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The Announcement I’m Not Applauding

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Department Of Why Aren’t You Listening To This Podcast?  [1]

I refer to Hidden Brain, hosted by engineer/journalist/NPR science correspondent Shankar Vedantam . The podcast aims, as per their website, to help “…curious people understand the world – and themselves. Using science and storytelling, Hidden Brain reveals the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior, the biases that shape our choices, and the triggers that direct the course of our relationships.” Linking research from fields including psychology, neurobiology, economics, anthropology, and sociology, Hidden Brain aims to provide “… insights to apply at work, at home and throughout your life.”

If you’ve ever wondered…

-Why is our tendency to associate with those who share the same interests, sense of humor and political views demonstrably not the best way to cultivate creativity?

– What causes mild-mannered people turn into fearsome mama and papa bears?

– Can the way you park your car reveal crucial details about you?

– Why do we think back to turning points in our lives and imagine, ‘What if….?’

– Do unconscious biases keep people from finding interesting jobs?

 

…then this is the show for you. And if you never wonder about such things, then you need to get interested in Life.  [2]

 

 

 

martha

 

 

 

From the seemingly mundane to the profound, here is a sampling of recent subjects and questions Hidden Brain has tackled:

* Who Gets Power — And Why It Can Corrupt Even The Best Of Us

* Baseball Umpires Don’t Get Overtime. Does That Affect Extra Innings?

* Hungry, Hungry Hippocampus: Why and How We Eat

* Admit It, Parents: You Play Favorites With The Kids

* Don’t Panic! What We Can Learn From Chaos

* Looking Back: Reflecting On The Past To Understand The Present

Probably the most interesting topic the show has presented involves the origins and purposes of the world’s religions, and how religions “evolved” to help human societies survive and flourish. Most interesting is, I realize, a subjective qualifier, which is used by moiself due to both current and ongoing events and experiences which makes this topic of particular interest.

If you’ve taken part in a religious service, have you ever stopped to think about how it all came to be? How did people become believers? Where did the rituals come from? And most of all, what purpose does it all serve? This week, we explore these questions with psychologist Azim Shariff, who argues that we can think of religion from a Darwinian perspective, as an innovation that helped human societies to survive and flourish.

For most of human history, we lived in small groups of about 50 people. Everyone knew everybody. If you told a lie, stole someone’s dinner, or didnt defend the group against its enemies, there was no way to disappear into the crowd. Everyone knew you, and you would get punished.

But in the last 12,000 years or so, human groups began to expand. It became more difficult to identify and punish the cheaters and free riders. So we needed something big — really big. An epic force that could see what everyone was doing and enforce the rules. Since individual people could no longer police large groups, the policing had to be done by a force that was superhuman. That force… was the popular idea of a “supernatural punisher” – also known as god.

( excerpts from “Creating God,” Hidden Brain, 7-16-18 )

 

 

angrygod

Cue the wrath.

 

 

The development of religions as a cultural tool is not a new idea (to moiself) – I’ve encountered similar theories across a wide spectrum of disciplines and scientists, including psychologists and cultural anthropologists. Still, this podcast contains one of the most accessible explanations I’ve ever read or heard for the evolution of group religious practice.  [3]  Of course, the answer(s) to the opening questions about the origins of religious practice, if posed to religious believers and not scientists, would be along the lines of,  Because it’s true!, and/or Because my god is real and gave our belief to us! and other simplistic non-answers which fly in the face of the reality that one believer’s religious truth is another believer’s heresy.  [4]

“… Besides the psychological studies, there is evidence from history and psychology that shows modern religions evolved to solve problems related to trust and cooperation…  All the world’s major religions today arose at times when human societies were struggling with the problems of size, complexity, or scarcity.”
( “Creating God,” Hidden Brain, 7-16-18 )

Religions arose as a mechanism – like fire and agriculture – to help us survive as a species. The historical period known as the Neolithic (or Agricultural) Revolution saw the creation and rise of towns and cities.  As humans transitioned from living in small, mostly nomadic, family bands to living in larger groups of unrelated people, we needed a way to get along with strangers. We needed a way to determine who was “one of us” and trustworthy to, say, trade with or intermarry or share water rights and other finite resources…

But, not just any old religion or deity would do, when it came to regulating group behavior amongst strangers.  And how much you believed in a god mattered less then what kind of god you believed in.

The more wrathful/angry the god, the more successful the religions were, in spreading across large groups, and maintaining control of and adherence to social norms.  Correspondingly, the more “costly” the rituals and rites associated with public declaration of adherence to the religion  – i.e. physical and behavioral modifications (e.g. circumcision, clothing and dietary restrictions, sexual practice proscriptions) the more confidence the others had in you as being one of them (and not just faking it to gain access and trust).

 

beard

So, you’ll trust I’m one of you if I cut off the tip of my…what ?!?!?

 

Interestingly, our ancestors who remained in hunter/gatherer groups – which did not have the stranger danger/trust issues – tended not to develop belief in larger, punitive gods. 

Scientists who study (the few remaining) modern day smaller tribes, whose lives resemble those of our ancestors in the pre-civilization/Agricultural revolution days – who live in small group where everyone is known to everyone else – note that these tribes’ gods tend to be “smaller and weaker and less morally concerned…they are more like trickster spirits… that don’t have the power nor the punitive ability nor the concern (to enforce) moral issues.”

 

trickster

 

Anyway, I highly recommend this episode of Hidden Brain. Go listen to it yourself,      because I could go on and on about this (and yep, I already have).

 

 

confusedspock

“That’s putting it mildly.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Afore-Mentioned “Current And Ongoing Events And Experiences Which Makes This Topic Of Particular Interest.”

I’ve been thinking about the development/role of religion a lot recently – before, during and, especially after an out of town trip to attend a family wedding last weekend. While I was happy for the adorable young couple to be starting their married life, the marriage ceremony itself was – like all conservative Christian services are, for me –something to be endured, not celebrated.  Once again I found myself walking the ethical balance beam: trying to avoid attracting attention to moiself while trying to maintain a shred of integrity and not have my presence nor my silence be taken as acquiescence to the preacher’s words and the scripture readings – which essentially amount to a sermon (to a captive audience) on primitive, Bronze Age  blood sacrifice and patriarchal theology.

 

 

 

bridestoningjpg

 

 

 

You just gotta take those small opposition opportunities when they arise, like my refusal to join the clapping after the couple is introduced by the officiant, after he has pronounced that they are married.  In a mere 30 minutes the woman has gone from being addressed by her first and last name to having her identity announced as the mistress of the man.

It gives me great joy to introduce to you, for the first time,
Mr. and Mrs. Husband’s first name/husband’s last name!

And, holy patriarchal poopfest – the preacherman at this wedding actually read the bible verses about how wives should be submissive to their husbands, and went on at some length about how his god created Eve for Adam (as if they were real people) and thus women for men and how that is the only relationship (man-woman marriage) that is   approved (and mandated )by his god and the only path for happiness….

When I find myself in a church-type venue (either a wedding or a funeral, these days) I always maintain open eyes during the let us bow our heads and pray moments. I pass the time by looking around at the audience (? guests? Whatever we are), noting who does the same. I sought out one of the Eyes Wide Open People  [7]  after the wedding concluded –  someone I’d seen stifling a flinch at a particular rhetorical low point during the ceremony – and ventured to ask his opinion.  He too was surprised by the waaaaay conservatism of the ceremony.  He said couldn’t remember the last time he’d heard such archaic speechifying,  “…and I’ve been to a lot of Catholic weddings recently.”

The overt sexism (and concurrent if covert anti-LGBT sentiment) in (many, but not all) Christian wedding ceremonies is not new to me. But this time, knowing the personal histories of several of the guests and family members, it made me sad in ways I cannot fully articulate.  As the preacherman orated about the Christian god’s plan for marriage and men and women, women and men, blah blah blah, I felt the sense of exclusion, intentionally or otherwise, which the ceremony cast upon  gay family members/guests.  In that world, you’ll take a seat at the back of the bus… if they let you board at all.

 

oneman

Thank you for celebrating our special day! However, if you’re gay, we will not help you celebrate yours.

 

 

 

*   *   *

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Musical Interludes, Via One Of The Best Covers
Of An Already Really Good Song

That would be Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell’s rendition of Spanish Dancer, a song written and originally recorded by Patti Scialfa on her album, Rumble Doll[8]

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Unexpected Bonuses

Moiself has notice that, besides the retail outlets and weed growers themselves, the legalization of marijuana in Oregon has give rise to other businesses offering correlated services.

 

 

stoner

*   *   *

 

 

May all of your announcements be applause-worthy;
May you find your own ways to maintain integrity during institutionalized absurdities;
May you never stop asking the
how did it come to be/where it come from/what purpose does it all serve? questions;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] That is, if you’re not. And if you’re not, you should.

[2] And don’t show up at one of my dinner parties and just talk about the weather.

[3] The origins of religions as just that – evolutionary tools – is the only origin story that makes sense of the otherwise implausible and downright silly post-Iron age belief systems.

[4] And then if you posed the questions to a room of believers in different religions you could watch the fundamental fur fly as they try to sort out why the one god they claim to believe in would give vastly different dogma, rituals and practices to its peoples.

[5] Or, as many a religion-free observer has noted about the various religious proscriptions on sex and diet and attire,  “If you can get people to give you their balls, they’ll give you anything.”

[6] And it has links to interesting/relevant research and other articles.

[7] As usual, there were several of us.

[8] Yet another example of a person who might be more well known – and appreciated on her own merits – were she not married to someone famous in the same field (in this case, Bruce Springsteen. Aka – in a just universe – Mr. Patti Scialfa).

The Sisyphean Task I’m Not Performing

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Department Of Where Is Samuel L. Jackson When You Need Him?

Girls and boys, can you say, “Dinoflagellate Bioluminescence?”  I knew you could.

 

 

mrrogers

 

 

“One of the most spectacular forms of marine bioluminescence (often incorrectly called ‘marine phosphorescence’) is produced by dinoflagellates. In the sea, light emission by these unicellular organisms is mostly seen when cells are mechanically stimulated, at the surface of waves, in breakers, by swimming animals or humans or by vessels.”
(Bioluminescence in Dinoflagellates, Tree of Life web project)

Whether or not you can correctly pronounce it, we saw it, on an evening (approx. 8:30 – 10:30p) kayak  tour last Sunday, in the waters around the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge . To my knowledge, no one in our group took pictures of the phenomenon itself, as we’d been told cameras are “fairly useless to capture bioluminescence,” which was fine by me.  How often can one participate in an outing these days without someone pulling out their smartass phones every five minutes for that all-important documentation?  [1]

 

 

 

jellies

One form of the bioluminescence we saw (but did not photograph).

 

 

 

It would have been amusing to have watched someone attempt a selfie with the mullets, a plethora of which inhabited the waters just below our kayaks. It seems they had been misinformed as to our intentions. Perhaps they confused our boats with their predators, the local bottleneck dolphins, which, like many of my WT ancestors, [2] travel in packs and use cooperative hunting to get themselves a tasty mullet meal.

 

 

 

mullethair

“Y’all wanna eat my what ?!”

 

 

 

No, not that kind of mullet.

I suppose, to a mullet, 13 kayaks might look like a school of dolphins.  Anyway, it was dark; we were not interested in them and would have had no idea there were so many beneath the surface, but whenever we neared a school of mullets they tried to escape from our path by jumping out of/seemingly flying across the water’s surface. Both K and I were slapped in the hands/arms several times by the fleeing flying fishies, and, occasionally, one would land in a kayak. Our guide ended up with at least two mullets joining him in his kayak’s cockpit.

 

 

mullets

They looked like this…only it was dark and we could barely see them.

 

 

 

 

One exception to the fine by me nobody took pictures sentiment: – it would have been excellent to have gotten a picture of the snake that MH’s cousin NB and his daughter CB discovered in their (tandem) kayak. We were on our way back, about  8/10 of the way through the trip, when a snake slithered across NB’s lap and then went under his kayak’s seat.  [3] . The guide confirmed NB’s claim (i.e. he saw the snake in NB’s kayak when the boat was in the water), but neither the guide nor NB got a good enough look at the snake to confirm whether it might be a round head, yay/whew! (e.g. a harmless rat snake) or a diamond head , YIKES ! (e.g. a cottonmouth, which is venomous.)

There was a distinct improvement of the pace of CB’s paddling as she and her father, as per the guide’s recommendation, hauled ass  made a hasty but dignified return to the launch area, so as to dislodge their inadvertent hitchhiker.  After hauling ashore We Who Enjoy Such Things ®  (read: the guide, Belle, NB and a few others who are reptile-friendly) carefully checked out NB’s kayak, and espied a hole beneath the seat where the snake could have be hiding, but none of us could not see it or get it to come out.

Had we had more time, we would have taken the Snakes On A Kayak! theme to more extremes (some of us immediately began throwing out ideas for a screenplay), but the night was old and Florida’s state birds (read: mosquitos) were out in force.

 

 

 

snakesplane

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Reasons For Moiself To Go To Central Florida

“Oh, there’s so much to see and do there – Sea World, Universal Studios Dinosaur World, Legoland, Busch Gardens the new Harry Potter thing....

 

 

CAMEL

 

 

 

 

It was hard not to laugh at the Well-Meaning Person ® speculating as to the reasons for my trip to central Florida last week.  Don’t think for a moment that visiting any kind of amusement park – especially one whose name rhymes with Whiz-pee-sand – would be reason enough to get me there.

Family matters. That’s it.

We (MH, son K and daughter Belle and I) did the Family Trip Thing ®, joining MH’s mother and his sister (who respectively live near/in Orlando), and his cousin and her family, to do the final disposition  [4] of the ashes of MH’s father.  [5]

Florida. From what I’ve seen of it over the years…well, I am not…a fan. IMHO, Florida would be tolerable sans Floridians, who have constructed lives where they scurry from one air-conditioned cubicle to another (car to house to car to shopping mall to car to work to church and church and church and …   [6])   to escape the living-in-an-oven-between-sinkholes they’ve decided to call home.  The way humans have to modify/assault the environment to make it acceptable to them, sometimes I think the bipeds should just leave en mass  [7] and let the panthers and gators and other wildlife recover/take over.

 

 

 

gatort

Fine by me, as long as I can continue to get poolside beverage service.

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Sisyphus In The Suburbs

The likelihood of the gentle summer breeze changing direction and gusting toward an open garage, filling it with the neighborhood detritus, is directly proportional to moiself just having finished sweeping out said garage and attempting to shut the garage door.

 

 

ohthehumanity

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Circle Of Life, Backyard Edition

I found this beauty yesterday morning when I was picking berries. She was stretched out underneath one of our blueberry bushes, and looked so peaceful I thought she was resting, or napping.  [8] I brought her inside to show MH and K, and now I don’t know what to do with her, other than return her to Nature ®, with a nod to her simple elegance and a hope that she had a good life (however that would be defined for a butterfly).

 

 

butterfly

 

 

 

*   *   *

 

May your Sisyphean tasks at least provide amusement for those around you;
May you have your shae of mullets-in-the-cockpit adventures;
May you be having a good life, however you define that for your species;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] “If there’s no picture of it, it didn’t really happen,” seems to be some folks’ motto.

[2] Sorry…couldn’t resist a chance to tweak my heritage. It won’t happen again.  Oh, what am I saying – of course it will.

[3] The guide’s guess was the snake had been in the kayak all along, but we civilians liked the idea of it jumping, with the mullets, and landing in their boat.

[4] Not sure what to call it, as it was partway between a scattering and an internment.

[5]  Who died from complications of Parkinson’s disease, two and a half years ago.

[6] You can’t spit – and I have tried – without hitting a church in Florida. Which would be great, if only spit could do some real damage….

[7] As long as they go anyplace but Oregon.

[8] I don’t know if butterflies, in their brief existence, take time to nap, or if they even have the inclination to do so.

The Sights I’m Not Lowering

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Department Of Check The Definition Before You Use The Word

progressive
adjective

pro·gres·sive  \ prə-ˈgre-siv \

1 a : of, relating to, or characterized by progress
b : making use of or interested in new ideas, findings, or opportunities
c : of, relating to, or constituting an educational theory marked by emphasis on the individual child, informality of classroom procedure, and encouragement of self-expression
2 : of, relating to, or characterized by progression
3 : moving forward or onward : advancing….

(Merriam Webster Dictionary)

Y’all get the idea.

Unless you’re referring to that pesky red rash on your patootie, something that is progressive  is generally…well, what would Jesus Martha say?

 

 

 

martha

 

 

Of course, the idea of progress and improvement and using education and reason to move forward has long proved threatening to many religious leaders.

Reason is a whore, the greatest enemy that faith has….”
(16th century Protestant reformation leader Martin Luther )

And now we have mean-spirited Christian nationalist Billy Boy’s son Franklin Graham flogging a 21st century version of religion’s fear of progress.

“Progressive? That’s just another word for godless.“
(Franklin Graham, from “The Evangelical Fight to Win Back California.”
New York Times, 5-27-18 )

Hell yeah.

Frankie G., please know that you are welcome to take your traveling circus tent show and leave California – and please skip Oregon while you’re out west – and all states exhibiting progressive values – and go back to the safety of the Iron Age mythology/superstition rock you have crawled out from under.

 

 

religion1jpg

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of While We’re On The Subject Of Leaving The Dark Ages

Ireland Votes to End Abortion Ban, in Rebuke to Catholic Conservatism

Not long after seeing this welcome and long-overdue headline,  [1]   I saw another headline, about how the pope was “setting his sights lower” – as in, concentrating missionary efforts in the countries of South  American and Africa – now that Ireland seems to be going the way of other European countries (read: throwing off  centuries of Roman Catholic oppression and influence).

Many people are “crediting” the late   [2]  Dr. Savita Halappanavar‘s (and her grieving husband’s) pitiless and primitive treatment (read: lack of it) at an Irish (read: Catholic) hospital in 2012 as yet another prime motivator in the fight to overturn Ireland’s abortion restrictions. You may remember (or have tried to forget) reading about Dr. Halappanavar’s horrific death – which was commented upon by moiself,  here,

Halappanavar, a 31-year-old, 17-weeks pregnant dentist, presented with severe back pain at Galway University Hospital in late October. After doctors confirmed she was miscarrying, Ms. Halappanavar asked for a medical termination. Savita’s husband, Praveen Halappanavar, an engineer at Boston Scientific in Galway, says his wife asked several times over a three-day period that the pregnancy be terminated, but her request was refused because the fetal heartbeat was still detected (“This is a Catholic country,” Savita and Praveen were told). Savita spent a further three days “in agony” until the fetal heartbeat stopped, after which the doctors removed the dead fetus and took Savita to the intensive care unit, where she died of septicemia.

Heart-wrenching, scandalous, deplorable, merciless, primitive, callous – of the many dreadful descriptions  that can be applied to this travesty of medical “care,” surprising isn’t one of them. This is what happens, outrageously but totally predictably, when governments allow interpretations of Iron Age mythologies to influence and even dictate 21st century medical decisions.
As Irish Parliament member Clare Daly pointed out, 
“An unviable fetus…was given priority over a woman’s life.”

 

So, yeah.

As to the pope “setting his sights lower” re the RC church concentrating its missionary efforts on South America & Africa, in the wake of Ireland’s vote signaling the waning of influence of RCs in Europe…Hey, you – dude in the pointy hat –

 

 

pope

You talkin’ to me?

 

 

…don’t’ let the shamrock hit you in the ass on your way out the door. And be sure to take your snake charming charlatan saints with you.

 

 

 

SPDMyth

 

 

 

Aye, the RC missionaries, as per their own PR, drove out the old evil pagan ways of Ireland…and brought with them…oh yes, what is it they forget to mention? Maybe it’s how they subsequently brought in their new evil ways, including Catholicism’s “empire of misogyny,” enslavement of “fallen women,”  [3] restriction of medical care, religious and educational discrimination, child and adult sexual abuse by priests ….  [4]

 

*   *   *

May you understand the implications of progression;
May you be a part of any movement that causes a pope to set his sights lower;
May you continue to be patient with this blog, even when it strays too far into current events/politics and thus fails to deliver even one rousing fart joke;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

 

[1] for Freethinkers and anyone who cherishes religious, political and scientific freedom.

[2] “late’ as in, dead due to religiously mandated, medieval medical care restrictions.

[3] E.g. the Magdalene Laundries.

[4] There could be a bajillion other footnotes even more depressing.

The Royal Wedding I’m Not Watching

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Department Of Why I Hate “Royal” Weddings

It doesn’t even have to be a royal wedding.

I’ve seen this announcement before, and so have you. Substitute the names of your cousins, your friends… perhaps even you and your spouse,  [1]   in the following traditional announcement.  One simple/terse sentence – in a mere nine words, are the volumes of centuries of erasure:

 

Prince Harry and the former Megan Markel are married.

 

He is what he is.

She is what she was.

 

 

sexistwedding

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Department Of, Like There’s Anything Wrong With That?

Christian Radio Host: Meghan Markle is an “Angry, Feminist, Godless Woman”

Although Christian radio hosts are not known for observations having anything to do with reality, I certainly hope that that one is true. Those are three adjectives (which should be) applicable to any woman whose IQ exceeds her hat size.

 

 

godless-small

*   *   *

Department Of Music I Would Be Listening To If I Were In College   [2]

I refer to Courtney Barnett’s new album, Tell Me How You Really Feel.

Male-type folk who don’t quite understand women’s rage re being female in this world: listen to Nameless Faceless, and imagine having the realizations and experiences to compose the song’s chorus:

I wanna walk through the park in the dark
Men are scared that women will laugh at them
I wanna walk through the park in the dark
Women are scared that men will kill them
I hold my keys
Between my fingers

 

*   *   *

Department Of If This Surprises You, You Need To Get Out More Often

Dateline: early this week. After her college graduation and in preparation for her summer job, daughter Belle, while driving me to help her do some errands, tells me about having recently had the oil in her car changed. She bemusedly recounts how the Young Oil Change Guy ® made a really, really big deal  [3]  when he saw her car, because (in his opinion) Belle is the rare “girl who drives a stick shift.”

 

 

REALLY

 

 

 

Belle and I laugh, and share a mother/daughter bonding moment:  Dude, it’s just a skill…that involves using one hand and one foot, and no dicks.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of I Still Can’t Quite Wrap My Brain Around The Fact That
They Still Say This Shit In 2018

“…and the former….”

 

 

 

bride

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Awesome Headlines

“Profanity Correlates with Higher IQ Scores”

 

Holy Shit! Yet another piece of evidence which proves that I’m a goddamn genius.

 

genius

No fucking way!

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Apropos Will Rogers Quotes

Never miss a good chance to shut up.
(Will Rogers)

Re: a friend describing the recovery of her sister-in-law, who recently had a stroke: She actually was able to make bacon this morning for breakfast….

My first thought – which I managed to (mostly) keep to moiself:

This is progress !?!
A lifetime of bacon consumption probably contributed to her stroke.

 

 

 

judge

*   *   *

Department Of You Must Admit The Resemblance Is Striking

Dateline: earlier this week, walking back to our Manzanita beach house, from a grocery store. I am wearing my ubiquitous hat, an Outdoor Research  Seattle Sombrero.  A car pulls over to park by the market; a woman and two young boys, maybe four and six years old, emerge from the car. As I pass by them the younger boy excitedly calls out, [4]  “Mama, that’s a cowboy – Mama, that’s a cowboy!”

 

cowboy

Cowboy

RubberChicken2

Moiself

Who wouldn’t be confused?

*   *   *

Department Of Why This Memory Recall, And Why Now?

Dateline: twenty-three years ago, in the Liberal Protestant Church MH And I And Our Young Children Once Attended ® .   [5]

Seemingly apropos of nothing – and of course during a silent portion of the church service – son K turned toward me with the light bulb look of sudden insight in his eyes, and declared,

Boys have penises and girls have ba-jiners!

The married couple seated in the pew in front of me turned around, and graced me with matching, good-humored, raised-eyebrow expressions. I smiled in return and said,

Any questions?

 

 

special

*   *   *

 

 

 

 

May you never be referred to as the former;
May you listen to music as if you were in college;
May you always be a cowboy in a young child’s eyes;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Please tell me you didn’t…or that you did, but you regret it.

[2] But I’m soooo no longer in college…and yet, I’m listening.

[3] With likely flirtatious undertones, I as a mother deduce.

[4] About me, I presume, as I was the only other person on the street.

[5] In what today seems like a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….

The Peasant Food I’m Not Upscaling

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Department of Not Surprised, But Still Sad

I recently read Junot Diaz’ acclaimed article in the New Yorker (The Silence: The Legacy of Childhood Trauma), wherein he revealed publicly for the first time his own history of childhood sexual abuse . [1]    It was a stirring account, to say the least.

I’ve never been fond of nor impressed by Diaz’s short fiction – and haven’t read but a few of his stories because the ones I did read left the proverbial bleech taste in my mouth, due in most part to the male-female dynamic found within. His style and themes reminded me of a more contemporary, multicultural Norman Mailer (and other acclaimed alpha male writers whose work I loathed, fiction writers who used their supposed hyper-realism narrative styles to impart their own loathing for women in any roles other than as their objects of sexual desire ). Ah, but for years Diaz was the new/exotic literary sensation in town, so who was this middle-aged white lady to judge?

Having undergone  sexual abuse seems particularly difficult for men to admit to; thus, my cynicism at his revelation shamed moiself. Cynicism as in, I thought that perhaps this (his essay) was his way of explaining/justifying (what I saw as) the sexism in his writing (a phenomenon too often explained/excused, for male writers, by literary “talent”    [2] )…

But that bit o’ skepticism was not my first response to the why reveal this now?-ness of his essay. My immediate, gut reaction was,  He’s laying the groundwork….  Translation: someone is going to accuse him of  Metoo conduct, and this (I did what I did because of what was done to me), overtly or implicitly, will be his defense.

And shame on me for thinking that.

I kept my opinion to moiself – now, there’s an admission you won’t often hear  – and was glad I did so.

 

 

yeahright

 

 

 

Then came the story in last Friday’s New York Times, wherein Diaz was speaking at a writer’s conference:

The writer Zinzi Clemmons stood up. Without identifying herself by name, she asked Mr. Díaz about a recent essay he had published in The New Yorker detailing the sexual assault he experienced as an 8-year-old boy. She then asked why he had treated her the way he had six years prior, when she was a graduate student at Columbia….

Ms. Clemmons said she believed that Mr. Díaz had tried to pre-empt accusations like hers by writing the autobiographical essay in The New Yorker last month 

Other accusations of his misconduct have since surfaced;  Diaz resigned his position on the Pulitzer Prize board as the allegations are being investigated.

I feel bad about this; I take no joy in having my cynicism validated. I am not questioning the validity of Diaz’s report of childhood abuse. And the thing of it is, and it could be true that he abused his power over women as a direct (or oblique) result of his own history of being abused.  Or, these could be separate issues. Either way, all ways, it’s just….sad.

*   *   *

 

We Interrupt The Ranting For A Moment Of Gratitude

Deep thought of the day: a rubber chicken does not, in fact, have to be made of rubber, to embody the essence of the rubber chicken.

Translation: Mere words cannot express my feeling that there is an ultimate rightness to the universe, when I am presented with evidence that some mahvelous people, when they encounter an object which reminds them of a rubber chicken, are reminded of moiself[3]

Thanks, JWW.

 

 

jww

Whaddya think, is she’s one of us?

 

*   *   *

We now Return To The Previously Scheduled Ranting

*   *   *

Department Of Yet Another Reason To Scream At A Screen
Adjunct Department Of  Yes, I Should (And Do) Know Better

My afternoon exercise sessions often occur around the time when the local Decades TV station runs episodes of Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. If I am not working out to one of my exercise DVDs, I’ll tune in to the Laugh-In reruns. I’ll admit to thoroughly enjoying the retro fun of it all, including memories of watching it when it originally aired.

 

 

tinytim

Can we ever forget – or forgive – the show that introduced the world to Tiny Tim?

 

 

 

I remember how moiself and my buddies would take turns watching Laugh-In at each other’s houses, sprawled on our stomachs on the living room floor, usually with our parents seated behind us, sitting in their armchairs, also watching the show.  Our fun was enhanced by the prideful, barely stifled giggles that can only be produced by eleven-to-thirteen year olds who realized that the grownups and were laughing for different reasons (and at different times) than we were. Translation: many of the naughty jokes/double entendre‘s Laugh-In was known for– and almost all of the drug references – zoomed over our parents’ heads.

Fast forward to the present, and I am finding that for every skit or joke I enjoy and relive, I also marvel at how dated much of the show’s humor is.  [4]  What is particularly striking to me is how Laugh-In  – considered ahead of its time by tweaking the customs and prejudices of society – trafficked in so much hackneyed humor that was beholden to its time, in many cases reinforcing (not critiquing) stereotypes of ethnic minorities and gays and (especially) women.

Once again, I digress.

 

 

DUH

 

 

So. The danger to television-as-backdropexercising is that I am often in the middle of, say, lifting a dumbbell when the show goes to commercial, and thus am unable to hit the remote’s mute button. The commercials for daytime TV shows can be particularly odious, as the demographic is obviously considered to be the target audience for Certain Products For Those Of A Certain Age (read: elderly/infirmity drugs and diet plans).

One particular/frequently running ad is exceptionally…oh, how can I put it? It frosts my butt.  The second time I saw it  [5]  I realized, between biceps curls, that I had begun yelling at the television screen, at the two perky, formerly in shape and now chunky, E list celebrities (a former actor married to a former football player)  [6]  reduced to hocking a snake oil potion enthusiastically promoting a weight loss product. With no sense of irony and a surplus of golly gee this seems too good to be true, but it is! pride, they actually recited the following dialog:

 

* We eat our favorite foods and still lose four times more weight!

*Nothing in your lifestyle needs to change!
(as a picture of the implied favorites, foods-that-once-may-have-been-many-different-colors-but-which-now-are-all-deep-fat-fried-yellow ®, flashes by on the screen.)

 

 

hearyourself

 

 

 

And there I am, screaming at a screen, at the asinine and totally bogus “promises” repeated, again and again, about how “nothing in your lifestyle has to change….

but it’s your fucking lifestyle that got you this way in the first place  — it’s that junk you’ve been eating that did this to you and but now you’re boasting that you can continue eating the same rubbish ?!?!?

And of course, the grammar cop in me is irritated by the ad’s claims that a person using the weight loss supplement can “lose 4 times as much/more weight!”

Okay…I’m waiting…but there is no follow-up. Excuse me, aren’t y’all forgetting something?  “As much/more” are comparisons, and thus require comparatives.

 

 

Grammarcop

Hold still and this won’t hurt as much.

 

 

 

“Lose 4 times as much/more weight!”!”  As much or as more as what, pray tell? As much as a person who’s never used the product but keeps scarfing their favorite foods faster than a hotdog-eating contest competitor on death row?  More than a herd of weasels on an all-kale diet?  More than twelve three-toed sloths on a treadmill?

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of If Only You’d Had A More Interesting Childhood

My mother once told me that she viewed cooking as the least favorite of (what she considered to be) her duties as a homemaker. Although her family never went hungry, that attitude was revealed in terms of the variety (read: not much) of dinners she served to her family. She was the target audience for the advertising mad men – the  marketers whose mission was to convince 1950s – 1970s homemakers that the roles and tasks to which women were relegated were tedious and burdensome.  Convenient, an adjective heretofore not associated with food, became lauded — packaged meals and prefab  “food products” would save her from the drudgery that was cooking (and, these salesmen assured her, these food products were ultimately “better” – as in, more nutritious – for her family than anything she might be able to cook).

And she bought it –  hook, line, and Hamburger Helper sinker.

A recent Fresh Air podcast featuring an interview with chef Chef Lidia Bastianich made me think of my childhood culinary “heritage,” such as it is.  [7]  Chef Lidia is yet another foreign born cook of humble beginnings who came to the USA and made her fame and fortune (in both the TV cooking shows, cookbooks and restaurant businesses) by presenting the cuisine and heritage of her youth to Americans.

When Fresh Air host Terry Gross asked Lidia about the ironies of serving peasant food in top-tier Manhattan restaurants, I wondered if I had missed my chance do the same. However, unlike Chef Lidia, moiself did not have an exotic Italian-Croatian background. What would be the peasant food of my SoCal childhood that I could make seem trendy – Tang? Cool Whip? Rice a Roni? Spaghetti-os?

 

 

 

swanson

With the right marketing Manhattan gourmands will pay $95 for this.

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you realize the futility of screaming at screens;
May anything rubber chicken-related make you think of…someone you love;  [8]
May you maintain an embarrassed fondness for the peasant food of your youth;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Raped at age 8, by a trusted adult.

[2] to wit, see Junot Díaz And The Myth Of Male Genius – How a male writer’s “brilliance” is used to explain away his obvious misogyny…

[3] Even better when they acquire said anything and present it to moiself.

[4] No surprise and to be expected, with any show that tacked political and social topical issues.

[5] The first time, I couldn’t quite believe I was hearing what I was hearing. And it was not an ad for hearing aids.

[6] To protect their privacy, I’ll call them Holly Robinson Peete and Rodney Peete.

[7] It isn’t, really.

[8] Betcha you thought, if only for a second, that moiself was going to write, “moiself.”

The College Graduate I’m Not Embarrassing

Comments Off on The College Graduate I’m Not Embarrassing

As Belle prepares to graduate from college this weekend my brain has been pelting me with random memories, such as the following story (which Belle might categorize as you’re never too mature or academically successful to have your parents embarrass you.)

 

 

SadieMay15rugby

Belle, at her team’s “Rugby formal.”

 

 

 

Dateline: two years ago. MHN I have traveled to a small Southern Oregon college to attend one of Belle’s rugby games.  [1]   During the halftime break MH and I are tossing a rugby ball back-and-forth with Belle, who is showing us one of the team’s ball-handling drills. I make an errant throw to MH, who chases the ball downfield. One of the young women from a group of Belle’s teammates sitting by the side of the field looks at Belle, then at MH and moiself, and the proverbial light bulb appears above her head.

 

 

lightbulb

 

 

She calls out to me.

Young Rugby Woman: Hey, are you…you’re Belle’s parents?

Moiself: Indeed, we are.

YRW: Oh, I love Belle!  Thank you so much for making her!

Moiself: It was our pleasure.  Literally.

Belle:  Moooooooom !!

 

 

prom rugby

Prom Rugby game. Yep, it’s self-explanatory.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Things That Would Never Happen At New Seasons

I ran over to the market closest to our house ( let’s call it Albertson’s  [2]   ), to pick up a couple of last minute items. There were two young men working in the produce department, standing beside carts loaded with boxes of lettuce and other veggies – items they were trimming and setting out on the various produce display shelves. One of the Produce Guys looked up at me, noticed the looking-for-something expression on my face, and asked me if he could be of any assistance.

I thanked him, and asked where I could find the organic basil. He pointed behind himself, toward the tomatoes stand, then asked me if there was anything else he could help me find. Why yes, as a matter of fact. I’d noticed there were a plethora of golden beets on display, but I needed three bunches of red beets, and there was only one.  Mighty there be more red beets in the back?

“Yeah,” Produce Guy grinned, “there’s another box of red beets in the back.” He continued to trim the lettuce from his cart. “But as you can see,” he glanced over at the Other Produce Guy, “We are in the middle of a pallet right now, so it’s going to be a while before we can get to it.”

 

 

REALLY

 

 

 

Yes, really.

I could see that he was busy, but why ask me if he could help me find something if he had no intention of leaving his precious pallet?  My kneejerk thought was, Yeah, right – this would never happen at New Seasons[3]

A rare kneejerk reaction that was spot-on. Any NS employee you ask for help will drop what they are doing to lead you to the proper aisle, or let you sample a new produce item you’re not sure about, even if they are doing something else or what you are asking about isn’t in their department.

 

 

 

NEemployee

That’s why she’s happy to spend the bulk of her shopping $$ here.

 

*    *    *

Addendum To The Previous Story

It is entirely possible that Produce Guy’s customer service fail was due to him being shocked by a heretofore unimaginable situation: someone wanted more beets.

 

 

skeptical

She said she needed three bunches of beets?  Nobody needs three bunches of beets.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Previews Of Coming Attractions

 

 

 

 

dragonboat

Here be dragons!

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Versed Mouth, aka

Department Of Things They Say You Said When You Were Under The Influence
Of Versed After Your Routine/Screening   [4] Colonoscopy…
And How Do You Know They Aren’t Lying To You?

 

* I have lazy mouth

* I like hummus, too (when asked by the nurse if I’d like saltine crackers)

* Why are there little dogs in the hospital?  [5]

* Where do we keep the shovels?

 

 

 

 

colonprepjpg

Be afraid; be very afraid.

 

*   *   *

 

 

May you never be too old to embarrass – or take pride in – your
soon-to-be college graduate;
May you experience nothing but the finest in beet-finding customer service;
May there be dragon boats in your future;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

 

[1] She was on the team for ~ two years – we have the ER/Urgent care bills to prove it – until injuries sidelined her.

[2] Because, it is.

[3] Where we do the bulk of our grocery shopping…for many reasons, including their awesome staff.

[4] Yeah, they call it that. I don’t know about you, it’s just not part of my “routine” to have someone, even Qualified Medical Professionals ®  stick a tube up your butt and watch pictures of it on a monitor.

[5] Well, yes, a totally legitimate question, IMHO. And don’t tell me they were emotional support animals.

The Phone Call I’m Not Anticipating

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It’s never good news, when the phone rings before 5 a.m. 

It was the doctor from the emergency veterinary clinic. Our 16 ½ year old Bengal cat, B.B.  was there for his second night, as the staff tried to figure out why he had stopped eating. Blood tests with our regular veterinary office indicated pancreatitis; supportive treatment and pain management hadn’t helped, and he was just wasting away in front of us. Multiple screenings were not particularly revelatory, and then an ultrasound   [1]   showed fluid collecting in his chest; they suggested draining it and doing cytology on the fluid.  B.B. briefly perked up after the draining, then the fluid began to return and he was entering respiratory distress….

Daughter Belle was back at college after spending her spring break with us. We woke up Son K to apprise him of the situation, and he chose to accompany MH and I to the clinic. The three of us went through the box of tissues in the room where the vet brought B.B. to us, to spend a few last minutes in the laps he so loved (“He’s not drooling,” MH noted, “So you know he’s really sick.”  [2]  ). When we were ready, the vet returned, added several syringe contents to B.B.’s IV catheter while I stroked his head, and he was gone.

It was at once peaceful and gut-ripping. And all before the new spring day’s dawn.

 

BBsun

*   *   *

Department Of A Brief History

You could consider me a hypocrite, in that one of our family cats is – was – an outdoor cat. For over eleven years I’ve volunteered for public (county animal shelter) and private animal adoption/rescue organizations, all of which educate/advise that cats must be indoor only pets (these organizations require adopters to sign a “contract”   [3]  stating they understand that they are agreeing to keep their cat indoors). I know all the reasons why it is better – for cats, for other animals, and for the neighborhood –  to have cats live indoors only. I agree with all the reasons.

And that was our intention when we got B.B. And he did fine for about 6 months, and we did everything right and on schedule.  [4] And then…something kicked in. And and and and and: He realized who and what he was:  he had to be the Bengal Boss. Of me, of you, of all cats, of the laundry….

 

 

BBsnow

B.B. The Snow King, Patrolling the ‘Hood

 

 

 

 

 

Re the latter: one of B.B.’d  many ways of trying to establish what he obviously thought was his Divine Right Of Household Dominance ®  (besides terrorizing our two other indoor cats) was to spray on just about anything, but in particular, on a pile of laundry. But not on any old pile of laundry – only MH’s.  An equally enticing pile of moiself’s laundry would be right there, next to MH’s, and B.B. would selectively piss on MH’s. It had to be A Guy Thing (i.e., testosterone thing), I figured.

Eventually, we converted our covered back porch to BBVille. MH and Belle constructed a box/platform (which Belle painted)…

 

 

topofBBhouse

 

 

…on top of which B.B. had his dining area outside of his covered bedroom, with a heated sleeping pad under his “winter” bed, which was inside the mini-condo with a flap opening. He preferred to sleep in his summer bed, on top of the condo, for the warm nights when he liked to sleep outside the condo and listen to the cricket serenade.

 

 

 

BBporchJPG

 

 

In B.B.’s younger days he was quite vigilant in defending his territory from the encroachment of squirrels, lizards, mice & rats  [5]  ) and…yes and unfortunately…any birds foolish enough to get within striking reach  (and some of those arrogant, taunting Scrub Jays would hop right up to him – they were practically asking for it).

Our cul-de-sac abuts a local creek, around which dwells a variety of urban-adapted wildlife, some of which roam the neighborhood after dark. The raccoons are champs at discovering and remembering which house has outdoor dogs and cats (and thus, an outdoor raccoon buffet, which I’m certain they view as their local food cart).

We always took B.B.’s food dish inside at night; nevertheless, we still had the occasional night visitors. B.B. was street-wise enough to give raccoons a wide berth; the nutria,  [6] while bothersome to neighbors further down the creek, rarely strayed into our part of the ‘hood  (but B.B. killed two who ventured here).  Possums B.B. seemed to regard with a placidity bordering on compassion – I think he thought they were some kind of deformed, mentally challenged feline. He never chased them away, but would stand by, looking on in mild surprise and pity (as if to say, Now, isn’t that pathetic?), when a possum managed to waddle up to his food bowl and take a few nibbles.

He was watchful and cautious around dogs (and never tangled with them, to our knowledge, although he made a few passes at smaller ones that got too close when their owners walked them by).  Other cats…were an other matter.

He had what I can only describe as a friendship with the cat who lived in the house across the street, a long-haired gray male (the imaginatively named, “Fluffy,”), who was also neutered and who never showed any aggression (and thus was the only cat B.B. would allow in our yard). Several times I saw the two of them under one of our cedar trees out front, sitting side by side, as if shooting the breeze. One time I approached and saw that there was a (dead) mouse on the ground between the two of them, which made me assume they were telling the cat equivalent of fishing stories (You shoulda seen the one that got away.”)  When Fluffy died, I wondered if B.B. missed his buddy.

Over the years B.B. cost us…I don’t want to estimate how much…in vet bills. Mostly/seemingly (as the vets tried to reconstruct how he’d obtained certain injuries) due to fights with other cats, or the hazards of roaming (e.g., jumping up on a fence post and landing on a protruding nail) and hunting (cracking teeth while chewing on a squirrel femur). Here is a photographic souvenir of one of his more “creative” injuries, which resulted from a bite at the base of his tail which got infected , requiring the vet to construct an interesting draining apparatus. To help B.B. save face, we told everyone the device was intentional – that B.B. was trying out a potential Halloween costume, with his butt as an African elephant’s head:

 

 

BBtail

*   *   *

 

In his later years we would often bring B.B.  inside in the evening, for some playtime with us (and his favorite slobber toy. as per K’s video below – turn up your volume). We still had to watch him carefully – as in, MH would say to me will you watch him for a sec? while MH turned his back to do something or get some thing, because in that mere second of not being right there and looking at him, B.B. might take the opportunity to correct the fact that our family room was bereft of his scent and attempt to remedy that by peeing on anything within pee-reach.  [7]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the weather warms it seems sad and strange, to not have him accompany me to and from the mail box (“like a dog,” as more than one neighbor has put it). B.B would scurry ahead of me, his tail upraised – the tip of it crooked always to the left, like a cane handle – and look back to make sure I was following him. Without warning he’d flop down in front of me, causing me to slam on my walking brakes and lean down to pet him as he rolled around on his back and commented  [8]   on the weather.

And in the coming summer, when I am out in the back and side yards, picking raspberries and blueberries, I know I will feel the absence of his presence by my side (and running commentary, which I always interpreted as, “you missed a bunch, back on the left….”

*   *   *

Department Of It Wasn’t A Uniformly Sad Week

There are usually opportunities for levity, even in bleak circumstances. To wit, I was able to bring a flit of amusement to the vet’s somber/compassionate visage as she described the euthanasia process to MH, K and moiself. When she said that she would begin by giving B.B. the anesthetic propofol, I felt a momentary relief of distraction, realizing the celebrity connection, and blurted out, Just like Michael Jackson!

And then, there was Monday. In the afternoon a UPS truck left a delivery on our front porch. It was a large box, addressed to MH, which presented me with the cherished opportunity to send him the following message:

You got a big package.

 

 

grannyshock

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you have the good fortune to have appreciated non-human companionship;
May your pangs of grief be assuaged by the depths of affection for what is lost;
May you find a ray of sunshine in a piss-storm
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Translation: $$$

[2] Despite B.B.’s tough guy of the “hood appearance, he was always a sweetheart to the vets, and drooling was his almost immediate response to petting and lap time.

[3] Which is essentially unenforceable.

[4] As per how introductions to the other cats were facilitated, timing of B.B.’s neutering, etc.

[5] Our cul-de-sac abuts a local creek, home to many rodents, and we were grateful for B.B.’s pest contro several years back, when we didn’t have the mouse/rat problems common to other homes in the neighborhood.

[6] An invasive, destructive rodent of South American origins – smaller than a beaver but quite aggressive and known to take over a beaver family’s territory, decimate neighbor’s lawns and even attack small dogs – no one in the hood regretted their demise, and after neighbors made multiple calls to animal control…I haven’t seen any nutria in the creek for years.

[7] For B.B., everything was within pee reach.

[8] Bengals tend to be extremely vocal.

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