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The Songs I’m Not Censoring

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Gung hay fat choi!

Happy Lunar New Year to my Chinese friends and family, and all who celebrate it.

 

 

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Department Of At Least They Didn’t Start A Forest Fire

“A 26-year-old Michigan man died on Saturday after he was hit with shrapnel from ‘a small cannon type device’ that exploded when….”

This is how the news article began. What words, would you think, could possibly complete the article’s lead sentence?

“… it was fired in celebration at a baby shower….

 

 

Because celebrating babies and pregnancy and impending parenthood – one immediately thinks: Ah, yes: armaments!

“A cannon type device.” As in, a cannon? It was a friggin’ baby shower; it was not a Civil War reenactment, nor battle enactment of any kind…although – WARNING: BAD PREGNANCY PUN AHEAD – many a woman in her ninth month of gestation has felt like she is personally fighting the Battle of the Bulge.

 

The story continues:

“The man, Evan Thomas Silva, a guest at the party, was about 10 to 15 feet from the device when it blew up in the backyard of a home. Metal shrapnel hit Mr. Silva, three parked cars and the garage where the shower was being held, the police said…..
The night Mr. Silva died, he was among the guests…attending a baby shower — not a gender reveal party….”
( “Celebratory Cannon Salute at Baby Shower Ends in Death,” NY Times 2-7-21

Interesting that the article took pains to mention that this was *not* a gender reveal party, as per the idiotic trend in which celebratory pyrotechnics employed by excited parents-to-be inadvertently yet efficiently caused *more than one* wildfire in the past year (a trend which yours truly had mocked in a previous post).

Attention, expectant parents: stop this. Right now. Stop throwing such events for yourselves and stop attending them in your “honor.” Your friends and family will thank you:  no matter what they are saying to your face, under your nose and behind your back they are embarrassed and appalled that you apparently find the fact of *your* impending parenthood – an event so ordinary that it happens worldwide, 385,000 times PER DAY  – to be so special that it is the cause for the type of celebration usually reserved for a nation’s liberation from a dictator or the opening of yet another Disney theme park.

Have a party if you want to, of course!  Keep it simple – those kind of celebrations are remembered most fondly, and are less stressful to plan *and* attend. Do the potluck thing, play music and silly games.  [1]  But have some perspective, puuuuuhhhhllleeeaassee.  NO cannons, no fireworks – nothing which intentionally or otherwise explodes… with the exception of your Uncle Beauford’s mouth (and other orifices) after his third helping of your elderly neighbor’s double-chili-bean-cabbage-beer-garlic casserole.

 

“We’re so excited about baby’s first artillery!

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Department Of What To Serve At Your Baby Shower
Sup-Department Of Maybe Reconsider The Chicken Wings

“Torture a single chicken in your backyard, and you risk arrest. Abuse tens of millions of them? Why, that’s agribusiness.”
( “The Ugly Secrets Behind the Costco Chicken,” NY Times, 2-6-21 )

 

 

Selective breeding by agricultural scientists for larger overall size and enormous breasts – the white meat consumers prefer – has produced  “exploding chickens” that put on weight at a monstrous clip….The journal Poultry Science once calculated that if humans grew at the same rate as these chickens, a 2-month-old baby would weigh 660 pounds…. The chickens’ legs, unable to support the weight of their out-of-proportion bodies, often splay or collapse, making some chickens topple onto their backs (and then they cannot right themselves) and others collapse onto their bellies, where they lie in mounds of feces and suffer bloody rashes called ammonia burns – the poultry version of bed sores.

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Department Of Memory Sparking

The film class moiself  had in college: I hadn’t thought of it, nor of the class’s professor, in years.  Now, twice in the past two months both have come to mind (and thus, to this blog).

The first time was two months ago, during the brouhaha manufactured by a Wall Street Journal columnist who chided Jill Biden, who holds a Ph.D. in education, for using her professional credentials. I’d remembered how I’d gotten a kick out of how Robert Miller, my film class’s professor,  [2]  made his point as to how he wished to be addressed.  Miller, who had a Ph.D. in literature, introduced himself as “Professor Miller.” When a student speaking in class prefaced their remarks with, “Dr. Miller…” Miller would interrupt with, “Yes, nurse?”

The second time was last week, when I was listening to a recent Fresh Air interview with former writer  [3]  and current professional observationist  [4]   Fran Leibovitz.  Leibovitz was promoting a new Netflix docuseries, “Pretend It’s a City,”  in which the series’ director (Leibovitz’s longtime friend, Martin Scorsese) talks with Leibovitz about…well, about Leibovitz, and whatever Leibovitz thinks about any and every thing she thinks about.   [5]

In the Fresh Air interview Leibovitz talked about her “career” background. Before enjoying her fifteen minutes of fame as a writer in the 1970s  [6]  Leibovitz held a series of menial/odd jobs. She claims she took housecleaning jobs and drove a taxi because, “I don’t have any skills. I didn’t know how to do anything else.”

“I also didn’t want to do the job that most of my friends did, which was wait tables, because I didn’t want to have to be nice to men to get tips or to sleep with the manager of my shift, which was a common requirement then for being a waitress in New York.”

My film professor, who was a writer as well as a teacher, didn’t (to my knowledge) require any of his students to sleep with him – that’s not why this memory was sparked.  He *did* do something which I thought was an abuse of power, although at that time I hadn’t the emotional or intellectual context to frame it as such, given its complexity.

One afternoon in class the topic was screenplay adaptation.  As an example of how you would turn a literary story into a cinematic one, Professor Miller announced that our next assignment, due the following week, would be to write up a proposal for adapting a piece of short fiction he would give to us.  We’ll spend the rest of the class time discussing the assignment, Professor Miller said.  He began passing out photocopies of – I stifled a gasp when I read the byline – a short story *he* had written.

 

 

I remember thinking, “Uh, this a good idea?  HELL NO.”

Would any student dare say, “This story is not adaptable,” or, “There’s no way I would want to adapt this even if I thought I could because I just don’t like it.…” or express any other critique, from mild to scathing, knowing that it is the professor’s own work?

I tried to stifle my instinctive, lip-curling expression as I read the story, which was a Mailer-Hemingwayesque male fantasy, about a backpacking trip taken by an Older Man ® (an artist-teacher of some kind) and the Much Younger Woman ® he is mentoring and – surprise! – fucking dating.   Meanwhile, Professor Miller read aloud from the story’s campfire scene, a scene which, he told the class, would be particularly visually appealing for a screenwriter (the following is my summation of the scene):

OM and MYW are sitting around their campfire, their conversation terse and tense. There is a sense of growing strain between them for a variety of reasons, including the status of their relationship, and signs of bear activity in the vicinity. When MYW excuses herself  (presumably to go behind the tent to take a pee break),  OM ruminates about how their relationship will likely be coming to an end, as he is older, more educated and world-wise, and she is…well…she is what she is (young and beautiful).

MYW returns, tossing an item into the campfire as she sits down; OM sees a tampon briefly blaze before the flames incinerate it. He begins to panic…. 

Already feeling nauseated by the retch-worthy cliché of the older male teacher/younger female student predatory romantic relationship scenario, I had another thought that made me want to puke in class: he’s not going to incorporate the macho woodsy myth about bears being attracted to menstruating women in his story, is he?   [7] 

OM starts asking MYW about why she didn’t tell him she was having her menstrual period – they’re in bear country, FFS! That explains his feeling that a bear has been stalking them.  Now, they are in danger….

Several students (all male) took turns praising the scene and shared their ideas as to how they would script it.  I remember Professor Miller looking at me several times, as if he expected my feedback – me, who remained silent, despite usually speaking up in class discussions; me, the one student (or so the professor  told me a week earlier, when he’d returned an assignment of mine   [8]  ) whom he allowed to turn any assignment into a prose-writing opportunity.   [9]

I remember looking around at the class, paying particular attention to the expressions on the other female student’s faces, and having a click-worthy moment of realization:

Oh, so *this* is how women learn to fake orgasms.

 

“Do tell?”

 

Up until that moment, the class as a whole had had little problem tearing into films we had been told were “classics” but which one or more of us found poorly made, reductive, or just plain boring.  But for this assignment, what choice did we have, other than to act as if we liked the story?  He was our professor; it was his story. We had to pretend to like or at least approve of it in order for us to succeed in that situation.

Somewhere near the end of class time moiself  raised my hand and asked if we had other options for the assignment – for example, adapting works of…other authors.  I remember phrasing my question as delicately as I could, and squeezing in some (faux) compliments of his story, compliments which were bland enough that I didn’t hate myself for wimping out on what I wanted to do, which was to object to the inherent hubris of him assigning his own story.  Fortunately for me, several of the professor’s suck-ups acolytes weighed in on the subject, and my tacit criticism of his self-indulgent ego trip of an assignment didn’t seem to register (or at least not for long, as I got an A in the class).

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Department Of Sometimes I Miss The Good Old Days Of Censorship

“When I’m good, I’m very good, but when I’m bad, I’m better. ”

“I’ll try anything once, twice if I like it, three times to make sure.”

― Mae West

 

The Good Old Days ® of any kind were usually not-that-good, just old.  I am not condoning censorship; continuing with this post’s cinematic theme, I am remember the day in my film class where we learned about the Hays Code, aka the Motion Picture Production Code.  The Hays Code was used, for almost four decades, by film studios to require that their pictures be “wholesome” and “moral” and free from a list of no-nos (e.g. nudity, overt violence, sexually suggestive dances, discussions of sexual perversity, characters which engendered sympathy for criminals, unnecessary use of liquor, making fun of religion, interracial relationships, “lustful kissing,” ridicule of law and order….)

A lively class discussion about the Hays Code ensued.  Several students, and the professor, gave reasons for favoring some kind of code or guidelines (although not outright censorship), due to the artistic ingenuity such guidelines inevitably inspired.

This idea that “guidelines up the game” is one which crosses artistic genres. I recall experiencing a joy I don’t think can be replicated today, when I realized that 13-year-old moiself  “got” The Kinks’ song, Lola, and my parents   [10]   and the radio censors didn’t.  Presently, pop vocalists can call for the execution of people they don’t like, can call each other obscene and racist epithets, can brag about the…uh, humidity level of their intimate parts….  There are few if any lines to subversively read between. 

 

A fun factoid about “Lola” is that the word “Coca-Cola” in the original recording had to be changed ( ♫ “I met her in a bar down in old Soho where you drink champagne and it takes just like Coca-Cola…” ♫ ).  Singer Ray Davies dubbed in “cherry cola” for the song’s release, due to the BBC Radio’s policy against product placement.

 

Son K and I had an interesting IM session about the subject of censorship when, apropos of what-I-cannot-now recall, K came across some info about the Parents Music Resource Center, asked me some questions, and began searching for and then watching videos of the PMRC’s congressional hearing.

[ The PMRC, as some of y’all may recall, was an American governmental “advisory committee” formed in the 1980s which sought to increase parental control over children’s access to music with violent, sexual, and drug-related themes. The PMRC lobbied the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America)  to develop a music labeling system, ala the MPAA’s film rating system.  Because the PMRC was founded by four women whose husbands had political connections (including Tipper Gore, married to Senator and later Vice President Al Gore) the group was sometimes derisively and dismissively referred to as “The Washington Wives.” ]

K: man so reading about the PMRC. what was tipper gore’s problem

Moiself What made you read about the PMRC?
Some say Tipper Gore was looking for a “cause,; others, including herself and her husband, say she was a concerned parent who became shocked when she listened to the lyrics of one of her daughter’s favorite songs…and then started acquainting herself with other lyrics to popular music.
I think it’s probably a combination of both motivations.  The PMRC was actually a milder version of other parental groups at the time which were calling for censorship – the PMRC wanted parental warning labels as to content….

I gave K a brief history lesson: at that time, many kids didn’t buy their own records – their parents or grandparents did.  As a parent and “consumer,” I wouldn’t want to spend my money on songs that used racial epithets or promoted homophobic or misogynistic viewpoints to my kids. And in the ’80s lyrics were getting really explicit, which made me actually wish for the days of radio content restrictions…because then singers and songwriters had to be clever.  It was so much fun when, ala my “Lola” reference, you knew something was slipped by the sensors – you caught a reference that even the supposedly hip radio programming directors, as well as your own parents, didn’t “get.”

K: just looking through it, (the PMRC hearings) all comes across to me as one of those bullshit moral crusades. a need to either feel self superior, or a need to control anything that doesn’t appeal to X person’s personal tastes, or both.
it just reminded me of a milder version of McCarthyist witch hunting.
demonizing something for political gain

Moiself: Yes, but the latter is a proven technique.

Later on, in an in-person dialogue, I shared with K my opinion that any form of guideline or structure-free art risks…well, think of the criticism of free verse poetry as playing tennis with the net down.  I’m not lauding censorship per se, but, to reiterate, IMHO guidelines can actually make people more creative – or sneaky, which has a strong element of creativity to it. Because when you can’t just come out and say Certain Things ® you have to be subtle and sly, employing cheeky imagery and evocative dialogue.  You have to be more poetic, in a way.

A movie critic once asked the late great writer/screenwriter/director Nora Ephron if Ephron agreed with the critic’s observation that there seemed to have been stronger roles for women actors, and better plots and dialog, in the earlier days of cinema. Ephron agreed, and lamented contemporary movies’ lack of witty dialogue and snappy repartee – and distinctive, self-assured female characters – which were found in the movies of the 30s and 40s and even 50s.  Beginning in the late 60s, along came the “New Cinema” movement, which emphasized so-called gritty realism. You no longer had to employ clever camera angles and witty, double-entendre laden repartee – now you can just show (instead of imply) a graphic murder, have the protagonists jump into bed together (which had the effect of valuing, defining – and casting – female actors as per their sexual appeal)…and then what?

In an atmosphere where nothing is considered to be off-limits, you will never have the delightful shock value of experiencing, say, the judicious use of “strong” language.  I fondly recall my mother telling me about her most memorable movie experience, when as a child she saw Gone With The Wind. She said she’d never forget how she was both scandalized and thrilled – and how “the entire theater gasped” –  when Rhett Butler delivered his infamous parting line:

 

 

 

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Pun(z) For The Day

Moiself : Did you hear about that actress, Reese, who just stabbed a guy to death?
Innocent bystander: Witherspoon?
Moiself : No, she used her knife.

  1. Q.  How does award-winning actor Reese eat her Cheerios?
  2. A.  Witherspoon.

I suppose I have to be a good sport about this.

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May you shun any event mixing pyrotechnics and babies;
May you neither actively nor passively contribute to “exploding chickens;”
May you challenge yourself to both follow and subvert the guidelines;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

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[1] Of course, have these events safely, distanced/outdoors, and masked until this damn COVID-19 thing peters out …do I really need to say this? Apparently.

[2] A pseudonym.

[3] Leibovitz has famously suffered from writer’s block for years, and now seems to get by with having people pay to listen to her talk about the things she used to write about. Not a criticism – she has a keen, sardonic eye, and is quite witty.  I have enjoyed the series, so far (haven’t as of this writing finished listening to all episodes).

[4] I’m not sure if “observationist” is a thing, but Leibovitz seems to be making a living from it.

[5] Which centers around her technophobic life in New York city; specifically, Manhattan.

[6] Using her satirical, NYC-centered wit, she opined on American life in two best-selling collections of essays,   Metropolitan Life and Social Studies.

[7] After class I found a couple of Wildlife Fisheries Biology majors who confirmed that was a myth.  Even so, it was a myth that got a lot of traction, and it wasn’t until in the 1980s and ’90s that biologists did studies proving that bears – or sharks – are no more attracted to menstruating women than to any other kind of human.

[8] storyboarding a dada-esque, vignette-style commercial for the soft drink, 7-Up, which he graded A+.

[9] We’d had and would continue to have various projects over the quarter, from “making” a short films or advertisements or animation. I’d no interest in filming anything or doing animation, and always chose to interpret “making” as doing the screenplay, storyboarding and/or writing portion of the project.

[10] When my friend’s très conservative mother was singing along to “Lola” on the radio while was driving us to the beach, I somehow resisted the urge to ask if she knew she was enjoying an ode to a naïve young man’s romance with a transvestite.

The Normal Post I’m Not Posting

Comments Off on The Normal Post I’m Not Posting

Normal as in, consisting of political, religious, educational and/or cultural sniping critiques.

No worries – the usual mélange of podcast reviews, feminist fun, cultural tidbits, sarcasm, insightful commentary, bad puns (and occasional fart jokes) returns next week.

 

 

While going through our attic and other storage spaces I found a military pin belonging to my father, Chet Parnell. I added it to a box of (mostly) WWII memorabilia I keep in a closet, and thought I should write a description/explanation of the items in the box for the inheritors of it, my offspring, K and Belle.  While doing so I began thinking of thousands of families who likely have similar stories – and boxes – and may or may not know some of the stories behind them.  You might not give two snakes’ elbows for a story about my extended family; in that case, kick back and rewatch “Young Frankenstein” and remind yourself of what a great actor we had in Cloris Leachman.  But in hopes of sparking at least one other person to ask a family member about their past…or open a forgotten storage box in their own closet….

What follows is an edited version of the document I wrote for K and Belle.

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The Combat Infantryman Badge is a U.S. Army military decoration awarded to infantrymen who fought in active ground combat while assigned as members of either an Infantry or Special Forces unit.

Your grandpa Chet was awarded this badge while in Alaska, serving with the 542nd paratroop infantry regiment, in the Aleutian Islands Campaign.

The Aleutian Islands campaign was…conducted by the USA and Japan in the Aleutian Islands, part of the Territory of Alaska, in the American theater and the Pacific theater of World War II.  In the only two invasions of the United States during the war, a small Japanese force occupied the islands of Attu and Kiska. The islands’ strategic value was their ability to control Pacific transportation routes.  Japan reasoned that control of the Aleutians would prevent a possible U.S. attack across the Northern Pacific. Similarly, the U.S. feared that the islands would be used as bases from which to carry out a full-scale aerial attack on U.S. West Coast cities. A battle to reclaim Attu was launched on May 11, 1943, and completed following a final Japanese banzai charge on May 29. On August 15 an invasion force landed on Kiska in the wake of a sustained three-week barrage, only to discover that the Japanese had withdrawn from the island on July 29.

The campaign is known as the “Forgotten Battle,” due to its being overshadowed by other events in the war. Military historians believe the Japanese invasion of the Aleutians was a diversionary or feint attack during the Battle of Midway, meant to draw out the U.S. Pacific Fleet from Midway Atoll, as it was launched simultaneously under the same commander, Isoroku Yamamoto. Some historians have argued against this interpretation, believing that the Japanese invaded the Aleutians to protect their northern flank, and did not intend it as a diversion.
(AIC excerpts from Wikipedia)

Although Chet’s unit was never directly involved the combat, he served in a combat zone.  The paratroopers stationed in Alaska had a dual mission: protecting the Alaskan territory from further Japanese invasion, and preparing for the invasion of Japan…which was stopped when the U.S. dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Having served in a combat zone, Chet was eligible for “full military honors”  at his funeral.  He was proud of his service as a paratrooper, but told my mother that, when the time came, he wanted her to decline the offer of full honors, as he felt it belonged to soldiers who had actually faced enemy fire. Thus, at his funeral (as you two may remember) he had what is known as “Military Honors,” which consists of two or more uniformed military persons doing a military funeral honors ceremony, including the folding of and presenting to the survivors a United States burial flag, and the playing of Taps.

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This is the enlisted soldier’s Signal Corps Badge.  Chet had that badge as well…and now I can’t remember where it is.

Each paratrooper had training as a rifleman/infantryman, and also in one or more specialties (besides learning how to jump from a plane and not die).  Chet was trained in Signal Corps duties (which he once described to me as, “Scrambling up the nearest tree” to set up long range cables).  After landing in enemy territory, his job would be to work with his unit’s radio operator(s) to set up radio communications.

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This is a WWII U.S. Army Paratrooper badge (aka “jump wings” pin).  I also have this pin… somewhere.  Chet gave me both pins – the signal corps and jump wings – years before his death. I used to wear them, along with other pins, on a denim jacket (he got a kick out of that), then when the jacket was falling apart I took all the pins off and put them away for safekeeping…and now I have no idea where they are.  ;-(

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The jacket in this box is a WWII paratrooper’s dress jacket.  It belonged to my favorite uncle, Bill O’Malley, my aunt Erva’s husband.   [1]   Bill O’Malley (“Billy” to his fellow soldiers) saw heavy combat in WWII – briefly in N. Africa, then in the European Theater of Operation (ETO).

I find what Bill experienced in WWII to be amazing, and I’m going to tell you what I know of it. Bill and Erva had no children to pass this on to, and their generation has all but died out – all gone, actually, on my side of the family.  It seems to me that someone (of a younger generation, ahem) should know his story, you know? My information is incomplete, and I won’t bore you with dates (most of which I don’t have, although I could look them up).  My purpose here is to convey some of what he went through. The words and phrases in quotes are, to the best of my memory, verbatim from what Bill (and in some cases, Chet or Erva or my grandmother) told me.

This information is pieced together from notes I made decades ago, plus many conversations Chet and I had about WWII and Bill O’Malley. The last and longest of these conversations a phone call the night before Chet died, during which I shared what Bill had told me when I’d visited Bill and Erva the summer after my fourth-grade year (I’d made a road trip to Spokane with my Aunt Gwen (Erva’s sister), Uncle Joe, and their son, Joey.  We all stayed at Erva’s & Bill’s Spokane house for two weeks).  I knew Uncle Bill had been a paratrooper, and one afternoon when the others were playing a lawn game in the backyard, I got Bill to sit down with me in his kitchen and talk about it.  Chet was flummoxed by some of the information I’d elicited;  Bill did *not* like to talk about the war and typically refused all entreaties – by adults – to do so (he did have a few war-related conversations over the years with Chet, whom he respected as a fellow paratrooper).  My theory is that, being a 10-year-old kid, I somehow disarmed Bill. My questions were sincere; I had no illusions about war “heroism” – I was just genuinely curious.  Bill didn’t have to impress or reassure me, the way he might have felt pressured to do by other adults.

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When Bill enlisted in the paratroopers he was ~ five years older than the others in his unit (they were teens – early twenties; he was in his mid-twenties). His age and skills soon enabled him to hold the rank of sergeant (and he aspired to no higher rank).  After completing his paratrooper training Bill was assigned to the 82nd airborne division.   [2]

In N. Africa, during one of Bill’s first combat drops, the pilot of Bill’s plane made a navigational error and dropped its paratroopers over the wrong site – a fact which was not discussed nor even acknowledged by the army, as Bill later discovered when he made the obligatory report of the incident to his superiors.  One of its planes going in the opposite direction it was supposed to go – yikes.  It was quite an embarrassment to the Army higher-ups. Bad for soldier morale!

As in that jump and all others afterward, Bill jumped with his favorite weapon, his “tommy gun.”   [3]    Bill was the jump master, and after realizing they’d been dropped over the wrong site, he and his squad disagreed as to what to do next.  There was nothing but sand in all directions; Bill spotted an outcropping and insisted they follow it. His squad rebelled and went in the opposite direction without him, even after he (convinced that he was right, and that they were headed to their deaths) pulled his “tommy” on them and ordered them to follow him. The twelve paratroopers were never seen from again; they presumably died in the desert from exposure.

Bill, following the outcropping, wandered for days in the desert until he was rescued by a Brit in a jeep who was patrolling the perimeter of a nearby British military encampment.  By that time quite dehydrated, Bill thought he was hallucinating seeing the jeep, until it drove up to within a few feet of him.  The British officer exited his jeep and said to Bill, in the most stereotypical, slightly perturbed, upper-class British accent,

“I say old boy, what are you doing out here all alone?”

“You son of a bitch!” is how Bill began his reply….

Bill was reassigned to the ETO, to a unit serving in Italy.  In an incident which resulted in the largest “friendly fire” casualties of WWII, U.S. guns at Sicily fired at planes overhead, which were actually U.S. planes carrying U.S. paratroopers. The 504th Parachute Infantry was shot to pieces – two dozen of our own planes, shot down by “us.”  More than 300 U.S. soldiers died.  Bill survived that tragedy, did another jump in Italy (Salerno), and was reassigned again.  [4]   His next unit became part of the massive Allied paratroop drop into Normandy at D-Day.  After that he went on to fight in the Battle of Bulge.

Not surprisingly, Bill was hospitalized in France after the war had ended, for what was then called “shell shock” or “combat fatigue,” but which we now know as PTSD.

Although the army hospital doctors pronounced him “cured” after a few weeks of rest, Bill’s shell shock was not totally under control when he returned to the States.  His first date with Erva was “a humiliating disaster.”  Being out in public made him nervous; he couldn’t shake the feeling of being constantly “on patrol.”  Erva drove on their first date, as Bill had no car.  After picking Bill up, she was driving down the main street of their town when the car in front of hers backfired, the sound of which caused Bill to dive to the passenger’s seat floorboards (“Scared me half to death!” Erva said).  Bill was deeply embarrassed, and even more so when, ten minutes later, he had to ask Erva to take him back to his apartment so he could change clothes.  He had sweated through his clothing – completely soaked the three-piece suit he had worn, the suit he’d “bought special,” to impress Erva.

Gradually, Bill readjusted to civilian life.  When I asked him how he did this he replied, “I never had to pay for a cup of coffee.”   I assume the confused expression on my ten-year-old face is what sparked him to elaborate: After the war ended, soldiers were treated with kindness by everyone.  Although civilians did not want to hear anything about the war that “didn’t involve heroes,” they showered the returning GIs with respect, gratitude, and gifts (including job offers).  Bill also didn’t want to engage in war stories talk.  He found the eagerness of the nation to “get on with it” and look to the future to be helpful to him as he strove to forget/push aside his memories of what he’d seen and done in The War.

One “memory” he brought home with him was a German Shepard. He’d found the dog during one of his last maneuvers before he was hospitalized – somewhere in France, when he and his unit were patrolling a battle site. The dog, dehydrated and starving but still vigilant, was guarding the corpse of its (presumed) handler, a German soldier.

 

A scenario akin to this, only the Nazi was dead.

 

Bill spoke some German to the dog, shared his water and rations with it, and the dog transferred its loyalty to Bill.  The doctors at the hospital where Bill was treated agreed to let him keep it, and he was able to get it shipped back to the States with him.

Bill loved that dog  (I can’t remember what he named it; something ala, “Scout”). However, everyone he met back in the States was wary of it, and for good reason. The dog was huge, and would “greet” anyone who came to see Bill by silently approaching them (it supposedly never barked or growled), rearing up on its hind legs, resting its front paws on the visitor’s shoulders, and baring its teeth and looking them straight in the eyes, as if it were pondering, “Hmmm, should I rip your throat out, or go for the eyes first?”   Bill would speak to the dog in German, then he’d (attempt to) reassure his visitor:

“He won’t hurt you, but don’t make any sudden moves.”

Erva was terrified of the dog, as were Bill’s neighbors, who complained to his landlord about having to live next to a dangerous animal.   [5]  After they’d been dating several weeks, Erva told Bill, “It’s me or the dog,” and Bill found it another home.   [6]

*   *   *

After completing their paratrooper training and before shipping out to Europe, Bill and his paratrooper unit (company? regiment? whatever the terminology, it consisted of 105 men) shared their respective family contact info and made a pact to have a reunion after the war – the original 105 of them, no matter what outfits/companies/regiments they ended up being transferred to.  One of the men made good on that promised and organized the reunion a year after the war ended…but there were only five of the original 105 left alive.  The rest had died, in combat or in paratroop jump “accidents.” Of the five, Bill was the only one who had not been seriously injured (he’d twisted his ankle diving into a foxhole during a mortar attack at the Battle of the Bulge, but had never been shot or stabbed during combat, as the other survivors had been).

Those figures blow my mind, as an illustration of how much “action” Bill and his original company saw: a casualty rate of over 99% and a death rate of 95%.

 

 

Bill O’Malley’s paratrooper dress jacket.

 

 

Chet regretted that he didn’t keep his paratrooper dress jacket.   [7]   When Erva was dying,   [8]  she told my parents that she wanted Chet to have Bill’s jacket.   Bill and Chet had bonded over their paratrooper service, and Erva told me that Chet was Bill’s favorite of his “Hole Sisters” brothers-in-law.    [9]

 

*   *   *

May you have fun going through your attic;
May you remember that you don’t need 90% of what you put in your attic years ago, certain that you might “need it some day;”
May you share your family stories while you still can;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Erva O’Malley, nee Hole, was your grandma Marion’s eldest sister.

[2] The 82nd Airborne Division, first formed during WWI as an infantry division, earned the nickname “All-American” because, unlike the other army divisions at the time, its soldiers hailed from all 48 states.  The 82nd’s uniforms had a double “A” design shoulder patch insignia.

[3] A Thompson machine gun.

[4] Chet said Bill kept getting reassigned to regiments and infantries and squads – still within the 82nd division.  After battles with heavy casualties if the army needed you elsewhere, they sent you elsewhere, sometimes without the “proper” documentation, and soldiers went where they were told to go.  Chet was not sure of the numbers/names of the various infantries, companies, etc., Bill served with, and since Bill seldom talked about the war, the few times Bill was willing to offer information Chet just listened and didn’t press for such bureaucratic details.

[5] Presumably the dog, and not Bill.

[6] With another GI who’d served in the ETO.

[7] When Chet was discharged after the war he was given a train ticket home, and had limited luggage capacity – he  was unable to fit the paratrooper jacket into his suitcase (and was already wearing his uniform and two other jackets on top of that) and gave it to a GI buddy at the train station.

[8] From lung cancer, in 1998.  Bill died from a burst aortic aneurysm in 1969. He was 51.

[9] The Hole family sisters, now deceased:  Erva, Gwen, Ruth, and your grandma Marion.

The Girl Scout Cookies I’m Not Buying

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Department Of Did The Last Four Years Really Happen?

I’m still numb.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Difficult Family Questions

Dateline: earlier this week, listening to a Freakonomics podcast (“How Much Do We Really Care About Children?“), I heard this statistic on U.S. birth rates:

“As of 2019, the total fertility rate was 1.7 — that’s 1.7 babies born per woman of child-bearing age over her lifetime.”

I immediately thought of my two children, K and Belle, both young adults and successfully fledged.  They keep up with politics, demographics and current affairs.  I pondered how moiself, as a Loving and Responsible Parent ®, can honestly respond to them should they run across this statistic, then pose the inevitable question.

How will I decide which one of them is the .7 child?  Should I flip a coin?  Make my judgment based on which one is more likely to visit me in the nursing home (or less likely to put me in one)?

 

*   *   *

Department Of Sometimes It’s Better To Let Your Imagination Run Wild
With The Question And Not Even Care About The Answer

The question I am referring to comes from the previously-referenced Freakonomics podcast episode (“How Much Do We Really Care About Children?“), which posed the question,

To what degree have car seats functioned as contraception?

 

*   *   *

 

“I thought Girl Scouts was supposed to be about making the world a better place. But this isn’t at all making the world better.”
( 14-year-old Girl Scout Olivia Chaffin, quoted in “Child Labor Linked to Palm Oil in Girl Scout Cookies, Snack Brands”)

 

 

Dateline: Sunday afternoon.  Moiself  was backing my car out of the driveway, just as The Cutest Girl Scout In The World ® left a flyer on my porch. She continued on, walking with her father (my guess) and another Scout to my neighbor’s house. I stopped my car, got out and waved, and from a maskless-but-safe-distance her father said the Girl Scouts were doing a different form of cookie sales this year – orders online – and that the information was in the flyer.

After returning from my errand, I googled to see if the reasons moiself    [1]   had boycotted Girl Scout cookies the past few years were still valid.  Sadly, yes.  The Scouts are still using palm oil in their cookies…AND…a report has just been released linking the production of that palm oil to child labor violations.

I have long wished  [2]  that GS fundraisers would involve a community service drive several times a year, akin to the Boy Scouts’ Xmas tree recycling service. I mean, community service – yay!  Besides, look at us Americans – no one should be eating those (or any organization’s fundraising) cookies.

 

 

But it’s the palm oil usage – specifically, the orangutan and other wildlife habitat destruction resulting from the production of palm oil – that has me the most concerned.  People can choose to snack themselves into Type II Diabetes, but orangutans have no choice in the matter of where they can live, and they certainly don’t choose to have their habitat razed to grow a cheap oil so that humans can have smoother ice cream, less runnier lipstick, and crisp cookies and potato chips.

When K & Belle were in the Oregon Zoo Teens program they learned about the problems with palm oil production, and began educating us – their parents, family and friends – on why we should choose products that did not contain palm oil and boycott those that did.  Such education should be right up the Girl Scout’s alley, so to speak, with the organization’s declared belief in “…the power of every G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader) to change the world,” and their manifesto, to build “girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place.”

But, according to the EcoWatch article, “Child Labor Linked to Palm Oil in Girl Scout Cookies, Snack Brands,” that ain’t happening.  Excerpts from the article (my emphases):

Environmental concerns first motivated then-11-year old Chaffin to investigate the source of the palm oil in the Girl Scout cookies she sold. Chaffin…saw that the palm oil listed on the cookie boxes was supposed to come from sustainable sources. However, she looked closer and saw the word “mixed”, which meant that sustainable and non-sustainable sources had been combined in the cookie recipe.

She swore off cookie-selling and launched a petition one year ago urging Girl Scouts to abandon palm oil….

Chaffin told The Associated Press that learning about the child labor issues   [3]   made her more motivated to fight for the oil’s removal….

The Girl Scouts did not respond to The Associated Press before the study was published, but did address the article on social media.

“Child labor has no place in Girl Scout Cookie production. Our investment in the development of our world’s youth must not be facilitated by the under-development of some,” the organization tweeted.

They said that their bakers and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) should take action if standards were being violated.

In other words, business as usual. They are shocked – shocked! – to learn about child labor violations (and don’t forget habitat destruction), but not enough to put any political or economic muscle behind their rhetoric.

The Girls Scouts claim to “…offer the best leadership development experience for girls in the world.”  Their girls are inadvertently learning a lesson in politico-speak (express concern, but don’t make any actually changes which may threaten your income stream), which is sadly common to leaders worldwide.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Quote Of The Year, 2021:

“But fuck you for being there.”

Moiself  realizes the year is young, but already there is a comment which so succinctly nails What Happened on January 6 ® that I am hard pressed to imagine what might beat it for Quote of the Year.

It comes from NPR’s January 15 article,  “Meet Three D.C. Police Officers Who Fought For The U.S. Capitol.”  Excerpted here,  the article contains interviews with police officers who were attacked by the pro-#45 mobs who stormed the US Capitol.

Beaten, tased, lying dazed on the steps leading out of the west side of the U.S. Capitol on the afternoon of Jan. 6, Officer Mike Fanone remembered thinking,

“…about the movie Black Hawk Down when the pilot gets stripped from the cockpit because guys were grabbing gear off my vest, they ripped my badge off of me, and people were trying to get my gun, and they grabbed my ammunition magazines.  I remember trying to retain my gun, I remember guys chanting, ‘Kill him with his own gun.’ “

Fanone was tased at least a half-dozen times. He says he considered using his gun to defend himself, but knew rioters would likely turn the gun on him. So he pleaded for his life.

“At one point, I decided I could appeal to someone’s humanity in this crowd. And I said I have kids,” he recalls. “Fortunately, I think it worked. Some people did start to protect me, they encircled me and tried to prevent people from assaulting me.”

Fanone, a 19-year veteran of the Metropolitan Police Department, was found and eventually pulled to safety by his patrol partner. He was hospitalized, and was told he had had a heart attack.

Fanone says he doesn’t want to get into what may have motivated Trump’s supporters, many of whom have long claimed they back police. He’s thankful he got out alive, but he’s angry that that was ever in question.

“The ones in the crowd that somehow appealed to their better angels and offered me some assistance, thank you,” he says. “But f*** you for being there.”

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Yes, This.
Reflections After The Inauguration

Although I love watching the Olympics and missed having the opportunity to do so in 2020,  [4]  moiself  did not miss having to listening to the devoted, often over-the-top-and-arrogant, fans of Team USA.  Hearing their strident, hyperbolic chants of, “USA! USA! USA! We’re Number One!” makes me want to do a number two, as I think of how those chants represent many of my fellow citizens’ understanding of our place in the world, both historically and in the present.

When it comes to being a “great” country, we *are* number one…in self-delusion and mythology.  Maybe, just maybe, we could be #1 in potential of across-the-board quality of life, if the majority of us could be honest with ourselves.

 

 

Those ideals in our founding documents,   [5] national anthem and patriotic songs are just that.  They are ideals to which we may aspire, but they are not reflections of either historical or present reality; they are a journey, not a destination.  We are not “there yet” – how could we be, when the codification and implementation of the lofty democratic ideals of our so-called fore-fathers involved the complete exclusion of our foremothers? The omission of political power for over half the country’s population lasted for 144 – yes, that’s one hundred and forty-four ­– years after our country’s “birth”!

We are not there yet.  And how can we ever be, when there is only grudging (if any) acknowledgement from too many of us about the reality of   [6]   the treatment of the original occupants of our land – the native/indigenous peoples, as well as those who did not come here willingly, but who instead were the “…tired, poor,  huddled masses yearning to breathe free/The wretched refuse of your teeming shore…” because our ancestors had enslaved them?

 

 

Make America great again? To anyone who chants that insipid call to political arms slogan: what can you possibly mean by, *again*?

You can’t make American something it never was.  Make America Live up to its great ideals – or tear them down and start over.

So sez moiself.  Thus, it was refreshing to hear Baratunde Thurston give his take on the subject, on a TED talk. Thurston, a writer, comedian, political commentator, activist, philosopher, and “futurist,” is also the producer/host of the marvelously titled, “How to Citizen, a podcast which “… reimagines the word ‘citizen’ as a verb and reminds us how to wield our collective power.”

“I really appreciate the honesty of saying, ‘We haven’t succeeded yet.’ I think we are so good at myth-making, about our greatness and our uniqueness and our specialness, that we forgot we’re not there yet.  We have a big number of us who can say, like,  ‘We used to be so great!’

How could you say that when half the population couldn’t even vote? *When are you starting the clock?*
So, there’s a lot to do. There’s value to the honesty that we haven’t really done it yet, and there’s motivation to the idea that we might get there.  And I think we have to be motivated by the pursuit, not just the arrival.  That we’ve gotten a little bit better; that we’ve reckoned with some of the more painful things, knowing there’s a laundry list of stuff we still haven’t dared to face honestly.  And if we get closer, that’s still good.”

( Excerpts from TED radio hour podcast, “How to Citizen,”
with Baratunde Thurston speaking with TED host Manoush Zomorodi )

*   *   *

Department Of Gut Check – Yep, I’m Still Numb

And just now daring to relax.  The inauguration happened; no one was shot.

When I finally let myself watch part of the proceedings moiself was both mesmerized and comforted by Amanda Gorman’s recitation of her stunning poem, “The Hill We Climb.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of One More Thing

And – hello, New York Times headline on the 20th   [7]    – I never, ever again want to read about #45 and his entire, vile, despotic, rapacious, racist, sexist, nepotistic, cadre of liars and thieves, unless the story has to do with their impending criminal charges, plea bargains, and convictions.    [8]

 

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

Finally it’s, 2021, and now I can truthfully say that hindsight is 2020.

 

*   *   *

May your children all be 1.0 and never .7;
May we work toward making our country great (not “again”);
May we aspire to deserve the voices of poets like Amanda Gorman;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] A former girl Scout, and lover of their Thin Mints cookies.

[2] And have done more than wishing; i.e., expressing to Scout leaders and writing to the national organization (with no response).

[3] “Child labor is another major problem for the (palm oil) industry, according to The Associated Press. The UN’s International Labor Organization estimates that 1.5 million children aged 10 to 17 work in Indonesia’s agricultural industry, of which palm oil is the dominant crop. In Malaysia, a 2018 study found that more than 33,000 children work in the industry, and that almost half of them are between the ages of five and 11.”

[4] On the off-chance you were off-planet, the 2020 Olympics were cancelled due to the pandemic.

[5] e.g. The Constitution, the Declaration of Independence.

[6] And never mind the possibility of reparations for….

[7] Who gives a flying fuck if Tiffany tR**p is engaged?  Shame on you for making me scroll past that in order to access my daily mini-crossword.

[8] And hopefully those stories will have at least eight footnotes.

The Blog Post I Wasn’t Planning On

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Noteworthy science podcast anecdotes; musings on how we understand, use (and misuse) the term “educated;” wondering how and why some people can believe in the efficacy of intercessory prayer; a bad pun or two; the last Partridge of the Week, etc.  I don’t know if the subjects I had planned to address in today’s post were more profound, but they were certainly more fun, than…this.

As in, What. Happened. On. Wednesday.

“It is my considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not.”
(Vice President Mike Pence, 1-6-21, in a letter to members of Congress.  From “Pence defies Trump, says he can’t reject electoral votes,” apnews.com )

“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done….”
( #45‘s tweet, after Vice President Mike Pence acknowledged he does not have the power to throw out electoral votes )

*   *   *

Someone needs to be shot for insurrection. 

If #45 had the cojones he accused Pence of lacking, he‘d call a press conference, resign, then blow his brains out   [1] on live television.  He‘d get the “biggliest ratings, ever!” which is and always has been his ultimate concern.

*   *   *

 

Prevoskhodno! This is all going according to plan.”

 

*   *   *

 

How many times did I read or hear, during the last four years,

“Yeah, I know he (#45) is a dick a horrible person as a person, but I’m voting for him because of ______ (conservative policy).”

As friend MM so succinctly put it,

“Everyone who voted for Trump for tax cuts and judges, you own this.”

 

*   *   *

What was it that the anti-Vietnam war protestors chanted as they were beaten by Chicago police in 1968?

“The whole world is watching.”

 

 

And they were.  And we are.

*   *   *

Department Of Get Him Out, Now.  How Can You Not?

Congress: Impeach. Invoke the 25th amendment#45 is clearly “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”    [2]   Get the SCOTUS to lead a squad of Capitol Police to arrest him.  Whatever it takes.

Please, no cries of, “But we only have to hang on another two weeks, for the good of the country…”

No.

For the good of the country,
he
needs to go. Would *anyone else* who had fomented a riot – committed sedition – *not* be held accountable?

For the good of the country,
his
legacy, as MH put it, “needs to be appropriate.”

For the good of the country,
we cannot let strongman hooliganism subvert or even delay our democratic processes.

For the good of the country,
we need to show the world – we need to show ourselves – that we have not become another anarchic banana republic our laws and ideals have actual meaning.

And, if he is allowed to just…leave, do you really want any portion of your tax dollars to go to his presidential pension?  $219,000 a year, for the rest of his deplorable life, living among whatever other deplorables can stand to abide with him?   [3]

 

“A Russian dacha or a North Korean apartment – your choice, Comrade.”

*   *   *

May we get the kind of honest, decent, compassionate leadership we need;
May you-know-who finally get what he deserves;
May circumstances allow moiself  to return to “regular programming” next week;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Not to worry; it’d be a small splatter, considering the target.

[2] Section 4, 25th Amendment to the US Constitution.

[3] There need to be more footnotes, but the only appropriate footnote regarding this deranged disaster of democracy is an unending torrent of FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK !!!

The Findings I’m Not Surprised By

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Is this really my last blog post of 2020?

Moiself  is torn between Say it ain’t so and Good riddance.   [1]

*   *   *

Department Of Partridge Of The Week

This week’s Partridge in our pear tree:

 


*   *   *

Department of Who Is This “We” Who Were Thinking This?

A recent podcast of Curiosity Daily, “Early Female Hunters Were More Common Than We Thought,” features a story on recent archaeological findings which have changed the assumptions scientists made about hunters of the early Americas. It turns out that female hunters were “…more common than we thought,” yet another discovery indicating that anthropological and archaeological interpretation of the lives and behavior patterns of early peoples have been interpreted through contemporary (read: patriarchal and male dominance) lenses.

 

 

Episode summary: anthropologists have long taught that life in hunter-gather societies was fairly unambiguous: the tribe’s strong, brave men hunted the animals and the patient, passive women gathered berries and roots and other necessities.  Recent archeological finds showed that the man-equals-hunter hypothesis was off the mark. The archaeological find of a female hunter buried with her hunting accoutrements was “so unexpected” (by male archeologists) that researchers decided to cast a wide net and see if this finding was  a “one-off,” or if there  might be evidence of other female hunters in graves that had already been excavated and cataloged.

Researchers looked at records of burial sites in North and South American which were more than 7000 years old.  A small percentage of those sites were found with artifacts which suggests that the graves/tombs belonged to hunters, and of that group, more than 40% were female. That was a surprise – to the researchers, but not to the “…ton of indigenous communities which already knew this.”

 

The fact that both the Greek and Roman gods of the hunt were female (Artemis and Diana, respectively) never gave researchers a clue?

 

The bigger, or perhaps ultimate story here, IMHO, involves, as the podcast host put it:

“…what counts as knowledge, or *whose* knowledge counts as ‘real’ knowledge?  These findings are a big deal to the western scientists and archeologists who have been wrong about this, for centuries.  The researchers point to a couple of reasons for this big mistake. One might be that  men *seem* to do most of the hunting in contemporary hunter-gatherer societies, which may have led archaeologists to assume that this was always the case.  They also point out that many researchers’ interpretations may have been colored by their own preconceived notions about males and females and the division of labor.”

Researchers and scientists have preconceived notions about males and females?  Shocking.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Little Things I Missed This Year

The big picture of  pandemic and worldwide economic upheaval, along with the twin holyshit revelations of how many of our citizens are clueless (and/or in denial) re the realities of science and of our history of systemic racism, is enough to boggle any mind and frost any fanny.

Moiself, of course, wants all of these problems solved – or at the very least, acknowledged.  No, mere acknowledgement won’t do.  I want it all fixed.  And more.

 

 

On a personal scale, I look forward to regaining some simple pleasures.

I want to be able to hug people.  I want to laugh uproariously (not from more than 6 feet apart, or behind a mask, or via a computer monitor) at someone’s outrageously great (or stupendously lame) joke, while nudging their arm in appreciation.

I want to watch a movie in a theatre, and turn to the side (or glance behind me) to catch the eyes of fellow movie-goers, strangers in the dark, laughing and gasping together, united briefly by our mutual, “Can you believe that ?!?!?” reactions to what we have just seen onscreen.

 

I even miss having the opportunity to “Shhhhh!” people.

 

I’d like to greet fellow hikers on a trail without crawling up the hillside to give them enough space to safely pass by.

In February I bought some nice clothes.    [2]    I’d like to have somewhere and/or some occasion – other than a funeral – to wear them.

Considering what so many people have had to deal with during this dumpster fire of a year, these are small grievances, I realize.

*   *   *

Department Of Mascot For The Year

Which one gets your vote?    [3]

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Things I Am Thankful For:
Friends Like SDH, Who Persist

This past year, and particularly before/during/after the election, my offspring and moiself  had some interesting IM discussions triggered by all of us having come across certain social media postings. These postings led my offspring to voice their despair when they saw friends and relatives falling down the rabbit holes – i.e., either personally expressing conspiratorial/anti-science sentiments or posting links which indicated they agreed with such views.

“Leave them alone/they aren’t really listening anyway/nothing you can say will be helpful/don’t get dragged down to that level by even engaging….”

I know these and other arguments for maintain a modicum of sanity: DO NOT RESPOND.

I also know that if everyone else refuses to engage with such people re such matters, then the only voices they will hear are of those fellow inhabitants of the rabbit holes.  And I also also *also* know personally, and have read about, other folks who have escaped from rabbit-hole viewpoints. These escapees attribute their being able to attain emotional and intellectual freedom to the patient, persistent, rational voices of a friend or family member – voices they discounted or even mocked at the time, yet which kept returning to them, and eventually got them to thinking,

“Wait a minute, how do I *really* know what I think I know?”

“Why am I trusting those sources, and not these?”

“Who benefits from me believing what I believe,
and who stands to lose – and lose what? – If I change my mind?”

 

 

I have pretty much given up on people who think doctors and researchers and scientists are lying to them but somehow find trustworthy the bullying rhetoric of a documented, serial liar/reality TV show host.  Meanwhile, those who study human behavior tell us it’s rare for someone to change a deeply held opinion.  That’s probably spot-on; still, I struggle with my responsibilities as a Good Citizen ® to countermand the crap that’s out there, particularly because moiself  has changed my mind on many issues over the years. These changes were due to moiself  encountering new or obtaining additional information on the issues at hand – and never, to my recollection, because someone insulted me or told me that my opinions were crap.

People rarely change their minds because someone calls them stupid or ignorant.  A calm, persistent interest in their opinions, a respectful questioning of how their opinions were formed and where they get their “facts,” seems to be the only thing that “works,” even if the odds seem to be against that (or any) approach.

Thus, here’s to those who persist, despite the odds.

Over the years I have watched many such tenacious souls in action, both in person and via the one social media site I frequent.  SDH in particular, whom I have known since junior high school journalism days, is quite amazing. He is a long-time professional journalist, and the investigative, analytical, and *people* skills he has honed over the years have served him, his profession, and our society,   [4]   quite well.

It’s not that SDH calls people out on their bullshit, it’s that, like the savvy reporter he is, he hangs in there.  He will not be misdirected; he patiently and persistently asks questions (Where did you get that? What are your sources?) while deftly deflecting ad hominem  attacks.  He responds with facts, facts, and more facts – always trying to bring the argument back to reality.

 

 

I haven’t the stomach for it; I “lurk” on the sidelines, reading with awe as SDH takes on cretinous blathering face-palming misinformation spewing, often from friends/acquaintances/family – people he has known for decades.   [5]  I admire this quality of SDH’s more than I can say, but since I’m a lousy artist (stick figures dancing in exultation is likely the best tribute I could draw), the “saying” will have to do.

And in the “saying,” I’m going to out him. It is my policy in this blog to initialize or alias-ize the names of non-public people, but as a journalist, with decades of bylines, SDH is already out there….  Besides, I want him to bask in his well-deserved glory:

 

Scott Duke Harris, A Purple Tortilla Chip Of Exclamation & Appreciation ® is for you.

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

Not to brag, but I already have a date for New Year’s Eve.
It’s December 31st.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Whatever You Celebrate

Happy Solstice!
Merry Christmas!
Happy Boxing Day!
Happy Kwanzaa!
Happy New Year’s….!     [6]

 

 

*   *   *

May you not need an archaeological find to make you examine your preconceived notions;
May 2021 bring a return to your favorite, simple pleasures;
May we all persist, despite the odds;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] The latter sentiment would refer to 2020, not my blog.

[2] Perspective check: “nice” as in relative to moiself’s wardrobe. In other words, not tee-shirts or tie-dye. 

[3] Absentee ballots, vote by mail – we’ll count them all!

[4] Really – I do think it is *that*mportant.

[5] And thus, there is an inherent, personal risk for him in doing so, in breaching such relationships.

[6] There should be no less than six footnotes per post, don’t you agree?

The Gender Reveal Parties I’m Not Invited To

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Department Of One Size Does Not Fit All

When it comes to giving grieving advice, the best (as in, most helpful) might be:

Speak for yourself.

 

Hardly profound…but…really.  Share your experiences and perspectives if asked to do so, but remember, they are just that.  *Your* experiences and perspectives are not necessarily prescriptive for others.  Preface your remarks with something along the lines of, “I can’t speak to everyone’s situation; this is what happened to me/my family, and this is what was helpful to me/us, and this is what was not….”

I have been reading up on grief experienced by families who have lost an adult child to addiction – a subject with which my extended family has had the misfortune to become acquainted with.  In several online articles and forums, I came across three similar stories of parents telling how

* news of their child’s death was greeted by silence from both friends and family;
*  such silence was painful to these parents as they grieved their loss;
* people later justified their silence with, “I honestly didn’t know what to say; I was afraid I’d say the wrong thing, and hurt your feelings….”

The similarity in these three stories was in the response of the parents to those people who explained or justified their silences. I am summarizing and paraphrasing their responses here, by quoting one particular parent:

” ‘Hurting our feelings?’ That’s impossible!”
“It is *impossible* to hurt *anyone* who has lost a child – we have already suffered the worst hurt imaginable.
Say something, anything, to acknowledge our loss.”

Her adamancy on this matter practically screamed from the text.  And I thought, “Well…certainly, she’s an expert on her own feelings, but why is she speaking in such absolutes – why is she presuming to speak for “anyone” (read: everyone) who has lost a child?”

Also, in several of the stories I read which both preceded and followed the It-is-impossible-to-hurt-us parent’s story, other parents – those whom she had labeled as-impossible-to-hurt –  spoke of how they *had* been further hurt, by unintentionally but nevertheless painful and/or thoughtless comments from friends and family, neighbors and co-workers, doctors and law enforcement officers.  Some people’s attempts at comfort came off as giving unsolicited advice to the grieving parents – often in the form of tacit or even overt religious proselytizing –  or as passing judgement regarding the deceased, whose death was spoken of as inevitable (“his own fault;” “a foreseeable consequence of her poor choices”) and therefore less shocking than losing a child in other ways, such as via auto accidents, illness, even homicide or suicide. 

 

 

Moiself  doesn’t want to add to humanity’s burden of of consistently and compassionately understanding when and how to comfort loved ones who’ve suffered these kinds of devastating, personal losses.  It’s complicated, to say the least, for both sides – the giving and receiving of condolences.  As one poet friend so precisely and evocatively wondered,

“Many have traveled here, so why are there no better maps?”   [1]

Better maps, indeed.  Someday, we may have them.  Until then, speak to and about someone’s loss with love and kindness.   When it comes to giving advice, speak for yourself.  And only yourself.  And *listen* to the bereaved, as if your life depended on it.

*   *   *

Department Of Is That An Infectious Parasite In Your Brain
Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?

Toxoplasma gondii exerts a strange sort of mind control on rodents: Once infected with the brain parasite, they seem to lose their fear of cats and become more likely to get eaten. When they are, the microbe can make its way into the feline intestine to reproduce. But a new study argues that T. gondii’s effects on rodents aren’t cat specific; instead, the parasite simply makes mice more eager to explore and less fearful of any species that might gobble them up.”
(Science, “Brain parasite may strip away rodents’ fear of predators—not just of cats.”

Given my previous advice, I  shouldn’t speak for my entire species, so I’ll just say that moiself  has no desire to gobble up a mouse or any rodent.   However, I recently saw a mouse infected with (I’m guessing) toxoplasmosis.

I can’t think of what else might explain its unusual, survival-fail behavior.  Oh, and if you’ve never heard about the life cycle of the toxoplasma gondii, treat yourself to a brief overview of arguably one of Mother Nature’s strangest, most face-palming, biological phenomena.

 

 

Dateline: Tuesday, 7 am-ish, leaving my house via the garage, to go for a walk.  The sun is not quite up; as I walk down the driveway toward the sidewalk I notice something scurrying in the front yard, to the right, about five feet from me, in the dirt underneath our redbud tree.  I approach the Scurrying Something, and see a mouse.

The mouse also sees me.  Instead of freezing in place or fleeing, it raises up on its hind feet and looks up, its beady little eyes staring right at me.  It begins to run in circles, first towards then away from me, and makes little leaps into the air and prances about, as if it is trying to attract my attention.  Is this a batshit crazy mouse, I’m thinking, or is this behavior trying to distract me away from, say, its nest that is nearby?    [2]     Or…is this a horny mouse who’s lookin’ for love in all the wrong places, and it thinks I smell like cat pee?  I’ll admit that my regular shower schedule has lapsed during the COVID quarantine months, but hey – it’s not THAT bad.

Toxoplasma gondii …can only reproduce within the bodies of cats, and in mice, the mind-controlling parasite has evidently evolved to make mice unafraid of felines and even…sexually attracted to the odor of cat urine….”
( “Mind-Control Parasite Kills Mice’s Fear of Cats Permanently,”
livescience.com )

Moving right along….

I’m bundled up against the 30˚ temp and fumble through my layers of clothing, trying to get my cellphone out of my pants pocket.  I want to videotape this mouse’s interpretive dance or whatever it is, and show it to my offspring, both of whom were biology majors and worked with mice in undergraduate research projects.  Just as I get my phone and find the video mode, the mouse scampers toward me, which gives me pause (uh, what if it’s rabid…and is that even a mouse-thing?    [3] ). Manic Mouse gets to within less than a foot of my foot, does a little pirouette, then makes a beeline for our pear tree, which is about four feet away, by the sidewalk.  I follow the mouse; it resumes its acrobatic antics around the pear tree’s trunk and underneath the surrounding azalea bushes.  The combination of the darkness, the rapidity of the mouse’s movements, and my less-than-stellar cinematography skills makes for a poor video.  I bid the mouse adieu and go for my walk, pondering, among other metaphysical wonders:

Why isn’t it pronounced, tox-o-plas- MOUSE -is?

 

“Yeah, what she said.”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Just Wondering
#589 In A Never-Ending Series

Why do our big toes *not* have their own separate, special name?  We have a unique moniker for the pollex, the short, thick first digit of the human hand: we call it the thumb, thus distinguishing it from the other fingers.  But we have ten toes, and they’re all just…toes.  Okay, the first ones are the big toes, but, c’mon, what kind of pansy-ass distinction is that?

Is it because, unlike many other primates, humans’ big toes are not opposable, and so the big toes get no respectable label?

I’m open to suggestions.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of What Happens To Your Brain When You When You Read Celebrity News
Before You Go To Bed

The news in question was someone’s Facebook posting of a Twitter announcement, from an actor, of said actor’s newly-claimed   [4]    trans status. The announcement included, of course, the customary pronouns preference:

“… I want to share with you that I am trans, my pronouns are he/they…”

I read this before dozing off ~ 10 pm.  Later, in the literal wee hours of the morning, I was awakened by the not-unfamiliar sounds of MH, getting out of bed to go to the bathroom but being not-quite-awake and forgetting where he was  (read: he’d walked into a wall and was feeling around for the bathroom door).

Moiself, sitting upright:
MH!

MH:
Yes?

Moiself:
You’re in Hillsboro.  And…

I stopped at “and.” But, honest-to-the-gods-whose-existences-I-refute, I almost added,   [5]

“…and your pronouns are he/his/him.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Speaking Of Gender    [6]

A Firefighter Is Killed In California Wildfire Sparked By Gender Reveal Party

“… The problem with gender reveals has grown so out of control, the woman who popularized them begged parents to “stop having these stupid parties” on social media. The most recent fire in California was started when clouds of blue smoke for a boy preceded the flames, which the expectant parents tried to put out with bottled water. In 2017, an Arizona gender-reveal party explosion started a wildfire that burned about 47,000 acres.”
( “After Gender Reveal Celebration Sparks Fire, Some Say The Parties Have Gotten Out Of Hand,”  Here and Now, 9-9-20 )

 

On one end of the scale of Humans Who Are Concerned About Such Things®, there’s a small but vocal crowd which insists, “Gender is just a construct.”  At the other end are those for whom gender is such defining human characteristic that they cause wildfires by trying to announce to an ask-us-if-we-care world the sex of their not-even-born precious snowflake baby.

Maybe y’all are ahead of me on this, but moiself  was gob-smacked to discover, which I did only recently, that more than one gender reveal party has started a wildfire.

 

Please, someone set fire to this.

 

To all future, even halfway serious considerers of holding a “gender reveal” gathering of any kind, please consider this: the only thing you will be revealing is probably no secret to those who know you:

“Congratulate us, we’re having a _____
(humanoid offspring of narcissistic morons) ! “

Gender is not “just” a construct,  if only “just” by the fact that for some folks, determining if a developing fetus is male or female gets their (non-gender-fluid) panties in a knot. 

 

Imagine the size of the knot which could entangle this pair.

 

“Just-a-construct;” “the end all and be all of life.” Perhaps these gender perspectives are the opposite side of the same coin… or,  the adjacent sides of the same tetrahedron, considering the complexity of the issue?   [7] 

When I was pregnant with son K and then daughter Belle, our neighbors gave a baby shower/party for moiself  and MH.  Me being, well, me, my dear, tolerant friends knew better than to host a women/moms only event, and the guys/dads truly seemed to enjoy being included in the festivities.  MH and I dared to wade through the murky waters of Being A Gracious Guest Etiquette ® by letting the party hosts know in advance that we did not want anything “gendered” – please, none of that pink or blue crap swag.  [8]    MH made it known that, in particular, any of those dreadful baby bows, which were popular at the time (mid-1990s) would be, how you say, not appreciated by the mother-to be.  [9]

From what I’ve seen lately, those ridiculous bows are making a comeback.  People: why are y’all doing this to your girl-childs? 

The first time I saw a girl-baby with one of those forehead bands, I felt so…dispirited.  Yet another reminder of how early it starts, for females:  a few days out of the V-shute and the world wants to start decorating her already?

I queried the first sets of parental units I saw whom had accessorized their child thusly; I asked in (what I thought was) an open-minded, even-toned manner, about what the forehead bow-thingy was for?  Each parental unit answered in the same way:

Gender-Crazed Parental Units:
“Oh, isn’t it cute?! That’s so people know our baby is a girl!”

Moiself :
“Oh…okay…well…your family and friends already know – I assume you’ve told them – your baby’s name, and that she’s a girl, right?”

GCPU:
“Yes, but other people don’t. And with most little babies, you can’t tell by looking at their faces whether it’s a boy or a girl. “

Moiself:
“And it is important for ‘other people,’ including strangers, to know your child’s sex, because…?”

Because it’s never too early to slap on those expectations and assumptions, and treat baby boys and baby girls differently from the get-go, before they can even sit up.

 

Why are they doing this to me? And why are boys and men already telling me to smile?

*   *   *

Department Of Partridge Of The Week

This week’s Partridge in our pear tree: Yeah, it’s a repeat of last week.  Because he didn’t get his full shift in.

 

 

*   *   *

 

Pun For The Day

Yesterday, a clown held the door open for me – it was such a nice jester!

 

“I’m going to haunt your dreams if you laugh at this – it only encourages her.”

 

*   *   *

 

May evil clown laughter never haunt your dreams;
May you nonetheless find a way to “encourage her;”
May you come up with a really clever name for your big toe;   [10
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Leslea Smith, from her poem “Terra Incognita,” ( Cirque literary journal v. 3 #2 ). 

[2] And if the mouse is nesting outdoors at this time of the year then it is a crazy mouse, as its offspring will not survive the cold.

[3] Nope.  Small rodents “almost never”  get rabies and are not a transmission source to humans, according to the CDC.

[4] I’m guessing; thus, the need for an announcement.

[5] I should have, but didn’t want to wake him, or moiself , up any more.

[6] Which I sorta kinda was here (enough to pass it off for a segue), and definitely was back here

[7] Or, perhaps I need a different metaphor.

[8] I had amniocentesis with both of pregnancies; MH and I knew, well in advance of any baby showers, K’s and Belle’s respective sex…but I can’t remember whom we told.  I know we kept the names private until birth – which we’d been advised to do by a wise friend:  “If someone doesn’t like the name you’ve chosen and they think there’s a gnat’s ass of a chance that they can change your mind – and they always think there is a chance that they can change your mind – they will try, so don’t tell anyone the name until it’s on the birth certificate.”

[9] Can you say, sling-shotted into orbit around Mars?

[10] And, it should go without saying, share it with moiself .

The Peace I’m Not Quite Keeping

Comments Off on The Peace I’m Not Quite Keeping

Is today still considered Black Friday, what with the COVID crisis limiting the for some white trash who look forward to the traditional shoving match at Walmart customary, day-after-Thanksgiving shopping frenzy?   [1]   Using the post-holiday letdown as an excuse inspiration, moiself  has decided that this will a lighter, less filling, politics-free post.

 

“Yeeeee-haw!”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Someone Is Not Understanding The Concept

Our city’s curbside recycling services recently (within the past year) added food waste recycling to their yard waste recycling service.  Each household was issued a small (~ 1 gallon) tan container for the house, to be kept on your kitchen counter, under the sink, wherever, for your potato and apple peels, squash rinds – all of your plant food waste.  When that container is full you empty it into your large (60 gallon) brown yard waste bin which you keep outside a foot or so over the property line, so as to annoy your neighbors next to your other garbage and recycling bins. the smaller container goes back inside the house. You wheel the big brown bin to the curb when it is your street’s garbage/recycling pickup day. Pretty basic stuff.

 

house food waste container on the front/left, which you empty into the yard waste bin on the right.

 

Our city, like most cities these days, has a fleet of garbage/recycling vehicles which are automated side load trucks.  The trucks have a crew of one – the driver, who operates a mechanical arm which grabs and lifts the recycling bin and dumps it.

Here is what moiself  observed on Monday morning, when I was walking in a neighborhood ~ 1 mile from my house, on that neighborhood’s recycling day.

 

 

*   *   *

Dept Of Avoiding Politics To Keep The Peace For Just One Day, But Of Course She Found Something Else to Tantalize Offend Some of Y’all

 

 

” ‘I prayed and I prayed and I prayed that she was out there,” Mr. Smart said.”
( Quote from father of kidnap victim Elizabeth Smart, from NY Times article,
“Utah Girl’s 9-Month Ordeal Poses a Puzzle Strange and Biblical,” 3-16-03 )

There are so many, many, many examples I could use, but I’ll settle on this one: Why do religious folk still engage, and/or seem to believe in, the efficacy of intercessory prayer, considering what happened to Elizabeth Smart?

 

 

Jesus Lied About Prayer
(excerpts from “Lies Jesus Told,”
from the blog, “EvilBible.com – fighting Against Immorality In Religion” )

“Jesus is quoted many times in the Bible saying that a believer can ask for anything through prayer and receive it.  He even goes so far as to say that mountains and trees can be thrown into the sea simply by praying for it.  This is clearly a lie, and can be proven to be a lie by any believer.  Simply pray for me to be converted to Christianity right away.  Or better yet ask God to move the mountains behind my house.  He could make a lot of converts that way.  If I’m converted today, I’ll post a public apology on my web site and devote my life to kissing God’s ass.  If I’m not converted it would only be fair for you to apologize and devote your life to kissing my butt.
Here are the quotes from Jesus that proves that he lied:”

(moiself’s comment: the following is number three of nine demonstrably claims, from the New Testament, attributed to Jesus, that the author of this blog lists):
(3) “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven.  For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.
(Matthew 18:19-20 NAS)”

Remember the Mormon girl, Elizabeth Smart, who was kidnapped from her Salt Lake City home at knifepoint when she was fourteen years old? She was held captive for nine months by her abductor.   [2]  The man, an excommunicated Mormon, claimed to be a prophet and an angel, and told Smart that she was …”the first of many virgin brides he planned to kidnap, each of whom would accompany him as he battled the Antichrist.” He repeatedly raped Smart, “…sometimes multiple times a day, forced her to look at pornographic magazines, and regularly threatened to kill her.”

Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven.  For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.

If the human interest stories about the case that I read were correct – if what we know about human nature is correct – there were definitely more than two or three people praying, in Jesus’ name, from day one when news of Smart’s abduction broke.  For nine months people prayed alone, and in groups, Mormons and Christians alike,  [3]  as well as believers of other faiths, for that poor girl to be found and returned to her family.

And Jesus was…where, during all of this?

If what Jesus said was trustworthy – and Christians claim that their scriptures are reliable in its narration of Jesus’ words and deeds – when those people were praying he was  in their midst  doing…just what, exactly?  Listening to them, hearing their earnest supplications, discussing it with his supposed father/god/himself ,  [4]  and ultimately, apparently, saying something along the lines of, “Yeah, we’ll let them find her, but not now.  We’ll allow her to get sexually assaulted for several more months, like the Congolese women who also keep praying to us as they are raped in the refugee camps.”

 

*   *   *

 

*   *   *

Department Of This Is In The Running For Best (Verbal) Curse Ever

“May all your shits have antlers!”
( from BoratSubsequentMovieFilm )

 

 

The visual version of this curse would be having to look at this picture.

 

*   *   *

Department Of What The World Needs Now, Is Love Sweet Love….
Or, Failing That, A New Game

Dateline: Thursday morning. My thoughts while walking past the Manzanita Links golf course, where moiself  espied at least six people prepping for a round of golf before halving to attend to Thanksgiving dinner or whatever.

As I passed the end of the course – the ninth hole – moiself   had a sudden realization: while I have no interest in golf such as it is, I am intrigued by the idea of playing it backwards.  How about instead of playing golf, we play Flog ® ?

 

“Only a stupid infidel would use a nine iron off the tee!”

 

No no no; not *that* kind of flog.

Here’s how to Flog: Using a specialty club –golf putters may need to be repurposed for flogging – players “hit” (or somehow coax) their flog balls out of the ninth hole, with the aim of getting the balls up to and atop the ninth hole tee.  Repeat with each hole after (before?) that, until you end up at the first tee.

Just imagine the skill set involved!  I mean, anyone can (eventually) hit a golf ball off of a tee, but the precision, tenacity, and dexterity in getting one *on* to it? Flogging will require an abundance of Zen-like focus and patience.

Flogging will be a high-scoring game – probably no two- or even three-par holes, and the odds against any player shooting a hole in one (tee in one?) will be astronomical.

What do you think – could this attract a whole new generation of players?  Or, are the logistics insurmountable ?  Obviously, you couldn’t have people golfing and flogging at the same time, as you’d end up with weird traffic jams,   [5]    so an existing course would have to decide, day by day, to be either for golfing, or for flogging.

So, when moiself   wins the lottery   [6]   I will rent out an entire course golf course for moiself and some thrill-seeking friends, and we shall Flog.

Community Service/Making The World A Better Place ® Bonus: We floggers will be a better-dressed bunch than golfers. That’s almost too easy to guarantee.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Partridge Of The Week

Our neighborhood knows the holiday season is in full swing when the lights go up on the pear tree in our front yard (the weekend after Thanksgiving) and stay up until early January. Each week, the tree hosts a Special Guest Star ®.  This week’s Partridge in our pear tree is, as always, the lead-off:

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

The cook couldn’t bother to season the thanksgving Turkey – she didn’t have the thyme.

 

“Yeah, sure lady – you’re a vegan, like we believe that!

 

*   *   *

Department Of False Advertising

Although I promoted today’s post as being politics-free, moiself  can’t resist mentioning this.  Dateline: Wednesday afternoon, listening to a podcast, wherein a physician/scientist was being interviewed about the COVID-19 vaccine options.  ‘Twas music to my ears to hear, more than once, the interviewer ask the scientist what he would be expecting and/or hoping from “…The Biden Administration.”

For the first time in four years, I could hear the word “administration,” referring to the federal government, and not feel the, nauseating, gut-twisting, I-told-you-not-to-eat-those-oysters  sensation in the pit of my abdomen, as was the case when the word “administration” was precede by the name of #45.

 

*   *   *

May you intrigue your mind with thoughts of other games
which might be played backwards;
May your soul be soothed by phrases like, The Biden Administration;
May all your shits have antlers;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Which might be considered a silver lining, of sorts.

[2] And is batshit crazy-evil wife, who abetted him.

[3] Mormons consider themselves Christians, but many (and most evangelical) Christians think that Mormons are *not* Christians.

[4] Remember, that pesky, basically incomprehsnsible Christian theology of The Trinity holds that Jesus and God are one.

[5] And head injuries, to boot.

[6] Read: never, as the way I understand it, you have to enter a lottery in order to win a lottery.

The Post-Election Rant I’m Not Posting

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Because there is too much post-election uncertainty for moiself  to compose anything else, it’s time for the annual intro to the holiday season.  Brace y’all selves.

 

 

 

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

“The idea of a “War on Christmas” has turned things like holiday greetings and decorations into potentially divisive political statements. People who believe Christmas is under attack point to inclusive phrases like “Happy Holidays” as (liberal) insults to Christianity….
Christmas is a federal holiday celebrated widely by the country’s Christian majority. So where did the idea that it is threatened come from?…
The most organized attack on Christmas came from the Puritans, who banned celebrations of the holiday in the 17th century because it did not accord with their interpretation of the Bible….”
(“How the ‘War on Christmas’ Controversy Was Created,” NY Times, 12-19-16)

 

*   *   *

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

 

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

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

 

*   *   *

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

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

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

Heathens Declare War on Christmas © post.

 

Department Of Did You Know…

…that the Reverend Increase Mather of Boston observed in 1687 that, “the early Christians who  first observed the Nativity on December 25 did not do so thinking that Christ was born in that Month, but because the Heathens’ Saturnalia was at that time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those Pagan Holidays metamorphosed into Christian ones.”  [4]

Because of its known pagan origin, Christmas was banned by the Puritans, and its observance was illegal in Massachusetts until 1681.  [5]

 

 

“Do you celebrate Christmas?”

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

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

 

 

Early Roman Catholic missionaries tried to convert northern Europeans to the RC brand of Christianity, and part of the conversion process was to alter existing religious festivals. The indigenous folk, whom the RC church labeled “barbarians,” quickly discovered that when it came to dealing with  missionaries, resistance is futile. The pagans intuitively grasped the concept of natural selection and converted to Christianity to avoid the price (persecution, torture, execution) of staying true to their original beliefs.  But they refused to totally relinquish their old celebrations, and so the church, eventually and effectively, simply renamed most of them.    [6]

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

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

The fir boughs and wreaths, the Yule log, plum pudding, gift exchanges, the feasting, the holly and the ivy and the evergreen tree….It is hard to think of a “Christmas” tradition that does not originate from Teutonic (German),Viking, Celtic and Druid paganism.   [7]   A celebration in the depths of winter – at the time when, to those living in the Northern Hemisphere, the sun appears to stop its southerly descent before gradually ascending north – is a natural instinct. For thousands of years our Northern Hemisphere ancestors greeted the “reason for the season” – the winter solstice – with festivals of light and gift exchanges and parties.  The Winter Solstice was noted and celebrated long before the Roman Jesus groupies pinched the party.

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

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

 

 

And Woden is the reason the middle of the week is named Wednesday.  [8]   My calling Wednesday “Wednesday” doesn’t mean I celebrate, worship or “believe in” Woden.  I don’t insist on renaming either Christmas, or Wednesday.

 

“Now, go fetch me the 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.   [9]   The early Romans celebrated the Saturnalia on the Solstice, holding days of feasting and gift exchanges in honor of their god Saturn. (Other major deities whose birthdays were celebrated on or about the week of December 25  [10]   included Horis, Huitzilopochtli, Isis, Mithras, Marduk, Osiris, Serapis and Sol.)  The Celebration of the Saturnalia was too popular with the Roman pagans for the new Christian church to outlaw it, so the new church renamed the day and reassigned meanings to the traditions.   [11]

In other words, why are some folk concerned with keeping “the Christ in Christmas”  [12]  when we should be keeping the Saturn in Saturnalia?

 

 

*   *   *

Whatever your favorite seasonal celebrations may be, I wish you all the best.

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

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

[2]  Damn right I’m proud of that one.

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

[4] “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.

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

[6] “Paganism in Christianity.”

[7] “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

[8] 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.)

[9] 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.

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

[11] 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.

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

The Genre I’m Not Reading

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Department Of One Of My Favorite Questions To Ask
(of anyone, about moiself  )

“Do I have a bit of chocolate stuck between my teeth?”

 

She’d be happier if it were a piece of Lindt 85%  instead of spinach.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Getting Really, Really Genre Specific
Sub-Department Of Who’d A Thunk It?

After a three-year, self-imposed sabbatical from the business side of What I Do ®  [1]  I’ve been doing some research into the state of literary publishing   Research as in, getting (re)acquainted with who (as in publishing companies, large and small) is out there and what they want and/or specialize in.

When I started this task, I was wondering if things are just as bad as when I said *ick* and walked away.  The answer: Yep (as in, duh), and even more so.

However, I am discovering hidden   [2]  gems that make this task worthwhile.  Such as, this list, from the writers guidelines posted on the website of a particular publishing house, for a particular editor’s areas of interest rearding manuscripts she wishes to review (my emphases ):

“….contemporary romance, women’s contemporary fiction, historical fiction, gay fiction, dark suspense and thrillers, Amish romance.…”

Holy bodice ripper! There’s more than one editor with that unusually specific, uh, specification:

“80,000-word contemporary romance—either sexy or sweet, Amish and inspirational romance, women’s fiction….”

“Amish romance” as a genre. This is news to moiself – and, perhaps, only to moiself ? Did y’all know about this and if so, why did you keep it to y’all selves?

I can’t imagine the market for Amish Romance © is substantial for actual Amish readers, whom (ya think) would be forbidden from tainting themselves with such “English”    [3]  depravity.  Amish romance as a genre must be for the lurkers.  The kind who…you know…like to watch.  Or read. 

 

 

I’m not a genre writer, nor reader. I have read books that would fit such classifications (e.g. a Zane Grey western or two; some Agatha Christie mysteries, four or five Star Trek “novels” ). Without knowing much about the genre – except that there are, apparently, far more sub-genres than I would have imagined – “romance” is the least interesting genre to moiself …up until now.

I find moiself  wanting to at least skim through the pages of something that would qualify as an Amish Romance.  I’m trying to imagine the content of such: the exchange of furtive glances over the milking stool; sly winks by the well after the quilting bee; coy lasses who offering their luscious berries for perusal during the barn raising….

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of  Next Tuesday, Y’all Know What To Do

 

 

*   *   *

Speaking of the election, and what with the approaching holiday season….

Department Of How To Get Dis-Invited To Extended Family Gatherings

It’s easy! First, post something like this on your Facebook page:

I have family members, who are religious, who are likely voting for #45.

Because tR*** says the magic words conservative Christians want to hear about two key issues for them: taxes and abortion – and he of course *lies* to his supporters about this (he was pro-choice until he planned his presidential run as a Republican, as documented here and other places: https://qz.com/…/trump-shifted-from-pro-choice-to-pro-life…/), they are apparently willing to ignore/overlook/excuse all the rest?

This saddens me in ways I cannot express…so I’ll post it here, and never get invited to extended family Thanksgiving dinners again. 

Then, add a link to McSweeneys’ A catalog of Trump’s worst cruelties, collusions, corruptions, and crimes.

 Any questions?

 

 

” Restrict/criminalize abortion!  Lower taxes! “

Lather; rinse; repeat, and conservative evangelicals will lick your otherwise faith-mocking, narcissistic, heathen patootie.   [4]

It is interesting to moiself – and by “interesting” I mean, repulsive – that so many Christians are willing to overlook a politician’s flagrant, repeated, unapologetic violations of *their* scripture’s advice on issues which, if you take their scriptures as true and literal accounts of their god’s messages to them (and most conservative Christians do), were of primary importance to Jesus:

* caring for the sick, poor, imprisoned, and vulnerable

* treating others as you wish to be treated

* giving your possessions, even clothing, to those who have none

… and instead support this same lying adulterous racist misogynist politician who spouts the rhetoric they want to hear about abortion, an issue about which Jesus never spoke, despite abortion being known and practiced since ancient times. Yep, as long as humans have been pregnant/getting each other pregnant, they have found ways of intentionally ending unwanted pregnancies.

The practice of abortion—the termination of a pregnancy—has been known since ancient history. Various methods have been used to perform or attempt an abortion, including the administration of abortifacient herbs, the use of sharpened implements, the application of abdominal pressure, and other techniques….
Many of the methods employed in early cultures were non-surgical. Physical activities such as: strenuous labor, climbing, paddling, weightlifting, or diving were a common technique. Others included the use of irritant leaves, fasting, bloodletting, pouring hot water onto the abdomen, and lying on a heated coconut shell. In virtually all cultures, abortion techniques developed through observation, adaptation of obstetrical methods, and transculturation.

(excerpts from the Wikipedia article, History of Abortion)

“The Bible never once specifically forbids abortions; it’s actually quite the contrary! Not only were methods of abortion well-known at the time, there’s times when the Bible states God commands that one take place. I’m going to walk through a few examples as illustrations.
* In Genesis 38, we have the story of Tamar
* Hosea: Progeny of the Rebellious Shall Not be Born
(Hosea 9:14:  God will cause the deaths of the unborn, as he will “give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts.” Hosea 13:16: “Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up.”)
* Sotah: Abortion-Inducing Potion due to Husband’s Jealousy  [5]

(In Numbers 5, instructions are given by God to Moses regarding situations where a husband is fiercely jealous of his wife: his wife should be made to take a drink that will cause an abortion if she slept with another man…regardless of whose child it is).
* Causing a Miscarriage: Mere Property Loss
(The Bible didn’t treat miscarriage as murder, regardless of intent. Rather, it was treated as a property loss by the father, punishable by whatever fine the judges felt was appropriate. This is spelled out in Exodus 21:22-25  )
(excerpts from Biblical Abortion: A Christian’s View)

 

 

As for taxes, Jesus is quoted as advising tax collectors to do their job honestly.  He is mentioned/quoted about twice in personal stories about taxes, both times advising that people pay the taxes they owe. He had plenty to say about people who strive for and value the accumulation of wealth, and none of it was positive.

In the New Testament, Jesus offers more wisdom and has more to say about money than any other subject besides the “Kingdom of God.” I remember when I first heard a pastor proclaim from the pulpit that Jesus said more about money than he did about love. To be honest, I was a little angry. There was no way that was true, I thought to myself. I’ve grown up hearing that “God is love,” but now I find out He may care more about my checkbook than my heart?
Sure enough, after doing a bit of research on this subject as well, I discovered that the pastor was right: Jesus talked more about money than he did Heaven and Hell combined. Eleven of the 39 parables He tells are about finances.
( “Jesus Talked the Most about…Money? “)

 

“Gotcha on that one, eh bro?”

 

Jesus presented the desire to accumulate riches as both an offense to faith and an obstacle to faith.  This is something “prosperity Christians” find easy to ignore, by concentrating on other issues they think don’t apply to themselves (like homosexuality and abortion, both of which existed in biblical times and yet were not condemned, nor even spoken of, by Jesus).

Some of Jesus’ better-known quotes on the subject of money include:

* “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6)

* Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:23–25)

* “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” ( Luke 16:13)

* “Whoever has two tunics should share with him who has none, and whoever has food should do the same.” (Luke 3)

Every so often when discussing the prosperity gospel, I hear proponents say, “But surely God doesn’t want us to be poor, does he?” ….People who say such things ignore the many Bible passages addressing wealth…
They also choose to ignore the many biblical passages warning against the detrimental effects of wealth—and especially love for wealth. You don’t hear prosperity preachers mention such verses. It’s as if their Bibles are missing them.

(from “Bible Verses Prosperity Preachers Wish Didn’t Exist“)

Jesus did not oppose the payment of taxes. In fact, Jesus paid taxes.
In Matthew 22:15-22, the Pharisees ask Jesus, “Tell us … is it against our law to pay taxes to the Roman Emperor or not?” Jesus responds, “Why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin for paying the tax!” They brought him the coin and he asks them, “Whose face and name are these?” “The Emperor’s,” they answer. So Jesus says to them, “Well, then, pay to the Emperor what belongs to the Emperor, and pay to God what belongs to God.”
 Matthew 17: 24-27 relates the story of a group of tax collectors asking Peter, “Does your teacher pay the … tax?” Peter’s answer, “Of course,” is followed by Jesus instructing Peter as follows: “… go to the lake and drop in a line. Pull up the first fish you hook, and in its mouth you will find a coin worth enough for my tax and yours. Take it and pay them our taxes.”
 Romans 13:6-7: Paul explains, “That is also why you pay taxes, because the authorities are working for God when they fulfill their duties. Pay, then, what you owe them; pay your personal and property taxes, and show respect and honor for them all.”
( excerpts from “What does the Bible say about taxes?
By Ken Milani, professor of accountancy at the University of Notre Dame, and Claude Renshaw, emeritus professor of business administration at Saint Mary’s College.
Both men are Christians.)

 

“Got that? And keep your noses out of women’s and LGBTQ folk’s business!”

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

A cheese factory exploded in Paris – onlookers were showered with de Brie!

 

*   *   *

May you not feel the need to consult Iron Age manuscripts for 21st century personal or financial guidance;
May you imagine your own Amish romance;
May we all get chocolate stuck in our teeth;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  AND GET OUT THERE AND VOTE !!

Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] For a variety of reasons, some discussed in this space, mostly summed up by my disdain for what is happening in that business:  ICK.

[2] At least, heretofore, from moiself.

[3] The Amish refer to the non-Amish as English.

[4] ” Trump Secretly Mocks His Christian Supporters: Former aides say that in private, the president has spoken with cynicism and contempt about believers.”  The Atlantic, 9-20-20; “…half of U.S. adults either say they’re not sure what Trump’s religion is (34%) or that he has no religion (16%), while just 33% say he’s Protestant.” Most Americans don’t see Trump as religious; fewer than half say they think he’s Christian, Pew research Center, 3-29-30   And Americans overall don’t think Trump is particularly religious: A majority say Trump is “not too” (23%) or “not at all” (40%) religious… “

[5] Sotah is an old Hebrew term for a woman accused of adultery.

The Good Old Days I’m Not Remembering

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Department Of The Joke I Wish Was Not So Spot-On Descriptive

Q. How many Republicans does it take to change a light bulb?
A. None; #45 just says it’s been changed and the rest of them sit in the dark and applaud.

 

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Department Of The Good Old Days Are More Old Than Good

Why is nostalgia like grammar?
We find the present tense and the past perfect.   [1]

Thanks to the podcast Curiosity Daily, moiself  has learned that there is a classification for the nostalgic lens with which my mother viewed the stories of her childhood. In the podcast’s August 13 episode, one of the topics was nostalgia.

Nostalgia is a sentimentality for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations…..
Nostalgia’s definition has changed greatly over time. Consistent with its Greek word roots meaning “homecoming” and “pain,” nostalgia was for centuries considered a potentially debilitating and sometimes fatal medical condition expressing extreme homesickness. The modern view is that nostalgia is an independent, and even positive, emotion that many people experience often. Occasional nostalgia has been found to have many functions, such as to improve mood, increase social connectedness, enhance positive self-regard, and provide existential meaning.
( excerpts from Wikipedia entry on nostalgia )

Specifically, the podcast focused on the fact that the folks who study such things (nostal-geologists, as I like to think of them) have classified nostalgia into two types: restorative versus reflective nostalgia.

Restorative nostalgia is when you feel like things used to be better in the past, and you long to relive or even reconstruct the way (you think) that things were.  Reflective nostalgia involves recognizing your wistful feelings about how things used to be, and admitting you sometimes long for the old days even as you accept the fact that the past is past and that your perceptions of that past are probably biased.

 

 

I had an immediate, visceral reaction to hearing the names and descriptions of the two types of nostalgia;  Moiself  felt like I’d won a jackpot of sorts, in having a spot-on term for the kind of “looking back” my mother preferred to do.

My mother was quite willing to share her stories of growing up in the small northern Minnesota town of Cass Lake.  I frequently asked my parents about their childhoods, as I found their stories entertaining, fascinating, and ultimately revealing (even as I later found out about all of the concealing that was going on).  My father was the more skillful storyteller, both in the entertaining way he presented his stories and, as my siblings and I discovered in our adulthood, in his deftness at deflecting or avoiding talking about certain times of his life.    [2]   But this space, today, is for my mother’s restorative nostalgia.

As a child I’d observed that adults had this thing for “the good old days.” Although my mother didn’t present her stories with that introduction, the forthright manner in which she presented How Things Were Back Then ® made me astonished by the idea that anyone would pine for the olden days.

Restorative nostalgia: even as that kind of rose-colored-glasses/longing for the past is understandable, I’ve come to believe that it is ultimately not helpful, and can even be damaging.  Besides being unreal – you can’t and go back and make things the way they were – restorative nostalgia is, or should be, undesirable, for any rational person. When I have met people who really and truly seem to wish for “the way things were,” I sometimes want to bitch slap them into reality…

 

 

…and ask them, Have you fully considered the totality of that “safe space” you think you long for…and would you be willing to take everything else that came with it?

Those “simpler times” for which many people wax nostalgic included the not-so-simple realities of massive (and oft-times life-threatening) racial, gender, and sexual orientation repression and discrimination.

“Wait a minute, Mom – I remember you telling me…”  became my unintentional mantra, when it came to listening to my mother’s restorative nostalgia.  And after I had pointed out what, in my opinion, needed pointing out, she would respond with a somewhat conciliatory, “Oh yes, well, there was that….”

One day when I was visiting my parents back during the first Gulf War, I brought up the subject of current events.  My mother began telling me about how she found herself “pining for” the days of World War II, aka, “The Good War.”

Uh….Mom…those were days when the WORLD was at WAR.

“Oh yes, well, there was that… but, she continued, everyone knew each other in the town, and they all pulled together, and there was a feeling of solidarity….

I tried to validate that for her, then gently asked her if the pulling-together part made up for that awful day when the news came about the small town’s Bright Shining Hope:  the Cass Lake High School star athlete and recent graduate, beloved by all and engaged to a local girl, was killed in combat in Europe. The news devastated the town.  And didn’t she remember telling me about how horrible it was when the “telegraph truck” drove down Main Street, and when people saw it coming they ran into their houses, as if they could hide from the bad news, as if their shut doors would mean that the notice of a husband/brother/son/cousin who was KIA or MIA or wounded would pass on to another family….  And didn’t she remember telling me how “sick to death” she was by the adults who used the war to excuse their incompetence and blunders that had nothing to do with wartime circumstances, but if you tried to bring it to their attention or ask them to correct their mistakes, they’d sneer at you and say, “Don’t you know there’s a war on?!” and you’d be accused of being unpatriotic if you said anything after that?

 

 

“Oh yes, well, there was that….”  But things were “simpler” back then, in the old town/small town days, she declared. 

Well, maybe, I said…but “simple” doesn’t always equate to better, or even good.  And it seems far from simple – it seems complicated, even frightening, to me – to ponder much of what people had to navigate back then.

What would that be, she wondered?  She said she liked to remember the simple days, like the time when she and a friend walked back to their respective homes late one night after a school activity – they thought nothing of walking home after dark because they were safe from danger in a small town, and she’s thought of that over the years, when she couldn’t sleep until her own school-age children were home because she worried about us being out after dark….

“But wait a minute, Mom….”   you had so many dangers back then that we don’t have now. Maybe you felt safe walking home at dark, but I remember the rest of that story you told me:  the very next morning, when you went to your friend’s house to walk with her to school like you did on every school day, you saw the frightening QUARANTINE! sign on her front door.  Your friend had been stricken – overnight, seemingly out of nowhere – with polio and was being kept alive by an iron lung, and your parents were almost frantic with fear, thinking you might also be infected.   And over the years I’ve heard about children in your small town who were crippled, even blinded and deafened, by diseases for which we now have vaccines and/or cures….

 

Quarantine sign, Polio. 2005.3080.07.

 

“Oh yes, well, there was that….”  But still, she insisted, people were friendlier back then. They pulled together, and put aside their differences to cooperate as equals – being a good citizen meant something, back then.

“But wait a minute, Mom…. The “everyone pulling together” did not, in fact, include everyone.  Some citizens were more equal than others.  Don’t you remember telling me about “the Indian kids,” who were required by law to go to public school until age 13, after which they all dropped out, and how they all sat in the back of the class and the teachers rarely spoke to them and they never spoke in class?  You said, when I asked about their tribal affiliation, that you thought there were “at least two kinds of them,”    [3]  but you didn’t know what the “kinds” were – none of the whites did, because they weren’t interested and didn’t bother to find out, even though all the whites in town knew who was Norwegian-American and who was German- or Swedish-American…and that sometimes you felt bad for the Indians because you knew they had gone from being the majority to a minority in their own land….

And you told me about a high school girl who befriended the son of the only Chinese family in town – a family that had to constantly remind everyone during “The Good War” that they were Chinese, not Japanese – but this girl’s parents forced her to stop even speaking with him because they were horrified by the idea that their daughter might want to date “an Oriental”…. and when that Chinese family opened a grocery store because they couldn’t shop at the other stores in town during regular hours   [4]  no one patronized their store, and they were unable to make a living and moved to another town….

 

 

“Oh yes, well, there was that….”   Still, it was so much fun, the carefree high school days, she said, asking me if I remembered her telling me how she got to be lead saxophone player in the marching band (in such a small school in such a small town, if you played an instrument, you got to be in the band) and was valedictorian of her high school?  You know, back then, the teachers knew all the students and their families; they took a personal interest in their students, and everyone was so nice….

“But wait a minute, Mom…. What about the fact that your mother had to call the school principal and fight to get you into the physics class, because the physics teacher refused to “waste my time teaching science to girls”?  And then, after the principal forced the teacher to accept the two top students in Cass Lake High School – two girls, you and your best friend, Dorothy K – into his class, the teacher refused to speak to you or call on you when you raised your hand, and said openly to you and Dorothy on the first day of class that although it was against his will he’d been ordered to allow them in his classroom, and he grudgingly agreed to teach Dorothy because, “It’s obvious that she will have to work for a living.”

 

 

“Oh yes, well, there was that….”

Then, without a modicum of introspection or self-awareness, my mother said, “Oh well, it turned out I never found physics to be very interesting….”

Well, of course not – why would you have?!?!?!  You were actively discouraged from being interested in it! The teacher paid no attention to you – he didn’t care if you learned anything. He had to give you an A because you read the required materials, aced all of the tests, and all the other students knew you had the top grade in the class.

And what about the way your best friend, Dorothy K, was treated?  Because she was “disfigured” – a botched forceps delivery damaged her facial muscles, causing the right side of her face to droop, as if she’d had a stroke – Dorothy was raised to accept the “fact” that because she lacked the most important feminine asset – a pleasing face – no man would ever want to date, much less marry her, and that she would need to make her own way in the world…in a world where the same men who would not consider her romantic partner material were also predisposed to not consider her their intellectual or professional equal….

“Oh yes, well, there was that….” 

And that job you had, after your junior college graduation: you worked as a secretary at the post office, and you said it drove you nuts, how the clerk was so incompetent and you often ended up doing his duties (but of course you didn’t get paid for doing so), and you knew you could do the job better but when you asked the manager you were told that, as a woman, you weren’t eligible to even apply for such a position…and how you were saving up your money to buy a car, but as soon as you were married you had to quit your job, because a married woman couldn’t work at the post office….

“Oh yes, well, there was that….”

and that…and that…and that…and that….

The incidents – read: life – my mother told me about…how do I explain this?  She never told those stories as examples of hardship or discrimination.  She presented them matter-of-factly, and often seemed to be befuddled by how gob-smacked I was to hear them.  To her, that was just the way things were; I heard the between-the-lines details – hardship and fear, racism and discrimination – that didn’t even, technically, require me to read between the lines, as they were, to me, glaringly overt…even as those details were, to her, not the point of her stories.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Dorothy Is Not In Kansas Anymore

I met my mother’s friend, the afore-mentioned, legendary (to moiself ), Dorothy K, only once.  I was in college, home for a visit, and my mother excitedly told me that her friend Dorothy was returning to the States after her latest overseas trip, and had arranged to take a flight to LAX. My parents picked up Dorothy at the airport and brought her to their house, where she stayed overnight until she caught a flight back to her home.    [5]  

I was somewhat enthralled with the idea of Dorothy: over the years, I’d heard about how she was a chemist, made good money, and spent her free time travelling around the world.  When I finally met her I remember thinking how attractive I found her to be – she had “good bones,” and I couldn’t help but wonder how her life would have been, sans that incompetent doctor forceps mishap.

Part of my enthrallment came via comparing her life to my mom’s.  Moiself  (ungraciously, I know) saw my mother as a staid homemaker, someone who worked all day but never got paid and who had never been anywhere except for Cass Lake and Santa Ana. And here is her friend, with a career in science, who travels the globe….

I later thought of the ironies of Dorothy’s life, including the fact that the characteristic which made her “damaged goods” in the eyes of her culture is also what allowed her to go to college and work in fields that were closed to women in that time.  Her disfigurement essentially neutered her in the eyes of males; thus, she presented no threat of “distraction” (i.e., of them being sexually attracted to her).  Although I’ve little doubt that she faced discrimination (she shared a few stories with me, about always being the only woman in her department), it was as if she were a third gender: since men didn’t see her as a woman she was less of a threat to male colleagues, in terms of them having to consider that they were being equaled, or even bested, by a woman.

My mother (privately, years after Dorothy’s visit) admitted to me that she sometimes wondered what it would like to be Dorothy, whom she saw as independent and carefree.  And I wondered, is that how Dorothy saw herself?  Considering the culture she was raised in, instead of fully embracing her life – her career and the intellect she was allowed to develop – did she ever compare herself to, say, my mother?  Did she in any way envy my mother for having a husband and children – for having the life Dorothy was told would not be possible for her, even as it was the only/ultimate/proper life to which a girl was supposed to aspire? Or, did she look at my mother’s life and find it…tedious, and limited?

Such questions haunt me, whenever I think of Dorothy.  I wish I could ask her, but she died several years before my mother did. I can only hope that whatever nostalgia Dorothy dabbled in, that it was reflective, and brought her satisfaction.

 

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

You know what seems odd to me?
Numbers that aren’t divisible by two.

 

 

And I also vote for more nerd puns in this space.

*   *   *

May your nostalgia be reflective;
May you live in the present with your eyes open;  [6]

May you change the damn lightbulb when it needs changing;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Couldn’t find attribution for this old pun.

[2] In last week’s post, I mentioned a few of them. My father died not knowing his adult children had found just how poor (and dysfunctional) his family was, and that he’d never graduated (nor even attended) high school because his father forced all his children to drop out of school at age 13. And when I found this out, some missing pieces fell into place; I realized that all the stories Dad had told about his youth, to his children, were carefully told to hide those details.  For example, we’d made assumptions that the job he talked about having “after school” was part-time, when in fact he was working fulltime, when his peers were in school, and we never put the pieces together to realize that the school stories he’d shared were all pre-high school….

[3] The Minnesota Chippewa Tribe and the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe were “two kinds” of indigenous tribes which had settled in the Cass Lake area, centuries before Europeans arrived.

[4] One grocer let the Chinese family shop at his store early, before regular hours, so that the other (white) families wouldn’t see them.

[5] …to wherever that was for her.  I cannot remember; it was in some larger city.  She’d left Cass Lake to go to college, and only returned to that small town to visit her parents, who remained there until their deaths.

[6] Even when it too often involves holding your nose (think: #45 and his primeval toadies) and wishing for a fast track time machine to the future

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