because…yeah. I don’t know about you, but moiself  would have no qualms trusting the person who extends my eyelashes to tend to my nervous system.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Adages Revisited
Sub Department OF Why I Don’t have My Own Marital Counseling Practice

 

 

Classic advice:

Never go to bed angry.

Translation: Never go to bed when you are angry with your partner, lest a bad feeling hardens into resentment. Resolve the argument before going to bed.

But, that’s not always possible. Sometimes you’re too tired and/or cranky to resolve things diplomatically – that’s why you’re about to “go to bed angry” in the first place.  So: go to bed; get some sleep; wake up, have a nice breakfast together…. Maybe, come the morning, whatever caused the argument won’t seem so serious.

Moiself’s suggested classic advice addendum:


Never go to bed angry.
Oh, okay – go to bed angry if you must, but with someone else.
   [1]

 

 

Actually, I’d say this advice is even crappier:

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Sometimes The Best Intentions…

I drove past someone’s house recently, and saw a new sign in their front yard.  The sign was similar in size, design and “composition” as the Black Lives Matter signs, only with a different message.

 

The message refers to  [2]  stopping the rise in hate crimes against Asian-Americans. However, its phrasing prompted moiself  to picture the following scenario:  moiself  driving past the sign, a well-meaning-but-clueless, elderly relative with me in the car – e.g., my late mother – who reads the sign, then sincerely wonders aloud,

“I don’t understand  – what do Asians hate?”

 

“They all seem so nice….”

 

*   *   *

Department Of
Cults? – Schmultz!  They’re All Cults

“…I remembered Toni Morrison’s statement that ‘the function of freedom is to free someone else.’  Utah wasn’t the Deep South, and we Mormon dissidents were hardly the Underground Railroad. But I did believe that our culture had trapped us, that many Latter-Day Saints lived in mental and social prisons that perpetuated precisely the kind of insanity with which I’d grown up.  It wasn’t slavery, but it was a powerful form of bondage: the belief that God had ordained a pattern of secrets and silence, that religious authority always trumped one’s individual sense of right and wrong, that the evidence of the senses must bow to the demands of orthodoxy, no matter how insane. It was a kind of institutionalized madness….”
( “Leaving the Saints: How I lost the Mormons and Found My Faith,”
By Martha Beck )

Dateline:  circa 5 years ago; Tacoma WA. Son K and a few of his college buddies are sharing stories about their various experiences with Mormons/the LDS religion.  K’s friend and housemate SP is from Utah; SP and his family were minorities, as non-Mormons living in Salt Lake City.  After listening to the other’s stories about the Mormon beliefs and behaviors that the friends found odd, SP chimes in:

“You all have *no* idea…. Out here, you have Mormon LITE.”  [3]

 

 

K shared SP’s remarks over a recent Sunday dinner, with MH and I and friend LAH, after I’d spoken about having just finished Tara Westover’s book, Educated: A Memoir.  The book is gripping, disturbing, at times downright horrifying, and ultimately/eventually a wee bit encouraging.  I found Westover’s beautiful prose to be an often-jarring contrast to that which the prose presents: the account of her childhood, raised in a family headed by a fanatical, fundamentalist LD, survivalist, paranoid father (a man who was also likely afflicted with bipolar disorder    [4]  ).  There were inspiring segments of the book which depicted the author’s inexplicably indomitable spirit (where did it come from, given her environment?); still, I had a headache at the end of each reading day – moiself  realized I’d been clenching my jaw when reading through passages depicting the physical, emotional, and intellectual neglect and abuse she lived with, and the narrow confines of her world.

Westover yearned to be “educated,” in a world where women and girls were to aspire to nothing more than marriage and motherhood – in a world where she was told that to want an education was sinful and that women and girls must obey men and boys, even to the point of enduring sickening abuse from her psychotic brother.  She did manage to extricate herself (physically, if not completely emotionally) from that world, but at great cost to her psyche.  Her portrayal of the cost of childhood suffering, of the power that abusers (and those who abet them) wield, is chillingly insightful.  Although I highly recommend the book, it also (and literally) gave me nightmares.

MH recommended the book to me a couple of years ago, and I’d listened to the Fresh Air interview with the author (which aired in 2019).  I immediately thought of that interview when I read the first paragraph of the “Author’s Note” at the end of Educated:

“This story is not about Mormonism.
Neither is it about any other form of religious belief.
In it there are many types of people, some believers, some not; some kind, some not. The author disputes any correlation, positive or negative, between the two.”

 

 

Well, that was…odd.  Most such disclaimers are at the beginning of *novels,* or short fiction collections. (“This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, business, events and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.”).  It made me somewhat disappointed in FA host Terry Gross’s otherwise excellent interview.  Did Gross not read the Author’s Note?  If she did, why didn’t she ask Westover about it – was that disclaimer something the publishing company’s lawyers insisted on?

Readers generally understand that, even in non-fiction, individuals and their actions are not meant to represent Everyone and Everything. The “Author’s Note” struck me as being so unnecessary – and also, so fearful, of possible litigation, perhaps…and the author’s personal safety.

As per the latter: The LDS church is not as prone to rabid-dog harassment techniques as Scientology (whose “fair game,” policy re critics stated that “An enemy of Scientology, referred to as a suppressive person (SP), may be deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist…may be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed.”    [5]  ).  Still, the LDS church has been known to lawyer-up when they think they have been presented in a bad light (in particular, by those who have managed to leave the church).  But their most effective defense has been the spiritual training – read: psychological torture – with which members have been inculcated.

When I read Martha Beck’s memoir Leaving the Saints, I remember a section of the book where Beck wrote about the rituals she and her husband   [6]  participated in during their temple wedding (aka, “sealing” [7]   ).  Beck was willing to detail charges of sexual abuse against a very powerful LDS icon – her father, Mormon apologist Hugh Nibley –  yet stopped short of describing the vows of secrecy (re the temple rituals) she and her husband made “for time and all eternity.”  I recall she used almost a joking tone in addressing any readers who might be Mormon enforcers, writing something along the lines of, “Hey guys, I promised not to reveal the exact content, and I didn’t, okay? So please don’t disembowel me.”

There was an implicit seriousnessy behind her joshing: fear. She’d written this supposed tell-all book, yet she still was afraid to tell all.

 

 

I’d known about the vows Mormons take in temple rituals (in which they acknowledge the penalties they might face for revealing such secrets), but “known about” as in, I only knew that such vows existed – their content remained a mystery.  Even Ex-Mos who had openly renounced everything else LDS seemed uniformly silent on the matter.  Then, along came Richard Packham, founder of The Exmormon Foundation.

During the 2012 Presidential election Packham was troubled by the fact that vast majority of American voters – the vast majority of *anyone* outside of Mormonism – had no knowledge of the secret oaths Romney had taken as a faithful Mormon.  Packham wondered aloud (as, in an article he wrote for businessinsider.com ):

“The question for American voters is: Knowing that Romney has taken this secret oath,   [8]   and that he is a faithful Mormon, do you want him to answer the question,
‘Would you feel bound by your sacred oath to obey the law of consecration that you made in the endowment ceremony and use the power of the presidency to benefit the Mormon church?’ “

Packham noted that “In all the extensive media coverage of Mitt Romney, much of it discussing his religion, not a word have I seen about the secrets of Mormonism, the secrets of Romney’s life-long beliefs and practices.”

 

 

Growing up as a Mormon close in age to Mitt Romney, Packham was, like Romney, “initiated into those same secrets.”  Unlike Romney, Packham left Mormonism and decided to talk and write about it, including describing LDS secrets such as the endowment ritual   [9]  and other rituals, wherein Mormons are instructed in the “signs” and “tokens” of the Mormon priesthood, are given special “names” (or “passwords”), and must make an oath to never reveal these, outside the temple.

“…when Romney and I first went through this ceremony, we were taught that each of the first three signs and tokens also had a ‘penalty’ associated with each one, and we had to mime various ways of taking life to represent the penalty to us if we were to reveal the secret signs and tokens: slitting one’s own throat, ripping open one’s chest, disemboweling oneself. Yes, folks, this was part of the most sacred ritual in Mormonism: pantomiming your own bloody death.

So Mitt Romney, and all other righteous Mormons, can be confident that they know the secret passwords and secret handshakes to get into heaven. Do you see why Romney and his church are reluctant for ‘unworthy’ people (the rest of us, including Mrs. Romney’s parents) to know about this?
As Deborah Laake   [10]  put it in her autobiographical book, “Secret Ceremonies”:

“The actions that were going to guarantee my entrance at the gates [of heaven] would have nothing to do with love or charity or the other teachings of Christ that I’d been raised to believe God valued. In fact, I hadn’t heard a single one of those words spoken today, the most primary day of religious instruction in my entire life. No, I was going to burst into heaven on the basis of mumbo-jumbo. … The mysteries of life were fraternity rituals. … Did all the white-suited glorifiers in the room unquestioningly accept a ritual of nutty gestures from the pseudo-occult as a sacrament? Those were the first moments when I viewed Mormonism with suspicion.”

Or, as summarized by a Mormon missionary: ‘If we told investigators [prospective converts to Mormonism] about that, they wouldn’t join, because it’s too weird!’ “

(excerpts from, “An Ex-Mormon Describes Some ‘Secrets’ Of The Church”
Businessinsider.com, 7-30-12 )

 

 

Lest you think I pick on the LDS too much  [11]  back to the dinner table discussion: when moiself  described Westover’s book to K and LAH as the author’s story of growing up in a Mormon fundamentalist cult, MH offered his opinion, that “It was more of a cult of that father.”   We all then spoke of the fundy cults/offshoots of Mormonism with which we were famililar, offshoots which, like all so-called cults, serve to make the mainstream or parent religion – in this case, Mormonism –  look “better,” in a way, especially to non-believers.

Most religious believers deride (and even loathe and/or fear) people in “cults,” but don’t realize they are in one themselves.  Mainstream Christians laugh at the gullibility of Mormons who can believe that a god gave a revelation to Joseph Smith through golden tablets (which Smith translated via a magic stone he placed in his hat), but believe their god gave one of their prophets a revelation through stone tablets.  They sneer at snake-handling faith healers who babble nonsense (aka, speak in tongues) and believe in prophecy, even as they themselves pray for people to be healed and hurricanes to be halted, and talk about an apocalyptic End Times.

When does a cult become a religion?

* When it is granted a tax-free status by the Government.
* When it progresses from killing its members to killing non-members.

All religions begin as cults. Christianity began as one of several competing messianic sects and became a religion when Paul and his followers began proselytizing outside Judea. Cults fade away when those who knew the founder die. Who remembers the Ranters, the Sandemanians or the Muggletonians now?
(excerpts from “Notes and queries,” ethical conundrums, theguardian.com )

What is a religion, but a cult with more money and real estate, and better lawyers and PR?  All religions began as cults – as offshoots of a mainstream religion.  Once they achieve mainstream status, established religions benefit from the existence of cults, in that they can point religion skeptics toward the cult’s beliefs and practices and say, “At least we’re not like that.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Explanations

Dateline: Tuesday am, morning walk. Moiself  is listening to the season 13 trailer for the Clear + Vivid podcast, in which host Alan Alda and the C+V  producer preview the new season.  One preview plays excerpts from Alda’s interview with theoretical physicist and author Michio Kaku, whose latest book is The God Equation: the quest for the theory of everything.  Alda describes Kaku as “one of our culture’s leading communicators… about one of the most tantalizing and hard to understand questions ever raised: ‘Is there a theory of everything?’ – is there some formula that explains pretty much every phenomenon of the universe?” And what would the effects of such a theory mean to you and me?  

“The immediate, practical implication of finding the theory of everything is…nothing. It’s not going to effect you or me, I’ll be very blunt with you.  However, it will answer some of the deepest philosophical, religious questions of all time….”
(excerpt of C+V interview with Michio Kaku)     [12]

I gotta wonder: should I save Dr. Kaku and his peers some time and energy, by submitting to them *my* concept?  In a mere four words, my Theory Of Everything ® :

“Yep; there it is.”

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Theoretical Physics Edition

Q: Why should you go out wining and dining with neutrons?
A: Wherever they go, there’s no charge.

A husband walks in on his wife, who is a string theorist, in bed with another man.
She shouts, “I can explain everything!”

Do radioactive cats have 18 half-lives?   [13]

 

*   *   *

May you come up with your own Theory of Everything;
May you be grateful toward those who encouraged you to be educated;
May you realize that nobody, under any circumstances, ever needs to have their eyelashes extended;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi

*   *   *

[1] As in, not the person you’re angry with.

[2] I can just about 100% safely assume.

[3] Move along folks; no footnote to see here.

[4]  A diagnosis he would have rejected in favor of some explanation involving evil spirits and/or devils. 

[5] “6 insane ways the Church of Scientology has tried to silence its critics,” salon 3-15-15

[6]  Who is now also ex-Mormon, as well as her ex-husband.

[7]   Mormons have two kinds of weddings:  Temple weddings, and non-temple.  Not all Mormons “qualify” for a temple wedding, even if they desire one.  “If you don’t know much about Mormon weddings, there’s a good reason for it. The Mormons don’t want you to find out. Temple marriages are top-secret affairs — absolutely no non-Mormons are allowed to see these hidden events. Even some practicing Mormons, who aren’t deemed worthy of a ‘temple recommend,’ will be asked to wait outside. This can be downright heartbreaking for LDS couples with friends and family outside the faith, who find themselves without their loved ones by their side on their big day.  (excerpt from “Mormon weddings “)

My sister’s (non-religious) freshman college roommate was aggressively courted by a senior boy who was a Mormon. When they married, she asked my sister to be her maid of honor.  My sister, after months of warily watching her roommate being wooed, did not approve of the relationship, but wanted to support her roommate, and agreed.  My sister, after buying and then of course wearing the dress, had to stand outside the temple – along with the bride’s parents (who paid for the wedding and the reception)! – during the ceremony, because they were not Mormons.

[8] Several oaths, actually, but the one Packham refers, “The Law of Consecration,”  involves, if Romney won the election, thanking God for blessing him with the presidency and, as per that oath, promising to use that blessing for the benefit of the Mormon church.

[9] “a ritual reenactment of the creation, Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden, mortal experience, and the return to God’s presence. At each stage of this progression, participants make covenants in the name of Jesus Christ.” (So What Happens in an LDS Temple?  The Salt Lake Tribune. )

[10] Deborah Laake was a journalist and editor, raised and married in the LDS church, and was excommunicated by the church “…for apostasy because of her criticisms and also for her ‘detailed revelation of top-secret Mormon temple ceremonies’ ” shortly after the publication of her book, Secret Ceremonies, “a candid and critical account of her experiences growing up and marrying as a member of the LDS church.” ( Wikipedia entry for Laake. )

[11] Due to the book I read, LDS it was the primary topic, but longtime readers of this blog know I am a skeptic and debunker of all religions.

[12] I think 12 footnotes is more than enough.

[13] Thirteen footnotes is even more extravagant.

The “Carnus” Bias I’m Not Displaying

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Department of Victory Day

Yesterday marked the second week after my second (Moderna) COVID vaccination.  I feel…not quite invincible, but superb, nonetheless.

 

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Dept Of Shame On The Shamers

I have a…how shall I describe it?…not, love-hate, but more, mostly like/sometimes WTF relationship with certain podcasts. The obsequiousness with which podcast hosts and their guests begin their show ranges from mildly annoying to barely tolerable. No matter the subject, from arts and entertainment to politics and science and comedy, it’s as if the podcast hosts and/or producers all received the same Podcast Handbook which decreed that each show must start with a mutual gushing session.

“I *love* your work!”
“Oh, and *I* love *your* work!”

This week, on standup comic/actor Tig Notaro’s Don’t Ask Tig podcast (one of my regular, mostly like/sometimes WTF listens), her guest was “outspoken journalist/author/activist” Jane Velez-Mitchell.   As soon as Velez-Mitchell  described herself as a “fellow lesbian/sober/vegan,” moiself  girded my aural loins for some particularly self-righteous gushing between Notaro and her guest..  After it subsided, I thought they would get on to the supposed raison d’etre for the show – reading listener’s letters.  [1]   It should have come as no surprise to moiself  that their mutual dietary sanctimony took center stage, prompted by Notaro, who asked V-M when she became “plant-based.”

 

 

V-M  told story of the “advice” she personally received from, Howard Lyman, the “Mad Cowboy” rancher-turned vegetarian-then-vegan.  Background info: Lyman got his 15 minutes of fame in 1996 on The Oprah Winfrey show, when the former rancher’s comments on the practices of the American beef industry caused Oprah to declare on the air that she was done with hamburgers. (Oprah, and Lyman, later got more than their 15 minutes of famous lawsuits from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association).

V-M said she’d met Lyman when she had her own news/opinion/interview show, and she interviewed him. After the interview…

V-M:
Lyman and his publicist walked up to my cubicle and said, “We hear you’re a vegetarian.” At that time I was a vegetarian. And I said yes, and they said, “Do you eat dairy?” And I kind of hung my head and because he had just talked about ——– (various horrors of the dairy industry) and I had said ‘yes’ and then he stuck his finger right at my nose and said, ‘Liquid meat!’ and that was the moment I went vegan.”

So. Lyman was able to shame V-M into doing something she probably was headed toward doing anyway. But is that a tactic she would endorse across the board?  Subtle hints brazen evidence surfaced in her comments when she and Notaro got to reading letters, the first from a self-described, “time-strapped single mom” who wanted to know how to prepare healthy meals for her nine-year-old son, who recently declared himself vegan “…oh and did I mention that I am also cooking for his ninety- and eighty-eight-year-old grandparents?”

V-M began her advice with,

“But see there’s the inherent carnus bias in the question – that somehow it’s going to take longer to make something that’s vegan, so we always come from that carnistic bias that it’s going to be more expensive, it’s going to take longer …”

 

 

Not one complete sentence into her advice and she’s already invented two words: “carnus” and “carnistic.”  [2]

V-M did have some actual advice for the advice-seeker advice re recipes, and getting the child involved re the cooking process, but she had to go further:

“…So, get your  child involved in the cooking process, and then you can feed that vegan food to your elderly grandparents so that they live longer, because the best way to ensure longevity is to go plant-based.
So it’s a win-win for everybody; you son is clearly smarter than everybody else in the family….”

 

 

The letter writer had said nothing about the grandparents wanting to live longer or that they were seeking a change in *their* dietary habits. Nor had she mentioned her son’s intelligence vis-à-vis that of the other family members.  But, because he wants to eat vegan, a vegan evangelist just *knows* that he’s “smarter than everyone else.”

As is the way of vegan proselytizers, V-M took (or made) an opening and ran with it. Reacting to another letter, from a man who wanted to tell his friend that opening a bakery is a terrible idea (the friend is not the best cook and her baked goods are atrocious), here’s how V-M dove in:

“First of all, I hope that if she does create this business that’s it’s a vegan bakery, because you don’t need eggs to make cake, or milk…”

Fellow Vegan Notaro could not suppress herself:
“Or milk! You do not need it! You do not need it!”

V-M:
“But the bigger thing is, people are on their journey, and it’s very hard for us to steer people on their journey.”

Except of course when it comes to steering them toward vegan land, when it is not hard at all for her to offer unsolicited advice, bordering on shame.

 

 

I used the term evangelists and proselytizers, because for hardcore vegans, their philosophy is truly a religion.  Notaro and V-M obviously and sincerely believe that their veganism is saving the planet.   [3]   There are people who believe – just as passionately as Notaro and V-M believe in the benefits of plant-based nutrition – that all people have an eternal soul, and that a certain god has a plan for that soul, and that nothing is more important than that.  How receptive would V-M be toward a conservative Christian who “stuck his finger right at your nose” and told her that being lesbian (even a sober, vegan one) is damning her to hellfire, harming heself and the planet, ad nauseum?

And yes, it’s the fucking same thing.

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Department Of Random Thoughts At The Stop Light

I love my Subaru, and am impressed with Subaru’s’ reputation for quality and reliability. But when it comes time to get a new car I know I will not be going with their latest (and largest) SUV, due to my gut reaction when I became aware of the model’s name.

Dateline: Wednesday afternoon; running errands.  Moiself  was in my Outback, at a stop light, behind a model of Subaru I’ve never heard of.  I looked to the right of the six-star Subaru logo on the car’s trunk to see the model’s name:  Ascent.  My kneejerk reaction/comment, which moiself  uttered aloud to moiself:

“I guess that name must have market-tested better than Buttsmell.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Downside Of Unmasking

Dateline: last week speaking with an acquaintance who works in the personal services industry.   [4]   We talked about nearing the end of social/physical distancing, and about getting – or having – to see people without masks again.  Moiself  listed a few of the advantages of mask wearing, including the fact that I’d gotten used to running errands without feeling guilty for not having washed my face that morning or having showered in three days (distancing + mask…who’s gonna notice?).  Acquaintance laughed heartily, even more so when I added, “No, I’m serious.”

I started to mention the return of something else which *wasn’t* missed by millions of women…then thought better of it, and chided moiself  for being so cynical.  Turns out, others have been thinking along same lines:

So in less than an hour out of the new CDC mask guidance, I just went outside and pulled mine down. A nearby construction worker immediately told me to “Smile.”
I will miss masks for some reasons that are not pandemic-related.
(tweet from @ Sarah_boxer, quoted in the article mentioned below).

For M. ___, the pandemic marked the first time in decades she hadn’t felt any pressure to adopt an obsequious, apologetic smile when asking for help at the grocery or the hardware store or the car dealership. For women, “the smile sort of neutralizes you. It implies that you’re more pliable, you’re not going to give them trouble,” she says.
With the smile suddenly out of the equation…“it made me go a step further. I decided to not be the type of person who asks for something. Instead I would tell them what I wanted. I would say, ‘I need this.’ ” She plans to keep doing so even when she quits wearing a mask.
(“Masks are off — which means men will start telling women to ‘Smile!’ again.”
Washington Post, 5-22-21 )

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Next Time I’m Going To Shout It To The Cosmos

Dateline:  a long time ago in a galaxy far far away.  Moiself, taking a bus to a job interview….

Oh lawwwdy, those were the days. Out of college, interviewing, no car, dependent upon a sketchy public transportation system.  I became convinced that there were signs posted on my forehead and back of my head.  These signs, invisible to moiself  and normal  [5]   bus riders, apparently flashed neon clarion calls to every loud and loony and delusional and horny street person:  “Talk to this one – she’ll listen to anything and she loves unsolicited advice.”

Yet again, I digress.

I was riding the bus, passing the time by reading a magazine article.  The bus slowed as it approached my stop; I looked up from my magazine and saw a man seated across the aisle, who was staring at me.  I stood up and moved to the front of the bus; Staring Man said, loud enough for the other passengers seated at the front of the bus to hear:

“You’d look prettier if you’d smile.”

I muttered as I exited the bus, “And you’d sound smarter if you’d never open your mouth.”

 

 

Back in those days, I swore that Weird Al wrote his parody of Queen’s Another One Bites the Dust for me.

♫  Ridin’ in the bus down the boulevard
And the place was pretty packed,
Couldn’t find a seat so I had to stand
With the perverts in the back
It was smellin’ like a locker room
There was junk all over the floor
We’re already packed in like sardines
But we’re stoppin’ to pick up more, look out

Another one rides the bus, another one rides the bus
And another comes on and another comes on
Another one rides the bus
Hey, he’s gonna sit by YOU, another one rides the bus…

( “Another One Rides the Bus,” full lyrics here )

 

 

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Department of Poetic License

I write and mail two letters every Friday, one to son K and one to daughter Belle. Just because. They don’t get much in the way of snail mail these days (who does?); I thought it would be a nice for them to get something other than advertising flyers, and a fun discipline for moiself, and that it would give them the opportunity to say holy crap, not another one” and reach for the recycling bin lovingly tuck away these personal missives and review them later with fond nostalgia.

Each letter begins with either a haiku or a limerick I have composed, themes varying from personal to political to the weather or a new month/the passage of time…whatever.  Usually I personalize the compositions, but last week they both got the same:

A Haiku For Those Counties Who Want To Leave “Liberal” Oregon
Begone, ingrates, and
take your tR**p-licking mindset
With you when you go.

You diss Portland, yet
have no qualms about taking
Liberal money,

disbursed by the state,
from higher earning/urban
cities, to your schools.

Wave bye-bye, and don’t
let the door hit your Proud Boy
asses when you leave.

That purple prose was inspired by a recent event in Oregon politics:  the majority of voters who cast ballots in advisory special elections in seven eastern/southern Oregon counties approved measures for their counties to leave Oregon and join Idaho.

I should turn in my Scout’s current events badge; I had *no idea* that this issue was A Thing ® . My Not Paying Attention ® may be an example of one of the reasons why the people voting to “secede” did so: they think they play second fiddle to urbanized Oregon (i.e., the  Portland and Eugene metro areas ), and that urbanites, such as moiself, don’t know (or care) about their concerns.  And, in a democracy, that’s kind of true – the “second fiddle” analogy, that is.

The seven counties that  voted to leave, Jefferson, Union, Baker, Grant, Lake, Malheur and Sherman, constitute almost 75% of Oregon’s landmass.
BUT – and it’s a big but here ­–

 

And also here.

 

BUT…all that land is meagerly populated, as in, only ~ 114, 000 total residents.  The state’s entire population is ~ 4,238,000…so those leaving constitute ~ 3% of the total population. Those seven counties poll and vote “red.” And there is, of course, a conservative advocacy group behind this: ” Citizens for Greater Idaho.”

In all the excitement to thumb their noses at those damn liberals,  it is likely that the people who voted to leave have not fully considered several factors in joining “Greater Idaho.”  Two prime factors are:

* A good percentage of the jobs in those counties are minimum wage. Translation: those counties who want to leave are essentially agreeing to a pay cut for hourly workers, as the minimum wage in Oregon ($11.25) is a whopping four dollars higher than in Idaho.

* Speaking of higher, weed is illegal in Idaho.  Are those disgruntled voters trading Oregon buds for Idaho spuds? Those (wanna-be) seceding Oregon counties have made a lot of money from legal marijuana sales (and, in the opinion of some of us, are obviously heavy users of the stuff themselves, as an Oregonian who would vote to join Idaho must be stoned).

Another reason not to miss those who want to go involves something Oregon’s urbanites have grumbled about for years when they hear criticism from the smaller eastern/southern counties:

Oregon is a state that disproportionately gets tax money from its most economically productive citizens — and regions — and which disproportionately spends its resources in economically struggling communities.
(Oregon’s Fiscal Flow)

When it comes to contributing to state coffers and these smaller counties have usually received more, percentage wise, than they give.  The much-despised liberal urban areas pay more than their share for the educational and other social services consumed by the smaller/rural areas.

Here is what Citizen’s For Greater Idaho Envision:

 

 

Here is moiself’s  equally probable pipe dream, of redoing the borders of our entire nation, ever since the re-election of GWB:

 

 

Moiself’s personal take on all of this:  I’ve no problem with those counties leaving (assuming Idaho is willing to take them).  I actually think it would be a good thing, for our country, to see how it turns out.  If it is a success (however that would be measured), I hope that California would then consider a split, or four, of its own.   [6]

From what I’m reading, the secession of these seven counties is unlikely to happen, as per the layers of bureaucracy that have to be dealt with.  Despite what the citizens of those counties voted for, they are dependent upon the approval of other government bodies: both the Oregon and Idaho state legislatures would have to agree to redefine their respective boundaries and redistrict their legislatures. And then the US Congress has final approval.   [7]

Gee, does this dilemma sound so familiar?  The majority voted a certain way; now, the will of the people being thwarted….  Hey y’all in the by-bye Oregon movement, do you now understand why so your fellow Americans want to get rid of the Electoral College?

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
COVID Pundemic Edition

Why do they call it the novel coronavirus? It’s a long story….

Ran out of toilet paper and started using lettuce leaves.
Today was just the tip of the iceberg, tomorrow romaines to be seen.

We had a run on toilet paper in the USA,
but in Germany there was panic-buying of sausage and cheese – the wurst-kase scenario.

The World Health Organization announced that dogs cannot contract COVID-19; thus, dogs previously held in quarantine can be released.
Yep: WHO let the dogs out.

 

*   *   *

 

May you enjoy the new-car smell, no matter what your new car model’s name;
May you soon (if you haven’t already) celebrate your vaccine victory day;
May you hold the door open for anyone you know who wants to secede to Idaho;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] The podcast is an “advice column” in podcast form, although I wonder how many of the advice seekers are legit, or are just making up letters to get some airtime.

[2] I’m not sure re the spellings…but does it matter with a made-up terms?

[3] And as a 99% plant-based eater moiself, I’m in agreement with that idea…but not with how she’s promoting it. And yep, I manage to bake without (dairy) milk and eggs.

[4] And shame on you for immediately going to Euphemism Land.  Think more along the lines of hair salon. 

[5] “normal” as in polite, discreet, keeping their opinions and personal hygiene to themselves.

[6] It’s ridiculous that the 39+ MILLION Californians have less say in their lives than the 580 THOUSAND Wyomingites as per Senate representation. Such incredible power-skewing is not what the framers of the US Constitution envisioned.

[7] The U.S. Constitution (Article IV, section 3) allows for states to be subdivided if the affected states’ legislatures consent and U.S. Congress approves,

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