Home

The Normal Post I’m Not Posting

Comments Off on The Normal Post I’m Not Posting

Normal as in, consisting of political, religious, educational and/or cultural sniping critiques.

No worries – the usual mélange of podcast reviews, feminist fun, cultural tidbits, sarcasm, insightful commentary, bad puns (and occasional fart jokes) returns next week.

 

 

While going through our attic and other storage spaces I found a military pin belonging to my father, Chet Parnell. I added it to a box of (mostly) WWII memorabilia I keep in a closet, and thought I should write a description/explanation of the items in the box for the inheritors of it, my offspring, K and Belle.  While doing so I began thinking of thousands of families who likely have similar stories – and boxes – and may or may not know some of the stories behind them.  You might not give two snakes’ elbows for a story about my extended family; in that case, kick back and rewatch “Young Frankenstein” and remind yourself of what a great actor we had in Cloris Leachman.  But in hopes of sparking at least one other person to ask a family member about their past…or open a forgotten storage box in their own closet….

What follows is an edited version of the document I wrote for K and Belle.

*   *   *

 

The Combat Infantryman Badge is a U.S. Army military decoration awarded to infantrymen who fought in active ground combat while assigned as members of either an Infantry or Special Forces unit.

Your grandpa Chet was awarded this badge while in Alaska, serving with the 542nd paratroop infantry regiment, in the Aleutian Islands Campaign.

The Aleutian Islands campaign was…conducted by the USA and Japan in the Aleutian Islands, part of the Territory of Alaska, in the American theater and the Pacific theater of World War II.  In the only two invasions of the United States during the war, a small Japanese force occupied the islands of Attu and Kiska. The islands’ strategic value was their ability to control Pacific transportation routes.  Japan reasoned that control of the Aleutians would prevent a possible U.S. attack across the Northern Pacific. Similarly, the U.S. feared that the islands would be used as bases from which to carry out a full-scale aerial attack on U.S. West Coast cities. A battle to reclaim Attu was launched on May 11, 1943, and completed following a final Japanese banzai charge on May 29. On August 15 an invasion force landed on Kiska in the wake of a sustained three-week barrage, only to discover that the Japanese had withdrawn from the island on July 29.

The campaign is known as the “Forgotten Battle,” due to its being overshadowed by other events in the war. Military historians believe the Japanese invasion of the Aleutians was a diversionary or feint attack during the Battle of Midway, meant to draw out the U.S. Pacific Fleet from Midway Atoll, as it was launched simultaneously under the same commander, Isoroku Yamamoto. Some historians have argued against this interpretation, believing that the Japanese invaded the Aleutians to protect their northern flank, and did not intend it as a diversion.
(AIC excerpts from Wikipedia)

Although Chet’s unit was never directly involved the combat, he served in a combat zone.  The paratroopers stationed in Alaska had a dual mission: protecting the Alaskan territory from further Japanese invasion, and preparing for the invasion of Japan…which was stopped when the U.S. dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Having served in a combat zone, Chet was eligible for “full military honors”  at his funeral.  He was proud of his service as a paratrooper, but told my mother that, when the time came, he wanted her to decline the offer of full honors, as he felt it belonged to soldiers who had actually faced enemy fire. Thus, at his funeral (as you two may remember) he had what is known as “Military Honors,” which consists of two or more uniformed military persons doing a military funeral honors ceremony, including the folding of and presenting to the survivors a United States burial flag, and the playing of Taps.

*   *   *

 

 

This is the enlisted soldier’s Signal Corps Badge.  Chet had that badge as well…and now I can’t remember where it is.

Each paratrooper had training as a rifleman/infantryman, and also in one or more specialties (besides learning how to jump from a plane and not die).  Chet was trained in Signal Corps duties (which he once described to me as, “Scrambling up the nearest tree” to set up long range cables).  After landing in enemy territory, his job would be to work with his unit’s radio operator(s) to set up radio communications.

*   *   *

 

This is a WWII U.S. Army Paratrooper badge (aka “jump wings” pin).  I also have this pin… somewhere.  Chet gave me both pins – the signal corps and jump wings – years before his death. I used to wear them, along with other pins, on a denim jacket (he got a kick out of that), then when the jacket was falling apart I took all the pins off and put them away for safekeeping…and now I have no idea where they are.  ;-(

*   *   *

The jacket in this box is a WWII paratrooper’s dress jacket.  It belonged to my favorite uncle, Bill O’Malley, my aunt Erva’s husband.   [1]   Bill O’Malley (“Billy” to his fellow soldiers) saw heavy combat in WWII – briefly in N. Africa, then in the European Theater of Operation (ETO).

I find what Bill experienced in WWII to be amazing, and I’m going to tell you what I know of it. Bill and Erva had no children to pass this on to, and their generation has all but died out – all gone, actually, on my side of the family.  It seems to me that someone (of a younger generation, ahem) should know his story, you know? My information is incomplete, and I won’t bore you with dates (most of which I don’t have, although I could look them up).  My purpose here is to convey some of what he went through. The words and phrases in quotes are, to the best of my memory, verbatim from what Bill (and in some cases, Chet or Erva or my grandmother) told me.

This information is pieced together from notes I made decades ago, plus many conversations Chet and I had about WWII and Bill O’Malley. The last and longest of these conversations a phone call the night before Chet died, during which I shared what Bill had told me when I’d visited Bill and Erva the summer after my fourth-grade year (I’d made a road trip to Spokane with my Aunt Gwen (Erva’s sister), Uncle Joe, and their son, Joey.  We all stayed at Erva’s & Bill’s Spokane house for two weeks).  I knew Uncle Bill had been a paratrooper, and one afternoon when the others were playing a lawn game in the backyard, I got Bill to sit down with me in his kitchen and talk about it.  Chet was flummoxed by some of the information I’d elicited;  Bill did *not* like to talk about the war and typically refused all entreaties – by adults – to do so (he did have a few war-related conversations over the years with Chet, whom he respected as a fellow paratrooper).  My theory is that, being a 10-year-old kid, I somehow disarmed Bill. My questions were sincere; I had no illusions about war “heroism” – I was just genuinely curious.  Bill didn’t have to impress or reassure me, the way he might have felt pressured to do by other adults.

*   *   *

When Bill enlisted in the paratroopers he was ~ five years older than the others in his unit (they were teens – early twenties; he was in his mid-twenties). His age and skills soon enabled him to hold the rank of sergeant (and he aspired to no higher rank).  After completing his paratrooper training Bill was assigned to the 82nd airborne division.   [2]

In N. Africa, during one of Bill’s first combat drops, the pilot of Bill’s plane made a navigational error and dropped its paratroopers over the wrong site – a fact which was not discussed nor even acknowledged by the army, as Bill later discovered when he made the obligatory report of the incident to his superiors.  One of its planes going in the opposite direction it was supposed to go – yikes.  It was quite an embarrassment to the Army higher-ups. Bad for soldier morale!

As in that jump and all others afterward, Bill jumped with his favorite weapon, his “tommy gun.”   [3]    Bill was the jump master, and after realizing they’d been dropped over the wrong site, he and his squad disagreed as to what to do next.  There was nothing but sand in all directions; Bill spotted an outcropping and insisted they follow it. His squad rebelled and went in the opposite direction without him, even after he (convinced that he was right, and that they were headed to their deaths) pulled his “tommy” on them and ordered them to follow him. The twelve paratroopers were never seen from again; they presumably died in the desert from exposure.

Bill, following the outcropping, wandered for days in the desert until he was rescued by a Brit in a jeep who was patrolling the perimeter of a nearby British military encampment.  By that time quite dehydrated, Bill thought he was hallucinating seeing the jeep, until it drove up to within a few feet of him.  The British officer exited his jeep and said to Bill, in the most stereotypical, slightly perturbed, upper-class British accent,

“I say old boy, what are you doing out here all alone?”

“You son of a bitch!” is how Bill began his reply….

Bill was reassigned to the ETO, to a unit serving in Italy.  In an incident which resulted in the largest “friendly fire” casualties of WWII, U.S. guns at Sicily fired at planes overhead, which were actually U.S. planes carrying U.S. paratroopers. The 504th Parachute Infantry was shot to pieces – two dozen of our own planes, shot down by “us.”  More than 300 U.S. soldiers died.  Bill survived that tragedy, did another jump in Italy (Salerno), and was reassigned again.  [4]   His next unit became part of the massive Allied paratroop drop into Normandy at D-Day.  After that he went on to fight in the Battle of Bulge.

Not surprisingly, Bill was hospitalized in France after the war had ended, for what was then called “shell shock” or “combat fatigue,” but which we now know as PTSD.

Although the army hospital doctors pronounced him “cured” after a few weeks of rest, Bill’s shell shock was not totally under control when he returned to the States.  His first date with Erva was “a humiliating disaster.”  Being out in public made him nervous; he couldn’t shake the feeling of being constantly “on patrol.”  Erva drove on their first date, as Bill had no car.  After picking Bill up, she was driving down the main street of their town when the car in front of hers backfired, the sound of which caused Bill to dive to the passenger’s seat floorboards (“Scared me half to death!” Erva said).  Bill was deeply embarrassed, and even more so when, ten minutes later, he had to ask Erva to take him back to his apartment so he could change clothes.  He had sweated through his clothing – completely soaked the three-piece suit he had worn, the suit he’d “bought special,” to impress Erva.

Gradually, Bill readjusted to civilian life.  When I asked him how he did this he replied, “I never had to pay for a cup of coffee.”   I assume the confused expression on my ten-year-old face is what sparked him to elaborate: After the war ended, soldiers were treated with kindness by everyone.  Although civilians did not want to hear anything about the war that “didn’t involve heroes,” they showered the returning GIs with respect, gratitude, and gifts (including job offers).  Bill also didn’t want to engage in war stories talk.  He found the eagerness of the nation to “get on with it” and look to the future to be helpful to him as he strove to forget/push aside his memories of what he’d seen and done in The War.

One “memory” he brought home with him was a German Shepard. He’d found the dog during one of his last maneuvers before he was hospitalized – somewhere in France, when he and his unit were patrolling a battle site. The dog, dehydrated and starving but still vigilant, was guarding the corpse of its (presumed) handler, a German soldier.

 

A scenario akin to this, only the Nazi was dead.

 

Bill spoke some German to the dog, shared his water and rations with it, and the dog transferred its loyalty to Bill.  The doctors at the hospital where Bill was treated agreed to let him keep it, and he was able to get it shipped back to the States with him.

Bill loved that dog  (I can’t remember what he named it; something ala, “Scout”). However, everyone he met back in the States was wary of it, and for good reason. The dog was huge, and would “greet” anyone who came to see Bill by silently approaching them (it supposedly never barked or growled), rearing up on its hind legs, resting its front paws on the visitor’s shoulders, and baring its teeth and looking them straight in the eyes, as if it were pondering, “Hmmm, should I rip your throat out, or go for the eyes first?”   Bill would speak to the dog in German, then he’d (attempt to) reassure his visitor:

“He won’t hurt you, but don’t make any sudden moves.”

Erva was terrified of the dog, as were Bill’s neighbors, who complained to his landlord about having to live next to a dangerous animal.   [5]  After they’d been dating several weeks, Erva told Bill, “It’s me or the dog,” and Bill found it another home.   [6]

*   *   *

After completing their paratrooper training and before shipping out to Europe, Bill and his paratrooper unit (company? regiment? whatever the terminology, it consisted of 105 men) shared their respective family contact info and made a pact to have a reunion after the war – the original 105 of them, no matter what outfits/companies/regiments they ended up being transferred to.  One of the men made good on that promised and organized the reunion a year after the war ended…but there were only five of the original 105 left alive.  The rest had died, in combat or in paratroop jump “accidents.” Of the five, Bill was the only one who had not been seriously injured (he’d twisted his ankle diving into a foxhole during a mortar attack at the Battle of the Bulge, but had never been shot or stabbed during combat, as the other survivors had been).

Those figures blow my mind, as an illustration of how much “action” Bill and his original company saw: a casualty rate of over 99% and a death rate of 95%.

 

 

Bill O’Malley’s paratrooper dress jacket.

 

 

Chet regretted that he didn’t keep his paratrooper dress jacket.   [7]   When Erva was dying,   [8]  she told my parents that she wanted Chet to have Bill’s jacket.   Bill and Chet had bonded over their paratrooper service, and Erva told me that Chet was Bill’s favorite of his “Hole Sisters” brothers-in-law.    [9]

 

*   *   *

May you have fun going through your attic;
May you remember that you don’t need 90% of what you put in your attic years ago, certain that you might “need it some day;”
May you share your family stories while you still can;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Erva O’Malley, nee Hole, was your grandma Marion’s eldest sister.

[2] The 82nd Airborne Division, first formed during WWI as an infantry division, earned the nickname “All-American” because, unlike the other army divisions at the time, its soldiers hailed from all 48 states.  The 82nd’s uniforms had a double “A” design shoulder patch insignia.

[3] A Thompson machine gun.

[4] Chet said Bill kept getting reassigned to regiments and infantries and squads – still within the 82nd division.  After battles with heavy casualties if the army needed you elsewhere, they sent you elsewhere, sometimes without the “proper” documentation, and soldiers went where they were told to go.  Chet was not sure of the numbers/names of the various infantries, companies, etc., Bill served with, and since Bill seldom talked about the war, the few times Bill was willing to offer information Chet just listened and didn’t press for such bureaucratic details.

[5] Presumably the dog, and not Bill.

[6] With another GI who’d served in the ETO.

[7] When Chet was discharged after the war he was given a train ticket home, and had limited luggage capacity – he  was unable to fit the paratrooper jacket into his suitcase (and was already wearing his uniform and two other jackets on top of that) and gave it to a GI buddy at the train station.

[8] From lung cancer, in 1998.  Bill died from a burst aortic aneurysm in 1969. He was 51.

[9] The Hole family sisters, now deceased:  Erva, Gwen, Ruth, and your grandma Marion.

The Blog Post I Wasn’t Planning On

Comments Off on The Blog Post I Wasn’t Planning On

Noteworthy science podcast anecdotes; musings on how we understand, use (and misuse) the term “educated;” wondering how and why some people can believe in the efficacy of intercessory prayer; a bad pun or two; the last Partridge of the Week, etc.  I don’t know if the subjects I had planned to address in today’s post were more profound, but they were certainly more fun, than…this.

As in, What. Happened. On. Wednesday.

“It is my considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not.”
(Vice President Mike Pence, 1-6-21, in a letter to members of Congress.  From “Pence defies Trump, says he can’t reject electoral votes,” apnews.com )

“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done….”
( #45‘s tweet, after Vice President Mike Pence acknowledged he does not have the power to throw out electoral votes )

*   *   *

Someone needs to be shot for insurrection. 

If #45 had the cojones he accused Pence of lacking, he‘d call a press conference, resign, then blow his brains out   [1] on live television.  He‘d get the “biggliest ratings, ever!” which is and always has been his ultimate concern.

*   *   *

 

Prevoskhodno! This is all going according to plan.”

 

*   *   *

 

How many times did I read or hear, during the last four years,

“Yeah, I know he (#45) is a dick a horrible person as a person, but I’m voting for him because of ______ (conservative policy).”

As friend MM so succinctly put it,

“Everyone who voted for Trump for tax cuts and judges, you own this.”

 

*   *   *

What was it that the anti-Vietnam war protestors chanted as they were beaten by Chicago police in 1968?

“The whole world is watching.”

 

 

And they were.  And we are.

*   *   *

Department Of Get Him Out, Now.  How Can You Not?

Congress: Impeach. Invoke the 25th amendment#45 is clearly “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”    [2]   Get the SCOTUS to lead a squad of Capitol Police to arrest him.  Whatever it takes.

Please, no cries of, “But we only have to hang on another two weeks, for the good of the country…”

No.

For the good of the country,
he
needs to go. Would *anyone else* who had fomented a riot – committed sedition – *not* be held accountable?

For the good of the country,
his
legacy, as MH put it, “needs to be appropriate.”

For the good of the country,
we cannot let strongman hooliganism subvert or even delay our democratic processes.

For the good of the country,
we need to show the world – we need to show ourselves – that we have not become another anarchic banana republic our laws and ideals have actual meaning.

And, if he is allowed to just…leave, do you really want any portion of your tax dollars to go to his presidential pension?  $219,000 a year, for the rest of his deplorable life, living among whatever other deplorables can stand to abide with him?   [3]

 

“A Russian dacha or a North Korean apartment – your choice, Comrade.”

*   *   *

May we get the kind of honest, decent, compassionate leadership we need;
May you-know-who finally get what he deserves;
May circumstances allow moiself  to return to “regular programming” next week;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Not to worry; it’d be a small splatter, considering the target.

[2] Section 4, 25th Amendment to the US Constitution.

[3] There need to be more footnotes, but the only appropriate footnote regarding this deranged disaster of democracy is an unending torrent of FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK !!!

The Good Old Days I’m Not Remembering

Comments Off on The Good Old Days I’m Not Remembering

Department Of The Joke I Wish Was Not So Spot-On Descriptive

Q. How many Republicans does it take to change a light bulb?
A. None; #45 just says it’s been changed and the rest of them sit in the dark and applaud.

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Good Old Days Are More Old Than Good

Why is nostalgia like grammar?
We find the present tense and the past perfect.   [1]

Thanks to the podcast Curiosity Daily, moiself  has learned that there is a classification for the nostalgic lens with which my mother viewed the stories of her childhood. In the podcast’s August 13 episode, one of the topics was nostalgia.

Nostalgia is a sentimentality for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations…..
Nostalgia’s definition has changed greatly over time. Consistent with its Greek word roots meaning “homecoming” and “pain,” nostalgia was for centuries considered a potentially debilitating and sometimes fatal medical condition expressing extreme homesickness. The modern view is that nostalgia is an independent, and even positive, emotion that many people experience often. Occasional nostalgia has been found to have many functions, such as to improve mood, increase social connectedness, enhance positive self-regard, and provide existential meaning.
( excerpts from Wikipedia entry on nostalgia )

Specifically, the podcast focused on the fact that the folks who study such things (nostal-geologists, as I like to think of them) have classified nostalgia into two types: restorative versus reflective nostalgia.

Restorative nostalgia is when you feel like things used to be better in the past, and you long to relive or even reconstruct the way (you think) that things were.  Reflective nostalgia involves recognizing your wistful feelings about how things used to be, and admitting you sometimes long for the old days even as you accept the fact that the past is past and that your perceptions of that past are probably biased.

 

 

I had an immediate, visceral reaction to hearing the names and descriptions of the two types of nostalgia;  Moiself  felt like I’d won a jackpot of sorts, in having a spot-on term for the kind of “looking back” my mother preferred to do.

My mother was quite willing to share her stories of growing up in the small northern Minnesota town of Cass Lake.  I frequently asked my parents about their childhoods, as I found their stories entertaining, fascinating, and ultimately revealing (even as I later found out about all of the concealing that was going on).  My father was the more skillful storyteller, both in the entertaining way he presented his stories and, as my siblings and I discovered in our adulthood, in his deftness at deflecting or avoiding talking about certain times of his life.    [2]   But this space, today, is for my mother’s restorative nostalgia.

As a child I’d observed that adults had this thing for “the good old days.” Although my mother didn’t present her stories with that introduction, the forthright manner in which she presented How Things Were Back Then ® made me astonished by the idea that anyone would pine for the olden days.

Restorative nostalgia: even as that kind of rose-colored-glasses/longing for the past is understandable, I’ve come to believe that it is ultimately not helpful, and can even be damaging.  Besides being unreal – you can’t and go back and make things the way they were – restorative nostalgia is, or should be, undesirable, for any rational person. When I have met people who really and truly seem to wish for “the way things were,” I sometimes want to bitch slap them into reality…

 

 

…and ask them, Have you fully considered the totality of that “safe space” you think you long for…and would you be willing to take everything else that came with it?

Those “simpler times” for which many people wax nostalgic included the not-so-simple realities of massive (and oft-times life-threatening) racial, gender, and sexual orientation repression and discrimination.

“Wait a minute, Mom – I remember you telling me…”  became my unintentional mantra, when it came to listening to my mother’s restorative nostalgia.  And after I had pointed out what, in my opinion, needed pointing out, she would respond with a somewhat conciliatory, “Oh yes, well, there was that….”

One day when I was visiting my parents back during the first Gulf War, I brought up the subject of current events.  My mother began telling me about how she found herself “pining for” the days of World War II, aka, “The Good War.”

Uh….Mom…those were days when the WORLD was at WAR.

“Oh yes, well, there was that… but, she continued, everyone knew each other in the town, and they all pulled together, and there was a feeling of solidarity….

I tried to validate that for her, then gently asked her if the pulling-together part made up for that awful day when the news came about the small town’s Bright Shining Hope:  the Cass Lake High School star athlete and recent graduate, beloved by all and engaged to a local girl, was killed in combat in Europe. The news devastated the town.  And didn’t she remember telling me about how horrible it was when the “telegraph truck” drove down Main Street, and when people saw it coming they ran into their houses, as if they could hide from the bad news, as if their shut doors would mean that the notice of a husband/brother/son/cousin who was KIA or MIA or wounded would pass on to another family….  And didn’t she remember telling me how “sick to death” she was by the adults who used the war to excuse their incompetence and blunders that had nothing to do with wartime circumstances, but if you tried to bring it to their attention or ask them to correct their mistakes, they’d sneer at you and say, “Don’t you know there’s a war on?!” and you’d be accused of being unpatriotic if you said anything after that?

 

 

“Oh yes, well, there was that….”  But things were “simpler” back then, in the old town/small town days, she declared. 

Well, maybe, I said…but “simple” doesn’t always equate to better, or even good.  And it seems far from simple – it seems complicated, even frightening, to me – to ponder much of what people had to navigate back then.

What would that be, she wondered?  She said she liked to remember the simple days, like the time when she and a friend walked back to their respective homes late one night after a school activity – they thought nothing of walking home after dark because they were safe from danger in a small town, and she’s thought of that over the years, when she couldn’t sleep until her own school-age children were home because she worried about us being out after dark….

“But wait a minute, Mom….”   you had so many dangers back then that we don’t have now. Maybe you felt safe walking home at dark, but I remember the rest of that story you told me:  the very next morning, when you went to your friend’s house to walk with her to school like you did on every school day, you saw the frightening QUARANTINE! sign on her front door.  Your friend had been stricken – overnight, seemingly out of nowhere – with polio and was being kept alive by an iron lung, and your parents were almost frantic with fear, thinking you might also be infected.   And over the years I’ve heard about children in your small town who were crippled, even blinded and deafened, by diseases for which we now have vaccines and/or cures….

 

Quarantine sign, Polio. 2005.3080.07.

 

“Oh yes, well, there was that….”  But still, she insisted, people were friendlier back then. They pulled together, and put aside their differences to cooperate as equals – being a good citizen meant something, back then.

“But wait a minute, Mom…. The “everyone pulling together” did not, in fact, include everyone.  Some citizens were more equal than others.  Don’t you remember telling me about “the Indian kids,” who were required by law to go to public school until age 13, after which they all dropped out, and how they all sat in the back of the class and the teachers rarely spoke to them and they never spoke in class?  You said, when I asked about their tribal affiliation, that you thought there were “at least two kinds of them,”    [3]  but you didn’t know what the “kinds” were – none of the whites did, because they weren’t interested and didn’t bother to find out, even though all the whites in town knew who was Norwegian-American and who was German- or Swedish-American…and that sometimes you felt bad for the Indians because you knew they had gone from being the majority to a minority in their own land….

And you told me about a high school girl who befriended the son of the only Chinese family in town – a family that had to constantly remind everyone during “The Good War” that they were Chinese, not Japanese – but this girl’s parents forced her to stop even speaking with him because they were horrified by the idea that their daughter might want to date “an Oriental”…. and when that Chinese family opened a grocery store because they couldn’t shop at the other stores in town during regular hours   [4]  no one patronized their store, and they were unable to make a living and moved to another town….

 

 

“Oh yes, well, there was that….”   Still, it was so much fun, the carefree high school days, she said, asking me if I remembered her telling me how she got to be lead saxophone player in the marching band (in such a small school in such a small town, if you played an instrument, you got to be in the band) and was valedictorian of her high school?  You know, back then, the teachers knew all the students and their families; they took a personal interest in their students, and everyone was so nice….

“But wait a minute, Mom…. What about the fact that your mother had to call the school principal and fight to get you into the physics class, because the physics teacher refused to “waste my time teaching science to girls”?  And then, after the principal forced the teacher to accept the two top students in Cass Lake High School – two girls, you and your best friend, Dorothy K – into his class, the teacher refused to speak to you or call on you when you raised your hand, and said openly to you and Dorothy on the first day of class that although it was against his will he’d been ordered to allow them in his classroom, and he grudgingly agreed to teach Dorothy because, “It’s obvious that she will have to work for a living.”

 

 

“Oh yes, well, there was that….”

Then, without a modicum of introspection or self-awareness, my mother said, “Oh well, it turned out I never found physics to be very interesting….”

Well, of course not – why would you have?!?!?!  You were actively discouraged from being interested in it! The teacher paid no attention to you – he didn’t care if you learned anything. He had to give you an A because you read the required materials, aced all of the tests, and all the other students knew you had the top grade in the class.

And what about the way your best friend, Dorothy K, was treated?  Because she was “disfigured” – a botched forceps delivery damaged her facial muscles, causing the right side of her face to droop, as if she’d had a stroke – Dorothy was raised to accept the “fact” that because she lacked the most important feminine asset – a pleasing face – no man would ever want to date, much less marry her, and that she would need to make her own way in the world…in a world where the same men who would not consider her romantic partner material were also predisposed to not consider her their intellectual or professional equal….

“Oh yes, well, there was that….” 

And that job you had, after your junior college graduation: you worked as a secretary at the post office, and you said it drove you nuts, how the clerk was so incompetent and you often ended up doing his duties (but of course you didn’t get paid for doing so), and you knew you could do the job better but when you asked the manager you were told that, as a woman, you weren’t eligible to even apply for such a position…and how you were saving up your money to buy a car, but as soon as you were married you had to quit your job, because a married woman couldn’t work at the post office….

“Oh yes, well, there was that….”

and that…and that…and that…and that….

The incidents – read: life – my mother told me about…how do I explain this?  She never told those stories as examples of hardship or discrimination.  She presented them matter-of-factly, and often seemed to be befuddled by how gob-smacked I was to hear them.  To her, that was just the way things were; I heard the between-the-lines details – hardship and fear, racism and discrimination – that didn’t even, technically, require me to read between the lines, as they were, to me, glaringly overt…even as those details were, to her, not the point of her stories.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Dorothy Is Not In Kansas Anymore

I met my mother’s friend, the afore-mentioned, legendary (to moiself ), Dorothy K, only once.  I was in college, home for a visit, and my mother excitedly told me that her friend Dorothy was returning to the States after her latest overseas trip, and had arranged to take a flight to LAX. My parents picked up Dorothy at the airport and brought her to their house, where she stayed overnight until she caught a flight back to her home.    [5]  

I was somewhat enthralled with the idea of Dorothy: over the years, I’d heard about how she was a chemist, made good money, and spent her free time travelling around the world.  When I finally met her I remember thinking how attractive I found her to be – she had “good bones,” and I couldn’t help but wonder how her life would have been, sans that incompetent doctor forceps mishap.

Part of my enthrallment came via comparing her life to my mom’s.  Moiself  (ungraciously, I know) saw my mother as a staid homemaker, someone who worked all day but never got paid and who had never been anywhere except for Cass Lake and Santa Ana. And here is her friend, with a career in science, who travels the globe….

I later thought of the ironies of Dorothy’s life, including the fact that the characteristic which made her “damaged goods” in the eyes of her culture is also what allowed her to go to college and work in fields that were closed to women in that time.  Her disfigurement essentially neutered her in the eyes of males; thus, she presented no threat of “distraction” (i.e., of them being sexually attracted to her).  Although I’ve little doubt that she faced discrimination (she shared a few stories with me, about always being the only woman in her department), it was as if she were a third gender: since men didn’t see her as a woman she was less of a threat to male colleagues, in terms of them having to consider that they were being equaled, or even bested, by a woman.

My mother (privately, years after Dorothy’s visit) admitted to me that she sometimes wondered what it would like to be Dorothy, whom she saw as independent and carefree.  And I wondered, is that how Dorothy saw herself?  Considering the culture she was raised in, instead of fully embracing her life – her career and the intellect she was allowed to develop – did she ever compare herself to, say, my mother?  Did she in any way envy my mother for having a husband and children – for having the life Dorothy was told would not be possible for her, even as it was the only/ultimate/proper life to which a girl was supposed to aspire? Or, did she look at my mother’s life and find it…tedious, and limited?

Such questions haunt me, whenever I think of Dorothy.  I wish I could ask her, but she died several years before my mother did. I can only hope that whatever nostalgia Dorothy dabbled in, that it was reflective, and brought her satisfaction.

 

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

You know what seems odd to me?
Numbers that aren’t divisible by two.

 

 

And I also vote for more nerd puns in this space.

*   *   *

May your nostalgia be reflective;
May you live in the present with your eyes open;  [6]

May you change the damn lightbulb when it needs changing;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Couldn’t find attribution for this old pun.

[2] In last week’s post, I mentioned a few of them. My father died not knowing his adult children had found just how poor (and dysfunctional) his family was, and that he’d never graduated (nor even attended) high school because his father forced all his children to drop out of school at age 13. And when I found this out, some missing pieces fell into place; I realized that all the stories Dad had told about his youth, to his children, were carefully told to hide those details.  For example, we’d made assumptions that the job he talked about having “after school” was part-time, when in fact he was working fulltime, when his peers were in school, and we never put the pieces together to realize that the school stories he’d shared were all pre-high school….

[3] The Minnesota Chippewa Tribe and the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe were “two kinds” of indigenous tribes which had settled in the Cass Lake area, centuries before Europeans arrived.

[4] One grocer let the Chinese family shop at his store early, before regular hours, so that the other (white) families wouldn’t see them.

[5] …to wherever that was for her.  I cannot remember; it was in some larger city.  She’d left Cass Lake to go to college, and only returned to that small town to visit her parents, who remained there until their deaths.

[6] Even when it too often involves holding your nose (think: #45 and his primeval toadies) and wishing for a fast track time machine to the future

The “Women And Children” I’m Not Protecting

1 Comment

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

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

*   *   *

Department of Veteran’s Day Reflections

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

We Must Protect The Women And Children.

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

*   *   *

Department Of Another Fitting Movie For Veterans Day

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

 

 

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

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [3]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

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

My rating:

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher    [4]     

*   *   *

Department Of Well Duh

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

“What Brave New World shit is this?”

*   *   *

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

The Cinematic Count So Far

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

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

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

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

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

[4]

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it

* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it

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

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

* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.

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

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

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

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

[6] Which I eventually did.

The Tradition I’m Not Missing Anymore

Comments Off on The Tradition I’m Not Missing Anymore

Department Of How To Find Out If You Really Want To Continue A Tradition

You can take a break from it, and then see how much you miss it, that’s how.   [1]

 

 

 

 

The Ladies Lefse Party, referred to in last week’s post, was a smashing success.  Looks like it’s back on the Yule holiday schedule.  [2]

 

*   *   *

Department Of Food Porn

 

This stunning pavlova was made for the lefse party by JR, a fan of The Great British Baking Show (and excellent pastry/dessert queen in her own right).

We got to eat it; you didn’t. I’m so, so, so very sorry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Lame Excuses For An Almost Content-Free Blog

 

* The altitude

* The (non-existent) War on Christmas

* My Upcoming Birthday

* Still Recovering from the Lefse Ladies’ Licentious Luau   [3]

 

 

But you promised there would be leis and shirtless dancing boys….

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Partridge [4]  Of The Week

As per an earlier warning post, we will be hosting a different Partridge, every week, in our front yard’s festively lit pear tree. Can you guess this week’s guest Partridge?

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you continue the traditions you enjoy;
May you create that which will be tomorrow’s tradition;
May you be mindful of future Partridges;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] This is the first footnote.

[2] Why, look – it’s another footnote.

[3] No leis were distributed, nor Hawaiian kapus violated, in the misuse of this party metaphor.

[4] In our pear tree.

The Pop-Up Ad I’m Not Expecting

1 Comment

Department Of Authenticity

Next week I am hosting my annual Ladies Lefse Party. Well, once upon a time it was an annual event. After a hiatus of two years, following my mother’s death, I’m ready to get back in the saddle – or lefse griddle, that is.

 

 

This versatile appliance can also makes an adequate alien landing pad and/or satellite dish substitute.

 

 

After my paternal grandfather, a full-blooded Norski-American married to a full-blooded Irish-American,  [1]  died (ca. 1963), my grandmother no longer felt up to making the lefse her husband had so adored and that she’d come to love as well.  [2]  My mother’s eldest sister, my late Aunt Erva, lived in Spokane, and after her husband died  [3]  Erva would drive down south every year in autumn, ahead of the first Spokane snowfall, to spend the winter with her mother in Santa Ana. Thus, Erva assumed the mantle of lefse maker in our family. She made meatcakes (Norwegian-spiced meatballs, a traditional lefse accompaniment) as well.

Like many traditional ethnic dishes, lefse has foundational ingredients, and also variants in composition, preparation and serving. Evey family I’ve met who also “do the lefse thing” have their own favorite recipe which, of course, they consider the “most authentic” way to make and eat lefse.

I’ve been making lefse for longer than I can remember. I took Erva’s recipe and evolved it over the years (or made it “kooky,” as Erva would likely say  [4] ).  The lefse is still delicious, if dairy-free, and the “meat”cakes I make are now sans meat (a plant-based version, main ingredient tempeh).  Back when I did eat (some) meat I used ground turkey when I made meatcakes, instead of Erva’s more traditional pork-beef blend, but what with my using the distinctive/traditional spices  [5] my parents said, when they were  guest at my Christmas Eve table, that they couldn’t taste the difference. Still, moiself always felt my version was missing that certain tinge of maternal family authenticity, which, I came to realize, had nothing to do with the kind of ground meat used.  Here is the “flavoring” my versions of meatcakes have always lacked:

(1)  an overly crisp exterior (read: I didn’t burn them, which Erva did without fail);   [6]

(2)  the ash from Erva’s cigarette.    [7]

 

 

What other key ingredients am I missing? One tablespoon repression, ¼ cup disillusionment with life choices….

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Look Who’s Talking, Considering What’s On The Back Of My Car….

Dateline: Monday morning, on my way to yoga class. I’m driving behind a big ass truck that has three bumper stickers, which I read when I’m stopped at a traffic light and which get me to wondering about what goes through someone’s mind when they purchase and then apply to their vehicle stickers which proclaim,

My grandson is a Marine

and

Gulf War Veteran

My car’s stickers are a combination of puns/whimsy and opinionating, meant to make a few salient or silly points or in a (hopefully) humorous manner.

 

 

 

 

 

The truck’s third bumper sticker was some variation on the Gun Control Means Using Both Hands rant, and while I disagree with those stickers’ inherent pro-firearms sentiments, I appreciate the jests of the message. As for the previous two stickers I mentioned, I’m curious: why does the person driving that truck think it’s important for moiself, the person stuck behind them in traffic, to know that their grandson is a marine, or that they (the truck’s driver) are a veteran of the Gulf – or any – War? Is it because, as son K has opined, [8]  they want, blatantly or slyly, to brag (ala, My Child Is An Honors Student At Schlemfarght Junior High School   [9] ),  or have people think highly of them and/or give them receive special treatment because they’ve been in the military?

Perhaps a more generous interpretation would be to ask questions re their motivation along the lines of, Is it that they take pride in their family’s history of military service and/or they wish to raise awareness of such in a society where such service is not mandatory?

Of course, it’s much more petty (read: fun) to impugn their motives using the scant evidence available.

Anyway…just curious.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of ‘Tis The Season For Surprises

Dateline: Wednesday am, 12/5. After posting a Happy Krampusnacht message on Facebook I went to my yoga class. After class, when I turned my cellphone on, I saw this message from daughter Belle:

MOM
You gotta change that link you posted on fb about krampus
The very first thing you see when you open it is a huge picture
of someone’s VERY spread open butthole
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry

 

 

 

 

Before I could panic, the message continued:

Wait I just clicked on it again and it wasn’t there????
I’m sorry I don’t know what’s going on haha
I think I might have gotten a very terrible pop-up ad?

I quickly checked link I’d posted on FB – as intended, it merely led to the Wikipedia article on Krampusnacht. I haven’t heard any other OOPS feedback, so if any of y’all followed the link and got the…unexpected pop up…Happy Holidays!

 

 

Well, maybe some of us prefer the other picture.

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Partridge [10]  Of The Week

As per an earlier warning post, I will be hosting a different Partridge, every week, in my front yard. Can you guess this week’s guest Partridge?

 

 

           

*   *   *

 

 

May you evolve your own holiday culinary traditions;
May you have patience with those of us who don’t give a flying fart
where your child is an honor student;
May you enjoy the petty thrill of impugning the motives of strangers;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

 

[1] That was considered somewhat of a mixed marriage in Northern Minnesota;however,  “Bapa” (my Irish grandma) told me that her husband’s parents would have considered it “worse” if he “had married a Swede.”

[2] No great surprise that an Irishwoman took to loving something which is essentially a potato tortilla.

[3] In the later 1960s.

[4] “Kooky” was Erva’s catch-all descriptor for things of which she did not approve, which could range from one’s choice of life partner to haircut or clothing to your career or political opinions. Deciding to open a boutique, which the wife of one of my cousins did, was, according to Erva, “a kooky thing to do.”

[5] Nutmeg; allspice;, white pepper.

[6] She swore that’s the only way you could tell if they were “done.”

[7] More than once I “caught” Erva in grandma’s kitchen frying the meatcakes, a cigarette clenched between her lips, the cigarette’s inch long ash column precipitously dangling over the frying pan.

[8] K is very, very, “unfond” of such announcement-type bumper stickers.

[9] I love those immodest stickers for one really great reason: they led to the plethora of “response” or parody stickers which read, e.g., “My golden retriever is smarter than your honor student.”

[10] In our pear tree.

The Sights I’m Not Lowering

Comments Off on The Sights I’m Not Lowering

Department Of Check The Definition Before You Use The Word

progressive
adjective

pro·gres·sive  \ prə-ˈgre-siv \

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

(Merriam Webster Dictionary)

Y’all get the idea.

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

Hell yeah.

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

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

So, yeah.

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

 

 

You talkin’ to me?

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

 

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

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

[3] E.g. the Magdalene Laundries.

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

The N-Joke I’m Not Telling

2 Comments

 

 

Department Of We’d All Understand If They Banned Lutefisk Immigration

“Between 1825 and 1925, over 850,000 Norwegians entered the United States. In those hundred years, around one-third of Norway’s population crossed the Atlantic.
Other than Ireland no other European country lost a larger proportion of its population to out-migration.”

(from “Why bestemor never taught you Norwegian– Norwegian immigrants to the US had it easier than many from other countries, but still faced xenophobic pressure—and legislation—that forced assimilation,” The Norwegian American, January 12, 2018)

It was interesting for moiself to come across that quote this week. The majority of my ancestors were from Ireland and Norway – does this mean I’m the product of double native-population-reducing out-migration?

Anyone of Norse ancestry might enjoy reading the entire article. It contains snippets of history/facts I’ve run across before, from various sources, but, like a bucket of pickled herring, it’s nice to have a lot of it corralled in one source.  [1]

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Elephant (Still) In The Room

Disclaimer: That Was Not A Thinly (ha ha) Disguised Oprah Weight Joke

 

The Secret is not only drivel—it’s pernicious drivel. The obvious question that arises from its claim that it’s easy to get what you want, is: Why (then) do so many people get what they don’t want?  As (The Secret’s author) writes, “Imperfect thoughts are the cause of all humanity’s ills, including disease, poverty, and unhappiness.” Yes, according to The Secret, people don’t just randomly end up being massacred, for example. They are in the wrong place because of their own lousy thinking. Cancer patients have long been victims of this school of belief. But The Secret takes it to a new and more repulsive level with its advice not just to blame people for their illness, but to shun them, lest you start being infected by their bummer thoughts, too.
(from “I’ve Got The Secret: What happened when I followed the best-selling book’s advice for two months,” Emily Yoffe, slate.com 5-7-2007)

 

Bear with me – the above excerpt will be relevant in a paragraph or two.

 

 

 

 

Seeing as how the average American’s attention span in minutes is inversely proportional to their waist size in inches, perhaps the Oprah For President meme is already a thing of the past. In case it isn’t….

Indeed, Oprah Winfrey’s sermon speech at the Golden Gloves Awards was stirring. Add that to her list of multi-faceted-if-eponym-centric  [2]   professional accomplishments, and I can understand the desire many people have re a draft-Oprah for president movement. Certainly, the wish for someone at the nation’s helm who is articulate and compassionate is a sincere one, and since the bar has been set so low…if one reality TV star masquerading as a successful businessperson can “win” [3] the Presidency, why not another TV star who actually is a successful businessperson?

 

 

Your point, although problematic, is a logical one.

 

 

But.  There is a really big but here.  [4]

On the one hand, Ms. Winfrey has built quite the media empire. She is obviously and exceptionally experienced and talented in the fields of media/broadcasting, TV and movie producing (and acting), and is known for her philanthropy. She has the proven ability to inspire and motivate her audience, and her rags-to-riches, self-made success story is appealing across a wide political and cultural spectrum. From what I know of how she runs her “empire,” should she ascend to a position of politician power I think it likely she would surround herself with a good advisers in the various fields over which she had jurisdiction, and actually and actively seek their input.

On the other hand…you have different fingers.

 

 

 

 

Sorry.  [5]

On the other hand, Oprah’s other fingers have a long history of supporting, or at least giving voice to (and thus, in many minds, credence) what can only be called dangerous batshit crazy bullshit generously be called, junk science.  I am far from the only person who is concerned about this tendency of hers.

During her 25-year reign as host of The Oprah Winfrey Show, Oprah repeatedly showed a weakness for crackpots and quack medical theories. One could even argue that she’s one of the most powerful enablers of cranks on the planet.
(“Oprah’s long history with junk science –
She may be the most powerful crank enabler on the planet.” Vox 1/9/2018)

From The Secret and its odious – and deadly –   “law of Attraction” horseshit, to huckster “medical” “experts” (we have Oprah to thank for doctors Oz’s and Phil’s media careers,) to anti-vaccine mouth foamers  to carnival trickster/faith healers (remember the forceps-up-your-nose-cancer-cure faith healer, “John of God,” ? ).

So you’ll excuse me if I don’t jump on the Oprah Winfrey bandwagon for 2020. Even if there wasn’t all that credulity towards New Age bullshit like The Secret, I’d still say that replacing one celebrity with no government experience with another celebrity with no administrative experience is not the way to get out of the era of Trump. (The same goes for you, too, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson!) That Oprah is not a hateful person compared to Donald Trump is not enough, particularly given that she’s almost as bad on science and critical thinking as he is.
(from the science-promoting,  pseudoscience/misinformation/conspiracy theory-exposing blog, Respectful Insolence, 1-9-2018)

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Other N Word

There is an N-word I can use, because I’m one of them. How delighted I am to be able to tell the rare, Norwegian-Irish joke.

A Norwegian and an Irishman apply for the same job at a firm in Dublin. Both the Irishman and the Norwegian do so well in the interview the boss can’t decide who to hire, so he sets up a small aptitude test. Both men score the same: 19/20 correct. After some consideration the boss calls the Irishman into his office and says, “I’m sorry, although you both scored the same on the test, we’ve decided to hire the Norwegian.”

“Surely, me being Irish would mean you would give the job to me instead of a foreigner!” The Irishman rants on and on about looking after the locals etc.

“It’s like this,” the boss replies. “We didn’t make the decision based on how many answers you got right…’

The Irishman, still angry, interrupts the boss. “But we both got only one wrong answer.”

“It’s not how many wrong answers you got,” the boss calmly continues, “It’s the particular answers you both gave to question #7.  The Norwegian wrote, ‘I don’t know’ as his answer. Your answer was, ‘Neither do I.'”

*   *   *

Of course, the ultimate Norwegian joke is that they are not Swedish.

 

 

*   *   *

 

 

May you always be mindful of the other hand;
May you be judicious in your own use of your own N-word and N-jokes;
May we all dare hope for a non-celebrity 2020 Presidential candidate;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] So you know whom to blame.

[2] It’s so bizarre, how everything in her world has to have her name: The Oprah show; O magazine (with her O-ness pictured on every cover; OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network)….

[3] Except that, he didn’t actually win…only the shameful relic from our past, the embarrassing, slave-state appeasing Electoral College constitutional provision, allowed the Cheetos Hitler to assume #45-ness.

[4] Not another veiled Oprah weight joke here, and shame of you for even thinking that.

[5] No, I’m not.

The Lefse I’m Not Rolling

Comments Off on The Lefse I’m Not Rolling

For almost three decades many years, on the second Wednesday in December, I have hosted a Ladies Lefse Party  [1], as mentioned here and here and here and….  And yes, the soiree was Ladyfolk only, much to the chagrin of the Many Fine Gentlemen I Know Who Also Like To Make Lefse. ®  [2]   

 

 

“This is how we roll, homie.”

Norwegian Americans – does this culture know from fun, or what?  [3]

 

There was no Ladies Lefse Party last year – not in my house, that is (Ægir only knows what sordid celebrations were held in the nether neighborhoods of Minnesota  [4]).  I had the privilege of recognizing I needed to take (and being able to do so) a control-alt-delete sabbatical (as written about here ) which I did…or tried to do…in early-mid December.

December 2016 turned out to be quite the month for tempests, both meteorological and personal.  Winter storm Caly brought snow/ice/freezing rain to regions of NW Oregon which rarely get such extreme weather and thus aren’t equipped to adequately deal with it (read: power outages, road closures, accidents, flight cancellations….).  I returned early from my sabbatical to work around the weather re scheduling travel to attend the memorial service for a beloved friend/ mentor/former employer…just as my mother’s health precipitously deteriorated.  Coordinating with my other siblings’ visits to our mother’s home (Santa Ana, CA) I booked another flight: for the day after Christmas. 

I found out early Christmas morning, minutes before K arrived to open stockings and presents with MH and Belle and I, that my mother had died late the previous evening (my mother’s live-in caretaker wanted to spare us the sad news on Christmas Eve.).

 

 

 

 

 

A few months ago, looking ahead to the holiday season, I was anticipating the lefse party.  Now I ‘m thinking, give it one more year It’s good to take a break from the usual routines every now and then – even from those which bring you great joy – if only because doing so makes you more appreciative when you resume them. This is what I tell myself. However, all I know right now is this: it makes me feel sad to realize that I will not be able to call my mother after the party. No matter how foggy and/or fearful her brain could be in the last years of her life, she always perked up when I told her about the lefse parties. She was able to follow the narrative and share stories and recollections of her own. I think – I hope – the distance of another year will enable the fond memories to mute the bouts of heartache.   

 

*   *   *

Department Of There’s Nothing Like Dissing White Trash  [5]
To Segue From A Poignant Topic

 

Dateline: Wednesday morning, out walking at 7 am. Heading for a neighborhood park, I pass the house that always has at least three or four muscle cars parked in the driveway and/or on the lawn.  I arrive just as one of the cars is being warmed up by its driver, who revs the engine, over and over (the resulting cacophony is surely appreciated by the neighbors).  Plumes of gray-white smoke chortle, pop and chug from the car’s custom, over-sized tailpipe, and I think, So, when the driver’s a flaming asshole he makes sure his car has one, too?

The unmuffled engine farts increases as the driver backs down the driveway and shifts into first gear. I am tempted to chase after the car and tap on the window with my walking pole. In my brief but oh-so satisfying fantasy, the driver stops the car,  rolls down the window, and I inform him, with a look of grave concern on my face, “Excuse me, sir, but there is obviously something really wrong with your dick car.”

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of I Can’t Make Up This Shit
Installment 346.5

 

 “There are two sides to this coin. We have to own up to the fact that women, since time immemorial, have gone out of their way to make themselves attractive. And unfortunately it has backfired on us — and this is where we are today….. We must sometimes take blame, women. I really do think that. Although it’s awful to say we can’t make ourselves look as attractive as possible without being knocked down and raped.”
(Angela Lansbury says women must ‘sometimes take blame’ for sexual harassment,
CNN, 11-28-17)

 

Oh, ick.

Or, to play on the title of Lansbury’s most famous acting gig, Horseshit, She Said.

When I first saw Lansbury’s name trending in social media, moiself thought that yet another formerly bright star was going to be featured in the upcoming Emmy, Tony and Academy Awards roll call of the dead.  Turns out…not. Unless those shows also decide to run a tribute for the brain-dead.

 

 

Oh, that’s just mean.

 

 

 

Actually, I’m going easy here.

Ever have that reaction where you cringe in embarrassment for someone else, when you read about what that Someone Else has said or done?  Please, Angela darling, a follow-up: the world eagerly awaits your opinion as to how sexual assault victims, from three year old girls to 94 year old retired nuns in nursing homes, can own up to “the fact” that their efforts to “make themselves attractive” backfired.

Angela Lansbury, the (formerly?) beloved stage, film and television (Murder, She Wrote) actor, is 92. She’ll be given – rightly, perhaps – a certain amount of slack for the mind-jaw-bobbling-ignorance-revealing statements she made, in an interview with a British magazine, about the Hollywood sexual assault and harassment scandals. And I’m not going to read any of the excuses, because I can pretty much guess what they’ll sound like:

Oh this is so pathetic but remember, she’s 92; she’s from another era; she’s really old; she’s a prime example of just how entrenched misogyny and the patriarchy are; she’s in her 90s; she’s from a time where women had to look the other way and *not* rock the boat if they wanted to get ahead…and did I mention how old she is?

As to the shit I can’t make up: guess what Ms. Lansbury’s first film role was? It couldn’t be the one about a woman who is manipulated so persistently and successfully by a man she trusts that she begins to doubt what is all around her? Yep; it was Gaslight.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Even More Puerile Entertainment

During the last few weeks MH and I have been going to furniture stores, checking out their various counter stools/bar chair models. Last Sunday eve, as we wandered the aisles of Dania[6] I confessed to MH that when we are at such venues and are inevitably approached [7]  by a salesperson who asks, “May I be of assistance?” I’m having a hard time refraining from replying, “We’d like to see your stool samples.”

 

 

That’s so im-ma-chur I could barf.

*   *   *

 

May your age never excuse your ignorance;
May the size of your car’s tailpipe reflect your acceptance of your attributes;
May your immature thoughts be the delight (or bane) of furniture salespeople;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Tortilla; chapatti; matzoh; lavash; injera…flatbreads are common throughout the world. Lefse, the Norwegian flatbread, is made from potatoes and flour.

[2] And who, like so many of the fine men I know, never organize their own such parties, but just complain about not being invited to the women’s gigs.

[3] Fortunately, the Irish half of me is dominant.

[4] Ægir  is the Norse god of partying.

[5]  I realize many people are offended by that label. However, analogous to African-Americans who use the N-word, I come from a long line of WT and thus feel entitled to apply the epithet judiciously.

[6] Where we purchased a Really Cool Lamp ® on sale…but nothing else.

[7] Why are there no more footnotes?

The Studio I’m Not Touring

1 Comment

Obsessive Attentive readers may recall my post last week; specifically, the rant thoughtful reflection about pretentious author interviews. It seems I was just scratching the ass surface of that subject.

Dateline: Last weekend was the annual Open Studios tour, wherein participating artists in our county (Washington) and Portland open their studios to the public. On Saturday afternoon MH and I had gone to four studios, to see a glass artist, a graphics/printing/letterpress artist, a metal smith, a mixed media craftsperson.

On Sunday I had lunch at a local pub with MH.  While we waited for our food to arrive MH read through the open studio event’s brochure, to see if there were more artists/studios we’d like to see that afternoon. The brochure contains a picture of a signature piece from each artist, along with a first person description of the artist’s history and work – basically, whatever and however the artist wishes to present themself to the public.

As I started to work on a crossword puzzle I heard a faint sound, almost a low moan, coming from across the table.

“Uh…you might want to read this artist’s statement.” MH’s expression was that of impudence mixed with nausea.

“You can read it to me,” I suggested.

“I don’t think I can stand to.”  He passed the brochure to me.  I began to read it aloud, but couldn’t finish the third sentence without hooting.

Growing up on three continents, I have been inspired by much of the world. I now live on 30 breath-taking acres in an old historic hunting lodge, capturing the beauty that surround me. My home studio is a destination in itself…

Moiself: ” ‘My whole life is a destination unto itself! How it sucks to be you, in comparison to me and the beauty which doth surround me…. “ And I thought fiction authors were at the top of the pompous pile.  I am nominating her for honorary author status….”

MH: “Read on. It gets worse.”

Moiself:  “Don’t you mean,’ it gets better?’ Because so far, this is fabulous.”

Turns out, we were both right:

 My home studio is a destination in itself, amidst the wine country of Oregon, with 360 degree views of rolling farm land, Mt Hood and surrounding vineyards.

Educated in Apparel & Textile Design, I was L.L. Bean’s first apparel designer in the 80’s, Nike’s first Apparel Innovation Director in the 90’s, and launched Niketown.com during the dot-com boom. I now teach pastel workshops, amd (sic) I am represented by 6 galleries along the west coast. I am a board member and an award winner of the NW Pastel Society and am published nationally.  [1]

 

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Things That Make Me Shriek At The Breakfast Table

Specifically, a thing which caused me to shriek My mother’s cousin!!! while reading the NY Times Arts section…which gave MH yet another reason to look across the table at me, his head slightly tilted and eyebrows raised in a quizzical manner.

 

 

Like this, I take it?

 

 

 

Yeah, like that.

I had been reading The NY Times review of the movie, The Snowman,  [2]    and began to explain my shriek to MH…

Remember the story I’ve told you, when I was in grade school, and one night at the dinner table my dad was teasing my mom about her name….

For the benefit of those not related to me or who haven’t heard the story,  [3] a wee bit o’ background info: my mother’s birth surname was Hole. [4]. Yes, Hole.  I sometimes teased her, about why her own mother didn’t keep her surname Moran but instead was willing to take on her husband’s…unique…family name: It really must have been love, or desperation….

Yeah, so, the story.  At the family dinner table, occupied as per usual by my parents and their four children (on this particular night oh-so-many years ago, my older sister, younger sister and I were all in grade school, and our brother was an infant):

After my father’s customary So tell me about your day query, we dove into yet another round of thematic banter. Our family dinner table dialogues tended to focus on one subject, which was never (or rarely) intentional or pre-planned, but rather tangential from something which had happened to one of the Parnell siblings  [5] at school. On that evening, I shared a story about a kid who had been teased on the playground about his name – the combination of his first name and last name made for some tease-worthy rhyme schemes.  [6]

Marion Parnell said she felt sorry for the poor boy. Growing up with her particular last name, she knew exactly how he felt:

“My father was always telling my sisters and I how, in Norway, Hole was a respectable, upper class, landowners’ name. I lost track of how many times he told us we should be proud of our  name. He just couldn’t understand how it was for us, because in America, it was just HOLE.  Oh, I heard it all the time, the jokes: ‘Look, here comes Marion Hole, hole-in-the-ground…don’t fall into a hole!’ “

(I had also lost count of how many times I’d heard about Hole-is-a-proud-Norwegian-name assurances, and had come to think that our maternal grandfather had made that up to make our mother feel better.  I’d never heard of anyone, of any ethnic background, with that name.)

 

Still with me? You deserve The Order of the Pretty Purple Toe ® award.

 

 

 

 

My mother took little comfort from me telling her that her peers had been pretty lame in the joke department.  ” ‘Marion Hole-in-the-ground’? I can think of a lot worse things to do with a name like…”

Chester Parnell jumped in, to save me from embarrassing my mother. Or so I thought.

“Well, Robbie Doll, you know what your mom’s middle name is?”

“Yeah, I think so,” I said. “Alberta?”

“That’s right,” Chet nodded enthusiastically. “But you know, she was so beautiful, I never had any second thoughts about marrying an A. Hole.

This produced shrieks of delight from the three Parnell daughters – first from me (my shriek decibel count was boosted by my pride in being the first one to “get it”), followed a few seconds later by my older sister, and then by my younger sister, who probably didn’t get the reference but knew something hilarious must have been said by the way her older sisters and father were reacting.

Mom had that tense/amused, trying-to-be-a-good-sport look on her face.  Dad gazed across the table at her with impish affection – I knew something even better was coming up.

Chester B. Parnell: “Tell them about your cousin.”

Marion A. Hole Parnell (baring her teeth): “I don’t want to tell them about my cousin.”

Chet:  “Tell them about your cousin. What was his name?”

Marion: (muttering) “His name was Harry.”

Chet: “And it wasn’t a nickname – his real name wasn’t Harold? And he didn’t have a middle name – just a first and last name?”

Marion: “That’s right.”

Mom, of course, knew where this was heading. She tried to act as if she were miffed, but I could see the corners of her mouth beginning to twitch.

Chet: “And so his name was…?”

Marion (deep breath): “Harry Hole.”

Professional stand-up comics would kill to get an audience response akin to that which erupted that evening, in the smallest of venues, the Parnell kitchen dining nook.

You’re waiting for the segue, aren’t you?

Back to the present: moiself, reading to MH, from the NY Times review of The Snowman:

There are a couple of mysteries swirling through “The Snowman,” a leaden, clotted, exasperating mess…blah blah blah…Mr. Fassbender plays Harry Hole

 

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Reasons Why This Blog Is So (Relatively) Brief

There are reasons, but I can’t list them, right now. Suffice to say, they are…good.

 

 

 

 

I’ll be out of town most of the week…doing something really wonderful and fun and happy feet dance worthy.

 

 

 

 

I may write about it later. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did I mention that it’s good news?

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you also be afflicted with Happy Dancing Animal Syndrome ®;
May you always remember, should you be called upon to compose one, that someone, somewhere, is actually reading your author/artist’s statement;
May a pun or naughty innuendo resulting from the combination of your first and/or middle/and or surname(s) cause someone to pee their pants with mirth;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] The artist who seems more than a bit taken with herself does do nice work, according to another artist friend of ours (who was equally amused/repulsed by the bio, but said she did enjoy that artist’s actual art).

[2] Because, having seen a preview of it recently, I had no intention of seeing the movie. I never read reviews of movies I intend to see. Just a thing of mine – I don’t want to be prejudiced, or figure out the spoilers.

[3] The latter group would not include anyone within a twenty mile radius of my dining table.

[4] Which is why, once my feminist worldview began to develop, I told her it was completely understandable that she never even considering retaining her birth name upon marriage

[5] Which translates into, usually moiself. Things were always happening to moiself.

[6] And although I remember with vivid clarity the conversation that ensued from me sharing that story about the kid being teased re his name, to this day I cannot recall what the kid’s name was – something along the lines of Bart Katz, which of course got turned into Barfing Cats or Fart Cats or the like.

Older Entries