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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.

The Book I’m Not Recommending To Everyone

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

Awareness is the most important aspect of self-defense.

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

TGOF Problematical Issues:

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

“This isn’t a movie; no means no.”

 

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

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

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

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

 

 

Nevertheless….

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

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

Except that, he didn’t.

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Violent Crime Edition

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Virus I’m Not De-Worming

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Department Of A Boon For A Natural Selection

For a few glorious days, we could only hope that the reports were accurate.

Moiself  refers to reports surfacing which claimed that ivermectin –

a livestock de-worming, anti-parasite  veterinary drug, deemed by the brilliant minds of certain people who were too smart to waste time going to medical or veterinary school, to be an ideal treatment for the COVID-19 VIRUS (which is *not,* ahem, a parasite), to be taken by people, who are not livestock (except for the horses’ asses which thought up the idea in the first place and the sheep who followed them) –

can cause sterility in men.

 

“Yesssssssss!”

 

When I first heard the reports moiself  praised the gawds I don’t believe in, and immediately changed my opinion about people who would try such an unproven and dangerous “treatment.”  Instead of thinking that such people should be locked up for their own protection,   [1]   I decided to lobby to make ivermectin mandatory (and free!) for any man who wears a MAGA hat and/or refused to be vaccinated/wear a mask…and please, can there be a study showing that ivermectin produces infertility in women as well?

Some things are just too good to be true.  It turns out there are problems with the ivermectin-causes-sterility study being cited, as Forbes and other sources have reported.   C’est la vie; it was a nice fantasy, while it lasted. 

 

“There, there; I too was disappointed. It’s good to dream, Spock.”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Podcasts I Mostly Admire…

Or used to.

Dateline: earlier this week, listening to the latest People I Mostly Admire podcast (Episode 44 ).  After the first twenty or so minutes of his interview with his guest, the podcast  takes a break.  During the break the show’s host, author and economist Steven Levitt,  had a letter from a listener read to him by the show’s producer, Morgan A. Levey.  This is the podcast’s typical format; the letters usually involve questions about recent podcast topics. This week’s questions led to….well, read on.

Morgan Levey (reading a letter from “Jordan,” to Steve; my emphases):
” ‘Steve, since you have quite a large family and are a thoughtful person, I want to get your opinion on the morality and ethics of having children in the face of climate change.’
It sounds like Jordan is thinking of starting a family, and he wants your opinion on having kids, since you have six of them.”

 

The host at home.

 

Steve Levitt:
“So Jordan, I do have six kids, and I have to say, in having those kids, I don’t think climate change ever crossed my mind.  Here’s the thing: there are 8 billion people on the planet, so if you add one more, it doesn’t really matter.  And, what I do, doesn’t affect anyone else’s behavior.  If my having a kid led hundreds of other people to have more kids, then it’s a different story.

To me, it’s a microcosm of the exact problem we face on climate change generally: no individual’s behavior actually matters very much, but collectively, we all have to act together.

When I think of climate change, I really look to other kinds of solutions, whether it’s technology to take carbon out of the air, or doing something at a larger scale….

So if it feels wrong to you to have kids, that’s totally your prerogative….  but at least for me I would not put climate change near the top of my list to have or not have children….

ML:
“So Jordan also wanted to know if you thought that your kids will struggle in the future with the result of climate change-induced issues, such as food security, pandemics, water shortages, if this is something you thought about and were worried about.”

 

 

SL:
“I’m not a climate scientist, and I don’t know the exact answer. It certainly is an impression people have that weather patterns are getting wilder, and it’s probably true. I also think there’s a bias toward people assuming that every time something extreme happens, that’s caused by climate change ….but my impression is that the really destructive impacts of climate change are much farther in the future.  That, at least for Americans, in the next fifty or a hundred years, there’s no reason to think that our quality of life is going to dramatically degrade.  As I sit here just pondering whether I think my kids will have a better or worse life than I had, I think probably better.  

Morgan, I don’t think Jordan is going to like my answer very much.
What do you think?”

I didn’t hear his producer’s retort until days later.  I had to stop listening.  My butt was frosted to hear Levitt’s casually dismissive statements about the effects of climate change – effects which are “probably true,” he admits, yet not enough to trouble him as he sits there “just pondering”  whatever it is he ponders (apparently, not the plight of other people), from the POV of his privileged, upper class, white American ass — pondering his ignorant defenses which excuse himself from any personal responsibility to act…or care.

How convenient for him, to convince himself that an individual’s behavior doesn’t matter much, and that what he does doesn’t affect anyone else.  Dude, your six children are watching you.  Even more than what you say, they watch what you do…and don’t do. 

Levitt admits the obvious – he’s no climate scientist – then ignores the facts climate scientists have been stating for some time, in favor of his flippant description of extreme weather events as an “impression people have“?  Holy cruising down the river of  De Nile.

 

 

 

But then, what should moiself  expect from someone with six children,  [2]  who doesn’t even include them in his statement of how what he does doesn’t affect anyone else.

Levitt is correct as to the need for global/larger solutions, but he is wrong about the individual’s impact, thinking it’s negligible because he’s one person out of 8 billion.  Eight billion people – how did we get here?   Holy compounding multiplication!  We got to that absurd number via one individual decision at a time. Multiply one person thinking having four to six biological children is fine times “only” one billion other individuals, and where will that get us?

 

 

As for Levitt’s comment about how his actions don’t influence people, how does he know that?  Whether or not he ever gets up on a podium and overtly decrees, “Everyone should have a large family, like me!” the fact of him having done just that that may cause others to think, “Oh, hmm…an educated and successful person does this, perhaps I can as well.”

Back to his producer’s response, to his question. At least she called him out about his cluelessness and privilege (however mildly, given the circumstances).

SL:
“Morgan, I don’t think Jordan is going to like my answer very much.
What do you think?”

ML:
“To be honest, Steve, *I* don’t like your answer very much.

I think what you said sounds a little  [3]  insensitive, considering the fact that that there’s already millions of climate refugees around the globe – people who’ve had to move because their home are unlivable.

We’ve just had the hottest month on record in human history, AND  extreme weather HAS been *undoubtedly* linked to climate change.  When I think about just ten years from now, *I*  worry about my own future, let alone if I have kids, what their future would be.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Beating Around the Bush…and Reagan…and Clinton….

” On May 12, 2015, potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush could not fully commit to an answer when asked if he would have voted to authorize the Iraq War in 2002, using the phrase “simple fact is, mistakes were made” on Sean Hannity’s radio show. He was lambasted by both liberals and conservatives for his answer.”

 

 

Remember the rightful disgust y’all have likely experienced over the years, whenever you heard the hideous passivity of, Mistakes were made.”   It’s the ultimate phrase of non-accountability, whether spouted by President Reagan re the Iran–Contra affair (the “arms-for hostages” debacle), or President Clinton as per a Democratic party fundraising scandal, or President G.W. Bush’s political advisor defending neocons re the Iraq War…as well as too many times before and after.

Mistakes were made.  By an unknown, but distressingly prevalent, almost mystical Mistake Maker ®,  apparently.

We’ve all been trained to use this passive voice; most of us don’t even know when we’re doing it.  But, think for a moment of the world it constructs.

 

 

I often get impatient when people nitpick language.  My fear: people often judge/dismiss and don’t really hear *what* someone is saying because they are too busy critiquing the  *how* someone is saying it.

Still, the writer in moiself  tries to never forget why word choice is important: it not only conveys, but shapes how we feel and think about issues.

Consider the different images that come to mind, when describing a disabled person’s mode of mobility:

“He rides (or uses) a wheelchair.”

“She is confined to a wheelchair.”

A wheelchair, for someone who has need of one, is actually a device of liberation.  Yet the second phrasing evokes images of shackling, and pity.

 

 

These subtle differences are why (as I’ve mentioned in this space, “The Speech I’m Not Policing” ) I think certain scholars and activists are correct in advising that we should retrain ourselves to use the term “enslaved” person, rather than “slave.”  The active voice is needed as a reminder, that people are not just born slaves, as they might be born a Swede or a redhead or with a certain eye color:

Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones won a Pulitzer Prize for creating the 1619 project at The New York Times, which tracks the legacy of slavery.  In Terry Gross’s Fresh Air interview with journalist Hannah-Jones, (which I referred to in a recent blog post as influencing my opinions about reparations for slavery), TG asked Hannah-Jones about why she uses the term “enslaved person” and not “slave” in her writing (my emphases):

“It was very important in the 1619 Project and whenever I write about this, to not use language that further dehumanizes people who every system and structure was designed to dehumanize.
I think when we hear the word “slave,” we think of slavery as being the essence of that person. But if you call someone an enslaved person, then it speaks to a condition. These people were not slaves. Someone chose to force them into the condition of slavery, and that language to me is very important, as is using the word “enslaver” over slave owner because these people didn’t have a moral right to own another human being, even though the society allowed it, and I think it needs to be active, that this was an active system of people choosing to treat other human beings as property.”

 

I recently saw the following on social media, and it was another click moment    [4]  for me.  I’m referring to it as The Real Problem:

 

 

Let’s resolve to use the active voice. To take responsibility – and to point the finger and accuse as well – when necessary.

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Climate Edition

What do you call a weatherman who destroys dinosaurs?
A meteorologist.

It was a terrible summer for Humpty Dumpty, but he had a great fall.

People using umbrellas always seem to be under the weather.

What’s that Arabic country with loads of sheep and very wet weather?
Baaarain.

 

*   *   *

May we keep in mind The Real Problem and lose the passive voice;
May we never comfortably think that our individual actions don’t matter;
May we all anticipate having a great fall;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Whatever happened to just drinking bleach?  That wasn’t idiotic enough for them?

[2] I think two of them were adopted by Levittand his wife, from China.

[3] “And by ‘a little,’ Steve, I mean, absolutely fucking…”

[4] Click! In the 1970s that word signaled the moment when a woman awakened to the powerful ideas of contemporary feminism. Today “click” usually refers to a computer keystroke that connects women (and men) to powerful ideas on the Internet.  (Click! The Ongoing feminist revolution, cliohistory.org )

The Maze I’m Not Navigating

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Department Of Veracity For Sale
Sub-department Of The Suspect Authenticity of User Reviews

This was underneath a peel-off sticker on a product I recently purchased from Amazon:

 

 

Yeah. It’s not so much that they are trying to bribe me, but do they really think my integrity can be bought so cheaply. Considering what the product cost, a 50% refund means they think moiself  – any of their buyers – can be had for $6.99?    [1]

*   *   *

Department Of I Was Not Made For This World

As I was writing this post, I received an email notification from my blog host platform:

purplesheepsbladder@nunchucks.com  just started following you at https://theblogimnotwriting.com.
They will receive an email every time you publish a post. Congratulations. “

 

 

Moiself  has received these notifications one to five times per week, ever since the “birth” (or onset…although that sounds like symptoms of a disease) of my blog, some nine years ago.  So, to get the approximate number of followers of this blog…do the math, if you’re interested.  I, however, am not, so I won’t.

“In social media, a follow represents a user who chooses to see all of another user’s posts in their content feed. Getting users to follow their accounts is a primary objective for online businesses with a social media presence.”
( “What is ‘following’ and what does it mean on social media?” bigcommerce.com )

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away,    [2]   I had a conversation with a friend (who also wrote a blog), which went something like this:

A Blogging Friend ® :    [3] “How many people follow your blog?” 

Moiself:
“Huh?”

ABF ® :
“Follow your blog – readers who subscribe to get an alert so that they can read it on a regular basis.”

Moiself:
“Yes, I know what it means. I was “Huh”-ing you because I don’t know how many people follow my blog.”

ABF ® :
“Well, you know you can find out by checking your blog post, the administrative page, under stats, and….”

Moiself:
“Yep, I know about that option. I just don’t care about the numbers;
so, what would be the point in knowing?
That’s not why I write it.”

ABF ® :
“But aren’t you curious?”

Moiself:
“About many things, but this?  Nope.  Although, *you* obviously are.”

ABF ® :
“No, really – don’t you want to know?”

Moiself:
“If I did, I would.
Okay: I assume my blog has fewer followers than someone who posts cat-fart videos on YouTube, and more than my dead grandmother
– oh yeah, who doesn’t even blog, so there’s that….
Besides, where I come from, knowing that people are ‘following’ me – that’s not a good thing.”

ABF ® :
” ?!?!?!?!? “

‘Tis a sad thing, to see an otherwise witty person not get the joke.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Hahaha – That’s Not Funny

Content Warning: Yes.

 

 

Moiself  showed this picture (from a social media post) to MH. We both found it mildly amusing, and also mildly annoying. The picture’s caption flaunts the inherent ageism that people posting pictures and memes are seemingly okey-dokey with.  We bantered about the fact that most people seem to have no problem making fun of the cognitive deficits that a minority of people experience as they age, thus reinforcing that stereotype of the Doddering Elderly.  Whereas, making fun of the cognitive deficits experienced by the majority people with certain, non-age-related, genetic conditions, life situations and/or circumstances is a big NO NO NO NO what’s wrong with you?

“What do you think would happen,” MH wondered aloud, “if, instead of making fun of ‘old people,’ the picture’s caption read, ‘Corn maze for retards’ “?

 

 

*   *   *

*   *   *

Don’t listen to that doddering old goat – the following is, in fact, something quite similar.

Department Of If I Ran The World…
This Would Be The First “Ism” To Be Dealt With

Translation: dealt with = “cured.”  I’m talking about   [4]  the ism of ageism.

Synonyms & Antonyms of old (Entry 1 of 2)
being of advanced years and especially past middle age

Synonyms for old
aged, aging (or ageing), ancient, elderly, geriatric, long-lived, older, over-the-hill, senescent, senior, unyoung

Words Related to old
centenarian, nonagenarian, octogenarian, septuagenarian, sexagenarian, oldish
adult, grown-up, mature, middle-aged, pensioned, retired, superannuated, matriarchal, patriarchal, venerable, anile, decrepit, doddering, senile, spavined, tottery,  [5]   overage (also overaged)

Phrases Synonymous with old
long in the tooth, of a certain age
dating or surviving from the distant past

Synonyms for old
age-old, aged, ancient, antediluvian, antique, dateless, hoar, hoary, immemorial, venerable
( Merriam-Webster thesaurus, entries for “old” )

Dateline: Several months back; a gorgeous spring afternoon; sitting with friend CC on her back porch overlooking her and her hubby’s pastureland.  We are having one of our regular, COVID-distance-safe, takeout-Thai-lunch-and-chat sessions.  As we look out at the farmlands behind CC’s pasture  [6]   we chew the proverbial fat   [7]   about everything from family stories to political opinions.   As per the latter, we basically (and succinctly!) solve the problems of the world, as long-term friends are wont to do.

CC and moiself  spoke of our mutual pleasure at our reactions to the new Presidential administration – of how refreshing it is to (once again) have a national leadership team which is too busy trying to do good to have the time (or inclination) to snipe at critics on social media.

 

Joe and Kamala and cabinet – this hamster thumb’s up is for you!

 

We were pleased and surprised by what a fine job Joe Biden is doing, and surprised to realize the source of our surprise, which came from the fact that each of us had not wanted him, at first, to be the Democratic nominee.   It’s not that we thought Biden was unqualified or didn’t have good ideas – far from it!  It’s that we wanted him and the other members of his age group to hand things to the younger folks. His generation had done their share; it’s time to move on.

It was, simply and ultimately, about his age.  It was ageism.

And there we were, both pleased and embarrassed to see what he is doing.  He’s diving right in, being quiet and mostly not having press conferences because there are so damn many problems to fix and he’s in there doing it, working the system with the knowledge he’s acquired after years in Washington, with a sure and steady hand….  Being pleased about that is obvious; the embarrassment came from the fact that his commitment and passion for this job – fixing the country – might have been denied the country, if ageist biases, like the ones we both held, had prevailed.

And that led to our conversational “tour on ageism.” We spoke of our own issues and challenges with the physical aspects growing older (while acknowledging that the things we complain about are actually privileges denied to many   [8]  ). We’ve both become beyond frustrated with the way aging is portrayed in – well, in *everything,* from literature and film and media to medicine to product marketing.  This has always been especially true for women; however, men are starting to get more of it, too, when it comes to the detestable, “anti-aging” label which is attached (as if it “stopping aging” should be a desirable, attainable goal) to every sort of thing which can be merchandised, from clothing to vitamins to exercise equipment and regimens to, of course, cosmetic products and surgical procedures.

 

Allow me to introduce you to the ultimate anti-aging products.

The only sure-fire, anti-aging product is death.  Wrinkle cream, shrinkle cream – die now, at age 59, and you’ll never look like you’re 60! 

Reality smackdown:
No matter what your age, you are older today than you’ve ever been,

and are younger today than you will be tomorrow.

 

…just thinking about that.

 

“It’s not that aging is wrong, it’s just that people will judge you and treat you differently if you look old,” is the advice I have actually heard (translation: ” ‘Other people,’ but, uh, not me…the one who is telling you that your gray hair and wrinkles need erasing”). And, gawddammit, that is (at least partly) true…but it’s not going to change if these Judging People don’t have positive models of those who gracefully accept getting older sans product intervention.

The stop-aging/anti-aging product world has learned from criticism: recently, most of its advertising (that moiself  has seen) takes the proactive approach, emphasizing the “be the best that you can be/look the best you can, at any age!” messaging.  That’s a tiny step up from “Your naturally graying hair makes you look like a hag;” however, it still conveys the undercurrent message, which is that “looking your age,” which is whatever you look like at whatever age you are, is not a good thing.  Those wrinkles that you earned, the gray hair, all of the physical changes which are the natural, inevitable result of being alive – get rid of ’em!  You don’t want to look “old,” because in our culture equals incompetent, senile – and, and creepiest of all, in a way – ugly. Old equals ugly.

I’ve seen many movies (back in the movie theater, yay! ) this summer, and also, during the previews, several trailers for a M. Night Shayamalan movie, which I’ve decided to put on my fuck no no thanks list.  The movie is being marketed in the horror genre. Just the title alone is insulting – I mean of course, so descriptive.  As in, what could be more horrifying than…becoming this:

 

 

A Curiosity Daily podcast I’d recently listened to presented studies showing that younger people who saw themselves as advocates for equality are most likely to hold discriminatory views re older adults.  Yep, it turns out that those often involved in fighting, say, racism and sexism (and such people are in their twenties, thirties and even forties) are likely to discriminate against older folk because they view the oldsters through the lens of their own ageism – they think that people older than themselves are more likely to be racist and sexist.

 

 

“Social justice movements, such as Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, have done huge amounts to address racism and sexism in our society…. However — and this is a big however — people who are keenest to advocate for women and racial minorities harbour more prejudice against a group that reports almost as much US workplace discrimination as these two: older people….
Ageism is so condoned in American culture that many do not see it as an ‘-ism’, in the same manner of other forms of prejudice…
…people who scored higher on (egalitarian advocacy study tests) scale were more disapproving of racism and sexism but also more likely to endorse ‘Succession-based ageism’ — the idea that older people should step aside to improve younger people’s job opportunities…
… researchers found that the more that (study participants) endorsed egalitarian advocacy, the more money they wanted to go to women and racial minorities — and the less they wanted to go to older people. Questionnaire results showed that this was driven by a belief that older people block women and racial minorities from getting ahead….this research suggests that when it comes to egalitarianism, equality for all may only mean equality for some….”

( “Advocates Of Equality For All Are More Like To Show Prejudice Against Older Adults At Work,” The British Psychological Research Society Digest, 3-4-21 )

 

 

Oy, the futility of it all. Ageism, in moiself’s opinion, is the stupidest of the isms.  It should be the one discrimination which is in everyone’s self-interest to combat.  So, why don’t we?  It seems that everything else which divides us – country of origin, religious and worldviews, political affiliations, culture, gender, sexual orientation – cannot be fully reconciled, and I have heard people (well-meaning, sincere, actively-working-for-the good-for-all people ) despair that, ultimately, there is no commonality. But, there IS.

White and black; female and male; hateful redneck third generation Texan and hopeful Latino immigrant; blustery climate change denier and introverted renewable energy supporter; nattering homophobe and flaming drag queen – we all have one commonality: We will all be Old People ®  someday.

Only death will relieve or prevent you from joining The Senior Set ®, that denigrated demographic.  Thus, it is in everyone’s best interest to work to eliminate the stereotypes of old age.  One of the most effective ways to do that is to make sure that vibrant aging minds and bodies still have vibrant and ample opportunities to contribute to society.

 

 

If, as a young person, you do not see people decades older than you being ( or, being *allowed to be* )  active and engaged members of any and all professions; if all you see of “the elderly” is images of people being warehoused (whether in their own homes or in golf course-infested retirement communities); if you can’t joke about someone’s gender or ethnicity but sharing a meme about feeble-minded old dudes who can’t navigate a corn maze always gets a laugh – well then, of course, what will you think?

One of my solutions:  Unless it can be scientifically demonstrated that no one over age 65 can continue to be, for example, an airline pilot, get rid of age-related mandatory requirement.  *Do* require training and testing, not forced departure, for certain jobs at a certain ages.  It’s no secret that certain physical capabilities and mental facilities can decline in some (but not all) older people.  And there are ways to test for these deficits, ways that, unlike mandatory retirement regulations, do not discriminate.  A lot of the removal of people from physically and mentally taxing jobs is voluntary; for where it’s not, yearly/periodic training or retesting could help weed out those who are no longer performing at the proper capacity for their particular profession.

Consider The Notorious RBG, who even months before her death from pancreatic cancer – hell, who, even from the grave – could run intellectual circles around SCOTUS colleagues decades younger than herself.  ( Yeah, I’m talkin’ *you,* Brett “I like Beer” Kavanaugh and Amy Originalist Conehead Coney Barrett.) .

 

 

Two of my cousins (both now deceased) were firefighters in LA County.  Years ago, when there’d been some public consternation about firefighter recruiting and testing requirements, firefighter/EMT cousin TTB told me the following story: TTB’s captain had surprised his crew one afternoon by ordering the crew – all of whom were at least fifteen-year veteran firefighters – to take the physical abilities testing given to recruits.  The crew, like all firefighters, participated in regular training drills, but the captain without warning made them do the grueling physical test give to wannabe firefighters. Almost all of the veterans failed.   [9]  Yet, they were good at their jobs. Should they have been fired/dismissed on the spot?  Just the previous day, the crew had responded to a fire and a medical emergency, and had done everything that needed to be done, in each case.  Apparently, their lack of peak/youthful brute strength was more than compensated for by their years of experience.

Also, the strapping young man who easily passed the physical challenges tests at age 21 might not be able to do so again, even at the relatively young age of 32 (like my cousin; see footnote). But if the skills testing is not done across the board (i.e., is only given to people above a certain age), by virtue of his youth, he may be allowed to continue on the job for which, according to that test, he is no longer qualified…or, it just might be that his experience will outweigh the somewhat random application of a physical skills test.

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Reverse Ageism Edition

Why do Generation Z-ers always type in lowercase?
Because they reject capitalism.

Why are today’s youth are so odd?
Because they can’t even.

Why does Santa Claus outright refuse to employ any Gen Y’ers to work as elves?
There are already too many snowflakes at the North Pole.

What do you call a bird that likes avocado toast?
The Millennial Falcon.

 

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

*   *   *

May you have fun getting lost in a corn maze, no matter your age;
May all of your product reviews be kickback-free;
May you, if you so desire, have people “following” (and not stalking) you;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Now, triple that and then we’re talkin.’

[2] Or maybe…like…six years?

[3] The friend was over a decade younger than moiself …which might be considered significant, given the topics which follow.

[4] Okay; actually, I’m writing it.  Picky, picky.

[5] Okay; these words are pejorative, but I really do like the sound of, “tottery.”

[6] Our conversation is punctuated by a neighbor farm’s loquacious bovine, whom I have nicknamed B4: Bill the Boisterous Bellowing Bull.

[7] Monosaturated, of course.

[8] We both have friends and family who have died “young”…how we wish they could have lived to complain their aching joints and wrinkled skin….

[9] Including my cousin, who had a pot belly the most calorie-seeking, nearing-hibernation-bear would have admired.

The Butt I’m Not Kicking

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Department Of You Want Me To Pay Extra So You Can Kick My What?

‘Tis a sheltered life I have led. Until now.

Dateline:  Monday, 4pm, in a local Regal Theater Cinema complex, seeing the movie “Free Guy,” in the “ButtKicker recliner seating” theater.  Although that cinema complex has had one theater designated ButtKicker for several years, moiself  had never seen a movie in the BK theater.  I’d always assumed that the BK label meant that it was a theater equipped with a particularly loud sound system…which I don’t care about.  The reason I chose that theater (and paid the extra ticket charge) was because it was my only choice, for the particular time slot I had that day, to see a movie.

It turns out that the BK experience was not just loud, but… juddering.   [1]  The ButtKicker Recliners ®  are not, as I initially thought, a Regal Theater marketing gimmick, as moiself  discovered when I got home and did a little web snooping.  It’s an actual Thing ®.  As in, a thing you can purchase and install for your own home movie theater.   [2]

“Get ready for the most fun you’ve ever had watching a movie at home. Feel all the action and excitement – just like being at a 4D special effects theater. ButtKicker® 4D brings family movie-time to life. Using patented technology, ButtKicker products connect to your couch or chairs and send the FEELING of special effects, explosions, rocket launches, racing engines, music and much more right through it and the viewers. It’s a new, immersive dimension in home entertainment.”
( “Bring Your Theater to the Next Level,” Buttkicker Home Theater )

Because, who *wouldn’t* want to send “…the FEELING of…rocket launches …right through it.”  As in, through your chairs or couch, and thus, your butt.

 

“Take *that,* you pretentious cinephile!”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Do These People Know How To Party, Or What?

Fun stuff this week in our household! Including:

*taking 14 year old Nova to her veterinary appointment, for a well-kitty exam plus getting her up-to-date on her rabies, Feline Leukemia and FVRCP vaccinations;

* a visit from the Varmint Control Guy, to do roof repairs to fix the damage a squirrel invasion ( previously histrionically kvetched written about in this space ) had done to our roof and eaves;

* MH’s first COVID-19 test…

*…which he had to do before starting the oh-so-circumspectly named Bowel Prep Kit

*… to clear the landing field, so to speak, in preparation for his routine colonoscopy, which was scheduled the day before his birthday.

 

Nova, leaping (sleaping?) for joy, knowing MH can go back to eating high fiber foods just in time for his birthday.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Post-Procedural Updates

Background info: MH has never been able to roll his rs, which is the main reason, he told me many years ago, that he took German as a foreign language in high school.  He’d thought Spanish would be more useful/practical, but he simply could not roll his rs as is required for the correct pronunciation of many Spanish words, and he was somewhat intimidated/embarrassed by his lack of being able to perform that particular linguistic feat.  And it’s true: over the years, I’ve tried to get him to do it (or trick him into it), and he simple cannot roll his rs.

Dateline: Thursday, 10:50 am. MH is back home after his colonoscopy.  He thinks he’s fine, but it’s obvious to moiself  that the effects of the Versed (the sedative used during the procedure) are still reigning.   [3]  He’s…goofy

He stands at the kitchen counter, looking at the color printout he was given at the hospital, which includes a map of the lower intestines. He begins reading off the “map sites” to me:

MH (in a voice much higher than his usual range):
“The ilium!
The cecum!
The rrrrrrrrrrrectum…”

Moiself:
What?!?!?!  Holy crap; did you hear yourself?!  You rolled your rs!

MH (in miffed toddler mode):
“No I didn’t.”

Moiself:
“Oh yes you did!”

He proceeds to say “rectum’ over and over, drawing out the r sound without rolling it.  But for one glorious, Versed-induced moment, them rs were rolling like a river.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of My New Slogan

Which is…well, it’s not exactly a t-shirt or bumper stucker worthy maxim, or a…

 

 

Okay, its’:

Don’t Drop The H.

This random thought, brought to you by moiself , was sparked by my listening to a podcast in which the guest was consistently *not* pronouncing the first letter in certain words which began with h. For example, he spoke of doing experiments on umans instead of on humans.

Really, y’all: what’s with the dropping-the-h thing, moiself  has long wondered? It’s a perfectly respectable letter and I assume it’s there for a reason.

We’ve all either noticed this pronunciation peculiarity or are ourselves the perpetrators of it.  Although I have not studied this phenomenon scientifically, my anecdotal recollection is that “h-dropping” (and it is a thing –  it has its own Wikipedia page!), by those who do so, occurs most often when the word beginning with h is followed by the vowel, u.  Favorite example: I once heard someone complain that his date did not appreciate his “uge sense of umor.”

All right now, class:

 

I am a human being, not a uman being.
I cook with herbs, not erbs.
I live in a house, not in a ouse…

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of As Seen On TV As Mentioned Last Week:
Driverless Cars Ruminations

As in, moiself  ruminating on driverless cars, and not the other way around.   [4]

My Subaru Outback has Eyesight Driver Assist Technology ®,  which consists of a variety of features, including

* Pre-Collision Braking
* Pre-collision throttle management
* Lane keep assist and sway warning
* Rear/backup cameras
* Side view cameras (“blind spot” monitoring)
* Adaptive cruise control

Thus, in a (very) small way, moiself  has become at least marginally acquainted with the technologies which will be more fully employed in what we refer to as driverless cars and/or self-driving vehicles….  Although, the latter term seems somewhat problematic to moiself , as it makes me ruminate on the sentience of automotive vehicles…   [5] 

 

A car driving itself?  No problem. but nothing can replace driver initiative when it comes to bumper sticker adornment.

 

Yet again, I digress.

So, yeah: contemplating the technologies needed for driverless cars is neither foreign nor unimaginable to me, even though, as per my experience with what is state-of-the-market, some of these technologies have a way to go in terms of fine-tuning.  For example, my car’s brakes have automatically engaged – a tad too vigorously for my nervous system – when I’ve been backing into my driveway and my car’s sensor system thinks that the neighbor’s tree branches dangling harmlessly over the fence are a dangerous obstacle and my car must be brought to a complete stop RIGHT NOW.

Ah…but it’s looking out for me, how sweet.

 

“Who’s a good girl?!”

 

I haven’t seen any 2021 reports on the subject, but have read studies from the past couple of years which show that the majority of Americans fear the idea of riding in autonomous driving vehicles. It seems to moiself  that the more complete technology of “driver assist” sensors et al is bound to happen, and I am okay with, or as least accepting of, the inevitability of a driverless car future.  And, realizing that moiself  holds this attitude surprises moiself, as I am someone who has *never* used the cruise control feature of a vehicle I am driving.   [6]

It would be easier for me to fully accept driverless cars if everyone has them (for some reason, the idea of half the people on the road being in “driverless” cars and half doing it the old way…it creeps me out).

And I often wonder what will the greater “We” will accept, in terms of mistakes, from this particular technology?  Of course, there will be accidents involving and/or caused by autonomous driving cars.  I have a feeling most of them will be similar to the kinds we already have, from the minor fender benders, backing into a trash can…  Then again, some will be horrific and will involve loss of life: driving off of a cliff, running a stop sign and t-boning another vehicle….

Just like the kind of accidents we fully/allegedly sentient human drivers have been getting into, for over 100 years.

Another consideration:  a driverless vehicle will never have the excuse of

* driving drunk and blowing through a stop sign;

* passing out and running off the road and hitting and killing a child,
due to the driver experiencing a diabetic coma or other medical emergency;

* being distracted by kids bickering in the back seat;

* being Bubba Redneck, who purposefully tail-gates the car in front of him and causes the driver (whose Greenpeace sticker inexplicably irritates Bubba)
to become intimidated and lose control of his vehicle;

* falling asleep at the wheel;

* trying to compensate for a small penis impress the ladies and/or his homies by engaging in illegal street racing;

* running a red light while texting;

* simply overestimating its own ability to negotiate this turn/these streets under these conditions/at these speeds….

 

 

A prime example of the Dunning-Kruger effect is how drivers rate their own competence. It’s the human thing to do, apparently, to think that we are better driver than we are. Study after study shows that the overwhelming majority of American drivers rate themselves as cautious and safety-conscious and “above average” as drivers.  Yet, despite this…

“…there are approximately 10 million car crashes every year in the US alone.  That’s about 27,000 per day, or about 19 crashes every single minute of the day, every single day. Yikes. In these, about 35,000 people are killed every year.  That’s just under a hundred people a day, killed in car crashes.  Another 6,500 people are seriously injured in crashes each day.
So, if the overwhelming majority of road users are better than average, why are so many crashes still happening?
Part of the answer is likely due to the Dunning-Kruger Effect, which is a cognitive theory which hypothesizes that incompetent people lack the self-awareness to identify their own incompetence.”
( Driving and the Dunning_Kruger Effect, moderndriver.org )

It’s easy to ignore the reality that we are, in so many ways, at the mercy of the skills of the other drivers around us…and that we tacitly accept that risk every time we back out of our driveway, whether we are embarking on a 1000-mile road trip or a half-mile errand to Home Depot. We may be doing fine; we may be alert and paying attention and obeying all the rules of the road…and along comes the naive and cocky, speeding teenage driver, or the “been-driving-for-60-years-and-never-had-an-accident” grandpa who confuses his car’s brake pedal with its accelerator, or the average Joe or Jane in his or her prime (read: you or me) who, for whatever reason, is momentarily distracted…and we’re lucky if all we get out of the encounter is a fender-bender.

The idea of being in a self-driving car, as a passenger, can fill me with dread, anticipating situations over which I have no control.  The idea of working my crossword or KenKen puzzle, then looking up and seeing my self-driving car veer off the road onto a sidewalk, or not decelerating for the pedestrian in the walkway – that gives me the willies.  However, I’ve already experienced that situation…or at least, I have a comparison.  And so do you.  Perhaps we just need to reframe our references?

We’ve all, already, had our driverless car situations, but didn’t frame them as such.  Sitting in a car’s front passenger or backseat (as in, we are a passenger in the car, and not the driver), we have had to watch as the driver does, or is about to do, something frightening or dangerous, and we are not at the controls and all we can do is white-knuckle our armrest and yell, “Look out!” or “Stop!”  Or, in the case of teaching your own teenaged offspring to drive, you hear yourself screech, “WHAT the fuck are you doing are you trying to kill us all?!?!?!”) calmly yet urgently advising, “You’re going to need to drastically slow down to negotiate this hairpin curve ahead….”

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Automotive Edition

I accidentally drove my Outback into the river. Now it’s a Scubaru.

Two French cheese trucks were in a head-on collision –
there’s da brie all over the road!

What do you get when dinosaurs crash their cars?
Tyrannosaurus wrecks.

My Norwegian cousin works as a prostitute.
You might say she’s a Fjord Escort.

Jimi Hendrix broke his guitar in a car crash.
Yep, the accident was a Fender-bender.

 

*   *   *

May you, at least once in your life, have a juddering cinematic experience;
May you come to terms with a “driverless” future;
May you always pronounce the damn h;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Which is a good word that deserves to be used more often than it is.

[2] Should you have a few thousand dollars you need to get rid of.

[3] I suggested he go upstairs and sit or lie down, as he was rather wobbly standing.  He wanted to go up the stairs by himself; I insisted he hold on to the handrail, which he did, while vaulting up the stairs two at a time.  When I snapped at him to slow down he said, “It feels better this way!”

[4] Who cares what driverless cars think about *me*?

[5] As in, do they know they exist?  If a car is self-driving, does it have a sense of “self”?

[6] For a variety of reasons, including reading studies that show that cruise control actually raises crash risks, and reading about several accidents caused when cars’ cruise control mechanism “stuck,” including this horrific one… and also, I think it keeps me more awake and engaged by having to keep my foot on the throttle, and brake.

The Relationship Advice Book I’m Not Buying

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Department Of Inquiring Minds Want To Know   [1]

Commercial heard between podcast segments:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Graceful Segue

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

*   *   *

Best Definition Of A Construct, Ever   [2]

Culture is trying to please other people.

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

 

 

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

Sotto voce:  Later that same day….

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

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

“We really don’t like each other.”

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

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

 

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

 

*   *   *

Department Of Yet Another Smoooooooth Segue

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

*   *   *

Department Of This Is Why I Watch The Olympics

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

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

Or, consider this:

 

 

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

 

 

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

As per the Washington Post:

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

*   *   *

Department Of A New Sport To Appreciate

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

We’re talking badminton.

 

 

Really.  Mixed doubles, in particular.

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

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

 

“Ew, I touched it!”

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Olympic Sports Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Enough! Even an Olympian has limits!

 

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] It’s too early for a footnote.

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

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

[4] Yeah, I know.

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

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

[7] Or, the Alaskan equivalent.  Whaleshit?

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

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

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

[11] There were a few exceptions.

The Town Ordinance I’m Not Violating

Comments Off on The Town Ordinance I’m Not Violating

Department Of the Peeviest of Pet Peeves,;
Aka, Most Unhelpful Phone Message Ever

“The person at extension 4-0-0 is on the phone.”

That’s it. Followed by dead silence.

Gee, that’s…uh…great to know.  The person at extension 4-0-0 is on the phone; I’m so happy for them.

No person’s name; no options to remain on the line, or return to the main menu, or to leave a message…no indication if the clinic is still “on the line”….

In order to protect the privacy of this business with the significantly inferior telephone answering/routing system, I’ll call them The Rinehart Clinic.  Because that’s their name. (Oops.   [1]    )

The ten-plus phone calls I made to the clinic were regarding a message left on my cell phone Monday morning, in which The Person at Extension 4-0-0- ®  asked me to call the clinic to “verify some information regarding your insurance.”   [2] .  As is the case with many businesses, when you call the number they leave on their message to you, there is no actual person with whom to speak.

 

“And If I cannot assist you, another White Man in A Blue Suit will be with you shortly.”

 

First, you must navigate through the answering messages (starting with, “Press 1 on your keyboard for English and 2 for Spanish…”) and go through the various options.  No problem with that; moiself  does it all the time…except that this time (these ten plus times I called over the next two days) I am left hanging with a “huh?” after I go through all of their menu options,  none of which is the “for all other questions/options, press zero (and or stay on the line) and a person will assist you.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of All of #45’s “Die Hard Supporters” Deserve This Surname

A woman (“a die-hard supporter of former President D_____ J. _____”   [3]  ) living in a New Jersey Town has been ordered by a local judge to take down three of the ten anti-Biden signs she has put up outside her home, after she refused requests from the town mayor and code-enforcement officer to do so.  Neighbors complained that three of the signs use the f-word and/or other obscenities, in violation of the town’s anti-obscenity ordinance. 

” ‘There are alternative methods for the defendant to express her pleasure or displeasure with certain political figures in the United States,’ (a local judge) said in his ruling… noting the proximity of (the house) to a school.
The use of vulgarity, he continued, ‘exposes elementary-age children to that word, every day, as they pass by the residence.’…
‘Freedom of speech is not simply an absolute right,’ he added, noting later that ‘the case is not a case about politics. It is a case, pure and simple, about language.’ “

( “She Hates Biden. Some of Her Neighbors Hate the Way She Shows It.”
NY Times 7-20-21 )

The die-hard woman’s name?  Andrea Dick.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Age Of Aquarius…Not

For many years, when people asked for and/or estimated  my age   [4]    they underestimated it. Most times by a decade or more.

Moiself  thinks this is because I had my children relatively later in life.  [5]  Thus, I was older than most of my kids’ peers’ parents…and, if you hang in that group, everyone curves you down. That, plus basic immaturity and wearing Chuck Taylor Hightops as my formal footwear of choice got most people to shave ten years off my actual age.  [6]

 

Guess what shoes moiself wore to her wedding?

 

Just in case y’all think I’m bragging:  that underestimation of my age?  Doesn’t happen anymore.

I haven’t thought about that for a long time.  Then, earlier this week, moiself  was listening to the most recent Clear + Vivid podcast (“Paul Rudd: In The Moment With Antman”), and heard an exchange between host and guest which made me guffaw aloud, startling the woman who was across the street from me, walking her German Shepherd (neither the woman nor her dog noticed my earbuds; they just saw me as someone who seemingly made snorting laugh sounds, apropos of nothing).

What caught my attention was at the end of the podcast, where host Alan Alda asked his guest, actor Paul Rudd, several questions that have some connection with the topic of communication.  The question of note was, “What is the strangest question anyone has ever asked you?”

Rudd:
“I have one question that I never really know how to answer…in that people always want to know, they say, “You don’t age – what to do you do…”
like they want to know, uh,  my skin care routine, or what is it?  They don’t think I am aging as quickly as I should.…
I never know what to say…it’s nice…I go, ‘Thank you,’ but I always struggle with that one.”

Alda:
“I have a funny version of that.  I seemed to have looked younger to people, for a long time, than I really was. And when I was sixty, people would say, ‘How old are you?’ and I’d say, ‘I’m sixty,’ and they’d say, “Oh, no, no, c’mon…” and now they say, ‘How old are you?’ and I say, ‘I’m eighty-five,’  and they say, ‘Uh huh.’
There’s an age everybody reaches where it’s, ‘Uh huh.’ “

Rudd:
“I know what you mean…I’m starting to get that – they ask, I say, ‘I’m fifty-two,’
and it’s, ‘Okay; yeah, that makes sense.’ “

 

*   *   *

Dateline: Thursday morning, returning from a walk.  I see a small metallic object on the sidewalk, glistening in the morning sunlight. I stride past it, then turn around and take its picture, when I realize that it appears to be the basket from a deep fat fryer.

What is it doing there, alone, on the sidewalk, no other cullinary implements in sight? Obviously, this is proof of extra-terrestrial visitation.  What other rational explanation could there be, other than an alien life form left a tracking device, cleverly disguised as an innocuous, commonly seen, fast food appliance part?

But seriously,  ladies and germs… if moiself  were to apply some classic deductive reasoning here, what is the context of this seemingly random item?

* I saw it on the sidewalk, between the light rail stop parking lot and the Washington County Fairgrounds complexes.
* the sidewalk was about 500 yards away from where the Washington County Fair will be held, starting today.

You may have had the misfortune occasion to visit a county fair once or twice in your life, and in doing so it is likely you noticed how such events are infested with “food” booths that serve almost anything deep-fried, from corndogs to pickles to ice cream to Oreos to green tomatoes to macaroni-and-cheese…. Thus, it is possible that a food booth vendor or employee took the light rail (or drove there and parked their car in the light rail lot   [7]  ) and was on their way to the Fairground, toting some of the equipment for their food booth, and one smaller component – the fryer basket in question – fell out of their arms, or box, or bag…

Now, how could they drop such an object, without noticing? The basket was metal; it would have made a clattering sound when it hit the sidewalk. A possible explanation is that the Fryer Basket Dropper, ®  ala 90% of the people I see each day, was walking with headphones or earbuds in their ears, listening to music (or a podcast!) or whatever, which effectively made that clattering sound just another a bit of background noise. And the basket wasn’t heavy enough to make the person notice its absence, as in, “Hey, my load has suddenly gotten really light – I all I must’ve dropped something…”

 

 

On the other hand, the ET object story is much more fun.

When trying to account for something which you find surprising, it is often more entertaining to take the religious point of view: don’t even question that which you do not understand, or for which you have no logical explanation.  Instead, embrace it as one of the great Mysteries Of Life  ® .

 

Perhaps a shrine to it will be erected soon. And is that an image of the Virgin Mary I see in the basket’s corner?

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

Old(er) Age Edition   [8]

 

 

What does a Sith Lord use to immobilize his enemies in their old age,
instead of killing them?
Darth Ritis.

An eight-year-old weasel walks into a bar.
The bartender says, “You’re under-aged; I can’t serve you any alcohol.
But I have bottled water, energy drinks, and pop.”
“Pop!” goes the weasel.

As I get older and remember all the people I’ve lost along the way, I think to myself,
“Maybe a career as a tour guide wasn’t for me.”

 

Husband: “You tell me several men had proposed marriage to you?”
Wife: “‘Yes, several.”
Husband: “Well, I wish you’d have married the first fool who proposed.”
Wife: “I did.”

*   *   *

May you practice your freedom of political expression without being a Dick;
May you enjoy the ages of “Uh-huh” and “Okay; that makes sense;”
May you provide a really good explanation for a random object sighting;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Is that a violation of health care business HIPA?

[2] I received my COVID-19 vaccinations at a site run by the Rinehart Clinic; my only contact with them, so it must be re those visits.

[3] As long-time readers of This Blog ® know, that festering turd of an excuse for DNA shall not be dignified here by usage of his full, faux-human name.

[4] And 99% of the times people asked that question, the information was not relevant and my kneejerk, if unspoken, reaction was, “And you want to know this because….?”

[5] I birthed son K when I was 36 and daughter Belle when I was 39.

[6] And fifteen points off of your estimated IQ.

[7] Which they are not supposed to do, ahem, as the lot is for commuters only, not Fairground parking.

[8] How come I rarely insert footnotes in this section of the blog?

The Sparklers I’m Not Waving

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Department Of Is It !#%$?!* Enough For You

 

 

Can I use the record-smashing Pacific NW heat wave as an excuse for my inertia and disinterest in anything involving movement (including fingers on the keyboard) ?

Here is my spirit animal of the week:

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Why Are Some People Still Doing This?

“Summer is synonymous with barbecues, parades and fireworks. The National Safety Council advises everyone to enjoy fireworks at public displays conducted by professionals, and not to use any fireworks at home. They may be legal but they are not safe.”
(National Safety Council, “Leave Fireworks to the Experts” )

Please don’t purchase or use fireworks.  Moiself  doesn’t give a roman candle’s flaming buttcrack about how fondly you look back on those childhood July 4th fireworks parties  [1]  – such an activity should be considered anachronistic at best.

 

“*I* can celebrate with a safe and sane fireworks display, I know it!”

 

I was surprised by my own visceral reaction (barely suppressed rage; an urge to approach the owners and employees and shame them into leaving) when I saw a fireworks stand this year. *WTF are they doing here?*   This was before the heat wave that pummeled the Pacific NW (and western Canada). But folks, we’ve known for years about why, even if Some People ® just can’t get it up for Uh-Mur-ica without viewing explosive pyrotechnic devices, fireworks displays should be left to a few professional or civic shows. 

Fireworks suck. For fleeting moments of pyrotechnic entertainment, we also get

* extensive air pollution produced in a short amount of time, leaving metal particles, dangerous toxins, harmful chemicals and smoke in the air for hours (sometimes days) and which find their way into our soil and water systems;    [2]

* fear, acute anxiety and distress, risk of hearing loss (especially for dogs) for our pets;  [3]

* habitat destruction and degradation for wild animals, which is particularly “…energetically costly and physiologically stressful for wild birds, which leave their roost in explosive panic and can smash their skulls or break their necks as the result of flying into trees, fences, billboards, houses and other solid objects that they cannot see in the gloom and smoky chaos (and survivors of the original explosive panic flight remain in danger because these birds are forced to find a safe place to roost in the middle of the night).”   [4]   [5]

* over 19,000 fires set – from home roof blazes to wildfire – and over 9,000 people (most often children and teens) sent to emergency rooms due to severe burns and other injuries caused while using consumer fireworks.     [6]

 

 

The 2017 Eagle Creek wildfire consumed 50,000 acres of the picturesque Columbia Gorge.  Embers of the fire were still smoldering eight months after major containment.  Hiking trails and other areas of that scenic wilderness were heavily damaged; U.S. Forest Service and other officials estimate that some trails may remain closed for years.  The devastating conflagration was, like so many other wildfires and brushfires, started by fireworks.

2021 promises to be an even hotter and dryer year, which ups the fire danger. 

Life is all about change, about altering our behavior to accomodate altering circumstances. We didn’t always have firework stands and home fireworks shows; we can survive, thrive, and celebrate without them.

 

Does this boy represent an ignorant, self-centered, head-in-the-sand danger to the humanity and environment…or is he just another cute dork in a silly costume?

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Cinematic Story Strategy Which Annoys MH

That would be time travel.  Moiself  appreciates (and mostly shares) MH’s aggravation with the over-used, cheap-way-not-to-have-to-deal-with-reality plot device.

 

 

Moiself  cannot recall the name of the podcast I heard recently, in which the podcast hosts and guests discussed a (non-scientific) survey conducted about time travel.  Random bench sitters were asked questions along the lines of,

“If you could travel in time,
(1) would you choose to do so?
(2) if you said yes to (1), would you choose to travel to the past,
or to the future?”

The surveyors seems to have the idea that time travelers going to the past would do so with the motivation of having the opportunity to change something that they did, or neglected to do – an action which, the time travelers hoped, would right a wrong and/or increase happiness or success in their present lives.  (Indeed, some people questioned gave answers supporting that idea.)

There was a bit o’ surprise among the surveyors re the number of people over age 50 who wanted to travel to the future, not the past.  Some of the younger folk – even a few children – said there were things in the past they’d like to change (words spoken; actions they wish they could do over).  But most of the 50+ folk surveyed expressed little desire to go back in time to change some pivotal event (whether it be in their own/personal lives, or re world history   [7]  ). The podcast guests and hosts bantered about why that was so, and the answers of a few of those who were surveyed gave them a clue: older people know, from decades of experience, that there are innumerable incidents large and small which make up a lifetime; thus, going back to change what might seem like a pivotal moment would probably not make much of a difference in one’s long-term outlook and prospects.

I don’t know how the episode ended; I stopped listening midway through, as I was consumed with the thought of what *my* time travel choice would be.  Seeing as how traveling to one’s past is Not One Of Those Things That Will Happen At All, Or At Least In My Lifetime ®, I dismissed that option, for a clear-eyed – and ultimately more fulfilling, moiself  thinks – embrace of reality: I hold that each of us are, already, “one way” time travelers.

 

“Please elucidate, in a non-sesquipedalian manner.”

 

We are time travelers to the future.  True, it’s on a smaller scale as compared with sci fi cinematic conceits, but that doesn’t change the fact that today is the future we were envisioning twenty years, ten months, two weeks, one day ago.  Right now is yesterday’s future.  With every breath and step I take, I travel into the future.

So there.

Although…how cool would it be to join Ms. Frizzle and the gang and ride The Magic School Bus back to the time of the dinosaurs?

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Best Way To Begin A Podcast

…is with an opening line comparable to this, from a recent episode of Curiosity Daily :

 “The butt – way more versatile than you may expect…”
( Curiosity Daily, “Mammals can breathe through their butts,” 6-25-21 )

And why, you may ask, is such a possibility worthy of notation, or research?  Researchers are hopeful that this discovery may lead to treatments for humans suffering from severely diminished lung capacity.

Well, of course they are.

As for moiself , although I generally avoid reality TV, I could be persuaded to tune in to see a butt-breathing act on one of those “America’s Got Talent”-type shows.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Time Travel Edition

I used to be addicted to time travel,
but that’s all in the past now.

If you time travel to the future and get decapitated,
you really are a head of your time

If I travel back from the future and carry a bratwurst with me,
do I have a link to the past?

I’ve invented a device to harvest herbs from the future:
it’s a thyme machine.

 

“Please, Doc, take us back to before there was this blog.”

*   *   *

May you enjoy fantasizing about your own Magic School Bus destination;
May you help your pulmonary-compromised friends and relatives
practice butt-breathing (discretely, please);
May you liberate yourself from the desire to buy and/or use fireworks;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] I have such memories. For many years now I’ve have realized that that’s just what they should be: memories, as in, in the past.

[2] Fireworks: their impact on the environment

[3] How fireworks harm nonhuman animals

[4] Fireworks: awesome for humans, terrifying for animals

[5] How Do Fireworks Harm Wild Birds?

[6] National Fire Protection Association

[7] As in, “I would travel back to 1930 and assassinate Hitler.”

The Virtues I’m Not Signaling

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Department Of My Work Here Is Done

My entry into the virtue-signaling yard sign challenge.

 

 

*   *   *

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

 

 

*   *   *

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of There’s Always Something

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

Fetterman’s campaign website expands on this:

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

Hmmmmm.

As my bumper sticker so eloquently and succinctly puts it:

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of This Is Why Life Is Worth Living…

… For hearing stories such as this.

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

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

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

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

And I said, ‘Yes, I have.’ “

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Global Warming Edition

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

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

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

[5] Read: Republican.

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

The Theory I’m Not Solving

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Department Of Strange Bedfellows

 

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

 

*   *   *

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

 

 

Classic advice:

Never go to bed angry.

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

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

Moiself’s suggested classic advice addendum:


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

 

 

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

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Sometimes The Best Intentions…

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

 

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

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

 

“They all seem so nice….”

 

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

When does a cult become a religion?

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

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

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

 

 

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Department of Explanations

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

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

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

“Yep; there it is.”

 

 

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Punz For The Day
Theoretical Physics Edition

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

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

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

 

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[13] Thirteen footnotes is even more extravagant.

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