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The ID I’m Not Showing

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Department Of I Am Going To Wear A Mask!
Everywhere!  Forever!

Dateline: Monday, circa 5 pm.  After seeing a movie I stopped in at a grocery store near home.  It was raining; I had on my ever-present rain hat (OR’s “Seattle sombrero“), and, of course, a mask .

I unloaded my items onto the checkout belt. When the clerk rang up the bottle of Pinot I intended to purchase she paused, then said, “I’m going to have to ask to see your ID.”

I thought she must be joking, and said so.  But she leaned across her checkout counter for a closer look.

“Seriously?Moiself  leaned toward her, pulled down the corners of my mask and pointed at the corners of my eyes, then pulled up on the mask and pointed at my neck.  “Is that ID enough for you?”

She seemed momentarily flustered, then laughed when she realized I was neither upset nor insulted.  “I’m sorry,” she said, “but with the mask and your hat… .”

“Please, don’t apologize,” I reassured her.  “You have just made my day.”

 

Toss those wrinkle creams – a hat and a mask and you look 21 again.

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Partridge Of The Week

It’s that time of the year again. As has become a tradition much maligned anticipated in our neighborhood, moiself  will be hosting a different Partridge, every week, in my front yard.    [1]

Can you guess this week’s guest Partridge?

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Let’s Get The Complaining Out Of The Way

Dateline: Sunday 6 am.  In the meditation app I was using, moiself  picked a “waves of breathing” guided meditation to listen to.  After the session, I checked the app and saw that the teacher for that session was listed as, “The Venerable (Billybocephus, or whatever his name).”

Venerable – adjective
Definition of venerable
1a: calling forth respect through age, character, and attainments
broadly : conveying an impression of aged goodness and benevolence
b: impressive by reason of age

2: deserving to be venerated — used as a title for an Anglican archdeacon or for a Roman Catholic
who has been accorded the lowest of three degrees of recognition for sanctity

3: made sacred especially by religious or historical association
(definitions from Merriam-Webster)

 

Welcome to the venerable hat society.

 

The Venerable…
The Reverend…
The Right Reverend… (who is, uh, I presume, more correct than a mere Reverend?)
The Most Reverend… (self explanatory?)
His Holiness…
Your Eminence…

I’ve always wanted to ask someone who uses one of the above titles:  What is the purpose of being addressed as such?  Is it for you – to remind you of your own status –  or is it for we peons mere mortals, the non-venerable masses?

Moiself  assumes, what with being venerable and all, the meditation teacher – or any of y’all  –  is fully capable of saying, “Yeah, that’s my title, but you can just attribute this to (Billybocephus).”

If a person is truly venerable – as in, worthy of respect via their character and attainments – moiself  thinks that their ego would be secure (and humble) enough that they would *not* want to be addressed with adjectives and/or titles touting their supposed superior qualities.

 

 

*   *   *

Remember my post, a mere two weeks ago, re Hallmark Movie Syndrome? (“The Swedes I’m Not Chasing“).  In my first ever foray into the wonders of The Hallmark Channel, I marveled at the ads for the seemingly interchangeable movies the channel produces and broadcasts, without end, during the holiday season:

Meet The Plucky Protagonist,®  an attractive white woman estranged from/bored with her family and/or disillusioned with/burnt out by her High Stress Job In The Big City ®, who returns to flyover country her home town where she meets the simple-minded mild-mannered incredibly handsome dude who shows her the holiday sausage fest she’s been missing all her life real meaning of Christmas.

THC’s moldy cheese Christmas romcoms are likely the same basic plot, recycled with variations in ages of the participants and locales.  I don’t know why THC’s programming executives even bother to give them different names.  Why not just run night after night of,

Hallmark presents:
“A (Heterosexual) Hunk for Christmas.”

Thanks to my astute and alert friend, EK,  moiself discovered that greater minds than mine have come up with a Scientifically Validated ® chart, to help us navigate the world of Hallmark Holiday romcoms. Should you, for whatever reason, decide to give your neurons a rest, or just want to dissolve into an intellectual and emotional puddle in front of the TV, here’s your guide:

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Yoga Holiday Fun

Dateline: Wednesday, 9 am. Moiself was already somewhat sore from doing 108 Sun salutations on Tuesday to celebrate the Winter Solstice, then my yoga teacher had a surprise for her class.  She led us yogis, those in the studio and those streaming the class at home, in  “The Twelve Days of Yoga Christmas,” a series of poses, each chosen for a verse of the classic song.

Apparently, there *is* a partridge pose in yoga, but it is quite difficult,   [2]  so, we settled for Tree Pose, sans partridge, for verse one.

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Holiday Reruns
(as in, this one, from three years ago)

The Department of Feasting

My family – the one MH and I created – has several holiday season traditions, some of our own making and some adopted/adapted from our respective families of origin.  The elves that hide in every downstairs room to watch you from atop the curtain rod, hanging from the bathroom lights or peeking out from a potted plant  – that’s from my family.  The every-piece-of-art-with-a-face-wears-a-Santa-hat mandate, that’s from the weirdo festive mind of moiself.

 

A clock may not be art, but it has a face.

 

Many of our traditions involve (surprise!) dining.  There is a menu which, according to the *other* family members, magically (hah!) is posted, sometime in mid-December, on the refrigerator door.  Depending on when the Solstice falls, there are several days in a row of special meals.  Solstice Soup & Salad Supper; Little Christmas Eve (to be mentioned later);  and of course, Christmas Eve.    [3] 

 

Mmmmmm….lefse.

 

On Christmas Day we go out for lunch to a fancy-schmancy restaurant, then for dinner it’s homemade pizza…or a leftovers coma.  Come Boxing Day, I swear I’m never going to cook/eat again…a vow that I am most happy to break in the New Year.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of About Those Elves….

“Oh, yeah, so you all liked that Elf on a Shelf thing?”
(Misinformed persons who feel compelled to ask about all the elves

in our house during this time of year)

Much of moiself’s holiday décor, in all its tacky seasonal glory, is in homage to my mother, who died five years ago today, on Christmas Eve.

Marion Parnell loved Christmas and especially her Christmas decorations, which included the tradition (which her family started and mine continues) of placing certain kind of elves – the kind with small plastic, doll-like faces and bendable, felt costume-clothed bodies,  [4]  all around the house.  

 

Like this one, a rare, yellow-green costumed variant.

 

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

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

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

No.
Nothing.
Like. That. Book.

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

 

*   *   *

Department Of It’s Now Later
(re: …”to be mentioned later”)

Little Christmas Eve: LCE is the Eve before Christmas Eve, an obscure – to everyone but my family – holiday supposedly celebrated by my paternal grandfather’s ancestral, tiny Norwegian village.  The LCE dinner was a special meal, but, unlike Christmas Eve dinner, which always featured lefse, the LCE menu varied year to year, and after dinner, each child got to open one of their Christmas presents. The most memorable aspect about LCE, to moiself  as a child, was the “rule” that our house was lit only by candlelight, during the dinner meal and thereafter, until bedtime.

I was fascinated by candles; thus, it was a magical night for moiself.  Candles everywhere no electric lights allowed!  If you went to the bathroom, you carried a candle.

How we never managed to burn the house down, I don’t know.  Guess those elves were watching over us.

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Santa’s Helpers Edition

Q.  Why can’t you borrow money from an elf?
A.  Because they’re always a little short.

An elf tried to organize a strike at the North pole, then quit Santa’s workshop.
He was a rebel without a Claus.

Q.  What’s the difference between a dwarf and an elf?
A.  Very little.

I just drew a totally cool picture of a creature that’s half-mouse, half-elf.
I know I shouldn’t brag, but I’m really proud of mouse-elf.

Q.  What’s an animal that never forgets Christmas?
A.  An elfant.

 

“I’m trying to forget I ever read this blog.”

*   *   *

May you never merit being addressed as, “Your Holiness;”
May you be braver than moiself, and watch a Hallmark holiday movie;
May someone ID you in a way that makes your day;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Specifically, in our pear tree.

[2] Partridge Pose (Kapinjalasana) is also called “the Side Plank Variation Hand To Toe Knee Bend…a challenging arm balance pose….”  Yeah.  Let’s stick to tree pose, with maybe a pigeon roosting in one of its branches.

[3] CE menu never varies: Norwegian lefse and meatcakes (of some kind) are front and center.

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

The Events I’m Not Recording

Comments Off on The Events I’m Not Recording

Department Of The Partridge Of The Week

It’s that time of year again. As has become a much maligned anticipated in our ‘hood, moiself  is hosting a different Partridge, every week, in my front yard.    [1]

Can you guess this week’s guest Partridge?   [2]

 

 

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Department Of Getting Nostalgic As The Year’s End Approaches

Yep; it happens. Thus, I checked out a sample of what moiself  was posting around this time, three years ago:

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.

 

 

After my paternal grandfather, a full-blooded Norski-American married to a full-blooded Irish-American,   [3]  died, my grandmother no longer felt up to making the lefse her husband had so adored and that she’d come to love as well.   [4]  My mother’s eldest sister, my late Aunt Erva, lived in Spokane, and after Erva’s husband died    [5]   Erva would drive 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. Every 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   [6] ).  The lefse is still delicious, if dairy-free, and the “meat” cakes I make are now sans meat (a plant-based version, main ingredient either lentils or 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  [7]  my parents, when they were  guest at my Christmas Eve table, said 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);   [8]
(2)  the ash from Erva’s cigarette.  [9]

 

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

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Department Of Back To The Present

In a recent No Stupid Questions podcast (“Why Can’t Baby Boomers and Millennials Just Get Along?” SQ Ep. 76) The podcast’s subtopic, prompted by a listener question, was how phone cameras affect the way we experience live events; specifically, does recording them increase or interfere with your engagement of the events being recorded?  Both sides (recording an event leads to more engagement; recording an event leads to less engagement) were presented and briefly discussed.

I put videotaping – remember that? – in the same category (of phone camera recordings), because all-but-bygone technology was the recording milieu of choice when MH’s and moiself’s offspring  were in elementary and junior high school.  And I developed strong opinions then (surprise!) as to those recording devices’ deployment.

 

 

For three years in their respective late elementary school/early junior high years, our son K and daughter Belle attended the kind of school (Waldorf-y) which had a media policy – which translated into, basically, a Media Forbidden policy.  Computers and digital technology were not part of the early grades curriculum, as per the school’s conviction that such technologies are not age-developmentally appropriate until…

“… a young person has reached the intellectual maturity to reason abstractly and process concretely on his or her own, ​which is at around the age of 14. Society might challenge this principle, as many young children are well able to complete sophisticated tasks on a computer; the Waldorf perspective is that computer exposure should not be based on capability but on developmental appropriateness. While many applaud adult-like thinking in young children, we observe that a child’s natural, instinctive, creative and curious way of relating to the world may be repressed when technology is introduced into learning environments at an early age.”
( from Waldorf Education, FAQs )

The premise for the media policy, while seemingly extreme to some people, was (is) one that I found valid.  I mostly concur with this phrasing, from one Waldorf schoo’sl website (my emphases):

“…healthy emotional development and meaningful relationships with their environment and other people are undermined by encounters with media that separate children from authentic experience and promote a distorted, developmentally inappropriate, and consumerist view of the world.”

The technology and Electronic Media listed in our children’s school’s media policy included television, movies, computers, and all other video and audio devices, including cell phones, video games, and music/MP3 players. None of that was allowed in the classroom, and parents, while attending school events, were forbidden from recording their child’s performance in a school play, music recital, etc.  [10]

 

“Did, like, a teacher or someone say something?”

 

I was in favor of most – but not all   [11]  – of the aspects of the policy.  I particularly appreciated that policy when, during K’s and Belle’s school years before and after that three year Waldorf stint, I attended school student performance and/or presentation events and noticed that I couldn’t get a clear view of, for example, the stage, what with all the parents standing up/leaning over/jumping into the aisle – and by parents I mean, Video Dads ® – their various devices clicking and whirring as they conferred with their spouses…. Then, when I spoke to the vidiots parent videographers afterward about their child’s presentation, I realized that they didn’t seem to remember exactly what had happened, only that they had recorded it (“I’ll watch it when I get home,” one Photoparent actually said to me).

 

“Can you remind daddy what actually happened here?”

 

Apparently even the most visually and aesthetically challenged of us now have camera technology at our disposal – via our smart phones – which are the equivalent of the $14k Hasselblads Ansel Adams and other renowned photographers used in their day.   But, Some Of Us ® sometimes wonder whether the ease of taking sharp, professional-looking pictures paradoxically reduces their value (as in, now there are so damn many of them)?

Well before my offspring started attending the afore-mentioned, camera-free school, I had, with a few notable exceptions, mostly stopped taking pictures (with either my own or someone else’s camera).   I did this after realizing, one day while looking through a batch of recently developed pictures of some event I’d attended, that I’d mostly forgotten the experience I’d photographed.

I do use my phone to take pictures of a sight I find particularly noteworthy (or amusing). But sometimes, most of the times, I want to experience the experience in my heart and head, and not in my phone’s circuit board.

Case in point:  Dateline; two weeks ago, early on a Saturday morning.  Moiself  was returning from a walk, and as I strode by an empty lot between two houses I saw two adolescent male deer grazing amongst the manzanita and other shrubs covering the lot.

 

No deer were harmed, or photographed, during the typing of this story.

 

I slowed my pace; the deer looked up from their grazing and kept their eyes on me.  As my species is prone to do, I anthropomorphized, imagining the deer were the Jets and I was a member of the Sharks.   [12]  They radiated that flighty, adolescent male energy; they looked ready to rumble, and for a moment, I thought I’d better be careful lest one or both of them comes after me.  I assured them I was no harm to them; I’m just a biped passing by, going on my way.

Later that day, when I described the encounter to someone, they asked if I’d taken any pictures of the deer. It had occurred to me, but I decided against it, for three reasons:

(1) It – the movement of reaching into my pocket for my phone – might have startled the deer.  [13]

(2)  I was in the moment, as they say.  Yeah, a picture and/or video of the two deer’s heads, their eyes suspiciously following my every moment, would have been nice.  But I took, and stored, the picture here.

 

 

And again, here.

 

 

BTW, as you may have noticed, there is no third reason.  The first two are sufficient.

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Photography and Cameras Edition

I had to give up my career in photography.
I kept losing focus.

When using my smartphone to take pictures, I only think of its positive points.
There aren’t any negatives.

Q.  How does Santa take photos?
A.  With his North Polearoid.

Q.  Why are paparazzis like aggressive dogs?
A.  They may snap at any time.

I told my son that if he behaves nicely, I’ll gift him an action camera.
He said that’s Quid GoPro.

My new self-developing film camera is depressed and has mood swings.
I think it has Biopolaroid disorder.

 

That’s enough, thank you.

 

*   *   *

May you be in the moment more than you are in the picture;
May your finest pictures be in your head and heart;
May you annoy your Aunt Erva equivalent   [14]
with your kooky adaptation of a family tradition;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Specifically, in our pear tree.

[2] Moiself  missed including The Partridge Of The Week ® feature the past two weeks, in this blog.  Don’t worry; Keith and the little one may make another appearance.

[3] 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.”

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

[5] In late 1969.

[6] “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.”

[7] Nutmeg; allspice; white pepper.

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

[9] 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.

[10] Due to parental requests (read: pressure), parents were allowed to take a group photo of the students performing in a school Shakespeare play, but only after the play was over, and with the supervision of teachers and the play director making “not too many” pictures were taken and shutting down the picture taking session after three minutes.

[11] The exceptions included when a teacher of K’s 7th & 8th grade class, herself not a Waldorf fundamentalist, wanted to use a National Geographic video to enhance a subject that the class was studying.   She made the request of the school’s administration to allow the exception. The video was to be used as per what was the most appropriate use of such media – a use that both the teacher and the students’ parents had agreed upon –  as a supplement to – not a substitute for – the more direct personal/visual learning experience.  Still, the administration quashed the request.  Slippery slope, and all.

[12] You’re going to see the new, Spielberg-directed version of “West Side Story,” aren’t you?

[13] Nature Girl® that I am, I know that consuming as many calories as possible to bulk up for the upcoming scarcity of winter is the deer’s main focus now.  Moiself  causing them to unnecessarily expend those calories by making them feel that I might be a threat and so they need to bound away…not nice.

[14] Everyone has an aunt Erva, no matter what you call her.

The Swedes I’m Not Chasing

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Department Of Shameless Self-Promotion- NOT

Not as in, moiself  be promoting the work of someone else.   [1]

 

 

Life coach and business consultant Suzanne Mathis McQueen, author of Four Seasons in Four Weeks, has a new series of children’s books out: The Seasons in Me; The Sun in Me, and The Moon in Me .  Delightfully illustrated by Pumudi Gardiyawasam, the books are a fun and heartwarming introduction for kids as to the concepts the rhythms (“seasons”) of nature, and those of their own bodies…while also sneaking in a bit of age-appropriate  [2] science about the seasons,   [3]  the solstices, and circadian rhythms.

Check ’em out, for the children (or parents of children) in your life and on your holiday shopping list.

 

 

*   *   *

 

 

 

One of my yoga teachers, Jill Baker, wore this shirt to class two years ago…back when I was attending class in the studio  (I am now streaming classes from the studio).  Moiself  had to have it.  Wearing it puts me in the yule mood.  So does hearing one of my favorite pieces of holiday music – while I was making sandbakkels for my annual lefse-making party dessert, I had to play it   (“…over and over and over…” as MH noted).

 

 

For the non-Norskis, sandbakkels (“sand tarts”) are a traditional Norwegian holiday cookie.  Its dough, a somewhat crumbly  texture due to the proportions of sugars and almond flour, resembles “sand,” (if, like a good Norwegian, you use your imagination, or plenty of Aquavit); thus, the name.  Moiself  does a plant-based version, as I do when making lefse.

 

You can – and I will – place a dollop of fruit jam in the center depression of the sandbakkels just before serving them. My younger sister claims Nutella is also yummy in that capacity; however, she’s well known as the family culinary lunatic, so there’s that.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Variation On A Theme

Dateline: Wednesday, this one (December 8). After the pandemic cancellation of last year, my annual Ladies Lefse Party returned this year…in a somewhat limited and altered format.  The “ladies” – always a questionable modifier, considering the attendees   [4] – were mostly not in attendance.  I kept the number of invitees limited to the two friends nearby who were part of our COVID safe circle, then one had to cancel, so I opened up the party to The Menfolk.  After the last-minute cancellation of our son K, it was just MH and moiself, friend L, and a newbie to the festivities, L’s friend, G.  Somehow, we managed to have enough fun that we sat down at 7p, then all of a sudden it was 10p.

A nuclear fallout of flour still is circulating in the kitchen.  That means we did it right.

 

No children were harmed in the making of this lefse.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Will Someone Please Explain This To Me Before I Die?     [5]

First time lefse party attendee G was an affable addition to the dinner.  As a fellow American with a Norwegian background, it was inevitable that, at some point during the dinner,    [6]   we shared some of the aspects about our family heritage which, as children, we found nonsensical.  In particular, it was hard for us young-uns to understand the fierce rivalry we’d heard about – particularly in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and other hotspots    [7] of Norwegian-to-USA migration – between Americans of Norwegian and Swedish heritage.  For example, a marriage between a first generation Norwegian and a first gen Swede was considered a “mixed marriage.”

 

 

Also inevitable was our descent into recollections of the astronomically lame, “Ole and Sven and Lena” jokes, and then G said, “Remember this one?” He repeated a saying that I hadn’t heard in years, but which caused me to stamp size 9 feet with excitement:

“One hundred Swedes
ran through the weeds
chased by one Norwegian.”

 

Remind me again, why are we laughing?

 

Yes yes yes  – and WHY?   My mother told me that her (full blooded Norski) father would occasionally recite that lame “verse,” then chuckle softly to himself.  Okay; Mom, but why did he do that – where did it come from, and why did he think it was funny?  She said he never explained it, and she didn’t want to ask, because that would reveal to her father that she didn’t get it, and she wanted him to think that she did.  [8]  Sure, that’s understandable, Mom, but do you now, today, as an adult, get what you didn’t get at the time?  I never got an answer from her.

Is it just the rhyming of Swedes with weeds ? Why not then,

One hundred Swedes
dressed in their tweeds
tailored by one Norwegian.

To this day, I have never received an explanation (make that, a satisfactory explanation) as to why this Swedes-weeds thang was supposed to be funny. Any takers?

 

You wouldn’t think it was so funny if there were a hundred of us.

 

*   *   *

Department Of I’m Not Naïve But…

I mean, I get around the block, depending on your definition of block. So why was I caught offguard…when I was?

Dateline: last week.  Several days in a row.  After dinner we turn on our Roku feature to see what is on TV, and the clever device lists several ongoing shows it thinks moiself  might like.  I followed its suggestion to an episode of The Waltons, not realizing, until the commercial break, something that came as no surprise to MH – The Waltons reruns were being played on The Hallmark Channel, where it is apparently their “Countdown to Christmas.”

Believe it or not…

 

 

…I had never previously visited that channel.  But for three evenings in a row, I tuned in to see parts of one The Waltons episode, and was tortured by treated to previews of upcoming Hallmark Channel produced “movies.”

I’d been vaguely aware of THC’s schmaltzy reputation; even so, moiself  lacks the family-friendly vocabulary to describe how eye-gouging dreadful the previews were.  And although the commercials were promoting (supposedly) different features with different titles, it seemed to me that THC was going to be airing eight versions of the same movie, repackaged.

 

“You look familiar – weren’t we in this movie last year?”

 

Meet The Plucky Protagonist,®  an attractive white woman estranged from/bored with her family and/or disillusioned with/burnt out by her High Stress Job In The Big City ®, who returns to flyover country her home town where she meets the simple-minded mild-mannered incredibly handsome dude who shows her the holiday sausage fest she’s been missing all her life the real meaning of Christmas.

THC’s moldy cheese Christmas romcoms are likely the same basic plot, recycled with variations in ages of the participants and locales.  I don’t know why THC’s programming executives even bother to give them different names.  Why not just run night after night of,

Hallmark presents:
“A (Heterosexual) Hunk for Christmas.”

In the spirit of it-might-be-so-bad-it-could-be-a-teeny-bit-good, or at least morbidly entertaining, moiself  be considered parking it on the couch with an emergency bottle of insulin and/or a jug of Pepto-Bismol handy, and trying to watch one of those movies. I’m still considering it.

 

*   *   *

Department of Thanks For The Imagery…ooooommmmm….

Dateline: Thursday, circa 6:15 am. I hear the best ever – as in, most evocative – focal point (aka mantra) offered by one of the three meditation apps I regularly use.

I am a thunderbolt of good vibes.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of I Promise Not To Do This At Your House.
Sub Department Of Am I The Only One Who Ever Gets This Feeling?

Sometimes, when I pick up or am holding a large, heavy, porcelain or china or glass or ceramic plate or bowl, I have the urge to fling it across the room like a frisbee. For just a (so far) resistible instant, it seems to moiself  that to see and hear the plate shatter against the wall would be very satisfying.  It’s not a catharsis issue – I don’t get this feeling when I am angry at or irritated by something. Rather, just when I’m feeling… musical?

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Norski Heritage Edition

I want to visit Norway soon, but I can’t a fjord it.

How was the Mr. Ed Show theme song adapted for Norwegian television?
♫  A Norse is a Norse of course, of course….♫

I always appreciate a good pun, but never geographical ones.
There’s Norway I’d sink Oslo as that.

Did you hear about the bike race that goes all the way across Norway and Sweden?
It ends at the Finnish line.

 

 

*   *   *

May you never recite deeds of chasing Swedes through the weeds in their tweeds;
May you be a thunderbolt of good vibes;
May you one day just let loose and fling that #@!&%!% plate against the wall;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Disclosure: I do know this person, and like her. So I may be biased…y’all can handle that.

[2]  ages 3-8.  Accessible info for older bipeds as well.  No boring quantum mechanics or string theory.

[3] Remember: axial tilt is the reason for the season – for *all* seasons.

[4] Yeah, I’m talking *you*, JR and JWW.

[5] But I don’t want you to explain it to me, and then I die.

[6] After the first glass of champagne, which followed the gin and tonics.

[7] or should it be cold spots? What is the proper term here, re a country where half of its land lies north of the Arctic Circle?

[8] Which would be blamed on her mother’s contribution – 100% Irish – to her genes.

The Heroes I’m Not Worshipping

Comments Off on The Heroes I’m Not Worshipping

Department Of Holy Mother Of Romulus And Remus –
I Saw An Effin’ Wolf

Dateline: Wednesday, circa 12:45 pm, Oregon highway 26, headed west (toward the coast), at about milepost 15 or 16. The movement from the north (right) side of the road caught my eye; in the micro-mico-millisecond it took me to register the movement I took my foot off the accelerator and thought,

Oh, great, a deer is about to spring across the road.

There was no springing. That micro-micro movement morphed into an elegant running creature, crossing the two-lane highway, a mere 20-30 feet ahead of me.  The animal was the size of a deer but definitely not a deer; my mind immediately tried to register, “coyote,” except that I’ve seen plenty of coyotes running across roads (or fields) or loping on/crossing hiking trails ahead of me. This canid was the size of a deer and had long, thin legs and different body posture from a coyote (its long tail was horizontal to its spine, not tucked, as a coyote’s would be).  I’ve never seen a canid run like that, the way it held its large, majestic head, so very upright, like one of those carousel animals….

 

The wolf’s head was like this, vis-à-vis its posture…but nothing remotely zebra-ish otherwise

 

Yes, moiself  knows I am babbling right now, but holy fuck, this is the first wolf I’ve seen this close  [1]   and I am (still, two days later) gobsmacked.  Oh, but for a camera mounted on my car’s front bumper!

There are wolves in Oregon.  Many (but not all) of them are tagged (for tracking/ study purposes), and most live in the eastern part of the state, although wolves can and do roam…and a few of Oregon’s have roamed as far as So Cal .  The one which crossed the road in front of me appeared to be heading toward Tillamook county…looking for a cheese fix, perhaps?

*   *   *

Department Of Life Is So Unfair

Yet another of life’s inequities to ponder:

If you donate a kidney, everybody loves you and you’re a total hero.

But try donating five kidneys and suddenly everyone is yelling
and the police get involved….

 

*   *   *

Department Of Sunday In The Park With George

Tuesday In The Park With Robyn

 

 

Apologies to the late Stephen Sondheim.  I’m sure the opening to moiself’s  blog would have been better if Sondheim had composed it, given the complex polyphony which was his style.    [2]   May we all take a moment to pause to remember and appreciate he-who-was-arguably among the greatest of American lyricists and composers.

 

Bravo, Stephen.

 

 

And now, three vignettes of my Tuesday In The Park.

Dateline: Tuesday, circa 7: 15 am.  Which way shall I go this morning? I decide to do the to-and-from to a light rail station which, given my circuitous route, will be a 3-3.5 mile jaunt.  I take one of the trails leading through a neighborhood park, when what to my wondering eyes did appear

 

 

I pause to document the odd (to me) sight, then post the picture on my Facebook page, soliciting explanations:

“OK; what’s the story here? A fire extinguisher, about 25 yards from the nearest house, under a tree, in a bunch of wet leaves?”

There were some creative hypotheses.  I liked my daughter Belle’s offering best:

“They were deep frying a turkey and forgot to bring that back in.”

Vignette the Second

Department Of Appreciating A Form Of Reasoning Which
Is The Process Of Drawing A Conclusion
Based On Premises Generally Assumed To Be True;
As In, Using A Logical Premise To Reach A Logical Conclusion.

Same morning walk, 20 minutes later: now the sun is trying to rise above the cloudy horizon. I’m taking a winding road through a neighborhood adjacent to the park, a road I traverse at least once a week on my way to the walkway which leads to the afore-mentioned light rail station.  As moiself  rounds a corner I exchange good morning greetings with a couple I have come to know by sight.  They and their three canine companions are out for (what I assume is) the morning ritual of dog owners everywhere: that which moiself  thinks of as the “P Five” – the Puppy People’s Predawn Poop Perambulation. ®

It appears my presumptions are spot-on.  A the couple passes by on the other side of the street I notice that the (presumed) husband has two plastic bags of (presumed) doggie-doody swinging from a strap around his wrist.

Ain’t deductive reasoning grand?  Truly, ’tis a cognitive process we often take for granted… until we meet a #45 conspiracy theorist who wouldn’t know the concept of deductive reasoning from his ass if it were wrapped in a MAGA hat and sticking out of a hole in the ground.   [3]

 

 

Vinaigrette the Third

Department Of Later That Same Morning…

I have reached the station and am headed home.  I am walking on a pathway near the athletic fields west of the station. Yet another dog-walking couple with whom I have an I Hi-there-we-pass-each-other-at-least-once-a-week relationship    [4]   are walking toward me.  As we approach each other we all look skyward at the same time, toward the sounds of at least five different, low-flying, scraggly V formations of Canada geese, calling out to their comrades as they head southeast to…wherever.

The man points his finger upward and says,

“That’s a very nice sound, isn’t it?”

Moiself  points to my rain-or-shine hat, then at their respective visors, and replies:

“Yes, it is.
And it’s very nice – and very smart – of us to have hats on
when we’re walking underneath flying birds.”

The three of us chuckle as we pass one another, our mirth punctuated by the sound of…uh, plops… from overhead landing on the grass on either side of the walkway.

 

“I hate it when they wear protection.”  “Yeah; we’ll get ’em next time.”

 

Department Of Belated Content Warnings

Moiself  just realized I missed the opportunity to apply a content warning to the previous segments: two of my three park vignettes involved a mention of shit “animal droppings.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Kill Your Heroes

Dateline: a week or so ago, MH and I were discussing a recent podcast we’d both (separately) listened to, in which one of the stories presented involved an immigrant Chinese worker exploited by a railroad baron.  We somehow segued to the subject of power, as in, having power over the lives of others, and how easy it is to draw lines and reach binary conclusions, particularly when we judge the wielding of power in the past.  Railroad tycoon = bad.  Chinese railroad worker = good.

It’s an interesting subject to ponder: how would the immigrant railroad worker have behaved if he’d been the one with the power?  Perhaps he was downtrodden at work; what about when he returned home where, as a man in a patriarchal society, he had power over others simply by virtue of his gender?  Would he have shared his power with his wife and daughters? Would he have encouraged their own dreams and aspirations, or subjected them to foot binding and/or denied them access to education as per the other cultural torture norms of his time and place?

 

 

No matter what our intentions, moiself  thinks it’s healthy to keep a certain supposition in mind:   [5]  that most if not all of us may be just a couple of rungs on the authority ladder away from being the despots our descendants might denigrate.

Moiself  remembers the less-than-positive reaction I have garnered over the years, when I’ve been asked the question, “Who are your heroes?” and I’ve replied, truthfully, “I have no heroes.”

There are historical figures whom I admire for specific things they did: causes they fought for, injustices they tried to right, etc.  That said, I do not believe in having “heroes” because it seems that we – and by “we” I mean, every human being but moiself  ( ahem, I mean of course, every human being *including* moiself  ) – do not know how to apply perspective – that is, how to consider so-called heroic people for the flawed human beings they are.

 

 

Some great scientist will – someday very soon, I hope – discover the key to fixing global warming.  But, years later when it is revealed that she was, say, consistently rude to waiters and others in the service industry and disparaged anyone whom she considered to be “beneath” her, our descendants will argue over whether or not such a practitioner of classism should have a high school named after her…and should the Nobel committee rescind the prize they bestowed upon her?

Early 20th century activist Margaret Sanger was inspired (in part by her own family history) to work to liberate women from early death and abject poverty due to their lack of bodily autonomy which consigned them to lives of serial breeding.  Sanger withstood withering criticism, ostracization, imprisonment, physical attacks and threats to her life, from individuals and powerful organizations (read: the Catholic church) alike, not only for advocating birth control, but also for simply teaching women about their own bodies and reproductive cycles – which was illegal!

Sanger strongly believed that the ability to control family size was crucial to ending the cycle of women’s poverty. But it was illegal to distribute birth control information. Working as a visiting nurse, she frequented the homes of poor immigrants, often with large families and wives whose health was impaired by too many pregnancies, miscarriages, or in desperation botched abortions. Often, too, immigrant wives would ask her to tell them “the secret,” presuming that educated white women like Sanger knew how to limit family size. Sanger made it her mission to 1) provide women with birth control information and 2) repeal the federal Comstock Law, which prohibited the distribution of obscene materials through the mails, and regarded birth control information as such.
( “Margaret Sanger,” womenshistory.org )

 

 

Margaret Sanger also made some comments which, taken out of time and context, are used as a cudgel – particularly during political campaigns by conservative, anti-abortion Republicans – to discredit Sanger and to brand her (and, by association, Planned Parenthood and any organization supporting birth control and women’s reproductive autonomy) –  as  “racist.” 

Sanger’s stated mission was to empower women to make their own reproductive choices. She did focus her efforts on minority communities, because that was where, due to poverty and limited access to health care, women were especially vulnerable to the effects of unplanned pregnancy. As she framed it, birth control was the fundamental women’s rights issue. “Enforced motherhood,” she wrote in 1914, “is the most complete denial of a woman’s right to life and liberty.”

That’s not to say that Sanger didn’t also make some deeply disturbing statements in support of eugenics, the now-discredited movement to improve the overall health and fitness of humankind through selective breeding…. She was, of course, not alone in this viewpoint: In the 1920s and 1930s, eugenics enjoyed widespread support from mainstream doctors, scientists and the general public.
( “What Margaret Sanger Really Said About Eugenics and Race,” Time, 10-14-16 )

What Margaret Sanger may or may not have thought about eugenics does not change her ground-breaking accomplishments in helping to unshackle generations of women from  lives of compulsory brood mare-ism.

 

 

Likewise, Nelson Mandela deserves high praise for his tenacious fight against the immorality of apartheid.  But if you elevate the man to a myth, you’ll be disappointed to find that your great moral hero sacrificed his family life to his causes (and expected them to do the same), did almost nothing to alleviate or even acknowledge the growing AIDS crisis in his country (he later admitted to being “shy” re talking about a sexually transmitted disease), and upheld and instituted economic policies which have kept poor South Africans living in much the same conditions as when they were under apartheid, while the country has had to live with “…growing insecurity, violence, and crime.”

The more you know about historical figures, the more material you will have for being disappointed in or by them.  They were creatures of their time, as we are, of ours.  Even the most prescient of us will be judged harshly by future generations.

So, admire the ideals and actions  [6]   of justice warriors – certainly!   But just as certainly, never worship the creatures behind the causes.  Don’t idolize *people;*  do venerate the high *principles* for which those flawed people have fought.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of A Blast From Christmas Past

Dateline: Southern California, in the late 1960s – early 1970s.  For some reason, for a few years in the Westchester area of Los Angeles the “in” holiday décor was having a giant (as in, eight to ten foot tall) red wooden candle in your front yard.  [7]   I’m 100% sure how the fad began; I seem to recall my Uncle Joe telling me that some guy had made one for his yard, his neighbors admired it and he made some more for them, and then other home carpenters/crafty-types figured it out, and it took off from there.

When visiting our LA relatives (my aunt and uncle, Gwen and Joe Baker, and their five children) during the Christmas season my family would drive around their neighborhood at night, just to see the big ass candles.  All of the yard candles had the same setup:  a lone red candle, with a spotlight illuminating the candle from base to the top.  At the base of the candle were wooden letters, painted white, spelling out the name of the family in whose yard the candle stood.  In two or three cases I can recall, the word at the base of the candle was, “Noel” or “Yule,” but for 99% of the candles it was the family name.

Uncle Joe was quite the carpenter hobbyist (one of my favorite creations of his was a motorized wooden Santa and elves display that he put out on the rooftop, every Christmas).  Joe constructed a Christmas yard candle for his family’s front yard, with their surname “Baker” prominently spotlighted.  A few days after my grandmother admired her daughter Gwen’s and SIL Joe’s yard candle, Joe drove down to Santa Ana and installed, in my grandmother’s front yard, the candle he had made for her.  Thus, Edna Gertrude Hole   [8]   became the only person in Santa Ana (as far as we knew) who had an eight-foot-tall red candle in her front yard with a spotlight illuminating her last name.

 

I haven’t been able to find any pictures of the Westchester yard candles.  Think of something like this, only made of wood, with a white top, eight feet tall, in someone’s front yard, with a sign at the base.

 

My grandmother left her yard candle up for that one holiday season.  The day after Christmas she telephoned Joe and asked him to come and fetch it.  The thrill wore off for her, the third or fourth night Edna Hole answered her doorbell – which had been rung by a person who’d been walking or driving by – and found herself listening to a total stranger sharing their concerns regarding her holiday décor:     [9]

“Excuse me, I don’t want to embarrass you, but I think you’ve misspelled, ‘Holy.’

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Heroes-Not-To-Be-Worshipped Edition

Q. Why did Wonder Woman stop checking her email?
A. Her inbox was loaded with Spamazons.   [10]

If Iron Man and Silver Surfer teamed up, would they would be alloys?

Q.  What does Peter Parker say when people ask him what he does for a living?
A.  Web designer.

Have you heard of The Incredible Hulk’s new fashion line?
It’s all the rage.

 

*   *   *

May you see a wolf before you die (but not see it and then…die);
May you applaud the deeds and have forbearance for the deed-doers;
May your holiday yard décor provide confusion and/or entertainment
to passing strangers;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] The wild ones I saw in Alaska were much farther away, and the ones in zoos don’t “count.”

[2] Yeah, but could you hum along to it?

[3] Yes and obviously, I can mangle mix those metaphors with the best of them.

[4] But this couple has only one dog between them…which seems kinda stingy.

[5] This space does not need a footnote.

[6] Should, of course, those ideals and actions be truly admirable, as opposed to ill-considered, rash, or merely attention-seeking.

[7] And then, just three or four years after the fad started, no one put up the candles anymore.  What happened?

[8] Yes, that was her real (married) name.  She was born Edna Gertrude Moran; Hole was her husband’s family surname – apparently, it was prestigious name in the tiny Norwegian town they came from, but in America?  No surprise it never occurred to my mother to keep her birth surname.

[9] I always wondered, why didn’t she just remove her family name, and keep the candle?

[10] That’s enough with the footnotes.

The Holiday War I’m (Still) Not Declaring

1 Comment

Department Of Here They Come

Halloween (aka All Hallow’s Eve); Samhain; All Saint’s Day; El Dia de los Muertos; Mischief Night, Diwali

In the USA and in northern hemisphere countries around the world, there are multiple holidays with a relationship to “our” Halloween.  The relationship is as per the time of year and/or the theme, underlying beliefs, customs or origins of the various celebrations.

Many of these holidays originated as dual celebrations, acknowledgments of times of both death and rebirth, as celebrants marked the end of the harvest season and acknowledged the cold, dark winter to come.

And after Halloween, the holiday season really gets going.

*   *   *

Department Of Life Is Tough But It’s Even Tougher If You’re Stupid
Chapter 22467 in a (never-ending) series

“The idea of a “War on Christmas” has turned things like holiday greetings and decorations into potentially divisive political statements. People who believe Christmas is under attack point to inclusive phrases like “Happy Holidays” as (liberal) insults to Christianity….

Christmas is a federal holiday celebrated widely by the country’s Christian majority. So where did the idea that it is threatened come from?

The most organized attack on Christmas came from the Puritans, who banned celebrations of the holiday in the 17th century because it did not accord with their interpretation of the Bible….”

(“How the ‘War on Christmas’ Controversy Was Created,” NY Times, 12-19-16)

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of If Something Seems Familiar, That’s Because It’s Time For
My Annual Holiday Traditions Explained ® Post

What do vegetarians, vegans, non-meat and/or plant-based eaters
do on Thanksgiving?
( Other than, according to your Aunt Erva, RUIN  IT  FOR  EVERYONE  ELSE.   [1]  )

The above question is an existential dilemma worthy of Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher, who wrote eloquent discourses on the subjective and objective truths one must juggle when choosing between a cinnamon roll and a chocolate swirl.   [2]

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of I’ll Take Those Segues Where I Can Find Them

Four weeks from today will be the day after feasting, for many of us. Then, just when you’re recovering from the last leftover turkey sandwich/quiche/casserole/enchilada-induced salmonella crisis and really, really need to get outside for some fresh air, here comes the Yule season. You dare not even venture to the mall, lest your eardrums be assaulted from all sides by Have a Holly Jolly Christmas, Feliz Navidad, ad nauseum.

This observation provides a convenient segue to my annual, sincere, family-friendly,  [3]

Heathens Declare War On Christmas © post.

 

 

As to those Henny Penny/Chicken Little hysterics proclaiming a so-called “war” on Christmas, a rational person can only assume that they are not LGBTQ, or Jewish or a member of another minority religion, or an ethnic minority – in other words, they’ve never experienced actual bigotry (or actual combat). If they had, it’s likely they would not have trivialized discrimination (or war) with their whining.

The usage of “Happy Holidays” as an “attack on Christianity” is an invention of right-wing radio talk show hosts.  Happy Holidays is nothing more nor less than an encompassing shorthand greeting – an acknowledgement of the incredible number of celebratory days, religious and otherwise, which in the U.S. is considered to start in October with Halloween and November with Thanksgiving (although our Canadian neighbors and friends celebrate their Thanksgiving in October) and extends into and through January, with the various New Year’s celebrations.

It is worthwhile to note that while many if not most Americans, Christian or not, celebrate Christmas, there are also some Christians who, on their own or as part of their denomination’s practice or decree (e.g., Jehovah’s Witnesses and The Worldwide Church of God), do not celebrate Christmas   [4]   (nor did our much-ballyhooed forebears, the Pilgrims).  Also, the various Orthodox Christians use calendars which differ from most Protestant and Catholic calendars (a biggie for them at this time of the year is the Nativity of Christ, which occurs on or around January 7).

Happy Holidays — it’s plural, and for good reason.  It denotes the many celebrations that happen during these months.  People in the northern hemisphere countries, from South Americans and Egyptians to the Celts and Norskis, have marked the Winter Solstice for thousands of years, and many still do.  And some Americans, including our friends, neighbors and co-workers, celebrate holidays that although unconnected with the winter solstice occur near it, such as Ramadan, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa.

 

In 2022 the Chinese (lunar) New Year begins on Feb. 1

 

Most folks are familiar with the “biggies”- Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day. But don’t forget the following holidays, many of which we’ve learned about (or celebrated with) via our children’s teachers and fellow students, and our neighbors and co-workers.

* The Birth of the Prophet (Nov. 12) and Day of the Covenant (Nov. 26) are both Baha’i holy days  (our family has had Baha’i teachers and childcare providers and neighbors).

* St. Nicholas Day (Dec. 6)

* Bodhi Day.  Our Buddhist friends and neighbors celebrate Bodhi Day on December 8 (or on the Sunday immediately preceding).

* Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Dec 12)

* St. Lucia Day (Dec. 13) Our Swedish neighbors and friends celebrate St. Lucia Day, as did Belle’s and K’s school, when they were in grade school (Belle, as the oldest 3rd grade girl, got to play St. Lucia).

* Bill of Rights Day (Dec 15) and Forefather’s Day (Dec 21)

* Pancha Ganapati Festival (one of the most important Hindu festivals, Dec. 21st through the 25th,  celebrated by many of MH’s coworkers)

* The Winter Solstice (varies, Dec.  21 or 22)

* Little Christmas Eve (Dec.  23) Celebrated by my family, supposedly a custom of the small Norwegian village of my paternal grandfather’s ancestors.

* Boxing Day (Dec. 26), celebrated by our Canadian-American and British-American neighbors and friends.

*Ramadan and/or Eid, the Islamic New Year (as Islam uses a lunar calendar the dates of their holidays varies, but these holidays are usually November-December)

* The Chinese New Year.  I always look forward to wishing my sister-in-law, a naturalized American citizen who is Cantonese by birth, a Gung Hay Fat Choy.  (The Chinese Lunar calendar is the longest chronological record in history, dating from 2600 BCE.  The New Year is celebrated on second new moon after the winter solstice, and so can occur in January or February).

That is not a complete list. See why it’s easier to say, “Happy Holidays?”

The USA is one of the most religiously diverse nations in the world.  To insist on using the term “Merry Christmas” as the all-encompassing seasonal greeting could be seen as an attack on the religious beliefs of all of the Americans who celebrate the other holiday and festivals.  At the least, it denotes the users’ ignorance of their fellow citizens’ beliefs and practices.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Did You Know…

…that the Reverend Increase Mather of Boston observed in 1687 that, “the early Christians who first observed the Nativity on December 25 did not do so thinking that Christ was born in that Month, but because the Heathens’ Saturnalia was at that time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those Pagan Holidays metamorphosed into Christian ones.”   [5]

Because of its known pagan origins, Christmas was banned by the Puritans, and its observance was illegal in Massachusetts until 1681.   [6]

 

 

“Do you celebrate Christmas?”

We Heretics/apostates non-Christians Happy Heathens often hear this question at this time of year.  The inquiry is sometimes presented in ways that imply our celebration (or even acknowledgement) of Christmas is hypocritical.  This implication is the epitome of cheek, when you consider the fact that it is the early Christians who stole a festival from our humanist (pagan) forebears, and not the other way around.

Who doesn’t like a party, for any reason? And we who are religion-free don’t mind sharing seasonal celebrations with religious folk – sans the superstition and government/church mumbo-jumbo –  as long as they accept the fact that the ways we all celebrate this “festive season” predate Christianity by hundreds of years.

 

 

Early Roman Catholic missionaries tried to convert northern Europeans to the RC brand of Christianity, and part of the conversion process was to alter existing religious festivals. The indigenous folk, whom the RC church labeled “barbarians,” quickly discovered that when it came to dealing with missionaries, resistance is futile. The pagans intuitively grasped the concept of natural selection and converted to Christianity to avoid the price (persecution, torture, execution) of staying true to their original beliefs.  But they refused to totally relinquish their traditional celebrations, and so the church, eventually and effectively, simply renamed most of them.    [7]

Pagan practices were given a Christian meaning to wipe out “heathen” revelry.  This was made official church policy in 601 A.D., when Pope Gregory the First issued the now infamous edict to his missionaries regarding the traditions of the peoples they wanted to convert. Rather than try to banish native customs and beliefs, missionaries were directed to assimilate them. You find a group of people decorating and/or worshiping a tree? Don’t chop it down or burn it; rather, bless it in the name of the Church.  Allow its continued worship, only tell the people that, instead of celebrating the return of the sun-god in the spring, they are now worshiping the rising from the dead of the Son of God.

( Easter is the one/odd exception, where a pagan celebration was adapted by Christians without a name change. Easter is a word found nowhere in the Bible. It comes from the many variants (Eostra, Ester, Eastra, Eastur….) of a Roman deity, goddess of the dawn “Eos” or “Easter,” whose festival was in the Spring.)

The fir boughs and wreaths, the Yule log, plum pudding, gift exchanges, the feasting, the holly and the ivy and the evergreen tree….It is hard to think of a “Christmas” tradition that does not originate from Teutonic (German), Viking, Celtic and Druid paganism.   [8]   A celebration in the depths of winter – at the time when, to those living in the Northern Hemisphere, the sun appears to stop its southerly descent before gradually ascending north – is a natural instinct. For thousands of years our Northern Hemisphere ancestors greeted the “reason for the season” – the winter solstice – with festivals of light and gift exchanges and parties.  The Winter Solstice was noted and celebrated long before the Roman Jesus groupies pinched the party.

But, isn’t “Jesus is the reason for the season”?

The reason for the season?  Cool story, bro.  Since you asked; actually, axial tilt is the reason for the season.  For *all* seasons.

 

 

And Woden is the reason the middle of the week is named Wednesday.   [9]   My calling Wednesday “Wednesday” doesn’t mean I celebrate, worship, or “believe in” Woden.  I don’t insist on renaming either Christmas, or Wednesday.

 

“Now, go fetch me the brazen little sheisskopfs who took the Woden out of Woden’s Day!”

 

The Winter Solstice is the day with the shortest amount of sunlight, and the longest night. In the northern hemisphere it falls on what we now mark as December 21 or 22.  However, it took place on December 25th at the time when the Julian calendar was used.   [10]   The early Romans celebrated the Saturnalia on the Solstice, holding days of feasting and gift exchanges in honor of their god Saturn. (Other major deities whose birthdays were celebrated on or about the week of December 25   [11]   included Horis, Huitzilopochtli, Isis, Mithras, Marduk, Osiris, Serapis and Sol.)  The Celebration of the Saturnalia was too popular with the Roman pagans for the new Christian church to outlaw it, so the new church renamed the day and reassigned meanings to the traditions.   [12]

In other words, why are some folk concerned with “keeping the Christ in Christmas”   [13]  when we should be keeping the Saturn in Saturnalia?

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
The Approaching Holiday Season Edition

What is a jack-o’-lantern’s favorite literature genre?
Pulp fiction.

My family told me to stop telling Thanksgiving jokes right now,
but I said I couldn’t quit cold turkey.

My cousin is terrified by all of the St. Nicholas displays at the shopping mall.
You might say she’s Claustrophobic.

 

I told you not to encourage her.

*   *   *

Whatever your favorite seasonal celebrations may be, moiself  wishes you all the best.

May you have the occasion to (with good humor) ruin it for everyone else;
May you find it within yourself to ignore the Black Friday mindset;
May you remember to keep the Saturn in Saturnalia;
…and may the fruitcake-free hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] You have an Aunt Erva, somewhere.  We all do.

[2] Damn right I’m proud of that one.

[3] Well, yeah, as compared to the usual shit I write.

[4] And a grade school friend of mine, whose family was Jehovah’s Witnesses, considered being told, “Merry Christmas” to be an attack on *her* beliefs.

[5]Increase Mather, A Testimony against Several Prophane and Superstitious Customs, Now Practiced by Some in New England” (London, 1687).  See also Stephen Nissenbaum, The Battle for Christmas: A Cultural History of America’s Most Cherished Holiday,” New York: Vintage Books, 1997.

[6] Stephen Nissenbaum, “The Battle for Christmas: A Cultural History of America’s Most Cherished Holiday.”

[7]Paganism in Christianity.”

[8]  “Learn not the way of the heathen…their customs are vain, for one cuts a tree out of the forest…they deck it with silver and gold…” Jeremiah 10:2-5

[9] Wednesday comes from the Old English Wōdnesdæg, the day of the Germanic god Wodan (aka Odin, highest god in Norse mythology and a big cheese god of the Anglo-Saxons until the seventh century.)

[10] The Julian calendar, adopted by Julius Caesar ~ 46 B.C.E., was off by 11 min/year, and when the Gregorian calendar was established by Pope – wait for it – Gregory,  the solstice was established on 12/22.

[11] The Winter Solstice and the Origins of Christmas, Lee Carter.

[12] In 601 A.D., Pope Gregory I issued a now famous edict to his missionaries regarding wooing potential converts: don’t banish peoples’ customs, incorporate them. If the locals venerate a tree, don’t cut it down; rather, consecrate the tree to JC and allow its continued worship

[13] And nothing in the various conflicting biblical references to the birth of JC has the nativity occurring in wintertime.

The Normal Post I’m Not Posting

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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