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The Vacation Schedule I’m Not Maintaining

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Trigger Warning

 

“I couldn’t believe it, because they actually did it.  The court actually took a constitutional right that has been recognized for half a century and took it from the women of America — that’s shocking when you think about it.”     [1]

*   *   *

Department Of It’s Baaaaaaaaack….

Attentive and longtime readers may have noticed that for the past eight weeks this disclaimer opened my blog posts:

Thanks for checking in, so to speak (…er, write).  I am taking moiself  on holiday.  From this Friday and through June, I will be posting blogs from the same time period of eight years ago (late May-June, 2014).  New posts will return in early-mid July.

That was due to the “exotic” travel schedule of MH and moiself, which began in mid-late May with a trip Florida.  [2]

Here is what our schedule was supposed to be:

* visiting MH’s mother in Florida for several days;

* on to Stockholm, a couple of days to acclimate ourselves to the time change (and all those Swedish meatball variations) before joining….

* a 14 day Rick Steves Tour of Scandinavia, starting in Stockholm and ending in Bergen;

* six days of touring Norway on our own, from Bergen back to Oslo;

* catching a train to join our Swenadian  [3] friends and spending a short week in their Swedish country stuga (cabin), then traveling with them to Gothenburg and vicinity;

* six days in Iceland “on the way back” to Oregon.

 

Here is what actually happened.

All went as planned until Day 13 of the tour, when MH awoke under the proverbial weather and tested positive for COVID.  The next 5 days were spent cancelling and rescheduling train-car rental-ferry-hotel bookings, trying to find a place to lay low for several days while we   [4]   recovered.  Our dear Swenadian friends, rightfully cautious due to their respective health concerns, came to visit us after we’d recovered.  While the afternoon walk we made around the parks of a Swedish town was a far cry from the longer time we’d hoped to have with them, it was good to have at least those two hours together.

What the what – if nothing else, travel teaches you to be flexible.  MH and I enjoyed some final days in Oslo and then Stockholm before flying on to Reykjavik, where our Iceland adventures were not impacted by the previous schedule rearranging. Also, there was the  blissful ignorance of being removed from everyday news reporting – moiself  had remembered that there’d been a pesky leak of a supposed/certain SCOTUS memo….

 

“I suppose I’ll have to be the one to say something to her.”

 

*   *   *

Department Of That Which Should Not Have To Be Mentioned

Our return flight last Thursday left Reykjavik a little before 5 pm and arrived in PDX ~ 6 pm. What with traveling east to west, we went back in time 7 hours….  Little did I know the news that would greet moiself  upon our return: my country’s legal system had gone back (what seemed like) more than a hundred years.

Really and truly, I knew nothing of this until I checked FB last Friday morning, and saw this post from my beloved nephew, who has been celebrating Pride Month with a series of personal reflections on what “being gay” means:

Being gay is…

…thinking that maybe you should get married on a sooner timescale than you’re ready for, because given how the Supreme Court’s minoritarian rule is going, your current right to do so might have an expiration date.

Sorry to steal the stage from today’s news. Fuck the Supreme Court majority that is not representative of majority public opinion.

 

 

 

Thus, my first FB post after stepping onto Oregon soil:

“Keep our nation on the track
one step forward, three steps back….”  [5]

I just returned last night from 6+ weeks in Europe, to find that certain intellectual, social and moral cretins who unfortunately hold positions of power in this country have effectively decided to turn back the clock, and I’m not talking the end of Daylight Savings time.

SCOTUS justices Thomas; Alioto; Gorsuch; Kavanaugh; Barret – I’d like to do a wire coat hanger D & C on their respective cranial contents.

*   *   *

As moiself  writes this it’s day five for me, back in Oregon, and I’m still in a fog. It’s not the time zone difference that has me discombobulated; rather, it’s the time travel thing, where I returned to find that my country’s legal/human rights system has warped back to the Dark Ages.  In case y’all haven’t guessed by now, I refer to the recent SCOTUS decisions involving guns, school employee-led prayer, and of course, Roe v. Wade.

Consider this:

SCOTUS Justices Who Voted to Overturn Roe v. Wade (the justice’s religion)

Samuel A. Alito, Jr. (Catholic)
Amy Coney Barrett (Catholic)
Brett Kavanaugh (Catholic)
Neil M. Gorsuch (Catholic)   [6]

and…wait for it…
Clarence Thomas (Catholic)

The fact that a practicing Catholic SCOTUS justice – or judge, of any court – is allowed to vote on this issue; i.e., is not legally and ethically *required* to recuse him or herself on any abortion case, as per their the Catholic sheep daddy Pope’s decrees on the matter…

 

 

“…. Roberts was asked by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) what he would do if the law required a ruling that his church considers immoral. Roberts is a devout Catholic and is married to an ardent pro-life activist. The Catholic Church considers abortion to be a sin, and various church leaders have stated that government officials supporting abortion should be denied religious rites such as communion….
Renowned for his unflappable style in oral argument, Roberts appeared nonplused and, according to sources in the meeting, answered after a long pause that he would probably have to recuse himself.”
(“The faith of John Roberts,” The Los Angeles Times)

Another butt-frosting fact: there are SCOTUS justices who adhere to the judicial philosophy of/refer to themselves as originalists   [7]  but who are also Catholic and/or female (hmm, what’s that musty odor, Amy Coney Barrett?), something the original founding fathers would never have imagined nor permitted.

And then, there is the festering turd atop the crumbling cake:

“In nearly 28 years on the Supreme Court, Justice Clarence Thomas has been its most unwavering ‘originalist.’ That means that he reads the Constitution as meaning today what he believes those who wrote it meant back then, no matter how conditions may have changed in America in the meantime.”
(“Justice Thomas, originalism and the First Amendment,” National Constitution Center)

Clarence Thomas is an originalist. All righty then:  “Justice” Thomas – you should be a slave.  And counted as 3/5 of a person, as the Originals intended.

 

 

But I have to stop going there. Moiself  has to stop applying rational arguments to irrational situations.  Therein lies madness.

*   *   *

Department Of Stories That Need Retelling

This, from my blog post of 5-24-19 (“The Two-Faced, Sanctimonious, Festering Turd-Of-Hypocrisy I’m Not Strangling”)

From the early 1980s – 90’s I worked for (several Planned Parenthood clinics)… and a private OB-GYN practice in the Bay Area….

We (The Practice’s Doc, Nurse Practitioner, and I) developed a personal relationship    [8]  and had many interesting conversations on issues re women’s health care. Doc and NP were both staunchly pro-choice, Doc in particular due to his knowledge of what things were like before Roe v. Wade.  He told me stories about The Bad Old Days, about how (surprise!) the rich could always get safe care, no matter what. Back in the late 50s – 60s when abortion was illegal, a Japanese airline had a clandestine (but procurable, if you knew the right people) package deal: the fare included flights to and from Tokyo from West Coast airports, overnight lodging in a Tokyo hotel, and the fee for an abortion performed by a Japanese doctor. Sympathetic American doctors whose desperate patients had no safe local alternatives would refer their patients to someone, who would refer them to someone else, who would refer them to….    [9]

One of The Practice’s OB patients, after a routine exam, asked Doc if he ever performed abortions. Although it was none of her %&!$ business (and moiself wanted him to tell her so) he answered honestly, while tactfully letting her know that he would not be steered down the anti-abortion harangue road she was heading for.  After she’d left, Doc signaled to me to follow him to the office’s back room, where old/inactive patient files were kept.

As Doc searched through the files he told me about a former patient of his who’d sought an abortion, back when the procedure was illegal except for “medical reasons.” This woman had had to go before a (male, of course) judge to get approval to have an abortion. Her physicians had to testify as to her mental and physical well-being, and they had lots of material: she had chronic health problems; was depressed to the point of suicide; her husband had left her and their three children…. She’d wanted to get her tubes tied after birthing her second child but could not find a doctor to do so – as per the standards of the time, hospitals would not book a sterilization surgery for a woman unless she met this weird algorithm (criteria included her age, the number of children she had, and other factors I can’t recall).  She also needed her husband’s permission for the surgery, which he’d refused.   [10]

The woman won her petition. At this point in the story Doc had found the patient’s chart, and showed me the transcript from her day in court.     [11]  I will never forget the sad yet determined look in his eyes as he said,
“Don’t ever let it go back to that.” 

And I will always remember how foolishly optimistic it was of moiself  to think, “It could never go back to that.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Business As Usual

Of course, no matter the legal restrictions and whatever else happens in the upcoming months, those with money and connections will always be able to wrangle safe medical care.  The trail of naïve, drugged and/or abused girls and women knocked up, intentionally or otherwise, by the Brett “I Love Beer” Kavanaughs of the world and their eternal frat bro contingents will always have an out, as powerful men do not want their mistakes publicly aired.  The poor and not-so-well connected will have to resort to measures of desperation – unless whatever choice they happen to make involves using a gun.

 

*   *   *

Department Of  And Yet One Never Fully Goes Back To The Past

There is too much water – and blood – under this particular bridge of human history.  Just as in the past, women and men will rise up to help those who need help (“Call Jane”).

Here is the message I recently received from a friend:

“Hope you are holding up with the end of democracy at hand.  Yeah.
Would you mind being a reference for me – I am applying to be a volunteer with the Colorado Abortion Doula Network.  I’m sure you’ve heard that CO clinics are overwhelmed with patients from OK and Tx….”

How proud I was of my friend; how sick to my stomach I was, for the reason for her (and other women and men) having to take that action.

When MH and I have attended NARAL fundraiser events in Portland, the organization’s staff has mentioned how their peers working in other states are “jealous” of Oregon’s long record of supporting reproductive rights.   [12]  Looks like my friends and I may soon be providing the same services, should Oregon experience a migration of patients.

*   *   *

Department Of, And One More Thing….

Don’t y’all be kidding y’alls’ selves that there is, ultimately or sincerely (ha!), *any* reason for the SCOTUS decision, other than that of controlling women and fearing women’s sexuality and autonomy.  I’ve seen firsthand the Scandinavian system and standard of living, and what societies looks like which actually care about children, put people ahead of politics, and relegate theocracy to the governmental dumpster fires of the past.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of, Unfortunately, There Is Always One More “One More Thing” :
The Quiet Part Out Loud

I am so, so, so sorry, my LGBTQ family and friends and fellow Americans…. You do know you’re next, right?

“Vice President Harris said Monday that she ‘never believed’ the Senate testimony of Supreme Court Justices Brett M. Kavanaugh and Neil M. Gorsuch, in which they stressed the importance of legal precedent in cases like Roe v. Wade, which established a constitutional right to abortion.

‘I never believed them. I didn’t believe them. That’s why I voted against them….’

Listen, it was clear to me when I was sitting in that chair as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, that they were … very likely to do what they just did….”

Harris also addressed Justice Clarence Thomas’s concurring opinion, in which he called on the Supreme Court to reexamine cases on LGBTQ rights and contraception. ‘I definitely believe this is not over. I do. I think he just said the quiet part out loud,’ Harris said of Thomas.”

(Vice President Kamala Harris, “Harris says she ‘never believed’ Kavanaugh, Gorsuch would uphold Roe,”  Washington Post )

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
The Death Of Liberty Edition

I was looking forward to returning to this segment of my blog.  However, moiself  –  who looks for the levity in any situation and who sincerely hopes that friends and family entertain me with tasteless jokes should I come down with, say, butt cheek cancer or other dreadful diseases – is at a loss when it comes to being facetious about how religious conservative ideology is raping this country.   So, these may have to do:

A priest, a pedophile, and a rapist walk into a bar. He orders a drink.

Q. How many conservative evangelical Christians does it take to change a light bulb?
A. None. They just sit in the dark and demand you accept that the light is still on.

Q. How do you teach a bunch of kids about god—who he is, and what he does?
A. Gather them all in a classroom. Then never show up.

*   *   *

May you find power in the visualization of male SCOTUS justices who voted to overturn Roe V. Wade having yearly colonoscopies performed by unsterilized wire coat hangers;
May you take constructive action where and how you can to your maintain sanity;
May we all soon return to living in the 21st century;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] (Vice President Kamala Harris, “Harris says she ‘never believed’ Kavanaugh, Gorsuch would uphold Roe,”  Washington Post )

[2] The most exotic place of all, and as foreign as the state sometimes felt, we were never asked to show our passports.

[3] A Swede married to a Canadian.

[4] Yes, we – of course moiself eventually got it as well.  We were both glad to have been fully vaccinated, as our symptoms were relatively mild and followed the same course (fever disappearing in less than 48 hours…frankly, if we hadn’t have tested ourselves for COVID we’d have thought we’d contracted a mild influenza virus).

[5]  One of the rallying cries of the SF-based political activists group LAW [“Ladies Against Women”], who used satire – well, it seemed like satire at the time, and now it seems like prescient  journalism – to critique the religious/conservative right wing’s anti-women’s autonomy  political agenda.

[6] “Although Neil Gorsuch, appointed in 2017, attends an Episcopal church, he was raised Catholic, and it is unclear if he considers himself a Catholic who is also a member of a Protestant church or simply a Protestant.” (Daniel Burke (March 22, 2017). “What is Neil Gorsuch’s religion? It’s complicated.”)

[7] “In the context of United States law, originalism is a concept regarding the interpretation of the Constitution that asserts that all statements in the constitution must be interpreted based on the original understanding ‘at the time it was adopted.’ ” (Originalism, Wikipedia).

[8] Which continued after I left the practice and which exists to this day.

[9] I later heard about this same service from another doctor who was Doc’s age.

[10] Yep, that’s right – he knocked her up a fourth time, and then abandoned her and their children.

[11] Yes, that was way before HIPA laws.

[12] “Abortion is legal throughout pregnancy in Oregon – there is no ban or limit on abortion in Oregon based on how far along in pregnancy you are….”  (Abortionfinder.com, Abortion in Oregon)

 

The Pictures I’m Not Taking

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Thanks for checking in, so to speak (…er, write).  I am taking moiself  on holiday.  From this Friday and through June, I will be posting blogs from the same time period of eight years ago (late May-June, 2014).  New posts will return in early-mid July.

Until then, I hope y’all enjoy these reruns (or at least gain a modicum of petty amusement from making fun of them, and/or noting how NOT perspicacious my 2014 blatherings observations turned out to be).  Perhaps they may spark some sense of déjà vu in you, or cause you to contemplate what you were doing and thinking in those pre-pandemic, pre-idiocy epidemic times (i.e., before the debacle that was #45).

Moiself  apologizes for the fact that visuals (pictures; video clips) in the original posts may or may not be included.
*   *   * 

 

I didn’t take a camera on Belle’s and my trip to Paris. However, I am — bien sur! —  equipped with the intelligent communications device that is mandatory for all sub-arctic dwelling bipeds. Thus, I managed a few shots…none of which had me in them. This seemed to annoy some people (“You’re not in them – you didn’t take even ONE selfie?!”).

Cruising up the Seine River, I am somehow not in the photo – quelle fromage!

A long long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I learned that, for me, photographically documenting key moments of travel – or key moments of anything – often spoils the very thing I’m trying to authenticate.  Another way to put it is that taking pictures gets in the way of my experience of what is in those pictures.  I want to have those so-called Kodak moments to remember. I don’t need to be “in them” if I was truly in them.

*   *   *

What follows is a series of snapshot impressions of our trip.

 Truth in advertising.

On our return flight from Paris, while looking over the airplane’s safety info sheet, I realized I’d never appreciated the suitability of the name chosen by that European Airplane manufacturing company.  Unless you can afford first class, travel par avion has lost whatever comfort and glamour it once had. These days, flying is like riding a bus with wings.

*   *   *

* “Paging passenger shithorse to gate B…” This was heard, over the Toronto airport’s PA system, by both Belle and I. Granted, we were a bit tired and punchy after an 8 hour flight from Paris, [1] during which a distressed toddler screamed for 7.5 of those hours.  But, really, that’s what we heard. Repeated several times.

I hope Mr/Ms. Shithorse made his/her flight.

*   *   *

* What’s with the pigeons in Paris?  They are plump, shiny, big as ducks…they are…beautiful.  HOW CAN THIS BE?

I’ve had to revise my opinion of pigeons, a breed of bird I heretofore would never have associated with the word beautiful. [2]  Belle and I decided that the regional pigeon pulchritude was related to the Parisian love of picnics.  You will not find a ten foot square plot of grass, or even cobblestone walkway by the Seine, that is not occupied by a Parisian couple or family sitting on a small blanket, reaching into their basket or bag to retrieve baguette sandwiches, cheeses, patés and wine. And where there are picnics, there will be, intentionally or otherwise, scraps left behind. Parisian pigeons are well fed.

A pigeon’s destiny fulfilled.

*   *   *

* We saw less beggars and/or “street people” in Paris than in Portland, but noticed that, just as in Portland,  a beggar with a pet seems to get more positive responses (read: donations, or even a kind word of acknowledgement) than those soliciting alone.  A Roma-looking woman with an amazingly friendly, one-green-and-one-blue-eye white cat got all of our change, [3] as did an older gent with a bunny-on-a-halter leash.

* Ditto re spotting and encountering mentally ill street people.  We saw almost none, and we did a lot of street walking.  Uh, that is, we walked a lot.  You know. On the streets.

The one behaviorally challenged chap we did see was quite memorable. We encountered Crazy Wheel Man on a street near Place de Bastille, where he was shouting orders, loudly but with a big grin on his wild-eyed face, at select people and objects.  He hollered something at a few cars that whizzed past; he ignored Belle and moiself as we passed him, but hassled the woman walking next to us who was pushing a stroller.  He went after some bicyclists, then stepped out in front of an oncoming bus, raised his hand, and began to shout advice or admonition to the driver.  CWM was so dubbed by us when I realized he was yelling at the stroller, not at the woman pushing the stroller.  What the objects of his hollering had in common was that they were all wheeled contraptions.

Crazy Wheel Man would not have yelled at this.

*   *   *

Miscellaneous cultural highlights

* I actually heard a French person exclaim, “Ooh la la!”
* I finally had the occasion to use one of my favorite French Survival Phrases ® , “Il n’ya pas de papier dans les toilettes.” [4]

*   *   *

* Our base for our trip was an apartment in the Bastille District. The first step in entering our apartment was to input a security code at the outer (street level) door.  The code consisted of five units – two numbers and a letter, followed by two more numbers.  The code was a snap for us to memorize once we realized the code was Belle’s bra and cup size, followed by double her bra size.

Ooh la la.

*   *   *

 Vive l’egalite!

I love it when I espy some men who dress as ridiculously as some women, and Paris people watching afforded several such opportunities.  Sitting at a sidewalk café with Belle, appreciating a really fine lunch on a really hot day and while the really hot Parisians parade past us was a daily activity.  On one such day, within ten minutes I saw three different men, dressed fashionably head-to-toe…but they blew it when it came to the toe part.  These men wore what I call “elf shoes.”  Sort of like flat (“bad word”) pumps for women, these men’s shoes taper to an almost stiletto point; alien anthropologists, finding such footwear in an archeological dig, would assume the wearer had only three toes, with the longest one in the middle.

What with no actual human foot being able to occupy the toe box, and with no weight occupying it (as the wearer’s real toes are crammed together about three inches back in the toe box) the end of the shoe curls slightly upward.  You know, elf shoes.

*   *   *

* About those fashionably dressed Parisians, whose physical appearance Belle and I found both enchanting and intimidating: my enchantment level was increased when I realized I hadn’t seen one pair of saggy baggy clown ass sweats or jeans sliding down the derrières of those gorgeous French men.  Not one.

You will not see this in Paris. Are y’all ready to relocate?

*   *   *

* Belle: “I feel that France is better at natural selection than we are. They pick all the hot ones to breed and let the rest die out.”

 *   *   *

* Belle and I wanted to bring back some truly authentic souvenirs for our friends – none of this made in China, plastic Eiffel Tower key ring jive.  We soon realized that if we wanted to bring back something that truly said, this is the essence of Paris, we’d have to check suitcases full of skinny French men and women wearing skinny jeans who would smoke skinny cigarettes on your porch. [5]

*   *   *

* The native Parisians and other French folk we encountered were, by and large, not large at all. Certainly their level of activity has a lot to do with it.  Paris is a walking city – you’d have to be either suicidal or a fool to drive or bike in the urban areas [6] – and most residents use a combination of walking and riding their public transit to get from points A to B and everywhere in-between.  You can get quite the workout merely navigating the Metro stations themselves. And yes, those fashionably thin Parisians do partake of their incredibly delicious, rich French food, but, judging from what we saw and were ourselves served, the portions are so much more reasonable/realistic than that which we in the over-developed world have come to expect.

Also, les homes and femmes, they all smoke cigarettes.  Copiously.  The waiter brings the plates des jour, and after a few minutes of fashionable lingering and laughing and puffing at the outdoor tables [7] their food might as well be served in an ashtray.  Which may explain why the Parisians we observed never would have qualified for membership in the The Clean Plate Club – yet another reason they stay slender.

 Ash-free Sole Meunière at Les Grande Marches

 *   *   *

Random Louvre thoughts

* Much to Belle’s delight, we saw a surprising amount of paintings featuring cows.

* Much to the delight of moiself, I saw a surprising amount of statues of people with expressions I consider representational and realistic, more than artistic or impressionistic.

Louvre, schmouvre, I am soooooo over these gawking tourists….

* In the Louvre’s statuary garden Belle demonstrated the knowledge acquired during  her four years of Art and AP art classes, and I truly appreciated her insights and explanations when I asked about certain aspects of the magnificent objects d’art we were viewing.  Then, out of the blue, I heard her exclaim, “Look at him beating up that horse!”

In Belle’s first glimpse of a statue of a Roman soldier restraining a bucking stallion, she failed to notice that the soldier’s clenched fist was not in fact about to cold clock the stallion’s jaw; rather, his hand was clenched around the horse’s reins.  I sooooooooo relished being able to point out that detail [8] to my otherwise well-informed and observant daughter.

 *   *   *

* Paris has 37 bridges (“ponts“) that cross the Seine River. On Sunday June 15 it took 29 verses of “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” for Belle and I to walk from the Pont Royal to the Pont Senghor bridge. [9] We’d started our bridge walk on the west side of the city, by the Eiffel Tower, and kept going until we found just the right one (according to Belle) of several of the bridges that are festooned with “love locks.”

We had each purchased two padlocks to commemorate our loved ones, and added them to the Senghor Bridge. Belle’s locks were for her friend ALX, and also for friend MRG, who has always wanted to travel abroad (but is unlikely to do so, as she is battling a fatal renal disease). My locks were for Belle and I, in honor of our trip, and my favorite hommes, MH and K, and my late great dad.

 *   *   *

 * Most Parisian shopkeepers, restaurant staff and other businesspersons will admit to speaking English – IF you follow the protocol greeting ritual (which is strict, expected and courteous).  The few we encountered who (claimed that they) did not speak or understand English seemed rather haughty about, or even proud of, that fact.

While Belle and I found most Parisians to be quite helpful, we also learned that they help with what is specifically asked, and no more.  For example, early on in our travel week, as we were discussion what we really wanted to do/see in Paris (as opposed to what everyone says you should do/see), I reminded Belle that

(a) if she desired to see the Versailles Chateau or a certain shopping district, I would leave the planning of that to her, and

(b) she should be sure to plan carefully as some sites/shops are closed on some days.

Yes, I should have followed up, after that.

On our Monday trip to the Versailles Chateau, many, many Parisians along the way, including those at the TOURIST INFORMATION CENTER, HELLO, gave us directions and helped us find the proper metro to the proper train to the Versailles Chateau, without adding just un petite helpful comment, that, BTW, the chateau is closed today.  The Versailles Chateau is always closed on Mondays, the guards outside the chateau’s closed gates told one group of visitors after another.[10]  But then, we didn’t actually ask anyone, “And is the chateau open today?”

 

*   *   *

* It completely slipped my mind that a thick mustard, or any condiment, would be considered a security threat or a possible bomb-making component subject to the carry-on liquid limit. And so the Charles DeGaulle airport’s dour security man searched my bag and removed the 6 oz jar of moutarde de citron I’d intended to bring home to my mustard-loving son. [11]

A simple, “Madame, zees is over ze limit” would have sufficed – it was an honest mistake, the mustard did not pass muster, I get it. Just confiscate it, okay?  But, nooooo.

Dour Security Drone held the jar up to the light, seemingly puzzled by the contents.  “It’s mustard,” I helpfully offered, pointing to the jar’s moutard label.  He made motions as if he intended to unscrew the lid and sniff it, which would have been fine by me.  But he didn’t.  He continued to scrutinize the jar, turning it this way and that.  Then he put it up to his ear and shook it.  It took all of my self control not to feign alarm and gasp, “No – don’t do that, you’ll arm it!”

Finally, he signaled to two of his comrade and passed the mustard jar to them. He told me I could gather my things and go, but that the mustard must stay.  “Fine,” I said. “Enjoy your sandwiches.”

The one that made it through.

*   *   *

May your condiments be TSA-friendly and mustard bomb-free, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

[1] And facing two more flights to get us back to the Portland airport.

[2] Aka, airborne rats.

[3] Which, in Euros, adds up.

[4] This was upon emerging from a boulangeries’s WC, and warning the next woman in line about how the room was lacking a vital accessory.

[5] My friends got chocolate, coffee, pasta  and fruit paté instead.

[6] Although there seemed to be no shortage of both.

[7] Smoking is banned indoors, but if you sit at an outdoor table, everyone around you will be smoking.

[8] And bring it up several times later the same day.

[9] After two or three verses I sang the rest under my breath, out of respect for Belle, who was becoming somewhat perturbed by my enthusiasm.

[10] We were far from the only out of town visitors who didn’t get the schedule right.

[11] A smaller jar made it through, vive la liberation!

The Trip I’m Not Bragging About

Comments Off on The Trip I’m Not Bragging About

Thanks for checking in, so to speak (…er, write).  I am taking moiself  on holiday.  From this Friday and through June, I will be posting blogs from the same time period of eight years ago (late May-June, 2014).  New posts will return in early-mid July.

Until then, I hope y’all enjoy these reruns (or at least gain a modicum of petty amusement from making fun of them, and/or noting how NOT perspicacious my 2014 blatherings observations turned out to be).  Perhaps they may spark some sense of déjà vu in you, or cause you to contemplate what you were doing and thinking in those pre-pandemic, pre-idiocy epidemic times (i.e., before the debacle that was #45).

Moiself  apologizes for the fact that visuals (pictures; video clips) in the original posts may or may not be included.
*   *   * 

Pomp and Circumcision

Belle graduated from high school. And as the closing strains of “that song” – arguably and most famous/recognizable processional in the world – wafted through the auditorium’s sound system, there was a momentary catch in my throat.

Closing strains. Oh and yes, I and Belle’s family and friends, all twelve of us, caught only the closing strains of P & C because we were seated in an “overflow” area, not in the gym where the ceremony was held.  We had to (or got to, depending on your POV) watch the ceremony via closed circuit transmission to a screen in the school’s auditorium, “we” being we who had arrived before the ceremony started but could not find a parking place and had to circle the school and park a bazillion miles away and then be bussed back to the school….. There were over one hundred of us we’s in that situation.  So, who gave out more tickets than the place could hold?

Oy vey.  Our peanut gallery seating did have its charms, as we got to make snarky comments about it the ceremony because there was no one to object and no one to embarrass (what with Belle being on stage with the other valedictorians in the gym).  While the audio transmission was (unfortunately) adequate, the video took colorful license, and we were treated to the sight of the various speakers, musicians and vocalists turning from green (“Martians!”) to blue (“Breathe!  Inhale!”) to yellow (“Jaundice!”) to red (“OMG, the diplomas are being handed about by munchkins!”).

“Class of 2014, turn your tassles!”

Re my comment as to the unfortunate audio clarity:  no one really needs to clearly hear yet another painfully botched rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.  Why it is played on such occasions (why it is played at all, anywhere) is beyond me.  When I am anointed Grand Bahoobie of the Planet, the only person allowed to sing the SSB will be Aretha Franklin.

And the speeches.  There should be no speeches, by the adults, unless they are under one minute and include fart and/or elephant jokes.  Okay, let one of the Vals do a brief speech for/to/about their class – I suppose you have to have that.  But keep it short; get ’em graduated and out of there.  Just ask those around you, as I did: who ever talks about – who ever can remember anything about – the speeches given at their graduation ceremonies?

Ah yes, the grad speech thing. If you’re the poor schmuck lucky student chosen to give it, say a few kind and funny things about your fellow students, but not at the expense of the elders in the audience. As we were leaving the school – after the ceremony, after the graduates and their families and friends shared congratulations and took  pictures before the grads were whisked off to the all-night grad party – I ran into BTY, the girl who’d given her class’s commencement speech.  BTY was one of Belle’s fellow valedictorians, and I knew her and her parents from when she and Belle had been on the freshman volleyball team.  I congratulated them all, said BTY must be proud of her accomplishments, and complimented BTY on her speech…which, I added, I can’t resist picking one nit with it.  That part where BTY commented on how their class’s parents and grandparents misunderstood and mislabeled their generation, and about how “our parents and grandparents don’t understand our technology”?  Ahem.  Your parents INVENTED THAT TECHNOLOGY.

I got a laugh and a wink from her father and a high five from her mother.

Q: How does every French joke start?
A: By looking over your shoulder.

*   *   *

 We are Americans in Paris, and that’s no joke.

By we I mean Belle and I.  There is, of course, a story behind this.

Most college bound high school students take two years of a foreign language, to meet the minimum college entrance requirement. Five years ago, the summer before she was to enter high school, I made a deal with Belle.  If she stuck with one language for all four years, after her graduation she and I would travel to a major city in a country that spoke that language.

She’d been thinking of taking Japanese, which Liberty High School offered at that time. But budget cuts be praised,[1] the school no longer offered Japanese.  She decided to take French.

Despite a slew of AP classes and other responsibilities Belle stayed with French up through her Junior Year, and signed up for French 4 her senior year, even after finding out her favorite French teacher, the one she’d had for French 2 and 3, was to be transferred to another school (that damn budget thing again) and thus French 4 would be taught by the teacher she had for French 1 – the same teacher who taught both French and German, the same teacher who, three years earlier, had announced to her French 1 class’s parents on Back to School Night that she really didn’t enjoy teaching French, and that her first love was her German classes. [2]

Mais oui, I digress.

Day 1 of Belle’s senior year: the students pick up their class schedules, and Belle finds out that there will be no French 4.  The look on her face when she returned home that afternoon with the news….

I assured her that she had fulfilled her end of the bargain, and, quelle fromage! she and I were going to Paris in June 2014.

And so, we are here, having more fun than you can possibly imagine [3], or possibly lying in some Parisian alley, sleeping off a baguette and brie hangover.

This très peu message was written in advance, assuming I would not have time to post, what with being busy with all things French, including appreciating ces romantiques français hommes.

Bon voyage, mesdames et messieurs, and may the hijinks ensue.

  Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

[1] Something I never thought I’d find myself thinking…but I had no desire to travel to Japan.

[2] As you might imagine, MH and I were less than impressed.  I think I may have muttered some “____ nazi” comments under my minty breath.

[3] Go ahead, cyber-slap me.

The Hair I’m Not Flinging

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Thanks for checking in, so to speak (…er, write).  I am taking moiself  on holiday.  From this Friday and through June, I will be posting blogs from the same time period of eight years ago (late May-June, 2014).  New posts will return in early-mid July.

Until then, I hope y’all enjoy these reruns (or at least gain a modicum of petty amusement from making fun of them, and/or noting how NOT perspicacious my 2014 blatherings observations turned out to be).  Perhaps they may spark some sense of déjà vu in you, or cause you to contemplate what you were doing and thinking in those pre-pandemic, pre-idiocy epidemic times (i.e., before the debacle that was #45).

Moiself  apologizes for the fact that visuals (pictures; video clips) in the original posts may or may not be included.
*   *   * 

 

The Day of all Days

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the largest seaborne invasion in history, WWII’s Normandy Invasion, aka D-Day.  My uncle, Sgt. Bill O’Malley, was one of the hundreds of US 82nd and 101st Division Airborne paratroopers dropped behind the German lines.  How he ended up not being one of the 12,000 Allied casualties that day was a mystery to him, he would later tell his curious 4th grad niece — that would be me — who asked him about what he did in the war (a question, I later found out, adults almost never posed as Bill had made it plain, after being released from a hospital after the war ended for treatment for “Battle Fatigue” — also aka shell shock, what we now know to be PTSD — that he didn’t want to talk about it).

The enormity and audacity of such an operation…well, there are a many books about it. One of them, Stephen Ambrose’s Band of Brothers, which follows the exploits of a paratrooper division “Easy Company” from D-Day through the Battle of the Bulge to the German surrender, was made into arguably the best mini-series ever.  You need to see it, if you haven’t already. I’m going to watch part of it tonight, and I’ll be thinking of my late uncle, my father, and the other paratroopers, whose courage and tenacity (a part of which was prompted by sheer circumstance and naivete — they so did not know what they were getting into)  needs to be regularly retold, and honored.

The Flinging Blonde

That’s flinging blonde, not singing nun.

Dateline: June 1, out for my morning Nordic Walk on a sunny Sunday morning. I approach the grounds of the neighborhood junior high school and see two high school age girls walking on the sidewalk ahead of me.  One girl has long (almost waist-length), shiny, thick, straight blonde hair.  Long Blondie does two cartwheels in the grass beside the sidewalk.   She springs to her feet after each flip and snaps her head forward and back, which causes her hair to cascade over her face and then down her back.  She ceases her cartwheels but continues to fling her head, now from side to side, flipping her golden mane, which shimmers in the sunlight.

 Look at this hair!  Look what I can do with it! Look at me!

 And yes, she had really, really, really beautiful hair.

Stop me before I fling again.

*   *   *

Speaking of things to fling…

How Much More Clear Does it Have to Get? 

There are people, in media and social media outlets, who continue to twist themselves with mental gymnastics worthy of a Cirque de Soleil contortionist in order to assert that misogyny was not a prime motivating factor in the Isla Vista Shootings.

Uh huh.

 The killer left a detailed, logically composed narrative – a 140 page manifesto – spelling it out.  The killer was a regular participant in chat room forums promoting misogyny, andwas active in the men’s rights (MRA) forums promoting misogyny, and made YouTube videos in which he professed his misogyny, and….

In every facet of his life, he professed and documented his hatred of women.  But hatred of women, according to some denialists, could not have been the prime motivation of his killing spree. These denialists also assert that if we talk about misogyny, and about the parts of our culture that treat misogyny as normal, even acceptable or even entertaining, we are sensationalizing or “politicizing” a tragic event.

Sic ’em, Greta Christina:

 “When men in Islamist theocracies assault, rape, and kill women, we have no problem calling it misogynist hatred. When they explicitly state that their motivation is to enforce God’s gender roles and put women in their place, we have no problem calling it misogynist hatred. And we have no problem laying the blame, in large part, on the culture that teaches this hatred, and on the thousands of ways both large and small that Islamist theocratic culture teaches this despicable concept of women.

 “So why is it so hard to see the Isla Vista shootings as motivated by misogyny?”

In her righteously WTF? blog post Elliot Rodgers and Misogyny Denialism, [1] author and activist Christina calls out the b.s. in her usual, incisive, rational and pissed off prose…even as she she recognizes the motivations behind our desire to recognize the reality of our culture’s underlying misogyny: because it is just to damn painful, and frustrating, and humiliating.

Read it and weep.  Better yet, read it and act.

*   *   *

 Is the Paint Dry Yet?

Tuesday evening, the last High School Senior Class Awards ceremony I will ever have to snore through have the opportunity to attend.  Belle received four academic awards; local merchants and community organizations gave out community scholarships…and oh, how a certain someone in the audience wanted to sandpaper her eyeballs in frustration when she heard yet another well-meaning, slow-talking older gent preface his bestowal of an award with, “Let me say a few words about the history of….”

*   *   *

The Snark Watch, Day Seven

MH and I made a bet as to who would make the first snarky comment re Belle’s tattoo: family friend JWW, or MH’s mother. [2]  I will not reveal who bet on whom. Thankfully, neither of us has (so far) won the bet.

 

*  *  *

Coming Attractions [3]

* In Paris they simply stared when I spoke to them in French; I never did succeed in making those idiots understand their own language.
(Mark Twain)

* When good Americans die, they go to Paris.
(Oscar Wilde)

* Paris is always a good idea.
(Audrey Hepburn as Sabrina Fairchild in Sabrina)

* The best of America drifts to Paris. The American in Paris is the best American. It is more fun for an intelligent person to live in an intelligent country. France has the only two things toward which we drift as we grow older—intelligence and good manners.
(F. Scott Fitzgerald)

 To err is human. To loaf is Parisian
(Victor Hugo)

*   *   *

May the erring and loafing begin, and surely the hijinks shall ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

[1] I know, in last week’s post, I refused to mention his name.  There it is.

[2] MH’s parents flew out from Florida last week, visiting for Belle’s high school graduation.

[3] Why are there only three footnotes in this post?

The SCOTUS Justices I’m Not (Yet) Assaulting

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Department Of Any Questions, Stupid Or Otherwise?

 

 

Dateline Sunday 7:40 am; morning walk; listening to No Stupid Questions podcast, episode 98: Is Having Children Worth It?  The episode consists of hosts Stephen Dubner and Angela Duckworth discussing the various factors – from economic to personal to cultural and beyond – people weigh when considering parenthood.

About twenty minutes into the podcast the show’s producer announces a break:

“Before we return to Stephen and Angela’s conversation about modern fertility, let’s hear some of your thoughts on the subject. We asked listeners to let us know the factors that affected their decisions to have kids. Here’s what you said.”

The producer plays three phone recordings. The sentiments expressed by the second listener/commentator were, unfortunately and predictably, no surprise to moiself.   [1]

Second commentator:
“As of now, my husband and I are leaning towards remaining childfree…. What I’ve found really interesting is the very different experiences that we’ve had in sharing this news when asked.
I get asked very frequently, ‘When are you having kids?’ It’s just assumed.
And if I tell someone, whether it’s a close friend or a complete stranger — which is very frequent — that we don’t plan to have kids, I get really strong reactions, and they’ve really made me question the value that I’d bring to society as a woman if I’m not a mother….
Meanwhile, my husband gets asked about once or twice a year, and his manhood and value is never brought into question.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Or Morality, Schmality – The Ultimate Litmus Test On This Issue

Moiself  has plenty o’ thoughts – some of them even/arguably suitable for non-R-rated audiences – about the leak of the SCOTUS draft which indicates that the conservative (read: Republican-appointed) SCOTUS justices have plans to return our society to the medieval mores of governance by religious superstition and female chattel-dom repeal Roe v. Wade

 

 

Those thoughts I will share…later.  As in, in several weeks from now, when the hoopla dies down (perhaps) and we get a handle on what’s really happening, and when I have been dissuaded from my karma-generating plan to hire a team of Valkyries and Ninjas to kidnap SCOTUS justices Alito, Kavanaugh, Roberts, and Thomas, transport them to a secure back alley where the justices will have coat hanger wires up inserted their respective urethras to perform a D & C of their potential abortion causing,   [2]   sperm factory organs.

 

 

 

 

For now, consider this:

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Applying Cognitive Behavioral Therapy To Moiself

Dateline: Sunday 7:50 am-ish, Oregon coast.  Returning from a walk along the beach. I turn around for one last glance,  [3]   pausing to gaze at the rising sunlight reflecting off the foaming waves, noticing how the retreating tide left a beautiful, reflective sheen to the green-gray sand…. Wait a sec – what is that awful, acrid smell, so early in the morning?

Looking behind moiself , I see a woman sitting on an Adirondack chair on the upper porch of a beach rental house across the street.  She is vigorously/alternately sucking on and exhaling the effluence from her cigarette; my instinctive disgust kicks in:

“It’s one thing to torment her own lungs, but holy self-pollution – smokers don’t seem to realize – or just don’t care – that their smoke travels, and torments *me,* even though I’m 30 feet away….”

 

 

Then I stop moiself, and recall a cognitive behavioral tenet I recently (re)heard:

If you can’t change your circumstances,
change how you think about your circumstances.  [4]

And I am struck by a wave of gratitude.

 

 

Both my parents were the only non-smokers among their respective siblings.    [5]   When I was in early grade school, having non-smoking parents seemed to be the minority experience for my peers…although not long after the Surgeon’s General’s landmark report on smoking and health was released, that began to change.

 

 

 

 

Looking back, I have to laugh at the naivete involved when I helped a friend, who was concerned about her mother’s health (she’d overheard her parents talking about how the mother’s doctor had advised her to quit smoking).  Friend and I conspired as to how we could get her mother to stop smoking.  As fourth graders, we knew nothing about the power of nicotine addiction, only the power of our preteen will:  we convinced ourselves that, by combing Friend’s house from top to bottom when her mother was out running an errand we could find and discard all of her mother’s cigarettes and cigarette lighters, and ta-da, she’d quit!  How can you smoke something that isn’t there?

 

“Look, honey, I found your last cigarette in the cat’s litter box.  Maybe you can skip your after-dinner smoke and we’ll watch ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ instead.”

 

Once again, I digress.

The gratitude which struck me: How lucky was I?  How lucky *am* I?

If moiself  had grown up with smoking parents, how likely is it    [6]    that I would have also fallen into that “filthy habit,” as my father called it?    [7]   And even if I’d managed to avoid becoming a smoker but had parents who were nicotine fiends, I would have had an increased risk of heart and lung disease from living with second-hand smoke.

And just like that, my annoyance dissipated ( like a puff of smoke? ), and morphed into a sense of gratitude.   [8]

 

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Marlboro Man Edition

I had a legless dog I named, “Cigarette.”
Every morning I took him out for a drag.

What does Han Solo put in his cigarettes?
Chewbacco.

My friend started punting his Marlboro packs – he’s trying to kick the habit.

Why are cigarettes like hamsters?
They are perfectly harmless until you stick one in your mouth and light it on fire.

 

 

*   *   *

May you feel grateful for unhealthy habits *not* practiced by those who raised you;
May you cultivate the ability to reframe your circumstances;
May the SCOTUS stay out of your respective lady and man parts;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Or, likely, to other female listeners, whether or not they have children.

[2] Abortions are caused by men – that is, unwanted pregnancies are caused by irresponsible male ejaculations… even the wanted pregnancies that must be terminated due to fetal abnormalities incompatible with life and/or maternal health issues, are also caused by men.

[3] Always say goodbye to the beach, every time you leave it.  Blow a kiss to the breakers; you never know when it will be the last time.

[4] If you can’t change your circumstances, work on changing the way you think about your circumstances, or how you frame your circumstances. Classic cognitive behavioral therapy advice, and one of the few things proven to help both your mood/attitude…which then may, even, eventually, help you to change your circumstances.

[5] My father smoked while in the army – cigarettes were part of a WWII soldier’s ration kit – but quit several years before meeting my mother.

[6] Three to six times more likely, as various studies show.

[7] He used that term privately, and not in front of our smoking relatives (which was, all of them) or friends or neighbors.

[8] And even a faint sense of pity for the nic-junkie on the beach house balcony.

The Dialog I’m Not Initiating

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Thanks to a friend, I got distracted.  This is not the blog I was intending to write.

Dateline: Tuesday.  Moiself  sees a link to a NYT article, posted by my retired   [1]  journalist friend, GR.

“After recent focus groups with Democratic-leaning voters on the economy; younger women on work, relationships and gender roles; and teenagers on school and their futures, we decided to talk to conservative men about how they see themselves and what they value. Most said they believed society is headed toward increased rule breaking and a “me, me, me” culture….”
introduction to These 8 Conservative Men Are Making No Apologies.
( NY Times, Opinion, “America in Focus” series.   [2]  )

Here is (part of) of GR’s introduction to the link:

“If we are ever going to bridge the divides in this country, I think it begins with understanding how others view themselves and the issues that confront all of us.”

 

 

I agree with that sentiment.  I also find it telling that the “bridging the divide” talk always seems be one-sided, as in, flowing from Left to Right. As moiself  commented to GR (before I’d followed the link to the article):

“Is there a conservative newspaper doing a focus group with
‘…8 liberal women making no apologies?’ “

My FB-comment conversation (with GR) continued after I started reading the article:

Moiself:
Thanks for posting this – I intend to read it all, but need a break right now, due to this part:

Tony (one of the focus group’s panelists):
“This country has become more feminized. It’s not the way it was when I was growing up. We started off talking about how the country has a weak image. They don’t call women the weaker sex for no reason. Men are necessary to maintain a vibrant society. And we’ve been feminized. No offense.”

(Focus group moderator)
“…who, if anyone, do you think views masculinity as a negative thing these days?

Christopher (another of the panelists):
“I support feminism, but I don’t support modern feminism. I think that modern feminism is focused on so-called toxic masculinity, and they are actually purveyors of men-bashing. And so I support femininity and feminism but not to the point where they’re looking to hoist themselves above men to try to make up for so-called patriarchy.”

 

Moiself:
Geeze, Tony.  “No offense” he says, when he’s just called women “weaker” and has associated the feminine with weakness.
And Christopher says he “supports” feminism, but not “modern” feminism.
Maybe he prefers feminists of the 19th century, the Seneca Falls Convention era, where they had to fight for even the right to vote – which could only be granted to them by men?
I remember hearing in the late 60s-70s the same rhetoric, from men who claimed to “support” women and women’s rights but not those “man-hating women’s libbers….” With “support” like that, who needs equal opportunity enshrined in law? 

While I appreciate the idea (and ideals) behind the America in Focus series, this particular one disheartened and frustrated me.  Isn’t dialog supposed to be uplifting?

 

 

Those 8 Conservative Men ®  may be making no apologies, but many of them are also  making no sense. Take this shining example, when the conversation seemed dominated by the panelists’ complaints about (what they saw as) the changing definition and devaluation of masculinity.  Running with the theme, the moderator asked, “Who, if anyone, do you think views masculinity as a negative thing these days?”

Danny (another panelist):
“Look at fashion. Look at the newer generation of how people dress, how men dress. There’s men, and there’s women, and there’s masculinity, and femininity. And there’s no reason to destroy one in order to make the other one better. I’m not trying to get into a negative men-versus-women thing, but I’m seeing masculinity under attack. And I’m seeing men wearing tight skinny jeans, with no socks and velvet shoes. And it’s cool to wear pink. I don’t mind wearing pink. It’s a cool color. And I’m not saying colors belong with a certain gender. It’s so funny — this is what we were talking about earlier: Every time you speak, you don’t feel comfortable enough to say what’s on your mind, where you have to almost give a disclaimer. I have no problem with pink. But when we go out to a club or a dinner or dancing, you see some of the younger generation wearing very feminine clothes, blatantly feminine clothes — so much so that we are almost trying to portray masculinity as negative.”

 

 

I have no problem with pink, says the man who goes on to reveal that he definitely has a problem with pink (or, at least, with men wearing pink), by mentioning that thing he doesn’t have a problem with twice more.

 

I am not thinking of elephants.  Nope; no elephants here. No elephants in my brain, no sirrrreeeee.

 

Danny, like some of the others in the group, does make several points moiself  finds especially valid (and have addressed in this space many times), such as how labels and epithets (racist, sexist, homo-and other “phobics”) are so easily used by people, and once someone labels you, how do you refute it?  Danny, a realtor, tells the story of when he was the president of a homeowner’s association board in his community, and

“…an Asian woman got into an argument with us. When I say ‘us,’ I mean the whole board. That night, she went and wrote a review on my business page saying that I’m a racist. My parents are Lebanese. I was beaten up every day when I was a kid because I’m Arabic….I’m not a racist….She wrote a nasty review, and Google won’t take it down, even though she wasn’t a client of mine. She’d never bought a house from me. She never did business with me, but she said that I’m a racist. That’s what’s happening today. And that never happened 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago, 40 years ago. And you know what’s worse? You can’t stop it.”

Danny and others in the group also directly or obliquely referred to about how our language police culture (my term; not theirs) stifles expression and makes assumptions, and seemingly pays more attention to how you say something rather than what you are trying to say:

“…And I’m not saying colors belong with a certain gender. It’s so funny — this is what we were talking about earlier: Every time you speak, you don’t feel comfortable enough to say what’s on your mind, where you have to almost give a disclaimer. “

But then Danny negates his disclaimer, with further statements which indicate he really does think certain colors and certain styles belong with certain genders.  His comment about how so much of the younger generation is wearing “feminine clothes” – uh, maybe because half of any generation is composed of females?  But his usage of “the younger generation” indicates he’s talking about the younger generation of *males,* who by wearing “blatantly feminine” clothes” are “… trying to portray masculinity as negative.”

Oh Danny boy, the pipes the pipes are calling I just don’t get it.  Unless there is a dude wearing a (pink, I bet) shirt with lettering which proclaims, “Masculinity sucks,” I don’t see how a choice in clothing portrays masculinity, or any “inity,” as negative. 

 

Six out of six Monty Python Girly Men agree.

 

(Focus group Moderator):
“How many of you think men have it harder than women these days?”
[group members Krupal and Danny raise their hands.]

Krupal:
“It’s like, you’re a woman, you’re given a trophy. If a guy does something, it’s not a big deal. If girls do the same thing, it’s like, you go! Girl power! I think her gender plays a bigger role, and it gives her more advantage these days — be it career or anything.”

(Christopher, a group member who didn’t raise his hand,
although IMO his comment indicates that he should have):
“I think that women have it a lot easier than men these days. What it feels like is that society is trying to make up for the times that women were oppressed, and it seems like it’s kind of going overboard.”

Ah, gee.  Don’t let your gender pity party get in the way of reality, Conservative Guys Sans Apologies. Their statements of woe-is-me-as-a-man, without any attempt to cite data supporting their grievances, was as tiring to read as it was frustrating – and alarming – to consider.  They really think that – that being a woman is an Advantage ® ?

 

 

Yo, Krupal: here is just a sampling of the *advantages* being a woman gets a woman, “be it career or anything.”

Career

* According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, in 2020, women’s annual earnings were 82.3% of men’s, and the gap is even wider for many women of color.
* Women earn less than men in nearly all occupations.
* Women earn less than their same race and ethnicity counterpart at every level of educational attainment
* Educational attainment is not enough to close gender earnings gaps. In fact, most women with advanced degrees earn less than white men, on average, with only a bachelor’s degree.

(“Facts About the State of the Gender Pay Gap,” US Dept. of Labor)

 

 

Anything

* Women still face significant obstacles when it comes to accessing the credit necessary to build and expand their businesses. Multiple studies indicate that women face a gap when it comes to getting funding. Though women business owners apply at similar rates to men, only 39% of women-owned businesses had a conventional bank loan…compared with 52% of male-owned businesses that received conventional bank loans.
* Gender discrimination persists, in the form of both gender stereotypes and unconscious gender bias. “What If,” the recent report on the gender credit gap, cites multiple studies between the 1980s through the present, indicating the presence of stereotypes that negatively affect women when trying to advance in the workplace, or when seeking traditional loans, or venture capital investment for their businesses.
( “Women and the Future of the Gender Credit Gap” )

 

* Although single women have lower average annual incomes, they are better at paying their mortgages, default less and usually make larger down payments than their male counterparts…. (yet) On average, women pay more for a mortgage through higher interest rate terms than male borrowers.
(“The Gender Gap: Women As Mortgage Consumers,” NWRB )

 

* Gender bias persists in health care…. One in five women say they have felt that a health care provider has ignored or dismissed their symptoms, and 17% say they feel they have been treated differently because of their gender—compared with 14% and 6% of men, respectively.
* Studies show that women’s perceptions of gender bias are correct. Compared with male patients, women who present with the same condition may not receive the same evidence-based care. In several key areas, such as cardiac care and pain management, women may get different treatment, leading to poorer outcomes.
(“Recognizing, Addressing Unintended Gender Bias in Patient Care,”
 Duke Health/Referring Physicians )

 

* …gender in tech has often been governed by a set of interlocking, and surprisingly fine-grained, sorting systems…. women were less likely to be promoted than men, and when …promoted, it was frequently into jobs that seemed to separate them further from the core business of the company, and toward ‘soft’ and ‘people skills.’
* When it comes to who gets promoted how in Silicon Valley…there’s still an assumption that ‘anybody can be a manager, but not everybody can be an engineer.’… female tech workers get frequently shunted onto management tracks…or even into HR, even though they have the same degrees and training as their male engineer colleagues.
(“How Sexism is Coded into the Tech Industry.” The Nation, 4-26-21)

 

“May I give my advantage back now?”

* Gender-based price discrimination…when one gender is charged a different price than another gender for identical goods or services…negatively affects women more often than men…. Gender-based pricing exists in many industries, including insurance, dry cleaning, hair, clothing, personal care products.,,,
* Consumption taxes on certain products but not others have also been viewed a form of gender-based price disparity. For example, in the USA, Australia, and the UK, tampons are often subjected to a consumption tax, while related products such as condoms, lubricant, and several other medical items are exempt from the tax.
( “Gender-based price discrimination in the United States,” Wikiwand )

 

* An estimated 91% of victims of rape & sexual assault are female and 9% male. Nearly 99% of perpetrators are male.
* Around the world, at least 1 woman in 3 has been beaten, coerced into sex, or abused in her lifetime. Most often the abuser is a member of her own family or is her partner.
(“Sexualized Violence Statistics,” CalPoly Humboldt)

 

I want my gawddamn trophy.

 

Read it (the transcript of the focus discussion) y’alls selves, and draw your own conclusions.  [3]   My summary: these eight conservative men have noticed that Others are taking steps up the power ladder, and thus they  [4]  don’t feel in charge anymore.  They make some valid points about language police/cancel culture (that women and liberals also experience, not just male conservatives).  But, seemingly without any self-awareness as to their male privilege (a term that would probably have their manly orbs crawling home to daddy, howling with men-are-being-cancelled! outrage), they see the writing on the wall… and instead of stopping to read it or consider what spurred the writing, they’re just concerned about protecting their own rung on a rickety, rusting ladder.

 

 

 

And this concern with their own status comes from a group that kept saying, without any irony moiself  could detect, that one of the things wrong with our culture today is

“We are the most selfish, self-centered, entitled culture. Everything is me, me, me.”

I kept waiting to read at least one of them commenting on how sexism and/or racism is a problem in the USA today.  Nope.  [5]

 

*   *   *

Department Of And One More Thing, Guys

“Toxic masculinity” is a phrase several men in the focus group identified as being irritating to them.  Although the expression may be relatively new, what it describes – the personal and societal repercussions of living in patriarchal systems – has been around for a long time.  Wake up and smell the (ED, medically enhanced) coffee, dudes:  Patriarchy is also poisonous to the very people it enshrines in towers of power.

” ‘Toxic masculinity’ doesn’t mean that men are toxic or that masculinity is de facto toxic. Rather, it means that extreme forms of traits traditionally associated with masculinity, like aggression and stoicism, are toxic. Right-wingers, however, like to pretend the phrase is an attack on men because it’s a quick way of derailing a conversation about rigid gender norms, and allows them to pretend that feminism is some sort of plot against men….
We hurt our boys when we teach them that being a man means suppressing your emotions and treating women as an inferior species, to be dominated and controlled. And toxic masculinity doesn’t just hurt men, it kills them. In America, for example, men are 3.5 times more likely to die from suicide than women – a phenomenon many experts attribute, in part, to the fact that men are told they shouldn’t express emotion or admit that they feel vulnerable, and therefore are less likely to seek professional help. “
(“Toxic masculinity doesn’t hurt men – it kills them,”
The Guardian 6-1-19)

Patriarchy grants numerous benefits to men as a group, and imbues men with a sense of entitlement, (implicitly, or overtly in some cultures  [6] ) as The Favored Gender.   And that preference comes with a steep price, with a statistic that is worth repeating, and more.

“Men are 3.5 times more likely to die by suicide than women…. They have more academic challenges and receive harsher punishments in school settings. They’re the victims of 77 percent of homicides (and they commit 90 percent of them).
One cause for this consortium of maladies, the America Psychological Association’s Guidelines for Psychological Practice With Boys and Men    [7] suggests…is ‘Traditional masculinity’ itself — the term refers to a Western concept of manliness that relies — and sometimes over-relies — on stoicism, dominance, aggression and competitiveness.
‘Everybody has beliefs about how men should behave…We found incredible evidence that the extent to which men strongly endorse those beliefs, it’s strongly associated with negative outcomes.’ The more men cling to rigid views of masculinity, the more likely they are to be depressed, or disdainful, or lonely.”
( “How ‘traditional masculinity’ hurts the men who believe in it most,”
The Washington Post, 1-13-19 )

 

 

Patriarchy bestows privileges upon men as men, but profoundly harms individual men in many ways, including:

* Patriarchy pressures men to eschew distinctiveness in favor of fitting into preconceived boxes – to conform to a constricted definition of masculinity, under which it is not a given quality. You are not masculine simply by virtue of being male; your masculinity must continually be proved and reinforced, by competing with other men,  [8]  and engaging in risk-taking behavior – the latter of which also discourages or discounts seeking help and engaging in health-preserving behavior.  Translation: Men are less likely to go to the doctor for physical ailments, or seek counselling support for mental health issues, and are more likely to stop taking medication for chronic or life-threatening illnesses than are women.

“Numerous studies have shown that men who adhere strongly to patriarchal ideals of masculinity are more likely to endorse and use violence against both women and gay men—those who are seen as ‘feminized’ and ‘lesser‘.”
…patriarchy upholds norms and behaviours that are neither attainable, nor desirable, and in the process we all suffer.
( “How Patriarchy Hurts Men, Too,” nextgenmen 1-13-21 )

C’mon, guys, it’s not “men-bashing women” who are after you.  Y’all’s hurting yourselves.

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Toxic Masculinity Edition

Why was #45 so insecure about his masculinity?
He was diagnosed with electile dysfunction.

Dude, if  you have to have sideburns to prove your masculinity
…then you need to grow a pair.

Why are weeaboos   [9]   the opposite of the patriarchy?
Because instead of treating women like objects, they treat objects like women.

What kind of bread does the patriarchy serve at their dinner parties?
Traditional gender rolls.

 

It’s good to be king.

*   *   *

May you never have reason to fear your “inity” is threatened;
May you try to initiative and maintain dialog, no matter how face-palming it can be;
May you not deny thinking of elephants when you are soooooo,thinking of elephants;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Ah, but do journalists ever really retire?  Not the good ones, like GR.

[2] In the America in Focus series, NYTimes editors asked Americans to share their views on life, society, politics and more.

[3] The transcript in the article is excerpted; there is also an audio tape of the entire discussion.

[4] Other people who are not conservative men.

[5] Not even the three black men on the panel, one of which mentioned being called Sambo (often a substitute for “Uncle Tom”) or the equivalent at some point in their life.

[6] Do an internet search for the phenomenon of “son preference” across cultures, for a depressing eye-opener.

[7] APA’s inaugural Guidelines for Psychological Practice With Boys and Men was developed over 13 years using four decades of research.

[8] Arguably, some would say – *certainly, *I would say – you can put “engaging in warfare” in that category.  Men’s deaths in combat far outweigh those of women…although, since men start the overwhelming majority or wars and either volunteer themselves to participate in it (and usually prohibit women from “combat” roles), or conscript their fellow men, that seems somewhat “fair,” or at least logical.  However, in war, civilian casualties always outnumber military casualties…and who, during wartime, are the civilians?  The vaunted “women and children” whom the fighting men say they are protecting.

[9] Weeaboo – a (usually derogatory) slang term for a Western person who is obsessed with Japanese culture, especially anime.

The Russians I’m Not Absolving

1 Comment

Department Of Scapegoating

Moiself  would like nothing better than to wake up tomorrow morning to the news that Vladimir Putin has

* kicked the KGB bucket
* cashed in his commie chips
* bit the Chernoyl dust,
* bought the fascist farm,
* given up the glasnost ghost
* won his last rabid dog lookalike ® contest…

 

 

 

you know – died.  Whether through “natural” means or otherwise; hey, I’m not picky.

Still, it doesn’t seem…wise…or right…or fair…or historically accurate, to blame Russia’s assault against Ukraine solely on that festering turd of a genocidal despot one leader.

Russia is a big ass country.  Even with an oligarchy-stained kleptocracy of a dictatorship masquerading as a federal republic, moiself  doesn’t think the P-boy can do what he’s doing unless he’s got a whole lotta other Russians – if not the majority – on his side.

This is the 21st century, and Russia is not North Korea.  In “First World” countries whose people have access to First World technologies (internet; cellphones) is impossible to completely control the narrative; it is impossible to make the majority of the Russian populace believe that Ukrainians are “neo-Nazis”,  or the other delusional justifications the P-pants-boy offers for invading a sovereign country, unless there are those who, for whatever reasons, want to believe such bizarre, totally unsubstantiated falsehoods.

Are Russians who support their country’s actions also victims (of P-face’s propaganda), as I have heard more than one person surmise,?  Or are they collaborators?  I’m not sure it matters, at this point.  Not to the dead Ukrainians, that’s for sure.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Thanks For The Imagery

Dateline: Saturday, March 26; circa 7:45 am; morning walk; listening to the People I Mostly Admire podcast’s latest episode:  No One Can Resist A Jolly, Happy Pig.  Host Steven Levitt is interviewing naturalist and author Sy Montgomery, who gets the following introduction on the PIMA website:

My guest today is bestselling author and naturalist Sy Montgomery. The Boston Globe describes her as “part Indiana Jones and part Emily Dickinson.” Her best-known book is The Soul of an Octopus, which was a finalist for the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 2015. But she’s written about everything from tarantulas to hyenas to hummingbirds to pink dolphins. And as far as I can tell, she’s fallen in love with every one of them.

Levitt asks Montgomery how she got to where she is, in her profession – combining her two loves, of journalism and animals. Montgomery talks about visiting various people she knows who devote their lives to studying some obscure species, including a friend who is currently studying “the southern hairy-nosed wombat”…

…which caused moiself  to actually speak the following picture’s caption aloud.  To moiself, but ALOUD.

 

“Hey, Buford, y’all going to the barn dance tonight?”

*    *   *

Department Of Dietary Motivations

Back to the above-referenced podcast: Montgomery’s years of study of numerous animal species has caused her to refer to these animals as “people” (in aggregate) or “somebody” in particular. She explains her vocabulary choice:  not only do many of the scientists who study these animals attribute consciousness and emotion to them, but scientists who study animal brains consistently find the same or remarkably similar neurotransmitters and hormones that, in primates such as our homo sapiens selves, are responsible for the production and transmission of emotions.

 

 

Montgomery and Levitt had an interesting back-and-forth about such discoveries and attributions.  (Excerpts from their discussion; my emphases.)

LEVITT:
Now, I’m no expert on ethology, which is the study of animal behavior, but I suspect that the scholars in that area might be upset by your books….  I’m sure they would consider it a no-no to anthropomorphize animals, but that’s not even exactly what you do. You speculate about the unique ways each creature might experience the world. Am I right that some scientists complain that you go too far in that direction?

MONTGOMERY:
It’s not so much the scientists, but sometimes it’s the philosophers because they want humans to be the top of everything. Now, it is true that in science they use different words than I would use. Of course, in their scientific journals, they have different readers than I’m going to have, but things have changed a bit since, for instance, Jane Goodall first published her findings about tool use in chimps. No one wanted to publish that groundbreaking paper because she named her chimps instead of numbering them.

LEVITT:
Woah. Uh-huh.

MONTGOMERY:
Now things have changed…. There actually is a field of study that’s looking into animal personalities. I went on a personality survey with some of the top octopus researchers in the world…The person who headed that study…was the one who pointed out to me that if we fail to talk about emotions in animals, we are overlooking a central fact of neurobiology. And that is that every animal that has ever been studied, when you try to look for the hormones or neurotransmitters responsible for all of our feelings, like joy and fear, like stress and love, we find the exact same neurotransmitters. Even in taxa as different from ourselves, as octopuses, from whom we have been separated for half a billion years of evolution.

 

 

LEVITT:
The scientific, conventional wisdom for decades, hundreds of years, insisted that humans were unique on so many dimensions, like consciousness, the use of tools, ability to problem solve. Do you have a take on how these past scientists just got things completely wrong?

MONTGOMERY:
Yeah. I think it’s human supremacy, just like white supremacy. We wanted to be at the top, which would justify our exploitation of everybody else….

LEVITT:
Here’s something I strongly suspect will happen. When people look back in a hundred or 200 years, they will be shocked and dismayed at the cruelty that our society subjects animals to with factory farming. Do you agree?

MONTGOMERY:
A hundred percent. We will be appalled. And that’s why I became vegetarian years ago. Now there are farms that raise animals and slaughter animals in a more humane way, but I’m still delighted that I’m not eating them.

LEVITT:
You made a really powerful case for the wonder of pigs. Do you think for people whose goal it is get away from factory farming that maybe the strategy they should be taking is trying to teach people about the wonderful personality that pigs have?

MONTGOMERY:
Oh, I have gotten so many letters from people telling me that my book was the end of their bacon. And also, after Soul of an Octopus, many people wrote and said, “You know what? I used to love to eat octopus. I don’t eat it anymore.”

I love food and I love making food, but the taste of that item is on your tongue for less than a minute before you swallow something else. And for someone to lose their life for a taste on your tongue, that just seems like an enormous waste when there’s so many other delicious and nourishing things that we could have and not take away somebody’s life, somebody who thinks and feels and knows.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Inquiring Minds Want To Know

“She holds a PhD in neuroscience, but I couldn’t find whether she ever actually worked as a neuroscientist. It’s obvious that her understanding of ‘strong science’ doesn’t mean what she thinks it means. I doubt if she reads Science-Based Medicine or understands the principles we go by.”
Harriet Hall, MD aka “The SkepDoc”   [1]  )

 

 

Any claim that has the word “actually” in it must be true.

 

Moiself  saw a commercial the other day in which Mayim Bialik, the child actor turned adult actor turned part-time Jeopardy host,  has apparently now become a vitamin supplement shill. The ad was for Neuriva-Plus, a supplement which, its manufacturers claim, can make you smarter by increasing brain levels of “brain-derived neurotrophic factor” (BDNF, and shame on you for thinking that the acronym refers to some kind of S & M practice).

Why should you trust the celebrity who is promoting such a product?  Well, you silly goose, because the ad begins thusly:

“I’m Mayim Bialik, and I love brains.  It’s why I became a neuroscientist.”

 

 

Uh, yes.  Several spring to mind. 

Elsewhere Bialik has also claimed:

“Neuriva Plus is backed by strong science — yes, I checked it myself —
and it combines two clinically tested ingredients that help support six key indicators of brain health.”

Not only does Bialik claim to be a neuroscientist, in another, longer Neuriva ad she describes herself as, “America’s favorite neuroscientist” 

 

 

Ooooooookaaaaaaay.

Bialik went to college, studied neuroscience at UCLA, took a break from studies to return to acting, returned to school to earn her Doctor of Philosophy degree in neuroscience from UCLA, had two children, then went back to acting.   [2]  But nowhere in her (admittedly impressive) resumé can I find any reference to her working in the field of neuroscience.

I’m not concerned about how many reputable sources, including Psychology Today, have called the product Bialik is endorsing “Neuriva nonsense” and “just another snake oil.”   [3]    Moiself assumed that from the get-go.

 

 

Rather, I’m curious about the validity of her claim to be a “neuroscientist” when she doesn’t appear to be doing neuroscience.  She studied neuroscience; I get that.  But she’s not doing neuroscience.

I’m wondering what actual (ahem) neuroscientists might think. Sam Harris? Brenda Milner? Any other neuroscientists care to weigh in on this?

If you go to law school, get your law degree ( a J.D. in the USA ), then become a carpenter – i.e., for whatever reasons you decide you want to earn a living crafting furniture and do not practice law, either with a firm or in a partnership or by “hanging out your shingle” (solo practice) – is it accurate to say about yourself,

“I actually am a lawyer.”

 

“Don’t blame this one on me.  You want snake oil?  I’ll show you some snake oil.”

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Snake Oil Edition

Which snakes are best at mathematics?
Adders.

I got mugged by a cobra when I was walking through the park.
I told the police I couldn’t recognize it in a lineup, as it was wearing a hood.

Why don’t rattlesnakes drink coffee, or any caffeinated beverages?
Because it makes them viperactive.     [4]

What do you call a snake that builds houses?
A boa constructor.

 

*   *   *

May you never feel compelled to refer to yourself as an “actual” anything;
May you have fun imagining a southern hairy-nosed wombat;
May you be delighted by those creatures which you choose not to eat;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Hall is a retired family physician who researches and writes about pseudoscience and questionable medical practices.

[2] as per her Wikipedia bio.  

[3] “Mayim Bialik’s Neuriva Commercials Make Questionable Claims,” Science-based Medicine, 7-6-21

[4] No snake footnotes here.

The Hotel I’m Not Bonking

Comments Off on The Hotel I’m Not Bonking

Department Of The Fail-Safe Therapy Tool For Kids Of All Ages

 

 

Before I commence to deal with some Serious Subjects ® , I’m going to play for a few seconds with the farty putty (aka, “noise putty”) device MH got me as a Christmas stocking stuffer.  ‘Tis such a primal amusement, and also an effective stress reliever.  I think the American Psychological Association should recommend it to their counselors, to have on hand for sessions that get really intense:  “It’s time for a farty putty break.”  😉

Lest you think moiself  jests about its therapeutic applications, feast your eyes on this, from the National Autism Resources website (my emphases):

“Kids of all ages love to play with noise putty! It has an unusual squishy texture that you can squeeze between your fingers. Push it back into its jar and listen to it make funny, gastronomical sounds. Use it to work on fine motor skills….”

And not to worry, for y’all who consider yourselves to be technically-challenged.  It even has handy-dandy instructions:

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Not Up To Their Previous Standards

Moiself  is referring to the latest installment of Serial, the Peabody award-winning investigative journalism podcast (developed by This American Life)  which made a name for itself in the past ten or so years with its episodic, documentary-style presentation of compelling non-fiction stories.  Past seasons included an investigation of the 1999 murder an 18-year-old student at Woodlawn High School in Baltimore, and an in-depth look at what happened to Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, an American Army soldier who was held for five years by the Taliban, then charged with desertion.

The Trojan Horse Affair, Serial’s latest installment, claims to take a closer look at the 2013 scandal in England which involved claims of a conspiracy to introduce Islamist tenets into several schools in Birmingham – claims which were set out in an anonymous letter  [1] sent to Birmingham City Council.  TTHF is hosted and reported by American veteran producer Brian Reed and a novice journalist, Hamza Syed, a British doctor-turned-reporter from Birmingham, England.

 

 

“This is my first story as a journalist. I don’t plan for it to be my last story as well, but given what’s happened in the years I’ve been working on this, it probably will be.”
( Hamza Syed, from his interview on NPR’s Fresh Air 2-15-22)

Syed’s provocative quote, and my enjoyment of Serial’s previous installments, got me interested in listening to the series. After having done so, I’ve concluded that if, indeed, TTHA turns out to be Syed’s last story as a journalist it won’t be because of his concerns, both overt and implied, of anti-Muslim prejudice against him.  It will be because he proved to be a lousy reporter.

Besides displaying a rather volatile temper, Syed made a major faux pas which cast doubt on the integrity of his methods and motives, and on his ability to distinguish between his personal identity and an investigation’s subject matter.

“Long story short” territory:  In a latter episode of the TTHA series (# five or six, I think, of eight total episodes) it was revealed that, at one point in Syed’s and Redd’s investigation, Syed, frustrated with being unable to get sources to confide in him, played the Muslim card:  [2]    Syed wrote a letter to a potential interviewee (a Muslim man), saying he has never believed the accepted narrative around the case, nor many of the people involved in the investigations around it, and that his (Syed’s) identity as a Muslim takes precedence for him in his investigation.

MH and I each (separately) listened to the podcast, and each of us had similar, jaw-dropping reactions to what Syed had done.  Given the opportunity to provide feedback to Syed, I’d have phrased my reaction thusly:

Why should I take *anything* from you seriously, when you’ve just admitted that you do *not* have journalistic integrity at heart, in a story that especially demands it?

Like the evangelical creationist who admits he views science through the lens of how he interprets Christian scriptures, you have told a person – from whom you are trying to get information – that, like him, you are ultimately and firstly a Muslim.

Now, were you lying to get him to trust you? Or were you telling the truth?  Either way, I can take nothing you say or do as if it were coming from a serious journalist striving for truth, integrity, and objectivity.

Despite our respective shock and disgust at what the reporter had done, both MH and I found the TTHA story intriguing, and continued to listen to the rest of the series. But we weren’t the only ones to have an issue with it, and with more matters than its rookie journalist’s whopping boner of a tactic. There was also the assumption the series seemed to take, from the beginning of the podcast: that anti-Islamic sentiment was behind and/or ultimately responsible for  *everything* in the scandal.  Accusations (including incidents of verifiable and disturbing behaviors   [3]  )  about sexism, anti-LGBTQ teachings, and child abuse on the part of some Muslim men – alarms raised by Muslim women – were mentioned in several TTHA episodes, in marginal ways, then dropped.

We weren’t the only ones who were disturbed by this. To quote only one critique:

“The Trojan Horse Affair presents a one-sided account that minimizes child protection concerns, misogyny and homophobia in order to exonerate the podcast’s hero…  In doing so, it breaches the standards the public have the right to expect of journalists, with cruel consequences for those it uses and abuses along the way.”

( “The Trojan Horse Affair: How Serial Podcast Got It So Wrong,”
Sonia Sohad, The Guardian 2-20-22

 

Shaka Ssali is a (recently retired) Uganda-born journalist.

 

*   *   *

Department Of How Other Journalists Are Getting It So Right

What comes to mind when you read the words of a critic and writer at The Washington Post, who called an Academy Award-nominated film “…the most inspiring journalism movie — maybe ever”?

Are you thinking of the award-winning  All The President’s Men, or Spotlight?  Or The Post, or The Killing Fields, or….?

Nope.  The WAPO writer refers to a documentary (among five nominees for this year’s Academy Award for best documentary feature) which takes place in India.

 

 

Indian politicians would have you believe that their country is a major power in the modern, 21st century world, yet they do the bare minimum to change aspects of their culture which hark back to 1500 BCE, when the caste system was established.

 

 

The good news:  in India, one of the most dangerous countries in which to practice journalism,   [4]   there is an astoundingly brave and persistent group of reporters committed to the ultimate tenet of good journalism: holding the powerful to account.  What’s amazing about this group is that is it composed of people with inarguably the least amount of power in their country:  Dalit (the lowest caste, aka “untouchables”) women.

Writing With Fire is the documentary which tells the story of these reporters and their newspaper/news outlet, Khabar Lahariya (translation: “News wave”).  Moiself   urges you to see it (streaming on Amazon, and available via other venues).

 

 

” In India’s millennia-old caste system, Dalits fall entirely outside the structure. Once pejoratively referred to as ‘untouchables’…over centuries Dalits have remained oppressed by tradition and the rest of Indian society.

‘I tell my daughters, their caste identity will always follow them. This is how our society is structured, but it’s important to keep challenging the system,’ says Meera Devi, the outlet’s chief reporter who is the main protagonist of the film.

But day after day, the women defiantly expose sexual violence against women and the corruption of illegal mining operations in rural India.

‘We don’t trust anyone except you. Khabar Lahariya is our only hope,’ the husband of a woman who has been repeatedly raped by a group of men in their village tells Devi in one of the rare moments in the film in which a man acknowledges the organization’s value and impact.”

(“Opinion: The most inspiring journalism movie — maybe ever”
Jason Rezian, The Washington Post, 2-1-22 )

Writing With Fire has a bajillion   [5]   story levels to it (other than that of the newspaper itself and the stories it covers), including the reporters’ uphill battle against centuries of patriarchy, and gender and caste prejudice.  It’s also an excellent briefing on what makes a good journalist, in any culture.

Some standout moments of the film, for moiself , include:

* Two of the reporters, while preparing a meal, are discussing questions they will be asking of participants in an upcoming election. One reporter asks the other,“Tell me something honestly, why do we call our country ‘mother India?’ Why celebrate the country as a mother?…. I get very irritated watching the celebrations on TV glorifying our democracy. But where is the democracy? Neither are we a democracy, nor are the women free.”

* Later in the documentary one of the more the most promising young journalists of Khabar Lahariya is interviewed about her having to leave the newspaper. She’d spoken earlier about not wanting to succumb to the pressure to get married, and about what happens to women in her society.  And then…

“What can I say? At one point I thought of not getting married at all. Many things were on my mind. So I thought, why get married? But I’m under a lot of pressure. I need to protect my parents, because being a single woman is not an option here.

People are questioning my integrity as well as my family’s. They were saying that they (her family) want to live off my earnings, ‘…and at night your daughter…’
 It tortures the family and creates a lot of tension. So I realize marriage is inevitable. I don’t want to be the cause of my family suffering.
Let’s think that whatever will happen will be for the best. Things have a way of working out, and that’s what I’m hoping for….”
  (She pauses, shakes her head, holds back tears)
“I’m finding it difficult to speak anymore.”    [6]

 

 

The film depicted scenarios both horrendous, and uplifting, depressing and emboldening, What affected me the most? It wasn’t…

* the husbands and families of these brave journalists showing lackluster (if any) support for their work;

*  the frustrations of the reporters trying to learn and use digital technologies when most of them have never been able to afford a cell phone, and then, when they are issued smart phones and/or touchscreen tablets by the newspaper, they can’t charge the equipment because their homes lack electricity;

* the rising influence of the Anti-Muslim bigot Hindu nationalist, Prime Minister Modi, and the prevalence of his inflammatory rhetoric using that most unholy of alliances – politics and religion;

* the danger and threats (physical, emotional, and sexual) the women face; nor the way way sexual slurs are used to try to cow and humiliate them and their families…  

One small, domestic scene really got to me, probably because I took it to be illustrative of what these reporters, as women in a seemingly women-denigrating culture, have to deal with: with the should and should not limitations all women face, in a world still dominated by patriarchal attitudes.

The scene took place early in the morning.  Meera Devi, who like her Khabar Lahariya peers has worked all the previous day (and well into the night), is braiding her daughter’s long hair before school.  Like all of her married reporter peers, the vast majority (if not all) of household tasks fall upon Devi, even as she works full-time out of the home.  Her daughter is insisting on two braids (“plaits”), as Devi wearily (if good-humoredly) grumbles about not having time for that…one plait should be enough.  But the daughter pleads, telling her mother that she will be (and has been) scolded at school if her mother doesn’t do her hair in two plaits, “…because teacher says all girls should have two plaits.”

All girls should….
All girls are ….
All girls must…
All girls should never….

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of International Relations

MH and moiself  are doing some much anticipated traveling overseas this summer.  For some of the travel we’ll be in a Scandinavian tour group.  The tour begins in Stockholm; following savvy traveler advice, I booked us rooms in a Stockholm hotel two days ahead of when the tour begins, so that we can adjust to the time difference and all that pickled herring and Swedish chefs, etc.

Moiself  got an English translation while booking online, but the confirmation the hotel emailed to us was in Swedish.  It began with a cheery greeting which I was mostly able to figure out, except that I transposed two letters in the fourth word, which made for an interesting impression/translation: “Tak För Din Bokning!”

Me, to Moiself:
” ‘Thanks for the bonking ?!?!? ‘
Wow – this really is an all-service hotel!”

Moiself:
Ahem, that’s, bokning.  [7]

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Swedish Edition

Swedish inventors have created cyborgs which are hard to distinguish from real humans.
Critics are concerned about the use of artificial Swedeners.

Why does the Swedish military put barcodes on their ships?
So when the ships return to port they can scan da navy in.

My neighbor drones on and on about his notoriously unreliable Swedish sports car…
It seems like a great big Saab story to me.

Did you hear about a new Broadway show that combines magic with Swedish pop songs?
It’s called ABBA-Cadabra.

 

Mamma Mia, there she goes again.

 

*   *   *

May you enjoy the therapeutic applications of “funny, gastronomic sounds;”
May you watch Writing With Fire (then maybe Spotlight and other journalism-themed movies) and appreciate the absolute necessity of a free press to a vital democracy;
May you put on ABBA’s “Waterloo” and dance around your living room
(you know you want to);
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

[1] Which was later deemed to be a hoax.

[2] About which he was confronted, and chastised, by Reed.

[3] Including sexual abuse of a 14 year old girl by one of her male teachers.

[4] Over forty journalists in India have been killed since 2014.

[5] Fortunately, the reporters of Khabar Lahariya, constrained as they are by sound journalistic principles, would never stoop to using such sensationalistic exaggerations as those employed by moiself.

[6] Later still there is footage of her at her wedding, in her wedding finery.  Moiself wanted to cry; I’ve never seen a more downhearted looking bride…or woman in almost any situation, for that matter.  But, in the documentary postscript, it was reported that she had rejoined the newspaper several months after her marriage.

[7] Uh, that would be, booking, as in, booking a room with them.  Nudge Nudge wink wink.

The FREE (All caps! Must be legit! ) Opportunity I’m Not Pursuing

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Department Of Sometimes The Blog Just Writes Itself

Dateline:  3-14 (Pi day).
First thing in the morning, moiself  receives this email (my emphases):

Hi Robyn!  My name is Raine    [1]
and I’m an Executive Assistant from Craniumz Magazine.   [2]

I came across your profile and find what you do both inspiring and in line with our topics and audience.

 

 

Excusez-moi for this diversion…I just can’t help but pause for a bullshit snort. What I do is so not in line with their “topics and audience.”

Back to the email:

We’re currently sourcing entrepreneurs for the opportunity to be registered as potential guest writers for free publicity opportunities, or to invite them as contributors for Craniumz Magazine. We’re also looking for inspiring coaches, leaders, and entrepreneurs who could be featured on The Craniumz Global Award List 2022 – a global list that will be released in June, and has featured names like Oprah Winfrey, Robin Sharma and Marisa Peer, to name a few.
Is any of this something you would be interested in being considered for?

Best regards, Raine Latte

 

 

OMG, my chance to have my name be somehow associated with Oprah’s!!  And two WTF  people I know nothing about!  I, of course, will drop everything, including common sense and any vestige of self-respect, to be exploited by have the honor of working with the Craniumz people who, according to their website, are a

“…Global Media Brand operated by ____  [3], a branding and digital media brand, with a focus on interviews, articles and information about business, mindset, innovation, leadership and lifestyles.”,

 

 

 

Holy bald-faced and obsequious ignorance. Indeed, if Ms. Raine came across my profile, she evidently didn’t follow it to/bother to check out my blog, which would clue her in as to how little I think of the concept of branding

 

 

Nevertheless, moiself  could not pass up the (FREE) opportunity to respond:

Hello Raine,
What is the compensation for guest writers
and/or contributors to Craniumz Magazine?
And if you came across my profile,
did you note that I am primarily a writer of fiction?
Curiously,
Robyn Parnell

The reply:

Hi
Great to hear from you. My first email serves as an invitation for you to be one of our potential Guest Writers.

Our Guest Writers get FREE access to opportunities that we have in the group such as free articles, podcast hosting, interviews and a chance to be on the list of awards – Craniumz 500 Global List & Global Award. Guest writers are encouraged to participate in the opportunities posted every week for them to get selected for free publicity. They may also opt to submit their proposed topic, quote or article through content@brainzmagazine.com. If the Content Team find it interesting and matched the theme for the month, they will surely approach you for information.

Hope this helps.  Best regards, Raine

 

 

I couldn’t just leave it at that:

Hi yourself.

Congratulations on your outstanding job of not answering my questions.
Since the proverbial picture paints a thousand (FREE) words,
I’ll express my opinion on this matter via the pictorial presentation of the artist/writer known as The Oatmeal:    [4]

 

*    *   *

Department Of How To Spot A Bot

I did not expect a response to the obvious disinterest – and inherent if not overt dis – contained in my last reply.  Yet the artist formerly known as Bot program pretending to be a human called Raine sent me one more oblivious/form reply:

“I’m happy to hear you’re interested!
If you have a spare minute now, it would be great if you could fill in your information in our contributor form, so that ____  [5] can review your details for the publicity opportunities. It’s just a couple of quick questions….

Once your information has been reviewed, you’ll receive an email within 24 hours with the headline ‘Publicity in Craniumz Magazine’ with instructions and information about the opportunities. (This email sometimes ends up in the spam folder, so don’t forget to check it’s not hiding in there!) 🙂

Just let me know when you’ve submitted, and I’ll try to speed up the process.
Looking forward to hopefully seeing more from you, as I think you would make a great addition to the Craniumz community! “

 

Except that, someone did.

 

*   *   *

Department Of St. Patrick’s Day Party Deferred

Dateline: Tuesday 3-17-20.  At 6 pm the dinner party, with ten people total,  [6]  had been scheduled to commence.   Anyone remember what else happened in mid-March,2020?

 

“I’ll take pandemics for $1000, Alex.”

 

I left the dining table as it was set – including moiself’s  lavish centerpiece (a very large – we’re talking four pounds – potato sporting a green crown) – for many months after, in hope, or defiance?   Come Autumn, when This Thing Looks Like It’s Going To Stick Around ® began to settle in my brain, I put away the plates and the cutlery, the napkins and the décor.  The centerpiece, by then, had begun to mutate, much like the virus which caused its dethronement.

 

She took away my crown, so I’m growing my own.

 

If I were to throw a party now, it would be one to celebrate the foreign troops’ withdrawal from Ukraine.  But seeing as how that Tin of Poo in charge of the Russian kleptocracy has an ego as large and skin as thin as those of our own #45…well, odds are he’s not going to leave quietly, ya know?

Moiself  is not hopeful for either a quick or peaceful resolution to the mess the Russians have made in the Ukraine.  I dread what Putin’s nose-thumbing, ass-licking, face-saving strategies could ultimately entail.  But in my dreams, all things are possible:

 

“Oops, my bad!  We’re leaving now.”

 

In the meantime, in an action about as effective in the long (or short) run as saying to the Ukrainians, “I’ll pray for you,” I’ve done the bare minimum to keep up the consciousness in my ‘hood.

 

 

And I hope readers, if you haven’t done so already, will join me in checking Charity Navigator    [7]   for an above-board relief organization to aid the Ukrainians, and make a contribution.  CN currently lists thirty-five organizations funneling relief aid to “The Ukrainian-Russian Crisis.”  The organizations are grouped under the following headings:  Medical Services; Medical Supplies; Non-Medical Supplies; Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH); Emergency Housing Long-Term Assistance; Other (inc. cash/cash vouchers, logistic supply, animals).    [8]

 

*   *   *

*   *   *

Department Of Nostalgia: Recalling My First Instruction In Deductive Reasoning

♫   Beans, Beans, the musical fruit
The more you eat; the more you toot
The more you toot, the better you feel
So let’s have beans for every meal!   ♫

 

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Musical Fruit Edition

Why did everyone notice when Bill Gates farted in the Apple store?
Because the store didn’t have any Windows.

I didn’t pass gas in front of my husband until we got married.
His family wasn’t impressed.

Life is so unfair – I just called the Flatulence Incontinence Hotline,
and the woman who answered said, “Can you hold, please?”

Why doesn’t Chuck Norris fart?
Because nothing escapes Chuck Norris.

When a clown farts, does it smell funny?

 

Clowns are NOT funny.

*   *   *

May you be entertained by bogus offers to link your name with Oprah’s;
May you appreciate your first lesson in deductive reasoning;
May you accept my belated slainté on behalf of March 17;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] A real person, according to the magazines website staff listing, (I checked), but not her real name…although I have a feeling she is a bot/creation.

[2] A supposedly real magazine (I checked), but not its real title.

[3] Some parent company headquartered in Sweden.

[4] The incomparable Matthew Inman.  Who, I imagine, would also not be impressed to be on a “global awards” list that may have once had Oprah’s name on it.

[5] Another ostensibly real person’s name, but likely not a Real Person ® .

[6] Including MH and I and son K.

[7] Charity Navigator is the world’s largest and probably best-known “nonprofit evaluator.” Itself a non-profit, CN analyses the integrity of a non-profit organization in financial terms, focusing on how much of contributed funds are used for the purpose(s) claimed by the charity, with an emphasis on the cost effectiveness (or impact) of the charity, its financial stability, adherence to best practices for accountability and transparency, and results reporting.

[8] Moiself  chose International Relief Teams, which has a “100%” rating from CN.

The Parties I’m Not Yet Hosting

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Department Of Getting This Out Of The Way

Since it would likely cause too much political turmoil for a legitimate government to engage in “regime change,” is it too much to suggest that some Russian patriots lay down their lives for A Greater Cause ® and take out their rapacious, rampaging, rat-faced ruler?

And while they’re at it, maybe they could do something about our own Tangerine Traitor?

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of I Just Can’t Help It

If the aforementioned Russian patriots found a way to grind their leader into a pâté and spread him atop a cracker, would that be Putin on the Ritz?

 

The preferred final resting place of despots worldwide.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Well You Didn’t Have To Agree So Damn Quickly

It happened.  Again.

Dateline: last week; later afternoon; grocery store;  picking up soy milk, olive oil, apples, avocadoes, lemons, garnet yams, and other items for dinner.  It is a blustery day; I have a coat and scarf, my usual wide brimmed rain-or-shine hat, and a mask of course, all of which left little of my face exposed.  The checkout cashier gives me a careful look as she picks up the bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from my basket.

Cashier (holding the bottle above the scanner, but not scanning it):
“May I see your ID?”

Moiself (pulling my mask up and my scarf down):
“Is this the neck of someone under 21 years old?”

Cashier (takes a look, scans my wine):
“Ha!”

 

 

*   *   *

 

Everyone take a deep breath. The frivolity will return after this important message.

 

*   *   *

 

Department Of If You’re Human, Please Read This

“In the throes of loss, people reach for certainty and control. My patient’s wife asked me what percentage of people as sick as her husband had survived and whether a risky therapy could promise life. I couldn’t offer her easy answers, only a willingness to stay and listen. Together, we wrestled with the burn of uncertainty. She shared photos of her husband over Zoom. They had sailed and cooked and taken selfies on the beach. Her photos said what words couldn’t. This is the person I have lost.

Earlier in my career, looking closely at this particular kind of pain was as blinding as looking at the sun. I distracted myself afterward with S.N.L. marathons and slabs of chocolate cake. Eventually, I realized that it wasn’t my job to protect people from their grief or to solve it.

I have learned to look when I want to look away.
I have chosen to stay when I’d prefer to run out of the room and cry. The prelude to compassion is the willingness to see.”

(Dr. Sunita Puri; my emphases)

 

 

If you’re over age twenty and live alone on a desert island, perhaps you have not yet had that choice – to stay, or run out of the room and cry.  Perhaps you have not yet had to grieve that inevitable, most human of losses: the death of a loved one.  For the rest of us, I recommend this essay:

We Must Learn to Look at Grief, Even When We Want to Run Away.

This brief, down-to-earth yet stunningly profound guest essay appeared last week in the NY Times.  Written by Dr. Sunita Puri, the essay begins with the story of a patient dying from COVID-19, and Dr. Puri’s relationship with the patient’s wife. The insights imparted by Dr. Puri, who is a palliative medicine physician, go beyond any particular diagnosis.

“I don’t believe in ‘moving on’ and ‘finding closure.’ This language distills the messy complexity of grief into tidy sound bites and asks people to leave something behind, bury it or lock it away. The challenge for my patients and their families is the challenge for all of us: Can we instead move forward with grief?
Can we find a way to integrate loss into life, to carry it with us? Can we feel tragedy together, without an artificial line between those who are ready to move on and those who can’t see a way out?”

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

*   *   *

 

Department Of The Ghost Of Potlucks Past

As we near the end of mandatory indoor masking regulations, moiself  is thinking of the gradual return of social gatherings.  For our family such events will be small, at first…which has got me to daydreaming about our parties of yore.

We (MH and I, and offspring K and Belle, when they were still in the nest) used to host potluck dinners for family/neighbors/friends.  On a semi-regular basis (every 6 months to a year) we could host twenty to thirty people to feast and frolic.

The potlucks were themed; guests were asked to bring a dish having something to do with the theme.  There are some parties whose themes moiself  can’t recall and whose invitations I didn’t save (DAMN!); others, I will never forget.

Here is a sample of the themes, plus a brief description of what kind of foods/dishes guests were asked to bring. 

 

 

 

* Cusina Obscura
(foods of the “minor” or lesser known countries and/or cuisines, instead of the usual dining out suspects {Italian; French, Thai; Mexican. For example, find/make something Burmese instead of Chinese; Finnish instead of Swedish; Samoan instead of Hawaiian;) Uruguyan instead of Brazilian….)   [1]

* White Trash Food
(food you at one time liked and ate but now might be ashamed to admit it; e.g., a Wonder Bread mayo potato chip sandwich.  Basically, this gathering was a haute cuisine nightmare…and judging from the guests’ feedback, one of our most popular themes.
Our party’s centerpiece was a bottle of Pepto Bismol.   [2]  )

* The Dung Beetle Café
(food items must be round, or “rollable”)  [3]

*  All Things “P” Party
(all foods/dishes must have a word/ingredient beginning with the letter P)

* Better Red Than Dead
(food must be…wait for it…red. In some capacity.    [4])

 * Halfway to the Holidays
(party held in June; bring a dish which, to you, fairly screams fal-la-la-la-la/ yule/Christmas/Solstice whatever winter holiday you celebrate)

* PuPu Potluck
(as in the Hawaiian pupu platters – an all appetizer foods potluck )

* The Next Party
(inspired by a regular potluck party guest, who, when he encountered me at the grocery store or some public arena, asked,
“Isn’t it time for your next party?”   [5] )

 

 

Our friend BW, a regular potluck guest and gourmet chef with quite the cookbook collection, “gifted” us with this cookbook – along with a platter of the adore-mentioned potato chip sandwiches – when he attended our WT Foods party.

 

 

Here is a variant of our “standard” potluck party invitation (All Things “P” Party):

Potluck; Parsnips; Pickled peppers; Pasta; Peanuts; Pizza; Pesto
Pomegranate; Party; Porcini; Pirates; Parmigiano….

Do you pick up a pattern?  Perceptive person (or plural) that you are, you are invited to help us celebrate the glorious 16th letter of the alphabet by attending our
All Things “P” Potluck Party
Saturday October 7, 6:30 pm

Celebrate your culinary P-osity by bringing a dish to share with fellow potluck partakers.  This may be just the occasion you were looking for to dust off that recipe for Paprika Plum Pudding or Peruvian Pork Patties, or Papa’s favorite Purée of Prunes & Peas.

Your lovely and talented hosts will provide their usual combination of:
* joi de vivre and schadenfreude;
* plates, napkins, and tableware;
* restrooms sanitized for your protection;
* a motley assortment of leaded and unleaded beverages
(including Pepto Bismol for the prunes & peas partakers).

And yes, there will be Prizes awarded.  For…something.    [6]  

Here are just a few of the fabulous people who will  (not)  be attending the potluck:

-Monty Python’s Michael Palin
-Pancho Villa
-Dolly Parton
-Regis Philbin
-Sydney Poitier
-Plato
-Pandora
-Jean Luc Picard, Captain, USS Enterprise
-Emily Post
-Pocahontas
-Pongo the wonder chimp (Cheetah’s stunt double from the original “Tarzan” movies)

RSVP to _______.  Directions to our house, potluck suggestions, and personal hygiene tips will be provided upon request.

 

Actually, we were relieved Ms. Post could not attend the gathering, as we’d heard she was somewhat of a party pooper.

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Dinner Party Edition

Where does a baseball catcher sit at a dinner party?
Behind the plate.

I was so happy when son stopped chewing on his boogers at dinnertime.
He’s no longer a picky eater.

I invited a couple of Vikings to dinner, and they kept tapping on the table and laughing.
When I finally asked what was so funny, they said,
“You wouldn’t get it; it’s Norse code.”

My husband was mortified when I mentioned his underwear at a dinner party.
It was a brief conversation.

My cannibal neighbor showed up two hours late to my dinner party.
I gave him the cold shoulder.

 

Can we please extend cancel culture to cannibal jokes?

 

*   *   *

 

May you enjoy a gradual return to social gatherings;
May you learn to look at grief, even when you’d rather run away;
May being the subject of bad puns someday be enough
to depose Russian war criminals;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

[1] Our friend’s young adult son brought live meal worms to this event, which he sautéed, on a pan on our stove, in garlic and olive oil.  Not every guest was game;  I tried them  (after my third glass of champagne).

[2] This theme was inspired by a “white trash dinner” contest a group of fellow dormies and I had in college, one night when we were bored and looking for an excuse not to do homework.  (the one Native American, one Black, and one Philipino dormies in attendance asked for special dispensation for their contest entries to be considered White Trash ® ).  We shared stories of foods our respective families served, a dish which we’d grown up eating, but which embarrassed and/or horrified us to think of it now.  Then we all voted on which was “best” (read: worst).  My entry was my family’s fried Spam slices topped with Velveeta.  Guess who won that contest?

[3] Motivation for this theme came via a dinner I made which my offspring thought was too challenging to their palates (think of Thai curry when they wanted pizza), which led me into a good humored tirade about how, when I was a kid, I loved the opportunity to try new foods…and that they were lucky to have me for a mom:  “If I were a mother wolf I would be regurgitating your dinner for you…or, what if we were a family of dung beetles, and night after night it was the same thing:  ‘Hey mom what’s for dinner?  Oh, boy, dung balls again!’  “

[4] Surprisingly, we did *not* get 15 dishes featuring tomato sauce.  People used their imagination: red beans & rice; beet juice risotto; Red Hot Chili Pepper layer cake…. and our fear that we might end up dining on nothing but cabernet and ketchup was for naught.

[5] But I can’t remember what the food theme was.

[6] We usually had potluck party guests take a quiz, which I prepared, containing multiple choice questions having something (widely interpreted) to do with the party’s theme.  Prizes were given out for the high (and low) scorers.

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