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The Toilet Seats I’m Not Believing

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‘Tis The Season

MH and I are hosting a St. Patrick’s Day Dinner tonight. I was going to use a certain Adult Beverage ®  as part of the glaze for the salmon I’ll be roasting; however, one of our guests has celiac disease and I wanted to make sure that by doing so I wouldn’t be poisoning him. I started to Google “can celiacs have…” and before I typed the e in have, the third choice that came up was my question:  can celiacs have whiskey. [1]

 

 

 

whiskey

*   *   *

About those snakes….

The first time I encountered the St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland legend was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (read: the Santa Ana neighborhood of my grade school years). One Sunday afternoon in mid-March, a neighbor boy showed me the Sunday School pamphlet he’d brought home from his Catholic church. When I laughed derisively and pooh-poohed the pamphlet – which presented the legend as fact – my friend retorted with the fact that there are no snakes in Ireland, and there are snakes in every other country on earth…So how did that happen, Miss Non-Catholic smartypants? How did that happen – prove it, huh? Huh? Huh?

My neighbor/friend looked for any opportunity to witness his family’s “one true faith” (Catholicism) to the ultimately doomed moiself, whose family attended a Lutheran church. He was an otherwise very nice boy (his proselytizing phase lasted only a few months in grade school), with whom I enjoyed playing games of cards and tag and turning our bicycles upside down and pretending their wheels were steamboat paddle-wheels. Also, we enjoyed having spirited discussion of adult issues, like politics (hey, it was the 60s) and religion.

When it came to the “miracles” of that carpetbagging harasser of pagans and druids St. P, I immediately and instinctively understood that my friend had his head up his ass [2] – I mean of course, I knew that my friend was mistaken in claiming that I was the one who had to prove that St. Patrick had not done something – the burden of proof weighs upon the person making an assertion. But I was all of seven or eight; concepts like epistemological fallacy did not just roll off my tongue…whereas concepts like stupid dumb-ass were familiar and handy, and I probably applied one or two of them to my friend and/or his argument.

Wearer of Big Girl Pants® that I now am, I know that there are no snakes presently living in Ireland because, herpetologists and their pets aside, there have never been any snakes living in Ireland. Because: Science. As in latitude, and weather.

 

snakesplane

This M*****f****** snake thinks this plane is headed for Ireland!

 

 

 

There is no evidence of snakes in Ireland’s fossil record. Snakes couldn’t get to the island nation because the climate wasn’t (and isn’t) favorable for them to migrate and then thrive there.  [3]

Faith and begorrah, but England ’tis an island, and it has snakes! Yes, but only three species, and snakes only slithered over to England in relatively recent geologic time – about 6,500 years ago.

As we all remember from 2nd  grade science class (or Sesame Street), over time, all plants and animals will migrate through and/or colonize suitable habitats. Cold-blooded reptiles need heat from their environment to survive, and The Ice Age made the European islands incompatible with  reptile migration until ~ 10,000 years ago, when the glaciers began retreating. The glacial retreat gradually exposed a land bridge between Europe and the island of Britain, and also between the isles of Britain and Ireland. Melting glaciers inundated Ireland’s land bridge ~ 8,500 years ago, but the land bridge between Europe and Britain’s persisted another 2,000 years after that. Thus; Europe’s intrepid snakes had more time to heed the reptile version of Westward, ho!

“Other reptiles didn’t make it either, except for one: the common or viviparous lizard. Ireland’s only native reptile, the species must have arrived within the last 10,000 years. [4]   So unless St. Patrick couldn’t tell a snake from a lizard, where does the legend come from?
Scholars suggest the tale is allegorical. Serpents are symbols of evil in Judeo-Christian beliefs—the Bible, for example, portrays a snake as the hissing agent of Adam and Eve’s fall from grace.
The animals were also linked to heathen practices—so St. Patrick’s dramatic act of snake eradication can be seen as a metaphor for his Christianizing influence.”

(“Snakeless in Ireland: Blame Ice Age, Not St. Patrick,” National Geographic News)

St. P) snakes

 

 

 

“Over the centuries a number of legends have grown about St. Patrick, e.g., he drove the snakes from Ireland and used a three-leaf clover to teach about the Holy Trinity. These popular legends have endeared the saintly man to the Irish. The monks who wrote such dramatized stories about St. Patrick “were guided by their knowledge of what popular taste demanded.”
(“Knowing St. Patrick,” Our Sunday Visitor, A Roman Catholic weekly newspaper)

Although there were never any snakes for St. Patrick to “drive out” of Ireland, the dominant church and religious authorities never had a problem crediting a man they would go on to canonize as St. Patrick with a “miracle” that never occurred.

Good thing stuff like that never happens today!

 

 

creationism

*   *   *

Department Of More Petty Things About Moiself

 

I curse at ants  [5] before I crush them with my bare fingers.

 

 

ants

Oh yeah? That murdering bitch should hear what we say about her in our last gasps….

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Department Of The Simple Pleasures Of Spring

My family lived in Southern California during my childhood, and one of our favorite camping destinations was the relatively nearby [6] Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. At a very young age I came to have an appreciation for the desert other school kids found difficult to fathom (“What’s the big deal? It’s hot,  it’s a desert –  there’s nothing there!”). Those lucky friends who were invited along on those camping trips became converts to desert appreciation, if not upon arrival then soon thereafter, usually during one of our hikes to the Palm Canyon.

My favorite time of the year to go to the desert was during spring break, which usually coincided with the brief but spectacular desert wildflower bloom. This year, I almost thought about flying down spur-of-the-moment, but even if I did so I probably wouldn’t be able to get near the place: wildflower and desert lovers and sightseers have descended en masse to witness a “super bloom” – Anza-Borrego’s most spectacular in over 20 years.

A super bloom is a user-friendly term to describe what is, essentially, a wildflower KA-BOOM. (I’m sure there is some official botanical term to describe the phenomenon).

Southern California deserts, after experiencing one of the worst droughts in the area’s history, are experiencing the wildflower show due to a variety of reasons, including the due to recent heavy and steady rains. Anza-Borrego, an area which usually gets only 5 inches of precipitation per year, has had  7 inches of rain in the past 8 months.

As ephemeral as a seemingly rational policy statement from a #45  [7]  cabinet member, the super blooms will likely last no more than a week.  Enjoy it while/if you can.

 

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Lady Or The Tiger Or
The Door To Yet Yet Another Bullshit Misogynist Fairytale

A book of fables containing The Lady Or The Tiger was presented to me by my 4th grade teacher, as a reward for finishing first in a reading contest. [8]  TLOTT was the only story I remembered from the book. I thought the story was of ancient origin, and that thought was reinforced when I encountered TLOTT again, in a 5th or 6th grade English class. The story was so…primitive…it had to have come from The Ancients. Only later did I find out it was a (relatively) contemporary short story, published in 1882.

In case you’re not familiar with the plot, it involves a nasty king, his daughter (the princess), and her suitor. A lower-class (i.e. non-royal) subject falls in love with the king’s daughter and attempts to court her. The king is offended by this, and sentences the man to a devious punishment: he will be taken to an arena where he will be forced to choose between two doors behind one door is a beautiful lady; behind the other, a hungry tiger. If the man chooses the door with a lady behind it, he will have to marry her, and if he chooses the door with the tiger behind it, he will be mauled to death.

The princess schemes within the court to find out which door has the lady behind it. She doesn’t want her suitor to have to marry someone else, but she loves him and doesn’t want him to die. At the auspicious moment, she signals him to choose a door….but the story ends as the man opens the door, and readers are left to ponder what choice she led him to make.

TLOTT was presented the ultimate allegory of a tough decision, but my grade school click! radar (aka the feminist eureka moment) came to the fore.  Excuse me, but “The ultimate allegory of a difficult decision?” You people (read: adults, teachers) gotta be joking. To even make the argument that there could be another choice, other than let him choose the other woman and live…

 

 

 

WTF

 

 

 

I didn’t think in WTF speak back then. Nevertheless, I argued strenuously that there should be no suspense as to what happened – she loved him! She directed him toward the lady, not the tiger.  He would live…the real suspense would be how the princess and her suitor could find another way to be together, away from her asshole father.

My various teachers pointed out what they said were the flaws in my argument, with what was, at the time, totally acceptable, totally sexist, “reasoning.” Looking back, their analysis was astonishing for its matter-of-fact assumptions of female pettiness: a woman’s sole or ultimate motivation must be love and security; women are jealous of other women; she’d rather see him dead than with another woman – who by definition must be her rival, because women can’t be friends with other women; if-I-can’t-have-him-nobody-else-can ….

TLOTT, besides being a shitty story, sparked one of the first of what would be an ongoing line of feminist inquiries and realizations: This is how the world is supposed to view women?  This is what women are supposed to think about themselves?

*   *   *

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Department Of But Why Wouldn’t I Believe Them – Do They Have A Reputation For Telling Lies and/or Spreading Misinformation? 
(And If So, Why Aren’t They working For The Current Occupant Of The White House?)

Subject line in an email caught in my spam filter:

You won’t believe these three toilet seats.

*   *   *

 

 

 

 

May you believe the toilet seats that must be believed;
May you never be too young or too old to call out fairy-tale horseshit;
May the luck of the Irish be better for you than it has been for the Irish;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

 

[1] According to the NIH’s Celiac Awareness Campaign, the answer is yes, for whiskey or any distilled beverage, even those derived from wheat, as the distillation process removes the gluten proteins.

[2] I wonder if he saw any snakes there?

[3] Other islands that don’t have (native, non-introduced by human) snakes include New Zealand, Hawaii, Greenland, Iceland, and Antarctica.

[4] Nigel Monaghan,  keeper of natural history at the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin.

[5] Ants that get inside the house. Free range ants, I have no problem with ’em.

[6] From our home in Santa Ana it was a 2 ½ hour drive – which for Southern Californians, is just around the block.

[7] Aka The Cheetos Hitler. I try not to say his name in my house, unless quoting someone with a stronger stomach.

[8] Looking back, I hate to think that I was given that story to read as a reward of any kind.

The History I’m Not Reading

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Content warning: Yes, content follows. Y’all been warned.

Plus (or bonus, depending on your POV), juvenile fart reference.

 

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Department Of First Things First

Happy (almost) Birthday to the Queen of Hats!  [1]   This chapeau is for you.

 

 

 

hat

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“For the great Gaels of Ireland
Are the men that God made mad,
For all their wars are merry,
And all their songs are sad.”  [2]

MH and I are traveling ’round Ireland in the late spring.

 

 

happy sheep dance

 

 

Thank you! We’re excited, too.

I try to read up on the history of places I’m going to visit, and also sample the destination’s contemporary art (in the form of fiction and films). As per the former endeavor, I am currently and once again reminded of why I loathe reading history: because war and religion, two of the most despicable human enterprises, IMHO, almost always figure so prominently. And in Irish history, the combination of the two is a feckin’ load of ballsch to curl your clackers.  [3]

I cannot recall the source of the nailed-it! quote I ran across, several years ago (I believe it was from an Irish novelist, not a historian), which went something along the lines of this:  Ireland’s cultural and political woes can be attributed to the fact that the Irish are “a twice colonized people – first by the Catholics and then by the British.”

There are many ways to interpret history, and two “sides” I keep encountering, each which urges the reader to keep in mind either (1) “History is written by the winners,” or (2) “History is written by the literate, whether or not they were the ultimate winners.”

 

 

spockskeptic

And your point would be?

 

 

 

Whatever. In either case, and especially with regards to reading Irish and European history, it’s the nomenclature, for lack of a better term, that gets to me. Consider the many, many, many – and did I mention a whole lotta? – pages devoted to the various invasions of “The barbarians.” Some of these pages are contained in a book I recently finished, the presumptuously titled, How The Irish Saved Civilization. HTISC, by it’s very title, presents a (dubious, in some critics’ eyes) supposition as fact. The book essentially argues for the elevation of the importance of the Irish Catholic clergy in preserving Western culture after the collapse of the Roman Empire, when western Europe was “…being overrun by barbarians” (aka the Huns, and the Visigoths and other Germanic tribes).

So. We have the entrenched residents, whose beliefs and actions I would not hesitate to call barbaric, whose priests waged wars and inquisitions to subjugate, torture and kill “heretics” (defined however they chose, from those who simply disagreed with official policy, to philosophers, Jews, “Witches,” Protestant reformers, and other fellow Catholics, the various factions who slaughtered each other over nuances in theology)…  But it’s these guys coming over the hill, they are the barbarians, because….uh…because they are illiterate and thus can’t cite their magic holy books to justify their atrocities.

Pot, meet kettle.

 

 

 

potkettle

 

 

 

My impression and subsequent summation of centuries of Irish history, after reading 600+ pages (and more to come!) in various books, is almost Tweetable  [4] in its brevity:

The ____ (civil articles; treaty; king; bishop) promised religious toleration; the _______ (king; landlord; bishop) saw no advantage in a peace now that victory was secure; the Gaelic infantry was slaughtered.

Lather; rinse; repeat.

 

 

 

irishproverb

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Department Of And Then There’s This

Slogging through the pages of history, I am occasionally rewarded with a gem hidden in the festering bog. Such as this sentence, from a passage about kinship ties between Gael lords and the Catholic clergy:

“One sixteenth-century bishop of Clogher was eulogized on his death as ‘a very gem of purity and a turtle dove of chastity,’ this despite his leaving behind at least fifteen children.”
(Ireland: Land, People, History, by Richard Killeen)

 

 

 

turtledove

Not tonight, dear, I’m the turtle dove of chastity.

*   *   *

To those dear readers who enjoy such things, pretend there is a clever and apropos segue right here, perhaps one related to the Irish history of being both immigrants and emigrants. For the rest of y’all:

 

Department Of For Your Consideration

The answer to xenophobia cannot be xenophilia.
( James Traub, The Hard Truth About Refugees )

Apparently I’m not the only one who cringes with you-are-so-naive discomfort when I hear Ill-Informed But Well-Meaning People ®  spout the trés liberal, All refugees are innocent victims and we should welcome everyone! stance.

International affairs journalist James Traub, in his recent New York Times op-ed piece (cited above), offers up a smorgasbord for thought on the issue. He uses the Swedish idiom asikstkorridor (“opinion corridor” – i.e., things considered taboo not only to say, but to think) as a metaphor to reflect upon his visit to Sweden during the refugee crisis in 2015. His observations that  “…refugees from conservative Muslim countries, especially poorly educated young men, may not integrate into Swedish society as well as, say, relatively secular and prosperous Iranians or Bosnians,” and “polls find that Muslim immigrants are vastly more conservative than native Europeans on matters of sex, family and the role of religion in public life” are outside the liberal asikstkorridor.

Traub asserts that the truth about refugees and assimilation is complicated. As for the 2015 wave of largely Middle Eastern refugees to Sweden and other northern European countries, the jury is out as per how well refugees from countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria will integrate. How much will they – will they at all – accept and support the extremely secular, extremely progressive cultures of their respective asylum countries?

He argues that liberals’ knee-jerk claims that all immigration has positive effects and that refugees will fit easily into European society are as unsupported as Trump’s knee-jerk claims that refugees are terrorists. Furthermore, the naive embrace of the premise that “…vast numbers of new people on our doorstep is an unmixed blessing, and that those who believe otherwise are Neanderthals” is the perfect door-opener for xenophobes who can point out facts that indicate otherwise. Thus, anti-immigrant/right-wing politicians can “parade their prejudice as truth-telling courage,” which helps spur the rise of leaders like the USA’s Trump, Geert Wilders (aka “the trump of the Netherlands”), and the French National Front president Marine Le Pen.

 

 

 

Swedish-Democrats

Ya, we’re all one big happy family.

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Any cretins out there who are still opposed to women in combat,  [5] please listen to this Fresh Air interview with helicopter pilot Maj. Mary Jennings Hegar, recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross and Purple Heart medals, and author of the new memoir, Shoot Like a Girl. An (edited) excerpt:

Terry Gross (Fresh Air interviewer): What are the arguments that have been used against you and other women being in combat?

Maj. Mary Jennings Hegar: “…They range from concerns that are very legitimate to concerns that are absolutely ridiculous. I think that the number one thing is…whether or not women are physically strong enough to be in combat…. First of all, we’ve already disproven that that’s an issue because there are women serving successfully in combat.
…yes, you have to be strong…but it’s not always the person who has the most brute strength wins. It’s…who is the best with their weapons, who is the best tactical thinker, who’s the best team player, who is the best leader, those types of things – who holds their composure when the bullets fly, because I’ve seen 200-pound men curl up in the fetal position and call for their moms…

I’ve seen firsthand that the warrior spirit is not directly proportional to how many pull-ups you can do. So the physical standards question is important, but the way that you answer that is…you keep the standards very high and you maintain one standard. There shouldn’t be two standards for women and men. There should be a standard for this job, for – to do this job, you should have to do these things. And those requirements should be job specific and not arbitrarily high in order to specifically keep women out.

 

 

 

siryessir

“Sir yes Sir that sexism makes your ass look big Sir.”

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Department Of Sorry But That’s The Way My Mind Works

I am ¾ of the way through an eight week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program. The program requires participants to commit to weekly Thursday night meetings, daily “homework” assignments, and one longer session – a six hour Silent Retreat – which was held last Saturday.  My monkey brain, of course, kept referring to it as the Silent But Deadly Retreat.  I had to use all of my still-nascent mindfulness skills to stop myself from wondering aloud about who would be the first to break (ahem) the silence?

 

 

iknowwhatyoumwan

*   *   *

 

 

May you always know what I mean;
May your silence be mindful and not deadly;
May your history not be a boring read for others;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Aka SCM, in this blog.

[2] From The Ballad of the White Horse, by G. K. Chesterton, English Critic, Essayist, Novelist and Poet, 1874-1936.

[3] For the Irish slang impaired, feckin’ = fucking; ballsch = rubbish; clackers = testicles.

[4] If I were a Twitter kind of person, which I am not.

[5] Make that, still opposed to women getting proper credit for serving in combat, because that is what your opposition amounts to, seeing as women have served in combat  in every war since those “barbarians” came over the hill.

The Motorcycle I’m Not Getting

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Department Of Should Auld Acquaintance Be Misspelled

I’d been in kind of a funk as the end of the year approached, [1] about a good many issues and subjects, from the personal to the political. [2]  Unlike in years past, as my December birthday approached, there were no birthday cards  (I typically get at least two before the day itself). I figured people had picked up on my less-than-enthusiastic response to my birthday and decided not to remind me.

 

 

camel

Like we’d let her forget!

 

 

Then, on the day, I received six cards, three of which contained notes and/or letters which were possibly the best, explicit, paeans to friendship I’d ever read…and they were addressed to moiself.  They contained the kind of prose which makes me think more profoundly of the writer than the recipient – sort of a “living eulogy,” as one of the senders lovingly and cheekily put it.

We say such kind and significant things at memorial services; we innumerate the qualities we appreciated in our families and friends…which is wonderful for the “survivors” to hear. But why don’t we let people know more often and in specific detail how much they mean to us when they are alive?

I don’t think my daughter Belle had any kind of living eulogy intention when she wrote her “gift letter” to MH and I, but it couldn’t have come at a better time. 

Along with her Christmas gifts to each of us (gorgeous, framed, original paintings and drawings!) MH and I received an amazing letter from Belle. It was written days before Christmas, and she had no idea how important would be the timing of her letter’s presentation. She wrote in specific and affectionate detail about the things she loves and admires about MH, and about moiself. It is something I shall cherish forever.

I read the note around 9 am on Christmas Day, after we had opened our stockings and presents. I had decided to hold on to the news I’d received earlier that morning, just before son K drove over [3] to join us, so that MH, K, Belle and I  [4] could have an hour of a laughing and loving, “normal” Christmas morning.

 

 

 

reaper

 

 

 

From John Glenn to Zsa Zsa Gabor; from David Bowie to Florence Henderson to Leonard Cohen to Prince to Morley Safer, Patty Duke, Keith Emerson, Gwen Ifill, Elie Wiesel, Gary Shandling, Pat Summitt, Alan Rickman, Anton Yelchin, Robert Vaugh, Gene Wilder,  Leon Russell, George Martin, Paul Kantner, Harper Lee, Muhammad Ali and so many more….and now, Carrie Fisher? Hey, 2016 Grim Reaper – did you have to be so greedy?

During this last week of the year magazines, newspapers, websites and other news venues will be compiling End of Year Lists re the passing of “notables.”  Marion Alberta Parnell will make no one’s celebrity death list, but she was important to a few of us in her own teensy corner of the world.

Longtime readers of this blog may know that my mother has been in poor mental and physical health for some time – really, since her husband/my father, Chet Parnell, died in 2009. In the past week Mom went on a sudden downhill slide, and entered home hospice care (in Santa Ana, in her longtime home). Her four children scheduled rotating visits so that we could each see her before she died (but not all pile on at once, so to speak).

My older lives twenty minutes away from Mom and visited daily. My younger sister made it down on Little Christmas Eve (the 23rd); my brother, on Christmas Eve. My older sister’s children’s families were going to bring food and sing carols to their grandmother on Christmas Day, and my visit was scheduled for the day after Christmas.

On December 24 I sat at the dining room table with my family, enjoying our annual Christmas Eve lefse dinner – a tradition from my mother’s family.  I told son K and daughter Belle about the last minute trip MH and I had hastily arranged, for me to go see my mom. I filled them in on her status; it was entirely possible she would not be able to communicate with me (my older sister reported that Marion was mostly incommunicado/in and out of awareness during my brother’s visit, earlier that day), but I was going to tell her stories and give her foot and leg rubs and thank her for being my mother. I showed them what I was taking with me, to give to my mother and thank her for starting what has become a Christmas “decorating” tradition in our family – hiding a bajillion  [5]  little Santa’s Elves figures all over the house.

 

 

tomom

 

 

I found out early Christmas morning, right before K returned home over to open stockings and presents with MH and Belle and I, that my mother had died late the previous evening (My mother’s longtime, live-in caretaker wanted to spare us the inevitable but still sad news on Christmas Eve.).

My mother so loved Christmas; my siblings and I shared the sentiment that it was somewhat fitting for her to pass at this time.

 

Department Of But, I’m Too Old To Be An Orphan  [6]

 

We understand what you mean about becoming the oldest of a generation….. The circle of life. More like the moving sidewalk that you can’t get off once you step on.
(My friend KW, upon hearing the news of my mother’s death)

 

My mother was the youngest of four children, and the last of her siblings to die. With her passing, I realized, all of the family from both of my parents’ generation are gone. I don’t think I’m prepared to be part of the family’s oldest generation, I told MH. But, Life doesn’t ask you if you’re ready, does it?

“I’m sorry you’ve lost your mom.”

It is sad when it is really over. She’s gone, “all of a sudden,” but not really. The truth is we’ve been losing her, bit by bit, for years. A cognitive and physical death by degrees…at least there is a modicum of peace, knowing she is free from the memory loss and confusion, and their attendants, fear and paranoia, which brought about the awkward conversations where I would have to “kill” my father for her. There were far too many of those phone calls, when she fretted and would not be distracted from asking where her husband was, how and when had he left her, and why people were hiding this information from her.

 

marionalbertaparnellcirca1953

Marion circa 1953. This was one of Chet’s favorite pictures of her.

 

 

chesterbryqanparnellcirca1953

Chet Parnell, circa 1953.

 

*   *   *

And Then There’s That

 

Moiself, to MH and Belle: “On the plus side, this – my mother’s death – means that I can finally get a motorcycle.”

Belle:  ?????

MH: “How do you figure?”

Moiself:  When I was in my twenties and interested in such things, my mom asked me to promise the following:  “Promise me you won’t get a motorcycle before I die, because if you do it will kill me.”

MH: “Uh…can I be the one with the veto, now?”

chopper

RIP, Mom.

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you remember to love’ em while you got ’em;
May you love’ em while you got ’em;
And may you love’ em while you got ’em,
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] GEE, DO YA THINK?

[2] Holy Fucking Regime Change, if you know what I mean and I think you do.

[3] He lives about twelve minutes away from us, in a rental house he shares with four friends.

[4] And our kitties Crow and Nova, who REALLY enjoyed the catnip stuffed carrot and parsnip Santa MH got them.

[5] Closer to several dozen

[6] One of the many WTF remarks I made to MH, after hearing the news about my mom.

The Genome I’m Not Sequencing

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And, BTW, neither are you, even if you’ve forked over $199 to 23and Me, Family Tree, and/or the various other genetic testing organizations you can find online. Because…Science. Because…for reasons I’ll get to, soon. But first

 

 

No, not butt first....

No, not butt first….

 

 …a bit of background/digression.

*   *   *

Department Of We Hoped She Was “Just” French

I have a curious (to some people, myself included) lack of interest in my genetic family tree. More curious to me than knowing all about those who have occupied the various limbs of my family tree – aka, blood kin – is my lack of curiosity about the subject.

For whatever reasons, my bloodlines have never mattered much to moiself, in terms of my own self definition/image/worth, and also in terms of other bipeds whom I find interesting and acquaintance-worthy. [1]  Even so, I fully acknowledge, if not fully understand, the existence of a desire which motivates people to research their genetic history via ventures that, IMHO, run the spectrum from harmless interest to absorbing hobby to batshit bonkers obsession.

A recent casual comment made by someone who’d used one of the afore-mentioned DNA testing services testing made me realize I knew little of what the testing companies offer. I felt a brief…gasp…curiosity, re both the process of such testing, and the results. Could genome sequencing possibly shed light on a family mystery regarding a paternal ancestor? Specifically, a Chickasaw or Cherokee [2] who married into the Irish Parnells and whose new family tried to “pass” her (or him) off as white.

 

 Looks like someone else had a story to tell?

Looks like someone else had a story to tell?

 

 

 

Excuse my detour through what I feel compelled [3] to call The History of the Mystery.

From about age four onward – once I got over my blond phase – I heard, at irregular intervals, mildly teasing comments from both family and friends about my “Indian features,” which were attributed by family members to a Native American antecedent on my father’s maternal side of the family

I can’t remember how old I was when my father had told me there was a Cherokee or Chickasaw ancestor on his mother’s side. He also told me he couldn’t remember whether it was his mother’s great grandfather or mother, and that the family records on such matters were scanty and unreliable for many reasons, including the fact that “… people back then changed names and information they thought was embarrassing.”

 

 

Age three or four, as I was transitioning to my true hair color. Fortunately, no need for a separate bathroom.

Age three or four. I was transitioning to my true hair color. Fortunately, no need for a separate bathroom.

 

 

 

The she looks Indian comments became more frequent during my high school years, particularly when I wore my long hair in two braids. The observations didn’t impress me or make me think I was in some way cool or hip (I did not buy into the White People Think It’s Cool To Have Native American Ancestry mentality that seemed to flourish in the late 60s-70s), nor did they bother me. I mostly attributed the remarks to the general lack of imagination (long dark braided hair = Injun, Ke-mo sah-bee!) in what passed for humor [4] amongst my peers. And then, my maternal grandmother, “Bapa,” chimed in, one afternoon during my freshman year of high school.

According to Bapa, my Native American heritage from a great great grandparent  [5] was scant, yet evident enough that Bapa’s friend gave Bapa a warning. Friend of Bapa  advised Bapa to take down the framed picture of me Bapa had on her coffee table, because said picture emphasized my “Indian-features.”

 

REALLY

 

 

Yes, really.

Bapa laughed conspiratorially when she told me what her friend had said. I laughed in turn, then asked Bapa what she knew about the possible Indian-featured member of my family. “Oh, well,” Bapa sighed, “There isn’t much to know.” [6]

A few years after Bapa’s youngest child (my mother) was married (to my father) it was somehow revealed to Bapa [7] that there was Indian blood on my father’s side of the family (“It doesn’t show in your father, but you can tell by looking at pictures of his mother.”)[8] It was an Indian woman, Bapa thought, although one of my father’s sisters had tried to reassure the family that the ancestor was “maybe just French.”

I was able to question my father’s youngest sister (keeper of the family tree information) about our Native antecedent only once before she died  [9] . She said, in that lovely Tennessee twang of hers and totally sans tongue in cheek, that she’d “…heard from a reliable source that the story was unreliable.”  [10].  She then made a funny face, lowered her voice said that, yes, her Mama had once admitted to having some Indian blood “back there,” maybe Cherokee but “most likely” Chickasaw, but that “we were thinking” (the tone of her voice implied, we were hoping) “it wasn’t Indian,  just French.”

 

 

 

 

No, please, anyone but the French....

No, please, anyone but the French….

*   *   *

We Now Return You To Our Regular Scheduled Babbling Programming

 

I checked out a couple of genetic testing sites, and almost immediately lost interest when I read their come-on tags – teasers meant to exploit our culture’s wide-ranging celebrity obsession (Could you be related to someone famous?).

 

 

avengerstreejpg

 

Further interest was lost via having some of my concerns about the prematurity of the science of genetic testing confirmed when I listened to a recent StarTalk podcast.

The Promise and Peril of the Genomic Revolution is a fascinating interview with both a researcher in the field of genetic testing – bioethicist Robert Kitzman – and also someone trying to profit by popularize the testing among the non-scientifically inclined public – Anne Wojcicki, CEO and co-founder of the genetic testing company 23andMe .

You are made of cells. And the cells in your body have 23 pairs of chromosomes.
Your chromosomes are made of DNA, which can tell you a lot about you. Explore your 23 pairs today. 
Find out what your 23 pairs of chromosomes can tell you.
(from www.23andMe.com )

 

Wojcicki, of course, wants you to use her services, and thus touts how such testing is “empowering individuals to take more control of their own healthcare and to benefit from increased understanding of their own genome.”

Except that no genetic testing company allows you to sequence your entire genome, nor even come close to “understanding” it.  Dr. Kitzman brought up the seemingly little-known (amongst the scientific laity) yet major point that people who contract the services of genetic testing companies mistakenly think they are getting their entire genome sequenced.  

Another concern…there are 3 billion letters (in a human genome). 23andMe is not looking at all 3 billion letters. What they’re doing is looking at one out of every several hundred thousand letters. Imagine a wall of books…what they’re doing is saying we’re going to take one book, we’re going to give you the first letter on every three pages. So the first letter is A, three pages letter the first book is a C, three pages later the first letter is T…you don’t know what kind of book you’re reading… What 23andme is now doing is just giving you one one-thousandth of the information that’s there, so there are going to be false positives, false negatives, there are going to be problems understanding it….”
( Robert Kitzman, StarTalk, 4-29-16 )

The literary analogy: well, then. What do you have, and how can you tell? Are you previewing Julia Child’s The Art of French Cooking? A surah from the Koran? A Quentin Tarentino script (no, lawdy, take me now)?

As to such testing’s application to healthcare  [11] : the science, while amazing, is still in its relative infancy, and, as the podcast warns, there are real and serious “…limitations of what we do and don’t know at this very early stage in what is proving to be a much more complicated process than we used to believe.” Given the dangers of false positives and false negatives, tread lightly, y’all.

So. Having my genome sequenced, for whatever reason? I’m not ruling it out; perhaps, Someday For Some Reason ®. But for now, I’ll be content with letting that Cagey Chickasaw Chick – I mean of course, Furtive French Femme – lurk in the not-too-far-distant background. Or, my braids, if I ever have them again.  [12]

 

 

cclown

*   *   *

Department Of Moments That Scream, Inspiration

I recently finished reading a book about the history of Los Angeles punk rock. The book is composed of twenty-four chapter length stories and essays about the infamous west coast scene (circa 1977-1982) by ~ fifteen narrators/participants of that era. I came away from the read with three impressions:

(1) I found it appropriate that the book’s chapters were as varied (read: uneven) in competency and coherency of their prose as the punk bands described therein were as per their musical talent and artistic vision.

(2) Vying for Best Musical Trivia Ever ®  is the following passage from the book, on how the band The Germs got their name:

They were proudly wearing their new mustard-yellow band T-shirts, emblazoned in velvet iron-on letters GERMS. The shirts had been made at a store where they charged by the letter, and their first choice of band name, Sophistifuck and the Revlon Spam Queens, simply wasn’t affordable.
(Chapter 5, Under The Big Black Sun: A Personal History of LA Punk )

(3) There is no impression #3.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Combinations That Call For Consuming Anti-Vertigo Medications

After finishing When Breath Becomes Air, the profoundly moving memoir of a young physician’s journey into what-makes-life-worth-living-and-what-the-heck-is-life-anyway territory after he receives a terminal cancer diagnosis, I couldn’t start another book for several weeks. Then when I did, I ping-ponged between the afore-mentioned expository of the LA Punk Scene and Secular Meditation: 32 Practices For Cultivating Inner Peace, Compassion, And Joy.

 

 

punkmeditation

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you be able to include Spam when naming some venture in your life; [13]  
May that blip on your genome turn out to be just French,
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] I’m not going to be predisposed to like a person, or find them more or less interesting or valuable, just because we are supposedly “related.”

[2] Chickasaw or Cherokee – I’ve heard/read different attributions.

[3] By the spirit of the love child of Jesse Jackson and Johnnie Cochrane.

[4] I never took the comments to be insulting, regardless of the commenter’s true intentions. One time there was an implied derogation:  a friend (who had a German last name) called me squaw, as if flinging an epithet. I informed him of the origins of his surname and called him a Nazi. Ah, the compassionate maturity of youth.

[5] Or more…not sure how many great-greatss, as the available family tree info is less than helpful.

[6] Despite her protestations, she’d obviously known enough of something to tell a friend about it.

[7] Bapa was sketchy on details, and like the rest of my family’s older generation, was reluctant to talk about it.

[8] Make that picture, singular. Like the rest of our family, Bapa had seen only one picture of my father’s mother: a tiny, grainy shot of my father’s mother and father and their brood, lined up against their ramshackle tenant farmer’s shack. I don’t know how you could “tell” anything from that picture, except that my father’s mother was a poor farm woman who had too many children.

[9] So difficult to get those pesky dead people to cough up any details.

[10] Mere words cannot describe how much I loved her phrasing, nor how difficult it was to keep a straight face when she said that.

[11] The more nobler excuse/rationale for such testing, versus the self-aggrandizing, gossipy Find Out If You’re Related To Royalty! ego-appeals.

[12] The pix is of from my high school’s senior award for Campus Clown. I am biting down on a doll’s arm, which I found at the beach the summer before my senior year and then wore on a chain around my neck for the rest of the year…because I could.

[13] As long as that venture isn’t a child.

The Common Ground I’m Not Seeking

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On Tuesday MH and I were discussing the Hillsboro School Board meeting to be held later that day, during which the board would be taking public input regarding the topic of providing family planning services at school based health centers. We each separately emailed the board members with letters supporting the proposal. [1]

Two of the current school board members work at the same company as MH. I remembered asking MH, when those individuals were first running for their school board seats, what he knew about their respective political beliefs and temperaments. This led to a brief back and forth about the qualities we’d want to see in a decent, effective politician – even one running for a (allegedly) nonpartisan position, ala school board member. The ability to seek common ground or “reach across the aisle” was high on the list.

Many are the times I have considered how I lack a temperament (or even the desire to temper my temperament) which is even marginally suitable (read: electable) for public office, even an office as “small potatoes” as serving on a school board. I occasionally attended several meetings of my school board when I was in high school. What with the issues and tenor of the times,  [2] the meetings could get quite…entertaining…which made me wonder how the relatively sane members of the board managed to sit next to the whackadoodles, let alone have a rational discussion about educational policies.

That memory/idea must have gotten stuck in the space between my ears, because when I awoke the next morning (Wednesday), this was the first thought that came to mind:

I have no desire to seek common ground with morons.

schoolboard

*   *   *

Department of Despair to Come

We’ve a ways to go until the political parties hold their conventions, I know. Still, when I think of the prospects, I get a lump in my throat. I call it the Clump Lump, a mashup of the most likely two choices I do not want to choose.  Clinton, or Trump? Please, my fellow Americans, [3] don’t do this to me. Or to yourselves.

Clump. Clump. Clump. Thump.

 

ckump

 

Of course, there would be no contest re my choice of the Clump. Having not recently had a lobotomy or the intellectual equivalent of a compassion colonoscopy, it’s easy: I know Hillary R. Clinton is up to the task and I would gladly cast my vote for her.

But I wanted something new. Something Else.

Look, I know that much of what I think I may know about Clinton comes from 25 years of Republican slavering attack dog tactics:– “a quarter century of visceral GOP hatred.”

But, here’s the thing. What she said just before Nancy Reagan’s funeral – she did that all by herself.

I get it: you’re getting ready to attend a funeral of a public figure, you have to say something nice about the deceased.  But you don’t lie; you don’t forget or twist history.  I won’t belabor the point and you can look it up here and elsewhere, but Clinton’s WTF statement about Ronald and Nancy Reagan spurring “a national conversation, before anyone would talk about it,” [4]  about AIDS?!?!?!

 

REALLY

 

So. Pathetically. Astonishingly. Not. True.

And I can’t think why HRC would say that…other than staying true to what seems to be a (political) life-long habit of saying what seems to be convenient and/or expedient.

*   *   *

Department Of Parents Are Never Too Old To Go Apeshit
Over Reminders of Childhood Cuteness

It has been a week of many celebrations, both national and personal. Belle is home for Spring Break. Pi day. The Ides of March. That Irish-American Thing. [5]  Many if not all of these festive days call for special feasts. I asked Belle if there was any special dinner she’d like, in honor of…whatever. While she was pondering her options, MH showed me a list Belle had made, quite a long time ago. He found it written on a (unfortunately, undated) notepad he discovered as he was going through old papers in the attic:

 

Sadieundatedmenu

 

I told Belle all she had to do was say the word and we would endeavor to come up with a speshl desert and froot salid…and lots of Yum.

 

*   *   *

Department of They Said It Would Never Work

Content warning, PETA supporters: contains arguable mistreatment of select arthropods.

For the past couple of weeks, every morning I’ve come downstairs to the sight of a black ant – or sometimes two or three – creeping about the kitchen or dining nook. Like the steering wheel around the pirate’s genitals, it’s driving me nuts.

We have no idea how/where the ants are getting in. They find their way to the kitchen counters, where they are summarily and enthusiastically squished by moiself, a paper towel becoming their white shroud of doom. At most it seems as if they’re sending in a few “scouts” at a time. It’s isn’t a horde…but I know they’re out there.

So.

As a warning to its tribe, I made an example of one scout. There was more than a bit of eye rolling skepticism from my family when I set the warning on the counter at night before going upstairs to bed.

The next morning was the first morning in over a week when there were no ants in the kitchen. Not a one.  Vindication was mine. [6]

 

ant

*   *   *

Pearls From Sand: How Small Encounters Lead To Powerful Life Lessons

pts

 

I recently read (and very much enjoyed)  the above book, written by My New Friend. As the title indicates, it is about how everyday, seemingly mundane conversations and encounters can lead to profound insights that shape how we act toward and think about ourselves and others.

The book’s Chapter 7 is titled Introverted is Something You Are, which got me to thinking [7] about that most common, and perhaps most commonly misunderstood, personality type division: that of Extrovert and Introvert.

It has long been my observation that the world can be divided into two types of people: those who divide the world into two types of people, and those who don’t.

 

 

 

But seriously, Ladies and Germs, y’all know about one of the more popular “personality type” tests, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator ? Chances are you’ve taken the test for fun, or at some point in your working life, when the new/overenthusiastic member of your company’s HR department decided it was a fun tool to use in that most jaw-clenching and tedious of workplace events, the Let’s All Try To Understand Each Other ®  workshop. [8]

 

personality

 

 

The MBTI aims to elicit psychological preferences in how a person perceives the world and makes decisions. It does this through the use of a self-report questionnaire which then ranks your personality type based on your preferences in each of the test’s four dichotomies. Your preference in each dichotomy is also ranked as to its strength; e.g., your answers indicate you tend to be slightly, moderately or distinctively expressed in that categories.  One of the four dichotomies is Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I).

I’ve taken the test a few times over the years, [9] noting that, like most people who do so, my scores have varied within each dichotomy. One consistency over the years is that in the E/I dichotomy, I test as an E. This would come as no surprise to friends, family and co-workers, who’ve pegged me as an Extrovert over the years.  If the choice is I or E, she’s definitely an E. What might come as a surprise is that my scores on the MBTI Extraversion scale have been, consistently, only slightly expressed.

Moiself has never claimed the Extrovert label. [10]  I find it interesting that someone who would be (self- or otherwise identified as) an extrovert would chose the life/profession I have chosen, where I am alone for the majority of my day.

While no one enjoys time with friends – whether one-on-one or in group activities – more than I, my activities and interests tend to be solitary, or those which can be done with one or two people (e.g. reading, hiking, kayaking, archery, masturbation, [11]  KenKen and crossword puzzles). I try to avoid meetings/committees of any kind, and would rather trim my nose hairs with a week whacker than  give a reading of my work or do other writing-related professional appearances.

So, how do I think of, or label, moiself? Thanks for asking. I’ve yet to find my dichotomy: I am a Gregarious Loner.

Stick that in your MBTI pipe and smoke it.

 

 

ENTPjpg

*   *   *

May your personality dichotomies by freely expressed;
May you find words to praise the dead without lying your ass off;
May you find pearls in sand but no sand in your sandwich,
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 *   *   *

 

 

[1] We’d planned on attending the meeting, but Life events ©  intervened.

[2] It was the mid 1970s…Patty Hearst could have been hiding anywhere.

[3] I use that term not as an indicator of USA chauvinism – which I’ve been accused of on more than one occasion when doing so. I realize Canadians and Mexicans are (North) Americans, too. But our country has a rather clumsy name, especially when it comes to monikers for its citizens. If you live in Germany you are German; in France, you are French, In the USA you are…USA-ian? United Stateian? I’ve yet to run across a less clumsy descriptor than the one that uses the last part of the US of A.

[4] The Reagan reaction to the HIV/AIDS crisis is what phrases like “deafening silence”  and “turning a blind eye” were invented for. Reagan would not utter the name of the virus until late in his second term, and Nancy even refused to help her friend Rock Hudson get treatment when he was dying of “the gay disease.”

[5] On March 17 real Irish people in Ireland apparently do not affix paper shamrocks on their foreheads, don Kiss Me I’m Irish underpants and drink until they vomit green beer on their faux Leprechaun shoes and call it a celebration of their heritage.

[6] A wonderful feeling, however temporary. But really, the damn thing worked for about 12 hours.

[7] I tried to lie down on the couch; alas, the thinking continued.

[8] This is not another footnote. Move it along, folks – nothing here to see.

[9]  Mostly for fun, and mostly when for some reason it has been mentioned by someone – a friend who’s used it at work, for example. I find any sort of personality test somewhat rigid but think such tests can be useful as a starting point to understanding other people, as well as yourself…as long as you don’t take it as the be-all and end-all of psychological analysis. Many people claim the Myers-Briggs test has helped them become more aware of the differences between people, and to see such differences as just that –  different, not “wrong”…even though I remember reading somewhere that most of not many of the dimensions measured in the test have failed to hold up to consistent  research.

[10] nor have I vehemently denied it, so…yeah. What she said.

[11] Just checking to see if you’re reading, Belle and K. If so, your mother did not write that, okay?

The Fun I’m Not Missing

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Department Of What’s The Point

The problem with speaking the truth to power is that power can’t be bothered to listen.

*   *   *

Department Of Pleasant Surprises

Last Saturday morning when I finished exercising I popped out the workout DVD and did my cool down/stretches to the background noise of a college football game on TV. During one brief timeout in the game over a disputed call or something I swear I heard one team’s marching band play the distinctive opening riff to the White Stripe‘s Seven Nation Army.  It was at once bizarre and totally appropriate…and almost as emotionally satisfying as hearing the Roto Rooter Goodtime Christmas Band ‘s rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s psychedelic rock anthem, Purple Haze.

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Yet Another Podcast Adventure

The podcast, an interview with a historian specializing in ancient Rome (Mary Beard/Fresh Air show), began with the show’s host reciting an intriguing description of the guest’s professional accomplishments: “…a professor of classics, does TV and radio documentaries, writes a well-read blog…and has become somewhat famous for taking on internet trolls.”

 

trolls

 

I couldn’t help but wonder: Why, oh why, would someone do that, or become “famous” for doing that?  Especially someone who is an academic, or at least educated. I thought that, by definition, if you “take on” an internet troll, or engage them in any way, the troll wins.[1]

I am not fully convinced that individual internet trolls exist.  I think there is a troll generator somewhere, created and controlled by a man-boy who resembles a cross between Jabba the Hutt and a meerkat. This Jabbakat occupies a bunker designed to resemble his parent’s basement, where, hunkered down amid cases of Red Bull, Hot Pockets and survivalist grade toilet paper, he froths and seethes over the Unfairness of Life ® , including what happened eight years ago when, after hearing that girls go for guys in uniform, he dropped out of community college to take a job as a pizza delivery boy.

My favorite comment/observation about trolls of any kind is from Tina Fey, in her book, Bossypants . [2]

Bring on the babes.

Bring on the babes.

*   *   *

Department  Of Just Think About All The Fun You Missed

Wednesday was my annual Ladies Lefse dinner party. It is not too late for you to plan your own.  You don’t even have to make it an all-lady affair – you can define the term “lady” loosely (as most of us do these days, yuckity yuckaroo). In the spirit of open-minded heteronormativity, [3] you could make it a party for Lefse Ladies and Those Who Identify as Lefse Ladies.

 

Who wouldn't want to identify with these festive, frisky females?

Who wouldn’t want to identify with these festive, frisky females?

 

*   *   *

I kept hearing erstwhile respected actor Danny Glover’s voice on a TV ad, publicizing a medication to treat “pseudo bulbous effect.”  And I kept thinking, Wow, there’s a drug for everyone, including people who obsessively don large fake noses.

I stand corrected. It’s Pseudobulbar affect, and it’s apparently a thing. Pseudobulbar affect is a neurological disorder, that just happens to have one of the best disorder nicknames ever:

“also known as emotional incontinence.”

 

 I can quit any time I want to, okay?

I can quit any time I want to, okay?

 

*   *   *

A Special Holiday Message For A Special Guy

To the dude I was driving behind on Monday – the guy in the Ford pickup heading west on Cornell Road in the early afternoon. After watching you weave in and out of traffic lanes and tailgate other drivers, I humbly suggest that your holiday thankfulness this year be directed toward the following government agencies and employees:

* the DMV, for not having a basic reading comprehension and IQ test as part of its licensing procedures

* those current and former U.S. Marines, [4] who might be embarrassed/appalled by your proudly displayed ignorance as evinced by your various anti-Obama, anti-government, bumperstickers and window decals sharing bumper and window space with your pro-U.S. Marines stickers.

BTW, duuuuuuuuude: Obama is an American, not a Kenyan, for crying’ out loud in the fucking Halls of Montezuma‘s sake.

I can only assume your truck’s OR license plate was crafted personally, for you, and that YRT 987 stands for, Your Retard Tendencies 987 (on a scale of 990). [5] [6]

 

 

He forgot the sticker that says, Honk If You're Following a Bigoted Asshat

He forgot the sticker that says, Honk If You’re Following a Bigoted Asshat

*   *   *

Holiday haiku

At this time of year
no joy is as pure as that
which arises from

seeing Christian
right wing nutjobs twisting their
tinsel-lined panties

when they hear the phrase
Happy Holidays! and/or
another greeting

which acknowledges
the wealth of celebrations
at this time of year.

solsticegreetings

It’s Merry Christmas
or nothing for those pinch-nosed

paranoid Scrooges.

Their faces turn red
and green – which, fittingly, are
the Christmas colors.

I am delighted
to wish them, “Happy Solstice,”
and hope that one day

they’ll understand this:
“Axial tilt – The Reason
For (all the) Seasons!”

axial tilt

*   *   *

May you avoid troll engagement;
May you embrace the season’s greetings;
May you remain emotionally continent;
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

[1] Or at least, you lose.

[2] Look it up. You won’t regret it. While you’re at it, just read the whole damn book.

[3] Belle is going to be taking a Gender Studies class next semester. I’m practicing.

[4] Government employees, yep – although not often thought as such. Who pays the military salaries?

[5] I know, I know, retard is no longer an acceptable pejorative. I’m making a New Year’s Resolution to stop using it.

[6] If you believe the previous footnote, you’re a ‘tard.

The Self I’m Not Hating

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It’s Later, and I Don’t Hate Myself

The spam message I dared to delete:

IF  YOU  DON’T  READ  THIS  NOW  YOU’LL  HATE  YOURSELF  LATER

*   *   *

Every year, we forget they are there. And every year, usually in late June but earlier this year, two yellow roses pop up seemingly overnight, nestled amongst our patch of Hood strawberries.

roses

*   *   *

Three Cheers for Neti

That’s Neti, as in Neti pot – not Nessie, as per the one strange person who claimed they once overheard me extolling the values of a “Nessie pot.”

 

"So what am, I chopped liver?"

“So what am, I chopped liver?”

 

Sorry, Nessie. No cheers for you…although in this, The Season of Blooming Things, ® it does often seem as though a  Loch Ness Monster of snot [1]  is sloshing through my sinuses. And indeed, ’tis the season.

Curse you, pollen.  Curses upon you, you son of a fish who does not even know his own father — if I could only get at you, I would do the same to you! I would drape your innards over your arms! [2]

Curse you, ubiquitous and meddlesome wind-blown plant sperm, which will not be content with fertilizing the fauna but which also delights in infesting my nasal cavities and giving me what I can only describe as razor blade throat.

Some seasons, some days, it’s hardly noticeable. Either way, on most days, half of an OTC allergy pill usually helps, as does the use of the Neti pot.

 

neti

 

Twice last week, after engaging in a breezy, early evening berry picking session, I thought I would achoo my brains out. As I was stuck in full tilt, machine gun-sneeze mode, I marveled at the unstoppability of the reaction and contemplated the sad fact that if I had one of those attacks during Inconvenient Times ©, the terrorists would win.

What if I had such an attack and I was on a bus with doctors and Korean refugees, all of us hiding from the nearby North Korean patrol that would surely kill us if they found us, and I couldn’t stop sneezing and Alan Alda would have to strangle me to keep me quiet so as not betray our position?

Am I the only person in the world who thinks of the MASH  series finale when I have an epic sneeze fit?

Don’t answer that.

*   *   *

Good News That’s Nothing to Sneeze About

For once I have cause to be politically and socially proud of the actions of the country of (50% of) my ancestors’ birth. Ireland became the first country to legalize gay marriage by popular national vote [3]. Sure and begorrah, ’twas a popular vote, indeed, as more than 62% of Irish voters said aye to changing Ireland’s constitution to define marriage as a union between two people, regardless of gender.

The Roman Catholic church has had a stranglehold on Irish politics and culture, dating from when the RCs ruled every aspect of Irish life and the priests sodomized the courts and the laws before they discovered altar boys and Magdalene laundry girls.

The RC church is rapidly and consistently losing ground in Ireland, a briskly changing, modernizing society which now polls as one of the more secular European nations. However, the majority of the county’s laws were enacted when the RC church had a theocratic stranglehold on the land.

IRELAND-GAY-MARRIAGE-VOTE

Michael Nugent, Dublin writer and chair of the advocacy group Atheist Ireland, noted in an interview with Freethought Radio that Ireland is a “pluralistic society governed by Catholic laws.” Nugent said that Ireland’s openly a-religious, atheist and freethinking politicians [4] are taking this vote to heart and plan on working to amend and repeal a plethora of Church-inspired laws – from abortion prohibitions to statutes requiring public officials to swear religious oaths.

More than one political commentator has referred to the gay marriage vote as a “reality check” and a “slap in the face to the Roman Catholic church.” I heartily applaud the latter, and look forward to more church-face slapping – preferably with the biggest, coldest fish voters can wield – as the interests of humanity and rationality overturn the legal vestiges of dogma and superstition.

*   *   *

I’d Like to Buy a Vowel, Pat

vowel

NO NO NO NO NO.

Not that vowel.

I’d like to buy an i.

i is my favorite vowel, in part because two of my favorite words begin with it [5].

There is the word I itself, the personal pronoun. Although I am not fond of the first person narrative in fiction and rarely employ it in my stories, I am fond of I for more personal reasons, having to do with action and momentum. I is an indicator of agency and responsibility (I will do ___; I think that ___).

My other favorite i-word is if. I love that word. For me, it is the key to answering the question non-writers of fiction often ask of writers of fiction; specifically, How do you get your story ideas? The closest I can come to answering that question truthfully [6]  is to say that the What if question is always involved.

Story ideas, from the mundane to the profound, center around possible answers to the question, What if…

*  a couple used their argument over whose turn it was to bring in the garbage can as a distraction from their crumbling relationship, mental health issues and employment insecurity…
* a husband betrayed  his wife by posting bail for her sister who was in jail for abetting a cult leader’s assault upon…
* a bereaved mother enlisted the help of a sympathetic stranger she met in a university library to avenge her daughter’s death…
* a teen-aged/elderly/mentally challenged skate boarder/retired cracker salter quality assurance manager/grocery bagger  stumbled upon the body of a former teacher/complete stranger/notorious serial flasher in the hall closet/supermarket parking lot/Grand Canyon gift shop restroom…

Also, if can be used to denote the hope of things to come and the rationalization of things that fail in the here and now (“If ___, then ___”).  It is a word of both promise and regret (“If only…”).  A mere two letters, a thousand possibilities. I like that.

*   *   *

Disc Down, Antlers Up [7]

I saw my first professional Ultimate Frisbee game last Saturday. It might have also have been my last professional UF game.

On a sweltering afternoon in the Hillsboro Stadium (the home of Hillsboro’s minor league baseball team), my family and I watched the Portland Stags defeat the San Francisco Dogfish. [8]  That is, MH and Belle stuck around to watch the entire game. A bored and disappointed K and I left at halftime.

boredom

UF is an interesting, fast-paced game…or so I thought when I watched college and other teams play it. The teams self-referee, there are no time outs and no dallying between quarters and halves – the action is almost non-stop. The professional UF game I saw had been turned into a version of…frankly, of something I also used to love to watch: professional baseball.

It had the same bloated time frame, with time outs being called every other play and with the announcers and team owners or whomever not trusting the audience to be still with their thoughts and reflections – the cocaine/Ritalin/ADD generation has a short attention span and must be distracted/entertained every second! Thus, we were tortured provided with mind-numbingly, butt-scratchingly, tedious, juvenile and game-prolonging mascot dances and cheers and come-out-onto-the-field-kids-for-some-relay-games “entertainment” at every opportunity.

 

Oh, now this makes it interesting.

Oh, now this makes it interesting.

 

Over one and one half hours later, and it was only halftime? Thanks, but, nooooooo.

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Shave Every Day and You’ll Always Look Keen

I’ve posted before re my brain’s penchant for earworms.  Apropos of nothing (conscious), yesterday morning I awoke with the charming ditty Shaving Cream, a novelty song featured on the Dr. Demento show, oompah-ing through my cranium.

There are worse ways to start a day.

All together now, join with me on the last verse:

♫ And now folks my story is ended
I think it is time I should quit
If any of you feel offended
Stick your head in a barrel of…. ♫

*   *   *

May you always look keen (and I trust that you do),
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Apologies to BO’M and those of you who’ve told me you enjoy reading this blog during breakfast.

[2] From the Epic of Gilgamesh, arguably the first great work of literature, which tells the tale of a Mesopotamian king’s adventures which include angry deities causing a worldwide flood and other tales which later sources borrowed  (e.g. the biblical Flood story). Quite entertaining, the EOG also has some really epic curses.

[3] Other countries have legalized same sex unions, via acts of their legislatures and/or the courts.

[4] Imagine, a country where a religion-free politician can be elected! Don’t need to imagine – that’s most Western Europe and the “developed” world,  except for the USA, which is in the company of the Islamic theocracies when it comes to electing out-of-the-closet atheists.

[5] Uh, that is, they begin with the letter “i,” not “it.”

[6] Yep, I’ve lied or mislead on many occasions. “How do I get my ideas? Well, there’s this guy in a trench coat who hangs around NE Burnside, and if you slip him a twenty he’ll flash you a plot and character outline….”

[7] That is the Portland Stags’ fan cheer or unofficial anthem, from what I gathered.

[8] Or, Dgfsh, as the scoreboard read.

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