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The Lemon I’m Not Squeezing

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Department Of The Song I Want Sung At My Wake

Dateline: December 26, circa 7 am:  Thinking of the impending New Year while walking on a 27˚ morning, listening to author John Green’s latest Anthropocene Reviewed podcast, in which he discusses and “rates” the history of the song-we’re-still-singing-after-200+-years: Auld Lang Syne.

From the proverbial Out Of Nowhere ®, I realize I have tears in my eyes.  Feeling the chill as the moisture emerges from my tear ducts, moiself thinks silly thoughts, ala, Are they (the tears) going to freeze my eyeballs?

♫  We’re here because we’re here because we’re here because we’re here…  

Sing it to the tune of Auld Lang Syne.

 

 

Those alternate lyrics come from what Green describes as “that recursive lament of British soldiers” from World War I, who were embittered by “devastating losses of the war, and the growing use of poison gas,” and also by the fact that they “…had no idea why they were fighting and dying for tiny patches of ground so far from home,” and thus did not feel much like hoisting a pint during a temporary holiday truce and singing the treacly old songs.

Although the soldiers’ transformative lyrics can be seen as “…a profoundly nihilistic song written about the modernist hell of repetition,” a writer friend of Green’s who was to die of cancer would sometimes, during public appearances, ask her audience to sing those very lyrics with her, because she saw it as a statement of hope:

“It became a statement that we are here–meaning that we are together, and not alone. And it’s also a statement that we are, that we exist, and it’s a statement that we are here, that a series of astonishing unlikelihoods has made us possible and here possible.
We might never know why we are here, but we can still proclaim in hope that we are here. I don’t think such hope is foolish or idealistic or misguided. I believe that hope is, for lack of a better word, true.
We live in hope–that life will get better, and more importantly that it will go on, that love will survive even though we will not.”

 

 

I had heard the We’re Here Because We’re Here version of Auld Lang Syne before the podcast; I knew of its origins and had always appreciated (what *I* saw as) the lyrics’ amalgam of cynically detached optimism…but this time, Green’s simple yet eloquently narrative helped me to realize how fittingly and succinctly those lines illuminate moiself’s philosophy of life (if moiself can be said to have one, and I guess moiself just did).

The past year in particular, with its legacy of devastating losses for beloved friends,  [1]  has further increased my desire to be more mindful of the present – to celebrate and appreciate what we have in the simple and random fact of our existence in this phase of life. And what is remembered and what goes on, even after we are gone, is the love we have for others, and theirs for us. 

The various fictions the priests and philosophers have cobbled together over the centuries can hold no candle to the only “for sure” we know: the reality that, for whatever reason, we’re here because…we’re here, and that Life Itself ® is the meaning of life.   [2]

 

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Department Of Spam Of The Week

Sometimes it pays to actually read the subject matter in the spam box before I select delete all, because every now and then there is a gem like this:

“Your Prostate Is The Size Of A Lemon.”

 

Uh…make that, a lady lemon?

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Department of Epicurean Excursion   [3]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi, by Yotam Ottolenghi

Recipe:  Black Pepper Tofu

My rating:

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

 

Recipe Rating Refresher  [4]

*   *   *

Department Of It’s Not Working

Dateline: early afternoon, December 31 (aka New Year’s Eve,); a small grocery store on the Oregon Coast. The clerk recognizes me and smiles.

Clerk: Did you find everything you needed?

Moiself (pointing to the one pound sack of dried beans, among the other items in my cart): Yes.  I’m *so* happy you have black-eyed peas!

Unbeknownst to the clerk, I had searched at the town’s other (bigger) grocery store, and they had no black-eyed peas of any kind – dried, canned, or frozen.

Clerk (looking at me quizzically): “You’re the second person today who was looking for black-eyed peas.  Something about the new year, right?”

Moiself“Yep. It’s a tradition in parts of the South: eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day is supposed to bring prosperity and good luck in the coming year.”

Clerk: “You’re from the south?”

Moiself“Not me. My father was from Tennessee; it was his family tradition, so I do it to honor him. His family was poor, we’re talking dirt poor…I always thought it was kinda funny, that, after all those years, neither he nor any of his siblings ever looked at the pot of black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day and said, ‘Another year went  by; we’re still poor and unlucky. Do we have to eat this?’

Clerk: “Exactly!”  (her laughter chimes with mine as she finishes bagging my items): “A friend of mine – she thinks I’m Asian, but I’m not  [5] – tells me stories about all the luck rituals her Asian grandmother followed.  Her grandmother would sprinkle coconut milk around the outside of her home’s entry door, every Monday, so that she would have good luck.”

Moiself“And did her grandmother have good luck?”

Clerk (snorting with laughter): “No!  Of course not!  She had ants!”

 

 

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Department Of The Partridge Of The Week

It’s that time of the year again. As has become a tradition much maligned anticipated in our neighborhood, moiself will be hosting a different Partridge, every week, in my front yard.   [6]  Can you guess this week’s guest Partridge?

This little one doesn’t get much attention – neither on the show when it aired, nor later, as per the fans’ ratings.  It’s as if the show’s producers cast the youngest two Partridge family members and then didn’t know what to do with them. At least this little tambourine-wielding waif  [7]   gets a spot on our tree (which is more than moiself can say for the two different boys who played the family’s youngest son/drummer – we just didn’t think it qualified for a spot, what with two different boys playing the same do-nothing character).

 

*   *   *

 

May you appreciate that you’re here because you’re here;
May the size of your girl or boy parts never be described in terms of citrus fruit;
May you have fun (and not ants) with food superstitions;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

And, Happy New Year, y’all!

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Losses I have previously written about in this space, losses which are in the “children are supposed to bury their parents, and not the other way around,” category.

[2] A nod to Roger Ebert’s memoir, Life Itself, and, of course, Monty Python.

[3] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) one recipe from one book.

[4]

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it
* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it
* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin, a character from The Office who’d eat anything, would like this.
* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.
* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.
* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up.
* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.
* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

[5] I’ve heard the clerk’s name before, but could not recall it…her surname is Filipino, I think.

[6] In our pear tree.

[7] That was her job, in the band – tambourine; that’s it. And she obviously couldn’t even shake it on beat, or off beat….

The Sun Salutations I’m Not Counting

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Department of Just Wondering, Winter Edition

Dateline: Boxing Day (December 26), 2 pm, downtown Portland’s Keller Auditorium with MH and Belle, to see the last 2019 performance of “The Nutcracker.”

Watching the impressively limber members of The Oregon Ballet Theater as they do their pirouettes, I can’t help but wonder:  when ballets are performed at locales south of the equator, do the dancers spin counterclockwise?

 

 

Added cultural bonus: Belle pointed out that one of the OBT’s principal male dancers looked like Seth Meyers.

Wished-for cultural highlight: to see The Nutcracker, or any ballet, performed by Les Ballets Trockaderos de Monte Carlo.

 

 

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Department Of If My Hamstring Muscles Are Still Sore After 36 Hours
Have I Reached Enlightenment?

Yoga Class:
“Why 108 Sun Salutations?”

Yoga Teacher:
“It’s an auspicious number in yoga; I know 108 sounds like a lot…”

Moiself:
“That’s because it is.”

Last Sunday (12/22), to celebrate the winter solstice, my yoga studio held an “Om-a-thon,” which is what Someone In Charge Of Marketing ®  called an hour and a half class consisting of 108 Sun Salutations.  A sun salutation, for you non-yogis, is a yoga exercise incorporating a sequence of nine or more linked asanas, or yoga poses/postures. The asanas are linked by the breath – inhaling and exhaling with each movement, and Sun Salutations involve moving from a standing position into Downward and Upward Dog poses and then back to the standing position, with many variations.

Why 108? It’s apparently an auspicious number (in the parts of the world where yoga originated), for many reasons.  Non-“woo” reasons include the fact that the distance between the Sun and Earth is roughly 108 times the Sun’s diameter and ditto for the ratio of the moon’s diameter and the distance between the moon and earth – scientific realities not likely surmised when the originators of yoga decided 108 was a magic special number.

There are plenty of “woo” reasons for venerating the number 108, and the teacher leading the class mentioned a few of them: there are 108 Upanishads (a series of Hindu treatises ca. 800–200 BCE); there are 108 beads in a mala (a meditation tool, an idea early Christian/Catholic missionaries stole “adapted”  from the Hinduism & Buddhism, and morphed into the Catholic rosary beads    [1]  ); there are nine planets and twelve astrological signs…9 x 12 = 108  [2]….

Oh, and most significantly of all, a Uno deck contains 108 cards. That’s gotta be a sign.

 

 

People who’d participated in previous year’s OM-a-thons told me it was a lot of fun, so I decided to try it this year.  Indeed, it was fun. And I only spent about five seconds of the class resting in Child’s pose.

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Department Of Serves Me Right

Dateline: December 24, 10:30 am; in a Kaiser Hospital pharmacy waiting to pick up a prescription for a friend, for whom I am acting as “surgery buddy” for her outpatient hand surgery.  The pharmacy is surprisingly (to moiself) hopping for a Sunday morning, and I have plenty of time for people watching while waiting for the Rx to be filled.

Moiself is noticing how casually most people, especially the men, are dressed. Read: the average Joe is a Sloppy McSlob Face.  [3]   This is not an original observation;  it most likely came to my mind due to a recent rant well-thought out opinion piece I read, written by a European writer who bemoaned the tendencies of Americans to dress “down ” (e.g. as if they are sprawled in front of their TV at home) in public spaces.  As I look around at my fellow Specimens of Humanity ®, I must admit that complaining dude has a point.

Then, a very dapper older gentleman takes a seat about 12 feet in front of me.

 

 

He is wearing a grey tweed suit, vest and tie, nice (but not overly fussy) black herringbone shoes, and a gray short brimmed fedora. Dapper Gent’s posture is dignified as he leans over to pick up a magazine from the end table next to his chair. This same magazine had been recently perused by one of the previously mentioned Specimens of Humanity who’d schlumped passed by the table  – a Specimen whose plumber-inspired butt crack was on generous display atop his pathetic, pajama-bottoms-substituting-for-pants when he leaned over to glance at said magazine.

I admire Dapper Gent’s contribution to Public Space beautification, and allow myself a moment of smugness as I recall Complaining European Writer’s observations.  I look up at the line of pharmacy clerks kiosks and wonder when my number will be called.  I return my gaze to Dapper Gent, just in time to see him ever-so-slowly guide his index finger into his left nostril and dig deep, deep, and deeper, as if he is mining for precious ores.

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Department Of Petty Pleasures
Number 387 In The Series.

Daetline: Christmas Day, Powell’s Bookstore, ~ 2 pm, for our traditional Shopping-at-Powell’s-after-Christmas-Day-lunch-at-Jake’s outing. I love it, I absolutely love it, when I espy a long of patrons waiting outside the men’s, but not the women’s, restroom.

 

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Family friend LAH is an artist, and it shows in every aspect of her life. Come the Yule season she is known for exquisitely wrapping the presents she bestows, which are so beautifully adorned with artfully tied and arranged ribbons and bows and other accessories that Belle and K, even as young children, would stare at their respective gifts from LAH and declare, “It’s too pretty to open.”

No such declaration has ever been thought, much less uttered aloud, about any gift wrapped by moiself. The presents I give, which are chosen in all love, care, enthusiasm, and sincerity, end up looking as if they’d been wrapped by an orangutan with ADHD.  It’s not that I don’t try to do better…let’s just say that my family has long joked about how you don’t need a gift tag to know if the present is from Robyn.

This Christmas morning, when MH, son K, daughter Belle, and moiself were reaching the end of our opening-presents session, I picked one of the two remaining gifts from my pile – one whose tag read “to Robyn from Santa.”   [4]   I turned the gift upside down, flashing a smug “See, I’m not the only person who does this” smile to my (now young adult) offspring, to show them how the wrapping paper didn’t fully cover the back of the gift package.  Belle’s indignant/kneejerk reaction:

 “Mom, did you wrap a present for yourself!?

 

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Department Of Stop Asking Me That

“Oh, yeah, so you all liked that Elf on a Shelf thing?”
(Misinformed persons who feel compelled to ask about all the elves
in our house during this time of year)

Much of moiself’s holiday décor, in all its tacky seasonal glory, is in homage to my mother, who died three years ago on Christmas eve. Marion Parnell loved Christmas and especially her Christmas decorations, which included the “tradition” (which her family started and mine continues) of placing certain kind of elves – the kind with small plastic, doll-like faces and bendable, felt costume clothes bodies,   [5]  all around the house.

 

Like this one, a (rare) yellow/green costumed variant.

 

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

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

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

No.
Nothing.
Like. That. Book.

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

 

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Department of Epicurean Excursion   [6]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

The Silver Palate Cookbook , by Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins

Recipe:  Lentil and Walnut Salad
My rating: 

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher   [7]  

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Department Of The Partridge Of The Week

It’s that time of the year again. As has become a tradition much maligned anticipated in our neighborhood, moiself will be hosting a different Partridge, every week, in my front yard.   [8] Can you guess this week’s guest Partridge?

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Department Of Simple Pleasures

Having both Belle and  K home for Christmas reminds me of an old adage.  Passed down by amateur philosophers over the ages, the saying endures because it is true:

SIMPLE PLEASURES 

( e.g., knitting;
sitting over the bathtub drain when the water runs out;
listening to the lamentation of your neighbor’s children when they discover that
someone (ahem) has stolen their front yard’s inflatable Santa decoration and replaced it
with a snowman made from 10,000 laminated oral care pamphlets
from the Pediatrics Dental Association )

ARE THE BEST.

And so it is with all sincerity that I wish y’all the simple pleasures of Happy New Year.

*   *   *

May your present-wrapping skills bring you wide acclaim;
May we appreciate our fellow Specimens of Humanity in all our sartorial glory;
May your simple pleasures by simply maaaahvelous;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi! 

Jusqu’à l’année prochaine!

*   *   *

 

[1] Although the Catholics halved the number to 59 beads, in perhaps an effort to claim originality or refute charges of plagiarism.

[2] Except of course/again the originators of such superstitions did not know there were nine planets…and now we all know (though some of us refuse to accept the fact) that there are not nine planets, but eight.

[3] Although, with my idea that I’m dressed up when my tie dye shirt doesn’t have any mustard stains on it, who am I to talk? 

[4] Yes, that would be MH.

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

[6] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) one recipe from one book.

[7]

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it
* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it
* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin, a character from The Office who would eat anything, would like this. 
* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.
* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.
* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up.
* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.
* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

[8] In our pear tree.

The Theme I’m Not Intending

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Posterior; bum; bottom, duff; fanny; ass; buns; hinterlands; cooler; seat; saddle; rear end; keister; rump; funky trunky; derriere; moon; caboose; booty; hamhocks, tookis….

I didn’t intend to have a heinie-laden post, but…(sorry)…it kinda turned out that way.

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Department Of Holiday Surprises

Dateline: Saturday 12/14.  BO’M, an artist who lives in Bend (Oregon), made my day. IMHO, this is what the internet is for: friends who surmise that I take a certain appreciation in the crossroads of art and nature/life can – and do – send moiself links like this:

“The World’s Greatest Gallery of Mushrooms That Look Like Butts”

Be honest with yourself: you know you’re going to click on that link. 

Here’s a sneak preview of Buttshrooms ® available for your viewing pleasure:

 

 

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Department Of, And By More, We Mean:

 

 

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Department Of Questions Best Left Unanswered

Why is it that I want to put Santa hats on all of the Buttshrooms?

 

You expect an erudite man such as myself to answer such a poopy question?

 

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Department Of An Old Award I Have Yet To Bestow This Year

I stopped giving out The Asshat Award ® a couple of years ago, as moiself had tired of even thinking about the Usual Suspects for whom it would be appropriate (read: #45, and all of those GOP congressclowns members who abet him).  Besides, I’ve not enough hats to cover all of those asses.

 

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Department Of Good News

 

The rest of the blog will be butt-free.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Improving Upon Tradition

What to put atop the tree this year? Previous year’s tree toppings have gone missing or got broken.  Amazing lightbulb/aha moment to the rescue:  why put a star, or anything else on top of your tree, when you can have a Santa Pigeon riding an ostrich?

 

 

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Department of Epicurean Excursion   [1]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

The Oh She Glows Cookbook, by Angela Liddon
Recipe:  Marinated Balsamic, Maple & Garlic Tempeh

My rating: 

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher   [2]   

*   *   *

Department Of Not Complaining About My Birthday

I thought I’d set up my Facebook account so as not to reveal my birthday; I don’t care for prompts I receive from FB to remember someone else’s “special day,” and would rather have any greetings to me to be spontaneous (if not sincere).  However, as MH pointed out, I outed moiself by posting the birthday hat flamingo pictures.   [3]   And the FB greetings I ended up receiving?  This Scrooge found them touching.

I had a good birthday…which, in the past few years, has not been the norm for moiself. As my birthday approaches, and on the day itself, I’ve tended to feel… not depressed, but somewhat grumpy…especially when I hear that John Lennon/Yoko Ono song, Happy Christmas/War Is Over (aka, “And So This Is Christmas”). Nothing like wealthy, respected and influential musicians to remind you about the passage of time and the fact that you didn’t accomplish what you meant to:

♫  So this is Christmas
And what have you done?
Another year over….  ♫

 

Happy Christmas. Y’all stopped complaining yet?

 

It has been a hectic week, filled with tasks and obligations large and small (including a mammogram and annual physical exam, and if that doesn’t say Holiday Fun ®  I don’t know what does), and it began with Monday. My birthday turned out to be a good day filled with the kind of low-key pleasures that reminded me of my father’s motto:

These are the good times.

The good times began in the early morning, coming downstairs to see presents from MH and son K (and espying the aforementioned flamingos through the windows). The fun continued in my 9 am yoga class  when I played the birthday card and asked the teacher if, for my Special Day, ®  she’d consider leading the class through some opening postures which would enable us to try Svarga Dvijasana or Bird of Paradise pose. I hadn’t done Bird of Paradise in over eight years; I never could do the full expression (the extended leg version) of the asana, but remember always feeling triumphant when I was able to get to the standing part, holding my leg and giggling, alone in my room with only my yoga DVD instructor as company.  The teacher graciously obliged;  the rest of the class was game if skeptical at first, and we were all treated to the sight of one younger (well, duh) woman, whose mat was right in front of mine, who did a beautiful, stunning version of the pose.

 

Now stick your tongue in your ear and scratch your nose with your left pinkie toe.

 

Afterward, I went out with yoga buddies for tea/coffee, then returned home to finish loading up two vehicles with son K’s belongings. Yep, packing & toting boxes and furniture was actually an enjoyable activity – it enabled MH and I to meet up with K after work and help him move into his new digs (closing date and keys handed over on my birthday!), after which we got dinner at a Fun Place ® just two minutes’ walking distance from K’s condo.

 

I sent a picture of my son holding the above device  [4],  with the announcement to friends and family re K’s new address: “K has taken the plunge to home ownership….”

 

By the end of the day I felt the simple joy of contentment, even as the pressures of the coming days and tasks loomed. I am feeling hopeful for the coming year: 2020; a new decade; a new start for friends seeking to make radical, life-affirming changes; new political leadership and healing for our nation….  And no matter what else happens, at least it will be buh-bye to 2019, a year which (I assume) was full of good things for many folks but which brought excruciating loss and ongoing heartache for several dear friends.

Also, for the first time since I was – what, a toddler? – nobody asked me my age. Had anyone done so I was prepared to tell them that the two numbers indicating my age, when added, equal one of my favorite numbers: nine.

And if your first thought after reading that was, “Oh, so she’s forty-five?” ….

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Partridge Of The Week

It’s that time of the year again. As has become a tradition much maligned anticipated in our neighborhood, moiself will be hosting a different Partridge, every week, in my front yard.   [5]   Can you guess this week’s guest Partridge?

 

*   *   *

May you appreciate the beauty in another person’s yoga pose
(even if you can’t quite manage it yourself);
May you find whatever is your equivalent of a Santa pigeon astride an ostrich;
May your day be made by a whimsical link sent to you by a friend;   [6]

…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

[1]  A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) one recipe from one book.

[2]

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it
* Two Hamster Thumbs Up:  Loved it
* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin, a character from The Office who would eat anything, would like this. 
* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.
* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.
* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up.
* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.
* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.


[3] MH had put birthday hats on our motley collection of yard flamingos.

[4]  which, as any homeowner knows, is second in importance only to the house keys.

[5] In our pear tree.

[6] It can be butt-free; whatever floats your boat.

The “Women And Children” I’m Not Protecting

1 Comment

Dateline: Tuesday. Confidential to the woman who exited the grocery store ahead of me:

 Dear Multiple-Scented One,
Unless you began your day by bathing in the effluence of unaltered male ferret musk, dried off by rolling in a pile of festering, freeze-dried lutefisk, then gargled with a puree of 50 raw garlic cloves before heading out to your day’s errands, your body’s unmasked odors could not possibly have been worse than the plethora of perfumed potions with which you doused yourself, thus fumigating every public space you visited.
Please, for the sake of the ozone (and the mucous membranes of my nostrils and lungs), consider going au natural when it comes to the fragrances.

*   *   *

Department of Veteran’s Day Reflections

Dateline: Monday, 1-11-19. I made a spur of the moment decision to see the movie “Midway,” to mark Veteran’s Day.  Moiself left the theater feeling rather pensive, thinking about a trope I’d grown up with (although of course it wasn’t called that at the time) which was often used as a justification for war or as a motto to inspire our military’s fighting men:

We Must Protect The Women And Children.

One of the reasons cited for excluding women from the military and/or serving in combat (“the front lines”) was that the Women and Children ® must be protected. (We now know that, throughout history, women *have*served in the front lines and in combat – just not “officially” as in, getting credit – or in some cases, permission – for doing so).

Here’s the thing: those vaunted women and children supposedly being protected by the menfolk?  In any and every war, civilian/non-combat-related casualties have always outnumbered military casualties.  [1]  And during wartime the civilian population is largely – altogether now – women and children.  When I was a young girl I remember thinking, whenever I read or heard stories of war, that I’d rather have the opportunity to fight if my country or village came under attack, rather than passively die in a bombing raid or via disease or starvation or any other of the many ways that civilians being “protected” die during wartime.

 

 

In WWII, Admiral Doolittle‘s raid on Tokyo shattered the Japanese Imperial Army’s notions that their revered capital city was impenetrable.  Doolittle and the 79 other B-25 bombers/flight crew members did not have enough fuel to return to the aircraft carrier from which they’d launched; thus, they deliberately glided as far as possible after their fuel ran out and (crash) landed on the (Japanese-military-occupied) Chinese mainland.   [2]   Sixty-nine of the airmen, including Doolittle, escaped capture or death, many due to being helped by Chinese civilians.

In retaliation for the Tokyo raid and the help offered by the Chinese to the American airmen, the Japanese military occupied, ravaged and then torched many Chinese cities and villages, killing over 250,000 – yes, a quarter of a million –  civilians:

“(An American missionary) observed the result of a Japanese attack on Ihwang:
“They shot any man, woman, child, cow, hog, or just about anything that moved, They raped any woman from the ages of 10 – 65, and before burning the town they thoroughly looted it…. the humans shot were…left…on the ground to rot, along with hogs and cows.”
The Japanese marched into the walled city of Nancheng…beginning a reign of terror so horrendous that missionaries would later dub it “the Rape of Nancheng.” …
Over the summer, Japanese soldiers laid waste to some 20,000 square miles….
(Civilians who were suspected) to have helped the Doolittle raiders were tortured…. soldiers forced (civilians) who had fed (Doolittle’s airmen) to eat feces before lining up ten of them for a “bullet contest” to see how many people a single bullet would pass through before it stopped. In Ihwang, (a man) who had welcomed an injured American pilot into his home, was wrapped in a blanket, tied to a chair and soaked in kerosene. Then soldiers forced his wife to torch him.”
(Excerpts from “The Untold Story of the Vengeful Japanese Attack
After the Doolittle Raid,”  Smithsonian.com )

Give me a death on the battlefield any day, over that.

 

( “Women in the American Revolution,” from American Battlefield Trust )

*   *   *

Department Of Another Fitting Movie For Veterans Day

Do you know who was the first woman to lead an armed expedition during the Civil War? Go see the movie about the amazing freedom fighter/escaped-slave-turned-abolitionist,  Harriet Tubman, if you haven’t already.  Or read up/refresh yourself on her story…on second thought, don’t be content with just that.  It’s a really good movie. Then ask yourself why is Harriet Tubman’s name and image not on all of our currency?

 

 

Harriet, the movie, is directed/co-written by actor/director/screenwriter Kasi Lemmons.   Cinema buffs may know Lemmons for giving us the luminous Eve’s Bayou, and also for playing Ardelia, Clarice’s fellow FBI special agent, in The Silence of the Lambs.

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [3]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

The Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home, by The Moosewood Collective
Recipe:  Tunisian Vegetable Stew

My rating:

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher    [4]     

*   *   *

Department Of Well Duh

“…(a computer scientist) describes how he examined cloud-computing services from Google and Amazon Web Services that help other businesses add language skills into new applications. Both services failed to recognize the word ‘hers’ as a pronoun, though they correctly identified ‘his.’ ”

 

 

Something that should come as no surprise, but still is disheartening to consider: The process of “training” AI (Artificial Intelligence) devices  to know what we know – e.g., by having them scan/download the sum of human writings, both fiction and non-fiction – will also imbue said devices with our historical and cultural biases, thus fostering the continuation – even propagation –  of prejudices and preconceptions.

“….while researching a book on artificial intelligence, computer scientist Robert Munro fed 100 English words into BERT (Google’s new AI language algorithm): “jewelry,” “horses,” “house,” “money,” “action.” In 99 cases out of 100, BERT    [5] was more likely to associate the words with men rather than women. The word “mom” was the outlier.

“This is the same historical inequity we have always seen,” said Dr. Munro…
Now, with something like BERT, this bias can continue to perpetuate.”

And if that doesn’t depress you enough, these biases – surprise! (read: not) extend toward cultural and ethnic discrimination (my emphases):

Researchers have long warned of bias in A.I. that learns from large-amounts-data, including the facial recognition systems that are used by police departments and other government agencies as well as popular internet services from tech giants like Google and Facebook.
In 2015, for example, the Google Photos app was caught labeling African-Americans as “gorillas.” The services Dr. Munro scrutinized also showed bias against women and people of color.


BERT and similar systems are far more complex — too complex for anyone to predict what they will ultimately do.
Even the people building these systems don’t understand how they are behaving,” said Emily Bender, a professor at the University of Washington who specializes in computational linguistics.

( All excerpts from, “We Teach A.I. Systems Everything, Including Our Biases:
Researchers say computer systems are learning from lots and lots of digitized books and news articles that could bake old attitudes into new technology.”  NY Times, 11-12-19 )

“What Brave New World shit is this?”

*   *   *

Department Of Ok, That Was Depressing…Back To The Movies

The Cinematic Count So Far

As mentioned previously in this space, in the past few years I have vowed to see at least one movie per week in an actual movie theater. In 2019, with 7.5 weeks to go, my movie count is 47. From Welcome to Marwen (early January) to the most recent, Pain and Glory, my favorites of the bunch include:

On the Basis of Sex; If Beale Street Could Talk; Captain Marvel; Us; The Aftermath; Hotel Mumbai; Booksmart; Late Nite; Once Upon a Time In Hollywood; The Farewell; Blinded by the Light; Ad Astra; JoJo Rabbit; Harriet; Parasite; Pain and Glory.

My walk-out count (i.e. movies moiself walked out of, due to a combination of disgust/boredom) is, fortunately, only two:  What Men Want, and Little.

Winner of Best Speculative Review Before Having Seen The Movie:  why, that would be moiself, when son K told me he was off to see Lighthouse with a friend.  I make it a point to never read a review of a movie before I see it; I do see a lot of movie trailers because I’m in a movie theater every week.  I’d seen one preview for Lighthouse, which gave away next-to-nothing about the plot and made me skeptical as to whether or not I wanted to see it.  [6]  Before K left for the theater he asked if Lighthouse was on my must-see list.

MoiselfI dunno, it’s, what – a movie about two men in an isolated lighthouse?  So, 90 minutes of masturbation and farting and snoring and peeing and pooping and arguing…?

K’s first comment to me when he returned from the theater:
HOW DID YOU KNOW ?!?!?

*   *   *

May you realize that artificial intelligence can never override natural stupidity;
May you and yours never have to bear the label, civilian casualty;
May y’all see at least one movie a week before the year’s end;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] In the cases where a country is invaded.  Our country’s most recent wars have not been fought on/in our country; rather, we’ve shipped our fighting overseas.

[2] Sixteen B-25s launched; 15 crashed in China, and one made it to Russian territory.

[3] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) one recipe from one book.

[4]

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it

* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it

* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin, a character from The Office who would eat anything, would like this.  

* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.

* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.

* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up .

* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.

* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

[5] BERT (“Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers”) is Google’s neural network-based technique for natural language processing (NLP) pre-training. 

[6] Which I eventually did.

The Middle I’m Not Meeting In

Comments Off on The Middle I’m Not Meeting In

Department Of This Is Way Too Existential Of A Question To Tackle Before Breakfast

Sub-Department of Could This Be Another Variant of Male Directile Dysfunction?

Dateline: Sunday morning, circa 7 am; Bay Area town, visiting friends who live in a hilly neighborhood with many winding roads.  MH and I are out for a morning walk. A car slowly approaches us from behind, and slows even more but doesn’t quite stop, as the driver, an older Asian man, rolls down the window and in lightly accented English, asks, “Do you know where I am going?”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of I’m A Middle Child, But Sometimes You Gotta Choose Sides

“There’s nothing in the middle of the road
but a yellow stripe and dead armadillos.”
( Jim Hightower, Texan, progressive political activist, former Agriculture commissioner,
author of There’s Nothing in the Middle of the Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos: A Work of Political Subversion      [1] )

 

Time to revisit a brief but wise meditation of the myth of the morality of middle ground. Excerpts from There’s Nothing Virtuous About Finding Common Ground, by Tayari Jones,  Emory university professor and author  (my emphases ) :

“…we are in a political moment where we find ourselves on opposite sides of what feels like an unbreachable gulf. I find myself annoyed by the hand-wringing about how we need to find common ground. People ask how might we “meet in the middle,” as though this represents a safe, neutral and civilized space. This American fetishization of the moral middle is a misguided and dangerous cultural impulse.”

The middle is a point equidistant from two poles. That’s it. There is nothing inherently virtuous about being neither here nor there. Buried in this is a false equivalency of ideas, what you might call the “good people on both sides” phenomenon….”

The search for the middle is rooted in conflict avoidance and denial. For many Americans it is painful to understand that there are citizens of our community who are deeply racist, sexist, homophobic and xenophobic….

The headlines that lament a “divided” America suggest that the fact that we can’t all get along is more significant
than the issues over which we are sparring.

Is the importance of our performance of national unity more significant than our core values? Is it more meaningful that we understand why some of us support the separation of children from their parents, or is it more crucial that we support the reunification of these families?… Should we agree to disagree about the murder and dismemberment of a journalist?

The romance of the middle can exist when one’s empathy is aligned with the people expressing opinions on policy or culture rather than with those who will be affected by these policies or cultural norms. Buried in this argument, whether we realize it or not, is the fact that these policies change people’s lives.

Compromise is not valuable in its own right,
and justice seldom dwells in the middle.”

Check out this essay in its entirety, originally published last year (11-5-18) in Time.

 

*   *   *

 

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [2]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

The Minimalists Cooks at Home, by Mark Bittman
Recipe:   Piquillo Peppers with Shitakes and Spinach

My rating:

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher   [3]           

*   *   *

Department Of Explaining Blog Brevity

Moiself is recently returned from a trip to Bay Area, to help longtime friends memorialize their 27-year-old son, who died unexpectedly in August.  MH and I also visited friends who graciously offered us accommodations during the trip — the same dear friends whose 27-year-old daughter was murdered in January.

The lingering trauma of losing a child of any age, and especially in violent circumstances, cannot be underestimated…nor fully comprehended.

 

 

*   *   *

May you be patient with those of us trying to comprehend the incomprehensible;
May you be wary of “meeting in the middle”;
May you continue to remember to  love ‘em while you’ve got ‘em;

…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Which is snort-laughing funny; moiself recommends y’all read it.

[2] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) one recipe from one book.

[3]

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it

* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it

* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin, a character from The Office who would eat anything, would like this.  

* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.

* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.

* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up .

* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.

* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

The Law(s) I’m Not Rising Above

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Department Of Questions That Get Me In Trouble (Although They Shouldn’t)

NO ONE IS ABOVE THE LAW.

That proclamation, a supposed axiom of our justice system, does not always seem to be so axiomatic when it comes to the rich and powerful.   Since the latest/final straw revelations of #45’s felonious acts I’ve been hearing, reading, and even seeing it (moiself has noticed NO ONE IS ABOVE THE LAW signs posted in shop windows and on people’s lawns) all over the various news outlets.

No one is above the law is a sentiment/principle/practice I heartily agree with… yet moiself can’t help but wonder if those who are earnestly advocating NO ONE IS ABOVE THE LAW realize that the principle goes both ways, and all ways?  That train runs north and south, east and west, up and down, left and right….

If you truly would like to see #45 and his minions prosecuted for their innumerable crimes – and it’s starting to look like the federal prisons are going to get awfully crowded if all of his abettors are brought to justice – then what do you have to say to your fellow citizens who expect the same principle should be applied to all matters of the law?  For example, to people who have entered the country illegally. Illegally, which means to violate the law – you know, the law that *no one* is above?

If your answer is “No!”  or some variation of, “Well, wait – that’s different….”  can you take a deep breath and consider for a moment why there are those on the so-called far right who feel that they cannot dialogue with us lefties?

 

I agree with this sentiment, but there *are* humans who commit illegal acts. I wonder how the sign holder proposes we deal with that?

*   *   *

Department Of And Now We Segue To A Much Less Loaded Question

Question: what are your two favorite obscure Beatles songs?

 

 

By obscure I mean not one of their bajillion [1]  number one hits; perhaps a B-side or a song from besides or maybe just a lesser known song from Revolver (e….g., “For No One” ) or Rubber Soul  [2]  (maybe, “If I Needed Someone”) or any of their other albums.

Mine are I’ll Be Back and No Reply Both are examples of why I continue to love the group’s music.  These two songs contain varying rhythmic and/or chord progressions, along with a certain melancholy tone, stunning harmonies and impassioned vocals so different from what their rock ‘n roll peers were doing at the time.

And yours are?

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of What Are The Odds?

Oh, about one in 18,250 – a conservative estimate given that there are 365 individual dates each year  [3]   and at least a 50 year age range for people who can legally purchase alcoholic beverages (get out your calculators, y’all – there’s one on your smartphone)….

So:  1 in 18,250.  Those are, at the very least, the odds that the clerk in the grocery store defied when she came over to my self-checkout carrel to use her key scanner to enter approval for the bottle of wine I was purchasing. This particular store requires that the clerk enter an “over age 21” birthdate for every customer’s alcohol purchase. The clerk told me she is able to determine “90% of the time” that a customer is over 21 by sight rather than by checking ID (which she doesn’t like to do because it takes longer); after she used her scientific method to determine my age (Wrinkles? Check. Gray-flecked hair? Yep.) she quickly keyed in a random birthdate which would make me over 21, a random date which happened to be MH’s birthdate: the exact month, day, and year.

 

*   *   *

Department Of I’m Shocked…

outraged, gob-smacked, flabbergasted, stunned, astounded, dismayed, offended, aghast, appalled, astonished….might as well throw in the whole book of synonyms.

 

 

And by outraged I mean of course that I’m Not. At. All. Surprised.  I refer to the recent revelation that the slightly-less-recent “revelation” about red meat eating is likely a steaming pile of…that which hails from the end of the cow that even die-hard beef eaters eschew.   [4]

“Eat Less Red Meat, Scientists Said. Now Some Believe That Was Bad Advice.”
(NY Times 9-30-19)

Provocative headlines, indeed. ‘Tis reasonable to be skeptical when “new studies” proclaim to overturn hundreds of other studies.  Indeed, those new studies were criticized by other scientists in terms of methodology and data collection and analysis…and now, ta da!:

The study, which has received a plethora of criticism and has been branded an ‘egregious abuse of evidence’ – concludes that red and processed meat isn’t as harmful as previously thought.

It has since been discovered that lead researcher Bradley C. Johnston, who disclosed that during the past three years he didn’t have any ‘conflicts of interest’ to report….According to the New York Times, as recently as December 2016, Dr. Johnston was the senior author on a study which was paid for by food industry giant International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), who are ‘largely supported’ by companies such as McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Mars, and Cargill – one of North America’s biggest beef processors.

(“Scientist Behind Red Meat Study Previously Tied To Food Industry”)

 

 

Oh golly gosh, what a letdown. Because in the history of all history we just can’t imagine a doctor or scientist getting paid for shilling for the “food” industry which, of course, only has our best interests at heart.

“… the Coca-Cola company, as far back as fifty years ago, began a campaign to hire scientists to attempt to shift the blame/public attention for increasing obesity and type 2 diabetes rates away from sugar consumption by blaming dietary fat. Their scheme to divert attention from the mounting evidence linking soda consumption with weight gain and poor health included funding the Global Energy Balance Network, an “astroturfing”   [5]   organization purporting to research diabetes but whose employees were actually being paid to promote the idea that insufficient exercise, not bad nutrition, was the primary cause of weight gain.    [6]

(previously blogged about my moiself in my prudently titled segment,
Department of Fuck You, Coca-Cola, 3-2-18)

 

“And with the funds from my  shameless whoredom ground-breaking research I could, dare I say, rule the world…”

*   *   *

Department Of The Clueless Guy Who Thinks He’s Attractive No Matter What ®

Watching a recent Unsuccessful Flirtation ®  [7]  made me think of my favorite experience with such a dynamic.

Dateline: a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (circa 1989), at a Bay Area Planned Parenthood. I was working my regular shift at the check-in desk for that PP’s Tuesday morning clinic.  The clinic saw patients, male and female, for a wide variety of needs, the majority of which were for routine tests and bloodwork and STD treatments.

“You know how these American foxes go wild for our sexy infectious diseases!”

A man similar in age to mine (maybe late 20s – early 30s) approached my desk.  His idea of checking in for his appointment took the form of leaning his elbow across the desk, making serious, eyelash-batting eye contact with me, giving me his name and appointment time and then attempting to chat me up.

There was no one in line in back of the guy, so he wasn’t taking up anyone’s time but mine…but, geesh.  He said something about recognizing me, then segued into a series of questions/statements meant to elicit personal information from me, which I responded to by ignoring them as I got his chart and prepped his intake paperwork.  Meanwhile, he’s telling me that he knows the clinic closes for an hour at noon, presumably so the PP staff can have a meal break, so where do I like to get lunch nearby – do I know any good restaurants or cafes?

The thing is, besides…

(1) not being attracted in the least to this guy, and

(2) being married,    [8]   and

(3) there is no #3

…how is it possible he could ignore the fact that I, too, was capable of recognition?

I’d seen him – checked him in for his appointment – in several previous clinics.  Even if I hadn’t, I had his chart, right there in front of me, to tell me that he was coming in for appointment #4 in a series visits to have topical applications of acetic acid to treat his HPV.

Dude, you are flirting with me?  Here?  Now?

 

I *work* here – I know what you’re here for: to have warts burned off your penis.  I mean, props to you for doing the responsible thing, but it’s not a turn on.

*   *   *

Department Of Just When You Thought The Story Couldn’t Get Any Better

So. I got away from Obliviously Flirting Warty Penis Man by getting up from the desk to take his chart back to the clinician who would see him. I must have had “a look” on my face, because the clinic’s Nurse Practitioner asked me what was going on. I told her; we both had a good laugh.

The following Tuesday the same NP rushed up to me as I was getting my coat from the employee break room “I’m so glad I found you – you’re not gonna believe this! she exclaimed. She had just arrived to work the afternoon clinic and wanted to tell me about the previous week’s clinic, but hadn’t been able to find me after she was done seeing patients that day (my shift ended at noon)It seems that the OFWPM had started putting the moves on *her*, during his appointment!  Yep, he was sitting on the exam table, nekkid from the waist down, asking leading/flirtatious questions of the Nurse Practitioner who was applying an acetic acid solution to his genital area. She attempted to quell his queries by telling him that she needed to concentrate on what she was doing…which led to OFWPM making some lewd remarks, including about how it was nice to be around an attractive woman who enjoyed her work…which led to the NP shoving an acetic acid-coated swab up his urethra.

Her apology was immediate, if not sincere: Whoopsie daisy – I am **so** sorry!

 

“You remember the Klingon proverb that revenge is a dish best served cold…or with a red hot acid swab shoved up your pee-hole.”

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [9]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

Kitchen Express, by Mark Bittman

Recipe: Microwaved Honey Eggplant

My rating:

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher  [10]

*   *   *

May you never harass a clinician who has your private parts in her hand;
May you live the kind of life in which your only response to the previous advice would be, “Well, DUH;”
May you cherish your favorite lesser known Beatles songs;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Okay; it was twenty-one.

[2] Arguably one of the best album titles ever.

[3] Y’all with Leap Day birthdays can go pout in the corner now.

[4] Nor chew.  Ewww.  Although dead flesh eaters will eat just about anything….

[5] Astroturfing is “…the practice of masking the sponsors of a message or organization (e.g., political, advertising, religious or public relations) to make it appear as though it originates from and is supported by a grassroots participant(s). It is a practice intended to give the statements or organizations credibility by withholding information about the source’s financial connection.”

[6] And we now know it’s the other way around – you can’t out-exercise a poor diet.

[7] A man in a coffee shop was really trying to impress a woman, who was giving off every I’m not interested vibe known to humankind.

[8] I kept pointing to his chart with my left hand, — even tapping it, to get his attention – asssuming he would notice my humble but obvious gold wedding band.

[9] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) one recipe from one book.

[10] * Two Thumbs up:  Liked it

* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it

* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin, a character from The Office who would eat anything, would like this.  

* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.

* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.

* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up .

* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.

* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

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