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The Pumpkin Spice Loincloth I’m Not Girding

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Department Of Autumnal Abuses

As delighted as I am to be able to wish y’all a (belated) happy autumnal equinox, as we enter this, my favorite season of the year, I am girding my proverbial loins for the onslaught of pumpkin-spiced products which flood the market at this time of year (and which one day may include nutmeg, cloves & cinnamon scented, loin-girding cloths).

Yo, y’all marketing types: Are there no other scents or flavors or ambiances associated with autumn – falling leaves? bales of hay? football cleats? – which can be exploited?

It seems you can’t spit (and moiself  has tried) without hitting a pumpkin spice candle, room deodorizer, latte, coffee creamer, soap, lotion, shampoo, syrup, dried pasta, yogurt pretzels, dinner mints, liqueurs…but wait – there’s more.

If the devil   [1]  came to your autumn housewarming party, his host gift to you would be a bottle of pumpkin spice vodka, and this:

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of 2020 Has Been Bad Enough, But…
I  REALLY  DON’T  NEED  THIS  IMAGE  IN  MY  BRAIN,  OKAY?!?!?!?!

Dateline: last Saturday; early afternoon. I eject the exercise DVD I’ve been flailing about to working out with, and my TV reverts to…some old western movie.  As I return the DVD to its holder and begin to take off my shoes and socks, it’s apparently time for an advertisement break.  The images on TV change from Men on Horses ®  to a series of sad/frustrated/dispirited-looking men holding up various curved/sagging vegetables:  a curvy carrot, an arced cucumber, a badly bent banana….

It’s an advertisement for a treatment for Peyronie’s disease.    [2]

All together now: “I’m no prude, but….”

I find moiself  longing for the days when advertisements for undergarments couldn’t even mention which portion of the body the garment was for.

Remember when the makers of bismuth subsalicylate and other GI tract elixirs assumed that the public knew what their products were used for and did not reinforce the idea by showing us line dancers doing routines demonstrating which symptom they represented (e.g., Pepto Bismol’s Diarrhea Dame clutches her derriere)?

 

 

On second thought, more line dancers grabbing their butts!  Less bendy bananas!

*   *   *

Department Of It Was A Phenomenon Looooooooong Before It Had A Name

Every woman knows what I’m talking about. It’s the presumption that makes it hard, at times, for any woman in any field; that keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare; that crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harassment on the street does, that this is not their world. It trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men’s unsupported overconfidence…..

Men explain things to me, still. And no man has ever apologized for explaining, wrongly, things that I know and they don’t. Not yet, but according to the actuarial tables, I may have another forty-something years to live, more or less, so it could happen. Though I’m not holding my breath.

(Rebecca Solnit, in her essay,
Men Explain Things to Me: Facts Didn’t Get in Their Way.”)

After hearing yet another friend’s story of Yet Another One Of Those Workplace Encounters, ® I’ve been thinking of the origin of mansplaining.  As in, thinking that the woman who originated the term should get a Nobel Prize for Explicative Clarity.    [3]

The term “mansplaining” was inspired by, but not specifically used in, the 2008 essay by author Rebecca Solnit, which I’ve excerpted above.  Definitely a recommended read for anyone – make that, everyone –  whether or not you’ve ever mansplained, or have been on the receiving end of a mansplaination, or don’t understand what the fuss is about.

 

 

My friend’s story reminded me of another story, one that returns to me now and then, ever since I read it,  [4]  which was at least three decades ago.  The story, a brief recounting of a specific incident, was included in a writer’s longer magazine article on fatherhood.  I don’t recall the entirety of the article, but the gist of that one incident the Writer/Dad shared is forever burned on my brain.

Writer Dad (WD) was working in his home office one weekend when his five-year-old daughter, “Junie,” came inside to see him.  Junie had been outside with “Johnny,” a neighbor boy who was her frequent playmate. WD noticed that Junie seemed annoyed, yet also, oddly, thoughtful. 

“What’s up, Junie-girl?”  [5]  WD asked his daughter.

“I’m mad, Daddy-man.”

“I can see that.  Why are you mad,  Junie-girl?”

“I don’t think I’m going to play with Johnny anymore.  I don’t think I’m going to play with *any* boys anymore.  I don’t think I like boys.”

“Why is that?”

“Because they tell you things you already know.”

 “Oh…  Um…not all boys do this, right?”

Junie nodded.  “All boys.”

 WD tried to placate her with his best Daddy-man smile.
“Even me?” 

She paused before responding with a resignation beyond her years.
“Even you.”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Mansplaining ‘Splained

On July 19, 2018 writer and designed Kim Goodwin came to the rescue on Twitter, with this post, followed by her brilliant diagram on the subject.

“I have had more than one male colleague sincerely ask whether a certain behavior is mansplaining. Since apparently this is hard to figure out, I made one of them a chart.”

 

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

I saw an ad for burial plots, and thought, “That’s the last thing I need.”

 

*   *   *

Department Of A Blast From The Past Which In Some Ways Reminds Me Of The Present

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (okay; 1998), I was visiting my parents at their home in Santa Ana (CA).  On top of the pile of periodicals suffocating their coffee table was the latest issue of a popular weekly news magazine.  [6]   Bold, fiery red letters announced the magazine’s cover stor, which was along the lines of,

“1968 – The Year That Shook The World.

At that time, every other magazine and news outlet were doing stories on the 30th anniversary of 1968. I’d read several such stories, and was happy to see that magazine at my parents’ house, as it provided me with the opportunity to engage my mother in a conversation about 1968, which had been a pivotal year for people all over the world.

My mother wasn’t much for talking politics; even so, she sat down with me and began to reminisce.  She remembered the morning in early June when I came out of my bedroom, groggy-eyed and complaining about a very disturbing dream I’d had in which Bobby Kennedy’s helicopter was shot down in our backyard…  And I remembered how I looked up into her red eyes, realized that she’d been crying, and then she told me she and Dad had just learned that Senator Robert Kennedy had been assassinated the previous evening.

What with the assassination of MLK two months earlier, the nascent second wave feminist movement, the ongoing Vietnam War and student protests and civil rights protests and unrest around the world….. I recalled 1968 as the beginning of my political awareness, even as I recall my parents saying little if anything whenever I brought “things” up.

Mom admitted she’d used the “changing the subject” strategy when I’d wanted to talk about current events.  She said she thought it was her duty to protect her children from depressing information over which they had no control (although she didn’t protect us from reading the newspaper or watching the TV news).  Thus, even though she herself was very concerned about “everything that was going on,” she thought she had to maintain a sunny outlook for her kids and act as if everything was okay.  “But sometimes…” Marion Parnell shook her head. “That was such a difficult year.”

I remember, it was as if a shadow had crossed over my mother’s face, even though the So Cal sun shown brightly through my parents’ family room window.

Sometimes,” she murmured, “it felt as if the whole world was on fire…

 

 

What made me think of 1968 is some of the streaming I’ve been doing, of episodes of a particular classic television show.  History shows us that chaotic times often lead to the rise of dictators and  fascist supermen, who promise security in exchange for liberty.  As we presently deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and world economic insecurity, as well as the ramifications of *not* having every dealt with our country’s legacy of slavery and systemic racial injustice, and of having essentially ignored global warming with the resulting magnifying of wildfires and other “natural” disasters, all of this and more compounded by the political and personal corruption and gruesome lack of leadership by a puerile, tyrant-toadying excuse for a president and his sycophantic enablers, I’ve been seeking a nostalgia solace by watching reruns of a sketch comedy show which was launched during the chaos of 50 years ago.

Laugh-In (officially Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In) ran from 1968 – 1973; episodes are available via various streaming platforms, and I’m working my way through the seasons. Even as I’m (re)loving the episodes – for as much as the memories they bring back as well as the content of the episodes themselves – I’m well aware of the catch inherent for shows which strive to be topical: as you look back, the material is (of course and by definition) dated, and in some cases, even arcane.  But, that’s part of the fun, for moiself.

 

I’ve no doubt that my young adult children would be somewhat confused (even bored), in the And just why is this funny? vein, by the show…and I must admit that many of Laugh-In’s slapstick schtick, gags and punchlines fall flat in 2020.

My offspring have grown up in a time when TV shows announce what MH and I call The Five Major Food Groups ratings (MATURE SUBJECT MATTER- SEX – VIOLENCE – FEAR -ADULT LANGUAGE).  It is difficult if not impossible to have someone who wasn’t there appreciate the era in which Laugh-In began its run.  How do I adequately impart to them what simple, naughty fun it was for a 12-year-old, taking turns watching Laugh-In with her friends at each other’s houses, giggling over the fact that the show’s sex and drug references are going right over our parents’ heads (and probably ours as well)?

In each episode I’ve seen there are several sketches/jokes about political or cultural hot button issues at that time, which make me stop and try to remember the references (“Ooh – that guy was a Nixon cabinet member…?”).   Also, Laugh-In was not only topical culturally, but locally:  it was shot in So Cal (in legendary “Beautiful Downtown Burbank“), and the writers inserted regional references into their skits.  MH is  5 ½  years younger than moiself ; although he does recall watching Laugh-In it was the show’s regional references, and not its sex & drugs jokes, which confused him, as a seven-year-old Minnesotan.  Even today, watching the reruns with me (which he does only as a last resort; i.e. when I’ve commandeered the TV), why would he get – or care about – decades-old jokes about Sam Yorty (Los Angeles’ mayor during Laugh-In‘s run)?

It’s been fun getting reacquainted with my favorite recurring sketches and characters.  The Joke Wall; the Party; Tiny Tim, Wolfgang the German soldier (“Verrrrry interesting…”) ; Uncle Al the Kiddies’ Pal; Joanne Worley’s operatic complaints about chicken jokes and “Bo-oooooring!” and her never-seen boyfriend, Boris; Big Al’s Sports (and his “featurette tinkle”); Goldie Hawn’s giggling, vacant-eyed, Dumb Dora persona; “Here Come Da Judge,” The Farkel Family; Judy Carne’s Robot Theatre and “Sock-it-to me”…

 

 

Have there ever been a better-named pair of characters than Gladys Ormphby and Tyrone F. Horneigh?  [7]   And the worlds of television, cinema and theatre are forever in Laugh-In‘s debt for introducing us to Lily Tomlin.  Her best known Laugh-In personas are Ernestine and Edith Ann, but my favorite of Tomlin’s characters was The Tasteful Lady.

 

 

Re-watching these episodes decades after they were broadcast, it’s amazing to realize that, despite the show being considered progressive, bawdy, and outrageous for its time…how do I put this?  There’s no getting around how sexist much of the material was (but then, so was the country).  And Laugh-In was only slightly less dated on much of its racial and cultural content (the few references to Native Americans were especially, stereotypically, cringe-worthy).  But, that was then and this is now.  I’ll forgive the show almost anything, because it gave the world arguably my favorite comic dialogue, from Tyrone’s and Gladys’ “hereafter” sketch:

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you never contract a disease which can be represented by a droopy vegetable;
May we soon live in a world where we don’t have to ‘splain mansplaining;
May you always know what you’re here after;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Of course, the devil would not come to such a party because he doesn’t exist. Those who know moiself realize that the supposition of devils and/or evil spirits is something in which I do not believe.  Human behavior covers the spectrum – we do not need the supernatural to explain (or excuse) acts of cruelty…or kindness.

[2] As per those upright citizens of the Mayo Clinic, “Peyronie’s (pay-roe-NEEZ) disease is a noncancerous condition resulting from fibrous scar tissue that develops on the penis and causes curved, painful erections.”

[3] There is no such Nobel Prize, but maybe there should be.

[4] I think it was in Esquire magazine?

[5] As he recounted the story, he and his daughter had affectionate nicknames for each other (I made these up, as I can’t remember what they were).

[6] Time; Newsweek, US News and World Report were the big three – I think it was a copy of Newsweek.

[7] (pronounced “hor-NIGH”, to befuddle the censors)

The Guerilla Prank I’m Not Pulling

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Department Of Irrefutable Evidence

Now I know I’ve given up:  I put away the St. Patrick’s Day dinner decorations.

Moiself and MH had a dinner party planned for Tuesday, March 17, an event that – surprise! – got…suspended.  At the time, I told would-be attendees that we were, in an act of delusion optimism, not cancelling the invitation but merely postponing it, and that I would be leaving the dining table decorated.  And I did, for two months.  Then, gradually, the napkins and plates were put away, and I put the table décor, such as it is/was  (think: an eight-year-old’s idea of festive holiday dining), into its long term storage bag but did NOT transport it to its shelf in the attic.  It remained on the table, until three days ago.

Instead of deleting the reminder I had on my computer calendar (“Rsch St. Patrick’s day dinner when COVID shit is over”) I have reduced its occurrence from weekly to every other month.  The computer prompt, initially a hopeful harbinger of a return to normalcy, came to be a dispiriting reminder of physical isolation: I miss the company of dining and conversing with friends, both long time and recently met, all treasured, and groaning at each recitation of a dreadful (but occasion-appropriate) joke and pun.   [1]

All apologies to the centerpiece: Good Lady Spud, your time shall come again.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Title I Want When I Grow Up

…I’ve carved out this little niche for myself on the internet…
because as we all know, the easiest way to be at the top of your field is to choose a very small field.”
(inventor Simone Giertz, in her TED talk)

Dateline: Monday; listening to a TED Radio Hour episode, titled “Pure Joy.” A description of the episode, as per the TEDsite:

More than ever, we need to make time for joy. This hour…(we)…explore talks that surprise, inspire, and delight.

The first talk excerpted was one given two years ago by Simone Giertz. Twenty-nine-year-old Giertz, the creator of the toothbrush helmet,  [2]   is a Swedish inventor and robotics enthusiast. She’s also, and perhaps most prestigiously for her generation, that which most generations never imagined would be a thing: she is a YouTube celebrity ®.

In her talk, “Why You Should Make Useless Things,” Giertz apparently advocates for inventing devices which are “useless at solving the problem they are attempting to solve,” but which serve a higher purpose of overcoming your fear of failure (by working hard at something you know is bound to fail) and teaching you engineering and design skills.  I say “apparently” because I was unable, or rather unwilling, to listen to the rest of her talk, after hearing the podcast curator describe Giertz as

“…the queen of useless robots.”

Overcome with both admiration and envy, moiself  completely lost interest in listening further.  I figured it was better to let my imagination take the wheel as I envisioned the perks and responsibilities of that particular kind of royalty.

“…uneasy is the head that wears a crown”    [3]…unless of course that head belongs to The Queen of Useless Robots.

*   *   *

Department of The Neighborhood Guerilla Prankster Strikes Again…
In Her Dreams

There’s a house a couple of blocks away from my street with an attached, two-door, three-car garage set up:

 

 

An older couple lives in said house.  Depending on the route I take, I often walk past the house in the morning, and I’ve seen it with either or both garage doors open; thus, moiself  knows that the smaller, one-car garage is not used as a garage but has been turned into the workshop space of the older gentleman.  When the workshop/garage door is open you can see the tool racks and radial saw and other workshop equipment; when the workshop/garage door is closed, you can see a sign on it which reads, MEN ONLY.

When I first saw the sign, and then every time I walked past the house, moiself  had the almost overwhelming desire to take a picture of it, then take the picture to a signage shop and order a self-adhesive sign in similar lettering, color and size that read: GIRLY.  The plan:  early one morning, I would post GIRLY above MEN ONLY.

Alas; the time for that prank has passed.  I recently noticed that the exterior of the house (including the garage doors) has been painted, and the MEN ONLY sign has not reappeared on the garage door.  Still, I think of it when I pass that house, and remind moiself of the ultimate reason I decided against enacting my prank: the ubiquity, nowadays, of cell phones and home security cameras.  Ending up on someone’s YouTube shaming video is not something I crave for moiself , even in the performance of (what would have been) a public service.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Just Wondering

Due to the wildfires plaguing the West, I am checking the Air Quality Index several times daily – even though a cursory look out of my house’s (all tightly closed) windows tells me all I need to know about whether or not it’s safe to go outside.

How quickly I and my friends have adapted to using yet another acronym:

“So, what’s the AQI in your town?”

This is so surreal. The air where I live has been smoky-jaundice-colored; the pictures I’ve seen of the Bay Area’s midday, sci-fi/Martian orange skies have a certain, apocalyptic beauty, even as I realized the horrific reasons behind them that had nothing to do with a more benign reason, such as a particularly flamboyant sunset or sunrise.   [4]

 

 

In my early morning walks (the ones I used to do before our AQI was at Hazardous level – the carefree mornings before I even knew what an AQI was) I pass by several houses where I often see a smoker out on his front porch, lighting up his first deathstick cigarette of the day.  Actually, I smell the smokers before moiself  sees them – even from across the street.  I’ve come to know which houses they live in and cross to the other side before passing by. (Most smokers seem to not know – or care – how far their effluence travels and how long it lingers.)

From having exchanged pleasantries with them over the years, I know that the main reason these folks are lighting up on their porches is because they are the only smoker in their household, and they’ve been forbidden by their spouses and/or other family members from polluting their domicile and have been banished to puffing in The Great Outdoors ® .

I haven’t done a morning walk since the AQI reached the first level of Unhealthy…even though I didn’t know it had done so at the time.  I’d gone out earlier than usual and wore a mask; it was the first morning where the sky looked…suspicious.  I decided to end my walk after 30 minutes, and thought I probably shouldn’t walk outside again until I figured out what was going on. On my way back I passed by two of the Porch Smokers, the glowing ends of their cigarettes providing an eerie impetus for me to get back home.

Our current situation: we’ve been warned about the wildfires near and far, spewing particulate matter in the air which, at an AQI in the upper ranges (which we’ve been having in the Pacific NW for days), can aggravate or trigger serious respiratory conditions in otherwise healthy people, even with relatively short exposure.

 

 

So, when smokers awaken, and eagerly or furtively inhale the day’s first fumes into their lungs, moiself  can’t help but wonder: what’s being circulated in the organ between their ears?  Amidst the reports of the wildfire’s devastation – it’s been all wildfires, all the time, for local news reporting – including the loss of life from burns and smoke inhalation, do they consider even for a moment the fires’ victims?  Do they find their eyes tearing up with compassion as they think to themselves, “Oh, how awful! Those poor people!” as they suck in their own mini-conflagration?

While we live with the warnings to not go outside even for short periods of time because breathing the air could sicken or even kill you, and smokers continue to expedite that process by lighting up their cigarettes.

We humans are experts at compartmentalization and denial…and, yeah yeah yeah, nicotine is one of the most addictive substance on earth, and addicts are not known for rationality and or introspection thoughts….  Still, it boggles my mind.

The Great American Smokeout, the American Cancer Society’s  annual “quitting campaign,” is on the third Thursday in November.  The Not-so-Great American Smoke-In is happening as I type.  Aaaaaarrrrrggggghhhhh.

*   *   *

Department Of, Of All The Things To Be Thinking About….

 

2020.  The year that, on a national and global shitstorm level, has brought us:

* COVID-19;

* Year three of criminally negligent governance by a musty scrotal hair of a human being (#45) and his soul-sucking sycophants;

* the Murder Hornet ;

*  Too many Americans determined to focus on someone looting a 7-11 rather than face the centuries of systemic injustice which have prompted the (majority peaceful) displays of civil disobedience;

* the apocalyptic wildfires in the US, yet another testament to the consequences of ignoring of global warming…

 

Thank you, and please demoralize us further.

 

On a personal level,   [5]  my concerns include a friend who fled the wildfires (her town is essentially gone; her neighbors have lost nearly everything); my daughter Belle who, recovering from foot surgery, has developed an allergy to medical adhesives holding her bandages in place; MH’s “sister/cousin”  [6]  and her protracted recovery from the heart surgeryand kidney failure after she and her young adult daughter discovered they both have a genetic disorder which has given them, among other conditions, aortal defects; learning that the son of my MIL’s longtime friend and business associate has just lost his son to suicide….

Two days ago, amidst all of these woes and more, I found moiself  thinking,

I really hope Mel Brooks doesn’t die right now.

The beloved comedian/writer/screenwriter/playwright/songwriter/director and WWII vet has seen so much in this world, and contributed so much to our culture…and now here’s this shitty year in which Mel had to mourn the death of his best buddy – another national comedy treasure, Carl Reiner

I just want Mr. Brooks to be able to survive this year.  I would so look forward to his commentary on all of this, you know?

Two of my favorite scenes from my favorite Mel  Brooks movie:

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

The past, the present, and the future walk into a bar. It was tense!   [7]

 

*   *   *

May we work for the best (even if we suspect the worst);
May we return to the privilege of not knowing our AQI;
May we all be deserving of even the most obscure royal title;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

[1] “What do you call an Irishman with an IQ of 100?  A village.”

[2] A device which you have never heard of because it is “recommended by zero out of ten dentists,” the inventor admits.

[3] Henry IV, Part 2.  I don’t imagine Shakespeare imagined just how heavy – or silly – crowns could get.

[4] Ash higher in the atmosphere turned the Bay Area skies orange, as opposed to around me, where the smoke was lower.  If I can remember some basic physics/light refraction, I think this has to do with the high ash/smoke particles scattering blue light & only allowing certain wavelengths of light –  yellow-orange-red light – to reach the earth’s surface.

[5] It must be time for another footnote.

[6] This not some Mormon polygamy term; rather, she is cousin who is more than a cousin but not technically a sister – she came to live with MH’s family when she was an adolescent, after both of her parents died.

[7] I’m sorry, but there is no room for a seventh footnote.

The Fond Childhood Memories I’m Not Reliving

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Department Of Now I’ve Seen Everything

Dateline: Wednesday, circa 4pm, outside a grocery store.  A woman who exited the store ahead of me scurries to a spot around 30 feet from the store’s exit door. She pulls a cigarette and lighter from her purse, pulls down her mask and lights up.  She proceeds to take several long, desperate drags of the cigarette, pulling her mask up inbetween, in a bizarre ritual: lower mask; suck on her death sticks; exhale; raise mask; wait five seconds; repeat.

Lady, just take down your mask, go into a filthy public restroom, run your bare hands over every surface and then touch your hands to your face and mouth and rub your eyes. Get it over with.

Celebrities like Ben Affleck won’t let a pesky pandemic stop their slow suicide, so why should she?

 

*   *   *

Department of Yep, This.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of My Defund The Police Story

In the ongoing Defund the Police ® debate, some folks declare that an alternative phrase for police reform is needed. It seems that too many (white) people read or hear “defund” and lose their shit react defensively.  They interpret “defund” as doing away with police forces entirely, instead of the how the term is used by reform activists: as shorthand for reallocating funds from police departments to non-policing forms of public safety and community support, (e.g. social, mental health, housing and education services).

Moiself  has heard this defensive reaction explained along these lines:

White people get defensive and even frightened at that notion (doing away with police) because white people associate police with security, in ways that communities of color, because of their collective history with aggressive and discriminatory policing, do not.

Sometime in the late 1970s-early 1980s, I read a feature article in a So Cal newspaper about police officer recruitment.  Police chiefs were just starting to realize that for community policing to be effective the police force needed to be representative of all members of the community.  Given the rising number of Vietnamese immigrants in So Cal, local police departments were trying, and mostly failing, to recruit Vietnamese-Americans.  The reason for that failure was not apparent to the majority white police staff, until a cultural liaison enlightened them:

The police forces in Vietnam, and several other Asian countries, were considered to be corrupt, and the average Southeast Asian immigrant’s contact with them had been unpleasant.  Thus, young Asian men   [1] who might have been interested in being recruited were discouraged from doing so by their parents, who thought policing a dishonorable profession.

There’s a very basic lesson here: your experiences color your perception.

 

 

Yep, that seems evident on a Psychology 101 level. Moiself  thinks it’s a bit more far-reaching than that, and ties into the Black Lives Matter movement in a variety of ways and from a variety of perspectives…including the one I am about to share here.

Little known fact about moiself :  from about my 5th to 8th grade years, I hated and feared the police. I held particular fear and loathing for men I suspected were undercover cops in unmarked cars. This is because of an experience I had….

Translation: there is a story to be told.

Key elements of this story (“The Wagner Incident”) became much beloved by my family as the years past.  My parents in particular loved for my older sister and I to recall the tale, and I always obliged.  However, most of my family never knew that I was actually quite traumatized by what happened.

There is (unfortunately or yee-haw! depending on your enjoyment of background information) stage-setting to be done, for this Drama of Shakespearean Importance.   [2]

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, my family lived in a house on Martha Lane in Santa Ana (CA).  Martha Lane extended west from a major thoroughfare down to a cross-street (Pacific Ave.) which led to the local community college.  [3]  Across Pacific Ave., Martha Lane continued as a cul-de-sac, where my family’s house was located.    [4]

The Wagners were an older couple   [5]  whose house was on the main part of Martha Lane (ML).  The Wagners had gained a reputation – not a good one – among the other denizens of ML.   Mr. Wagner, occasionally accompanied by Mrs. Wagner, walked their massive dog twice daily around the neighborhood.  They made of one or two loops around the main portion of ML (they did not cross the street to the cul-de-sac), and they let their dog defecate on other people’s lawns. They made no attempt to pick it up the droppings or at least “curb” their dog; they let him go where he wanted to go.   [6]  

Some of the neighbors began to come out of their houses and speak to Mr. Wagner as he made his rounds.  At first they politely suggested – then, as time passed and the poop accumulated, they increasingly and more frustratingly demanded – that the Wagners’ dog should do its doggie business at their own home, and not foul other people’s property.  The Wagners ignored all such requests, with Mr. Wagner on a couple of such occasions responding with strongly-worded suggestions as to what the other homeowners could do with his dog’s “business.”

Petty, inconsiderate neighbor shit, so to speak, right? Nothing either novel or earth-shattering.

 

 

There were other actions the Wagners took that, looking back, seemed almost intentionally aimed at making them the scourge of the neighborhood.  It was as if the Wagners got some kind of petty pleasure in taunting their neighbors, in particular, the Young People ®.  I can find no other explanation for their behavior.

As a Girl Scout, moiself  had the twice-a-year fundraising duties (which I loathed) of going from house to house in my neighborhood, peddling Girl Scout Cookies in the spring and Girl Scout Calenders   [7] in the fall.  The Wagners did not have a no soliciting sign on their porch; nevertheless, the first time I rang their doorbell on behalf of the Scouts I received a very snooty dismissal from Mrs. Wagner, when a simple, “We’re not interested” would have sufficed.  The second (and last) time I approached their house as a Girl Scout (having forgotten about the first incident, since six months had passed), Mrs. Wagner apparently saw me coming, and couldn’t wait until I set foot on her porch to reject my sales pitch.   Before I’d taken three steps from the sidewalk to her driveway her front door flew open and she came barreling out of her house.  Her voluminous bat wings shook along with her index finger, which she waggled at me while she bellowed about how she didn’t want to buy anything.

I fled the Wagner driveway with as much dignity as I could muster.  Later, I compared stories with other neighborhood kids, whom, I discovered, had experienced similar treatment when they were seeking donations for, say, a school paper drive or other charities.  The next time I had to do my GS soliciting I remembered my lesson, and as I left the porch of the house *before* the Wagners’ I proceeded on to the house *after* the Wagners’.  As I did so, Mrs. Wagner once again came charging out of the house into her driveway – how strange, I later thought, as she must have been sitting by her front window, just waiting for…what?  For a youngster to yell at? – and proceeded to berate me. Apparently, I was a stand-in for all the neighborhood children, as she began her rant with, “YOU KIDS….”  I hadn’t even made the slightest indication of stopping at her house – I was just walking past it, on the sidewalk!

 

At least she wasn’t armed with a garden hose.

 

Sharing and comparing stories – that’s what kids in a ‘hood do. As the years passed the older kids began to compile a hefty dossier of Wagner Incidents, many of them involving the holidays.  A few neighbors told about “Christmas incidents,” stories I cannot now recall,   [8]  and every July 4 we heard about how the Wagners did their own fireworks in the street in front of their house, then loudly complained if their next door or across-the-street neighbor’s – in particular, their neighbor’s children or grandchildren – did the same…or just yelled at teens who were walking on the other side of the street, on their way to a friend’s family’s fireworks party.

October 31 seemed to bring out the worst (or weirdest) in the Wagners. On Halloween night the Wagners always turned their porch light on and hung Halloween decorations on their front door, then were randomly and mystifyingly rude to the kids who rang their doorbell.  In our neighborhood the trick-or-treaters tended to go in groups of four or more children; the Wagners would often single out someone in your group, make disparaging remarks about a costume they didn’t like, then give candy to some kids and not to others.  Sometimes, as if on a whim, they would answer the doorbell, refuse to give candy (from the big jar they had on display) to anyone, and shoo your entire group off their porch.   [9]

 

 

Like many grade school-aged children, I found the world of adults both baffling and boring. Unless a home contained children of my or my siblings’ ages, I didn’t pay much attention as to who lived in what house on my block. It took a couple of years for it to sink in:  you don’t go to the Wagner‘s house for Halloween…or anything else.

Can you guess what kind of attitude among the neighbors, in particular among the youth of Martha Lane, was engendered by the Wagners, toward the Wagners?

 

“I knew you could, boys and girls.”

 

There were many more incidents that my older sister and her friends shared with moiself and my friends. Slowly but surely, a vendetta arose. The older kids in the neighborhood had had it with the Wagners, and conspired to tease them at every opportunity. 

My older sister and her friend rewrote lyrics to the tune of, “We Love You Conrad,” (a song from the Broadway musical, Bye Bye Birdie): 

♫  We hate you Wagners
Oh yes we do
We don’t hate anyone
like you
When you are near us,
P.U.!
Oh Wagners we hate you.  ♫

 

 

Yeah; I know – hardly cutting-edge satire. Still, I thought my sister and her friend were so clever when sang me that song, and they were obviously proud of themselves.  They taught the song to all the neighborhood kids, and made us all vow to sing it at any Wagner-sighting opportunity.

Things escalated, as they say, from there. 

Early one hot summer night a bunch of us ML kids were hanging out on the corner of Pacific and ML, negotiating which chase/tag game we would play that evening (Green Monster? Hide n’ Seek?)  We spotted Mrs. Wagner up the street, identifiable from even 200 feet away by her towering, glow-in-the-dark white beehive hairdo and imperious, waddling stride.  She was walking her dog, and one of us in the group – I can’t remember who but it might have been me or my older sister – had the brilliant idea to begin humming the Miss America theme song:

♫  There she is…Miss America…
There she is, your ideal…. ♫ 

Silly stuff – hardly the material of celebrity stalking lawsuits.  Even so, it apparently put a burr under Mrs. Wagner’s saddle (or that ridiculous beehive).  Unbeknownst to us kids, when Mrs. Wagner returned home she told her husband what we kids had done, and he called the police and insisted they open a harassment investigation.

We hummed the Miss America song  – that’s what put them over the edge?  We didn’t even sing the words.

 

 

Also unbeknownst – to me, at that time – were other incidences of kids taking revenge on the Wagners.  Some older teens who lived on the main section of ML had, with their parents’ knowledge and approval, saved some of the “droppings” the Wagner’s dog left on their lawn.  After accumulating several days’ worth, the kids delivered shovelfuls of feces to the Wagner’s lawn.  When this failed to deter Mr. Wagner from his dog walking/dumping, on July Fourth one family’s teenage son played the proverbial, flaming-sack-of-poop prank on the Wagner’s front porch.  [10]  

That and other incidences enabled the Wagners to convince the police to open a harassment file…or a case…or whatever it was.

 

“Martha Lane Kids v. Wagner” ? – what is this bullshit, Danno?

 

So.  This “case” was going on, without my knowledge.

Then, one day….

 

 

I’ve always wanted to say that.

The story continues, in next week’s post.

*   *   *

May you get to say something you’ve always wanted to say;
May you be mindful of how petty neighborhood disputes can escalate;
May you bear with me until next week;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] And it was only men who were being recruited, at that time.

[2] A slight exaggeration.

[3] The imaginatively named, Santa Ana College.

[4] Those two portions of Martha Lane no longer exist. Under eminent domain, the community college took over the properties in the early 1980s. In archetypical, SoCal development fashion, the area where my family house once stood is now a parking lot.

[5] In their late 60s – early 70s?

[6] Do people still use that term?  For the young ‘uns who may be unfamiliar with it, to curb one’s dog involved pulling it off the curb – away from someone’s  lawn or sidewalk – and making it poop in the street gutter.

[7] Anyone remember those?  The Girl Scouts stopped selling them in 2008.

[8] The Wagners scared off Santa’s reindeer with a shotgun?  Nothing would surprise me.

[9] But they would leave the porch light on – the universal sign of “open for business” for trick-or-treaters – and answer the doorbell when the next group of kids came by.  Yep, we watched, to see what happened.

[10] He filled a brown paper bag with the Wagner’s dog’s droppings, put the bag on the Wagner’s front porch, set it afire, rang their doorbell, and hauled ass up the block.  And yes, when Mr. Wagner answered the doorbell he attempted to stamp out the flames….

The Reality Show I’m Not Watching

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Department Of Peculiar State Mottos

 

 

I love my state, despite its having these three flaws:

(1) the 46th ugliest  [1]  state flag in the USA (it violates at least one of the Five Basic Principles of Flag Design, as per the North American Vexillological Association,  [2]

(2) as well as one of the more perplexing state mottos.

(3) There is no third flaw.

Who was the person who first decreed, “States must have slogans – oh, wait, let’s call them, ‘mottoes!’ ” ? Who convinced others in the government that, with all the to-dos which come with qualifying for statehood,  motto-composing is a good use of time?  That person is lost to history.

Moiself  (motto: “It’s my blog, so there.”) decrees that there are four states vying for Worst State Motto award.  Besides Oregon, they are:

* Connecticut (“He who transplanted sustains.”)

Oh, yeah. That goes without saying.

* New Mexico (“It grows as it goes.”)

Imagine what the NM motto committee was smoking when they thought up that one.

* Maryland (“Manly deeds, womanly words.”)

 

 

Oregon’s state motto is in Latin, because the same doofus who sent out the, “Every state must have a motto” memo also apparently added, “…and if you can’t think of anything profound or at least plausible to say, say it in Latin.”

Thus, Oregon’s motto: Alis volat propriis. Which translates as…

She flies with her own wings.

 

 

Many Oregonians do not know what our state’s motto is. And when they find out, their reaction is not what moiself  imagines was the goal of the motto committee:

WTF does that even MEAN ?!?!?

The general consensus of historians and People Who Try To Care About Such Things ® is that the motto is meant to convey a sense of Oregon’s “tradition of independence and innovation” (e.g., the nation’s first bottle bill, the public beach access bill).  [3]  So yeah; there’s that. But, couldn’t it have been phrased in a more accessible way (“Oregon: pick up your trash and get off our lawn beach.“)?

On the other hand, it could be seen as reassuring to residents of other states: if you meet an Oregonian and she looks like she’s about to takeoff, don’t worry – she has too much pride and self-reliance to steal *your * wings.  So sit back, relax, and enjoy the air show.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Best Song Couplets, V. 2

♫  The weeks went by and spring turned to summer and summer faded into fall/
And it turns out he was a missing person who nobody missed at all.  ♫

( from “Goodbye Earl,” the [band formerly known as the] Dixie Chick’s
ode to taking revenge on an abusive husband )

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Seriously, You Need A List For This?

On Monday, an ad with this headline appeared on my FB feed:

“Five Tips For Wearing Less Makeup.”

The ad’s headline accompanied a picture of an attractive Woman Of A Certain Age ®, which made me think the ad’s content could be along the lines of the standard advice that women who wear makeup should tone it down as they age…or perhaps the ad was related to the COVID shelter-in era, with people not wanting to deal with their usual routines?

I didn’t click on the ad, but instead of just scrolling by, I stared at the inane headline which had caught my eye, and repeated to moiself   the Five Tips For Wearing Less Makeup I would give, gratis, to anyone who asked:

1. Wear less makeup. 2. Wear less makeup. 3. Wear less makeup.
4. Wear less makeup.
5. Set your smartphone’s alarm reminder: Wear less makeup.

*   *   *

Department Of, Once Again, Reality Outdoes Fiction

You cannot make up a line this…rich.

Context:  MH and I, watching a Netflix show, Indian Matchmaking:

“Matchmaker Sima Taparia guides clients in the U.S. and India in the arranged marriage process, offering an inside look at the custom in a modern era.”

I thought at first the show was fiction, then, a documentary, then, after two episodes, I said to MH, “This is a reality show, right?”  (Translation: “We can’t watch it anymore. We don’t watch Those Kind of Shows. ® “)

The line in question came from an Indian-American woman, who spoke with snort-worthy distain about rejecting a man who wasn’t as travel-knowledgeable as she:

“He didn’t know that Bolivia had salt flats.”

 

 

 

That particular woman was one of the matchmaker’s clients featured in the two episodes we watched. She was in her mid-30s, a lawyer, very busy, a world traveler when not working.  Once she’d agreed to matchmaking services ( via evident pressure from her mother and sister ) she began noticing how her married female friends actually spent a significant amount of time with their husbands – an idea which seemed to disgust her. And she found excuse after excuse to object to any matches the matchmaker suggested.

Her predicament led to this tender exchange between me and my life match:

Moiself: “Why is she doing this?  She so obviously doesn’t want to be married.”

MH: “She doesn’t need a husband, she just needs a vibrator.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Convoluted Path Of Memories

Dateline: last Saturday.  I posted on Facebook a list my Swenadian   [4]  friend had sent me: five anecdotes with the theme of memorable, embarrassing misstatements. I actually remember reading (in a newspaper) about the fifth one:

What happens when you predict snow but don’t get any? We had a female news anchor, the day after it was supposed to have snowed and didn’t, who turned to the weatherman and asked,
“So, Bob, where’s that 8 inches you promised me last night?”

 

 

One of the main reasons I tell my stories or share the stories of others is because of what I call the 99% reaction motivation: ala the *I’ll-show-you-mine-if-you-show-me-yours* approach to life, sharing a story almost always prompts others to share their similar stories. Whether it’s an anecdote of a major parental fail I pulled, or imparting someone else’s  *yes-she-really-said-to-the-handsome-golf-pro-that-she-liked-playing-with-men’s-balls* tale, I know that I will soon hear from a buddy about her worst mothering incident (which makes me feel better about mine), or a face-palming moment of their own which will make me laugh harder than the original story.

It’s what I live for.   [5]

Given the number of writers and reporters I know, I was certain that the last of the Five Embarrassing Misstatements stories would generate   [6]  a story in response.  What with newspaper editors asking for copy in terms of inches of print space (“I need six inches for the op-ed….”) I knew my journalism buddies would have similar stories. Sure enough, SDH, a comrade since our junior high school days, posted a doozy.

The next morning at breakfast, MH mentioned SDH’s story, which sent me on a memory flashback. I think about my high school journalism friends often – even posted about them six years ago. Since it’s summertime, I’ll indulge moiself  with a bit of a rerun:

(5-16-2014, excerpts from The Tattoo I’m Not Explaining )

I am currently reading Weedland by Peter HechtSubtitled Inside America’s Marijuana Epicenter and How Pot Went Legit, the book, as per one blurb, is “essential reading for anyone who is a fan of California’s most lucrative agricultural product.”  Which, I am not.  However, I am a fan of Peter Hecht.

I’ve known (and admired and adored) Pete since junior high school.  He was one of my buddies from a group of friends and acquaintances I still think of as the high school journalism gang.

The Write Stuff

Neither K nor Belle have ever brought home (nor even mentioned, sans my prompting) their high school’s newspaper. They both know I’d written for my school paper.   [7]  They know it was a “real” newspaper, with separate pages (and editors and reporters) devoted to news stories, editorial/opinion pieces, entertainment/feature and sports writing. They know that when The Generator, Santa Ana High School’s award-winning biweekly newspaper, was distributed in the school’s classrooms, the teachers and students stopped what they were doing and read it, cover to cover.  They know that students’ parents also read the high school newspaper, and that The Generator ran stories with enough substance to garner parental interest… and complaints.

(“I can’t believe what your reporter/ smart aleck columnist ____ wrote about! That’s no subject fit for a high school newspaper!”)   [8]

 

 

They know all of this because of the stories I’d told them.  And they could not bear to disappoint me when it came to their own school’s pitiful excuse for fishwrap newspaper.

Son K, ever the diplomat, laid it out for me after my third or fourth Why-don’t-you-ever-bring-your-school-newspaper-home? whine petition.

“Mom, our school’s newspaper sucks.
It’s embarrassing…nothing in it but rah-rah stories…
No one reads it and no one cares.”

Think back to your high school history, chemistry, English, or PE classes:  how many of those classmates went on to become historians or chemists or English teachers or pro athletes?  It still amazes me to think of how many of my peers who wrote for The Generator went on to pursue careers in journalism in one form or another. Along with Peter Hecht, there are:

* Scott Harris, former Los Angeles Times and San Jose Mercury reporter/columnist, Scott is currently one of “The Expat Files” contributors, living in/freelancing from Hanoi;

* Janis Carr, longtime Orange County Register sportswriter;

* Tim Ferguson, – Wall St. Journal reporter and current Forbes editor;

* Victor Cota, reporter for the Orange County Register 

* Phil Blauer, So-Cal area news anchor;

* Deborah Franklin, “my” editor,  [9]  whom I greatly admire for finding a way to combine her two loves, science and journalism.  Instead of (as the dubious voices advised) dumping one to concentrate on the other, Franklin became a science and medical reporter. Her works appear in a variety of venues, from VIA to NPR to Scientific American.

…and oodles of others I’m probably forgetting.  [10]

 

Three of those previously mentioned: Back row: the striped shirt and boyish-grin belong to Tim Ferguson; front row: L, Pete get-a-load-of-that-1974-hair Hecht; R Scott Harris, who was engaged in a campaign to get me to leave student government (“The BOC”) and join The Generator staff, which almost excuses his scribbled commentary;
second from R, Janis Carr.

 

Back to the breakfast table of the present: After MH told me about reading SDH’s story, I told him how delighted I was that SDH had shared it, then repeated two observations I’d made many a time: (1) I am amazed at how so many of my high school peers went on to have long careers in “actual” journalism, and, (2) of all the different sub-groups I was involved with in high school – the “gifted’ academic program; athletics; student government; the school newspaper – it is the journalism group I think of most frequently, and most fondly.

I got a good-natured, well-of-course-and-duh-you-are-all-writers reaction from MH the first time I told him that.  This time, his expression was open and interested, beyond mere tolerance mode to an actual, tell-me-more-of-what-you-mean way.

 

Yes, almost exactly like this.

 

And so, I did.

What was so great about that group was that, although they were all different, unique students, definitely not cut from the same “cloth,” politically or personally or socially or emotionally, they were all really…. *smart.*

They were intelligent, if not necessarily in the academically-gifted-program way (most of them were not enrolled in our school’s ‘s gifted program)…but it was more than that.  They were informed and inquisitive; they were both interesting, and interested – attentive to people and events and ideas outside of themselves…which was a refreshing change from the ubiquitous high school, *it’s-all-about-me* mentality.  Even those who “just” reported on sports (sorry, guys) were also conversant on politics and culture – they had a wide variety of interests, beyond their personal (and later, professional) specializations.

And they were, almost without exception, *wicked* funny.

 

 

Trading barbs, making wittily snarky observations of our fellow students – you had to have a thick hide to survive that group, and be able to take it as well as dish it out.  We were fast on the draw, quick to mine any seemingly innocent comment for innuendo potential.  Speaking of which, how convenient of moiself  to provide a segue to this apropos example:  One afternoon during my senior year, I was in our newspaper’s office, shooting the breeze with one of our newspaper’s reporter’s as he had a late lunch. He told me that someone had asked him for a clarification for the usage of the word, * innuendo,* then spat out part of his sandwich when I told him that “innuendo” was Italian for “anal sex.”

*   *   *

Department Of, It’s Her, Again? But She Won Last Month….

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

When you get a bladder infection you know urine trouble.

 

 

*   *   *

May you visit Oregon, but remember to bring your own wings;
May you have fond memories of at least one of your high school “groups;”
May you never reject a potential romantic partner because they
don’t know obscure geographic facts about Bolivia;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

[1] Beating it in ugliness are the state flags of Hawaii (A union jack? Seriously? With all the gorgeous Hawaiian colors to choose from, you steal from the Brits?) and the flags of Georgia and Mississippi, which incorporate part of the Confederate flag, tackily celebrating one of the ugliest chapters in American History.

[2] Vexillology is the study of flag history and symbolism.   Yes, Virginia, there’s an organization for everything.

[3] Oregon was the first state to enact a container-deposit bill (1971);  Oregon’s landmark beach bill  (1967) declares that all “wet sand” within sixteen vertical feet of the low tide line belongs to the state of Oregon, and recognizes public easements of all beach areas up to the line of vegetation, regardless of underlying property rights, so that the public has “free and uninterrupted use of the beaches,” and property owners are required to seek state permits for building and other uses of the ocean shore.   Wikipedia, Oregon Beach Bill

[4] A Canadian married to a Swede.

[5] Well, that and Grey’s Anatomy reruns. And world peace.

[6] Only a select few of my readers will get that reference: My high school’s student newspaper, where I met most of these fine folk,s was named The Generator.

[7] Primarily Parnal Knowledge, my regular op-ed column, plus miscellaneous reporting, ranging from “hard” news to satire to cultural reviews to sports.

[8] The Generator’s faculty advisor (English teacher Ted Clucas), was never happier than when he’d received a parental complaint.  “It proves they’re paying attention – you made somebody think about something!”

[9] Franklin, The Generator’s Editor-in Chief my senior year, displayed support and discretion above and beyond the call of journalistic duty by allowing me free (mostly) range in writing my op-ed column, Parnal Knowledge.

[10] I have not updated this list; some of the members have retired/moved on. One of the “oodles” I forgot to mention was the venerable Peter Schmuck (all together now: yep, that’s his real name), who recently retired from over 30 years of sports reporting for The Baltimore Sun.

The “Yes” I’m Not Typing

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Department Of Things I Can’t Wrap My Brain Around

 

 

Moiself  has a hard time getting protective face mask straps – whether elastic or tie-on – around my ears (not much room behind the upper ridges of my earlobes, apparently), and then when I do, it’s not particularly comfortable.  But, it’s not about my comfort, is it?

I have an even harder time understanding how, despite the entreaties from doctors and public health officials, some people refuse to wear masks because, as the maskscofflaws say, it’s a matter of “personal freedom.”  In particular, I feel as if I’m falling into a Twilight Zone vortex when I read about conservative Christians who seem to be suspending their usual Jesus loves me/saves you platitudes in favor of mouthing repetitive denials of the sort which might be expected from Satan’s toddler’s temper tantrum: 

 

It’s My Right! It’s My Right! It’s My Right! You Can’t Make Me!

 

Whoever was the first of the maskholes responsible for trying to link protective health measures to politics needs to be bitch-slapped back to the Middle Ages (or a present day COVID respirator ward).  The fact that *any* of the anti-maskers identifies as Christian….

Hmmm, what PPE would Jesus refuse to don? 

Folks, this is an opportunity to show selfless love, in the form of concern for and kindness toward your fellow human beings. Do y’all really think that disease and/or the actions of others are respecters of either your religion or your politics?  Secondhand smoke doesn’t waft away from liberals and toward libertarians, or vice versa.

Speaking of which, here is my personal, unexpected bonus to mask wearing. Dateline: Wednesday afternoon. After grocery shopping I am walking through the store’s parking lot toward my car, the point at which, if there are no other people around, I would usually take off my mask. I hear the distinctive sound of a big ass engine behind me, and a woman (whom I recognized as having been ahead of me in the store’s checkout line) slowly drives past me, quite (read: too) closely on my right side. A cigarette dangles from her lips; the driver’s side window of her truck is rolled down and she exhales vigorously, as only a nicotine addict forced to go a whole 20 minutes without smoking can do.  Many are the times I’ve been assaulted by secondhand smoke, but as her gray cloud envelopes me I realize I only get a faint whiff of it, and am grateful that I left my mask on.   [1]

Take it away, Science Guy.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Favorite Song Lines Couplets

Moiself  returned from a walk singing the following…which took a bit of explaining to MH.

  ♫  You’re in the corner with your boys you bet ’em five bucks
You’d get the girl who just walked in but she thinks you suck… ♫

(from U and Ur Hand, singer/songwriter Pink’s deliciously sharp-tongued ode to girls who just want to have fun and the boys who think that girls’ fun has to include them. )

 

*   *   *

Department Of, Oh, That’s Kinda Sweet… But Mostly Pathetic… And You *Do* Realize It’s Too Late To Help This Poor Woman, Don’t You?
Sub-department Of, I Really Need To Finish This Book And Move On.

For the past two weeks I’ve been reading Little Girl Blue: The Life of Karen Carpenter.  As I near the end of the book, I find moiself  cringing because I know what is going to happen: anorexia will cut short the life of a talented musician and singer who had one of the most distinctive voices of the 20th century.  And I’ve noticed that the more I read of Ms. Carpenter’s refusals to eat, the more I’m rummaging through my refrigerator after dinner.

 

This nacho’s for you, Karen.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Missing The Mark For Good Advice

What is it about us humans, with our propensity for numbered lists?

* Buddhism has its Three Jewels, Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path;

* Christianity and Judaism have their Ten Commandments (but there are three versions of them, a fact most Christians seem to be unaware of   [2] )

* Islam has its 99 Names of God

* several quasi-religious addiction programs claim there are 12 Steps to recovery;

* self-help books tell us about The 5 Second Rule to Transform your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage, and the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and Ten Principles for Nourishing a Healthy Relationship With Food, and 101 Questions You Need to Ask In Your Twenties and 1000 Places You Need To See Before You Die….

* and of course, as per Paul Simon, there are 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover

Here’s a new list moiself  has been seeing recently, in various social media posts:

 

 

At first glance these so-called 7 Rules of Life could be easily accepted (or dismissed) as yet another benign (or banal, depending on your POV) list of feel good/common sense admonitions.  But when I read the request – almost more of a command – at the end of the list (“TYPE YES IF YOU AGREE” ), I decided to actually give each item in the list more than a cursory glance.  And, then….no way.

“TYPE YES IF YOU AGREE.”  Uh, if I agree with what? With discounting complexity and nuance in favor of treacly naiveté?

Not that anyone cares ,   [3]   but I cannot TYPE YES, for the following reasons for each rule:

  1. I’d say first, try to *understand* your past, so you can understand your present and not let your past rule your future. And if some part of your past is disturbing to you, and the disturbance has to do with personal and/or institutional abuse and discrimination, depending on the situation, hell no, don’t just let it go! Don’t give a pass to people and institutions which keep abusive systems in place just because they tell you that the only way you will have peace is if you let them get away with it. That’s just another form of abuse.
  2. This one is…sorta okay. Unless what they think of you is shaped by their bigotry and stereotypes – then, it is *very much* your business, because they are going to treat you (and others they deem like you) accordingly, and if they have personal/political/financial power, this could mean a whole lotta trouble for you.
  3. This one reeks of shallow, First World Privilege and, “If-you-can-visualize-it-you-can-act-it” victim-blaming mentality. Yeah, by all means, please tell the continually unhappy woman in the refugee camp, who risks being gang-raped by guards on her way to fetch water or use the toilet facilities, that she is in charge of her happiness.
  4. This one mostly gets a pass…with, of course, exceptions: Do compare *certain* areas of your life to others, to help both you and your colleagues. If your coworker who does the same job as you and has your same credentials/seniority/work performance reviews, but his salary is higher than yours and the only difference is your gender/skin color, you owe it to yourself and others to compare…and challenge, if necessary.
  5. Mostly. Give many things time…but again, don’t apply this across the board. That festering sore on your bum which is starting to smell like last year’s ham – time is not on your side, dude – get yourself to the ER, pronto. And remember, those in power use the “Be patient; it’ll take time; nothing changes overnight…” admonitions to placate (read: stall and prevent) the less powerful from gaining access to human rights. American slaveholders kept those they enslaved from rising up against them by stripping enslaved people of their own spiritual beliefs and teaching them Christianity, with the assurance that, if the enslaved persons were docile and obedient (as the scriptures say) and would bide their time, their woes would be healed in paradise.
  6. These two sentences are incongruous. Of course it’s alright not to know all the answers. However, always be suspicious of someone who tells you to stop thinking – either “so much,” or in any amount.
  7. Excuse me and fuck you very much ? No one fully knows what problems another person holds. And, never patronize anyone – especially a woman – by telling them to smile.  If someone is not smiling and you tell them to smile, it is *always* patronizing. People are perfectly capable of smiling when they have a reason to.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Getting All Philosophical Before Breakfast

Dateline: Tuesday morning, the site of Mount Neahkahnie is in my eyes and the sound of a science podcast comes through my earbuds as I walk north along the beach.  I am reflecting on a subject I’ve had cause to ponder two days in a row, thanks to snippets of an overheard conversation, and now this podcast.

I assume moiself  has addressed this issue previously, in this space, and surely will have the occasion to do so again.   [4]

 

 

One of the more common, (and often patronizing) questions that religious believers ask of those of us who are religious-free seems to follow a certain script. First, there will be a statement of what they think we believe, followed by the question:

* Oh, so you think there is no god, which means that we are just particles of atoms in the cosmos, which means we have no significance and there is no meaning to life. If you don’t believe in (a) god, what is the meaning of life?

“Seriously? How many hours do you have?” is moiself’s (so far, successfully restrained) fantasy, kneejerk response to a person who poses this question.

 

Worship
Definition of worship (Entry 1 of 2)    [5]

transitive verb

1: to honor or show reverence for as a divine being or supernatural power
2: to regard with great or extravagant respect, honor, or devotion
(“a celebrity worshiped by her fans”)

intransitive verb
: to perform or take part in worship or an act of worship

Definition of worship (Entry 2 of 2)
noun

1: reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power
also : an act of expressing such reverence
2: a form of religious practice with its creed and ritual
3: extravagant respect or admiration for or devotion to an object of esteem
(“worship of the dollar”)

 

It’s funny, that those who pose the if-you-don’t-believe-in-a-god/meaning-of-life question never seem to turn it on themselves.  And when moiself  has been so queried, the query-poser has never stuck to the subject long enough for me to ask in return,

“What does worshiping a deity – which you believe is all-powerful and has created you, correct? – what purpose and meaning does that give to *your* life…other than being part of the hive for the cosmic being who created your ant farm for its own amusement?  And why does “worshiping” that deity seem to be a worthy task for you – what reasoning allows you to give your devotion to any entity so narcissistic as to demand it?”

 

 

Certainly on a cosmic scale, humans have little significance.  This realization should be humbling, but not humiliating.  Considering how over the millennia religious believers have done so much damage to the planet and their fellow human beings under the excuses of divine mandate and of humans being the crown of creation, I think a little humility in this matter would benefit us all.

But just because there is no singular or ultimate meaning in life doesn’t mean that life is meaningless.  Perhaps none of us have cosmic significance, but each of us has great individual, personal significance. And the purpose of Life, capitalized or not, is the purpose that we give it.

There are so many varied and rich meanings to existence (other than being minions in some deity’s humanoid experiment). Here’s a general answer, variations of which I hold moiself, and have heard from others who identify as Agnostics, Atheists, Humanists, Brights, Freethinkers, Happy Heathens, et al, be they physicists or pharmacists or photographers or physical therapists or Phillies fans….

Life itself is the meaning of life.

 

Quite profound, for a human.

 

We determine the meaning of our lives.  Yours might primarily revolve around the scientific search for the origins and composition of the rings of Saturn, and hers might center upon artistic expression via musical theater,  [6]   and his might be his family and the joys and challenges of raising kind and inquisitive children.  We are responsible for setting our goals and for pursuing that which may bring us and others well-being and happiness.  It is our privilege, our right and our responsibility, to create meaning.

These heartfelt, wise reflections are from a woman who, suddenly and unexpectedly, lost her beloved husband to a previously unknown medical condition:

I find meaning in everyday things, and I choose to carry on.

The sun comes up and I have a chance to be kind to anyone who crosses my path because I can. I make that choice for myself and nobody has to tell me to do it. I am right with myself. I try my best to do my best, and if I fail, I try again tomorrow. I support myself in my own journey through life. I draw my own conclusions.

I find joy in the people I love. I love, and I am loved. I find peace in the places I visit; I cry when I listen to music I love, and find almost childlike joy in many things. This world is brilliant and full of fascinating things.

I have to think carefully for myself. I don’t have to believe what I’m told. I must ask questions and I try and use logic and reason to answer them…. I struggle with how difficult the world can be, but when we have free will, some people will make terrible decisions. No deity forces their hand, and they must live with that.

Grieving is never an easy road to travel….I try to be loving and caring with my family and friends, and have fun. I will cry with friends in distress and hear other people’s stories and be kind because it does me good as well. I listen and I learn. It helps me to be better. Life without (a god) is not a life without meaning. Everything, each and every interaction, is full of meaning. Everything matters.

(From Buzzfeed article, interviews w/atheists re meaning of life)

 

 

Sometimes, the most soothing “meaning of life” is the ability to appreciate pictures of baby sloths.

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

I must apollogize for making puns about Greek gods.

 

I’ve heard worse, and so shall you – pull my finger, you measly mortal!

*   *   *

 

May you enjoy the challenge of finding your own meaning;
May you remember that everything matters;
May you just STFU and put on your mask – and remember, you still have the freedom to sing while doing so;

 

…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

[1] I sense a disturbance in the force…a feeling of…disappointment?  Some of y’all were expecting a fart story, right?

[2]  Version 1 is from Deuteronomy 5:6-21; Version 2, which is similar to Version 1, is found in Exodus 20:1-17. Version 3, found in Exodus 34,  – is riotously different from the first two versions, although the writing claims it is the LORD speaking.  Hmmm, guess he’d forgotten what he’s said the first two times?  Also, although this list is *never* quoted when religious leaders and politicians talk of the Ten Commandments, this is the only version referred to in scripture as the “ten commandments.”

[3] Which could be the subtitle of this blog.

[4] Both because it bears repeating, and because we who are religion-free are repeatedly asked this.

[5] Merriam Webster.

[6] And if so, can we get you to do something to ensure that there is never another adaptation of “Cats” to the silver screen?

The Dinner With Mel Brooks I’m Not Having

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Department Of SpellWalking is Spellbinding

What, you may ask, is this “SpellWalking” thing you’ve been hearing so much about?  And if you haven’t heard about it….

Spellwalking Spellwalking Spellwalking Spellwalking
Spellwalking Spellwalking

…there. Now you have.

You Must Check This Out ®.

Here’s the description of the activity, from the  brilliant   [1]   industrial engineer living in San Francisco who started it.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, I started going on near-daily walks to help combat the monotony of being cooped up indoors all day. To spice things up a bit, I decided to plan my walking routes such that the paths I took formed letters and words. I call this activity SpellWalking. I live in San Francisco, a city favorable to SpellWalking due to the multiple intersecting gridiron street patterns to choose from.

( From the SpellWalking website
Yes, it has I website; it’s a *thing,* y’all)

Check out the grid patterns – they are delightful, and mostly feature San Francisco neighborhood names.

Moiself’s favorite (so far), due to its proximity to greenspaces, is the Haight.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Say What?
Sub-Department Of What Is The Emoji For Your Ears Doing A Double Take?
Division Of Unfortunate Government Employee Names

Dateline: Tuesday; circa 11 am; listening to the car radio while running an errand. I tuned into the Oregon Public Broadcasting channel, to the end of a story announcing the appointment of the man who will be Oregon State University’s 15th president. Current OSU president Ed Ray will step down, to be replaced by F. King Alexander.

 

 

Yep, that’s what I heard – followed by those voices coming from the radio in my own mind, speculating about what form the complaints he (the new OSU president) will receive from those who are unhappy with his leadership:

“That F** King Alexander….”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Speaking Of How My Brain Works…

I have layperson’s/”hobby” interest in neurology and neuropsychology – in how (scientists think) the brain works.  In my If-I-Had-To-Do-It-All-Over-Again ® mode, I might have pursued neuroscience and/or cognitive psychology-related fields, instead of following the highly lucrative and emotionally satisfying and rewarding batshit crazy “creative” path.

 

 

But I have this one problem   [2]  when it comes to reading articles about neuroscience and behavior and basic cognition. Whenever I read about a certain part of the brain, a part located deep in the temporal lobe and most strongly associated with memory, ’tis difficult for me to get past the name of said brain region.  I’ve learned that moiself cannot take whatever I am reading seriously until I deal with an image that always – as in, every F. King Alexander time – comes to mind.

Here’s what happens: I picture a college campus setting – a university whose student body is comprised solely of herbivorous, semiaquatic ungulate mammals native to sub-Saharan Africa.   And I face that image, appreciate it, and set it aside…until I come to the part in the article which says, in essence, “Let’s explore what we know about the hippocampus…” and I am immediately transported back to that same setting, with moiself  being led on a campus tour by a student guide…

 

“And over on the left is our renowned fine arts center….”

 

One might think that, with the interest in/reading about this neuro-stuff (excuse the fancy-pants, science jargon) I claim to do, moiself might have figured out why my brain does this.  Nah; not gonna go there. I suppose I enjoy it enough that the why doesn’t matter. It’s not something I would want to “fix.”

 

Fraternity rush season at the Hippocampus is intense.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Not All Of The Oldies Are Goodies

Dateline: same as my first lame story highly entertaining anecdote. I switched my car’s radio from the OPB channel to KQRZ, a local station which plays music from the past (aka “oldies”), and I heard a song moiself  hadn’t thought about in years.

Wildfire was popular when I was a certain age. The song had always seemed melodically anemic to me, and I’d never paid much attention to it when it somehow got regular airplay. This time I decided to actually listen to the lyrics, and….wow.

 

“Is that a good wow, or a bad wow?”

 

Wow as in, this dull ditty was a hit song?

The song’s narrator tells the brief tale of a young woman who supposedly died during a blizzard while searching for her escaped pony, “Wildfire.” The song’s narrator is in his cabin or somewhere – we don’t really know – in an early winter storm; an owl has perched outside of his window, which he takes as a sign that Ghostly Dead Girl is calling for him to join her and spend eternity riding her stupid horse lacking the horse sense to NOT run off into a blizzard pony with her.

The End.

Wow  as in, there’s not much to the story, is there?  It’s too insipid to be tragic.

*   *   *

Department Of An Oldie Who Was One Of The Best Of The Goodies

“Mel comes over most every night. We’ll have dinner and watch “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune.” After dinner, we’ll watch a movie, if anything good is playing that night. We once said, “Any movie that has the line, ‘Secure the perimeter,’ you know it’s good.”
(” Carl Reiner: Why Van Dyke is the best, Trump the worst and Mel Brooks is a savvy movie critic. ”  USA Today, 5-1-19 )

Goodbye, Carl Reiner.

Who is left among that generation of influential entertainers?  Mel Brooks; Betty White; Norman Lear; Dick Van Dyke?

Reiner leaves behind an impressive body of work and a loving family, but here’s what makes me “grieve” the most, when I think about it:  now that Carl Reiner is gone, who will Mel Brooks have dinner with?

My favorite Carl Reiner-directed movie is “All of Me,” which features wonderful work by actors Lily Tomlin and Steve Martin.  Frail, condescending, wealthy socialite Edwina Cutwater (Lily Tomlin) engages the help of a guru to “transmigrate” her soul upon her death to the body of a healthy young woman. Edwina enlists lawyer Roger Cobb (Steve Martin) to change her will to leave her entire estate to the young woman. Edwina dies within minutes of signing the updated will, but via an ill-timed accident she ends up inhabiting Roger’s body, sharing it with him and controlling his body’s right side. Edwina and Roger are forced to work together to find a way to get her soul out his body, as well as to navigate mundane but essential tasks, as in this scene below, when Roger desperately needs to use the bathroom.

Enjoy…better yet, watch the entire movie, which is surprisingly sweet and sentimental despite its I-am-SO-sure premise.

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Even Harder To Comprehend Than Cosmic String Theory
Is The “Success” Of Certain Attention Whores Celebrities

Carl Reiner, he of the multiple “slash” talents (comedian slash actor slash writer slash director slash producer….), was more than deserving of the fame and acclaim – and arguably, most importantly, the respect –  which he received over a lifetime (his career spanned seventy-three years!), from both his audience and his show business peers.

And then, we have…oh, shit. I have to type this surname, don’t I, if I’m going to pursue this bizarre reflection?  Let’s just say the name rhymes with lard-ashian.

 

“For F. King Alexander’s sake, just type, ‘Kardashian,’ you big baby.”

 

Moiself  has never seen the Kardashian show. Of course, living in the culture, doing crossword puzzles, standing in line at the grocery store where there’s nothing to look at but the tabloid headlines or the ill-fitting clothing of the guy in front of me and I need to avert my eyes sideways lest they be further assaulted by the worst case of plumber’s crack I’ve ever seen…I can’t really avoid having a rudimentary knowledge of their existence.

And rudimentary will do, because there’s not much to know.  They are famous, for…for what?  For wanting to be famous.

Maybe there’s more to the show than that. Yeah…and maybe Chief Little Bunker-Bitch will join the Black Lives Matter movement and lead protesters in replacing statues of Robert E. Lee with gold-plated vaults containing the entire Spike Lee filmography.

I feel fully comfortable in judging this Show-That-I-Have-Not-Seen, and here is why.  The Kardashians actively and openly seek celebrity, and in my opinion and that of many others who are Smarter And More Educated Than Moiself, ® that in and of itself is the sign of an unbalanced personality and bloated ego.

Kardashians and those like them pursue fame, as opposed to merely tolerating (or even grudgingly accepting) celebrity status as a by-product of something they’ve done, which is the “normal” or usual way fame attaches itself to a person.

Despite my being someone friends and family would describe as being outgoing or extroverted, fame or celebrity – being recognized by strangers – is something I have studiously avoided all my life (my former editors, pushing for me to do more publicity, might snarkily add that avoiding fame was the one aspect of my fiction writing career at which I excelled ). Thus, I am somewhat bemused and mostly appalled by those who actively seek to be in the proverbial glare of the spotlight.

Fame or celebrity comes to you, in most cases, if you do something notable and/or something which brings you to the public’s attention (e.g. in the performing arts).  Not to be confused with the infamy accorded a mass murderer, you may become famous if, for example, you’ve acted in acclaimed movies. Yet, even then, the amount of fame coming your way cannot be determined by a cut and dried formula.  It’s interesting to consider the variables, some having to do with the life a celeb leads, whether they actively sought the limelight outside of their professional lives or desperately tried to avoid it (and thus got more attention for that avoidance), and other factors seemingly random.  Why did the paparazzi ignore a young(er) Sally Field, but pursue Angelina Jolie?  (That answer seems obvious on the surface, but maybe Ms. Field had some really juicy hidden details of her life that a dedicated celebrity snoop could have unearthed). Why have talented, award-winning actors Meryl Streep and Frances McDormand not been subjected to the kind of tabloid attention that talented, award-winning actors Julia Roberts and Jennifer Lawrence received?

However those actors may have played on it or downplayed it, their respective fame is due to actions or accomplishments on their part. Their celebrity is a consequence, not an predecessor, of their careers.

And then you have the reality TV stars – yep, I picked the low hanging fruit that is the Kardashian family – who want celebrity (but will settle for notoriety) first, before they’ve done anything to “merit” it.  It’s back-asswards:  once they have fame…for seeking fame…in order to keep their fame they need to figure out how to do something attention-worthy other than to be seeking attention.  The LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME! stage they should’ve outgrown by age eight becomes a thing in itself. You get fame and celebrity for wanting fame and celebrity, and in order to keep up the public’s interest in your fame and celebrity you must continually pursue it in extreme and tasteless ways.

But thanks to the advent of Reality TV, which has brought us our first Reality TV president, the whole concept of tasteful may have gone out the window…

 

*   *   *

Department Of See This Movie, Right Now

Unless you’re on your way to the COVID ward of the hospital.

Otherwise, at one point in your life you’ve either been a frightened yet determined 17-year-old, or you’ve known one or (hopefully) have been a compassionate and loyal friend to one, as this movie so matter-of-factly and movingly depicts.

Never Rarely Sometimes Always

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

I just found out that I’m color blind – the news came completely out of the green.

 

*   *   *

 

May you enjoy your own variation of a classic curse phrase ( F. King Alexander! );
May you think twice before approaching a “famous” person when they are not in the process of actively seeking fame;
May your sense of propriety pass The Tasteful Lady‘s scrutiny;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Partial disclosure – can you ever make a *full* disclosure? – he’s my nephew.

[2] Yes,  those who know me well might interject here that moiself has a lot more than just one problem… but how’s about if y’all control your intrusive thoughts on the matter and we can get back to the subject?

The Police Officer I’m Not Judging

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Department Of The Calm Before The Storm
Sub Department Of Something Sweet Before The Ranting Thoughtful Consideration of Provocative Subjects Begins

We celebrate half-birthdays in my family – not my family of origin, but the family MH and I created. This is MH’s doing. When he found out that our first date was the day after my birthday, he expressed mild disappointment that he had missed helping me celebrate. I thought nothing of it until six months later, when I received a small gift from him and a birthday card with its pre-printed “Happy Birthday” altered to read, “Happy (half) birthday.”

I found that delightful.

And I did the same for him, when his half-birthday rolled around. And we’ve kept doing it all these years,  also with our children, K and Belle.

What makes it such a simple pleasure is that although we/ve been doing this for decades (!?), every year, without fail, I forget when it is my own half-birthday, until, for example, like Tuesday morning, when I came downstairs and found a card and small package and realized, “Oh yeah – it’s my half-birthday!”

This year’s card is arguably the best ever. The inside message, “Hope Your (Half) Birthday Is This Much Fun!” is an almost impossible wish, given the expression of unsurpassed, mischievous joy on the puddle jumping girl. It is a familiar expression, one I’ve seen in many a picture pasted in my parents’ old photo albums.  It makes me think of them fondly, knowing if they were alive they’d both laugh in recognition when I’d show them the card, and my father would exclaim,


“Where did MH find it?! Robbie Doll, that is *you*!”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Much Ado About Nothing You’ve Got To Be Kidding Me
Sup-Department Of The Hidden Book In A Beloved Fantasy Series:
Happy Potter And The People Who Play Their Nitpick Fiddles
While Hogwarts Is Burning Down Around Them

What a fun past couple of weeks we’ve had. And because there is not enough injustice to keep us all busy, several self-appointed transphobia warriors have Twitter-twisted their rainbow panties in a knot because they felt excluded – even, “erased” – due to a 21-word tweet from author JK Rowling.

 

 

Bear with me as I make a related association.

One of my favorite podcasts,Alan Alda’s “Clear and Vivid,”  focuses on connections we make via communication.  The response to Rowling’s tweet reminds me of one of the issues brought up in Alda‘s recent podcast interview with cognitive scientist, linguist, professor and author Steven Pinker. In the latter half of “Talking About Talking,” Alda and Pinker discussed the “pr” problem science currently has, in that many (non-scientist) people seem to have little idea how science and scientists actually work, and thus fall for pseudo science and conspiracy theories. These science doubters don’t trust science and scientists, partly because they think scientists cannot really speak out due to academic orthodoxy and the “cancel culture”  (which, moiself notes, is a problem typically more associated with the liberal arts and social sciences).

Pinker:
The backsliding in universities – away from free speech and open ideas, the ideological conformity, the political correctness, the policing of ideas – can be corrosive, precisely because it erodes that knowledge of what the rules (of science) are – mainly, you shouldn’t be able to get away with claiming something false, because someone will call you on it.
But when the impression the public has is that the universities are just another cult, where you really can’t speak your mind or you’ll be drummed out or you’ll be cancelled or you’ll be shut down by protests, that feeds the conspiracy theories….”

As my offspring would verify (with a modicum of eye-rolling, moiself dares to hope), I reminded them at any opportunity – when they were young and especially later, when they were talking about their college classes where they sometimes felt discussions about pertinent or controversial issues were was stifled because someone said something that another person did not want to hear or claimed was “offensive” –  of the following:

The reason I have the opinions I have today, opinions that keep evolving and adapting to new information, is that (particularly during my school/observing-how-the-world-works-and-how-) I get to hear and read about ideas and events that the Someone Else ®  chorus found dangerous, offensive, blasphemous, destructive.
For example, my lifelong feminism has been possible because I got to hear people argue with and debate the various “sides” of the issue.  And the idea that males and females should have equal value, rights and opportunities but that powerful cultural, governmental, religious and academic structures are designed to prevent that and preserve patriarchal status quo – that was highly offensive, to many, many people.    

I will never forget the reaction of the charismatic, good looking, Nice Christian Boy ® in my high school’s gifted math class when the teacher brought in a recently published academic study on gender bias.  The study showed how school’s math textbooks, from an early age through the upper grades, discriminatorily portrayed boys and girls when presenting “story problems.”  For example, the study showed pictures of grade school math workshop books, where boys were overwhelmingly/statistically over-represented and were portrayed as active agents in the story problems, while girls, if mentioned at all, were in domestic scenarios or doing housework. This NCB’s boy’s way entering the discussion on this issue, which another girl and moiself were having with a couple of our male classmates, was to interrupt, and name-call us (the two girls) and dismiss our concerns and observations:

“This is ridiculous!
Stuff like that doesn’t matter – I can’t believe you’d fall for….”

Later in the school year this boy, in his yearbook graduation notes (where seniors got to list favorite activities, friends, future aspirations and what they wanted to be remembered for, etc.) wrote that his life goal was “to tactfully convey to those around me what the Lord has done for me.”  The Very. First. Things. I thought of at the time, when I read what he’d written – and the first thing that comes to mind today, on the rare occasions I have to recall him – is the “This is ridiculous” incident, and several others involving the ridiculing of classmates, wherein NCB demonstrated (what would later be defined by stand-up comics as) the phenomenon of “punching down.”

Once again, I digress. Thank you for bearing with me.

 

“You’re welcome. Now, as you were saying….”

 

So: JK Rowling’s tweet was in response to a May 28 article,  [1]  from the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council,   [2]   titled,

Opinion: Creating a more equal post-COVID-19 world
for people who menstruate

At first glance, I thought the article’s title was a headline from The Onion. It would seem JK Rowling did as well, and she beat me to the satirical punch (as easy thing to do, as moiself  is not on Twitter).  Here is Rowling’s tweet in its entirety:

” ‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”

We are in the midst of a worldwide pandemic and resulting economic recession, with the largest unemployment figures since The Great Depression and uncertain options for recovery, while simultaneous grappling with nationwide civil unrest after the horrific death of yet another black man murdered by police officers,  [3] with demonstrations in a few cases turning to riots and sparking even more shocking displays of police brutality …which seems to be leading us toward a long overdue reckoning of our country’s entrenched system of political, judicial, financial, educational and cultural racism, the (grudging, in the case of many white folks) acknowledgement of which is fueling calls for the Herculaneum and potentially divisive (as counter-protests by white supremacist terrorist groups – which have yet to be labeled as such by our federal law enforcement agencies – indicate) tasks of addressing systemic racism, which includes reforming – or some cases, even dismantling– our nation’s law policing agencies….

And does even *one* of y’all think Rowling’s tweet is a fight worth picking?  Are you having a really bad period – excuse me, are you a Person On The Rag?

 

 

The denizens of the Transphobia Determination Committee and their special friends, famous and otherwise, began to pile on. One Twitter-er responded to Rowling with a judgmentally terse, “Why did you do this?”

Rowling doesn’t need me to defend her (she explains her wider concerns with gender and feminist issues, including the censorial tyranny of “wrongthink,” here).  But, As A Writer, ® I understand exactly (at least one) reason why Rowling “did that.” Because she wrote   [4]  just what I was thinking – and likely would have mentioned in this space, had I come across the article’s title before this silly controversy began…because the phrase “People Who Menstruate” is a stand-up comic’s wacky, face-palming, WTF?!? gift…not to mention grammatically ungainly.

Oh, and, Et tu, Daniel Radcliffe?

“Who, moi?”

 

For those of you who’ve been off-planet for the past nineteen years, actor Radcliffe played the title character in the eight movies made from Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series.  In his intro to a piece he wrote for the Trevor Project blog site, Radcliffe opined on Rowling’s tweet.  He stated that he feels compelled

“…as a human being…”

(nice of him to clarify that, for those people who may think he is actually some kind of non-human wizard, or something)

“…to say something at this moment.
Transgender women are women. Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people….”

Oh, Danny boy. Do you really think that JK Rowling possesses what would be the most powerful magic ever: that she could, in a mere 21 words, cast a wizarding spell which “erases the identity and dignity of any of your fellow human beings?

Identity erasure, schmasure.  Rowling said no such thing – who is trying to attach this “erasure” identity onto her? Just as she called out conservative evangelical Christians who accused her of promoting Satanism and the occult in her Harry Potter books, Rowling is calling b.s. on the transphobic accusation.  You supported her re the former “charges;” why are you so quick to accept the latter?

Rowling’s tweet poked fun at a comically cumbersome phrase. Harry Potter  (whoops! sorry for the unintentional erasure of your true identity)  Daniel Radcliffe, you owe your career to this gifted writer, who created a seven book series filled with wonder and adventure and, arguably more importantly, interspersed with nuanced portrayals about individual and group reactions and responsibilities vis-à-vis recognizing and responding to good and evil.  Now here you are, forsaking even a modicum of nuance in jumping on the *Someone is Offended!*  bandwagon. Did you even think to contact Rowling privately, before joining the social media pile-on?

What is happening to Rowling frosts my butt.  At best it’s snippy – and at worst can be confusing, angering, and frustrating and sometimes dangerous – to be labeled as something that you are not.  Hmm, this phenomenon seems somehow…familiar.  Other people trying to force an unwanted  and inaccurate identity upon you – hey, y’all “transphobic” accusers: double standards, much?

 

 

Humans are mammals. In mammalian species all females have uteri, most have an estrous cycle, and the females of ten primate species, four bats species and a couple of other rodent species have a menstrual cycle.  Human females are generally referred as women (although as per gender identity theories a small percentage of people who identify as women are not born female).

Pick your battles, folks.  Don’t alienate those who are your allies, or who would like to be allies but who are hesitant to go public with their support because they fear you might rip ’em a new one if they use terminology you don’t like or “misuse” pronouns, etc.  

Where is Monty Python at a time like this?  [5]  Imagine the Ministry of Silly Terminology or Argument Clinic-style skits they could get out of this Twitter tantrum.

You who want to pick fights over what should be non/the smallest of issues – pick away. Meanwhile, #45 ( aka Chief Little Bunker-Bitch  [6]  ) and his minion of bigots keep pulling this shit while they notice we’re busy picking at ourselves:

The tRump administration announced (on 6/12… it is eliminating an Obama-era regulation prohibiting discrimination in health care against patients who are transgender.”

Moiself can hardly believe how many keystrokes I’ve wasted on this brouhaha.  It’s errand time;  my essential supplies are getting scarce. There are some chili bean-loving dudes coming for a visit in a couple of weeks, so I’m off to stock up on toilet paper for when the guys – excuse me, I mean, People Who Shit – stop by.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Can’t Resist This Segue: Speaking Of Labeling….
Sub-Department Of Message To Police Officers Everywhere
(That They Are *So* Likely To Read….)

I’ve seen several Facebook posts linking to an article published recently in The Baltimore Sun. In ” An open letter to a protester from a Baltimore County police officer,” officer Seth Templeton, a five year police veteran who views himself as “one of the good guys,” writes with sincerity, articulation, and heartfelt regret about his pain, as a police officer, of being tainted by the actions of a few bad cops.

“I would ask that you judge me not by my uniform,
but by the content of my character.”

To the “good guys” (and good gals) in police forces across the nation:

Do you not see what an *amazing* gift this tainting is?

I don’t mean to dismiss your pain; if you can’t understand my explanation of why this tainting is actually a gift, please take a breather and read it again…then, if you still don’t get it, moiself  humbly but seriously suggests that, for the good of the nation and your own sanity, you should find another profession.

Most of us think we have the ability to do, or are presently doing, what in fact is one of the more difficult tasks human being can undertake, in our journey to be Better People ®:  to put ourselves in another person’s place. You remember the axiom about not judging a person until you have….

 

 

This is your chance for change and growth, a chance to start your own mindful practice of empathy.  If you consider yourself a good/honest/upright police officer, if you took your oath *to protect and serve* seriously, please do the following:

Every time you feel tainted by the actions of a few of your “brothers in blue,” put yourselves in the shoes of another of your could-be brothers and sisters – of just one of the countless black men and women whose entire lives are tainted by the assumptions and prejudices of others.  They are

* pulled over for minor traffic infractions – or for no reasons at all – because they fit a stereotype in some cop’s mind of what a criminal is/does/looks like

* pulled over while driving and questioned because they do *not* fit the police officers’ image of what kind of person drives a luxury car/lives or works in this wealthy neighborhood/has a car with MD license plates…

*stopped, questioned and frisked, in their neighborhood or on their own front porches, by the police, who are looking for drugs, while their same age white peers living on college are told by the campus police to move their marijuana plants away from their dorm windowsill so that parents attending Homecoming Weekend won’t see them

* arrested for breaking into your own home, by an officer who ignores the proof that it *is* your own home, and you forgot your house keys

* questioned, hassled, or even taken into custody by the police for doing an innocuous activity (having friends over for a bbq, attending a grad party in your friend’s backyard, bird watching, jogging, napping in your own dorm room, sitting in a Starbucks, using the pool in their own gated community, golfing “too slow,” mowing the lawn or playing on a Slip n’Slide, for going to work, eating at a Subway – and other ways of “living while black”) because it upset some white person’s judgement of who can do what in “white spaces.”….

 

 

Here’s the thing: those people who judge you, who do not know you personally but who put you in the category of “bad cop,” because of your uniform? Those people do not have the weight of your gun, night stick, taser, squad car and fellow officers and police union to back you up, along with a judicial system predisposed to believe your word (even when there are eyewitnesses and objective evidence – including video footage from street cams, stores, cellphones, and even your own body cam – to contradict you).

Those people who judge, fear and/or slag on you have…what? Merely their scorn, their fear that you are “one of *those* cops.”  Do you realize how skewed the power dynamics are?  Even as I’m hoping you take this opportunity to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, the shoes are hardly the same size, are they?

It’s a big culture to reform; police officers are part of their communities and do not operate in a vacuum. Rather, the violence, prejudice and corruption we see in policing stems from the systemic racism promulgated by the mythology of white superiority that has plagued our nation since its founding, and which permeates *every* aspect of its power structures. This is your opportunity be part of the solution…or get out of the way if you’re not up to it.

But, I hope you don’t leave. Your essay gives me hope that you have the strength to do the right thing, even if it means bearing the sting of false accusations (while remembering that so many others have borne and continue to bear so much more than mere false accusations). I’d rather you stay and work for change, and justice. Because that is what a good cop would do.

 

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

My aunt urgently needed a transfusion…
but she died before we could remember her blood type.
Her last words to us were, “Be positive!”

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion  Evolution  [7]

And here’s what I made for ours, one day this week.

Featuring this week’s Theme Day and recipe:

Sushi Saturday:   Green maki and nigiri rolls (made with jade pearl “bamboo” rice, avocado, cucumber, scallions, roasted red pepper).

My rating:

Recipe Rating Refresher  [8]

*   *   *

 

May you surprise someone by celebrating their half-birthday;
May we all try to be the good cops;
May you enjoy making your own damn dinner;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] in Devex, a “global development media platform.”

[2] The WSSC is a global organization advocating for “…poverty eradication, health and environmental improvement, gender equality and long-term social and economic development.”  The article deals with the worldwide requirements, pandemic or no, for safe access to “menstrual materials, toilets, soap, water, and private spaces in the face of lockdown living conditions that have eliminated privacy for many populations.”.

[3] Or should I say, George Floyd was murdered by “People With Guns and Badges.”

[4] I can’t bring moiself to use, “tweeted.”

[5] Dying off, one by one, I know….

[6] Belle sent me this epic video, with the insistence that I heretofore use a new moniker for #45.

[7] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 1 of April 2020, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go themes as listed in the 4-3-20 blog.

[8]

* Abject Failure:  I’ll make a canned wieners & SpaghettiOs gelatin mold before I make this recipe again.

* Tolerable:  if you have the proper…attitude.

* Yep: why, sure, I’d share this with my cat.

* Now you’re talkin’: Abby the support Avocado ® approves.

* Yummers: So good, it merits The Purple Tortilla Chip Of Exclamation ® !

 

The Dad Jokes I’m Not Telling

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Department Of Trying To Remember How I Organized This Bookshelf

Dateline: a week ago; 7 am-ish. Moiself  is on my elliptical exercise thingy,  [1] which is in the corner of our family room next to a floor-to-ceiling bookcase. I open the podcast app on my cellphone and place the phone on the second-from-the-top bookcase shelf.  After five minutes I want to listen to a different podcast, and as I reach for my phone I notice, as if for the first time, a row of book titles on the top shelf.

All of the book case’s shelves are – or were, I think – organized as per some kind of theme. Thus it gives me no small amusement to look at the following titles on the top shelf and wonder to moiself who arranged these books…knowing full well it was moiself…and having no memory of why I put those  titles there ?

* The Complete Works of Mark Twain, Volumes I and II (Mark Twain)

* Ball Four (Jim Bouton)

* I am Spock (Leonard Nimoy)

* My Antonia (Willa Cather)

* The Lathe of Heaven (Ursula LeGuin)

* The Thurber Carnival (James Thurber)

* The Odyssey of Homer  (Homer Simpson)  [2]

* The Search For Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe (Jane Wagner)

* Candide (Voltaire)

* Tarzan of the Apes (Edgar Rice Burroughs)

* Go the F*** to Sleep (Adam Mansbach, Ricardo Cortés, illustrator)

 

*   *   *

Department Of Following Up

The relative risk of mental health problems following a single elective first-trimester abortion of is no greater risk to mental health than carrying a pregnancy to term.
(APA American Psychological Association, “Abortion and Mental Health,”)

“Most antiabortion activists oppose abortion for moral and religious reasons. In their effort to win broader public support and legitimacy, however, antiabortion leaders frequently assert that abortion…harms women physically and psychologically….
Likely because the science attesting to the physical safety of the abortion procedure is so clear, abortion foes have long focused on what they allege are its negative mental health consequences. For decades, they have charged that having an abortion causes mental instability and even may lead to suicide, and despite consistent repudiations from the major professional mental health associations, they remain undeterred. For example, the “postabortion traumatic stress syndrome” that they say is widespread is not recognized by either the American Psychological Association (APA) or the American Psychiatric Association.
 (“Abortion and Mental Health: Myths and Realities,”
GPR – Guttmacher  Policy Review )

As per in last week’s post, here is the follow up I mentioned in this post:

“Apparently, there are some people who are shocked and/or disappointed to learn that Norma Jean McCarvey, aka “Jane Roe” in the 1973 Roe V. Wade SCOTUS decision, admitted she was paid for her notorious “flip-flop” – from pro-choice to anti-abortion – by the anti-abortion side….
Such tactics are no surprise to many of us who have worked in women’s reproductive health care.  The anti-abortionists  [2]  use the ends-justifies-the-means excuses for their deception, propaganda, and outright pants-on-fire lies.
Moiself  has more stories than I care to recall, from both my days at Planned Parenthood and a private OB-GYN practice, having to do with women’s encounters with anti-choice exploiters activists. One of the ickiest stories I will detail in next week’s post.”

And now, the Icky Story ®.

One of the largest studies about women’s emotions after an abortion finds most feel relieved and don’t regret their choice, even if they struggled beforehand or worried about stigma. The study, one of the largest to date on the topic, was published Sunday in the journal Social Science & Medicine.
(
CNN, women-emotion-abortion study 1-15-20 )

Whether a girl or women terminates her pregnancy because it was unwanted (unplanned; the result of contraceptive failure; the result of rape/incest/molestation)… or it was dearly wanted and anticipated, until maternal and/or fetal health anomalies arose, she most likely experiences situationally-appropriate sadness. And then, she moves on…unless she has the misfortune of getting involved with an organization like WEBA which, perversely, seeks to convince the woman that she cannot move on, and that she has been physical and emotionally damaged will be haunted by shame and guilt.  [3]

What’s the number one emotion women experience after getting an abortion? …New research has found that most women feel relief after an abortion.
Nearly all women in the study — including those who had difficulty making the choice to end their pregnancy — said it was the right decision 5 years later.
The report, which was published in the journal Social Science & Medicine on Jan. 12 (2020), debunks the assumption that women regret terminating their pregnancies — a notion that’s been used by anti-choice activists to lobby for mandatory waiting periods and abortion counseling in many states.
(“99% of Women Say They Feel Relief, Not Regret, 5 Years After Having an Abortion,”
Healthline, cnn)

When I worked for Planned Parenthood clinics in the Bay Area, one of the clinicians I knew volunteered to do some espionage for us, by “infiltrating” a WEBA group..

 

Not nearly this glamorous…or entertaining.

 

PP administrators and clinicians didn’t want to destroy the group from the inside, or do anything that dramatic or nefarious. Rather, after public encounters with WEBA groups, which had started to appear alongside right wing religious groups demonstrating at certain PP clinic sites, we were curious as to what WEBA was saying – about both Planned Parenthood in general and women’s reproductive health care in general – in private.

WEBA (“Women Exploited By Abortion”) was   [4]  founded in the 1980s by anti-abortionists who claimed they wanted to find a more emotionally violent way to lie to women “expand the anti-abortion conversation.” They did this by promoting the (unsubstantiated) idea that women who have abortions experience substantial emotional, mental, and physical distress and regret as  a direct result of the procedure itself and the lack of information given to them regarding “post abortion syndrome.” [1]

PP clinician MT volunteered to go underground, as a woman who’d had an abortion and was interested in joining WEBA. She offered to do so after encountering a group of WEBA  sign-carrying women (at first, always led by a man   [5] ) at an anti-abortion protest.

MT noted that the WEBA group seemed to be connected with a couple of church groups.  She called the churches and, after being screened by receptionists, was able to attend WEBA meetings over a period of several months.

The stories MT told…oh, if only we had cell phones back then!  For fear of being found out MT did not carry any kind of recording devices, but wrote down her experiences in a notebook immediately after each meeting.

When I learned of MT’s adventures and asked her to recount them, the first thing she said to me was that the group’s acronym should be changed, from WEBA to WEBMEFWMH, as in,  “Women Exploited By Men Exploiting Fragile Women’s Mental Health.”  However, MT agreed with my observation that the latter wasn’t as catchy an acronym as the former, nor even pronounceable to most Americans, who might think it was some kind of Czechoslovakian skin disorder.

MT said she was angered and disgusted by what she saw at the meetings. Although the misinformation and outright lies told about medical issues did not surprise her, what did surprise her was how the dominant emotion for her was *not* anger and disgust, but sadness. She was saddened to see a group of obviously unhappy and depressed (some dangerously so) women (whom I called the “WEBA waifs”) who needed professional help…and who were obviously not going to get it in WEBA.

Numerous studies  (at that time, and now) showed that “post abortion syndrome” does not exist.  Rather:

* if you were a woman who had mental health issues before having an abortion, you would have them afterwards – abortion wouldn’t change or solve that.

* if you were a woman who was mentally and emotionally stable before having an abortion, you would remain so afterwards, even as you might be temporarily angered/saddened/frustrated by the circumstances of your life which led to your choice to terminate your pregnancy.

While MT couldn’t say whether the WEBA waifs she encountered were emotionally fragile before they’d had abortions, they were obviously fragile in the present.  Not once did MT hear any offers made, by the WEBA facilitators, for the chronically disturbed WEBA waifs to seek medical/psychological counseling.  The depressed and agitated WEBA waifs were made even more so by their participation in WEBA, a group which purported to embrace them and their experiences, but which in fact kept them whipped up in an emotional frenzy about the “sin” they had been sucked into.  This (in MT’s observation) was so that they could be deployed like rabid dogs at anti-abortion protests…and MT noticed that the WEBA leaders would stoke their rhetorical fires – i.e., ramp up the hysterical rhetoric – just before the group was deployed to a protest site.

Calm and serious folks offering pamphlets and chanting slogans is run of the mill, but a pack of sobbing women, pulling at their own hair, holding signs with dead baby slogans and screaming about sin (“Planned Parenthood forced me to murder my baby – JESUS please forgive me!”)…now, *that* is an attention-getter.

Shy, even-tempered woman that she was, even while “undercover,” MT did not at first merit much attention from the WEBA leaders, which was fine with her. MT’s main interest was the in plight of the WEBA waifs.  One such WW whom MT befriended, “DF,” was obviously, as per MT, “on the edge.” DF confided to MT about being bullied into carrying a sign with “pictures of hell” – a sign DF had adamantly told the WEBA leader she did *not* want to hold – at a recent anti-abortion rally.  DF spent a lot of time mumbling to herself during WEBA meetings and rocking back and forth, like an autistic child.  MT was so concerned about DF she approached one of the WEBA leaders after a meeting and suggested that not only was DF was in acute distress, DF had confided to MT that being on the front lines of demonstrations only exacerbated her pain: “I think DF needs more help than we can give her, perhaps a medical evaluation and professional counseling….”

MT’s observation was quickly shot down.

“That’s what WEBA is for – these women receive the best counseling available, from the group and the church pastors!  If you are suggesting a need for psychological counseling – which, BTW, if you don’t know yet you should know, is a tool of the devil – you need to get yourself right with God. Only Jesus  [6]  will help these women heal, and to suggest otherwise  shores up the atheist’s clever secular agenda disguised as in the medical profession…”

The reaction MT received from the WEBA leaders – when she suggested that obviously distraught women should not be deployed at protests but should be devoting their time and energy to getting healthy – made MT think that her cover was about to be blown.  She only went to two more meetings after that, each one sadly confirming her suspicions that those WEBA waifs and their individual psyches were not important to the church leaders – the only thing that mattered was the “work“ that they were doing on the picket lines.

*   *   *

*   *   *

Department Of Inquiring Minds Want To Know

How can I *not* be a thing, or display a certain characteristic, if I can’t be that thing/exhibit that characteristic in the first place?

If I am impatient, I can also be patient.  If someone judges an action of mine to be undisciplined, there is some standard by which I can display discipline.

What this is leading up to is the burning question I had in my mind, after doing a New York Times word puzzle game, in which I got points for one word but was informed that its “root” is not a word:

If I can be unruly, why can’t I be ruly?

 

*   *   *

Department Of Righteous Causes About Which I Have One Minor Reservation

I fully support equal/gay marriage and the rights of LGBTQ parents. Moiself  does have one particular concern re the latter issue – perhaps psychologists have already studied this, and can reassure me about my qualms?

Specifically, I am concerned about a child growing up with two fathers and thus being subject to *twice* as many Dad Jokes.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Let’s All Go To The Biffy

In a recent post to his Facebook page, a buddy of mine used the term “biffy,” which warmed the cockles of my heart.  My Aunt Erva used to say that word (“Excuse me, I’m off to use the biffy”).  No one else did that I knew of. Thus, I thought it was one of her own peculiar euphemisms, until, when I was around 11 years old, I asked my mother about it. She told me it was a term favored by “older folks” and that no one really uses it today.

Now, I say, let’s bring it back.  Given our alternatives:

bathroom; restroom; loo, the facilities; powder room; W.C..; shithouse, tRump closet; outhouse; ladies/gents room; dumpster; privy; back house; can; john; lavatory; House of Wi; bum chapel; crap castle; coffee house; dingleberry creek; relief station; temple; Parliament plumbing; bog; house of easement;

isn’t biffy a wee bit (sorry) more festive?

 

“Whatever you call it, your bum will shine in my crap castle.”

 

*   *   *

Bad Poetry Written In My Head While Walking On A Drizzly Manzanita Morning
Past The Golf Course, Which Is Open, And Where I See Two
Rain Gear-Clad Persons About To Tee Up

I think I could tolerate golf in the rain,
My usage of “tolerate” I must now explain.
Some people love golf, but as I understand,
golf courses are harmful to water and land.

Ground water, habitats, wetlands and more
fouled by chemicals and fertilizers galore
which must be applied to maintain the course grass….
I think of the waste, and it just chaps my ass.

And yet, on this morning, I pass the course by,
Caught by surprise as I feel myself sigh
at the sight in the mist, on a morning serene,
And I’m struck by my feelings – they’re quite unforeseen.

I’ll rethink for a moment a “sport” I disdain,
and maybe, one day, I might golf in the rain.

 

 

 

Mark Twain supposedly  [7] called golf … a good walk spoiled.”
It’s a good thing elk don’t read.

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

Broken pencils are pretty much pointless.

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion  Evolution  [8]

 

 

And here’s what I made for ours, one day this week.

Featuring this week’s Theme Day and recipe:

Tofu/tempeh Tuesday: Kimchi spice roasted tofu with mango red pepper lime salsa

My rating:

 

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher  [9]

*   *   *

Department Of We Need This Sentiment, Now:

 You Can Do This Hard Thing

 

 

*   *   *

 

May you stop whatever you’re doing and reorganize your bookshelf into categories which will flummox cultural anthropologists of the future, as well as anyone who knows you;
May you try a sport you think you disdain (preferably in the rain);
May you know that, eventually, you can do this hard thing;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Aka, “device.”

[2] Just seeing if y’all were paying attention. Homer Simpson is a cartoon character, and not the Homer who wrote The Odyssey of Homer. ( Homer Simpson wrote the much neglected third book in the saga, The Iliad of Idiocy.)

[3] And, they turn out to be correct – she will be filled with shame and guilt because WEBA will make sure to shame and guilt her, even under the guise of helping her.

[4] I use the past tense, as I haven’t heard much about or from them in some time and don’t know if they are still active, or have been absorbed into/by other anti-abortion groups.

[5] MT discovered that, although WEBA was ostensibly for women, it was “sponsored” by conservative Christian evangelical churches, whose dogma also decreed that men must hold all positions of leadership. When some pro-choice advocates pointed out that, at the WEBA rallies it was a man holding the megaphone and directing the WEBA women, at the very next rally (and for all subsequent public appearances by that WEBA group) an older woman was put in front on the group and given the megaphone. Another PP “spy” who attended the rallies thought it was rather comical, and obvious, that this newly appointed woman “leader” hadn’t been well-trained: when she was asked direct questions she couldn’t help but hide her reflexive deference, and she would look to the man in charge of the group – now off to the side, pretending to be just hanging around and * not*  in charge – as if to get his approval  before she said anything.

[6] Eventually…allegedly. When he makes up his mind to get around to it…’cause he sure wasn’t helping any of those poor women at the time.

[7] Sounds like something he *would* have said, and yet the first traceable printing of that quote comes from the post WWII years, and Twain died in 1910.

[8] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 1 of April 2020, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go themes as listed in the 4-3-20 blog.

[9]

* Abject Failure:  I’ll make a canned wieners & SpaghettiOs gelatin mold before I make this recipe again.

* Tolerable:  if you have the proper…attitude.

* Yep: why, sure, I’d share this with my cat.

* Now you’re talkin’: Abby the support Avocado ® approves.

* Yummers: So good, it merits The Purple Tortilla Chip Of Exclamation ® !

 

The Thoughts I’m Not Deepening

Comments Off on The Thoughts I’m Not Deepening

Department Of As The Isolation Lengthens The Thoughts Deepen
(or…not)

These times of uncertainty are also times of having more time – perhaps, too much time – to ponder the great existential questions of our age. All issues, from the profound to the mundane, may come to mind in the blink of an eye…or the punch of a car radio button. 

Dateline: Wednesday, late a.m., driving home from the grocery store. “Those nachos were really hard on my stomach,” moans a voice in a radio ad, which segues into the familiar Pepto-Bismol commercial jingle.  I listen to a chorus of pleasant voices warble the praises of a product which, they assure me, will sooth just about whatever ails a person’s digestive tract, and I wonder about the singers of such jingles.  I assume they do commercials and voice-overs as a way to supplement their income – from what I gather, the life of most professional vocalists is fraught with uncertainty, and they take whatever gigs pay the bills.  Still, I wonder if the young (I’m assuming) man with the lovely tenor voice ever imagined, during all those years in the practice rooms as he was training his “ear,” learning to sight read and honing other skills in pursuit of his BFA in Vocal Performance, that he would one day be in a recording studio to practice holding just the right amount of vibrato on the end syllable of, “diarrhea-aaaaaaaah ?   [1]

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Screaming At People Who Can’t Hear Me
Chapter 375 In A Never-Ending Series

Dateline: May 9, 7 a.m.-ush, out for a walk, listening to the most recent Radiolab podcast: David and Dominique. From the Radiolab website, here is the episode’s description:

David ___ and Dominique ___ have a couple of things in common: they both live in New York, they’re both gay, and they’re both HIV-positive. But David is in his 60s and has been living with the disease since moving to New York in the ‘80s. Dominique, on the other hand, is only in his early 30s…this episode features a very special conversation between David and Dominique about the similarities and differences in their experiences living with HIV.

Dominique, as part of his job working for a gay men’s health crisis type organization, advises people on safe sex practices. In the last third of the interview Dominique talked with David about contracting HIV and the medications he, like David, now must take, for life.  Dominique had been HIV negative, but when he entered into what he thought was a mutually monogamous relationship, he stopped using safe sex practices. David asked Dominique if he is embarrassed about having HIV; Dominique vehemently denied that, and claimed he doesn’t regret anything. Dominique also said that when people find out about his HIV status change, some have asked him if, looking back, would he change things – what would he do different (ly)?

“I wouldn’t change *anything.*  I made a conscious decision to be in love.  If I had to change one thing I will say I wish I were in a relationship with someone who was more honest….but, like, people were saying…”don’t you wished you had ‘wrapped it up,’ and I know this (the question David had asked him, about embarrassment) is not a safe sex question, but no I probably wouldn’t have used a condom because I was in a trusting relationship, we were getting tested, right? So, I wouldn’t change anything…”

 

 

I know what I am *supposed *to think when, someone says something like that.  Moiself  is supposed to think, Oh how honest how brave how heroic/noble.

Instead, I blurted out, to the pavement and the crows perched in the trees, what I honestly and absolutely do think:

“What an idiot!”

What a shallow, non-introspective idiot.

 

 

It’s the same thing I say – usually to moiself –  when I encounter similar declarations from any individual (via personal conversation with a friend or family member or colleague, or reading an interview with or bio about a notable person) who declares that, looking back on their life, they wouldn’t change a thing.

This kind of no-regrets/I-wouldn’t-change-anything assertion (read: humble-brag) is usually/immediately followed by the explanation/justification about how the ups and downs of life, the good the bad and the ugly, have all contributed to their whole persona and/or where they are today….

Now, I don’t disagree with the we-are-everything-that-we-have-done-have-had-done-to-us sentiment. Rather, I take *strong* issue with the idea that *no regrets* is a positive, even admirable, quality for a human being to have, or strive for.

 

Or a thoughtful non-Terran, for that matter.

 

In my opinion, if you have no regrets, you simply have not paid attention.  If you have no regrets, you probably have little empathy. What is the point of self-reflection if you learn nothing from that which, you realize, was a regrettable action on your part?

Can we truly learn from our mistakes if we don’t admit or identify what was a mistake?  And yes, the question of changing one’s actions (“Looking back, what would you do differently?”) can be viewed as moot, since the opportunity to do so has, so far, only presented itself in science fiction movies and novels.  Still, I mistrust a person who says that, knowing what they know now, they would do everything the same. I think a person who confidently makes such a declaration hasn’t *really* thought the question through… or if they have and still hold that absolutist conclusion, they are shallow and/or callous.

Because our mistakes don’t just hurt our own selves.

The young man (YM) whose drunk driving killed my friend’s son (and another passenger in YM’s truck) served a jail sentence for “gross vehicular manslaughter.” I sincerely hope that he put his time in jail to good use; even more sincerely, I hope he never expresses any variation of how, if given the proverbial time travel opportunity, he “wouldn’t change a thing” because now he is more thoughtful and/or learned some bit life lessons, or now he knows from *personal experience* why people should never drink and drive….  There are *so* many other ways YM could have learned those lessons than by causing the death of his friends and the enduring agony of their loved ones.

So, to any of us who have ever (probably in haste and somewhat thoughtlessly) boasted said that we “…have no regrets/ would do everything over again,” moiself  asks,

 

 

You would never take back words said or actions done in anger or haste –  words and deeds that didn’t instigate international armed conflict but nevertheless caused someone acute or ongoing pain?  You would never admit to wishing you’d spent more time getting to know certain people (the shy or nerdy or otherwise “uncool” kid at school or work, or your aging relatives), instead of spending so much time and energy on people (the “popular” gang at school, the influential go-getters at work) whom, if you met ’em today, you wouldn’t give ’em directions to the outhouse?

Yeah, it’s your body and you don’t regret any of those cigarettes,  [2]  Ms. Marching Bravely To The Grave…but it’s never *just* your body, honey.  It’s your friends and family and colleagues who also suffer, physically as well as mentally and emotionally, as they watch you slowly suffocate to death; it’s your colleagues who must pick up the slack at work; it’s the health care system you burden….

Just to be clear, by regrets I’m talking honest self-assessment here, and not in any way encouraging shame-obsessed wallowing (which, in the opinions of both moiself  and the American Psychological Association – jolly good of them to agree with me, don’t you think? –  usually benefits no one).

Moiself  has learned from the “regrets” examples of others, when they have shared what they’ve regretted.  I can think of more than one occasion where I have stopped moiself from doing/saying similar hurtful things or rephrased my thoughts or changed my course of action, because of someone else’s admission of regret for having done something similar. And yes of course, I’ve learned from my own mistakes, but so many of them… well, there were other ways I could have learned those lessons, other ways which did not involve being unkind to other folks. 

I don’t think that people should regret *everything* (that they either knew at the time or that turned out to be a bad move on their part).  I do hold that those who’ve convinced themselves that they regret *nothing* are demonstrating that they have learned nothing about what it means to walk through this world as a sentient being.  To any and all  No-regrets folk, please: Do the world a favor: find a sci-fi time travel machine and go back and work on yourself.

 

Honestly, could a face like this have any regrets?

 

*   *   *

Department of The Corona Virus Playlist
The Honky-Tonk Country Music Edition

There are more sub-genres of Country Music than there are hook extender panels on Dolly Parton’s brassieres’ straps.  Honky-Tonk, a term whose etymology is disputed, generally refers to the kind of music which emerged from early 1900s piano bars which provided country music – often referred to (by the music industry) – as hillbilly music – to entertain their patrons. As per Wikipedia:

Originally, [honky tonk music] featured the guitar, fiddle, string bass, and steel guitar. The vocals were originally rough and nasal, as exemplified by the singer-songwriters Floyd Tillman and Hank Williams, but later developed a clear and sharp sound, such as that of George Jones and Faron Young. Lyrics tended to focus on working-class life, with frequently tragic themes of lost love, adultery, loneliness, alcoholism, and self-pity.

Moiself  has listed some of those exemplars of honky-tonk song titles which are IMHO, applicable to our social-isolating, transmission–paranoid, COVID-19 times, and which, in small groupings, imply a related story.

I’ve Been Out A-walkin’
I’ll Give You Something To Drink About
If Drinking Don’t Kill Me
God’s Gonna Get ‘cha
Your Cheating Heart
Hell Stays Open All Night Long

All My Friends Are Gonna Be Strangers
Blue Side Of Lonesome
We Live In Two Different Worlds
Bridge Washed Out
Don’t Let Me Cross Over

Just Waitin’
I Love You So Much It Hurts
Near You
Nothing Can Stop My Loving You
Drivin’ Nails in My Coffin

We Must Have Been Out Of Our Minds
We’re Gonna Hold On
There’s The Door
How Can You Refuse Him Now
When The Grass Grows Over Me

Be Careful Of Stones You Throw
Alone And Forsaken
I Love You So Much It Hurts
I Just Don’t Like This Kind Of Livin’
I’ve Just Told Mama Goodbye

Take These Chains From My Heart
The Angel Of Death
The Old Log Train
Wealth Won’t Save Your Soul
You’re Barkin’ Up The Wrong Tree Now

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

Puns about German sausages are the wurst.

 

Nein! Nein! Nein!

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion Evolution  [3]

 

 

And here’s what I made for ours, one day this week.

Featuring this week’s Theme Day (Thirsty Thursday – soup) and recipe:

* Celeriac soup (escorted by garbanzo bean salad, horseradish beets, Chinese broccoli mushroom stir-fry.)

 

My rating:

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher  [4]

 

*   *   *

May you truly not have a reason to regret the majority of your regrets;
May time spent reading this blog *not* be one of your regrets;
May jingles about intestinal distress remedies never intrude upon your deep thoughts;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

[1] I wonder how that credit appears on a professional vocalist’s resumé?

[2] A declaration from one (there have been so many) of my relatives who died from smoking-related or caused disease. This particular one had arranged with a doctor she used to work for to insure that nothing related to cancer/smoking would go on her death certificate (she was too proud for what to her would have been an admission, that, as a former nurse, she “should have known better”) .

[3] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 1 of April 2020, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go themes as listed in the 4-3-20 blog.

[4]

* Abject Failure:  I’ll make a canned wieners & SpaghettiOs gelatin mold before I make this recipe again.
* Tolerable:  if you have the proper…attitude.
* Yep: why, sure, I’d share this with my cat.
* Now you’re talkin’: Abby the support Avocado ® approves.
* Yummers: So good, it merits The Purple Tortilla Chip Of Exclamation ® !

 

The Letter (To The Editor) I’m Not Sending

Comments Off on The Letter (To The Editor) I’m Not Sending

Department Of Although I Promised Not To Use The Term
“Silver Lining” When Referring To A Pandemic….

…there is at least one good thing to come from our world’s current situation. The “good” I refer to is a side effect of the stay at home/shelter in place/physical distancing/non-essential business closures. This side effect – I need a better term; ’tis not marginal consequence – provides some evidence that it might not be too late for us (humans). It’s the realization that, when we stop screwing with Mother Nature, even inadvertently, we begin to clean her (read: our) house.

“4.2 Million Deaths per year attributed to ambient (outdoor) air pollution.
…. The combined effects of ambient (outdoor) and household air pollution cause about seven million premature deaths every year, largely as a result of increased mortality from stroke, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and acute respiratory infections.
( World Health Organization website, health topic: air pollution )

 

New Delhi, during rush hour…not at night.

 

Imagine living a mere 500 miles from the world’s tallest mountain range – in the geographic scale that means Mt. Everest is practically in your backyard – but you haven’t been able to see the world’s tallest peak in 30 years?

* Residents in the northern Indian state of Punjab say they’re seeing the Himalayas for the first time in decades while on coronavirus lockdown.
*Since India was put on lockdown in March to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, the country’s air quality
has seen immense improvement.
*The air quality has increased because public transportation has stopped,
fewer people are driving, and there’s less air traffic in the skies.
( excerpts from “India’s air quality has improved so much since the country
went on coronavirus lockdown; citizens can now see the Himalayas
for the first time in 30 years,” Reuters)

“The reductions in air pollution in China caused by this economic disruption likely saved twenty times more lives in China than have currently been lost due to infection with the virus in that country.”
( Marshall Burke, assistant professor, Stanford Department of Earth System Science, from CNN’s China’s coronavirus lockdown curbs deadly pollution, likely saving the lives of tens of thousands, says researcher” )

It remains to be seen, of course, how people and businesses adjust after the various stay-at-home restrictions are lifted.  That tiny, optimistic part of my brain – a part so small it cannot be located on this map of basic brain regions –

 

(that tiny part is located behind the brainstem and contains the pathways for minor yet essential neutral activities, including optimism, holding grudges, understanding fart jokes….)

 

– that part lets me hope that all sides of this multi-faceted situation, from big and small businesses to individuals, will see the benefits of working (at least part time) from home where and when possible, and coordinate alternative solutions to our transportation and energy needs and uses.  

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Letter (To The Editor) I’m Not Sending

That would be a letter in response to The Oregonian’s front page promo puff piece article several weeks back, titled “Crafting an Easter message of hope and faith at a time when both seem elusive.”

The article was written by staff writer Tom Hallman Jr., who purported to explore “finding the light in a season of darkness” and other such (supposed) Easter themes, all from Christian points of view.  [1]

I wasn’t sure what to call the piece when I first read it, and even now.  “Article” is too neutral, for that which was essentially a newspaper staff member’s promotion of a particular religious faith; also, it ran on the front page of a (supposedly) neutral newspaper, and not in the op-ed section.

Moiself  meant to craft a response of some sort, something compelling and rational, a day or so after reading the article, which is when my feedback would have been more topical, if not appreciated. You know the advice: “Strike while the iron is hot;“Make hay when the sun shines,” and…um…“Tee up while the caddy isn’t looking” – all those inspirational sayings from the pantheon of metallurgical, agricultural and sports idioms which make this The Greatest Nation On Earth ® .

 

 

I wanted to ask Hallman if, in light of the COVID-19 crisis (or for other reasons), he is planning on doing comparable PR pieces/blatant bootlickery  articles on religious faiths besides Christianity, as well as articles exploring religion-free worldviews, during their respective, reflective, special times and/or celebrations?

MH has an abundance of co-workers who hail from all over the world, largely from India and other south Asian countries. These folks, who have become an integral part of the Portland Metro area society and workforce, have a variety of cultural and worldview roots, including Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh (and secular!). What about their – and other – ways of “finding light in darkness?”

The Hindu multi-day celebration of Ganesh Chathrthi will be coming up this summer. Ganesh is a Hindu avatar known as the “remover of obstacles” and “imparter of wisdom”– attributes even non-Hindus can appreciate, especially in these COVID-19 times when there are obstacles aplenty (and a shortage of wisdom, considering what passes as “leadership” from the White House).   

Besides (and no disrespect intended), who doesn’t enjoy the image of a colorfully-dressed, multiple-limbed elephant avatar (and his ever-present rodent sidekick)?

 

 

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a time of fasting, reflection, and community, is ongoing, as I type.  Vesak Day, upcoming any day now,  [2]  is observed worldwide by Buddhists (and some Hindus), who, heeding the Buddha’s exhortation that the only way to truly honor him is to follow his teachings, encourage love, peace and harmony via “noble deeds” such as donating to charity, organizing blood donation drives, distributing gifts and food to those in need, etc.

Portland has a thriving Pagan community, and given the past months of uncertainty (and those to come), the Wiccan celebration of Lughnasad (August 1) will hold special meaning this year. What can Wiccans teach non-wiccans, with analogies via a celebration filled with both the hopes and fears that are as real today as they were in ancient times: hopes for a bountiful harvest and abundant food, juggled with fears that the harvest might not be enough and that the approaching winter will be filled with struggle and deprivation.

Here’s one of Hallman’s opening statements, in his The Oregonian Easter article:

“What we’re hungry for is an answer of certainty. Given that (his prior statements of the worries of our time, including spread of a new disease, school and economic closures and general life disruption and uncertainty)…Is there a place this Easter for a message rooted in something as nebulous as the concept of Christian faith?”

Here moiself’s  reflective statement, after reading Hallman’s article: Will be we be seeing a front page feature on the relevancy of modern interpretations of ancient celebrations – as we did with Easter –  illustrating other worldviews, e.g., the Wiccan acknowledgement of facing your fears, concentrating on developing your own abilities, and taking steps to protect yourselves and your homes?  Are Hallman and/or other Oregonian reporters going to write about that?

 

We’ll get right on it.

 

Or, how about space for a message that needs no special time of year, in contrast to (using Hallman’s wording) “a message rooted in something as nebulous as the Christian faith”   [3] :

“Is there a place for a non-nebulous message — a message as far as possible from supernaturalism, and which is as grounded as the principles of Humanism?”

These principles, found in greater detail here, are, briefly and chiefly:

Humanism affirms both the ability and responsibility  of people to live their lives and pursue opportunities compatible with social and planetary harmony, and seek the greater good for our fellow human beings. Since it is free of theism and other supernatural beliefs, humanism derives the goals of life from human need and interest, rather than from theological or ideological abstractions, and asserts that humanity must take responsibility for its own destiny.

 

 American Humanist Association logo

 

“Protestants and Catholics are shrinking as a share of U.S. population;
all subsets of “none” are growing.”
(“In U.S., Decline of Christianity Continues at Rapid Pace,”
Pew Research Center, 10-17-19, Religion and Public Life)

 

It should come as no surprise that, along with the nationwide increase in the number of people who ( are willing to   [4] ) identity as Atheists, Agnostics, Skeptics, Freethinkers, et al., at least one third of Oregonians claim a “not-affiliated/none” label when asked to list their religious affiliation . Added with the number of people practicing non-Christian faiths, that makes ~ forty percent of Oregonians who are “Christianity-free.”  That sounds like a subject worthy of exploration in a publication which calls itself The Oregonian.

 

“You heard the lady; we’ll get right on it.

 

*   *   *

Department of The Corona Virus Playlist
Los Angeles Seminal Punk Rock Bands Edition

And by seminal moiself  is referring to how influential and ground-breaking were the punk bands which formed and played in So Cal in the late 1970s/early1980s – not the variety of bodily fluids that were flung onstage during a Germs performance.

Along with the afore-mentioned Germs, Bands in this genre include Black Flag, Alice Bag Band, the Circle Jerks, Catholic Discipline, Fear, and (my personal favorite), X.

Moiself  has listed some of those groups’ song titles which are IMHO, applicable to our social-isolating, transmission–paranoid, COVID-19 times, and which, in small groupings, imply a related story.

 

Modern Man
American Waste
Annihilate This Week
Beat My Head Against The Wall
Fix Me
Life Of Pain

I’ve Had It
Loose Nut
Nervous Breakdown
Nothing Left Inside
Padded Cell
Shut Down

Media Blitz
I Don’t Care About You
Let’s Have a War
We Destroy The Family
Have A Beer With Fear
World Up My Ass

 

 

Deny Everything
Moral Majority
Killing For Jesus
Your Phone’s Off The Hook, But You’re Not
Back Against The Wall
We’re Desperate

I’m Coming Over
Some Other Time
When Our Love Passes Out On The Couch
Under The Big Black Sun
How I Learned My Lesson

I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts
Painting The Town Blue
What’s Wrong With Me
Lettuce and Vodka
Live Fast Die Young

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

I’m reading a book about anti-gravity.  I just can’t put it down

 

MAKE IT STOP

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion  Evolution  [5]

And here’s what I made for ours, one day this week

Featuring this week’s Theme Day and recipe:
Mushroom-Miso-Mustard Monday: Mushroom Stroganoff Over Roast Cauliflower

My rating: 

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher  [6]

*   *   *

May you find your own silver linings (and perhaps a better term to describe them)
in times of stress and deprivation;
May you be able to spot the mountain ranges – be they metaphorical or
actual – from your own backyard;
May you embrace the part of your humanity that takes responsibility for its own destiny;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Which, like the name “Easter,” was appropriated by early Christians from Celtic, Germanic and Pagan cultures.

[2] Many religious or cultural holidays use a particular culture’s ancient lunar – rather than the contemporary Gregorian – calendar, and so their date(s) vary from year to year.

[3] I would add, “or any religion” when it comes to being nebulous.

[4] Those who are open about being religion-free face “intense prejudice” in this country.

[5] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 1 of April 2020, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go themes as listed in the 4-3-20 blog.

[6]

* Abject Failure:  I’ll make a canned wieners & SpaghettiOs gelatin mold before I make this recipe again
* Tolerable:  if you have the proper…attitude.
* Yep: why, sure, I’d share this with my cat.
* Now you’re talkin’: Abby the support Avocado ® approves.
* Yummers: So good, it merits The Purple Tortilla Chip Of Exclamation ® !

 

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