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The Date I’m Not Commemorating

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That would be yesterday, January 6. 

Why do I keep hearing Chopin’s Funeral March (Piano Sonata No 2) playing in my head, when I even think of the events of one year ago?

Department of Fee! Fie! Foe! Fum!

“The wheels of justice turn slowly but grind exceedingly fine.”

Or so the old saw says.  Moiself  can only hope the wheels will speed up when it comes to grinding the bones of the USA’s most recent, grievous traitor, whose name shall not sully this space, but which can be fittingly acronymed as Damn Turd Pol.

Speaking of acronyms for the names of treasonous snakes, Donald Be Cretin = Benedict Arnold.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of See You Next Year    [1]

Christmas cleanup.

 

Before.

 

After.

 

*    *   *

Department Of It Was The Best Of Times; It Was The Worst Of Times

Well, *that* was a bit hyperbolic.  Still, going through the file cabinets in my office – MH and I determined to whittle down the various stored documents from eight to four file drawers – proved to be more draining than I anticipated.

Dateline: Monday afternoon…which soon turned into Monday evening. Sorting through most of the files’ contents was surprisingly easy (decision-wise, when it came to what to keep and what to shred), if tedious.  It turns out we really don’t need the receipt and owner’s manual for a big ass TV we had 20 years ago… and given our own experiences of going through our respective parents’ files,  it is safe to assume we won’t have any interest in neither our offspring’s old report cards nor the seemingly 10,000 colored pen drawings they did of the same spaceship.   [2] 

 

But K’s early attempts at comics – definitely keepers.

 

It was also a somewhat educational experience.  Or, rather re-educational.  As in, re-learning the dangers of having too much storage space – yes, that’s a thing – which we did last year when we went through the attics.    [3]   If you’ve a big attic and lots of file cabinets, you can just throw stuff in there and say, I’ll deal with it later, instead of making the decision on the spot.  What with online access to almost everything these days, we don’t need to hang onto back copies of utility bills or checking account statements or maps from our various travels, or copies of every veterinary visit summary, or even user’s manuals for appliances.  With a few Important Financial Stuff ® exceptions,   [4]  most of what we kept are papers that have sentimental value.

We checked with our offspring; indeed, they’ve no interest in their K-12 report cards, projects, etc.  But perusing the kid’s folders, from old artwork, letters, school files (special projects; grades; awards; certificates; teacher’s conference notes; school pix and other memorabilia) – ay yi yi. 

 

This ominously labeled envelope contained a very young but determined Belle’s letter to MH and moiself, detailing the reasons why she should be allowed to have a pet tarantula.

 

Even the “fun stuff” was occasionally challenging to go through (read: emotionally sapping).  More than one letter or other document triggered moiself  into reliving times when one child or the other was being picked on (and in a couple of cases, outright bullied) and/or having a hard time socially. There were also a couple of hilarious-in-hindsight teacher evaluation reports, from our son K’s teachers, on K’s beneficial – and problematic– traits and tendencies, some of which MH and moiself  still see today, in how K approaches and reacts to certain situations.

The reminders of our offspring’s’ social dilemmas   [5]  were the most heart-tugging.  How did we all get through that? I found moiself  wondering.  And yet, we did.

On the plus side, moiself  got to relive the pride I’d had in my daughter’s tenacity, intelligence, and gumption, when I came across a letter Belle wrote in the sixth grade, to her teacher.  In the letter Belle stated her case on why she should be allowed to bring her cat to the class show-and-tell pets day. Tamping down her anger over the unfairness of a classmate’s (false, as it turned out) claims as to why Belle’s pet should be excluded, Belle managed to compose a calm, clear-eyed statement of the facts.  Using kick-ass deductive reasoning skills any district attorney would be proud of, Belle listed objective evidence to show that Belle’s classmate Cruella   [6]  was not in fact deathly (nor even mildly) allergic to cats, as Cruella had claimed.   [7]

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of I Still Miss Siskel & Ebert

Movie theaters in Oregon began reopening on a limited basis in late April-early May 2021.  Starting in May, moiself  did my best to see a movie in a theater, at least once a week.  The following is a chronological list of these movies.  My favorites are starred.

Confession: the list includes three movies (marked with a zzz) which I did not watch all the way through. Translation: the movies I walked out of – not in disgust (that hasn’t happened in years), but in disappointment.  To bastardize a book title of long ago, those are movies which I put in the category,  *I’m Just Not That Into You.*   Yep, moiself  paid for the tickets, but my hours and even minutes are important, and if I’m disappointed and don’t feel like sitting through it to See If It Gets Better ®, I’m outta there.

Pig gets my vote for picture of the year.  Despite its WTF/why-is-this-in-here?  “fight club” scene, I found the movie remarkable, and kept thinking about it days later.   Will the critics remember to think of it, come awards time ( movies released early in the year always seem to be at a disadvantage)?  Plus, all the recognizable Portland area settings – delightful.

 

 

– Those Who Wish Me Dead

– A Quiet Place II

– Cruella

– Dream Horse

– In The Heights    ( zzz )    [8]

– Queen Bees

– Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard

– Black Widow

– Pig  ****

– Joe Bell

– Green Knight

– Stillwater

– Free Guy

– Chang Chi and…the very long title, something about rings.

– The Alpinist   ****

– Queenpins

– Dear Evan Hansen

– No Time To Die  ****

– The Last Duel

– Dune

– Spencer

– Belfast ****

– The French Dispatch

– Ghostbusters: Afterlife    ( zzz )     [9] 

– House of Gucci   ( zzz )   

– C’mon C’mon  ****

– West Side Story  ****

– Don’t Look Up  ****

– Licorice Pizza  ****   [10]

 

House of Gucci was one of the zzzs. Given the subject matter, and the dynamic actors – Lady Gaga and Adam Driver could hold my attention reading electric can opener instructions – it should’ve been more interesting.  But Jared Leto, playing whatever role he was playing (some Gucci brother)….eeeeeewwwww.  I’m not sure whether to hold him or the director responsible for Leto’s channeling of so many cringeworthy Italian stereotypes.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Because, Why Not?

There is a yoga pose   [11]  for, and named after, just about anything.  And, especially at the beginning of a new year, why wouldn’t you want to try “… a whimsical lateral bend that stretches and balances superficial and deep back muscles to simultaneously improve shoulder mobility and address one of the most common causes of lower back pain. “

Especially when it’s nicknamed, Banana Pose.

 

*   *   *

 

Punz For The Day
Banana Edition

Did you hear that a banana tried her first case as a district attorney?
She won the conviction but slipped up on the appeal.    [12]

Q.  Why do plantains never slip when they walk down the stairs?
A. 
They hold on to the bananaister.

My husband asked for a pair of slippers for Christmas,
so the kids and I tied banana peels around the soles of his feet.

Q.  Where do bananas go to learn about religion?
A. 
Sundae school.

Q.  What do you call a plantain who gets all the girls?
A.  A banana smoothie.

 

*   *   *

May you try to see a movie every week, in a theater;
May you feel liberated by a files purge;
May your heart be warmed by that which you find in the files
and decide to keep forever;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Eleven months, actually.

[2] If you are a well-adjusted adult, IMHO.

[3] Unfortunately, we have two.

[4] Taxes, insurance and mortgage vitals.

[5] Read; being picked on, snubbed and/or bullied by classmates.

[6] Not the classmate’s real name, however fitting it seems in retrospect.

[7]  Rather, Cruella, who disliked and was jealous of Belle,  was using that claim to have power over Belle.

[8] I was surprised at how…boring…I found this movie, despite (or maybe due to?) all of its frenetic song-and-dance routines. 

[9] The juvenile actors were appealing, but the nostalgia was not enough for me to excuse the retread, reed- thin story/plot.  The return of the same slime ghosts – wow!….NOT.  Been there.

[10] Tried to see it in a theatre, but not playing around here…until the day after MH and I found it on a streaming service. Loved the movie; still don’t get the title.

[11] That phrase could be followed by, “…for truckers who like to sing to hamsters.”  There is a yoga pose for everything.

[12] Moiself  thinks there should be thirteen footnotes, but I only made it to twelve.

The Police Log I’m Not Mentioned In

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Department Of The Partridge Of The Week

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

Can you guess this week’s guest Partridge?

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Here We Go Again

 

*   *   *

Department Of I’d Still Adore My Offspring Even If They Weren’t So Talented…

But on a consistent basis, they make it so easy, by doing things like this.

Dateline:  several weeks ago.  On our family chat sight, daughter Belle posted a picture of a limited edition, signed and numbered screen-print of an Igor Galanin painting (“Rabbit with Strawberries“) that she’d come across:

 

 

She coveted the print, and joked that, should we still be considering what to get her for Christmas, if we’d pool our assets, for a mere $1265 we could purchase that art for her.

Dateline#2: Christmas morning.  Belle opened her present from her brother K.  It was a painting he had done for her.

 

 

I told K if he loses interest in medical research he could have a career in art forgery.

*   *   *

Department Of The Difference Between A Popular Yet Facile And Ultimately Misleading Maxim Masquerading As Insight, And
A Pithy Two Words Encapsulating The Wisdom Of Accepting The Inevitability Of Uncertainty And Causality, And Thus Embracing Reality

“Everything happens for a reason.”

 “Everything happens.”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Why I Sometimes Read A Local Small Town Newspaper Police Log

Saturday, Dec. 4
A caller reported they could hear “happy noises” coming from a nearby residence late night. Officers were unable to detect any noises in the area, happy or otherwise.

Sunday, Dec. 5
A caller reported a suspicious envelope with cryptic symbols had been left on their front porch. On arrival, and per the caller’s request, the officer opened the envelope and discovered a decorative card emblazoned with the phrase “Merry Christmas.”

While clearing a late-night call at a local hotel, a man approached officers to inquire as to whether he was wanted by Forest Grove police. It just so happened he was. He was arrested and lodged at the jail.

Thursday, Dec. 9
A caller reported a man known to have been arrested the previous day was knocking on their door in the middle of the night and sending unwanted text messages. The man left prior to police arrival, but not before leaving a box of shrimp at the caller’s door.

Sunday, Dec. 12
A caller reported a man, possibly under the influence, approached the caller and their spouse, while enthusiastically jumping up and down, advised that he was in a gang, then proceded on his merry way through their residential neighborhood. Officers were unable to find anyone hopping, skipping, or jumping in the area.  

Thursday, Dec. 16
a caller reported a possible drunk driver at a fast-food drive thru late at night, advising the vehicle was moving erratically and nearly backing into the caller. Police located the driver neaarby and found they were not impaired or intoxicated, just having difficulty navigating the complex pattern of a drive-thru.

(selections from the Forest Grove Police log, Dec. 3 – 9 and 10 – 19)

 

*   *   *

Department Of New Year’s Resolutions

The following suggestion for a resolution is not one moiself  needs to make.  Faultless Flawed creature that I am, I’ve plenty to work on, and yet I dare suggest something for Other People – specifically, anyone who has ever used the term “no-kill shelter” with regard to animal rescue organizations.

I heard a Well-Meaning Person ®  recently talking about why they supported a certain animal rescue organization, which they described as “no-kill,” thus differentiating it from those *other* shelters – read, the county Kill-a-Thon Animal Shelter.

Organizations described as “No-Kill” shelters are privately funded; shelters funded by taxpayer dollars, such as your local city/county shelters, get the (implied, and sometimes outright) label, “Kill shelters.”  Moiself  has logged years of service volunteering for both kinds of animal shelters, and have seen first-hand how the “no-kill/kill” statistics and labels are inflated and/or misleading.

We’ve all heard the stories (perhaps true in the past but often exaggerated in the present) about how some county shelters are overcrowded and that animals brought in, whether found on the streets or surrendered by owners, can be euthanized within 72 hours if they are not adopted out.  Whereas a shelter that touts itself as “no-kill'” means its policy is to never euthanize a healthy animals for any reason, due to illness or behavior issues.  Once they take in a cat or dog, it stays with them until it is adopted out.

 

 

Sounds great – noble even, right?

Except when reality creeps in; as in, the reality of how such organizations operate.  Private shelters can and do screen the animals they accept.  They often have a waiting list for admissions  [2]  and will not take in an animal with deadly or not easily treated illnesses and injuries, or animals with dangerous behavioral “issues.”

The government-funded shelters do not have that luxury.  The veterinarians and vet techs and staff and volunteers of these shelters are just as dedicated as those of the private shelters, and, they have to take whatever comes their way.  They will try try try and try again  [3]   to rehabilitate an aggressive, fearful dog, but if there is a credible chance that the dog will bite and would pose a danger to any prospective adoptive family, they will regretfully euthanize it.   A dog who has bitten a human and/or killed other dogs or pets and is a repeat offender and has been removed from its home by a court order – guess where that dog ends up?  Not in the private shelter.  The stray dog or cat lying on the road,  dying due to horrific injuries it received after being hit by a car – Animal Control services will take the poor creature to the county shelter, where it will be humanely euthanized.

All of those animals will be on the shelter’s “kill” statistics – the “no kill” shelter never had to deal with them in the first place.  The private shelter will refer a desperately injured animal or an aggressive dog with a history of biting to the county shelter, knowing full well what will be the likely outcome…then later crow about their “no kill’ record.

For many decades there was no centralized coordination or analysis of public (or private) animal shelter care.  That has changed, and Portland area shelters have been leaders in reducing the number of animals euthanized and increasing adoptions.  Public animal shelters around the nation are adopting the strategies of Portland-Area shelters which formed a network in 2006 (Animal Shelter Alliance of Portland, ASAP) and later adopted the Asilomar Accords methods.   [4]  They’ve pledged to work in cooperation with other area shelters, sharing their data and working as a team to help out and, for example, transfer an animal to another shelter when one shelter is full.  Withing two years of forming the network, The Oregonian reported that ASAP shelters had cut their euthanasia rate by 65 %, and the number of animals put down at Bonnie Hays Shelter plunged by 82 %.

 

 

Sometimes, a dog or cat will linger at one shelter for two weeks, getting no interest from prospective pet adopters, and all it takes is a change of venue – it goes from the Washington County Animal Services to the Clackamas County shelter and is adopted within the day.    [5]   I’ve seen it happen.

“If we can’t find a home for a cat or dog, we work very closely with a network of shelters and rescue groups in Oregon and southwest Washington that may be able to help. We have many placement partners that work with us to rehabilitate and find homes for dogs and cats. Unlike most animal shelters that take in stray animals, every healthy unclaimed animal that comes to our shelter finds an adoptive home. Most of the animals that have medical and behavioral problems also find loving homes through our adoption program or through our rescue partners. ”
( from the Bonnie L. Hays Animal Shelter Website )

Would you think of, or refer to, the dedicated staff and volunteers of that rescue organization as, “Those people who work at a ‘kill shelter’?”  They deserve better.

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Pets Edition

Q. How did the engineers determine the dog was in a cat fight?
A: By using a simple claws and effect analysis.

Q: What do you call a hamster you keep in your automobile?
A.  A Carpet

My cat won’t stop leering at passersby; I think he’s a purrvert.

My sled dog is not fat, he’s just a little husky.

My cat knows how to get anything she wants. She’s very purrsuasive.

A cat won first place at a dog show. Dog owners said it was a cathastrophy.

Lassie was having a sad day – you might say she was meloncollie.

 

I’ll jump in the well with little Timmy rather than listen to more of these.

 

*   *   *

May you find and read a nearby small town newspaper’s police log;
May you support your local animal shelters;
May we all have a safe and fun New Year’s Eve;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Specifically, in our pear tree.

[2] Owners surrendering their pets.

[3] Sometimes wasting their time and resources, in my opinion.

[4] Ten years ago a cross-section of animal welfare agencies created and shared a National Database to enable the measurement of progress in animal welfare and inspire life-saving collaboration between shelters. The Asilomar Accords created a database to collect basic shelter data, allow shelters to compare their data and enhance individual and collective efforts to modify and guide shelter actions and policies.

[5] I’ve seen it happen!  That is such happy news to get, when you’re working in the shelter.

The ID I’m Not Showing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Partridge Of The Week

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

Can you guess this week’s guest Partridge?

 

 

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

 

Welcome to the venerable hat society.

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Yoga Holiday Fun

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

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

The Department of Feasting

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

 

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

 

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

 

Mmmmmm….lefse.

 

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

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of About Those Elves….

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

in our house during this time of year)

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

No.
Nothing.
Like. That. Book.

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

 

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Santa’s Helpers Edition

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Specifically, in our pear tree.

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

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

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

The Events I’m Not Recording

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Department Of The Partridge Of The Week

It’s that time of year again. As has become a much maligned anticipated in our ‘hood, moiself  is hosting a different Partridge, every week, in my front yard.    [1]

Can you guess this week’s guest Partridge?   [2]

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Getting Nostalgic As The Year’s End Approaches

Yep; it happens. Thus, I checked out a sample of what moiself  was posting around this time, three years ago:

Department Of Authenticity

Next week I am hosting my annual Ladies Lefse Party. Well, once upon a time it was an annual event. After a hiatus of two years, following my mother’s death, I’m ready to get back in the saddle – or lefse griddle, that is.

 

 

After my paternal grandfather, a full-blooded Norski-American married to a full-blooded Irish-American,   [3]  died, my grandmother no longer felt up to making the lefse her husband had so adored and that she’d come to love as well.   [4]  My mother’s eldest sister, my late Aunt Erva, lived in Spokane, and after Erva’s husband died    [5]   Erva would drive south every year in autumn, ahead of the first Spokane snowfall, to spend the winter with her mother in Santa Ana. Thus, Erva assumed the mantle of lefse maker in our family. She made meatcakes (Norwegian-spiced meatballs, a traditional lefse accompaniment) as well.

Like many traditional ethnic dishes, lefse has foundational ingredients, and also variants in composition, preparation, and serving. Every family I’ve met who also “do the lefse thing” have their own favorite recipe which, of course, they consider the most authentic way to make and eat lefse.

I’ve been making lefse for longer than I can remember. I took Erva’s recipe and evolved it over the years (or made it “kooky,” as Erva would likely say   [6] ).  The lefse is still delicious, if dairy-free, and the “meat” cakes I make are now sans meat (a plant-based version, main ingredient either lentils or tempeh).  Back when I did eat (some) meat I used ground turkey when I made meatcakes, instead of Erva’s more traditional, pork-beef blend. But what with my using the distinctive/traditional spices  [7]  my parents, when they were  guest at my Christmas Eve table, said that they couldn’t taste the difference. Still, moiself  always felt my version was missing that certain tinge of maternal family authenticity, which, I came to realize, had nothing to do with the kind of ground meat used.  Here is the “flavoring” my versions of meatcakes have always lacked:

(1)  an overly crisp exterior (read: I didn’t burn them, which Erva did, without fail);   [8]
(2)  the ash from Erva’s cigarette.  [9]

 

What other key ingredients am I missing? One tablespoon repression, ¼ cup disillusionment with life choices….

*   *   *

Department Of Back To The Present

In a recent No Stupid Questions podcast (“Why Can’t Baby Boomers and Millennials Just Get Along?” SQ Ep. 76) The podcast’s subtopic, prompted by a listener question, was how phone cameras affect the way we experience live events; specifically, does recording them increase or interfere with your engagement of the events being recorded?  Both sides (recording an event leads to more engagement; recording an event leads to less engagement) were presented and briefly discussed.

I put videotaping – remember that? – in the same category (of phone camera recordings), because all-but-bygone technology was the recording milieu of choice when MH’s and moiself’s offspring  were in elementary and junior high school.  And I developed strong opinions then (surprise!) as to those recording devices’ deployment.

 

 

For three years in their respective late elementary school/early junior high years, our son K and daughter Belle attended the kind of school (Waldorf-y) which had a media policy – which translated into, basically, a Media Forbidden policy.  Computers and digital technology were not part of the early grades curriculum, as per the school’s conviction that such technologies are not age-developmentally appropriate until…

“… a young person has reached the intellectual maturity to reason abstractly and process concretely on his or her own, ​which is at around the age of 14. Society might challenge this principle, as many young children are well able to complete sophisticated tasks on a computer; the Waldorf perspective is that computer exposure should not be based on capability but on developmental appropriateness. While many applaud adult-like thinking in young children, we observe that a child’s natural, instinctive, creative and curious way of relating to the world may be repressed when technology is introduced into learning environments at an early age.”
( from Waldorf Education, FAQs )

The premise for the media policy, while seemingly extreme to some people, was (is) one that I found valid.  I mostly concur with this phrasing, from one Waldorf schoo’sl website (my emphases):

“…healthy emotional development and meaningful relationships with their environment and other people are undermined by encounters with media that separate children from authentic experience and promote a distorted, developmentally inappropriate, and consumerist view of the world.”

The technology and Electronic Media listed in our children’s school’s media policy included television, movies, computers, and all other video and audio devices, including cell phones, video games, and music/MP3 players. None of that was allowed in the classroom, and parents, while attending school events, were forbidden from recording their child’s performance in a school play, music recital, etc.  [10]

 

“Did, like, a teacher or someone say something?”

 

I was in favor of most – but not all   [11]  – of the aspects of the policy.  I particularly appreciated that policy when, during K’s and Belle’s school years before and after that three year Waldorf stint, I attended school student performance and/or presentation events and noticed that I couldn’t get a clear view of, for example, the stage, what with all the parents standing up/leaning over/jumping into the aisle – and by parents I mean, Video Dads ® – their various devices clicking and whirring as they conferred with their spouses…. Then, when I spoke to the vidiots parent videographers afterward about their child’s presentation, I realized that they didn’t seem to remember exactly what had happened, only that they had recorded it (“I’ll watch it when I get home,” one Photoparent actually said to me).

 

“Can you remind daddy what actually happened here?”

 

Apparently even the most visually and aesthetically challenged of us now have camera technology at our disposal – via our smart phones – which are the equivalent of the $14k Hasselblads Ansel Adams and other renowned photographers used in their day.   But, Some Of Us ® sometimes wonder whether the ease of taking sharp, professional-looking pictures paradoxically reduces their value (as in, now there are so damn many of them)?

Well before my offspring started attending the afore-mentioned, camera-free school, I had, with a few notable exceptions, mostly stopped taking pictures (with either my own or someone else’s camera).   I did this after realizing, one day while looking through a batch of recently developed pictures of some event I’d attended, that I’d mostly forgotten the experience I’d photographed.

I do use my phone to take pictures of a sight I find particularly noteworthy (or amusing). But sometimes, most of the times, I want to experience the experience in my heart and head, and not in my phone’s circuit board.

Case in point:  Dateline; two weeks ago, early on a Saturday morning.  Moiself  was returning from a walk, and as I strode by an empty lot between two houses I saw two adolescent male deer grazing amongst the manzanita and other shrubs covering the lot.

 

No deer were harmed, or photographed, during the typing of this story.

 

I slowed my pace; the deer looked up from their grazing and kept their eyes on me.  As my species is prone to do, I anthropomorphized, imagining the deer were the Jets and I was a member of the Sharks.   [12]  They radiated that flighty, adolescent male energy; they looked ready to rumble, and for a moment, I thought I’d better be careful lest one or both of them comes after me.  I assured them I was no harm to them; I’m just a biped passing by, going on my way.

Later that day, when I described the encounter to someone, they asked if I’d taken any pictures of the deer. It had occurred to me, but I decided against it, for three reasons:

(1) It – the movement of reaching into my pocket for my phone – might have startled the deer.  [13]

(2)  I was in the moment, as they say.  Yeah, a picture and/or video of the two deer’s heads, their eyes suspiciously following my every moment, would have been nice.  But I took, and stored, the picture here.

 

 

And again, here.

 

 

BTW, as you may have noticed, there is no third reason.  The first two are sufficient.

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Photography and Cameras Edition

I had to give up my career in photography.
I kept losing focus.

When using my smartphone to take pictures, I only think of its positive points.
There aren’t any negatives.

Q.  How does Santa take photos?
A.  With his North Polearoid.

Q.  Why are paparazzis like aggressive dogs?
A.  They may snap at any time.

I told my son that if he behaves nicely, I’ll gift him an action camera.
He said that’s Quid GoPro.

My new self-developing film camera is depressed and has mood swings.
I think it has Biopolaroid disorder.

 

That’s enough, thank you.

 

*   *   *

May you be in the moment more than you are in the picture;
May your finest pictures be in your head and heart;
May you annoy your Aunt Erva equivalent   [14]
with your kooky adaptation of a family tradition;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Specifically, in our pear tree.

[2] Moiself  missed including The Partridge Of The Week ® feature the past two weeks, in this blog.  Don’t worry; Keith and the little one may make another appearance.

[3] That was considered somewhat of a mixed marriage in Northern Minnesota; however, “Bapa” (my Irish grandma) told me that her husband’s parents would have considered it “worse” if he “had married a Swede.”

[4] No great surprise that an Irishwoman took to loving something which is essentially a potato tortilla.

[5] In late 1969.

[6] “Kooky” was Erva’s catch-all descriptor for things of which she did not approve, which could range from one’s choice of life partner to haircut or clothing to your career or political opinions . Deciding to open a boutique, which the wife of one of my cousins did, was, according to Erva, “a kooky thing to do.”

[7] Nutmeg; allspice; white pepper.

[8] She swore that’s the only way you could tell if they were “done.”

[9] More than once I “caught” Erva in grandma’s kitchen frying the meatcakes, a cigarette clenched between her lips, the cigarette’s inch long ash column precipitously dangling over the frying pan.

[10] Due to parental requests (read: pressure), parents were allowed to take a group photo of the students performing in a school Shakespeare play, but only after the play was over, and with the supervision of teachers and the play director making “not too many” pictures were taken and shutting down the picture taking session after three minutes.

[11] The exceptions included when a teacher of K’s 7th & 8th grade class, herself not a Waldorf fundamentalist, wanted to use a National Geographic video to enhance a subject that the class was studying.   She made the request of the school’s administration to allow the exception. The video was to be used as per what was the most appropriate use of such media – a use that both the teacher and the students’ parents had agreed upon –  as a supplement to – not a substitute for – the more direct personal/visual learning experience.  Still, the administration quashed the request.  Slippery slope, and all.

[12] You’re going to see the new, Spielberg-directed version of “West Side Story,” aren’t you?

[13] Nature Girl® that I am, I know that consuming as many calories as possible to bulk up for the upcoming scarcity of winter is the deer’s main focus now.  Moiself  causing them to unnecessarily expend those calories by making them feel that I might be a threat and so they need to bound away…not nice.

[14] Everyone has an aunt Erva, no matter what you call her.

The Swedes I’m Not Chasing

1 Comment

Department Of Shameless Self-Promotion- NOT

Not as in, moiself  be promoting the work of someone else.   [1]

 

 

Life coach and business consultant Suzanne Mathis McQueen, author of Four Seasons in Four Weeks, has a new series of children’s books out: The Seasons in Me; The Sun in Me, and The Moon in Me .  Delightfully illustrated by Pumudi Gardiyawasam, the books are a fun and heartwarming introduction for kids as to the concepts the rhythms (“seasons”) of nature, and those of their own bodies…while also sneaking in a bit of age-appropriate  [2] science about the seasons,   [3]  the solstices, and circadian rhythms.

Check ’em out, for the children (or parents of children) in your life and on your holiday shopping list.

 

 

*   *   *

 

 

 

One of my yoga teachers, Jill Baker, wore this shirt to class two years ago…back when I was attending class in the studio  (I am now streaming classes from the studio).  Moiself  had to have it.  Wearing it puts me in the yule mood.  So does hearing one of my favorite pieces of holiday music – while I was making sandbakkels for my annual lefse-making party dessert, I had to play it   (“…over and over and over…” as MH noted).

 

 

For the non-Norskis, sandbakkels (“sand tarts”) are a traditional Norwegian holiday cookie.  Its dough, a somewhat crumbly  texture due to the proportions of sugars and almond flour, resembles “sand,” (if, like a good Norwegian, you use your imagination, or plenty of Aquavit); thus, the name.  Moiself  does a plant-based version, as I do when making lefse.

 

You can – and I will – place a dollop of fruit jam in the center depression of the sandbakkels just before serving them. My younger sister claims Nutella is also yummy in that capacity; however, she’s well known as the family culinary lunatic, so there’s that.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Variation On A Theme

Dateline: Wednesday, this one (December 8). After the pandemic cancellation of last year, my annual Ladies Lefse Party returned this year…in a somewhat limited and altered format.  The “ladies” – always a questionable modifier, considering the attendees   [4] – were mostly not in attendance.  I kept the number of invitees limited to the two friends nearby who were part of our COVID safe circle, then one had to cancel, so I opened up the party to The Menfolk.  After the last-minute cancellation of our son K, it was just MH and moiself, friend L, and a newbie to the festivities, L’s friend, G.  Somehow, we managed to have enough fun that we sat down at 7p, then all of a sudden it was 10p.

A nuclear fallout of flour still is circulating in the kitchen.  That means we did it right.

 

No children were harmed in the making of this lefse.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Will Someone Please Explain This To Me Before I Die?     [5]

First time lefse party attendee G was an affable addition to the dinner.  As a fellow American with a Norwegian background, it was inevitable that, at some point during the dinner,    [6]   we shared some of the aspects about our family heritage which, as children, we found nonsensical.  In particular, it was hard for us young-uns to understand the fierce rivalry we’d heard about – particularly in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and other hotspots    [7] of Norwegian-to-USA migration – between Americans of Norwegian and Swedish heritage.  For example, a marriage between a first generation Norwegian and a first gen Swede was considered a “mixed marriage.”

 

 

Also inevitable was our descent into recollections of the astronomically lame, “Ole and Sven and Lena” jokes, and then G said, “Remember this one?” He repeated a saying that I hadn’t heard in years, but which caused me to stamp size 9 feet with excitement:

“One hundred Swedes
ran through the weeds
chased by one Norwegian.”

 

Remind me again, why are we laughing?

 

Yes yes yes  – and WHY?   My mother told me that her (full blooded Norski) father would occasionally recite that lame “verse,” then chuckle softly to himself.  Okay; Mom, but why did he do that – where did it come from, and why did he think it was funny?  She said he never explained it, and she didn’t want to ask, because that would reveal to her father that she didn’t get it, and she wanted him to think that she did.  [8]  Sure, that’s understandable, Mom, but do you now, today, as an adult, get what you didn’t get at the time?  I never got an answer from her.

Is it just the rhyming of Swedes with weeds ? Why not then,

One hundred Swedes
dressed in their tweeds
tailored by one Norwegian.

To this day, I have never received an explanation (make that, a satisfactory explanation) as to why this Swedes-weeds thang was supposed to be funny. Any takers?

 

You wouldn’t think it was so funny if there were a hundred of us.

 

*   *   *

Department Of I’m Not Naïve But…

I mean, I get around the block, depending on your definition of block. So why was I caught offguard…when I was?

Dateline: last week.  Several days in a row.  After dinner we turn on our Roku feature to see what is on TV, and the clever device lists several ongoing shows it thinks moiself  might like.  I followed its suggestion to an episode of The Waltons, not realizing, until the commercial break, something that came as no surprise to MH – The Waltons reruns were being played on The Hallmark Channel, where it is apparently their “Countdown to Christmas.”

Believe it or not…

 

 

…I had never previously visited that channel.  But for three evenings in a row, I tuned in to see parts of one The Waltons episode, and was tortured by treated to previews of upcoming Hallmark Channel produced “movies.”

I’d been vaguely aware of THC’s schmaltzy reputation; even so, moiself  lacks the family-friendly vocabulary to describe how eye-gouging dreadful the previews were.  And although the commercials were promoting (supposedly) different features with different titles, it seemed to me that THC was going to be airing eight versions of the same movie, repackaged.

 

“You look familiar – weren’t we in this movie last year?”

 

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

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

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

In the spirit of it-might-be-so-bad-it-could-be-a-teeny-bit-good, or at least morbidly entertaining, moiself  be considered parking it on the couch with an emergency bottle of insulin and/or a jug of Pepto-Bismol handy, and trying to watch one of those movies. I’m still considering it.

 

*   *   *

Department of Thanks For The Imagery…ooooommmmm….

Dateline: Thursday, circa 6:15 am. I hear the best ever – as in, most evocative – focal point (aka mantra) offered by one of the three meditation apps I regularly use.

I am a thunderbolt of good vibes.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of I Promise Not To Do This At Your House.
Sub Department Of Am I The Only One Who Ever Gets This Feeling?

Sometimes, when I pick up or am holding a large, heavy, porcelain or china or glass or ceramic plate or bowl, I have the urge to fling it across the room like a frisbee. For just a (so far) resistible instant, it seems to moiself  that to see and hear the plate shatter against the wall would be very satisfying.  It’s not a catharsis issue – I don’t get this feeling when I am angry at or irritated by something. Rather, just when I’m feeling… musical?

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Norski Heritage Edition

I want to visit Norway soon, but I can’t a fjord it.

How was the Mr. Ed Show theme song adapted for Norwegian television?
♫  A Norse is a Norse of course, of course….♫

I always appreciate a good pun, but never geographical ones.
There’s Norway I’d sink Oslo as that.

Did you hear about the bike race that goes all the way across Norway and Sweden?
It ends at the Finnish line.

 

 

*   *   *

May you never recite deeds of chasing Swedes through the weeds in their tweeds;
May you be a thunderbolt of good vibes;
May you one day just let loose and fling that #@!&%!% plate against the wall;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Disclosure: I do know this person, and like her. So I may be biased…y’all can handle that.

[2]  ages 3-8.  Accessible info for older bipeds as well.  No boring quantum mechanics or string theory.

[3] Remember: axial tilt is the reason for the season – for *all* seasons.

[4] Yeah, I’m talking *you*, JR and JWW.

[5] But I don’t want you to explain it to me, and then I die.

[6] After the first glass of champagne, which followed the gin and tonics.

[7] or should it be cold spots? What is the proper term here, re a country where half of its land lies north of the Arctic Circle?

[8] Which would be blamed on her mother’s contribution – 100% Irish – to her genes.

The Heroes I’m Not Worshipping

Comments Off on The Heroes I’m Not Worshipping

Department Of Holy Mother Of Romulus And Remus –
I Saw An Effin’ Wolf

Dateline: Wednesday, circa 12:45 pm, Oregon highway 26, headed west (toward the coast), at about milepost 15 or 16. The movement from the north (right) side of the road caught my eye; in the micro-mico-millisecond it took me to register the movement I took my foot off the accelerator and thought,

Oh, great, a deer is about to spring across the road.

There was no springing. That micro-micro movement morphed into an elegant running creature, crossing the two-lane highway, a mere 20-30 feet ahead of me.  The animal was the size of a deer but definitely not a deer; my mind immediately tried to register, “coyote,” except that I’ve seen plenty of coyotes running across roads (or fields) or loping on/crossing hiking trails ahead of me. This canid was the size of a deer and had long, thin legs and different body posture from a coyote (its long tail was horizontal to its spine, not tucked, as a coyote’s would be).  I’ve never seen a canid run like that, the way it held its large, majestic head, so very upright, like one of those carousel animals….

 

The wolf’s head was like this, vis-à-vis its posture…but nothing remotely zebra-ish otherwise

 

Yes, moiself  knows I am babbling right now, but holy fuck, this is the first wolf I’ve seen this close  [1]   and I am (still, two days later) gobsmacked.  Oh, but for a camera mounted on my car’s front bumper!

There are wolves in Oregon.  Many (but not all) of them are tagged (for tracking/ study purposes), and most live in the eastern part of the state, although wolves can and do roam…and a few of Oregon’s have roamed as far as So Cal .  The one which crossed the road in front of me appeared to be heading toward Tillamook county…looking for a cheese fix, perhaps?

*   *   *

Department Of Life Is So Unfair

Yet another of life’s inequities to ponder:

If you donate a kidney, everybody loves you and you’re a total hero.

But try donating five kidneys and suddenly everyone is yelling
and the police get involved….

 

*   *   *

Department Of Sunday In The Park With George

Tuesday In The Park With Robyn

 

 

Apologies to the late Stephen Sondheim.  I’m sure the opening to moiself’s  blog would have been better if Sondheim had composed it, given the complex polyphony which was his style.    [2]   May we all take a moment to pause to remember and appreciate he-who-was-arguably among the greatest of American lyricists and composers.

 

Bravo, Stephen.

 

 

And now, three vignettes of my Tuesday In The Park.

Dateline: Tuesday, circa 7: 15 am.  Which way shall I go this morning? I decide to do the to-and-from to a light rail station which, given my circuitous route, will be a 3-3.5 mile jaunt.  I take one of the trails leading through a neighborhood park, when what to my wondering eyes did appear

 

 

I pause to document the odd (to me) sight, then post the picture on my Facebook page, soliciting explanations:

“OK; what’s the story here? A fire extinguisher, about 25 yards from the nearest house, under a tree, in a bunch of wet leaves?”

There were some creative hypotheses.  I liked my daughter Belle’s offering best:

“They were deep frying a turkey and forgot to bring that back in.”

Vignette the Second

Department Of Appreciating A Form Of Reasoning Which
Is The Process Of Drawing A Conclusion
Based On Premises Generally Assumed To Be True;
As In, Using A Logical Premise To Reach A Logical Conclusion.

Same morning walk, 20 minutes later: now the sun is trying to rise above the cloudy horizon. I’m taking a winding road through a neighborhood adjacent to the park, a road I traverse at least once a week on my way to the walkway which leads to the afore-mentioned light rail station.  As moiself  rounds a corner I exchange good morning greetings with a couple I have come to know by sight.  They and their three canine companions are out for (what I assume is) the morning ritual of dog owners everywhere: that which moiself  thinks of as the “P Five” – the Puppy People’s Predawn Poop Perambulation. ®

It appears my presumptions are spot-on.  A the couple passes by on the other side of the street I notice that the (presumed) husband has two plastic bags of (presumed) doggie-doody swinging from a strap around his wrist.

Ain’t deductive reasoning grand?  Truly, ’tis a cognitive process we often take for granted… until we meet a #45 conspiracy theorist who wouldn’t know the concept of deductive reasoning from his ass if it were wrapped in a MAGA hat and sticking out of a hole in the ground.   [3]

 

 

Vinaigrette the Third

Department Of Later That Same Morning…

I have reached the station and am headed home.  I am walking on a pathway near the athletic fields west of the station. Yet another dog-walking couple with whom I have an I Hi-there-we-pass-each-other-at-least-once-a-week relationship    [4]   are walking toward me.  As we approach each other we all look skyward at the same time, toward the sounds of at least five different, low-flying, scraggly V formations of Canada geese, calling out to their comrades as they head southeast to…wherever.

The man points his finger upward and says,

“That’s a very nice sound, isn’t it?”

Moiself  points to my rain-or-shine hat, then at their respective visors, and replies:

“Yes, it is.
And it’s very nice – and very smart – of us to have hats on
when we’re walking underneath flying birds.”

The three of us chuckle as we pass one another, our mirth punctuated by the sound of…uh, plops… from overhead landing on the grass on either side of the walkway.

 

“I hate it when they wear protection.”  “Yeah; we’ll get ’em next time.”

 

Department Of Belated Content Warnings

Moiself  just realized I missed the opportunity to apply a content warning to the previous segments: two of my three park vignettes involved a mention of shit “animal droppings.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Kill Your Heroes

Dateline: a week or so ago, MH and I were discussing a recent podcast we’d both (separately) listened to, in which one of the stories presented involved an immigrant Chinese worker exploited by a railroad baron.  We somehow segued to the subject of power, as in, having power over the lives of others, and how easy it is to draw lines and reach binary conclusions, particularly when we judge the wielding of power in the past.  Railroad tycoon = bad.  Chinese railroad worker = good.

It’s an interesting subject to ponder: how would the immigrant railroad worker have behaved if he’d been the one with the power?  Perhaps he was downtrodden at work; what about when he returned home where, as a man in a patriarchal society, he had power over others simply by virtue of his gender?  Would he have shared his power with his wife and daughters? Would he have encouraged their own dreams and aspirations, or subjected them to foot binding and/or denied them access to education as per the other cultural torture norms of his time and place?

 

 

No matter what our intentions, moiself  thinks it’s healthy to keep a certain supposition in mind:   [5]  that most if not all of us may be just a couple of rungs on the authority ladder away from being the despots our descendants might denigrate.

Moiself  remembers the less-than-positive reaction I have garnered over the years, when I’ve been asked the question, “Who are your heroes?” and I’ve replied, truthfully, “I have no heroes.”

There are historical figures whom I admire for specific things they did: causes they fought for, injustices they tried to right, etc.  That said, I do not believe in having “heroes” because it seems that we – and by “we” I mean, every human being but moiself  ( ahem, I mean of course, every human being *including* moiself  ) – do not know how to apply perspective – that is, how to consider so-called heroic people for the flawed human beings they are.

 

 

Some great scientist will – someday very soon, I hope – discover the key to fixing global warming.  But, years later when it is revealed that she was, say, consistently rude to waiters and others in the service industry and disparaged anyone whom she considered to be “beneath” her, our descendants will argue over whether or not such a practitioner of classism should have a high school named after her…and should the Nobel committee rescind the prize they bestowed upon her?

Early 20th century activist Margaret Sanger was inspired (in part by her own family history) to work to liberate women from early death and abject poverty due to their lack of bodily autonomy which consigned them to lives of serial breeding.  Sanger withstood withering criticism, ostracization, imprisonment, physical attacks and threats to her life, from individuals and powerful organizations (read: the Catholic church) alike, not only for advocating birth control, but also for simply teaching women about their own bodies and reproductive cycles – which was illegal!

Sanger strongly believed that the ability to control family size was crucial to ending the cycle of women’s poverty. But it was illegal to distribute birth control information. Working as a visiting nurse, she frequented the homes of poor immigrants, often with large families and wives whose health was impaired by too many pregnancies, miscarriages, or in desperation botched abortions. Often, too, immigrant wives would ask her to tell them “the secret,” presuming that educated white women like Sanger knew how to limit family size. Sanger made it her mission to 1) provide women with birth control information and 2) repeal the federal Comstock Law, which prohibited the distribution of obscene materials through the mails, and regarded birth control information as such.
( “Margaret Sanger,” womenshistory.org )

 

 

Margaret Sanger also made some comments which, taken out of time and context, are used as a cudgel – particularly during political campaigns by conservative, anti-abortion Republicans – to discredit Sanger and to brand her (and, by association, Planned Parenthood and any organization supporting birth control and women’s reproductive autonomy) –  as  “racist.” 

Sanger’s stated mission was to empower women to make their own reproductive choices. She did focus her efforts on minority communities, because that was where, due to poverty and limited access to health care, women were especially vulnerable to the effects of unplanned pregnancy. As she framed it, birth control was the fundamental women’s rights issue. “Enforced motherhood,” she wrote in 1914, “is the most complete denial of a woman’s right to life and liberty.”

That’s not to say that Sanger didn’t also make some deeply disturbing statements in support of eugenics, the now-discredited movement to improve the overall health and fitness of humankind through selective breeding…. She was, of course, not alone in this viewpoint: In the 1920s and 1930s, eugenics enjoyed widespread support from mainstream doctors, scientists and the general public.
( “What Margaret Sanger Really Said About Eugenics and Race,” Time, 10-14-16 )

What Margaret Sanger may or may not have thought about eugenics does not change her ground-breaking accomplishments in helping to unshackle generations of women from  lives of compulsory brood mare-ism.

 

 

Likewise, Nelson Mandela deserves high praise for his tenacious fight against the immorality of apartheid.  But if you elevate the man to a myth, you’ll be disappointed to find that your great moral hero sacrificed his family life to his causes (and expected them to do the same), did almost nothing to alleviate or even acknowledge the growing AIDS crisis in his country (he later admitted to being “shy” re talking about a sexually transmitted disease), and upheld and instituted economic policies which have kept poor South Africans living in much the same conditions as when they were under apartheid, while the country has had to live with “…growing insecurity, violence, and crime.”

The more you know about historical figures, the more material you will have for being disappointed in or by them.  They were creatures of their time, as we are, of ours.  Even the most prescient of us will be judged harshly by future generations.

So, admire the ideals and actions  [6]   of justice warriors – certainly!   But just as certainly, never worship the creatures behind the causes.  Don’t idolize *people;*  do venerate the high *principles* for which those flawed people have fought.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of A Blast From Christmas Past

Dateline: Southern California, in the late 1960s – early 1970s.  For some reason, for a few years in the Westchester area of Los Angeles the “in” holiday décor was having a giant (as in, eight to ten foot tall) red wooden candle in your front yard.  [7]   I’m 100% sure how the fad began; I seem to recall my Uncle Joe telling me that some guy had made one for his yard, his neighbors admired it and he made some more for them, and then other home carpenters/crafty-types figured it out, and it took off from there.

When visiting our LA relatives (my aunt and uncle, Gwen and Joe Baker, and their five children) during the Christmas season my family would drive around their neighborhood at night, just to see the big ass candles.  All of the yard candles had the same setup:  a lone red candle, with a spotlight illuminating the candle from base to the top.  At the base of the candle were wooden letters, painted white, spelling out the name of the family in whose yard the candle stood.  In two or three cases I can recall, the word at the base of the candle was, “Noel” or “Yule,” but for 99% of the candles it was the family name.

Uncle Joe was quite the carpenter hobbyist (one of my favorite creations of his was a motorized wooden Santa and elves display that he put out on the rooftop, every Christmas).  Joe constructed a Christmas yard candle for his family’s front yard, with their surname “Baker” prominently spotlighted.  A few days after my grandmother admired her daughter Gwen’s and SIL Joe’s yard candle, Joe drove down to Santa Ana and installed, in my grandmother’s front yard, the candle he had made for her.  Thus, Edna Gertrude Hole   [8]   became the only person in Santa Ana (as far as we knew) who had an eight-foot-tall red candle in her front yard with a spotlight illuminating her last name.

 

I haven’t been able to find any pictures of the Westchester yard candles.  Think of something like this, only made of wood, with a white top, eight feet tall, in someone’s front yard, with a sign at the base.

 

My grandmother left her yard candle up for that one holiday season.  The day after Christmas she telephoned Joe and asked him to come and fetch it.  The thrill wore off for her, the third or fourth night Edna Hole answered her doorbell – which had been rung by a person who’d been walking or driving by – and found herself listening to a total stranger sharing their concerns regarding her holiday décor:     [9]

“Excuse me, I don’t want to embarrass you, but I think you’ve misspelled, ‘Holy.’

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Heroes-Not-To-Be-Worshipped Edition

Q. Why did Wonder Woman stop checking her email?
A. Her inbox was loaded with Spamazons.   [10]

If Iron Man and Silver Surfer teamed up, would they would be alloys?

Q.  What does Peter Parker say when people ask him what he does for a living?
A.  Web designer.

Have you heard of The Incredible Hulk’s new fashion line?
It’s all the rage.

 

*   *   *

May you see a wolf before you die (but not see it and then…die);
May you applaud the deeds and have forbearance for the deed-doers;
May your holiday yard décor provide confusion and/or entertainment
to passing strangers;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] The wild ones I saw in Alaska were much farther away, and the ones in zoos don’t “count.”

[2] Yeah, but could you hum along to it?

[3] Yes and obviously, I can mangle mix those metaphors with the best of them.

[4] But this couple has only one dog between them…which seems kinda stingy.

[5] This space does not need a footnote.

[6] Should, of course, those ideals and actions be truly admirable, as opposed to ill-considered, rash, or merely attention-seeking.

[7] And then, just three or four years after the fad started, no one put up the candles anymore.  What happened?

[8] Yes, that was her real (married) name.  She was born Edna Gertrude Moran; Hole was her husband’s family surname – apparently, it was prestigious name in the tiny Norwegian town they came from, but in America?  No surprise it never occurred to my mother to keep her birth surname.

[9] I always wondered, why didn’t she just remove her family name, and keep the candle?

[10] That’s enough with the footnotes.

The Temple I’m Not Joining

Comments Off on The Temple I’m Not Joining

Department Of First Things First

Fifty-one years ago today, the blast that was heard around the world.   [1]

Happy Exploding Whale Day, y’all.

 

 

*   *   *

In May 2014, The Satanic Temple scheduled a Black Mass to be held on the Harvard University campus, sponsored by the Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club; the event was forced to relocate off campus due to significant opposition by Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston and school administrators.
(Wikipedia, The Satanic Temple entry)

Department Of Arguably The Best Quote From A Documentary Filled With Zingers

“I think the participants felt discouraged after their permit  (to demonstrate) in Boston was denied.  And then it just occurred to me: this is the Catholic Church in Boston, which covered up decades of child rape, moved priests around, covered it up, let them continue their raping and child abuse… and then had the gall to say what *we’re* doing was sinful? I mean, fuck them.”
(a member of “The Satanic Temple” (TST), as quoted in, Hail, Satan?)

 

 

 

“The mission of The Satanic Temple, a religious organization, is to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense, oppose injustice, and undertake noble pursuits.
The Satanic Temple has publicly confronted hate groups, fought for the abolition of corporal punishment in public schools, applied for equal representation when religious installations are placed on public property, provided religious exemption and legal protection against laws that unscientifically restrict women’s reproductive autonomy, exposed harmful pseudo-scientific practitioners in mental health care, organized clubs alongside other religious after-school clubs in schools besieged by proselytizing organizations, and engaged in other advocacy in accordance with our tenets.”
( mission statement, from The Satanic Temple website )

*   *   *

The Wiccan priest tried (unsuccessfully) to stifle rolling her eyes.  The man interviewing her had asked her to explain Wiccan beliefs but inserted a stereotypical inaccuracy before he gave her time to answer:

“So, you are devil worshippers?”

The Wiccan’s tone indicated that her patience was tried; obviously, this was not the first time she had been asked that question. She replied emphatically, and a bit wearily:

No, *we* don’t worship Satan.
*We* don’t believe in Satan, or devils or demons.
*Christians* are the ones who believe in the devil. Satan is a Christian god.”

 

 

 

The interview moiself  refers to happened many years ago, in a documentary I saw about the connections between Wicca and Paganism and Norse Mythology.  I thought of that interview last week when, thanks to daughter Belle’s recommendation, I watched Hail Satan?, the 2019 documentary which followed the rise of the grassroots activist organization, The Satanic Temple (TST).  Belle thought I would find the documentary entertaining and provocative – she was correct – and we had a fun back-and-forth texting about the subject matter.

Hail Satan?, as one reviewer put it, “puts the fun in satanic fundamentalism.”    [2]  In many places the film is downright hilarious…and also thought-provoking.

“For something that doesn’t move or talk, monuments have been the subject of much debate and deep feeling in recent years. And not just Confederate monuments, but also religious ones. And one of those debates played out in Arkansas, where State Senator Jason Rapert petitioned to erect a statue of the Ten Commandments outside the Capitol building in Little Rock. In response, a group called The Satanic Temple asked to have a monument of their choosing displayed on government property. It was of Baphomet, a goat-headed angel-winged icon. And let’s just say the offer wasn’t that well-received.

That fight and The Satanic Temple more broadly is the subject of a new documentary called “Hail Satan?” – that’s with a question mark. And it follows the founding of this group, which is bringing a puckish new voice to a very thoughtful and actually serious debate over religious freedom.”

( NPR, ” Filmmaker And Satanic Temple Leader Talk New Documentary,
 ‘Hail Satan?’  4-27-19)

 

 

Moiself  was chuckling throughout the film, especially at the moment whence the opening quote in this post is taken:  in Boston 2014, when The Satanic Temple had received permission to perform a Black Mass, and they were being picketed by Catholic priests and nuns and received so many threats they decided to call it off.    [3] A Satanic or Black Mass  [4]  is a grotesque mockery of the Catholic Mass, and is meant to be offensive to RC believers…but then, the Catholic Mass and other Christian churches’ communion rites – with their reenactments of ritualized cannibalism – can be offensive (or at least, bizarre and mystifying) to people of other beliefs.

So, there they were, in the middle ages twenty-first century, priests and nun in their robes, holding rosary beads, crucifixes,chalices, and other artifacts of “catholobelia”… [5]

 

 

and then you have the “Satanists,” in their robes and masks….

 

 

It was so funny, to see both sides in their respective, silly outfits.  Only the Satanists seemed to have any self-awareness about the whole thing – that this (religion) is all play acting/dress up.

Does moiself  think that any of those people involved with TST are, in fact Satanists – that they actually and sincerely “believe in” or “worship” Satan?

Hell no.

The impression I got was that TST organizers and the vast majority of members are part political/Constitutional/free speech activists, and part street theater/Merry Pranksters…with some Cosplay nerds devotees thrown in there as well.

Belle and I bantered with the question: Does TST do more harm than good, by using imagery and tactics that some people find sooooooooooooooooo offensive? Yes, and no.  And admittedly, there is a certain power to be had from disgusting, shocking, frightening, and angering your adversaries.  If you have personal, political, and/or ideological beefs with Christianity, what better way to get under a staunch Christian’s skin than to profess allegiance to that which they view as their polar opposite, whether or not you actually “believe in” your own silly deity (just as you don’t believe in their silly deity).

 

“Who you callin’ silly?”

 

And, analogous to how some rap stars often call themselves the N-word, many people believe that there is power in taking a pejorative which has been used against you and using it (on) yourself. As one of the TST members interviewed noted, for many Conservative and Evangelical Christians, any beliefs other than theirs are evil.  Thus, if you believe something other than their interpretation of their religion, you are under the influence of the devil – they are going to consider you evil or satanic anyway, so why not be proactive about it and claim the title yourself, under your terms, not theirs?

For moiself, one of the more uproarious moments documented in Hail Satan? occurred when TST took a page from the Mormon playbook of performing proxy baptisms (a ritual wherein a proxy for a deceased, non-Mormon person is baptized into the Mormon church   [6] ).  In order to incense and mock the notoriously homophobic Westborough Baptist Church founder, these antics ensued:

” A group of satanists say they’ve given the controversial Westboro Baptist Church a taste of its own medicine, performing a same-sex ritual at the grave of the mother of the church’s founder.
Members of the Satanist Temple performed on Sunday what its spokesman describes as a “pink mass,” an admittedly made-up ritual celebrating gay love, at the grave in Meridian, Miss.
Spokesman Lucien Greaves doffed a headdress made of horns as two male couples and a female couple recited scripture, lit candles, and made out over the grave.
Members then posthumously declared Catherine Johnston, the mother of Westboro’s founder Fred Phelps, a lesbian.”

(“Satanists Perform ‘Gay Ritual’ at Westboro Gravesite,” ABC news, 7-13)

Belle and I went back and forth re the tactics of TST, which we both found…the word “silly’ kept being used.   However seriously you do or don’t take TST, it seems to be a reaction to the abuse of power and religious discrimination promulgated by Christian culture and theology, rather than standing for something on its own.

However….

Many of TST‘s antics are actually well-informed public protests, and not just “giving the middle finger to the evangelical right.”  One high ranking TST organizer pointed out that “…we are really giving the state of Oklahoma a civics lesson,” referring to TST‘s fight to have their group’s goat-headed statue (“Baphomet“) displayed on public ground, after Oklahoma allowed Christian religious artifacts on the State Capitol lawn.   [7]

 

 

One lawyer quoted in the film said, “…from a constitutional law perspective I am really interested in the Satanic temple, because it is basically making these public bodies confront the real implications of their decisions to allow religion into the public square.”

 

 

The documentary gets into some very interesting, and serious and disturbing territory when it revisits the “Satanic panic” of the 1980s , a time when many innocent people’s lives were ruined via a series of bizarre, totally false and fabricated accusations of ritualized child rape. The founders of and teachers at the McMartin Preschool and so many others endured false charges of child abuse;    [8]   meanwhile, as records would later reveal, priests and other religious figures were actually abusing children, with impunity.

One TST member recalled how he, as a boy during the 1980s who loved to play Dungeons and Dragons,  was ostracized by his friends’ religious parents, who thought the D & D game had satanic connections:

“The ‘satanic panic,’ we now know, in an entirely verified and publicly known way, was projection.
*They* (Christian religious leaders) were doing it (abusing children).
I was playing D and D.”

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
The Devil Made Me Do It Edition

I’m writing a book about a guy who peddles shoe parts to Satan.
It’s your basic, “Sold My Sole To The Devil” novel.

Where does the devil do his dishes?
Helsinki.

Why couldn’t the Devil find any cheese?
There’s no whey in hell.

How do I know that Satan works at the DMV?
Because a priest said the devil takes many forms.

If the devil were to go bald…
I bet there would be hell toupee.

I want to get a job as a stunt devil who lights his butt on fire.
It’s just something I asspyre to.

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you keep in mind that the things you take seriously
may be silly – or disturbing – to others;
May you never attribute human failings – or successes – to supernatural beings;
May you honor Exploding Whale Day ® in your own special way;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Well, if your world consists of proud Oregonians.  And it should.

[2]Hail Satan? puts the fun in Satanic fundamentalism.”  The Verge, 4-17-19

[3] Actually, they moved it to another location.

[4] Which TST was going to perform in private, as in, not open to the public.

[5] My term (I think) for such accoutrements.

[6] Yes, this batshit crazyass rite in the LDS church is a thing.

[7] The Satanists won that battle in court, as per a 2015 Oklahoma State Supreme Court decision.

[8]  And were ultimately acquitted of all charges…after a trial that lasted SEVEN YEARS and cost taxpayers 15 million dollars.

The Advice I’m Not Giving

4 Comments

 

Department Of Groovy Natural Phenomena
Part One Of Two In This Post

King tides; we got ’em.  The first of the season along the Oregon coast are today through Sunday, coinciding with overlapping storm fronts and high wave warnings.

Magnificent to observe – from a safe distance, y’all.

 

 

*   *   *

And Speaking Of Groovy Natural Phenomena…

What would ushering in the holiday season be without The Dropkick Murphys?

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of More On Stormfronts

Dateline: earlier this week. Moiself  saw a post from a FB friend, in which they announced that it was their son Oden’s   [1]  birthday…and that they would be celebrating without him, as he is in another state and wants nothing to do with his parents and is “angry angry angry.”

There are few relationships sadder than those involving parent-child alienation. The emotional part of me took hold first.  I wanted to message them privately, until the rational part of me said:

 

 

As in, WTF are you – moiself  – thinking?

Because my message would have been along the lines of:

“Oh, ____ (friends’ names) I am so sad to read this…and the fact that I’m reading this on social media makes me even sadder.
Is Oden on Facebook?  Will Oden’s seeing or becoming aware of this post help him to be less angry?”

Of course it won’t help. Nor would my rhetorical question to them have been of help, no matter how many times I would have tried to “gently” rephrase or reframe it.  And I refer to this hypothetical question as rhetorical, because I can’t think of a sensible reason for someone to believe that making such a public statement  [2]  would help their cause of reconciliation.  Unless…

 

 

duh and ahhh, unless reconciliation is *not* their cause (at this point).  Rather, the only cause I can think of which would be served by such an announcement is to receive pity/sympathy from their friends and family – reactions which could have (should have, IMHO) been garnered privately, by speaking or messaging personally with those who are aware of the long, complicated, parents-child relationship here, rather than by exposing the already-alienated-and-angry son to public scrutiny and even shame.   [3]

If feeding the parents’ sense of martyrdom heartache was the true purpose of the post, then, well-played.

It’s still sad.  No matter what.  I wish that seeing a picture of a *Baby Sloth Wearing Magic Pajamas Of Reconciliation* would make it all better, for everyone.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Yeah What He Said

Moiself  occasionally checks comedian and author and TV host Bill Maher’s “New Rules” segment, and his one last week, Rule: Words Matter , was a doozy.  Maher starts out proposing that instead of putting bibles in hotel rooms people should put dictionaries,

“…because apparently, nobody knows what words mean anymore.”

Maher goes on to illustrate one of my pet peeves – the fact that you dilute the importance of words when you misunderstand and misuse them.  And I couldn’t have given a better example of misusing/redefining than the cringe-worthy one Maher provides. It involves a standup comic, some of whose work I have listened to and liked, commenting on the standup special of another comic, some of whose work I have listened to and liked (and some…nah).

I refer to Hannah Gadsby commenting on Dave Chapelle.

Chappelle, who above all else seems to (consider himself to) be a free speech advocate, is once again testing the limits of that in his new streaming special on Netflix. Certain remarks he has made in the special have raised the hackles of many in the LGBTQ community.  [4]

 

“Dave Chappelle does not make it easy.
He is one of the most brilliant stand-up comics in the business. But he also makes a sport of challenging his audience — putting ideas in front of them that he knows are uncomfortable and unpalatable to those invested in modern notions of how to talk about feminism, gender, sexual orientation and race.
Sometimes, he does it to make a larger point. But at times, especially during his latest special for Netflix, ‘The Closer,’ he also seems to have a daredevil’s relish for going to dangerous places onstage and eventually winning his audience over — regardless of what he’s actually saying. “
(“For Dave Chappelle, punchlines are dares. His new special, ‘The Closer,’ goes too far.”
( NPR, Morning Edition, Tv Review 10-5-21 )

Australian standup comic Gadsby, a lesbian who often features LGBTQ issues in her routines, characterized Chapelle’s special as “…hate speech dog-whistling.”

 

 

Maher points out the glaring misuse of two terms which essentially cancel each other out:

” ‘Dog whistle’ refers to when someone puts something in code because they’re afraid to come out and say what they really think.
That’s what you get from Dave Chapelle –
he’s afraid to say what he really thinks?”

Maher also on touches on my second semantic pet peeve: attaching “-phobic” to any reaction you don’t like.

“…and it’s not hate speech, just because you disagree with it.  Nor is it phobic.  Phobic comes from a Greek word meaning something you fear irrationally, like spiders, or germs. But now it is used as a suffix for something you just don’t like.I’ve been called ‘commitment-phobic.‘  No, I don’t *fear* commitment, I just don’t want any.  Other people do; great!  I don’t call them, ‘single-phobic.’

….And if I talk about how wrong I think it is to force women to wear a beekeeper’s suit all day, that’s not Islamophobic – I just don’t like it.”

 

Objecting to this is not Islamophobia, it’s forcing-women-to-wear-burial-shrouds-while-they’re-still-alive ophobia.

 

“A phobia is a persistent, excessive, unrealistic fear of an object, person, animal, activity or situation. It is a type of anxiety disorder.
A person with a phobia either tries to avoid the thing that triggers the fear, or endures it with great anxiety and distress.
( “Phobia – what is it?” Harvard health a-z.edu )

For those who fling the –phobic suffix with Woke®  impunity: y’all ever met a person with an actual phobia and seen that phobia manifested?  [5]   True phobics endure debilitating symptoms that can mimic a heart attack.  It is a frightening, humbling thing to see.

If you’re gay and someone disagrees with you, about LGBTQ-related public policy or personal relationships – or if he flat out say that the idea of a gay “lifestyle” (translate: sex) makes him uncomfortable, he is just that – uncomfortable…or perhaps immature or ignorant or close-minded or whatever. But unless he slobbers and hyperventilates and screams and has to run out of the grocery store when Ru Paul enters, he is not (homo- or trans-) *phobic.*

If you’re a woman and, come time for the annual extended family Thanksgiving gathering, your strip joint-frequenting cousin Bubba Bocephus argues with every feminist principle you espouse, and freely and loudly expresses his opinion that women’s places are in the kitchen and bedroom as he tells jokes belittling his female co-workers, it is possible that Bubba actually hates women.  But unless he exhibits behavior that indicates he has an irrational, anxiety-producing *fear* of any female relative at the gathering, he is not a “gynophobe.”  He’s a misogynist asshole.

 

Moiself’s screams upon encountering Ru Paul at the grocery store would be those of sheer delight.

 

Related (moiself  sez) to the misuse or “rebranding” of certain words and terms is safe spaces, a concept I find ominous, and even the opposite of “safe.”  Those school boards trying to outlaw any form of Critical Race Theory being taught, or even mentioned, in schools?  They took a page from the far left playbook: they’re trying to keep students (read: white students) “safe” from the reality of the USA’s history of systemic racism.

Ever since I first heard the term safe spaces I’ve had an almost visceral loathing of it (but, I am not safe spacephobic). This is because I think that institutions – in particular universities, which are supposed to challenge and enlighten – being asked or even required to produce “safe spaces” produces just the opposite, and stifles development of one of the most important human qualities higher education should aspire to engender: strength of character, along with the character-building-and-expanding skill of being able to listen to and consider opinions you disagree with, or even find offensive.

 

 

And now I know why I have this reaction, thanks to the series of talks I’ve been listening to (“The Stoic Path,” via this meditation app) .  In the episode, “The Upside of Negative Thinking,” stoic philosopher William B. Irvine puts a name to perhaps the most vital yet an underappreciated part of our body’s defensive systems:

“Most people are born with an immune system.  But for it to be maximally effective it has to be developed, and the best way to develop it is by exposing it to germs.  Suppose then that you’re a parent, who wants her child to grow up strong and healthy.  You know that germs cause illness. The obvious thing to do would be to keep your child’s exposure to germs to a minimum. If you acted on this reasoning, though, and tried to raise your child in  a germ-free environment, you had better be prepared to keep him there for the rest of his life.  Otherwise, as soon as he stepped into the real world, his underdeveloped immune system would likely be overwhelmed by germs.
So what’s a caring parent to do?  As paradoxical as it may seem, she should expose her child to germs, but in a controlled fashion….

The Stoics didn’t know about the biological immune system…but they did intuit the existence of what I am calling a psychological immune system.  Whereas your biological immune system protects you from sickness caused by germs, your psychological immune system protects you from experiencing the negative emotions triggered by life’s setbacks.

Consider the following scenario: suppose that parents, in order to reduce the number of negative emotions that their child experiences, worked hard to prevent bad things from happening to him. They never shared bad news with him; never criticized or insulted him and did their best to prevent other people from doing so.  And whenever a problem arose in the child’s life they would deal with it on his behalf.  Although these parents might have the best intentions in the world, those intentions would likely backfire.  Their child’s psychological immune system would end up dysfunctional; indeed, he would be the psychological equivalent of a bubble boy.  He would be hypersensitive to comments other people made; he would be angered and frustrated by the smallest setbacks, and he might burst into tears upon hearing bad news. 

Caring parents…will take steps to develop their child’s psychological immune system… Their goal is for the child to be emotionally ready to face the imperfect world into which he will emerge in a few year’s time.  He should able to hear bad news, criticism, and even insults, without getting overly upset. And when he encounters a setback, he should be able to calmly and coolly set about to overcoming it.”

 

If only our psychological immunity could be so easily boosted.

 

Ponder this:  Allowing yourself to be exposed to contrary, harsh, even insulting thoughts, words, and opinions is the psychological equivalent of getting a flu shot.

As he expands on the concept of psychological immunity, Irvine considers how the Stoics would respond to “hate speech.” (my emphases):

“One of their (stoicism’s) key psychological insights is that what harms you the most when you’ve been insulted, maybe by a racist or a sexist, is not the insult itself, but your reaction to that insult….

We are presently in the midst of a great human social experiment involving hate speech. The Stoics’ advice for targets of such speech is to toughen themselves up; they need to strengthen their psychological immune system.…
Lots of people reject this advice out of hand. Instead of encouraging people to toughen up, they tell them that they have every reason to be upset.
They might also provide them with “safe spaces’ in which they can recover from understandably devastating insults.

The stoics would argue that dealing with hate speech in this manger inadvertently  undermines people’s psychological immune systems. Even worse, such actions can trigger a kind of downward spiral with respect to hate speech:  the more people are protected from hearing offensive remarks, the more upsetting they find those remarks, and the more upsetting they find them, the more protection they need.  The target of hate speech can thereby end up as the psychological equivalent of the Bubble Boy.”

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Mama Nature’s Psychedelics

Last Saturday and Sunday, we Oregonians had the rare opportunity to witness the aurora borealis, aka, the northern lights.

“A storm that started more than 92 million miles away is sending a spooky light show to skies above the Pacific Northwest…. a powerful solar flare left the sun on Thursday. Now charged particles are heading toward Earth… That’s likely to result in visible aurora borealis, or Northern Lights, in areas where the lights are rarely seen.   The ghostly night-sky phenomenon, which at its brightest can fill dark skies with glowing, dancing sheets of translucent green and purple lights, occurs when electrons from the sun’s solar flares collide with the upper reaches of Earth’s atmosphere….     ( opb.org )

Of course, light pollution in our area (Portland Metro)  bscured any view MH and I and other “space enthusiasts” might have gotten.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Atmospheric Phenomenon Providing A Memory Segue

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away – when I was pregnant with That Who Would Become MH’s And My First Offspring ® –  moiself  made the mistake of sharing some of my baby-naming ideas with my mother.

We now pause for the following announcement.

Hear me, ye who are newly pregnant: do not share your baby name ideas with anyone other than your partner, unless you are actively seeking input (read: criticism) as to your choices.  Because if anyone, especially the expectant grandparents, think there is a snowball’s chance in a California wildfire to change your mind, they will try.  As a Stanford Hospital employee (the records clerk responsible for recording the newborn’s name on vital documents) told me, “Don’t tell *anyone* the name until it’s on the birth certificate – because until it’s on the certificate, *someone* will try to get you to change it to a name they think is sooooooo much better….”

 

 

The afore-mentioned mistake happened during a phone call with my mother, a few days before I’d received my amniocentesis results.  Since my mother had asked I said yes, when we are contacted with the amnio results we would want to know everything, including the 23rd chromosome pair arrangement.  MH and I had just begun to think about names; if the test showed we’d be having a girl, one of the names I was considering was Aurora.

I liked Aurora for several reasons. It can be a tough world for girl-childs, I told my mother, and being named for an awe-inspiring natural phenomenon – the aurora borealis! – is a sign of strength.  Also, Aurora Dupin, the real name of the author George Sand, was a trail-blazing, stereotype-defying, 1800s French writer….    [6]   Aurora was my front runner for a girl, and if we chose that name we’d probably call her “Rory.”

My mother, born of Irish-Norwegian peasant stock, had royal blood when it came to her ability to indirectly express negative feelings rather than openly address them.  Thus, my family’s Queen of Passive Aggression made her standard, “Oh, that’s interesting,”  response to my Aurora story…which rolled right past me until she telephoned the very next day, and the following exchanged ensued.

“I’ve been thinking about your baby name choice,” my mother said.
“Do you know that the ‘R’ sound is the hardest sound for children to make – it’s usually the last consonant they learn to pronounce correctly.”

I asked her if that was a statement or a question, then reminded her that, yep, as one of the THREE of her four children whom she saw fit to give R names – ahem! – I was familiar with that phenomenon.  I thought it was kinda cute that I was called ‘Wobyn’ by toddlers, my peers, kids I babysat – and even by my younger siblings, ‘Woofie’ (Ruthie) and “Wobert’ (Robert) – until they were old enough to master that devilish R consonant.  So, her point would be…?

“I want you to go stand in front of a mirror,” she said.  “Then look at your mouth, and what happens to your face, when you say, ‘Rory.’ “

 

 

Holy fucking non-issue, moiself  marveled.  She’s apparently/actually done this. She stood in front of her mirror, and did this.

I concentrated on keeping my tone as gentle as possible (more gentle than she deserved), but also as firm as the reply demanded:

“Mom, I want *you* to go stand in front of a mirror,
and look what happens to your face when you say, ‘Buttinsky.’ “

There were no further baby name suggestions (or discussions) between us.

 

K, and the freshly hatched Belle. “K, I’m happy you are who you are, even as I want you to know you would have made a fine ‘Rory.’ “

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Baby Names Edition

Seriously, you’re going to name your son, Almondine?
That’s nuts.

Seriously, you’re going to name your daughter, Cintronella?
That’s repellant.

Seriously, you’re going to name your baby, Insurrection?
That’s revolting.

Seriously, you’re going to name your baby, R.E.M.?
You must be dreaming.

Seriously, you’re going to name your baby, KenKen?
That’s puzzling.    [7]

 

*   *   *

May you, some day, be able to see both the aurora borealis and king tides;
May you never have an occasion to look in the mirror and say, Buttinsky;
May the Baby Sloth Wearing Magic Pajamas Of Reconciliation be of comfort to you;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Not his real name.  Not even close.

[2] And as far as this public statement of mine (blogging about this) goes, moiself  is 99% certain they do not read this blog.

[3] for holding a grudge against his parents, who are just sitting there, posting alone in the dark, oy vey….

[4] Disclosure: I have not watched the special in its entirety; just clips.

[5] I have seen several phobic reactions, including this memorable one:  I had to help a friend to the floor and raise her legs, when she began to hyperventilate at just the suggestion that my child might consider getting a pet tarantula (and keep it in the garage, in a covered terrarium, when the spider-phobic friend came over, so she would never see it).  She was horribly embarrassed by her reaction, which she realized was over the top and irrational…but that’s what makes it a phobia.  Quite different from the many people who don’t like spiders or “bugs” but who don’t turn into a quivering mass of quasi-sentient protoplasm at just the *mention* of them.

[6] who, like most if not all women writers of that time, had to use a male pen name in order for her work to be published.

[7] Yeah, but KenKen is the best puzzle, ever.  Sudoku, in comparison and in MHO, is like watching paint dry.

The Dream I’m Not Living

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Department Of The Words I Never Thought I’d Want To Say to George Takei:

 

 

Or at least, George, you’re acting like one.

From common folk to Star Trek nerds fans, most sentient US citizens know about William Shatner’s ride into space last week.  Many of us in the latter category (ST nerds) also know about the long-standing feud between Shatner and his ST:TOS co-star, George Takei.  A brief summary of the childish spat:

Takei  [1]  has long held grudges about Shatner. The former Lt. Sulu has told stories which revolve around his perceptions that Shatner was a self-centered ham,  [2]  and that Takei and other supporting cast members resented playing second fiddle(s) on the show. Over the years and in his biography (which moiself  has read) Takei has presented a plethora of mostly petty incidents justifying (in Takei’s opinion) his resentment of Shatner.  Many of the stories ring true; however, IMHO, they are hardly relevant to the present moment.  The series (and films) were over *thirty to fifty years* ago.

Here’s the thing: a second fiddle is what Takei was hired to play.  The Kirk, Spock, and Dr. McCoy characters were the show’s triumvirate, and Shatner was hired as the star of the show – the captain of the USS Enterprise.  It is a tribute to the actors playing Uhura, Scotty, Sulu and Chekov, that they became so beloved, given their minor roles and the fact that, unlike Kirk, Spock and McCoy, their characters were *not* in every episode of the series.  Uhura, Scotty, Sulu and Chekov (and Yeoman Rand, Nurse Chapel, and others) – those roles were written and cast as *supporting* players.

 

 

But Takei (second fiddle row, far left, in the above picture) can’t seem to step out of his anti-gravity suit and rise above it all.

“William Shatner’s brief trip to outer space this week wasn’t the final frontier in his grudge match with former co-star George Takei…..Takei, who played Hikaru Sulu to Shatner’s Capt. James T. Kirk in the iconic TV series and films, fired the latest blast in the pair’s decades-long feud Wednesday. This time, he criticized the 90-year-old’s Wednesday flight aboard Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space capsule, which gave Shatner the honor of being the oldest person to launch into space.

“He’s boldly going where other people have gone before,” Takei, 84, quipped…riffing on the series’ catchphrase (and a number of headlines about Shatner’s 10-minute voyage.)

Upon returning to Earth Wednesday, Shatner was moved to tears over the ‘profound experience’ Bezos gave him and was surveying ‘the enormity and the quickness and the suddenness of life and death.’

Takei put it more bluntly: ‘He’s a guinea pig,’ he said.  The outspoken actor and prolific Twitter user then threw even more shade at Shatner’s physical fitness and age.

‘Ninety years old and it’s important to find out what happens,’ he added, noting that Shatner’s advanced years will ‘show a great deal more on the wear and tear on the human body’ and that ‘he’ll be a good specimen to study’ — a specimen ‘that’s unfit.’ “
(“Beam him down, Scotty: George Takei isn’t impressed by
William Shatner’s space trip.”  LA Times 10-14-21 )

 

Sharpening your claws much, George?

 

Mr. Takei, I think you owe Mr. Shatner an apology.  Why did you feel the need to pitch snark?  Why is your opinion relevant at all – why should it matter what *you* think about *his* trip to space?  Your comments make you look petty, jealous, and attention-seeking.  Why not be gracious – if you have to say anything, why not wish him, or anyone in that situation, the best?

And the not-so-thinly-veiled fat jokes?

 

 

Mr. Takei, I’ve admired you for your advocacy on behalf of LGBTQ issues – even as you came to it very, very, very late in the game   [3] –  and your involvement in raising awareness re the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII.  That’s still and all good.  However, your advocacy for those or any other noble causes in no way gives you an impunity shield for acting like a dick.

Shatner, of course, fired back after being attacked. And in this case, I think Captain Kirk’s shade laser topped Lt. Sulu’s dick torpedo:

 

 

Mr. Takei, is this how you want to be remembered?  Yeah, Shatner is old (wow, thanks for pointing that out), but so are you. It’s likely that neither you nor Shatner will live very much longer.  What if Shatner died next week, and your ungenerous, uncalled for critique of his space ride turned out to be the last public words you’d spoken about him?

Your and Shatner’s combined ages are 174; your vindictive verbal volleying makes the figure seem more like 24.  Whiny juveniles, still bickering over who did what to whom on the playground ( Did not! Did so! ).

Get over it.  Please, grow up and shut up.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Living Someone Else’s Dream Life

Moiself  is continuing my commentary on the series of talks about the practice of Stoicism – “The Stoic Path,” by William B. Irvine – which I’ve been listening to, from Sam Harris’ “Waking Up” meditation app.

As I am learning, part of the stoic path toward emotional equanimity involves engaging in something called negative visualization, which I’ll deal with more in next week’s post.  Although the episode for my comments this week, “You are Living the Dream Life,” also utilizes a form of negative visualization.

Yep, that’s me – I’m living the dream life.

 

 

It’s strange for us to consider that we are living the dream life. The thing to realize is that we likely are…only, it’s someone else’s dream. The idea is to get us to appreciate what we have.  As I tried to periodically remind my offspring,  happiness/contentment comes *not* from getting what you want, but wanting what you get.

When we are in the midst of life’s everyday tribulations, from minor irritations (an overdue utility bill) to major events (a burst water pipe causes our house’s floor to collapse; our spouse develops a serious illness) it’s easy to snort at the idea that we should consider ourselves fortunate (“count our blessings”).  It’s easy to *not* consider the fact that someone, somewhere around the world (possibly even in our own community) could look at what we might dramatically think of as our nightmare, and to them, it’s a dream.  We have a roof over our heads, an abundance of material possessions, indoor plumbing, antibiotics, and a palm-shaped device which helps us communicate with others, watch cat videos, and search the sum of human knowledge.

 

 

I’m certain that moiself  doesn’t fully understand the concept of negative visualization, because my first thought when I head the terms was, I don’t want to engage in this – I get enough of it from the daily news.   I don’t want appreciate what I have by imagining how things could be worse.  My “writer’s mind,” (imaging and trying out all possible scenarios of a story) already tends to go in that direction, thank you very much.  But, moiself  supposes, if negative visualization were done intentionally – as part of a meditative practice to give you perspective on present circumstances – it could be quite useful.

I was reminded of my own experience with living the dream – someone else’s:

Dateline: a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (late 1980s).  My housemate and I are living in a rented cottage, situated behind the landlord’s son’s house, in Palo Alto.  My bedroom is the slant-floored, enclosed (and un-insulated) back porch of what was originally constructed as a one-bedroom cottage.  The cottage’s kitchen (the kitchen closet, LP and I call it) literally cannot accommodate two people standing side by side.

 

Ours had a smaller yard but better siding.

 

My housemate is also my friend; we are both “foodies,” and regularly get together with another friend, PF, for theme dinners, which we take turns hosting.   [4]   On this night PF is hosting; she has chosen a date where her “roommates” are out.  For the past year PF has been living with her sister’s family (sister,  husband, two teenaged daughters), in one of the wealthiest of Bay Area suburbs (Atherton).  PF’s sister’s house, a large, craftsman-style, three story mansion filled with art and artifacts collected from her sister’s travels, is stunningly beautiful.  LP and I can barely hide our admiration – or control our drool – as we survey its spacious, well-appointed kitchen.

A couple of hours into our dinner, as we begin to clean up the kitchen, PF’s sister and her family return to their home (from whatever activity they’d been doing which got them out of the house and gave PF the chance to invite friends over).  PF introduces us to her sister’s family.  They are all beautiful people, strikingly attractive in both physique, visage, and personality.  PF later tells me (I had to ask) that Sister and Husband have a great relationship and truly are each other’s best friend.     [5]

Oh, really? That’s too bad so nice.

Petty, petty moiself  had hoped for a cliché, along the lines of, money can’t buy happiness.  I wanted to see that these are people who are rich in things, but miserable (or at least lacking) in their personal relationships.  Nope.  Looks like they got it all.

As LP and I help PF clean up our dinner dishes, I engage in friendly conversation with PF’s sister, who excuses herself after a few minutes to join her husband in their study.  She and her husband are going to plan their next vacation to Peru.

On our drive back to our cottage, LP and I engage in stunned conversation about what we’ve just seen: The Good Life ®, which we so obviously do not have.  I silently compare our friend’s sister’s evening activities with what awaits me when I return home: turning on the miniscule portable electric heater I purchased which (barely) keeps the container of hand lotion in my room from freezing.

LP and I begin listing everything PF’s sister has which we are lacking, followed by our mutual reassurances that, although we are not wealthy (and, in fact and especially in my case, barely making ends meet), “we are rich in love.”

“Could you believe that kitchen? They’re not even professional chefs.”

But, we are rich in love.

“And that bathroom, with the clawfoot tub, and the…”

Yep. We, however, are rich in love.

“And the view out the window, with their orchard and the hills and…”

We are rich in love.

“And they’ve been married over twenty years,
have two teenagers, and they look that good
and still banter and flirt with one another…”

LP begins to rattle off a list of our family and friends who value us, until moiself  feels compelled to point out the obvious:

“Yes, we have family and friends who value us; we are rich in love.
They, too, are rich in love…and, they’re rich.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Seasonal Scenery

It’s too beautiful a day to be inside and write; moiself  needs to get outside and kick through some leaves.  I suggest y’all do the same, right now.

 

 

Except, what if you’re living somewhere without quick access to the deciduous foliage show of autumn (like the above, which I can see out my window)?  Maybe you’re in the Southwest, and the plants surrounding you don’t have leaves.  Maybe the flora adjacent to your locale consists of chollas, saguaros, barrel cacti, prickly pears? 

Do cacti have any kind of seasonal shedding of their…uh, they don’t have leaves, so I guess it would be, their spines?

 

 

I’m trying to imagine that scenario:

Moiself  (or yourself), living in the Arizona desert, calling out to a friend:

“Would you look at that pile of spines underneath the saguaro grove?!  What a stunning panoply of…uh, browns and tans. Don’t you want to just wade through them, to get into the Fall spirit?

(kick kickOuch!
(kick kick) Yikes!
(kick kick shuffle shuffle) Oooh, that smarts!”

I suggest y’all do the same, right now.    It occurs to me that I’ve given you Southwestern and/or desert dwellers advice that you can’t follow.  Well, that’s what you get for living in a state where you have to steal other people’s water.    [6] 

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Rich People Edition

One hundred years ago everyone owned a horse, and only rich people had cars.
N
ow, everyone has a car and only rich people have horses.
My, how the stables have turned.

The genie asked, “What’s your first wish?”
Cathy exclaimed, “I wish I was rich!”
The genie said, “Okay; granted. What’s your second wish?”
Rich exclaimed, “I want lots of money!”

What do you call a rich European architect who goes bankrupt?
Baroque.

What do you call wealthy garbage men?
The Filthy Rich.

What do kind of nuts do rich people wear on their feet?
Cashews.

 

*   *   *

May you remember what it’s like to kick through a pile of autumn leaves;
May your dream of living the life you dream of living not be a dream;
May George Takei survive a successful surgery to remove the proverbial burr
from under his saddle of resentment;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] along with several of the ST:TOS supporting players

[2] Imagine, anyone saying that about an actor.

[3] Not until he was 68, and such a revelation couldn’t really harm his career.

[4] One of the themes was “Food you might  be embarrassed to admit you love.” I made my grandmother’s salmon loaf.

[5] PF did express some concern that her nieces were growing up not realizing what advantages they had and were taking their good life for granted.

[6] OOOOOH, throwing some shade down there.  I *do* have friends who are dear to me, who live in Arizona.

The Certain Color Of Shirt I’m Not Wearing

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Department Of Jeff Bezo’s Minions Do Not Know Star Trek: TOS Lore

As delighted as moiself  was to see that Captain Kirk ( William Shatner ) finally  [1]   got to go into space (via Wednesday’s Blue Origin spacecraft ), I was gobsmacked to view the pictures being posted online, of Shatner and his fellow Blue Origin crew members.  Shatner was wearing a yellow green shirt; the others wore red shirts.

 

 

Yes, red shirts.   [2]

This is a bad omen, moiself  thought to moiself, before my second thought kicked in:

This *has* to be a photoshopped joke.  And a good one, at that.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Artistic License

Dateline: Saturday mid-morning, hiking in the trails in the hills around the Portland Audubon Sanctuary with MH.  ‘Twas a beautiful day, with that combination of the evergreen fir and leaf-dropping deciduous scenery that seems unique to the Pacific Northwest.  We were pleasantly surprised to have the trail to ourselves.

After our hike I decided to appreciate the port-o-potty in the Audubon parking lot.   Moiself  had left my phone at home; thus, I had to prevail upon MH to take a picture of the drawing someone had done on the inside of the p-o-p door.

The picture, which MH and I dubbed Pizza Man, illustrates the importance of punctuation, and how the lack of it can lead to misunderstandings…or just mysteries.

 

 

Whaddya think? What message was the honeypot vandal artist trying to convey, armed with only his imagination and a black Sharpie ®?

Moiself can think of several possibilities, including:

*  Pizza Man is speaking as a god, who is apologizing for…something.  In which case it should read, “Sorry,” god;

* The artist is apologizing to his god, for having drawn a human face so strangely that it resembles a slice of pizza with eyes and a mouth;

* Pizza Man is the speaker – he is apologizing to his deity for what he has done or is about to do (in the outhouse, or elsewhere)?

* Pizza Man not actually a pizza, but someone who has disfigured himself by consuming so much pepperoni that the little greasy sausage rounds are sprouting on his face, and thus is apologizing to his god for his gluttony;

* The artist is apologizing to anyone who views his drawing and mistakenly thinks it is of a Pizza god.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Last Time

“For everything you do, there will be a last time you do it. This is a direct consequence of your mortality.  Because you will someday die, there will be a last time you tie your shoes, pay your taxes, and eat chocolate….

Sometimes people know they’re doing something for the last time. This is the case with the condemned prisoner eating his last meal. More commonly though, people do something without realizing this is the last time they will do it. They instead act on the assumption that they will do the thing again in the future, perhaps hundred of more times.

Along these lines, consider the last time you played hopscotch, the last time you made a phone call with a rotary phone…
Did you realize at the time that it was the last time that you would do those things?  Realize too that’s it’s possible you have eaten chocolate for the last time – I sincerely hope that this isn’t the case, but only time will tell.”
( excerpt from “The Last Time Meditation” )

 

“Like, I’m supposed to take a selfie with *this*?”

 

Can you remember the last time you ____

* wore a diaper instead of “big boy/big girl” pants?
* rode a tricycle when you were a child, before graduating to a two-wheeler bike?
* played hopscotch or tetherball on an elementary school playground?
* aced (or flunked) a high school test?
* told a joke to your (now deceased) grandparent?
* used a rotary telephone to make a call?
* used a typewriter (manual or electric) to type a school paper, or office memo?
* rented a DVD from Blockbuster?
* went to a huge, arena-style concert by your favorite rock band, whose
drummer later died after he choked on his own vomit
members are now either deceased or retired?
* copied a document from your computer onto a floppy disc?

And if you can remember, do you recall thinking, “Hey, what if this is the last time I _____ (ride a tricycle; tell a joke to Grandma….)?”

For the last year or so I’ve been using a meditation app developed by neuroscientist, philosopher, author Sam Harris. The Waking Up  app has a variety of features, including

* a short daily guided meditation (11 – 13 minutes duration)
*  a series of guided meditations on different subjects (Contemplative Action; The Spectrum of Awareness;
Consolations; Meditation for Children….)
* Q & As with Jack Kornfield and other meditation/mindfulness teachers;
*
 lessons on the fundamentals of meditation
* a simple meditation timer, which you can set for any length

When I use the app,    [3]   moiself  typically either listens the daily meditation, or does my own meditation with the app’s timer.  Earlier this week I scrolled through the app’s practices, and one title caught my eye:  a series of twenty-two short talks – “The Stoic Path, by William B. Irvine – on the philosophy and practical applications of stoicism.

 

 

Philosophy professor and author Irvine offers a modern take on stoicism, which we philosophy laypersons often misunderstand as per our limited experience with the subject (15 minutes on Marcus Aurelius in our Intro to Philosophy class, and we’re all experts).  If asked to picture or define a stoic I bet your first thought (along with moiself’s ) would be of a person who is so even-keeled as to be almost detached – someone seemingly unaffected by the downs – and ups – of life.

However, In the philosophical realm, a Stoic is someone who cultivates a world view wherein one’s personal ethics are informed by stoic virtues, logic, and understandings on the natural world.

 

“Please tell me the segue to rotary phones is just around the corner….”

 

I’m at the very beginning (day four) of the series, and am enjoying Irvine’s expositions.  He includes stories from his own personal and family life to illustrate how techniques of stoicism offer a road map  [4]  toward equanimity – by minimizing worry and focusing our mental and emotional efforts on what we can control, by learning how to deal with the inevitable “insults” of grief and loss, and aging, by putting into perspective the temporal and ultimately ephemeral temptations of power, fame and fortune.

Moiself  finds it quite interesting, and also an expanded take on somewhat familiar territory.  The virtues (translate: sound Life advice) espoused by stoicism remind me of Buddhist and mindfulness tenets – from what I’ve listened to so far, there is a good deal of common ground between them.  Check it out, if you’re interested.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Things For Somebody Else To Do

OK, calling all one-panel cartoonists…or anyone who can draw better than I can.  [5]

While listening to The Last Time  moiself  got a picture in my head, of a scenario I thought might make a good comic strip:

A prison guard enters a Death Row prison cell. He places a food tray containing a traditional last meal – grilled steak, fried chicken, a loaded baked potato, and a double hot fudge sundae – in front of a prisoner who is scheduled for execution later that evening.
The prisoner waves off the tray with, “No thanks; I’m watching my cholesterol.”

You’re welcome.

 

This is how my artist’s rendition would turn out.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Musings Apropos Of Nothing

Speaking of getting all philosophical on your ass, I have many questions dealing with the Mysteries of Life ®.  This one is for musician Dave Grohl:

What are Foos?
And why do you devote your exceptional musical talents to fighting them?

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Deep Thoughts Continued
Division Of The Existential Crises Of Aging

Why is it that when you’re over age fifty people stop asking you what your favorite dinosaur is?

It’s like they don’t even care anymore.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of A Sentence I Never Thought I’d Be So Happy To Hear

“And if we’re lucky, tomorrow there’ll be dead bodies!”

See footnote   [6] for context.  Or, better yet, use your imagination.

 

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day
Philosophy Edition

How can you make a philosophy student leave your porch?
Just pay them for the pizza.  [7]

Did you hear about the monk who got a Ph.D. in existential philosophy?
You might say he was a deep friar.

Why can’t kleptomaniacs understand sarcastic philosophical jokes about themselves?
Because they take things literally.

Why is it unwise to place philosophy textbooks in front of a stallion?
Because you shouldn’t put Descartes before the horse.    [8]

 

*   *   *

 

May you uncover the mystery of Port-o-Potty Pizza Man;
May someone ask you what’s your favorite dinosaur;
May you never board a spacecraft manned by a crew of all Redshirts;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] He’s 90.  Really.

[2] Redshirt is a term used by fans of Star Trek to refer to the ST characters who wear red Starfleet uniforms – typically, security guards or other characters who are expendable, and often killed, after having utterred only a line or two of dialogue (or sometimes none at all).

[3] Not quite daily. I’ve other meditation apps which also have timers, guided sessions, ambient music….

[4]  Is that too dated of an analogy?  Maybe I should use, “GPS”?

[5] Which would be anyone who can hold a pencil in their hands. Son K has drawn some good comic strips over the years; maybe I should ask him.

[6] Uttered by the exterminator, whom I affectionately think of as “Rat Man,” as he was explaining how he would be baiting and setting the traps he’d laid in our house’s crawlspace and then returning next day to retrieve the results.  (The traps had been laid down several days ago, baited but not set – this lets the rats [that have invaded our crawlspace] get used to the traps and think that they are a safe source of yummy peanut butter).

[7] No footnote necessary here.

[8] I certainly can’t end this with #6 being the last footnote.

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