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The Pumpkin Spice Loincloth I’m Not Girding

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Department Of Autumnal Abuses

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

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

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

“I’m mad, Daddy-man.”

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

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

“Why is that?”

“Because they tell you things you already know.”

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

Junie nodded.  “All boys.”

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

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

 

*   *   *

Department Of Mansplaining ‘Splained

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

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

 

*   *   *

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

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

“1968 – The Year That Shook The World.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

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

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

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

[4] I think it was in Esquire magazine?

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

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

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

The Guerilla Prank I’m Not Pulling

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Department Of Irrefutable Evidence

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

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

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Title I Want When I Grow Up

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

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

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

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

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

“…the queen of useless robots.”

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

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

*   *   *

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Just Wondering

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

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

“So, what’s the AQI in your town?”

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

*   *   *

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

 

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

* COVID-19;

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

* the Murder Hornet ;

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

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

 

Thank you, and please demoralize us further.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

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

 

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

[5] It must be time for another footnote.

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

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

The Saga I’m Not Ending

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Notice to new (or returning) readers: Welcome!


This week’s post will make a lot more sense…

 

 

Excuse moiself ?  I am not saying it will make *total* sense, so I see no need for the sarcastic intrusion….

I’ll begin again.

This week’s post is the second of a two-parter. It will make a lot more sense  [1]     if you read (or reread) last week’s post (here) first. That said….

 

 

I was in the fifth grade. One day my classmate Kelly told me her said she could invite me to her house after school to go swimming. I usually wriggled out of invitations which involved spending time inside Kelly’s house, which was…disheartening. It was dark, even in the summer, even with the lights on, and it was – I cringe today to think it, just as I did back then, but there’s no way around it – just filthy.  It reeked of old trash and cat urine; the one time I’d had a sleepover there I spotted cockroaches in the kitchen when Kelly’s older sister showed Kelly and I how to make fudge from scratch.

Kelly’s widowed mother, whom I liked (she was kind to me and told funny jokes, and knew all the words to my favorite Simon and Garfunkel songs), worked long hours as a hospital nurse. She apparently had neither the time nor inclination to clean house, and was unable to convince or command her three children to do so, either.  But Kelly’s backyard consisted of a swimming pool!  She was the only friend I knew who had one, and I eagerly accepted her invitation. I’ll need to go home, check with my mom, and get my swimsuit and a towel, I told her. Kelly suggested she ride on the back of my bike with me to my house to get my stuff, then we’d go to her place.

I peddled us toward my house, with Kelly perched on the bookrack attached to my bike’s rear axle. As we reached the main part of Martha Lane (ML) I updated Kelly about the ML kids’ war with the neighborhood cranks.

“That’s them,” I said, pointing to the Wagners’ house, when we were about 100 feet away. “The brown house up there on the left.”

“Can we sing it – let’s sing The Song!” Kelly begged me.  But without my ML crew to back me up, I was too chicken hesitant.  Then when we were about forty feet from the Wagners’ house, I noticed that their ever-present Cadillac was not in their driveway. I figured they were not home, and it was safe.

I slowed down, and told Kelly we could sing The Song, but not loudly.  Kelly teased me for my lack of vocal enthusiasm (“That’s not singing, that’s practically whispering“) as I peddled us past the Wagner house.

♫  We hate you Wagners/
oh yes we do….♫

When we got to my house my older sister, already home from her school and engrossed in homework, informed me that our mother had gone to the grocery store.  I decided not to tell her what Kelly and I had done. I wanted her approval, but thought Kelly would rat me out for being chickenshit and only singing The Song when I thought the Wagners weren’t home.  I told my sister to tell Mom that I was going to Kelly’s house. I put my swimsuit on under my clothes, Kelly hopped onto the back of my bike, and we headed off.

As I steered my bicycle out of our driveway a brownish-gold sedan crossed Pacific Ave into our cul-de-sac.  It caught my attention because it was not any of the neighbor’s cars (that I recognized) and was driving very slowly.  The sedan circled the end of the cul-de-sac, then drove right up alongside my bicycle as I stopped to check for cross traffic at Pacific Ave.

The driver was clad in a suit and hat which matched the color of his car.  He rolled down his window and signaled with his hand for me to come closer. I stood stock still, my feet planted on either side of my bike’s frame. He’s probably one of those perverts who tries to kidnap kids, I thought.  I began to calculate how long it would take Kelly and I to hop off of my bike and run back to my house.

“Are you the girls who rode a bicycle down this street a few minutes ago?” Sedan Man pointed up Martha Lane, in the direction of the Wagner house.

Kelly mumbled something to me. “Don’t talk to him,” I shushed Kelly.  I looked the man squarely in the eyes, trying to appear as savvy and tough as possible.  “He’s a stranger; we don’t know who he is.”

Sedan Man repeated his question. I could feel my bicycle frame shaking, and reached my hand back to reassure Kelly, who was trembling.  “Go away,” I said to him, “or we’ll call the police.”

“I *am* the police.” Sedan Man pulled a wallet from his suit breast pocket and held out an ID card which had his picture on it and a Santa Ana Police Department shield.

“That’s not a police car,” I said to Kelly.

“I’m a detective.”  Sedan Man waved his ID card.  He said was investigating harassment charges brought by the Wagners, and needed to speak with my parents. I should return home *now* he insisted, pointing toward my house.

“He saw where we came from,” Kelly whispered. She pleaded with me to return home.  We both got off my bicycle and walked back to back to my driveway as the man parked his sedan in front of my house. I was determined *not* to let him inside; I leaned my bicycle against the massive Japanese elm in our front yard and led Kelly up the front yard walkway to sit beside me n the concrete steps of our front porch – the entry no one in the family (and no one who knew us) used.   [2]   Sedan Detective Man followed us to the porch. He stood over us, with one foot on the walkway and the other on the porch’s bottom step, and began to question us.

He wanted to speak with my parents; where were they?  Would I go get them, or should he knock on the door?  I told him my father was at work and would be home after 7 pm, my mother was at the store and would be back any minute, and my older siblings were inside watching TV (I only had one older sibling but I wanted him to think there were a lot of people in my house). He asked the same questions of Kelly, who said nothing. She sat beside me, silently staring down at her shoes.

The Wagners were being harassed by the ML kids, Sedan Detective Man said. The police knew all about it, he added, and Kelly and I were “in serious trouble.” He demanded to speak to my parents; I replied as before: “My dad’s at work; he’ll be back after 7. My mom’s at the store;  she’ll be back soon.”

Sedan Detective Man turned his gaze to Kelly and asked about her parents.  I began to explain that Kelly didn’t live in this neighborhood; he jabbed his long, bony index finger in my direction, silenced me with a glare, and repeated his question to Kelly. She was obviously frightened as he pressed her for information.  She managed to squeak out that her mother at work. She was a nurse, and wouldn’t be back until her shift was over, around 11:30 pm…. her voice trailed off.

“What about your father? Hey, look at me when I’m talking to you. Tell me how I can contact your father – I need to speak with him.”

Kelly briefly raised her head.  “My dad…” she lowered her eyes. I could see her chin begin to quiver.

“‘My dad…'” The detective mocked Kelly’s high-pitched, quavering voice.  “Your dad, what? You have a dad, right? I need to speak to him.”

Kelly hugged her knees to her chest and shook her head, almost imperceptibly, as if she had a nervous tic.

“What does that mean – I can’t speak with your dad?  Why?  Is he out of town?  Did he leave you and your mom – are your parents divorced?”

A tear dribbled down Kelly’s cheek and dropped onto her knee. I thought I might explode with suppressed rage, and just for a moment wondered how much time I would get “in juvie” for head-butting a detective’s nutsack.

“Stop it,” I muttered to Sedan Man, through clenched teeth.

Like a school bully or a shark smelling blood, the detective homed in on the perceived weaker target. He kept pressing Kelly, who was visibly shaking at this point.

What about your father – when is he available? I can’t wait until midnight to talk with your mother. Tell me where your father is – why won’t you look up, are you ashamed of him….

Kelly let out a low moan, and began pinching the skin of her forearm with her thumb and index finger.

I interrupted the detective with all of the, *none-of-your-fucking business,* fifth-grade gravitas I could muster.

“You can’t talk to her father. He’s dead.”

Several years earlier Kelly’s parents had separated, and her father moved out of the family house to an apartment.  The day after Kelly’s mother went to his apartment and confronted him with proof of his infidelity, Kelly’s father shot himself in the head.

The detective, of course, had no way of knowing this.  Even so, Kelly’s distress was evident, and he continued to badger an anguished child.

Well, why didn’t you say your dad had died?  Why didn’t you just….

At that propitious moment, our station wagon pulled into our driveway. My mother left a sack of groceries in the passenger’s seat and walked toward us, a look of polite confusion on her face as she beheld a strange man standing over her daughter and her daughter’s friend – all three of them on the front porch, where *nobody* went.

The detective’s entire demeanor changed with an adult present, which made me despise him all the more.  His malevolent mien morphed into one of professional solicitude, and he introduced himself to my mother with a smile and a doff of his hat.

I inched closer to Kelly, wanting to comfort her without embarrassing her – I could tell she did not want my mother to know that she’d been crying. Meanwhile, the two adults talked, at first as if Kelly and I were not present. The detective informed my mother of the situation; she listened, then asked me if Kelly and I had sung The Song. I looked her in the eye and said that we had, but we thought the Wagners weren’t home, and…. She put up her hand, motioning for me to stop talking. She told the detective that yes, the neighborhood children had perhaps taken their pranks too far, but did the detective know what the Wagners had done to egg them on? And Kelly did not live on Martha Lane, and had nothing to do with….

I was amazed to hear my mother speak to the detective.  She was a shy person, introverted with strangers, particularly male authority figures – and back then all males were authority figures (or acted as if they were) to all women.  My mother had heretofore never displayed anything I would have mistaken for a spine; it must have taken a lot for her to stand her ground with that man.  He asked more questions of her, all of which she politely but firmly deflected. She told him that he needed to speak with her husband about the matter, and if he’d give her his business card she would have her husband call him.

The detective left his card with my mother and left our street with me throwing silent curses at his butt-ugly, doggy-doo-colored sedan.  My mother asked me to take the groceries inside and set the table for dinner, and said she’d give Kelly a ride home. I never found out what, if anything, she and Kelly talked about on the ride; the next day at school both Kelly and I pretended that the previous day had never happened.

That evening, mere minutes after my father got home from work   [3] and had spoken with my mother, I stood with my back to the living room wall, listening to my father as he spoke on the kitchen telephone   [4] with the detective. 

My father prided himself on his diplomacy, which was in full force that evening. He was firm and reasonable, considerate but not quite conciliatory. What follows is his end of the conversation, from memory, as paraphrased by moiself . He started with introductions and personal chitchat, deftly and swiftly gleaning that the detective also had teen and preteen children.  He told the detective that

“the neighborhood teenagers”  [5]  had taken things a bit too far, but the police likely did not know all the facts.  I will declare the Wagners and their house off-limits to our family and will spread the word among the other Martha Lane parents, but I also need you to realize something:  the children’s behavior is immature to say the least, but these are *kids.* What is Mr. and Mrs. Wagner’s excuse – who are the “adults” in this situation?  It is unlikely the Wagners have admitted to you their *years* of harassment of the neighborhood (both children, and their parents).  The Wagners played an equal part in this vendetta – in fact, it began with them.  If you would interview other families in the neighborhood you would find out about that. And both you and I, as parents, know that when adults hassle kids past a certain point, even good kids will fight back.”

After speaking with the detective, my father telephoned Mr. Wagner.  He told Mr. Wagner that the kids were in the wrong; Mr. Wagner told my father that Mrs. Wagner was suffering health effects from being harassed by the neighborhood children, and agreed that things had gotten out of hand.  It was interesting to listen to my father saying something that, if you didn’t know the context, would sound nonsensical:  the children should “stop their singing their songs” and that perhaps everyone, the children of Martha Lane and the Wagners, could just steer clear of one another?

After an unusually silent dinner time my parents excused my younger sister from the table and asked her to take our toddler brother to the living room to watch TV. My parents remained at the kitchen table, and spoke privately with my older sister and I.  My father did most of the talking.  In a serious but not angry manner, he told us what had transpired with his phone calls (I said nothing about my eavesdropping).  We were to stop all contact with the Wagners, and inform our friends that the Wagner house was a demilitarized zone – off limits to all; no exceptions.  The Wagners agreed to drop their harassment charges, but were prepared to reinstate them if there were any more “incidents” (the detective told my father that the case would remain open for a couple of weeks to “see how things go.”).

Later that evening my father phoned several of the neighborhood children’s parents and explained the situation to them. He asked them to spread the word to other parents: the children of Martha Lane are to act as if the Wagners do not exist.  And, that was that, my parents said.  It’s over.

Except that for me, it wasn’t.  Unbeknownst to my parents or siblings, I cried myself to sleep that night, and for weeks afterward.

 

If only she’d had a baby sloth to hug.

 

It’s funny to me, in retrospect, how adults neglect to explain How Things Work ®  to children, because their adult minds don’t go down all the paths that a child’s mind will take.  I thought I had a criminal record! And that it would follow me the rest of my life!  That made me feel frightened, anxious, hopeless…and fence-kicking, hornet-spitting, furious.

I feared my parents were disappointed in me, and me alone. And I was steaming angry about the fact that the majority of the “harassment” tactics had come from the older kids  –  teens, like my sister, The Consummate Good Girl/Model Child ®.  My sister and her friend made up that damn stupid song, had sung it with their friends “at” the Wagners, then taught it to me and my friends and urged us to sing it whenever we could….and guess who got caught?

In my family’s script my older sister was The Good Child ®  –  polite and obedient and respectful of authority, while I was the imp/rabble rouser/mischief-maker.  But family roles and labels (“this is the smart one, and this is the clever one, and this is the sweet one…”)  are always far more complicated than surface perceptions.  *I* knew, from personal experience, that my sister was not the goody-two-shoes her teachers and parents thought she was.  But the fact that she and her friends could “get away” with what had happened while I was implicated – that was typical.

There is nothing like the righteous indignation of a wrong adolescent. I avoided fully considering my own culpability in the Wagner harassment by focusing on (what I thought was) the colossal injustice done to me – and poor Kelly, by association.

But, I digress.

 

 

I didn’t sleep well for weeks after the visit from Undercover Detective Asshat.  My throat would tighten and my fists would clench whenever I saw a sedan that reminded me of that detective’s car – and every such vehicle was, to me, potentially an unmarked police car… and, BTW, unmarked cars for police?  How unfair?!?! Detectives must be a slimy bunch, to sneak around like that….

My reaction was only slightly less volatile when I saw a regular, black and white police car cruiser; I held a silent but deadly   [6]  grudge against cops.

How that plainclothes detective had treated Kelly – those memories and feelings stayed with me for years.  However, time eventually did what time eventually does, and by high school I had gotten over my indignation.

But here (yes, after all this) is what prompted my telling of this My Encounter With The Police ® story:  judging from the reactions of many (white) people to the Black Lives Matter movement, some folks just don’t seem to understand the simple yet profound idea that people’s experiences color and inform their perceptions.

I got over what had happened with that vile, abusive, unprofessional detective – I was able to navigate through the world and let go of my anger – in part because during the ensuing years I had few if any encounters with “law enforcement officers.”  I was able to see the incident as just that – an incident; an aberration.

I was a white girl.

All the “players” in the My Encounter With The Police ®  story were white.

What if I had been Black, or Latina?  Would the detective have shown as much deference to my mother if she were Mexican-American?  Would he have been as respectful and agreeable to my father, who argued for considering the perspective of the “harassing” children, if my father had been a Black man? What if all of the neighborhood children had been a different “shade” than the Wagners – would the detective have agreed to drop the investigation?  What if the Wagners had been Black – would their complaints have been investigated, or even given serious consideration?

Knowing what I now know now, the answers to all of those questions would be a regrettable but accurate, Are you fucking kidding me?  No.

As I passed from grade school  [7]   through junior and then high school, I slowly came to realize that my darker-skinned peers had many more negative experiences with the police, and for matters far more trivial than “singing that song” and with far different outcomes than my family had experienced (“It’s a crime, you know, to drive while Mexican,” my “cruiser car” buddy GS, a Chicano, once joked to me).

Your experiences shape your perceptions.  Too few white people are beginning to consider that idea, vis-à-vis Black and Brown people and the police and other governmental forces; fewer still are able to summon the introspection necessary to examine their visceral reaction to the complex ideas and realities behind concepts like, Defund the police.

And for those of us in this better-late-than-never category, I’ll apply my dinner party analogy. Specifically, how I feel about guests whom I looked forward to seeing (that’s why I invited them: I don’t ask people to dinner if I don’t like them), and they showed up…eventually:

Welcome to the party y’all!

You’re hours late; you missed the appetizers and first courses
and the entrée and we’re halfway through dessert…
but it’s great to see you and we’re happy
you showed up in time to help with the dishes.

*   *   *

May you be a helpful voice in the Defund the Police conversation;
May you discern when to use your voice and when it’s better to listen to other’s voices;  [8]

May you always arrive in time to help with the dishes;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] If you don’t know or remember the significance behind the phrase “the ML kids’ war with the neighborhood cranks” then there’s no point in reading further without reading the previous post.

[2] Friends and family used the side entrance to our house, which led to the kitchen. If someone knocked on our front door that was a giveaway that it was a stranger, or a solicitor.

[3] About 5:20p and not after 6p, like I’d told the detective. Yep, I lied to the creep.

[4] Which was, at the time, our only telephone.

[5] my dad’s words. Although Kelly and I were preteens, it was the older kids who had instigated the anti-Wagner campaign,

[6] You knew I had to get a fart reference in the story,  somewhere…somehow.

[7] A story like this should have more footnotes. Or, less.

[8] As in, the voices of other people, not the voice you may hear in your head that sounds like your demon uncle ordering you to vote for anything wearing a MAGA hat and then strangle a baby hamster.

The Fond Childhood Memories I’m Not Reliving

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Department Of Now I’ve Seen Everything

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

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

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

 

*   *   *

Department of Yep, This.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of My Defund The Police Story

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

Moiself  has heard this defensive reaction explained along these lines:

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

Translation: there is a story to be told.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

“I knew you could, boys and girls.”

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

Things escalated, as they say, from there. 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

Then, one day….

 

 

I’ve always wanted to say that.

The story continues, in next week’s post.

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

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

[2] A slight exaggeration.

[3] The imaginatively named, Santa Ana College.

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

[5] In their late 60s – early 70s?

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

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

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

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

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

The Yoga Pose I’m Not Practicing

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Department Of Even Yoga Teachers Need To Be Careful What They Ask For

Backstory: A couple of months ago, when we were all new to this streaming business, my 9 am yoga class teacher held a pre-class video chat for us streamers. She told us a “yoga joke,” then said that if anyone else knew any yoga jokes, she’d love to hear them.  

Dateline: Monday; circa 9:30 am; doing a vinyasa (yoga) class via streaming. The regular teacher is on vacation.  As the substitute yoga teacher leads the class into Triangle Pose, my mind wanders – which *not* the point of a yoga class, I realize…

 

 “Bad yogi!”  [1]

Ahem.

…my mind wanders to ponder the many different yoga pose names, both their English “nickname” and the Sanskrit names and translations, and as I do this, a joke begins to develop in moiself’s un-mindfulness-practicing mine.  There are a few twisting yoga poses which are notorious for producing, in certain people, a certain bodily response – in fact, the Sanskrit name for one such pose translates as:

 

 

My joke is a play on the Sanskrit name for Triangle Pose, which is Trikonasa (TREE- kone-ah-sauna).  I will ask my yoga teacher if there is a yoga pose known for inducing bladder leakage, and if so, would that pose be called, Trickle-asana?

 

My guess is that Trickleasana would look something like this

 

*   *   *

Department Of Extending The Metaphor

Yeah, hipster, since you obviously don’t care about trashing your own lungs, go right ahead and give no thought to trashing your small portion of the planet, which happens to be shared by everyone else.  That’s the true American Spirit.    [2]

 

 

*   *   *

 

Actually, not. Not something *completely* different, that is.

Instead, a smooth segue into….

Department Of Smoke Gets In Your Eyes… And Nowhere Else, If You’re Lucky.

MH and I have two fireplaces in our house.  One has never been used; the other has been used once, not long after we moved in (~ 26 years ago), and never since.  This is because of moiself’s killjoy spirit  high livability standards.

I have been the family spoilsport when it comes to wood fires, be they fireplace fires or beach bonfires or campfires.  When on vacation, burning wood is “permissible” only if necessary – e.g., if your accommodations have a wood-fire stove as the only heating source.  You see, I am one of those annoying I-can’t-pretend-to-not-know-something-once-I-know-it kinda people, and cannot justify sitting around a pollution source sans a more compelling reason than my personal entertainment.

 

 

 

And yes, I have fun, sitting-around-the-campfire memories from childhood.  And yes, I have been pooh-poohed for my anti-wood fire attitude (“Oh, c’mon, it’s not really that bad…“).  And yes, I am thanking someone else for doing the legwork on the It Really Is That Bad ® statistics I once knew but have forgotten and was too lazy to look up.

That info via Someone Else ®  was provided in yesterday’s Ask Amy column, wherein Amy dealt with a woman’s am-I-right-to-be-disturbed-by-this question. This (nonsmoking) woman has been accused by her (non-smoking) husband’s “big smoker” sisters of over-reacting because of the woman’s concerns about the fact that when she and hubby go for “chats and s’mores” to the sisters’ place, the sisters toss their butts and partially smoked cigarettes into the fire pit: 

“…since we don’t smell any cigarette smoke as the fire burns, (the sisters claim that) second-hand smoke isn’t an issue.
I feel this is second-hand smoke and a very real health concern.”

Amy lays it on the line (my emphases):

Cigarettes aside, the backyard fire pit itself presents risks to lung health. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (epa.gov), “In addition to particle pollution, wood smoke contains several toxic harmful air pollutants, including: benzene, formaldehyde, acrolein, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).”

Cigarette filters are made of cellulose acetate, which is a finely spun plastic (not cotton, as I had always assumed). Burning plastic sends off toxic fumes. The leftover tobacco on the spent cigarettes will also release “second-hand” smoke.

So yes – this bonfire is basically a flaming pit of toxins.

 

The Scoutmaster says we’re only two requirements shy of earning our Flaming Pit of Toxins merit badges!

 

Are you lost in the forest in the dead of winter? Ok; build a fire. You and your friends just wanna sit beside a pile of wood and watch it burn for…oh, that warm, glowy-feeling, or whatever?  There are other ways to enjoy each other’s company that don’t involve needless production of toxic waste.  How about playing charades, or that game where you find clever ways to trash your hypocritical friends who make you feel guilty about, say, things like polluting for your own pleasure?

Or how about this: re-purpose some old holiday lights, and if you put them on twinkly-mode you can pretend it’s flickering flames.  Imagination is good for the body and spirit.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Could The Editor Have Cut The Movie To Give You All At Least Five Minutes Before Contradicting Yourselves?

Dateline: a week ago, this evening; watching The Go-Go’s documentary with MH. One of the Go-Gos was doing a voice over about the early 1980s Los Angeles punk scene (from whence the Go-Gos was spawned); specifically, about how accepting the punks were:  it didn’t matter if you were gay or straight, white or black, male or female etc. you were welcomed for however you were/whatever you were.

 

 

 

This kumbaya declaration was made literally seconds before the band went on to recall how the other Go-Gos demanded that their new drummer, Gina Schock, an import LA from Baltimore, undergo a makeover when she arrived – they cut and dyed her frizzy blonde hair to short and dark, to be more suitable to the punk scene.

Confession:  the picture of Gina’s “Baltimore” hairstyle that flashed onscreen during that recollection…it *was* really, clownishy, wretched, even by 1980’s hair standards.  [3]  Open and accepting only goes so far; I guess even punk rockers have standards.

 

Yep; it was worse than this.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Stopping Moiself  In The Nick Of Time

Dateline: Tuesday, circa 7 am, walking north along the beach at Manzanita. There are few people on the misty beach.  About 200 yards ahead of me I see three creatures walking south – a man, a woman, and their dog. The man and the woman each hold a large takeout coffee cup in their respective right hands.  The dog, walking between the two, is looking up at the man.  Dog pays the woman no attention; dog’s eyes stare up at the man.

As the trio gets closer I notice that the dog’s laser focus is on the man’s left arm, which the man has tightly clenched to his left side, and I get a glimpse of the halves of two brightly colored orbs the man is carrying between his upper arm and armpit/chest.

As our two groups (well, moiself  is a group of one) we both do the polite, COVID-appropriate thing, moving to the side and smiling in acknowledgement and greeting. The woman says a few words to the dog, which gives no indication it has heard her – it never tears its gaze from the man and the toys he has “hidden” under his arm…and the woman sees that I have noticed this.  As she gives me a “What am I – chopped liver?” look and shrug of her shoulders, I stop myself at the last minute from pointing to the dog and to the man and saying to the man,

“Oh, I get it – you’re the one with the balls!”

 

“In a just world, I’m the one with *all* the balls.”

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

I can’t believe I got fired from the calendar factory – all I did was take a day off!

 

*   *   *

 

May you enjoy the simple pleasure of wasting precious brain wattage on composing a bad joke about your favorite form of exercise;
May you be the coveted one with the…uh…balls;
May we all hope that the nostalgia for pre-pandemic times does not presage a return to 1980s hair;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

[1] No no no – not *that* kind. A yogi is anyone who practices yoga.

[2] Can you make out the cigarette carton brand?  Do ya get it, huh? Huh? Huh? Huh?

[3] I can provide no still picture of that hair, from the documentary – I think it would have burned the camera lens to even attempt it.

The Dinner With Mel Brooks I’m Not Having

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Department Of SpellWalking is Spellbinding

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

Spellwalking Spellwalking Spellwalking Spellwalking
Spellwalking Spellwalking

…there. Now you have.

You Must Check This Out ®.

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

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

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

 

 

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

“That F** King Alexander….”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Speaking Of How My Brain Works…

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Fraternity rush season at the Hippocampus is intense.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Not All Of The Oldies Are Goodies

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

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

 

“Is that a good wow, or a bad wow?”

 

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

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

The End.

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

*   *   *

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

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

Goodbye, Carl Reiner.

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

*   *   *

Department Of See This Movie, Right Now

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

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

Never Rarely Sometimes Always

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

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

 

*   *   *

 

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

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

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

The Grumpy Grandpa I’m Not Correcting

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Another Fact Abscess Feminist Ruins A Family Outing  Enlightens A Grateful Grandpa

My offspring, K and Belle, successfully fledged several years ago. When they were young (ages 1-5), their respective daycare/preschool teachers knew that, rain or shine, they wouldn’t be in class on Wednesdays, as that was our zoo/museum outing day.  Nine out of ten times, we’d go to the Oregon Zoo.

Those zoo trips were before the massive, community bond-supported revamping, updating, and expansion of the zoo and its animal habitats. There weren’t many visitors then – particularly on windy/rainy days, which were our favorites, because it often seemed if we had the zoo all to ourselves.  [1]  Several of the zookeepers got to recognize us, and we them. The staff were impressed and amused by K’s and Belle’s flourishing interest in animals and wildlife conservation and liked that we always greeted the keepers by name and asked (or tried to ask) interesting questions about the animals.

That the zookeepers took the time to speak with us (often quite extensively, and when it was obvious they had *real* work to do) is one of several factors moiself  credits for both K and Belle going on to be in the Zoo Teens program while in high school and then majoring in the Biological Sciences in college.

I’d also like to think that I “modeled” or that K and Belle inherited (nature?  nurture?) that interest from me. Moiself  was quite the animal nerd growing up, particularly in grade school.  My parents recognized and encouraged that interest, and for years I always received at least one nature-themed/animal facts book for my birthday and Christmas presents.  Thus, informed and armed, I was able to spoil the fun of many a prepubescent boy – who was trying to be naughty by teasing his female classmates about this AMAZING animal he’d come across – by explaining that a titmouse was in fact *not* a well-endowed rodent, but a petite North American songbird.

 

 

As always, I digress.

One of my interests at the zoo was not only watching my kids watch the animals, but watching the other zoo visitors. In that older version of the zoo, near the Penguin House, there was a habitat wherein dwelt a solitary, enormous, beautiful, Alaskan Brown bear named Marcia  (Marsha? Or Martha? Don’t know the spelling; her name was not on the information card on the habitat; we’d learned about her from the zookeepers   [2] ).

On days when there were many other zoo visitors and we stopped by Marcia’s habitat, inevitably – I mean, without fail – other adults would “mis-identify” the bear.  Always the male visitors (and also quite a few of the females) would remark, to themselves or to the kids who were with them, something along the lines of,

“Wow, get a load of that bear, he’s so big! Look at his paws…”

I would then take the opportunity to say, “Actually, her name is Marcia.” My comment/correction  would oftentimes lead to brief but interesting, personal-connection type conversations about the zoo and the animals, and sometimes my kids and I would learn something new, from a visitor who had talked with a zookeeper at another exhibit and had an interesting animal fact/behavior tidbit to share.  If the person seemed receptive, I would sneak in a factoid about how a zookeeper told me that the majority of the zoo’s resident animals were female…and how another zookeeper, and more than one biologist I’d met, told me that the majority of the world’s biomass is female but that an individual animal’s gender is usually misidentified by non-biologists when they use a pronoun other than “it” to refer to the animal.  For example, if you espy a wild animal when you’re out and about – say, a garter snake when you’re hiking the Wildwood trail in Forest Park – it is most likely a “she snake,” even though you or your hiking companion(s) will probably call it, or think of it as, a “he.”

With two exceptions moiself  can recall, these interactions at Marcia’s habitat were always positive (which is why I kept engaging in them).  In exception #2, an older dude got his grandpa tighty-whities in a knot when I spoke up after he’d pointed out the bear to (what I assumed were) his two grandkids, as well as to moiself and my two kids, and exclaimed, “Look at that HUGE bear – can you guess how strong he is?”

“She sure is something – she’s one of our favorite animals at the zoo!” I cheerfully chirped. “And, actually, her name is Marcia.”

The man’s face slowly but surely morphed into Grumpy Old Man, get-offa-my-lawn!  territory, as his granddaughter waved to the bear and called out, “Marcia – she’s Marcia! Hi, Marcia!”

“Why does that matter?” he said to me. 

“What do you mean?” I asked, not knowing if the “matter” he was wondering about was the bear’s name or its sex.

“Why does it matter?” he repeated, now looking full-blown irritated, as if he thought I were trying to show him up in front of his grandkids (neither of whom were paying any attention to the adults, but were standing with my kids, waving to the bear). “Does it matter if it’s a he or a she?”

Moiself  donned my best, well-practiced, kill him with kindness visage, raised my voice to a perky, non-threatening octave above my usual tone, and delivered my reply with bared teeth pretending to be a smile a friendly grin:

“Well, obviously it does, or you wouldn’t object to being corrected about a simple fact.”

He muttered under his breath and herded his grandkids away from the exhibit. The little girl turned back and called out, “Marcia!  Marcia! Bye, Marcia!”

 

The Brady Bunch Marcia Marcia Marcia GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

 

*   *   *

Department Of Telling Grandpa Why It Matters

If Grumpy Gramps had stuck around and showed an ounce of amiable interest in the subject, I might have told him that I also would have offered a corrective comment had he misidentified the bear’s species, or its coloration or predation habits or dietary needs (“Look at that black bear/purple grizzly bear/orange sun bear – you know, in the wild, polar bears climb trees to hunt penguins  [3]….”), or any other basic fact about it. An animal’s sex or gender   [4]  is just another one of those basic facts.

The most obvious “proof” as to how important this is, Gramps, is that when I pointed out this particular, simple, factual error, did you notice how many of your feathers got ruffled?

I have taken it upon moiself  to be a “Squirt Gun Ambassador” re the natural world, hoping to incorporate the playfulness/good humor that this childhood summer toy brings to mind, when dealing with this particular issue, which is of importance TO THE ENTIRE WORLD (whether the entire world realizes it or not).

 

 

The SQUIRT gun issue to which I refer is my Sex Question Identification Reparations Therapy ®  crusade, regarding peoples’ tendency to apply male pronouns to all animals they see, unless the animal is obviously female (e.g., nursing its young).  I go the other direction, and use “she” instead of “it” (which I used to always do, and which I’ll get back to doing some day, when people stop defaulting to using “he”) to refer to an animal whose gender is unknown.  My crusade is somewhat analogous to, and in part inspired by, actor Geena Davis’ campaign on gender inequity in entertainment media.

Media is one of the most important factors influencing our values. Women and girls are 51% of the population, but entertainment media is bereft of female characters, with a ratio of approximately 3:1 male characters to female characters since the 1940s.
(Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media )

……When her…daughter was a toddler, and (Davis) started watching movies with her, she realised how woeful the depictions of women in family movies really were.
She was particularly struck by just how few speaking characters in these films were female. She took this point to industry colleagues, but most denied it. Well-meaning and sincere, they couldn’t see a problem.
Davis pressed on – she wanted to see the numbers….she sponsored the largest study carried out on gender depictions in family-rated films and children’s television…and found that for every female speaking-character, there were 2.5 or three male characters – a figure unchanged since 1946.
Furthermore, the vast majority of those female characters were stereotypical or highly sexualised, with ambitions largely related to romance. Even crowd scenes were only made up of 17% women….

 

Hollywood thinks women just don’t like to “gather,” or flee from monsters….

 

“What if we are inculcating generation after generation to believe that low representation of women is the norm?” (Davis) asked her audience.
So her institute commissioned more research: this time, a global study of gender in film in the 10 biggest film markets in the world. The findings were “bleak”: of those characters seen to be holding a job, 77.5% were male and 22.5% were female. Women in leadership and science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM fields were dramatically underrepresented in film, she said, and of the 127 characters that held political office, only 12 were women.
This lack of onscreen depiction contributes to symbolic annihilation, Davis said, by which those that don’t see themselves reflected on screen believe they are unimportant. She quoted damning statistics that show the more hours of television a girl watches, the fewer options she thinks she has in life.

(“How Geena Davis became a champion for women on screen,”
The Guardian, 3-5-17 )

*   *   *

Department Of And While I’m On The Subject…

Can we agree to get rid of those dreadful feminizing/diminishing suffixes appended to people, animals, and professions?

If you come to a party at my house, I am your host, not your hostess.

 

And I won’t be serving these, BTW.

 

Your doctor, if she is a woman, is your doctor, not your doctress. Lions are male and female; there is no need for “lioness” as an identifier. If you name your Aunt Erva in your will as the person who will manage your estate, she should be called your executor, not your executrix.

Still with me, Grumpy Gramps? Since you asked it’s important, to know the animal’s correct gender because girls need to know that what is female is present, in the world, everywhere.  Girls often grow up into women who lack the confidence to move through the world as easily and powerfully as men do, because they don’t think that the world belongs to them.  Unintentionally and sometimes deliberately, girls get presented with skewed perceptions of their “place” – even of simply how many of them there are  [5]   –  in the world.  In the images and examples girls *and* boys are shown, the default for everything is male, especially if the thing in question is perceived as being big and powerful.

It’s important because a person will want to care for the world and that which is in the world, to seek education and take action – from studying to be a geologist to learning to do their own basic auto maintenance and repairs – if they think these things are truly and equally theirs.  If it belongs to you, then you feel a sense of responsibility for it. Despite the progress made in the past few decades, girls (and boys) still look at the world, at the images and descriptions presented to them, and see it as primarily belonging to, and inhabited and ruled by, boys and men.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Remember That Which Will Eventually Kill Those Of Us Who Survive The Rest Of This Ca-Ca?

Global warming/climate change – the human-induced warming of the planet  – has been getting our attention span short shrift these days, what with the pandemic, poor policing of POC and other parts of the panoply of poop parading past.   [6]

After my pitch for gender label inclusivity, I’ve not much energy left for another harangue.

 

 

I’ll leave y’all with this analogy on the subject. At many a dinner party discussion, I’ve listened while friends have lamented the conundrum of how and why otherwise rational-seeming people can ignore the evidence  of climate change and/or that some “aware” people tacitly admit that the evidence is real, but find ways to avoid thinking about it and/or don’t want to act on this evidence because they view any such actions as impeding their current lifestyle, or that they believe that individuals cannot make any significant changes to the problem.

I’ve had to bite my tongue when well-meaning people whom I admire and even love have sincerely claimed not to understand such willful ignorance…because they do the same thing, with regards to the same issue. They are all willing and enthusiastic participators in the environment-razing, carnivore fodder industry.

They all eat (factory-farm grown and processed) meat.

I’ve decided to be silent no more.  I will try my Girl Scout Best  [7]  to *not* be of those self-righteous scolds, but the next time someone starts with the, “How can those people ignore the evidence ?!?!?” wail I will gently point out that their lament is not only rhetorical, but disingenuous. They know, or *should* know, exactly why “those people” want to ignore the evidence of climate change because they themselves use the same rationale for ignoring the evidence on meat consumption:

* because they don’t want to alter their current way of life;

* because they don’t want to make the necessary changes, which they view as making sacrifices and being inconvenienced;

* because they just don’t want to be bothered.

Some of the most thoughtful people I know find ways not to give the problems of animal agriculture any thought, just as I find ways to avoid thinking about climate change and income inequality….
Animal agriculture is now recognized as a leading cause of global warming….
We cannot protect our environment while continuing to eat meat regularly. This is not a refutable perspective, but a banal truism….cows produce an enormous amount of greenhouse gas. If cows were a country, they would be the third-largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world.
According to the research director of Project Drawdown — a nonprofit organization dedicated to modeling solutions to address climate change — eating a plant-based diet is “the most important contribution every individual can make to reversing global warming.”
Americans overwhelmingly accept the science of climate change. A majority of both Republicans and Democrats say that the United States should have remained in the Paris climate accord. We don’t need new information, and we don’t need new values. We only need to walk through the open door.

 ( “The End of Meat Is Here: If you care about the working poor,
about racial justice, and about climate change,
you have to stop eating animals,” Jonathan Safran Foer,
 NY Times 5-21-20 )

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

 

*   *   *

May you carefully consider which evidence you are choosing to ignore;
May you remember that I’m a writer, not a writress;
May you enjoy an adolescent’s misunderstanding of “titmouse;”
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] I remember at least two occasions where we saw no other human beings, with the exception of the zookeepers and other zoo employees.

[2] And two keepers told me two different names for that bear: “Martha” and “Marcia.”

[3] Despite all the cute cartoons you may have seen, polar bears and penguins never interact. Polar bears are northern pole denizens while penguin species all live south of the equator. And neither of them climb trees.

[4] I realize these are loaded terms, used interchangeably and not always in the same manner, by humans.

[5] The world human population male/female ratio consistently hovers around 50-50,   but you wouldn’t know that if your only statistic in this matter came from your consumption of popular media, where the male characters consistently and overwhelmingly outnumber the female.

[6] I counted at least eight Ps there.

[7] Well, in my case, Girl-Scout-drop-out best….

The Police Officer I’m Not Judging

Comments Off on The Police Officer I’m Not Judging

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

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

I found that delightful.

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

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

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


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

 

*   *   *

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

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

 

 

Bear with me as I make a related association.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

Oh, and, Et tu, Daniel Radcliffe?

“Who, moi?”

 

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

“…as a human being…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

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

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion  Evolution  [7]

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

Featuring this week’s Theme Day and recipe:

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

My rating:

Recipe Rating Refresher  [8]

*   *   *

 

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

[5] Dying off, one by one, I know….

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

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

[8]

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

* Tolerable:  if you have the proper…attitude.

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

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

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

 

The 2020 Mascot I Am Not Celebrating

1 Comment

Department Of Questions That Have No Logical Answers   [1]

 

 

The realm in question:

Sci-fi and set-in-the-future movies and television shows.

The question for the realm:

Why are the (almost always male) directors’ and/or producers’ of such shows seemingly obsessed with bizarre/fantastical/just-plain-silly female hairstyles?

 

 

 

 

Kroika! Only he who is strong enough to remove this hibernating wolverine from my head shall be my mate.”

 

Do these men imagine that, in the future and/or “out in space,” the laws of gravity will not apply to hair proceeding from the scalps of both humanoid and alien women?

 

 

Just moiself  asking. Because, you know – science.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Surprise Of The Week
(As In, Are You Kidding – Not. At. All.)

AKA Jane Roe. Put that documentary on your streaming list. Highly recommended.

A bombshell documentary airing…on FX adds a final shocking twist to Norma McCorvey’s ideologically eventful life. In AKA Jane Roe, McCorvey offers what she calls a “deathbed confession”: Actually, she was basically pro-choice all along and only became a pro-life activist for the money. “It was a mutual thing,” she tells director Nick Sweeney. “I took their money, and they took me out in front of the cameras and told me what to say.” Sweeney displays tax documents revealing that McCorvey received at least $450,000 from pro-life groups over the course of her years as an activist, often classified as “benevolent gifts.”
(slate.com)

 

 

Apparently, there are some people who are shocked and/or disappointed to learn that Norma Jean McCarvey, aka “Jane Roe” in the 1973 Roe V. Wade SCOTUS decision, admitted she was paid for her notorious “flip-flop” – from pro-choice to anti-abortion – by the anti-abortion side.

In the final scene of “AKA Jane Roe,” a near-death McCorvey is asked if she felt she was a “trophy” to the pro-life movement, and she says, “Of course. I was the Big Fish. I took their money and they took me out in front of the cameras and told me what to say … I’m a good actress. Of course, I’m not acting now.”
(rogerebert.com review of AKA Jane Roe)

Such tactics are no surprise to many of us who have worked in women’s reproductive health care.  The anti-abortionists  [2]  use the ends-justifies-the-means excuses for their deception, propaganda, and outright pants-on-fire lies.

Moiself  has more stories than I care to recall, from both my days at Planned Parenthood and a private OB-GYN practice, having to do with women’s encounters with anti-choice exploiters activists. One of the ickiest stories I will detail in next week’s post.

One of my “favorite” such stories came from a PP I worked at, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, in the Bay Area.  I was in the clinic’s lab, about to start the centrifuge, when I saw my co-worker, MT, exit the exam room across from the lab.  MT, known and admired by her coworkers for her serenity and equanimity, face-palmed her forehead as she scurried toward me, holding a pipette of her patient’s blood.  As she added her sample to the centrifuge, I asked her whence the WTF?!?! expression on her face.  She replied that her patient had come to PP after first going to one of those shit-faced, lying to women “Pregnancy Counseling Centers” which, its receptionist assured her when she telephoned for info, was a legitimate medical clinic. While the patient was waiting for her pregnancy test to be run, the center’s “counselor” told her that having an abortion would give her cancer (of her “womb”), which could then infect her husband’s reproductive tract.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Why We’re On The Subject Of Lying To Women…And Men….

Division Of Taking A Break From Dissing My Religious Roots
And Going After Other Peoples’

Sub-Department Of More Fun With Movies

This next movie I recommend is not a documentary, ala AKA Jane Roe, but is an equally fascinating, disturbing, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful account of real-life events. It is based on Deborah Feldman’s  Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots Feldman’s memoir recounts growing up within, becoming estranged to, and finally escaping from her rigid Satmar Hasidic community in the Willamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn.

So. My thoughts after watching Netflix’s four-part series, Unorthodox:

 

 

I wonder how many of the residents of New York City’s most populous borough go about their daily business without giving a thought to the fact that, in their northwest corner, there is an entire community of people ruled by…mmm, how do I put this…mind-numbing, misogynistic mythological minutia.

I’ve heard of/read about the voluminous rules & regs of Hasidic life, but to be presented with the daily realities of the Satmar Hasids…yikes with a capital IKES. The sect’s many extremist emphases include an ultra-orthodox, anti-Zionist theology (they’re not fond of other [read: non-Hasidic] Jews, and particularly loathe the secular ones), and rejection of modernity.  As for the latter, they are able to interpret some amusing exceptions for themselves (surprise!).  For example, Satmar Hasids may have a cellphone, but not a ‘smart” phone – or any device with internet access (which would allow you to ask questions of/read opinions and facts presented by authorities other than your rabbi).

Satmar Hasids’ lives are a continual numerical equation of sorts, a computing and tracking of what must be done and when and how often – as well as, the biggest list of all, the thou-shall nots – all carried out within the confines of a close-knit (read: gossip-ridden and judgmental) community isolated from non-Jews, estranged from other (non-Hasidic) Jews, and centered around the dicta of a grand rabbi leader.   [3]

All of the minutia of rules rules rules – and did I mention, rules?  [4]  The most time-consuming, and physically and intellectually and sexually onerous and stifling “guidelines” and restrictions are (surprise, again!) applied to women.

 “Blessed are you, HaShem, King of the Universe,
for not having made me a gentile;”

“Blessed are you, HaShem, King of the Universe,
for not having made me a slave.”

“Blessed are you, HaShem, King of the Universe,
for not having made me a woman.

(2,000 year old prayer, from the Talmud, which Orthodox Jewish men are still supposed to recite every morning)

 

 

Hasids’ lives are directed by the triviality of detail, the constant accounting of everything – how many days for this, steps for that, when to touch or say or eat this and not that, what to cover and uncover  – lives prescribed and restricted by the rules that (they are taught) are from their god and are monitored by their god (and the other community members. You are always being watched).  Yet, somehow, there’s a subset of rules as to how you can circumvent the other rules  [5]   – which, remember, are from The King Of The Universe…who apparently isn’t paying enough attention to notice when his minions are doing an end run around his holy rules.

Adherents and supporters of such religious communities argue that those rules and rituals give meaning to life.  Moiself, along with those who have escaped from such constrictive communities, call claptrap and bullshit take strong issue with that claim.

When I’ve read and watched the stories of people who’ve fled such communities, it’s obvious to moiself  that the fulfillment of the religious rules – and the task of merely trying to keep track of all of them – takes up the majority of one’s time. This crucial phenomenon serves to keep the community running…even if it’s only on its own cultural hamster wheel.  As a member of the community you aren’t really doing anything other than upholding the community.  You are not doing, learning, or producing anything new/original. You’re not even thinking original thoughts, but merely “studying” those of your community’s founder, who presents himself as your god’s interpreter. And with all this you shall pass the time because…what else is there for you to do, that you are allowed to do?

 

 

And, oh, the pervasive and primitive misogyny at the root of the Hasid – of any religion’s – social regulations! The fear and mis-characterization of, and obsession with, female sexuality is ever present, despite the claims that the religion’s rules uphold the “beauty and sanctity of the marital relationship” (the ultimate purpose of which is to produce more human specimens for their god’s ant farm). Denying and obscuring and shaming, either directly or obliquely, is applied to the physical aspects of being human, the very aspects which supposedly stem from their creator-god. What a world of spiritual and cognitive dissonance – to honestly think about it would drive an introspective person mad. But, once again: ritual and rules to the rescue!

The detailed pro-and pre-scribing of peoples’ behavior – even their thoughts – is a highly effective form of crowd control.  The decrees and rituals to be learned and applied – the continuous “studying“ of them guarantees there will be no true contemplation going on…because you’re just too damn busy trying to remember it all (“Hmm; was that mitzvot 513 or 613?”).  A day is only so long; keeping your sect’s versions of physical, mental and spiritual “kosher” keeps you from having the time for the kind of thoughtful analysis of these superstitious burdens codes which would allow you to see through and escape from them.

Now then. To those of us who are giving ourselves the proverbial pat on the back re our relatively progressive take on things:  I can’t help but wonder how many “moderate” believers (of any religion) who’ll watch Unorthodox – or perhaps another depiction of an extremist/Fundy sect of their own faith – will cluck their tongues at the primeval actions and philosophies of the Fundies, and not realize their own proximity to such retrograde superstitions.

 

Yes, the same g-d who commands that we reject the homos is honored by our Nancy-boy curls and Ru-Paul-to-die-for hats, trust us.

 

If you are religious, those are your roots. You only are a few notches up the scale of modernity, if you try to apply Iron Age spirituality in the 21st century. You may reject or laugh at the claims of, say, your Fundy Christian cousins, but do you still, literally or figuratively, embrace the tenets of Christianity?   Do you, either with fellow worshipers in a god-box (temple, church) or alone in the privacy of your home, telepathically beseech and/or grovel to a cosmic Jewish zombie who was his own father and who can make you live forever if you symbolically cannibalize him (“take communion”) and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical but forbidden tree?

Yep.  You’re not like those silly Fundies at all.

 

*   *   *

Department Of I Know The Year Isn’t Even Half Over Yet…

…but moiself  has a nomination for the Mascot For The Year 2020.

According to the Chinese Zodiac, we are in the Year of the Rat – although in my estimation, we have been ever since #45 took office.

 

 

 

Ahem. Ladies and Gentleman, for your consideration, I propose that 2020 may be declared The Year Of The Murder Hornet.

Yes, you heard me right:  THE MURDER HORNET. A name like that begs for all caps, n’est ce pas?

THE MURDER HORNET.

I am compelled to keep typing it. I so wish I was making this up – and so will you, if you read about this insect.  The name alone – do you even want to Google it?

 

 

*   *   *

Department of The Corona Virus Playlist
The 500 Greatest Songs Off All Time Edition

As per the Rolling Stone Magazine list[6]  Not to diss songs 101-500, but I culled the following entrants from the top 100 (’cause life is short and I like to eat dinner).

As with previous CVPs, moiself  has listed some of these song titles which are IMHO, applicable to our social-isolating, transmission–paranoid, COVID-19 times, and which, in small groupings, imply a related story. This time there’s no clue save for the song titles as to who the recording artists are (but few clues needed, given the RS list’s bold title).

 (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
My Generation
Imagine
What’s Going On
Suspicious Minds

A Change Is Gonna Come
Blowin’ in the Wind
People Get Ready
A Day in the Life

Help!
I Walk the Line
Gimme Shelter
Let’s Stay Together
Let It Be

The Times They Are a-Changin’
The Weight
Heroes
Bridge Over Troubled Water

Walk On By
You Really Got Me
I Heard It Through the Grapevine
Every Breath You Take
Crazy

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

 

How does Moses make his tea? Hebrews it.

 

“Haven’t my people suffered enough?”

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion  Evolution  [7]

 

 

And here’s what I made for ours, one day this week – never mind.  EEE on hiatus this week. So, get your own damn dinner ideas.

 

*   *   *

May you never see a MURDER HORNET, even from a safe distance;
May you reject all belief systems which require you to wear silly hats;
May the month of June bring us closer to a cure from
COVID-19 (and MURDER HORNETS);
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Including why they often appear in moiself’s brain, seemingly apropos of nothing.

[2] They’re definitely not “pro-life” – (unless the life in question is fetal) as their other political views and polities indicate.

[3] In the Satmar community’s case, a Hungarian rabbi who migrated to the US with a group of followers after WWII.

[4] They are way too many to list; and many revolve around the paramount importance of maintaining what they define as physical modesty: bodies must be covered fully; all clothing is formal (or what as a child my family would have called “dress-up” clothes). Women’s skirts must hang a certain distance below the knees, shirt sleeves must  extend past the elbows, bodices must cover the collarbone. Satmar Hassids take the modesty rules to the extreme re women’s hair: when a girl marries she must shave her head, then wear a wig when she is in public (if she has no hair then she cannot possibly tempt a man with her hair, because he can’t possibly or even accidentally see her hair when she has no hair. A totally logical thing for an almighty deity to be concerned with.

* Young people are kept ignorant about their bodies; masturbation (and any sexual contact or knowledge) outside of marriage is forbidden; thus, marriages (arranged when the participants are between the ages of 17-19) are often consummated with the Hasidic bride essentially being raped by her husband.

* Women are considered ritually “unclean” for a period of 12 days each month (during and after menstruation). Husbands must not have physical contact with their wives until after she has had a Mikveh (ritual cleansing bath). There are scads of rules for pregnancy, including that a pregnant woman must not gaze at “non-kosher animals and other impure things.” A woman is ritually unclean for 7 days after birthing a boy and 14 days after having a girl.

* Husbands are “unclean” – but for only one day –  after ejaculating, and take a mikvah to restore ritual purity.

-You must pray three times a day, and make sure that on the Sabbath (Shabbos) each prayer session is longer than usual, and also study certain religious texts at certain times of the day for certain lengths of time (the primary role of Hasid women is wife and mother; because of this, women are excused from some commandments that require them to study/pray at certain times of day.)

* Work” is prohibited on the Sabbath. What is defined as work includes writing (or erasing!), tearing of paper, driving, shopping, using any electric device, cooking, laundry, cleaning, carrying any object outside of the home, handling money…. There is a maximum number of steps you may take on the Sabbath (again, as interpreted per your rabbi, and there are ways to define what is your home/community that can skirt this requirement).

 

[5] Hasidic Jews will ask or even hire a non-Jew, aka a “Shabbas goy,” to perform basic tasks – e.g. turning on a light or an air conditioner – which the Hasids are forbidden to do on the Sabbath. Yet, even then, the Hasids can’t be honest, to themselves or the goys, about how they are skirting this holy commandment of no work on the Sabbath.  When enlisting assistance they’ll try to avoid asking directly (“Would you please turn on the light for me?”); rather, they’ll drop hints and hope the goy will get it and help them (example: “It’s so hot in this room…if only the fan was turned on….”).

[6] Which was curated nine years ago, so yeah, an update may be needed.

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

The Letters I’m Not Transposing

Comments Off on The Letters I’m Not Transposing

Department Of Visual Double-Take

I got this bottle of tequila for a friend, because of the label…which I misread. Boys and girls, can you guess which two letters my mind transposed with another two, which caused me at that initial, mistaken glance, to blurt out, to the store clerk,

“Four *hundred*?  That’s the manliest tequila ever!”

 

 

*   *   *

Several days ago, apropos of a prompt moiself   cannot exactly recall (something I read which mentioned cyber-bullying) I listened, once again, to Monica Lewinsky’s acclaimed TED talk on the subject…which led me to read for the first time an article she wrote for Vanity Fair magazine several years ago – an article which preceded the TED presentation.  If you listen to the first, which I strongly advise you (and all those who think they have an opinion on the Clinton-Lewinsky “scandal”) do, I also advise you read the second.  After reading the article I wanted to send feedback to her personally but had no way to contact her (other than by cyber-stalking), so I am sending this out via the blog-o-sphere.  May the cosmos have mercy upon me.

 

Good luck with that, you impudent b***h.

 

Dear Ms. Lewinsky,

I re-listened to your TED talk the other day ( apropos of a prompt I cannot now recall, but the subject was cyber-bullying ) and so, once again, I found the link to “The Price of Shame,”  which I believe to be one of the best TED talks ever. If there were an awards ceremony for excellence in TED talks (“The Teddies?”   [1] ), yours would get my nomination in the Best Issue category.

I’ve listened to it several times, and each time come away (re)impressed with your insightful analysis of the links between the evolution of “shame culture” via the concurrent rise of the 24 hour news cycles, social media, and online harassment. Most of all, I admire, how you have taken your personal experiences with persecution and worked to turn humiliation into advocacy.

Searching for a link to the TED talk led me to a link to “Shame and Survival,” the article you wrote for Vanity Fair magazine in 2014, where you dealt with the issues which you would later incorporate in your TED talk, and also went into more detail about your experiences.  I found myself cheering your determination to take back your narrative and give a purpose to your past (and present). However, there was one cringe-worthy (to me) statement you made therein, one which I hope the passage of time has given you cause to reconsider. 

“I still have deep respect for feminism and am thankful for the great strides the movement has made in advancing women’s rights over the past few decades. But, given my experience of being passed around like gender-politics cocktail food, I don’t identify myself as a Feminist, capital F.”

The context of your statement – your relating the “humiliation derby” that several prominent women joined in, which illustrated ” …a perplexing aspect of the culture of humiliation…that women themselves are not immune to certain kinds of misogyny “–  makes your sentiment fully understandable, and arguably inevitable.  After being on the receiving end of such cruel treatment, the fact that you are not bitter and vindictive – it is a testament to your strength of character, maturity and grace (and I question whether I be capable of displaying or developing those qualities, were I in similar circumstances).

Still, that was six years ago, and I hope that now you could identify yourself with the F word (maybe not in all caps).  Perhaps you have already done so, and my point is moot.  Proceeding on the assumption that you haven’t, my concern with you still holding that sentiment is related to your crusade regarding online bullying, in which you want people to view other people as unique human beings and not stereotypes, and not hold an entire category of people responsible for the cruel actions or snide comments of a few individuals.

Feminism, the simple yet profound philosophy of advocating for women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes, did not let you down. Certain “celebrity feminist” individuals –  who were, unfortunately, prominent enough that their short-sighted, narrow-minded, unkind and snarky comments about you were deemed worthy of recording – let you down.

Along with short-sighted and narrow-minded, snarky and unkind, I would add fearful to characterize the comments made about you by those feminist personalities.  They were fearful – with good reason, it turns out – of what would happen if “the other side” used the Clinton scandal to gain (even more) power for themselves.  The other side both explicitly and implicitly avowed to undermine and overturn the principles feminism stood for and the civil rights for which feminists strove, and as we see today, their retrograde view of what constitutes equal rights is unfortunately and alarmingly persistent.

Yes, the gap between the personal and the political vis-à-vis President Clinton’s behavior – which includes how you were scapegoated and the resulting political/cognitive dissonance it evoked in too many of Clinton’s female supporters – was alarming. Unfortunately, no matter how regressive his treatment of an individual woman was, Clinton’s political stances, policies and agendas were far more progressive and pro-women than what the Republicans stood for. Thus, the shameful loyalty of those vocal feminists who slid down the old slippery slope of immediate political self-interest:

“He may be a SOB, but he’s *our* SOB…and sadly, what are our alternatives?”

I’m sorry if this seems overly didactic; you are obviously intelligent, thoughtful, and historically literate, and these are points which you have already likely considered. Still, as a lifelong supporter of equal rights, I hope that you would someday be able to reevaluate and embrace the term feminist, to know that you can disagree with others who may claim that mantle just as you continue to support Democratic policies and ideals despite the injustices done to and said about you by many of your fellow Democrats.

Thank you again for the important causes and issues you continue to illuminate and advocate, and for your bravery and example to all women and men for rising above adversity and calling out the “culture of shame.”  Wishing you all the best, I am,

Sincerely yours,

*   *   *

Blog Department Of Classic How-To-Live-A-Good-Life Advice ® Tweaked

Your life’s journey is not to discover who you are,
but rather who you want to be.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Deep Thoughts Continue, aka
What I Thought About When I Overheard An Older Person
Denigrate Young(er) People’s Lack Of Perspective Re The Passage Of Time

The fact that nothing lasts is the reason that things matter. Our ephemeral, mortal nature gives meaning to every day.  The realization that we will never pass this way can make us treasure the here and now, and make the most of the time we have.

This is not a novel idea.  When I’ve read similar sentiments it is at this point that the typical Life Advice Giver® writes about how this ephemeral-ity is understood by the old and not so much by the young….  And moiself doesn’t think that’s necessarily the case.   [2]

I’ve known plenty of older people who gave no indication that their advanced years had brought them any advanced wisdom – they seemed just as stuck in the minutia of life as the Gen X, Y, or Z-ers whom they were so critical of for “not seeing the bigger picture.”  These same Oldsters® were/are not stepping back to look at *their* bigger picture, for fear of what it contains. Their resulting lack of introspection and/or denial of obvious realities (My body is changing; Time waits for no one) is perhaps the opposite side of the coin of the stereotype of hedonistic youth (Live for the moment; Who cares about tomorrow …Hey, hold my beer while I do this…).

 

“Do you know what she’s talking about?” “Nope – hold my beer while I ask her.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department of The Corona Virus Playlist
The Heavy Metal Edition

Specifically, the prototypes of what became known as Heavy Metal music (such as the bands Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath), guitar-driven rock characterized by amplified distortion, extended guitar solos, emphatic beats, and maximum concert decibel intensity (translation: LOUD)..

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

Communication Breakdown
Dazed And Confused
Good Times Bad Times
Hey Hey What Can I Do
How Many More Times

In My Time Of Dying
Night Flight
No Quarter
Sick Again
Stairway To Heaven

Trampled Underfoot
Wearing And Tearing
What Is And What Should Never Be
Your Time Is Gonna Come

A Touch Away
Bad Attitude
Don’t Hold Your Breath
I’m Alone
Into The Fire

Might Just Take Your Life
Never Before
Slow Train
Smoke On The Water
Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming

A Hard Road
Buried Alive
Crazy Train
Dying For Love
Electric Funeral

Get A Grip
Killing Yourself To Live
Slipping Away
Warning
What’s The Use?
When Death Calls
Wicked World
Wishing Well

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

I stayed up all night to see where the sun went, and then it dawned on me.

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion  Evolution  [3]

 

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

Featuring this week’s Theme Day (Wednesday Wraps) and recipe:
Whole wheat calzones with pistachio basil pesto and asparagus

My rating:

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher  [4]

*   *   *

May you not judge the notorious until you’ve walked a mile in their scandals;
May your label letter transpositions bring you a good belly laugh;
May you live as long as you want to, and want to as long as you live;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!

 *   *   *

[1] Just think of the cute design possibilities for the teddy bear statues that would be presented to the winners.
[2] What’s with the lack of footnotes?
[3] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 1 of April 2020, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go themes as listed in the 4-3-20 blog.
[4]

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

 

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