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The History I’m Not Reading

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

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

 

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Department Of First Things First

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

 

 

 

hat

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

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

 

 

happy sheep dance

 

 

Thank you! We’re excited, too.

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

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

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

 

 

spockskeptic

And your point would be?

 

 

 

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

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

Pot, meet kettle.

 

 

 

potkettle

 

 

 

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

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

Lather; rinse; repeat.

 

 

 

irishproverb

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Department Of And Then There’s This

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

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

 

 

 

turtledove

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

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

 

Department Of For Your Consideration

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Swedish-Democrats

Ya, we’re all one big happy family.

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

siryessir

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

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

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

 

 

iknowwhatyoumwan

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

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

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[1] Aka SCM, in this blog.

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

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

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

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

The Songs I’m Not Remembering

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Department Of That’s His Story And He’s Sticking To It

MH traveled to Pasadena last weekend to attend a memorial service for a college classmate.  [1]  He shared a hotel room and rental car with friend with fellow alum DH.  Following the Sunday afternoon service, the two longtime buddies went out to dinner with another friend/CalTech alum – JD, who had also attended the memorial. JD offered to drive and picked up the boys at their hotel – which, BTW and not incidental to this story, had a choice of valet parking or no parking; thus, MH left the rental car’s keys with the hotel parking valet.

Upon returning to their hotel room, the boys found they had a terse/sheepish message on their room phone, saying that they needed to come down to the front desk and see the manager “…about your car.” In his text and photo to me about what had happened, MH, trying to piece together the story, said that the hotel’s parking valet apparently “…had a fun drive in the parking garage…until a cement post got in the way.”

 

 

mcar

“Officially, he hit a puddle and lost control.”

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Department Of Weapons Of A Would-Be Serial Killer

Or make that, squirrel-y-er killer.

Exhibit A, as viewed from our kitchen window: Can you spot the discharged shell?

 

 

ammo

 

 

 

Exhibit B: Can you identify the weapon on the windowsill?

 

gun

 

 

A classy addition to our home décor which I’d hitherto unimagined, a Nerf Uzi [2]  seems to have found a home on our kitchen eating area windowsill during the past few months.  This particular window looks out onto our side yard, a jungle-y area of shrubs and ferns and vine maples. The trees bear the responsibility of holding MH’s growing collection of bird feeders, at least two of which were guaranteed to thwart those nefarious scourges of bird feeder hangers everywhere.

Yep, I’m talkin’ squirrels.

A “squirrel-proof” bird feeder is, as we have discovered, a concept and not a reality. Similar to how Science ® has proved that trailer parks attract tornadoes, hanging a squirrel-proof bird feeder in your tree guarantees that your neighborhood’s most balletic-ally agile, persistent, inventive and dexterous squirrels will be irresistibly, almost magnetically drawn to your yard. Thus, the years-long enmity between MH and sciurus carolinensis which has led my otherwise mild-mannered spouse to keep the afore-mentioned, foam dart-deploying weapon handy.  [3]

Exhibit C: can you spot the mas, which, when donned by a 6’2″ male biped, produces not one iota of dread in squirrels but is most effective in inducing a butt-dragging-crapping-outside-the-box-in-terror reaction in housecats?

 

 

s-head

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Department Of More Fun With Animals

So, thanks to my new car’s radio – and BTW, when you say the phrase, my new car, please use your best Oprah voice…

 

 

Yet again, I digress.

My new car’s radio has, like, a bajillion preset options, [4]  and I’ve only seven or so channels I listen to on a regular basis. Before I selected the presets I did an internet search for Portland metro area music stations, to get my number of presets up to what I thought was a respectable figure (10). More often than not, I find myself leaving the channel on one of these new station “discoveries” – an eclectic oldies station run by local (Hillsboro) ham radio operators.  The station’s programming is all over the oldies map:  I’ll hear a 50s doo-wop song followed by a John Denver’s first hit (Country Roads) followed by one of The Beatles’ lesser-played covers (Carl Perkins’ Honey Don’t) to other hits and misses spanning several decades. Wednesday morning I was treated to a somnambulant edition of Hang on Sloopy I had no idea existed. [5]  The latter version varied greatly in tempo and even melody and was not as swampy/sexy as the more familiar version by The McCoys, but still had its own charm.

Earlier in the week I’d heard the station play, “Remember (Walking in the Sand)” by The Shangri-Las, that classic, romantic tragedy (romagedy?) tale of a teenage girl lamenting the loss and/or unfaithfulness of her boyfriend – which was fundamental fodder of songs written for the girl groups of the late 1950s – early 1960s.

I was familiar with the song, but couldn’t remember the last time I’d heard it…and after I heard it on that radio station I had to consider whether or not I’d ever listened to it all the way through.  Perhaps the radio station’s engineer was having fun with the background volume controls; whatever the reason, the increasingly loud sound effects at the end of the song got me to wondering: are listeners supposed to think that the heartbroken narrator returned to the beach where she once walked (in the sand…remember?) with her boyfriend and, distracted and distraught over her lover’s betrayal, she staggered into a mob of seagulls and was pecked to death?

 

 

 

 

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Department Of More Fun With Radio

Make that, fun with a podcast. And I’m not sure that fun is the appropriate modifier…although I’d like to think that enlightenment of any kind is entertaining, in some ways.

Wednesday morning I listened to an amazing TED talk. Two speakers shared a stage, and shared a story which began almost two decades ago. Listen to it, and you’ll discover that what starts out as the tale of an Icelandic girl and her Australian exchange student boyfriend doesn’t go where you’d expect, to put it mildly.

For the rest of the day I kept thinking about the after effects of sexual violence, and in particular, the paucity of perspectives we have from its perpetrators. Increasingly, women and girls are daring to speak out about their experiences of having been raped, but how many men and boys have you ever heard admit to being rapists, and to talk openly about what that was like?

Rapist; Brute; Savage; Animal; Inhuman. We’ve many epithets and adjectives for those who commit sexual assault.  I vote for eliminating inhuman from that list, because I think societies might make more progress in dealing with sexual assault by ultimately recognizing the humanity of the assailant.

Yep, you read correctly. I know, it sounds almost sacrilegious [6] to refer to a rapist’s humanity. But how can you ever hope to solve a problem if you aren’t willing to think clearly about it?

And clearly, history demonstrates that just as kindness, compassion, empathy, altruism, and sacrifice are bright colors on the spectrum of human behavior, so are the darker shades of human-on-human abuse.

Rape and other acts of assault and violence, from bullying to waging war, are unfortunately common to the human experience. But when we label rapists/sexual abusers as inhuman we enable those human beings who for whatever reasons  [7] force themselves upon weaker/ intoxicated/drugged/otherwise incapacitated human beings, to subsequently and sincerely not consider themselves to be rapists or to have committed sexual assault, because they are not the archetypal inhuman fiend who sprang out from behind a hedge and held a knife to her throat….

 

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Department Of Ending On A Lighter Note

Business sign of the week… or month…or maybe even year:  I saw this sign on the side of the road, meant to entice passers-by to consider the services of a landscaping company to spruce up your yard for the coming warmer months:

“This spring don’t get caught with your plants down.”

 

 

 

 

plantsdown

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May you revel in the small pleasures of a forgotten song remembered;
May you never get caught with your plants down;
May you consider the humanity of the serial squirrel-harasser;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

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[1] Who died too young after a long battle with rheumatoid arthritis. I shall write a bit about him in another post.

[2] Not its official name.

[3] Yeah, the squirrels flee when he fires it at them. And then they return.

[4] Okay; thirty.

[5] The stations website, such as it is, is quite low tech, and has no playlist, so I don’t know who did that version of HOS.

[6] But I’m a happy heathen, remember?

[7] Usually related to the cultural dictates which teach men that they are entitled to women’s bodies.

The Call To Resistance I’m Not Writing

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

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

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

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

 

 

ohm

R.I.P : Resistance Is Imperative

 

 

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

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

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

 

Are you arguing…

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

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

 

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Department Of Petty Pleasures

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

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

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

 

 

angry-conductor

“That’s Bychkov, you drek kop!”

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Department Of But It Was Funny At 6:28 am

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

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

 

 

bad-smell

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

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Department Of We Have No Secrets Between Us

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

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

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

 

 

sadiebdaycardjpg

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Department Of What She Said

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

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

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

Sometimes I really, really like to be wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

Happy 21st, Belle!

 

 

snowyeti

 

*   *   *

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

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

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

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

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

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

[5] Resistance is NOT futile.

The Metaphor(s) I’m Not Ignoring

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not that any of the above are bad things.

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sloth

Also not a bad thing – cute animal pictures.

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Speaking Of What Does Or Doesn’t Kill You

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

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

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

Ah, sweet dreams are made of these…

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

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Department of Fuck, Yeah

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

 

 

 

martha

*   *   *

 

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

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

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

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

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

Alternative facts.

 

 

grannyshock

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

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

dumpsters

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

*   *   *

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

different

 

 

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

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

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

 

otbj

*   *   *

Department Of Once Again I Find Myself Yelling Into Thin Air

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

*   *   *

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

 

Speaking of metaphors….

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

 

 

 

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

The Longer Post I’m Not Writing

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Department Of Words That Make Me Cringe

Edibles.

It used to be a fine term, with respectable Latin origins – an enjoyable three-syllable word to utter with a simple, non-entendre meaning: something that is appropriate or safe to eat.

Now, thanks to marijuana legalization, you can’t assume that a person using the word is referring to foods that are edible, or “edibles.”  And that annoys me.

 

 

iknowwhatyoumwan

 

 

 

Never was a toker, not even in my younger days. However, unlike Bill Clinton I did inhale (it was either that or suffocate at many a Led Zeppelin concert). I wasn’t fond of the effects cannabis [1] visited upon those whom I observed imbibing it; I don’t use the stuff now, and its legalization in my state doesn’t alter my opinion of or interest in it.

 

 

 

edibles

Edibles…or edibles?

 

 

I gladly voted for legalization/decriminalization of cannabis in Oregon, and I hope other states will do the same. Still, sans a compelling medical reason to partake, for moiself adding edibles to edibles ‘twould be a pitiful way to turn a formerly delectable edible into a skunk-smelling maryjanedible.

 

On the other hand,  [2]  if the minister performing my mother’s funeral service is the same dude who performed my father’s funeral service, or takes a similar approach, [3]  then I may need some sort of reality-altering substance to help me bite my tongue and/or not eviscerate his.

 

 

 

rude

*   *   *

Department of The Moving Sidewalk Of Life  [4]

 

My mother’s graveside funeral service is tomorrow. Just sayin.’

*   *   *

 

I wasn’t yet blogging when my father died. If so, this would have been the second post wherein I would try to convince readers that brevity is the soul of wit. Or failing that: sorry, no can much do this week.

 

*   *   *

 

 

May you enjoy that which is truly edible;
May you inhale when necessary;
May you never have to bite your tongue at your parent’s funeral;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] whether smoked or consumed, whether the usage was sporadic or habitual.

[2] …you have other fingers.

[3]  Hey, I’ve got a captive audience! Good time to lecture the Jews and atheists and others present “who do not know Jesus” about how there can be “little joy” and “no singing” at their memorial services. Yep, Holy Fuck and WTF, this happened.

[4] Alternative to symbolic philosophical representation aka The Circle of Life.

The Motorcycle I’m Not Getting

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Department Of Should Auld Acquaintance Be Misspelled

I’d been in kind of a funk as the end of the year approached, [1] about a good many issues and subjects, from the personal to the political. [2]  Unlike in years past, as my December birthday approached, there were no birthday cards  (I typically get at least two before the day itself). I figured people had picked up on my less-than-enthusiastic response to my birthday and decided not to remind me.

 

 

camel

Like we’d let her forget!

 

 

Then, on the day, I received six cards, three of which contained notes and/or letters which were possibly the best, explicit, paeans to friendship I’d ever read…and they were addressed to moiself.  They contained the kind of prose which makes me think more profoundly of the writer than the recipient – sort of a “living eulogy,” as one of the senders lovingly and cheekily put it.

We say such kind and significant things at memorial services; we innumerate the qualities we appreciated in our families and friends…which is wonderful for the “survivors” to hear. But why don’t we let people know more often and in specific detail how much they mean to us when they are alive?

I don’t think my daughter Belle had any kind of living eulogy intention when she wrote her “gift letter” to MH and I, but it couldn’t have come at a better time. 

Along with her Christmas gifts to each of us (gorgeous, framed, original paintings and drawings!) MH and I received an amazing letter from Belle. It was written days before Christmas, and she had no idea how important would be the timing of her letter’s presentation. She wrote in specific and affectionate detail about the things she loves and admires about MH, and about moiself. It is something I shall cherish forever.

I read the note around 9 am on Christmas Day, after we had opened our stockings and presents. I had decided to hold on to the news I’d received earlier that morning, just before son K drove over [3] to join us, so that MH, K, Belle and I  [4] could have an hour of a laughing and loving, “normal” Christmas morning.

 

 

 

reaper

 

 

 

From John Glenn to Zsa Zsa Gabor; from David Bowie to Florence Henderson to Leonard Cohen to Prince to Morley Safer, Patty Duke, Keith Emerson, Gwen Ifill, Elie Wiesel, Gary Shandling, Pat Summitt, Alan Rickman, Anton Yelchin, Robert Vaugh, Gene Wilder,  Leon Russell, George Martin, Paul Kantner, Harper Lee, Muhammad Ali and so many more….and now, Carrie Fisher? Hey, 2016 Grim Reaper – did you have to be so greedy?

During this last week of the year magazines, newspapers, websites and other news venues will be compiling End of Year Lists re the passing of “notables.”  Marion Alberta Parnell will make no one’s celebrity death list, but she was important to a few of us in her own teensy corner of the world.

Longtime readers of this blog may know that my mother has been in poor mental and physical health for some time – really, since her husband/my father, Chet Parnell, died in 2009. In the past week Mom went on a sudden downhill slide, and entered home hospice care (in Santa Ana, in her longtime home). Her four children scheduled rotating visits so that we could each see her before she died (but not all pile on at once, so to speak).

My older lives twenty minutes away from Mom and visited daily. My younger sister made it down on Little Christmas Eve (the 23rd); my brother, on Christmas Eve. My older sister’s children’s families were going to bring food and sing carols to their grandmother on Christmas Day, and my visit was scheduled for the day after Christmas.

On December 24 I sat at the dining room table with my family, enjoying our annual Christmas Eve lefse dinner – a tradition from my mother’s family.  I told son K and daughter Belle about the last minute trip MH and I had hastily arranged, for me to go see my mom. I filled them in on her status; it was entirely possible she would not be able to communicate with me (my older sister reported that Marion was mostly incommunicado/in and out of awareness during my brother’s visit, earlier that day), but I was going to tell her stories and give her foot and leg rubs and thank her for being my mother. I showed them what I was taking with me, to give to my mother and thank her for starting what has become a Christmas “decorating” tradition in our family – hiding a bajillion  [5]  little Santa’s Elves figures all over the house.

 

 

tomom

 

 

I found out early Christmas morning, right before K returned home over to open stockings and presents with MH and Belle and I, that my mother had died late the previous evening (My mother’s longtime, live-in caretaker wanted to spare us the inevitable but still sad news on Christmas Eve.).

My mother so loved Christmas; my siblings and I shared the sentiment that it was somewhat fitting for her to pass at this time.

 

Department Of But, I’m Too Old To Be An Orphan  [6]

 

We understand what you mean about becoming the oldest of a generation….. The circle of life. More like the moving sidewalk that you can’t get off once you step on.
(My friend KW, upon hearing the news of my mother’s death)

 

My mother was the youngest of four children, and the last of her siblings to die. With her passing, I realized, all of the family from both of my parents’ generation are gone. I don’t think I’m prepared to be part of the family’s oldest generation, I told MH. But, Life doesn’t ask you if you’re ready, does it?

“I’m sorry you’ve lost your mom.”

It is sad when it is really over. She’s gone, “all of a sudden,” but not really. The truth is we’ve been losing her, bit by bit, for years. A cognitive and physical death by degrees…at least there is a modicum of peace, knowing she is free from the memory loss and confusion, and their attendants, fear and paranoia, which brought about the awkward conversations where I would have to “kill” my father for her. There were far too many of those phone calls, when she fretted and would not be distracted from asking where her husband was, how and when had he left her, and why people were hiding this information from her.

 

marionalbertaparnellcirca1953

Marion circa 1953. This was one of Chet’s favorite pictures of her.

 

 

chesterbryqanparnellcirca1953

Chet Parnell, circa 1953.

 

*   *   *

And Then There’s That

 

Moiself, to MH and Belle: “On the plus side, this – my mother’s death – means that I can finally get a motorcycle.”

Belle:  ?????

MH: “How do you figure?”

Moiself:  When I was in my twenties and interested in such things, my mom asked me to promise the following:  “Promise me you won’t get a motorcycle before I die, because if you do it will kill me.”

MH: “Uh…can I be the one with the veto, now?”

chopper

RIP, Mom.

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you remember to love’ em while you got ’em;
May you love’ em while you got ’em;
And may you love’ em while you got ’em,
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] GEE, DO YA THINK?

[2] Holy Fucking Regime Change, if you know what I mean and I think you do.

[3] He lives about twelve minutes away from us, in a rental house he shares with four friends.

[4] And our kitties Crow and Nova, who REALLY enjoyed the catnip stuffed carrot and parsnip Santa MH got them.

[5] Closer to several dozen

[6] One of the many WTF remarks I made to MH, after hearing the news about my mom.

The Heritage I’m Not Claiming

Comments Off on The Heritage I’m Not Claiming

 

 

 

I’d given up on attending Christmas-themed theatrical performances – at least, the ones which (theoretically) are comedies. The disaster that was A Tuna Christmas has become legend in my family. Several years ago MH got our family tickets for a Portland performance of the play, at my request, as a family outing for my birthday. When intermission was announced and everyone in the theatre stood up to stretch their legs and find the bathroom, I turned to son K, who was standing beside me, and asked, “Would you be disappointed if we left now?”

Oh, Mom, K gushed, hugging me so hard I almost toppled out of the balcony, “I’m so glad you feel that way!” His enthusiasm quickly spread to daughter Belle and MH, who, as it turned out, were all equally unimpressed with the play. We’d each been sitting there, thinking the same thing (this play sucks), each of us thinking we were the only one who felt that way….

There are few worse forms of entertainment than unfunny comedies, especially those that present themselves as satire and/or farces. The series of Greater Tuna plays – set in the fictional town of Tuna, Texas and described as satirical yet affectionate take-offs on small-town, Southern life and attitudes – are, IMHO, a prime example of that phenomenon.

I suppose…I can maybe imagine…how, in the early 1980s, the sight of two gay men portraying a play’s twenty-plus cast members, including elderly female characters, was considered to be thigh-slappin,’ boot-stompin’, side-splittin’ hi-larious. For some folks. [1]

Moiself? I found it dated, and, worst of all – take it away, Joanne Worley – 

 

 

joanne

BOOOOOORRRRRRING!

 

 

Last Sunday I decided to give the Christmas Comedy one more try, thanks to local theatre company Bag & Baggage.  Because nothing says holiday spirit like the description of their one time cabaret event, Drunk as the Dickens:

Five of our Resident Actors will start drinking at 5:00pm. We will pull as many vaguely Victorian costumes as our drunken hands can carry, and then head over to Clark’s Bistro and Pub where, at 8:00pm, we will make them pull their characters from out of Scrooge’s nightcap, hand them a 1 hour(ish) version of A Christmas Carol and see if any of them can read while hammered. What could possibly go wrong?

*   *   *

Speaking of Christmas….

 

Annual Holiday History Lecture Reminder To The War On Christmas Imbeciles Bunch

 

 

heathen

 

The more fundamentalist the believer, the more ignorant they seem to be re a fundamental truth behind their religious observances: “Christian” holidays, in particular the biggies (Christmas and Easter), began as pagan festivals. Christmas belongs to and was in fact originated by pagans. Christians just changed your own history and renamed the festivities. However, in the true spirit of generosity, we heathens are happy to share the jolly season with one and all. As per these self-plagiarisms excerpts from my previous blogs:

  The Reverend Increase Mather of Boston observed in 1687 that “the early Christians who first observed the Nativity on December 25 did not do so thinking that Christ was born in that Month, but because the Heathens’ Saturnalia was at that time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those Pagan Holidays metamorphosed into Christian ones.”  [2]  Because of its known pagan origin, Christmas was banned by the Puritans, and its observance was illegal in Massachusetts until 1681.  [3]

 

pagan-idol

“Do you celebrate Christmas?”

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

 

 

santa

 

 

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

The fir boughs and wreaths, the Yule log, plum pudding, gift exchanges, the feasting, the holly and the ivy and the evergreen tree….It is hard to think of a “Christmas tradition” that does not originate from Teutonic (German),Viking, Celtic and Druid paganism. [4]  A celebration in the depths of winter, at the time when, to those living in the Northern Hemisphere, the sun appears to stop its southerly descent before gradually ascending north, is a natural instinct. For thousands of years our Northern Hemisphere ancestors greeted the “reason for the season” – the winter solstice – with festivals of light and gift exchanges and parties.  The Winter Solstice was noted and celebrated long before the Roman Jesus groupies pinched the party.

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

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

 

winter_solstice_diagram

 

 

Our names for the days of the week come from religions predating Christianity. The Greeks named the days week after the sun, the moon and the five (at the time) known planets which they’d named after their gods… then the Romans substituted their equivalent gods, followed by the Germanic, Norse and Celtic peoples. For example, Thursday comes from Thor’s-day, Friday from variants on Frigg’s and Freya’s Day, Saturday from Saturn’s Day….

The god Woden is the reason the middle of the week is named Wednesday.  [5]  My calling that day Wednesday doesn’t mean I celebrate, worship, or “believe in” Woden.  I don’t insist on renaming either Christmas, or Wednesday.

 

 

 

woden

“Go smite the sheisskopf who took the Woden out of Woden’s Day!”

 

 

 

The Winter Solstice is the day with the shortest amount of sunlight, and the longest night. In the northern hemisphere it falls on what we now mark as December 21 or 22.  However, it took place on December 25th at the time when the Julian calendar was used.   [6]   The early Romans celebrated the Saturnalia on the Solstice, holding days of feasting and gift exchanges in honor of their god Saturn. (Other deities whose birthdays were celebrated on or around December 25 included HorisHuitzilopochtliIsisMithrasMardukOsirisSerapis and Sol.)   [7] 

When the Roman Catholics came to power and spread north from Rome, they encountered pagan practices that had gone on for thousands of years before the Popes decided to claim divine authority and subdue the illiterate masses by dressing like the bastard spawn of Elton John and Lady Gaga.

 

gaga

 

 

The Celebration of the Saturnalia was too popular with the pagans for the new Christian church to outlaw it, so the new church renamed the day and reassigned meanings to the traditions.   [8] Rather than try to banish native customs and beliefs, missionaries were directed to assimilate them. You find a group of people decorating and/or worshiping a tree? Don’t chop it down or burn it; rather, bless it in the name of the (Christian) church. Allow its continued worship, only tell the people that instead of celebrating the return of the sun-god in the spring, they are now worshiping the rising from the dead of the son-of-god.

In other words, why are some folk concerned with keeping “the Christ in Christmas”  [9] when we should be keeping the Saturn in Saturnalia?

 

saturnalia

 

 

*   *   *

 

Department Of Is She Or Isn’t She

I’ve lost track of the number of times it’s happened to me. In a lecture hall at college; in a restaurant; while riding public transportation; with fellow travelers in a rowboat on Lake Bled in Slovenia….

It’s a combination of my reminding people of someone else, and/or my saying or doing something that makes people suspect (or even hope) that I might be one of their clan.

Are you Jewish? You’re Jewish – right?

It (the questioned ethnicity/group of origin in question) is almost always not the case, and I can’t help but be fascinated by why it matters to the person asking. The default explanation presented to me (by someone who once asked) is that if you are in the minority, in any way or group, you tend to notice [10] who might be one of your kind, so to speak.

Hands down, the majority of identity inquiries I’ve received have been about my being a member of the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s Chosen People. But not exclusively. Other Are you _______?s have included gay/lesbian, Russian, Native American and – one of my favorites – Australian (hello?  Aussie accent, like, nonexistent?).

 

 

 

gday

We don’t claim her, mate, now G’day and bugger off.

 

 

 

Most recently it happened at a seafood bistro, during last week’s sabbatical-of-sorts trip to the Oregon Coast.  It was a slow evening for the restaurant, and my waiter and I had established a chatty rapport.  Near the end of my meal, before he frightened me with the dessert tray,  [11]  and seemingly apropos of nothing, the waiter asked if I or any members of my family were French Canadian, or Cajun?

I told him that, to my DNA analysis-deficient knowledge, the only thing French about me was the attempt by certain relatives on my father’s side of the family to downplay their indigenous heritage (this was back when it wasn’t considered “cool” for white folks to claim Native American ancestry) by reassuring my maternal grandmother than the purported Chickasaw/Cherokee woman who’d married a Parnell man was “maybe just French.”

The waiter chuckled; I asked him why he wondered about my heritage. He replied that, physically and mannerisms-wise, I reminded him of several relatives on his mother’s side of the family, and also, specifically, his mother.

The waiter was at least my age (several years older, I’d bet).  Nevertheless, I told him I would take that as a compliment, and he left verbal skidmarks assuring me that, indeed, that is what the similarity was supposed to be.

I did not order dessert, but left a good tip. Monetarily ,that is. I refrained from leaving him another good tip: never tell a woman who is older than twenty that she reminds you of your mother.

 

*   *   *

May you never be forced to endure a humor-free comedy;
May you acknowledge the old traditions before creating your own;
May whatever tribes or traditions you claim bemuse the hell out of someone;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

Happy Saturnalia and Solstice and Yule and Merry Christmas and Boxing Day and Hanukkah and Kwaanza and Festivus and….

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Like, say, your mildly homophobic grandparents.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[10] And in some cases/in some situations, it can be life-preserving to keep track of such things.

[11] Really, out of nowhere a ginormous dessert tray appeared by my side, and my being startled by it greatly amused my waiter.

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