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The Relationship Advice Book I’m Not Buying

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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.

 

*   *   *

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.

*   *   *

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 )

 

 

*   *   *

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,

The Coyote I’m Not Leashing

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Department Of The Importance Of Looking At The Warning Sign Head-On

Dateline: Wednesday. Moiself  is visiting a Tillamook County campground, to purchase day use passes for the county’s parks and boat launches.  While waiting at the campground’s registry building I see a bright yellow sign posted to the right of the registry’s service window.  As the camp registry clerk prepares my day use passes, I turn my head to look at the sign, which warns campers of coyote sightings in the vicinity.  From where I am standing I can only see the sign from an angle. This slight but significant limit to my field of vision means that I miss two key words in the warning.  The clerk looks up from her paperwork and eyes me questioningly when I begin laughing.  I point to the sign, and say,

“I don’t know about that requirement – from what I understand, most coyotes are very resistant to leash training.”   [1]

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of All We Religion-Free Folks Ask For Is A Little Perspective

MH’s chuckles as he looked at his phone prepped me for the why-haven’t-I-ever-thought-of-that?  moment that was to come.  I was not disappointed, as he read me a social media rumination from a prominent atheist activist:

Christians claim Jesus “died for their sin” ( whatever that means   [2]  ).  However, they also claim that he rose from the dead after three days – crucified on a Friday, alive again on Sunday.  So, essentially, Jesus gave up a long weekend for their sins.

 

“Goddammit! Sooner or later, someone was bound to notice….”

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Literary Biography I Definitely Won’t Be Reading

“I have a terrible confession to make—I have nothing to say about any of the talented women who write today…. I do not seem able to read them.  Indeed I doubt if there will be a really exciting woman writer until the first whore becomes a call girl and tells her tale.”
( Norman Mailer, Advertisements for Myself )

 

 

I was introduced to the “Beat Generation Writers,” in junior high and high school, via recommendations from both teachers and several classmates.  The Beats (e.g., Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg) influenced the 20th century writers who followed them, practitioners of the aggrieved-male-viewpoint-dominated school of fiction. Exemplars of the latter, who came to prominence in the 1950s and 60s, included Norman Mailer (credited for spawning the creative non-fiction movement, aka, “New Journalism”) , Philip Roth, John Updike ad nauseum et al.  These were the writers, I was told, who were influential, and “happening.”  And, you know, cool.  Because they wrote about the anger and angst of contemporary life (read: sex) and weren’t afraid to tackle controversial issues (more sex).

When I first started reading their works, I thought I must be missing something.   [3]  Not wanting to be thought uncool, I mostly kept those thoughts to moiself …then I just stopped pretending I was interested.  Other than an amusing passage about his father’s constipation that I remember from Portnoy’s Complaint, I loathed Philip Roth, and Mailer as well.  Fairly soon after being introduced to their works (after reading one or two novels, essays, short stories from the authors) I stopped reading them altogether.

I loathed the fact that their alleged “hip contemporary” outlook was a thin veil for their raging misogyny.  Yes, they could string together some impressive sentences, but…ick.  And I didn’t need to know the biographical facts of those writers – for example,  [4]   that Mailer had stabbed his wife (# two in a series that would eventually total six wives) –  to figure out that their raging hetero-masculinity  [5]  hid – or fed – a simmering hatred and fear of women, and of anything they deemed feminine (including homosexuality   [6]  ).

I didn’t have the vocabulary to express it at the time, but I knew what those writers’ works reeked of.  The Beats and “New Literature” works were presented to me – to the world – with the implication that to be “literary” (read: not a prude) you have to appreciate them.  Yet I found little either neither new nor literary in those men’s work.  It was the same old, age old sexism, repackaged in more contemporary (i.e., profane and sexual) language.

Those male authors simply and profoundly didn’t like women.  To them, women were a class (or perhaps, caste?), and were lower than men on the intellectual, moral, and consequential totem pole of humanity.  If you were a female you were in one of two of their thematic camps.  You were either their mothers, whom they resented and blamed, or a girl they wanted to fuck (and, later/eventually, resent and blame).  If you didn’t fit into either of those categories you had no use to them.

Thus, my appreciation of a recent essay in The Washington Post, about the controversy behind the release of the latest Philip Roth biography (the biography’s author is accused of sexual assault).  The following excerpt is from that article, which is titled, “Philip Roth and the sympathetic biographer: This is how misogyny gets cemented in our culture.  Roth’s issues with women are well-documented. One of the prime documenters has been accused of rape.”  The essay is by Monica Hesse, and can be read in its entirety here.

“I can’t help thinking about how readers and viewers have been repeatedly presented narratives as the factual observations of great minds rather than as the ax-grinding of men whose judgment on gender relations might be questionable.
Roth, who died in 2018, was not so much a male writer as an archaeologist of maleness, excavating his own concepts of what men desired, needed and hated….’There is in him a dark distaste for women,’ book critic Linda Grant wrote. ‘A repugnance that can only be described by the word misogyny.’  In her essay, a review of his 2001 work, “The Dying Animal,” Grant describes a particular passage, in which a cancer-stricken woman uses her last day before a mastectomy to visit her former professor/lover so that he may fondle her chest and say goodbye. Grant notes that every woman she discussed this passage with burst out laughing at the preposterousness of this idea.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of And While We’re On The Subject

If women write about their inner lives it is considered “confessional.” When men do the same it is called “literary.”  When men write about their lives and feelings, they are said to be writing for and about the human condition, while women doing the same are accused of navel-gazing.

A recent example of this age-old literary hypocrisy can be found in the New York Times article about the writer Kate Baer, aka “The Mommy Poems author.”  The article deals in part with the criticism that because much (not all) of Baer’s subject matter involves motherhood, her work is not considered serious enough…at least, to some (envious, in my opinion   [7])  literary critics.

 

 

A subject that all of humanity experiences is not universal or relevant or serious enough (to the entrenched bastion of male-lens literary criticism) to write about?  Almost half of the human race will be mothers, at some point in our lives, and *all * of us, no matter our class, nationality, religion, ethnicity, political viewpoints, or gender, have mothers.  But how dare a poet write about it – and, even worse, be successful  (my emphases)!

“Since the pandemic, the 35-year-old mother of four (Kate Baer) has been working from the Panera parking lot, sitting in her Honda minivan with her laptop propped against the steering wheel, attempting to catch a Wi-Fi signal….
It was there that she wrote “What Kind of Woman,” a poetry collection that topped the New York Times best-seller list for paperback trade fiction….

( “Kate Baer Is Speaking Truth. From Her Minivan.
Who says motherhood can’t be literary, even poetic?” NY Times 3-13-21 )

The title of Baer’s collection came from the last line of an Instagram message she received from a (male) freelance book reviewer:

“Hi, my name is ___ …and I’d love to pick your brain about being a mommy writer. …my questions are on content. I find your work well written, but the subject matter was not necessarily what I want to read about. Not unbearable, but also not universal.  I’m wondering if studying some of the classic writers (Poe, Hardy, Thoreau) would help hone in (sic) your work to be more relatable. Also the way we have allowed poetry in any space concerns me.  How can we determine what is good from otherwise? I’d love to take at least an hour on the interview…. Afterward we can shape the piece to include excerpts of your work and perhaps explain what kind of woman you are!    ”  

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Getting COVID Vaccination #2

Which moiself  did, yesterday.  Oh, I feel like dancing.  [8]

 

 

*   *   *

Puns For The Day

(male) Authors’ Edition

The author of Webster’s dictionary committed suicide with the book he wrote.
At least he died on his own terms.

Why did the author suffer writers’ block after rectal surgery?
He was left with only a semicolon.

 

“I’m begging you, make it stop.”

*   *   *

May you rejoice in getting completely vaccinated;
May you trust your own judgement in deciding what kind of literature is truly cool;
May you beware of unleashed coyotes;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] The words I could not see were “All pets” (preceding  ” MUST be kept on leash….”).

[2] Yeah, I know what it’s supposed to mean, but it’s so bizarre and primitive – an appeasement of an angry deity through blood sacrifice…it’s nice to watch believers squirm when they try to explain such antiquated theology in 21st century terms.

[3] And for those writers, I was.  I was missing male anatomy, which to them, was everything.

[4] I did not know this at the time I first read anything by Mailer.  Mailer stabbed wife #2 at a party wherein he’d intended to announce his candidacy for New York City Mayor.  “Mailer appeared the next day (after the stabbing) in a scheduled interview on The Mike Wallace Show, where he spoke of the knife as a symbol of manhood and continued to plug his mayoral bid.” (Wikipedia, quoting the article, “Norman Mailer: Stabbing Your Wife as an Existential Experiment.” )

[5] In the case of Roth and Mailer.  Updike’s sexism was a more laid-back, suburbanite version.

[6] Mailer and Updike were particularly known for their homophobic sentiments and comments, even book reviews.

[7] I mean, a best-selling book of poetry?  That just doesn’t happen.

[8] Even if I am having the not-uncommon reaction of feeling a bit punkish afterwards.  My immune system is working; good to know.

The Toxins I’m Not Cleansing

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Department Of…Uh…What Was That Again?

Dateline: Tuesday afternoon, circa 2:30 pm, driving to the grocery store. I turned on my car’s radio; the local NPR station was airing The World (“a public radio program and podcast that crosses borders and time zones to bring home the stories that matter. “).  I caught the tail end of one story being covered, wherein I heard host Marco Werman say something about “…the mighty beaver or beavers who broke the Internet.”

I muttered to moiself  about why a respectable news outlet would waste time covering the woes of an oversubscribed porn site.  When I got home I looked up The World’s website, and discovered that the actual subject of story about which I was…uh…mistaken…was about how the small town of Tumbler Ridge, British Columbia was without internet and phone service for 32 hours after beavers gnawed through some fiber cables.

 

“Aren’t we sweet? Imagine what pictures she could have posted had she just Googled ‘internet beaver?’ “

 

*   *   *

“‘A ‘detoxifying’ cleanser or face mask can remove dirt from your skin, like soap, but it’s not pulling toxins out of your bloodstream,’ (Gregory Rauch, MD,  Rush University Medical Center) says. ‘That’s a mischaracterization.’
Similarly, juice cleanses might temporarily bring your weight down or make your stomach feel empty, but that’s simply because you’re consuming fewer calories. They don’t actually cleanse anything, though they can prevent you from getting needed nutrients and interfere with the workings of your metabolism.”
( “The Truth About Toxins: What to know before you try any product that promises to rid your body of toxins.”
Rush University System For Health newsletter )

I saw this question posted recently, on Facebook:  “What word or phrase do people use that you can’t stand?” This got moiself  thinking about my own semantic pet peeve – a certain word and its adjective form, which are over- and/or misused:

toxin, and toxic

 

 

Moiself  actually thinks the adjective form can, sometimes, be useful (read: descriptive), in terms of its metaphorical application to extremly harmful relationships, interactions, and situations (think, “a toxic work environment“). However, I still think it is overused and hyperbolized (your father-in-law giving a less-than-flattering review of your husband’s new tattoo does not make their relationship toxic).

As for the word toxin…ay yi yi.

This week, in a yoga class on YouTube I tried out (after I missed my regular streaming class yoga class – which I had to skip to let the pest control guy into the house…a long story    [1]  which fortunately did not involve Canadian beavers chewing on anything), I was hoping my eyerolls could be detected through my laptop screen when the yoga teacher said that a certain asana helps “…cleanse the toxins from your body.”

From juice fasts to purifying diets to colon cleanses and salt baths and homeopathic remedies and exercise regimens and even types of guided meditation, there are people peddling products and regimens which purport to “rid your body of toxins.”

 

 

Such claims either promise or imply a solution to a problem– the idea that we have “toxins” lurking in our bodies – that is, essentially, horseshit made up.   [2]

It can be an effective scare tactic/snakeoil claim lure, to get people to think, “Gee, I’ve got poisons in my body, I should probably get them out.”  However, have you ever encountered, in the descriptions of such products, the products’ makers explicitly naming *what* toxins their, say, detoxifying tea will rid you of?

Of course not.  Because :

(1)  there aren’t any poisonous substances in your body that these kinds of products could actually remove from your body;

(2) most people making or repeating such claims seem not to know what a toxin is.

(3) there is no #3.  Aren’t (1) and (2) enough?

I don’t think the “helps eliminate toxins” claims are always, or even typically, done maliciously or with intent to deceive.  Such assertions have just become a part of the health/wellness lingo, wherein proponents of products and services use the vocabulary of science without actually knowing what they’re talking about.  It’s analogous to all the people who do not have Celiac disease but chose gluten-free products because they think such products are “healthier,” but, when asked, cannot give an accurate definition what gluten is (watch late night talks show host Jimmy Kimmel take hilarious advantage of this phenomenon with this on-the-street interview segment).

 

“C’mon, kiddies, let’s get out our mad scientist dictionaries!”

A poison is a substance which “…can cause death, injury or harm to organs, tissues, cells, and DNA usually by chemical reactions or other activity on the molecular scales, when an organism is exposed to a sufficient quantity.”  [3]    A toxin is a specific type of a poison. Most commonly, toxin is used to refer to a chemical poison which has a living source (‘biotoxin‘ or ‘natural toxin‘).  Toxicology is the branch of science which studies the harmful effects of chemicals, whether synthetic (manufactured) or natural, on living organisms.  Examples of synthetic chemical toxins include dioxins, pesticides, and nerve gases; naturally occurring toxins (biotoxins) include belladonna, botulinum, and tetanus.  [4]  Almost everyone has experience with one class of naturally occurring toxin – the venoms produced by living organisms which are injected via a bite or sting (snakes, spiders, bees, scorpions, wasps….).

We now pause for this public service announcement: You can find a good/basic primer about poisons and toxins at Science Learning Hub

Many well-meaning (or at least naïve) people seem not to know that the human body evolved organs which are very good at getting rid of substances that don’t belong in the human body.  These organs are the lungs (which filter airborne contaminants), the liver and kidneys (which filter the blood), and the colon (described by one doctor as the body’s “self-cleaning oven.”) . Should these organs be damaged, via actions/accidents or disease (say, the lungs via smoking, or the liver via hepatitis), or you have symptoms indicating that your body’s organs aren’t working well, y’all need to stop chugging your thermos-ful of raw juice detox-cleanse and get y’all’s selves to an ER.

I’ve had a home yoga exercise practice for almost 40 years;  moiself  thinks that literally everyone – save for infants and toddlers and Vladimir Putin (you know if he were in your yoga class he’d insist being in the front/center row and removing his shirt) – can benefit from having a yoga practice and/or attending yoga classes.  A regular yoga practice can boost your strength and flexibility and help you cultivate mindfulness, all of which contribute to your physical and mental well-being. These benefits are backed by scientific studies and are not just the claims of a gym owner trying to sell you a package of yoga classes.   But when I come across a yogi, be they a teacher or a practitioner, who says things like, “Try these easy yoga poses to detoxify your body!” I…well…

 

…which isn’t very yoga of me.

Fortunately, in my four years of attending yoga classes at a local studio, I can only recall – praaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaise de lawd!! – hearing the word “toxin” used twice.  I cringed both times, and considered asking the teacher (after class) to clarify her usage and understanding of the term…but decided not to rock the boat.

 

This boat won’t be rocking.

 

Nor will this one.

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Wisdom From Experience Which No One Wants To Experience

“Grief has slowly become integrated into my body and my art. Sometimes it still hurts enough that I gasp for air. Less often, grief curls me into a ball and renders me blind to anything outside of my shape. Other times, it moves into my chest as a wave, and with my hand to my heart and a deep breath, I sway with it until the intensity passes. The end point on the chart of grief is, for me, the beginning of knowing how to live with it; the understanding that the intensity passes and will return and pass again.”
( Christa Couture)

Moiself  recently finished reading Canadian singer-songwriter-musician Christa Couture’s memoir, How to Lose Everything: A Memoir about Losing My Children, My Leg, My Marriage, and My Voice.  Her book’s title is not the hyperbole employed by an eager agent or publicity-pushing publisher.  Couture really did lose all of those things:

* her two sons (one died within hours of his birth, the other at age 14 months from a congenital heart condition);
* her leg (amputated, to cure the bone cancer which could not be cured by chemo and radiation treatments, when she was 12 years old);
* her marriage (via divorce; the pain of losing their children was too much for the relationship to survive);
* her singing voice (thyroid tumors, likely the result of the radiotherapy treatments for her bone cancer).

For a person with that life resumé, the book’s focus is, not surprisingly, on her experiences living with grief and loss.  However, this memoir is not all lamentation and devastation. Couture did go on to have a daughter and recovered her voice, and she has a distinctive, understated, wry sense of humor and outlook on The Human Condition ® .  Also, if you read this book (and I hope you will), you’ll get her take on such topics as why you should not refer to a disabled person as “inspirational” ( unless they are, at that moment, actually doing something inspirational, like using their prosthetic limb to stamp out a wildfire or free golfer Tiger Woods from a car crash ).

I found the closing passages in her book to be lyrically profound as well as wise (if not…uh…inspirational?):

“Some days, you will see grief coming, and you will be able to say, ‘Now is not a good time.’ And it will listen. Sorrow can be a stubborn friend, but also a patient one.

Know that sorrow evolved from joy—that she knows and remembers happiness as well as she understands where tears come from. For that, sorrow is a powerful and wise emotion, and you will be wiser with her. You will be tender in new spots and harder in others. You won’t be the same person as before—I’m sorry, that, too, is a loss.

I will not tell you that which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. I will not tell you your loss is for the better. You will lose everything, and it will be different. Remember: you have the right to honour. To honour the memory of the person, place, time and potential you lost. To remember, as often as you need, what you love, what you miss, what still brings you joy, what still hurts your heart.

And—you have the right to forget. Truly. The most painful memories are yours to let go of, when you’re ready. You are not dishonouring those memories by letting them go. Trust me. If you like, find a place for them, for safekeeping. Tell a person close to you and let them know you are telling them this story for them to remember and you to forget. Write a letter and drop it, unaddressed, in a mailbox or into the flames of a fire or under a mound of dirt at the base of a tree. Walk into the woods, dig a hole and cry or sing or sob or tell your most painful memory into the earth.”

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Remind Us Once Again Why He Married This Person
And Had Children With Her?

Dateline:  late last week.  I was out of town; MH had been hearing strange noises seemingly coming from from (what we hoped was) the roof, and investigated.  The following are excerpts from a dialog on our family messenger site (son K weighed in at the end of this thread). BTW, this is the bedroom our family calls the cat shelf room:

 

 

MH:
I went in the attic behind the cat shelf room and there were squirrels in there. I’m going to Home Depot to get some traps (live.)

Moiself:
Yikes! I suppose we’ll have to figure out how they got in…

MH:
I know exactly how they’re getting in. Or at least a couple of ways.

Moiself:
Well don’t leave me in suspense.

MH:
(He sent a picture of a corner of the roof, where squirrels had been chewing a hole)
This morning there are wood bits all over the roof near there.

Moiself:
Holy crap.  They need to die.

K:
We gotta get you one of them flamethrowers.

Moiself:
Good idea! If your house burns down, then squirrels can’t break into it.

K:
Mom can reenact the ending of Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.

Insert squirrels, stage left.

 

BTW,  Happy anniversary, MH!

*   *   *

Puns For The Day
Wedding Anniversary Edition

MH and I look forward to celebrating our 200th wedding anniversary.
It’ll be our bison-tennial.

When I asked MH if he’d like me to get him a new Mini Cooper convertible to celebrate our
anniversary, he exclaimed, “Nothing would make me happier!”
So I got him nothing.

 

“I’ll go back on the endangered species list before I’ll listen to any more of these….”

*   *   *

May your relationship with squirrels and other pests be non-toxic;
May you take a yoga class and try rocking your boat pose (trust me; it’s fun);
May you be loving and forbearing with those who lose “everything” (and remember, all of us, eventually, will lose something);
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Which moiself  will not relay in great detail. Suffice to say while I do *not* have bats in my belfry, MH and I do have squirrels in our attic.

[2] Or at best vastly misunderstood and misinterpreted.

[3] Poison, Wikipedia.

[4] Also, there are substances which occur naturally in the ground (e.g. asbestos and lead), which, to humans, are poisonous if ingested/inhaled.

The (insert your organization’s name here) Of The Year Award I’m Not Winning

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Department Of A Rhetorical Question Which Is Going To Be Answered

Dateline: Sunday morning, returning from walk, listening to The Go-Go’s album,  Talk Show.  It’s one of my faves, except for the chorus of the song, Forget That Day. The song’s narrator laments what seems to be a tryst at a no-tell motel, with a lover who is already involved with someone else.  In the chorus, she laments the consequences…over and over and over….

♫  Why’d you say you loved me
That day, that day
When you knew you wouldn’t have me on
This day, this day…

What do you mean *why?*

Because it worked. Because he wanted you to fuck him, and you did.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Best Kind Of Spam Call

MH called me into his work-at-home office. When I entered the room to find out what had put the impish lilt in his voice, he held up his cellphone for me to see the caller ID for the call he’d just received (but did not answer).  “I knew you’d like this,” he said, when moiself  raised my hands with gratitude to unknown cosmic pranksters when I beheld the call’s destination:

Unknown
Athol, Maine

Hopefully, fans of the romcom Made of Honor will also one day have the opportunity to say that you got a call from some anonymous athol.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Well, There Goes My Award

Dateline: Tuesday, noonish.  MH comes downstairs, holding his phone, with yet another bit o’ impishness about him – this time, in his expression.

“What?” I ask him.

“Did you hear that Richard Dawkins got his Humanist of the Year Award taken away?” he says.

I didn’t even know that Richard Dawkins – evolutionary biologist, author, professor, atheist activist, religion-and-supernatural-thinking debunker, and equal opportunity offender when it comes to towing *any* group’s party line – had even received a Humanist of the Year Award…but him being bestowed with that title wouldn’t surprise me. I knew Dawkins had received the prized, “The Emperor Has No Clothes” award from the FFRF (Freedom From Religion Foundation), as well as a variety of other accolades for his advocacy of science and critical thinking. 

“No, I didn’t,” I replied.  “Why was it taken away – wait; let me guess.  He said something ‘offensive’?”

“It was taken away for, ‘transphobia.’ ” MH scrolled through the news feed he was reading.  “Something he tweeted.”

“Oh dear,” I giggled.  “Did someone get their trannie panties in a knot?”

 

 

*   *   *

Department So Of Course I Got Curious

Moiself got to be wondering: when was the award given, and when and what did Dawkins tweet? The answers were just a google search away.

The award was given in – holy crap – 1996?  Twenty-five years ago?  Yeah, he’s gonna be missing that…certificate…trophy…framed plaque…engraved toaster, or whatever prize is bestowed upon a Humanist of The Year.

“Mr. Dawkins sparked a backlash on Twitter after he tweeted on April 10: ‘In 2015, Rachel Dolezal, a white chapter president of NAACP, was vilified for identifying as Black. Some men choose to identify as women, and some women choose to identify as men. You will be vilified if you deny that they literally are what they identify as. Discuss.’

Several hours later, Mr. Dawkins clarified he was asking the question for academic purposes and not stating his own opinion on the matter.

‘I do not intend to disparage trans people,’ he wrote. ‘I see that my academic ‘Discuss’ question has been misconstrued as such and I deplore this. It was also not my intent to ally in any way with Republican bigots in US now exploiting this issue.’ ”
( “Richard Dawkins loses ‘Humanist of the Year’ award after comparing trans people to Rachel Dolezal,”
The Washington Times, 4-20-21 )

Okey-dokey. So: Dawkins didn’t call anyone names; he didn’t call for anyone to be marginalized or vilified. He merely stated several verifiable historical, biological, cultural and social commentary data:

  1. In 2015, Rachel Dolezal, a white chapter president of NAACP, was vilified for identifying as Black.
  2. Some men choose to identify as women.
  3. Some women choose to identify as men.
  4. You will be vilified if you deny that they (the men and women in points B and C) literally are what they identify as.

Richard Dawkins is a scientist.  He views the world, even the “social constructs” of the culture wars, through the lens of scientific critique and investigation.  Here is another thing he said, in 2015 when the Rachel Dolezal brouhaha was going on:

Is trans woman a woman? Purely semantic.
If you define by chromosomes, no. If by self-identification, yes.
I call her “she” out of courtesy.
(Richard Dawkins, @RichardDawkins, Oct 26, 2015 )

I call her she” out of courtesy (my emphases).  Whether you are a scientist or a sociologist or a dinner party guest, you call people what they want to be called; it’s a simple courtesy.  Dawkins reinforces that, by using the preferred pronouns a trans woman would use.  Were any of his critics paying attention?

In terms of the reaction to Ms. Dolezal, Dawkins stated the facts that had many people on the many sides of that wild rumpus wondering, “Wait a minute – how is this is this different from that?” (including moiself , who, deep down inside, identifies as Scarlett Johanssen, no matter what moiself looks like from the outside).

 

“Yeah, right – don’t drag me into this dumpster fire of an issue, bitch.”

Ahem.

Such questions ( “Can we talk about how or why this is, or is not, different from that?”)  can lead to illuminating dialogs.    [1]   Dialogs; you know, as in talking about the issues.  As in, “discussions.” 

Nope.  “Discuss” translates into – Dis-and-react.  As in (attempt to) shame, shout down, demonize,   [2]   and “cancel.”

It often seems that, in the censorious here and now, we cannot merely discuss any hot button topics.  This, regrettably, gives ammunition to those on “The Right” who say that “The Left” is composed of thin-skinned, self-righteous, free-speech fascists/crybabies who cannot abide the examination of their sacred cows without hiding behind the skirts of The Rhetoric of the Oppressed (“You offended me!  WAAAH!”). 

Dawkins, of course, should’ve expected this reaction.  Or, perhaps he anticipated it? He seems to enjoy putting the proverbial burr under the saddle – any rider’s saddle, including those of his own cavalry.

 

“Tell her she can stop right now with the horseback-riding metaphors, okay?”

 

Also, after decades of being threatened with the torments of hell by the (Christian) religious right for his pro-evolution/anti-creationism campaigns (Dawkins has likened the teaching of creationism in schools – which can be found hiding behind the rhetorical skirts of “intelligent design” – as “educational debauchery”), I don’t think Dawkins is going to lose any sleep over the retracted prize.

And so it is that I dust out the Asshat Of The Week award.  [3]   It seems fitting to give the award to The American Humanist Association, to dishonor their sanctimonious revocation of their 1996 award to Dawkins.  [4]

 

American Humanist Association, this Ass Hat is for you.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Everything Is Going To Be All Right, Trust Me

You know how some people contact a famous person and request birthday or other greetings for their friend, their elderly mother, a child dying of cancer, etc.?  Apparently, not all such requests are on the up-and-up, as Former Member of Parliament Nigel Farage discovered when he fell for a prank on a video-sharing app wherein fans pay celebrities to record personalized messages.

Serves him right, sez moiself.  Farage, a Brexit party leader , anti-semitic conspiracy theorist, right wing German anti-immigrant party supporter , long-time #45 defender and all-around enema bag, participates on this greetings-for-hire site (and reportedly charges £75 for each recording).  But money can’t buy a petty thrill as delightful as the one that comes from knowing that Farage’s petty greed and/or ego led to him being seen and heard around the viral world, wishing a happy birthday to a “Hugh Janus.”

“Happy birthday Hugh Janus, I’ve heard you’re a massive fan,” Farage said.

 

They also think it’s hilarious….and they don’t even speak English.

 

You can see the video here.

*   *   *

Department Of 7 Am Reflections On The Meaning Of Life ®

On a walk, blissfully solitary except for the early risers   [5]  taking their canine companions for a morning piss stroll, I find moiself  thinking,

Dogs are amiable, furry, quadrupedal structures enclosing gallon-sized bladders.

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

I keep asking wat LGBTQ stands for,
but I can never get a straight answer.    [6]

 

 

*   *   *

May Those Who Bestow Such Things ® have a helluva good reason before they take away your award;
May you refrain (sorry) from writing songs with stupid questions in their choruses;
May Mr. Hugh Janus record a birthday greeting for you;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] If cool heads reign.

[2] Which is a failing strategy, when applied to an atheist.

[3] Which actually has not been bestowed, by moiself, in several years.

[4] Who will likely lose little sleep over the issue.  “Dawkins, 80, claimed that the loss of the award would have little practical effect on him because he had never used it. ‘Apparently the honour hadn’t meant enough to me to be worth recording in my CV,’ he said.”  (The Times)

[5] Now, why would you think there would be a footnote here?

[6] And the answer is “Let’s Get Bubble Tea Quickly.”

The Songs I’m Not Re-Writing

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Department Of Actually, It *Was* You.
Atone and Move On, But Don’t Deny, Minimize, Or Forget.

Re: the recent Fresh Air interview with singer/songwriter Brandi Carlile.  I tuned in eagerly, as I’m a fan of both the show and Carlile’s music (and am currently reading her memoir).  I’m sure I must have previously heard the BC song “That Wasn’t Me,” but I’d never paid attention to the lyrics until FA host Terry Gross and BC began discussing it.

Carlile had a tumultuous childhood, with a myriad of family challenges, including poverty, coming out as gay as an adolescent (and being publicly refused a baptism because of it), and her father’s alcoholism.  Carlile spoke of being influenced by the mindset/jaron of Al-Anon and Alateen in terms of her composing  That Wasn’t Me, which is sung from the POV of an addict or “misbehaver” of some kind.

The song is written in sympathy, or at least that’s moiself’s  interpretation, as the addict/narrator is not called out for his self-deception which prevents him from full-on owning and/or apologizing for the pain he has caused.

♫  Tell me did I go on a tangent?
Did I lie through my teeth?
Did I cause you to stumble on your feet?
Did I bring shame on my family?
Did it show when I was weak?
Whatever you see, that wasn’t me
That wasn’t me, that wasn’t me  ♫
(excerpt from “That Wasn’t Me,” Brandi Carlile)

“That wasn’t me?” I disagree.  Ginormously.

A second listen to the lyrics and I was still clenching my jaw.

 

 

I assume the song is Carlile’s way of trying to show love/empathy/forgiveness for her father – all laudable emotions and goals. Still, I loathe the way she did it, as in, the lines she gave him.   [1]

Whatever you see, that wasn’t me.  Uh, actually, it *was.*

It was you, using drugs or whiskey or whatever, but it was still *you* on drugs or whiskey, not Mel Gibson or anyone else. Not all addicts do the particular, specific things you did; thus, the whatever-it-is-you-did-that-you-feel-the-need-to-mention,  it *was* you.  It may have been difficult, even-heart-breaking, for the little girl to see you, her daddy, do the things you did, but you did do those things and she saw you do them.  It was you; it wasn’t someone or something (“the needle” or “the bottle”)  else.

 

 

No matter how lyrically or artfully it is phrased, a statement which uses the format of a question for listing the consequences, for others, for your behavior (“did I go on a tangent/lie/cause you to stumble/bring shame on my family…?”) is not an *acknowledgment* of those consequences.  Sans acceptance of responsibility, such an anemic non-apology is arguably even more damaging (to the one being addressed) than a denial.  Especially, in moiself’s opinion, when such statements are aimed at a girl-childs.

From sexual harassment and abuse, to academic, political and workplace discrimination, to family dysfunction and every dynamic on the planet, girls and women are taught, socialized, and pressured to *not*  believe their own eyes and ears, nor to trust their own experiences. “It’s *your* interpretation of what happened that is wrong,” females are told, it’s not that what happened to you is wrong.    [2]

* You’re six years old, and just before another holiday gathering you tell your mother about how the behavior of a certain extended family member creeps you out.  But your mother pooh-poohs your request to stay far away from him.  “Oh no, that’s just your Uncle Buck!  He’s so friendly – Buck loves everybody, and he’s always been a big hugger.  Now, don’t be shy or hurt his feelings when he’s around, you know how special he thinks you are….”
Months or years later, Uncle Buck molests you/your sister/cousin/friend, and/or you find out he’s been arrested for child sexual abuse….

* Introverted, awkward, 7th grade you finally gets up the nerve to complain to your teacher and your parents about your classmate Billy.  Billy constantly looks for opportunities to tease you in the school hallways; he has “bumped into” you several times, jamming his elbow in your ribs (so hard that it once left a bruise); he even tried to push you/trip you down the stairs the other day.  Although you are annoyed by and even growing fearful of Billy, the adults tell you that you should “laugh it off,” and that Billy “…does this because he likes you…and you want boys to like you, right?”

* Your high school guidance counselor tries to discourage you (and another female A-student you know) from applying to a certain university because, he warns you, it is known for being “…a very competitive school, academically rigorous, with all the students vying for pre-professional majors.”  Two male friends of yours, who want to apply to the same university, are told by that same counselor that the school would be an excellent choice for them, as it is “…a very competitive school, academically rigorous, with all the students vying for pre-professional majors.”  This is despite the fact that both your and that other female student’s GPAs and SAT scores are higher than the same of those two boys.   [3]  When you bring this incongruity to the attention of a trusted teacher and/or your parents, you are told that there is no sexist bias, overt or subliminal.  “That’s not like him, no way! The counselor was just encouraging students to follow their natural interests….”

* Your colleague keeps claiming credit for your ideas and work, and/or interrupting you during meetings and/or touching you and speaking provocatively/dismissively to you. He never shows such behavior with his male coworkers. When you bring this to your boss’s attention you are told, “That’s not what’s going on; that’s just Jake.  He doesn’t mean anything personal; that’s his M.O.  Why are you putting that interpretation on things, when no one else has a problem with him?”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of My Brain Just Does This
Number 949 In A Never-Ending Series

Speaking of Fresh Air, Terry Gross is one of the best interviewers ever. And she says something at least once during every FA interview which never fails to amuse me. After TG announces a pause for the obligatory station identification break, she continues with,

“For those of you just joining us, my guest is Brandi Carlile (or whomever.)”

Immediately, every damn time, my brain does a riff on taking that phrase literally, ala

“And for those of you *not*  just joining us, my guest is _______”    [4]

 

*   *   *

Department Of What Is The Sound Of Asparagus Screaming?

The Food Editor of the NY Times apparently knows, as per this recent headline:

16 Asparagus Recipes That Positively Scream Spring

I made one of the recipes (“Turmeric Black Pepper Chicken With Asparagus”), “trading”  [5]  crumbled tempeh for the chicken.

Moiself  heard no positive (or negative) screaming, nor vocalizing of any kind, from the asparagus stalks.  The asparagus tips, however, were another matter.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Perfect Shell

  1. The perfect shell does not exist.
  2. Even if it does exist, it is unlikely that I will find it.
  3. There is no third thing.

That said, something about the symmetry and simplicity of the lines and coloring made me think that this shell is close to perfect. 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Doing My Part For Public Health

What from I’m been seeing on social media, apparently, the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccination approaches 110% if you post a picture of your proof of vaccine card.  Not wanting to dis science or anything:

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Nit-Picking Yet Another Podcast-Related Song

Don’t Ask Tig (“Comedian Tig Notaro doesn’t have all the answers, but that won’t stop her from giving advice on…”).  The podcast is bookended with Edie Brickell songs – new songs, apparently written for (and owned by?) the podcast.  The theme/opener seems to be “We Got a friend in Tig,” and the closing song, I’m calling, “That’s What Your Heart is For.”   [6]    The closing song reminds me of the podcast itself, in that I like a lot of things about it but there are parts of it I want to change.

♫  Ooooh, my sweet child/There’s so much I want you to know
Ooooh, my sweet child/There’s so much I want you to see
I wish that I could give you the answers
I wish that I could make you believe
I wish that I could put you on your path and set you free…

That’s what your heart is for
That’s what your heart is for
That’s what your heart is for
Listen to your heart….  ♫

It’s a sweet tune; a lovely melody, a song about a mother (the sentiments, of course, could be the same for a father) expressing her love and hopes for the life journey her child will be taking.  But, when it comes to the chorus I want Brickell to add another line

♫ …That’s what your heart is for
Listen to your heart….
Then check in with your brain.  ♫

Listen to your heart is considered by many folks to be classic advice. But unless tempered by your head, listening to your heart can be horrible counsel.  The latter because…

 

 

Step back and look at your own life and decisions, as well as those of your family and friends.  “Follow your heart” is a strategy which *never* leads us astray, does it?  We always, consistently, want and crave what is ultimately best for us, right?

It seems every week I run across a news story about how someone, from an average Joe to a Famous Person, needs to take out an order of protection (aka, restraining order) against some other person who is stalking them. this is because Stalker’s heart has told them that their primary mission in life is to be with average Joe/celebrity, even when the object of their obsession vehemently thinks otherwise.

In the case of the Famous Person, oft times the celebrity is being hounded by someone they have never even met. Yet that Someone is absolutely, 150% convinced, “in their heart,” that they and the famous Person are meant to be together.

Lovelorn fanatics aside, there’s also a small but significant number of people whose hearts (and heads) can never (or rarely) be trusted to give them reliable guidance or even feedback, due to mental illness and related disorders.

Perhaps I’m overthinking this.  I like the song; still, if you’re gonna listen to your heart, please remember to run whatever your heart is saying past your brain.

 

*   *   *

(Visually Assisted) Pun For The Day

From a day last month, actually. I’m just seeing it for the first time.

Backstory:  Infectious Disease Epidemiologist Julia Marcus tweeted a picture of a graph (a screenshot from a slide presentation on an FDA website) which showed how the efficacy of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine increased over time.  The image, a faint black line amid gray shading, resembled something that the good-humored doctor thought was worth celebrating, as per her caption,

J&J vaccine is rising to the occasion.”

 

*   *   *

 

May you rise to the occasion and get your COVID vaccination;
May you uncover the beauty and mystery of screaming asparagus;
May your heart always check in with your brain;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Or, perhaps those are the lines he gave himself?

[2] The following incidences I site as examples, each and every one of them unfortunately common to “the female experience” worldwide. These particular ones were all experienced by girls and women I know personally.

[3] Which you know because you asked them, after you found out that they were interested in applying to the same school and you asked about their conversation with the guidance counselor, mistakenly assuming that he (the counselor) also tried to discourage them, like he did with you and the other girl.

[4] Victor Lazlo, or, _____?  We who’ve listened from the beginning of the show get someone else.

[5] Their term, not mine, for substituting other protein sources for the chicken…which we plant-based folks are known to do.

[6] I’m having a hard time doing a search for the song titles.

The Subjects I’m Not Avoiding

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Department Of Are You Mortal?

Moiself, too.  So, why do we act as if we think are not?

I highly recommend the latest edition of the podcast Clear + Vivid. In a moving and candid conversation – frequently seasoned by laughter (which might be surprising to some, given the subject matter) – podcast host Alan Alda talks with his guest, author and Rabbi Steve Leder,  about the inevitability of death, and grief. These are subjects people usually avoid, which, Leder says, only adds to the losses people inevitably face in life.

At one point in their conversation, as Alda and Leder discussed the importance of acknowledging our mortality, Alda said,  “Talk some more about this. ‘Cause you still haven’t convinced me to die.”  Leder’s response, which prompted laughter from both men, was, “Well, I don’t have to.”

Leder has written a book (“The Beauty of What Remains: How Our Greatest Fear Becomes Our Greatest Gift”) which Alda describes as “…a moving, inspiring and often funny book about the loss of loved ones.”  Although Leder has officiated at more than 1,000 funerals, he found his own preconceived notions of grief – what it is and “how” to do it – challenged when his beloved father died.

I love it when Someone With Experience And Authority ® confirms a suspicion I’ve had for years.  Thus, thank gawd (sez the atheist) that Leder disagrees with the “Five  [1]   Stages of Grief” mythology.  Leder says we have “been done a terrible disservice” with this idea that there are stages or phases of grief, which implies that grief is a linear process (“First you will deal with Stage A, then you will feel Stage B…”).

Grief is non-liner; Leder declares. It is much more analogous to waves:

“They come very close together and are very large at first. They do spread out, and sometimes you even get beautiful, calm seas for a day, a week, a month, a year…. And then sometimes, when your back is turned, there can be a massive wave of grief that takes you down.  And that is not ‘stages.’

Before my father died, what I used to say to people is, ‘Look, the most honest and helpful think I can say to you right now is that it won’t always hurt so much.’ And I don’t say that anymore.  Now I say, ‘It won’t always hurt so *often.*’ Because when it hurts, it hurts every bit as much.”

 

 

*  It’s who we have, not what we have, that matters.

*The beauty of the flower is that it fades.

*The meaning of life is that it ends.

* Understanding the ephemeral nature of life – choosing to acknowledge that we don’t have forever – makes things great and small (our children and friends; a hot fudge sundae) more precious, not less.

These and other observations which Leder shares and expounds upon are no less profound for their relative simplicity.  Check out the entire interview:  “Make the End a Beginning” Clear + Vivid.

 

Alda and Leder also have an interesting chat about what is revealed by what people put on their gravestones.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Reality Checks

As in, my attempt to provide one.  No doubt I will need one as well, if moiself  thinks that my feedback will either get a response (I doubt it/am not expecting it) or make a difference (I hope it will).

The following feedback was sent by moiself , earlier this week, to Shankar Vedantam, the science journalist and host of one of my favorite podcasts, Hidden Brain.

Dear Mr. Vedantam,

Love your show; regular listener here.  As per your interview on “Useful Delusions,” re your upcoming book of the same name, I cringed to hear you give credence, even in the context of how people respond to stress, to that  “…old proverb, ‘There are no atheists in the foxhole’….”

Yes, it is an old proverb. Old, insulting, and lousy – as in, inaccurate.

I wish you’d do a story on that.

An atheist-themed festival drew hundreds of people to an Army post in North Carolina on Saturday for what was believed to be the first-ever event held on a U.S. military base for service members who do not have religious beliefs.
Signs in support of atheism are seen during the “Rock Beyond Belief” festival at Fort Bragg army base in North Carolina March 31, 2012. The atheist-themed festival drew hundreds of people to Fort Bragg on Saturday for what was believed to be the first-ever event held on a U.S. military base for service members who do not have religious beliefs.
Organizers said they hoped the “Rock Beyond Belief” event at Fort Bragg would spur equal treatment toward nonbelievers in the armed forces and help lift the stigma for approximately 295,000 active duty personnel who consider themselves atheist, agnostic or without a religious preference.
Defense Department policy holds that all service members have the right to believe in any or no religion. But those gathered at the event described being ostracized and harassed in the military community for not believing in God and worried about getting passed over for promotions if their secularist stances were widely known.
( “Military nonbelievers’ event shows there are atheists in foxholes.” (Reuters)

Not only have there *always* been atheists in foxholes, the FFRF   [2]  periodically bestows an award, “Atheists in Foxhole,” to commemorate that fact:

“This award was suggested by Vietnam War vet…Steve Trunk, to combat the ridiculous myth that there are no “atheists in foxholes,” and, in particular, to recognize activism to defend the constitutional principle of separation between state and church which every soldier takes an oath to uphold.”

To repeat: there are and have always been “atheists in foxholes;” however, they often have compelling reasons to remain in the foxhole/closet while they serve in the military. Religion-free soldiers can feel that they face an equal or greater danger from their fellow soldiers and commanding officers than from enemy fire, if their religious comrades discover that they are not religious believers.

“When Specialist Jeremy Hall held a meeting last July for atheists and freethinkers at Camp Speicher in Iraq, he was excited, he said, to see an officer attending.
But minutes into the talk, the officer…began to berate Specialist Hall and another soldier about atheism….
Major Welborn told the soldiers he might bar them from re-enlistment and bring charges against them….
Specialist Hall and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, an advocacy group, filed suit in federal court in Kansas, alleging that Specialist Hall’s right to be free from state endorsement of religion under the First Amendment had been violated and that he had faced retaliation for his views. (Specialist Hall) was sent home early from Iraq because of threats from fellow soldiers.
( “Soldier Sues Army, Saying His Atheism Led to Threats,” NY Times )

Staff Sgt. Richlin Chan, who served in Afghanistan, is an “Atheist in Foxhole” who was profiled in the FFRF’s newsletter, Freethought Today (June/July 2010). Chan told this story:

In 2007, a soldier named Jeremy Hall was threatened and persecuted by fellow soldiers and a higher-ranking officer for holding an atheist meeting in Iraq.  After a firefight in which a protective screen deflected enemy fire, his commander later asked him if he believed in god.  Jeremy responded, “No, but I believe in plexiglass.”

If you’re interested, other resources include the MAAF (Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers); “I was An Atheist in a Foxhole,” (American Humanist Association) ; “The US Military Has a Problem With Atheists,” (The Week);  “Military atheists seeking the rights and benefits offered to religious groups”(Stars and Stripes).

Yours in the never-ending battle to temper inaccurate proverbs with reality checks,

 

 

*   *   *

Lest you think my picking that certain nit   [3]  spoiled the podcast for me, it did not.  I found the (rest of the) episode (Hidden Brain: Useful Delusions) quite enjoyable.  Of particular interest to moiself  was Shankar’s exposition on the adaptive or “useful” effects that delusional thinking can have, as well as the phenomenon of “naive realism.”

Naive realism allows us to judge others for engaging in what we’d call delusional thinking, while we convince ourselves that we, even in the same position as a desperate person, would never, say, vote for a demagogue or buy a snake oil potion/miracle cure, etc.  Vedantam illustrates this with a personal story of his own.  Several months ago, while travelling several hours from his home, Vedantam suffered a retinal detachment.  He had to seek emergency medical care, without having time to check reviews or get recommendations for a doctor or weighs pros and cons of treatment options. He found a doctor who was willing to open his practice up at 9 pm and see him. The doctor said Vedantam had to have emergency surgery ASAP or he would lose his eyesight. And so, Vedantan did….

“…what all of us do, in positions of great vulnerability: I put all my faith and trust in this doctor. Now, as it turned out, he was a brilliant surgeon and he ended up saving my eye, for which I am profoundly grateful. But imagine for a moment that he had not been a brilliant doctor; let’s imagine if he had been a charlatan. Would it have been any less likely for me to put my faith in him? And I would argue the answer is no, because my faith in him did not arise because of what *he* did, my faith arose because of what *I* was going through.

I was going through a period of great vulnerability, a period of great fear. Trusting him made me feel better…. Expand this in all kinds of ways, and you can see why people sometimes gravitate to beliefs that are false, to demagogues and false prophets. It’s not so much because of the demagogues and false prophets, it’s because of their own vulnerabilities.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of My Favorite Euphemisms

Dateline: last weekend, listening to a podcast in which anthropologists discussed the DNA sequences found from human bodies in caves in Siberia, Spain, and Croatia.

What the anthropologists found shows evidence of human-Neanderthal interbreeding as far back as 100,000 years ago. What I found was a delightful, heretofore-unknown-to-moiself, synonym…genteelism…rewording.

According to scientists, early humans and Neanderthals engaged in

“gene flow events.”

Aka, sex.

This substitute term should be a relief to teens everywhere. Despite their legendary taking of delight in shocking their elders by singing along to salacious pop song lyrics, teens are notoriously squeamish, to the point of disgust, when it comes to even thinking about the fact that their parents might have hooked up with one another in order to produce their offspring.  Chill, Ethan and Emma: your mother and father didn’t get it on. They merely engaged in a gene flow event.

 

 

*   *   *

Department of, Bingo!

But when Abby and I announced our relationship, the first article…said, “Abby Wambach in love with Christian mommy blogger.”…So the rest of the world picked up that one  — and now on my tombstone, no matter what else I do, it’ll say Christian mommy blogger…. I feel like it’s the most misogynistic, ridiculous title ever. Because no male activist or New York Times bestseller is described as a daddy…or by his religion.
( Glennon Doyle, from the podcast, Sway, 2-25-21)

I’m somewhat new to Sway, but after listening to a few episodes I’m impressed with the variety of guests and topics.  Hosted by Kara Swisher, “Silicon Valley’s most feared and well-liked journalist,” the podcast’s focus is “power: who has it, who’s been denied it, and who dares to defy it.” In the episode whence the above quote, Swisher interviews Glennon Doyle, best-selling author and activist previously best known – or rather, labeled – as a Christian-LGBTQ-friendly blogger and “confessional” writer, and most recently getting (unwanted) tabloid-type attention in the past few years for divorcing her (cheating) husband and marrying US soccer star Abby Wambach.

The reason for Doyle’s interview On Sway was Doyle having been named by many of Joe Biden’s campaign strategists as the person whose campaign endorsement, they believed, would influence women the most. The part of the interview that interested me the most was when Doyle shared her reactions to the male-values-dominated worlds of publishing and book reviews and publicity.   [4]   Doyle rejects the labels that have been put upon her, including “self-help expert” and “mommy blogger,” as reductive and misogynistic. 

Doyle:
“…I think that it’s very often the case that when a man puts work out into the world, the world looks at the work and says, ‘Is this work worthy?’ And I think that when a woman puts work out into the world, the world looks at the woman and says, ‘Is this woman worthy of putting out work?’
For example, the first big article that was put out about (her new memoir) in a big newspaper, the headline was, ‘Glennon Doyle writes third memoir?’ Question mark, question mark.”

Kara Swisher:
“As if you shouldn’t have many memoirs in you. That’s the suggestion.”

Doyle:
“Like, ‘Jesus Christ, this woman is going to say a *third* thing? We already let her say two things. She said two things, and then she’s going to come back and say a third thing. Who does this person think she is.’  Right?’
Sedaris came out with his new book, and it was like, ‘David Sedaris releases 158th memoir.’  Not, question mark, question mark.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of It’s Not My Fault; My Mind Just Goes To These Places

Apropos of nothing I can think of, while coming back from a walk the other day I mused about ways to get junior high school aged students interested in “classic” works of literature. I’ve heard many a teacher say that engaging that age group (particularly for the boys) will determine whether reluctant readers will show interest in, for example, the plays of William Shakespeare.

So, considering the age group, I humbly suggest this approach:

֍   Shakespearean Gas Theater   ֍

English, literature, and drama teachers can search the internet databases for well-known Shakespearean lines which can be altered and/or…uh, illustrated…as per the theme.

From Twelfth Night, the name of character Sir Toby Belch fits right in with those certain enhancements which tween actors could give to the delivery of Sir Toby’s classic lines:

”Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous,
there shall be no more cakes and….Baaaaaaaarrrrrrraaasaaaapppp…ale?

 

And, let’s face it, few 12-year-old boys want to play the lead male role of Romeo and Juliet‘s 14th century lovestruck Italian teen.  But when the line Romeo calls out to Juliet (in the famous balcony scene) is transformed, boys will be jostling for the opportunity to raise their arms in supplication and cut the cheese with romantic gusto while reciting,

“What wind thorough yonder window breaks.”

Then again, maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t pursue a career as an Arts in Education consultant.

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

When a road construction worker farts, don’t blame him – it’s his asphalt.

 

“I want no part of this juvenile humor.”

 

*   *   *

May you write as many memoirs as you have in you;    [5]

May you appreciate the beauty of that which will fade;

May you be lucky enough to have an atheist beside you in the foxhole;

…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Or nine…or seven…or twelve.  Different self-appointed grief experts have different numbers, but most people are familiar with psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross‘s five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

[2] The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a non-profit founded in 1978, is the nation’s largest association of Atheists, Agnostic, Freethinkers, Humanists and Skeptics .

[3] This particular issue is more the size of a glacier than a nit, as the number of the non-religiously affiliated and atheists – and thus the number of people insulted and mischaracterized by such inaccurate adages – continues to grow/be revealed.

[4] A subject about which I have both opinions and experiences, as regular and/or long time readers of this blog may know.

[5] Well, maybe not 158.

The Inflated Modifiers I’m Not Acquiring

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THE  ABSOLUTELY  GRIPPING  AND  TOTALLY  HEART-RENDING,  PAGE-TURNING  STORY  OF  SHOOTING  MYSELF  IN  THE  FOOT

Sub Department of, From The Publisher’s POV,
“This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things…”

Admission: technically, I’m not shooting moiself  in the foot by writing what follows, as my foot is not in this particular door (although it’s sooooo tempting to try to jam it there). Also, it’s just not an apt use of that idiom. But such a hyperbolic statement is apropos, here.  The door I’m referring to is submitting a manuscript to a certain publisher.

In December, after a hiatus of ~ four years (which I may return to), I started re-researching publishers and sending out feelers re some of my unpublished fiction.   [1]  Researching, querying, and submitting material has reaffirmed the reasons why I stopped doing so in the first place,  [2]  with one major exception.  I received a stunningly personal note from a publisher who is one of the few of his ilk who “got” what I was doing with the narrative structure of my manuscript.  Even though what I suspected when I queried him was true – that his imprint’s audience is more avant garde than what my story’s audience would be – ’twas highly gratifying to get his feedback (read: insightful praise).

Little did moiself  know, the best – if by best I mean most unintentionally entertaining, and apparently I do – was yet to come.

 

 

I discovered a new-to-me outlet, a successful, worldwide digital publisher that had been recently acquired by one of the world’s largest traditional publishers.  This publisher, which I’ll call *PubliGush* for reasons that shall soon become clear, was hitherto unknown to me because they specialize in genre works.  As I researched them further I also saw that they are something called a Bespoke Publisher,  [3]  which, depending in your POV, is one step up from self-publishing or merely a new(er) label for hybrid publishing.    [4] 

Obviously, PubliGush is not for me.  For the heck of it, I decided to peruse their titles on internet book selling sites, which confirmed that they are strictly genre.  However, even knowing that my work wasn’t right for them, moiself was tempted to query anyway, just for the chance that, if I fooled ’em for a moment, they might try to offer me a deal with their services of (as per their website):

“quality of editing, packaging and marketing….

Their services, as I examined their books’ listings on Amazon, translate thusly:

PubliGush will give you adjectives!  And, adverbs!

I couldn’t help but wonder, what hyperactive modifiers might they offer to moiself ?

It appears that one of their marketing strategies is to hyperbolize their book blurbs to the max.  I refer to the vocabulary employed to do so, which turns out to be rather manic and somewhat, er, repetitive.  Their “jacket” blurbs run the gamut from…well, from:

* An absolutely jaw-dropping…

* Gripping!

* A real page-turner…

* A gripping emotional page turner!

* An Absolutely Heartbreaking tale of ____!
* Gripping and heartbreaking!

* Beautiful and gripping…

* An absolutely gripping and suspenseful…

* An absolutely gripping and emotional…

* A completely gripping and emotional…

* An utterly heart-wrenching and gripping…

* A gripping emotional page turner…

* An absolutely heartbreaking and gripping emotional page-turner…

* An unputdownable and absolutely gripping psychological thriller…

 

The Dowager Countesss does not approve of all these commoners and their gripping.

 

And, lest there be doubt about the amount of gripping and heartbreak involved:

* A totally gripping and absolutely heartbreaking…

Also, asthmatics be forewarned re this title:

* A gripping emotional page turner with a twist
that will take your breath away…

It was all so amped-up – moiself  felt in need of a sedative after merely perusing these title descriptions.  My pulse was actually racing; I guess you could say I needed to get a grip (absolutely, completely, utterly….).

Moiself’s favorite description of any book, even from publishers and reviewers less prone to hyperbole, is that it is “a page-turner.”  Now, by definition, isn’t every book a page-turner?  Whether you loved a book from intro to index or stopped somewhere in the middle with a, “Meh; I’ve read better,” the prose didn’t just present itself to you all at once.  You had to…ahem…Turn. The. Page. (even with ebooks) to get there.

 

“Are you sure that’s how this thing works?”

 

*   *   *

Department Of What We Talk About When We Talk About Grief And Loss

” ‘Sometimes I’ve heard people talk about losing a child and people say it’s like losing a limb. And as someone who’s lost both things, I just want to say, the realities are very different.’
Musician and writer Christa Couture has experienced way too much of people trying to convey sympathy and instead expressing their discomfort about disability and death.”
(The Allusionist, intro to 3-12-21 episode )

Grief; loss.  I’ve tried to be as direct about the subjects as I can in my own life (no doubt failing spectacularly in certain instances). Thus, I’ve had my share of trouble using the societal conventions some folks prefer. For example, when someone asks me about my parents, I use the terms death or dead to impart the reality of the situation, rather than euphemize with phrases such as, “My mother is no longer with us.”  [5]

I had an odd conversation several years ago, with a fellow parent at a meet-‘n greet event at my son K’s college.  We got to talking about our respective families; she said that her son had recently “lost” his beloved grandfather, then asked about K’s grandparents – were they still living? Only she phrased it as, had any of his grandparents “passed.”  I answered that my mother was alive but in precarious health, which began “when my father died…” She interrupted with, “Oh, when your father passed….”

At least twice more, while eliciting information about what happened to my family after my father died, she steered back to the term, passed.  She seemed uncomfortable with any of the D-word triumvirate (died/dead/death); of course, it was fine for her to use other terms.  Meanwhile, I was deriving petty amusement from her passive-aggressive attempt to steer the speech of a person she’d just met – that would be moiself – toward using a word that *she* preferred, regarding another person (my dead dad) she’d never met.  I remember suppressing the urge to say something along the lines of,

“When my father passed? – Oh yes, that’s right, when he passed the LSAT we were so proud!  No wait, he wasn’t even studying for that. Anyway, we were thrilled when he passed the AP English exam, but when he passed gas, well, that’s another story….”

 

 

I told you Captain Picard, I *suppressed* the urge to respond in that manner.

Once again, I digress.

The subject came to mind as per the thought-provoking reflections on grief and loss I heard while listening to a podcast last week.  The most recent episode of The Allusionist, “Additions and Losses,” consists of an interview with writer and musician Christa Couture, whose book How To Lose Everything: A Memoir about Losing My Children, My Leg, My Marriage, and My Voice has just been released.

Couture might be described as an expert on grief and loss, considering her life experiences, which include:

* developing bone cancer in her leg when she was 11 years old

* the amputation of her leg after two years of grueling chemo treatments

*her first child’s death on the day he was born

* her second child’s death at age 14 months, not long after he had a heart transplant

* her divorce “born of grief”

* undergoing surgery which endangered her career as a professional musician

However, I gathered from the interview that the good-natured, intelligent, and subtly self-deprecating author wouldn’t describe herself as an expert on anything, except that of her own feelings.

Couture admitted to experiencing both sides of the uneasiness which comes from being either the receiver, or the giver, of comfort after death and loss. She and the podcast host mused about those face-palming moments when we, as flawed human beings, employ certain well-meaning if ham-fisted strategies in our attempts to relate to or express sympathy for someone’s tragedy.  One of the more common is, “Scrolling through a Rolodex of doom,” which I found to be a wonderful term for the situation we’ve all either been in or witnessed (e.g., while visiting her friend who is hospitalized after a car crash, well-intentioned Debbie blurts out, “I know what this is like – my uncle Joe died in a car crash, and my college roommate Freda had her arm amputated after her Toyota was t-boned by a drunk driver….“).

 

 

Couture, who identifies as Indigenous, queer, and disabled, talks about person-first versus identity-first language. It is a subject about which she has clear opinions, even as she notes that her thoughts on this and other matters are not shared by everyone, and that she is not “the ambassador for the disabled.”  She’s no language cop – she doesn’t insist that everyone must stop using terms that “the disabled community” finds offensive. [6]   She does have some good suggestions for certain word usage and choices, all presented with her calm, generous, good-humored perspective.  She’d prefer if you don’t use terms she finds “silly” in that they are euphemistic – e. g., “differently-abled” and “handi-capable”  [7]  instead of “handicapped.”

She and podcast host Helen Zaltzman acknowledged the difficulty of knowing what to say:

HZ:
“…the shiftingness  [8]  is one of the things that makes people struggle with it…’I don’t know what to say now, because ten years ago I was told to say this other thing that I’m now not allowed to say. So I’m terrified to say this thing, and now I’ve made this conversation very awkward, and the wrong word has escaped my mouth because I’m so stressed.’ “

Couture:
“Right. And I’ve been that stressed out person, who’s gone, ‘Oh wait, I said the thing and I know or I didn’t know…’ ” Yeah…that speaks to the power of language as well…the impact that it’s having on people or, you know, where people have asked us not to use those words, and then us being afraid of being shamed by them.”

 

 

The most poignant part of the interview for me was when Couture spoke of an existential crisis for her, one which arises almost daily and which she still has not fully resolved:  how to truthfully yet self-protectively respond to the questions which naturally arise when people want to hear about your life.

For most people, “Do you have any children?” is a basic inquiry.  But, two of Couture’s three children died. And when people who don’t know about the deaths of her two sons see her with her daughter, they often ask, “Do you have any other children?”

She still struggles with those questions.  She still doesn’t have a pat response…

“…because it depends on the context, who’s asking. But I don’t feel guilty in the way that I used to about saying, ‘No,’ or, ‘I just don’t want to get into it.’

Sometimes I’ve had to go back and be like, ‘Remember that time I said I don’t have other kids? I now actually want to tell you: I have two sons that died.’ You know, from becoming friends with someone or something, a colleague or something like that. But it’s an interesting choice, when it’s a colleague or at work, because it’ll come up or they’ll hear about it somewhere else, and then I sort of wish that *I* had been the one to tell them….

So, yes or no, do I have children?  It’s a loaded question. I try to never, ever, ever ask it, and not because someone else might have lost a child – maybe they have, but maybe they wanted children and didn’t get to, and that sucks. Or maybe they never wanted kids and they’re so tired of having to justify their decision.

Whatever it is, there’s all of these complexities around kids. And I just feel that’s a question that we shouldn’t ask. It’s a conversation to have with people who want to have it. But…I try to follow other people’s lead on that.”

Also useful to hear is Couture’s take on why she and (most) other disabled people do not view themselves as “an inspiration,” and why you shouldn’t, either (ever heard the term, inspiration porn ?).  But, don’t take it from moiself – listen to the interview and/or get her book…or at least appreciate the picture of her prosthetic leg, which is, as the host noted, the most “glorious” prosthesis you might ever see.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Nomination For Arguably The Worst Lyrics Ever

One of the perks of having one of my car radio’s auto select stations set to the local FM oldies station is getting to occasionally hear the amazingly-cringe-worthy crap so-called classics I’d long forgotten.  Prime example: “Music To Watch Girls By,” which, apparently and inexplicably, was a hit in 1967 for that favorite of your grandparents, the whiter-than-mayonnaise crooner, Andy Williams.

♫ The boys watch the girls
while the girls watch the boys who watch the girls go by
Eye to eye, they solemnly convene to make the scene

Which is the name of the game,
watch a guy watch a dame on any street in town
Up and down and over and across, romance is boss… ♫

 

 

Yeah, I know.

Imagine the poet laureate who was drugged and bribed to come up with,

“♫… they solemnly convene to make the scene. ♫” 

If the lyrics themselves aren’t enough to send you running to the regurgitron, try scalding your cornea with these images. It was 1967, but the leering, camera-on-the-female-ass fixation would give the most booty-obsessed rapper a run for his raunchy money:

 

 

 

*   *   *

And Now, From Bad Songs To Bad Puns About Songs

My husband hates songs by Britney Spears and asked me not to sing them.
But oops, I did it again.

I’m writing a song about how much I adore seesaws.
It’s called 50 Ways to Love your Lever.

 

 

*   *   *

May you never be viewed as “an inspiration” for anyone…but if you are…
May the inspiration you provide be Utterly, Completely, and Totally Gripping;
May you not find yourself waking up at 4 am with the earworm, “Music To Watch Girls By” infesting your brain;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] My second and third short story collections and second novel.

[2] Nutshell summary: the publishing business sucks.

[3]  Bespoke Publishers use POD (print-on-demand) technology to adapt an existing title to create a “bespoke book” marketed toward specific readership and uses. This is more common in nonfiction but is also used in fiction, to change, say, the book’s foreword, cover artwork, even some content, to target certain audiences.

[4] Aka author-assisted publishing, indie publishing, partnership publishing, co-publishing, hybrid publishing involve the author paying for some or all services (usually in return for higher royalty rates). Translated, “Hybrid publishing,” is another a form of self-publishing, wherein the author pays for the publication of their book. However, unlike self-publishing and vanity publishing, a hybrid publisher will not accept *every* manuscript presented to them – they do have editorial standards.

Traditional publishing is where the publisher assumes the entire financial burden of bringing a book to market, from editing to cover design to marketing, promotion, distribution…for which they (rightfully, considering their investment) receive the majority of the profits. Traditional publishers pay authors an advance (usually; this varies with the contract), then royalties after the advance has been earned back, in exchange for the exclusive right to publish their work.

[5] Which always makes me think things like, “But hopefully she’ll be back in 45 minutes, with pizza!”

[6] She does use term disabled community, a term which implies a commonality of experience, but not necessarily of not thought and opinion…which reminds me of what I’ve read and heard from members of “the black community” and “the LGBTQ community,” many of whom object to the groupthink implied by such broad labels.

[7] I didn’t even know that was a thing.  I’d be cringing, too. ” Handi-capable”…sheesh.

[8] I love that word – it’s another term the world needs. I hope it makes it into the OED.

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