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The Pictures I’m Not Taking

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Thanks for checking in, so to speak (…er, write).  I am taking moiself  on holiday.  From this Friday and through June, I will be posting blogs from the same time period of eight years ago (late May-June, 2014).  New posts will return in early-mid July.

Until then, I hope y’all enjoy these reruns (or at least gain a modicum of petty amusement from making fun of them, and/or noting how NOT perspicacious my 2014 blatherings observations turned out to be).  Perhaps they may spark some sense of déjà vu in you, or cause you to contemplate what you were doing and thinking in those pre-pandemic, pre-idiocy epidemic times (i.e., before the debacle that was #45).

Moiself  apologizes for the fact that visuals (pictures; video clips) in the original posts may or may not be included.
*   *   * 

 

I didn’t take a camera on Belle’s and my trip to Paris. However, I am — bien sur! —  equipped with the intelligent communications device that is mandatory for all sub-arctic dwelling bipeds. Thus, I managed a few shots…none of which had me in them. This seemed to annoy some people (“You’re not in them – you didn’t take even ONE selfie?!”).

Cruising up the Seine River, I am somehow not in the photo – quelle fromage!

A long long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I learned that, for me, photographically documenting key moments of travel – or key moments of anything – often spoils the very thing I’m trying to authenticate.  Another way to put it is that taking pictures gets in the way of my experience of what is in those pictures.  I want to have those so-called Kodak moments to remember. I don’t need to be “in them” if I was truly in them.

*   *   *

What follows is a series of snapshot impressions of our trip.

 Truth in advertising.

On our return flight from Paris, while looking over the airplane’s safety info sheet, I realized I’d never appreciated the suitability of the name chosen by that European Airplane manufacturing company.  Unless you can afford first class, travel par avion has lost whatever comfort and glamour it once had. These days, flying is like riding a bus with wings.

*   *   *

* “Paging passenger shithorse to gate B…” This was heard, over the Toronto airport’s PA system, by both Belle and I. Granted, we were a bit tired and punchy after an 8 hour flight from Paris, [1] during which a distressed toddler screamed for 7.5 of those hours.  But, really, that’s what we heard. Repeated several times.

I hope Mr/Ms. Shithorse made his/her flight.

*   *   *

* What’s with the pigeons in Paris?  They are plump, shiny, big as ducks…they are…beautiful.  HOW CAN THIS BE?

I’ve had to revise my opinion of pigeons, a breed of bird I heretofore would never have associated with the word beautiful. [2]  Belle and I decided that the regional pigeon pulchritude was related to the Parisian love of picnics.  You will not find a ten foot square plot of grass, or even cobblestone walkway by the Seine, that is not occupied by a Parisian couple or family sitting on a small blanket, reaching into their basket or bag to retrieve baguette sandwiches, cheeses, patés and wine. And where there are picnics, there will be, intentionally or otherwise, scraps left behind. Parisian pigeons are well fed.

A pigeon’s destiny fulfilled.

*   *   *

* We saw less beggars and/or “street people” in Paris than in Portland, but noticed that, just as in Portland,  a beggar with a pet seems to get more positive responses (read: donations, or even a kind word of acknowledgement) than those soliciting alone.  A Roma-looking woman with an amazingly friendly, one-green-and-one-blue-eye white cat got all of our change, [3] as did an older gent with a bunny-on-a-halter leash.

* Ditto re spotting and encountering mentally ill street people.  We saw almost none, and we did a lot of street walking.  Uh, that is, we walked a lot.  You know. On the streets.

The one behaviorally challenged chap we did see was quite memorable. We encountered Crazy Wheel Man on a street near Place de Bastille, where he was shouting orders, loudly but with a big grin on his wild-eyed face, at select people and objects.  He hollered something at a few cars that whizzed past; he ignored Belle and moiself as we passed him, but hassled the woman walking next to us who was pushing a stroller.  He went after some bicyclists, then stepped out in front of an oncoming bus, raised his hand, and began to shout advice or admonition to the driver.  CWM was so dubbed by us when I realized he was yelling at the stroller, not at the woman pushing the stroller.  What the objects of his hollering had in common was that they were all wheeled contraptions.

Crazy Wheel Man would not have yelled at this.

*   *   *

Miscellaneous cultural highlights

* I actually heard a French person exclaim, “Ooh la la!”
* I finally had the occasion to use one of my favorite French Survival Phrases ® , “Il n’ya pas de papier dans les toilettes.” [4]

*   *   *

* Our base for our trip was an apartment in the Bastille District. The first step in entering our apartment was to input a security code at the outer (street level) door.  The code consisted of five units – two numbers and a letter, followed by two more numbers.  The code was a snap for us to memorize once we realized the code was Belle’s bra and cup size, followed by double her bra size.

Ooh la la.

*   *   *

 Vive l’egalite!

I love it when I espy some men who dress as ridiculously as some women, and Paris people watching afforded several such opportunities.  Sitting at a sidewalk café with Belle, appreciating a really fine lunch on a really hot day and while the really hot Parisians parade past us was a daily activity.  On one such day, within ten minutes I saw three different men, dressed fashionably head-to-toe…but they blew it when it came to the toe part.  These men wore what I call “elf shoes.”  Sort of like flat (“bad word”) pumps for women, these men’s shoes taper to an almost stiletto point; alien anthropologists, finding such footwear in an archeological dig, would assume the wearer had only three toes, with the longest one in the middle.

What with no actual human foot being able to occupy the toe box, and with no weight occupying it (as the wearer’s real toes are crammed together about three inches back in the toe box) the end of the shoe curls slightly upward.  You know, elf shoes.

*   *   *

* About those fashionably dressed Parisians, whose physical appearance Belle and I found both enchanting and intimidating: my enchantment level was increased when I realized I hadn’t seen one pair of saggy baggy clown ass sweats or jeans sliding down the derrières of those gorgeous French men.  Not one.

You will not see this in Paris. Are y’all ready to relocate?

*   *   *

* Belle: “I feel that France is better at natural selection than we are. They pick all the hot ones to breed and let the rest die out.”

 *   *   *

* Belle and I wanted to bring back some truly authentic souvenirs for our friends – none of this made in China, plastic Eiffel Tower key ring jive.  We soon realized that if we wanted to bring back something that truly said, this is the essence of Paris, we’d have to check suitcases full of skinny French men and women wearing skinny jeans who would smoke skinny cigarettes on your porch. [5]

*   *   *

* The native Parisians and other French folk we encountered were, by and large, not large at all. Certainly their level of activity has a lot to do with it.  Paris is a walking city – you’d have to be either suicidal or a fool to drive or bike in the urban areas [6] – and most residents use a combination of walking and riding their public transit to get from points A to B and everywhere in-between.  You can get quite the workout merely navigating the Metro stations themselves. And yes, those fashionably thin Parisians do partake of their incredibly delicious, rich French food, but, judging from what we saw and were ourselves served, the portions are so much more reasonable/realistic than that which we in the over-developed world have come to expect.

Also, les homes and femmes, they all smoke cigarettes.  Copiously.  The waiter brings the plates des jour, and after a few minutes of fashionable lingering and laughing and puffing at the outdoor tables [7] their food might as well be served in an ashtray.  Which may explain why the Parisians we observed never would have qualified for membership in the The Clean Plate Club – yet another reason they stay slender.

 Ash-free Sole Meunière at Les Grande Marches

 *   *   *

Random Louvre thoughts

* Much to Belle’s delight, we saw a surprising amount of paintings featuring cows.

* Much to the delight of moiself, I saw a surprising amount of statues of people with expressions I consider representational and realistic, more than artistic or impressionistic.

Louvre, schmouvre, I am soooooo over these gawking tourists….

* In the Louvre’s statuary garden Belle demonstrated the knowledge acquired during  her four years of Art and AP art classes, and I truly appreciated her insights and explanations when I asked about certain aspects of the magnificent objects d’art we were viewing.  Then, out of the blue, I heard her exclaim, “Look at him beating up that horse!”

In Belle’s first glimpse of a statue of a Roman soldier restraining a bucking stallion, she failed to notice that the soldier’s clenched fist was not in fact about to cold clock the stallion’s jaw; rather, his hand was clenched around the horse’s reins.  I sooooooooo relished being able to point out that detail [8] to my otherwise well-informed and observant daughter.

 *   *   *

* Paris has 37 bridges (“ponts“) that cross the Seine River. On Sunday June 15 it took 29 verses of “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” for Belle and I to walk from the Pont Royal to the Pont Senghor bridge. [9] We’d started our bridge walk on the west side of the city, by the Eiffel Tower, and kept going until we found just the right one (according to Belle) of several of the bridges that are festooned with “love locks.”

We had each purchased two padlocks to commemorate our loved ones, and added them to the Senghor Bridge. Belle’s locks were for her friend ALX, and also for friend MRG, who has always wanted to travel abroad (but is unlikely to do so, as she is battling a fatal renal disease). My locks were for Belle and I, in honor of our trip, and my favorite hommes, MH and K, and my late great dad.

 *   *   *

 * Most Parisian shopkeepers, restaurant staff and other businesspersons will admit to speaking English – IF you follow the protocol greeting ritual (which is strict, expected and courteous).  The few we encountered who (claimed that they) did not speak or understand English seemed rather haughty about, or even proud of, that fact.

While Belle and I found most Parisians to be quite helpful, we also learned that they help with what is specifically asked, and no more.  For example, early on in our travel week, as we were discussion what we really wanted to do/see in Paris (as opposed to what everyone says you should do/see), I reminded Belle that

(a) if she desired to see the Versailles Chateau or a certain shopping district, I would leave the planning of that to her, and

(b) she should be sure to plan carefully as some sites/shops are closed on some days.

Yes, I should have followed up, after that.

On our Monday trip to the Versailles Chateau, many, many Parisians along the way, including those at the TOURIST INFORMATION CENTER, HELLO, gave us directions and helped us find the proper metro to the proper train to the Versailles Chateau, without adding just un petite helpful comment, that, BTW, the chateau is closed today.  The Versailles Chateau is always closed on Mondays, the guards outside the chateau’s closed gates told one group of visitors after another.[10]  But then, we didn’t actually ask anyone, “And is the chateau open today?”

 

*   *   *

* It completely slipped my mind that a thick mustard, or any condiment, would be considered a security threat or a possible bomb-making component subject to the carry-on liquid limit. And so the Charles DeGaulle airport’s dour security man searched my bag and removed the 6 oz jar of moutarde de citron I’d intended to bring home to my mustard-loving son. [11]

A simple, “Madame, zees is over ze limit” would have sufficed – it was an honest mistake, the mustard did not pass muster, I get it. Just confiscate it, okay?  But, nooooo.

Dour Security Drone held the jar up to the light, seemingly puzzled by the contents.  “It’s mustard,” I helpfully offered, pointing to the jar’s moutard label.  He made motions as if he intended to unscrew the lid and sniff it, which would have been fine by me.  But he didn’t.  He continued to scrutinize the jar, turning it this way and that.  Then he put it up to his ear and shook it.  It took all of my self control not to feign alarm and gasp, “No – don’t do that, you’ll arm it!”

Finally, he signaled to two of his comrade and passed the mustard jar to them. He told me I could gather my things and go, but that the mustard must stay.  “Fine,” I said. “Enjoy your sandwiches.”

The one that made it through.

*   *   *

May your condiments be TSA-friendly and mustard bomb-free, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

[1] And facing two more flights to get us back to the Portland airport.

[2] Aka, airborne rats.

[3] Which, in Euros, adds up.

[4] This was upon emerging from a boulangeries’s WC, and warning the next woman in line about how the room was lacking a vital accessory.

[5] My friends got chocolate, coffee, pasta  and fruit paté instead.

[6] Although there seemed to be no shortage of both.

[7] Smoking is banned indoors, but if you sit at an outdoor table, everyone around you will be smoking.

[8] And bring it up several times later the same day.

[9] After two or three verses I sang the rest under my breath, out of respect for Belle, who was becoming somewhat perturbed by my enthusiasm.

[10] We were far from the only out of town visitors who didn’t get the schedule right.

[11] A smaller jar made it through, vive la liberation!

The Trip I’m Not Bragging About

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Thanks for checking in, so to speak (…er, write).  I am taking moiself  on holiday.  From this Friday and through June, I will be posting blogs from the same time period of eight years ago (late May-June, 2014).  New posts will return in early-mid July.

Until then, I hope y’all enjoy these reruns (or at least gain a modicum of petty amusement from making fun of them, and/or noting how NOT perspicacious my 2014 blatherings observations turned out to be).  Perhaps they may spark some sense of déjà vu in you, or cause you to contemplate what you were doing and thinking in those pre-pandemic, pre-idiocy epidemic times (i.e., before the debacle that was #45).

Moiself  apologizes for the fact that visuals (pictures; video clips) in the original posts may or may not be included.
*   *   * 

Pomp and Circumcision

Belle graduated from high school. And as the closing strains of “that song” – arguably and most famous/recognizable processional in the world – wafted through the auditorium’s sound system, there was a momentary catch in my throat.

Closing strains. Oh and yes, I and Belle’s family and friends, all twelve of us, caught only the closing strains of P & C because we were seated in an “overflow” area, not in the gym where the ceremony was held.  We had to (or got to, depending on your POV) watch the ceremony via closed circuit transmission to a screen in the school’s auditorium, “we” being we who had arrived before the ceremony started but could not find a parking place and had to circle the school and park a bazillion miles away and then be bussed back to the school….. There were over one hundred of us we’s in that situation.  So, who gave out more tickets than the place could hold?

Oy vey.  Our peanut gallery seating did have its charms, as we got to make snarky comments about it the ceremony because there was no one to object and no one to embarrass (what with Belle being on stage with the other valedictorians in the gym).  While the audio transmission was (unfortunately) adequate, the video took colorful license, and we were treated to the sight of the various speakers, musicians and vocalists turning from green (“Martians!”) to blue (“Breathe!  Inhale!”) to yellow (“Jaundice!”) to red (“OMG, the diplomas are being handed about by munchkins!”).

“Class of 2014, turn your tassles!”

Re my comment as to the unfortunate audio clarity:  no one really needs to clearly hear yet another painfully botched rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.  Why it is played on such occasions (why it is played at all, anywhere) is beyond me.  When I am anointed Grand Bahoobie of the Planet, the only person allowed to sing the SSB will be Aretha Franklin.

And the speeches.  There should be no speeches, by the adults, unless they are under one minute and include fart and/or elephant jokes.  Okay, let one of the Vals do a brief speech for/to/about their class – I suppose you have to have that.  But keep it short; get ’em graduated and out of there.  Just ask those around you, as I did: who ever talks about – who ever can remember anything about – the speeches given at their graduation ceremonies?

Ah yes, the grad speech thing. If you’re the poor schmuck lucky student chosen to give it, say a few kind and funny things about your fellow students, but not at the expense of the elders in the audience. As we were leaving the school – after the ceremony, after the graduates and their families and friends shared congratulations and took  pictures before the grads were whisked off to the all-night grad party – I ran into BTY, the girl who’d given her class’s commencement speech.  BTY was one of Belle’s fellow valedictorians, and I knew her and her parents from when she and Belle had been on the freshman volleyball team.  I congratulated them all, said BTY must be proud of her accomplishments, and complimented BTY on her speech…which, I added, I can’t resist picking one nit with it.  That part where BTY commented on how their class’s parents and grandparents misunderstood and mislabeled their generation, and about how “our parents and grandparents don’t understand our technology”?  Ahem.  Your parents INVENTED THAT TECHNOLOGY.

I got a laugh and a wink from her father and a high five from her mother.

Q: How does every French joke start?
A: By looking over your shoulder.

*   *   *

 We are Americans in Paris, and that’s no joke.

By we I mean Belle and I.  There is, of course, a story behind this.

Most college bound high school students take two years of a foreign language, to meet the minimum college entrance requirement. Five years ago, the summer before she was to enter high school, I made a deal with Belle.  If she stuck with one language for all four years, after her graduation she and I would travel to a major city in a country that spoke that language.

She’d been thinking of taking Japanese, which Liberty High School offered at that time. But budget cuts be praised,[1] the school no longer offered Japanese.  She decided to take French.

Despite a slew of AP classes and other responsibilities Belle stayed with French up through her Junior Year, and signed up for French 4 her senior year, even after finding out her favorite French teacher, the one she’d had for French 2 and 3, was to be transferred to another school (that damn budget thing again) and thus French 4 would be taught by the teacher she had for French 1 – the same teacher who taught both French and German, the same teacher who, three years earlier, had announced to her French 1 class’s parents on Back to School Night that she really didn’t enjoy teaching French, and that her first love was her German classes. [2]

Mais oui, I digress.

Day 1 of Belle’s senior year: the students pick up their class schedules, and Belle finds out that there will be no French 4.  The look on her face when she returned home that afternoon with the news….

I assured her that she had fulfilled her end of the bargain, and, quelle fromage! she and I were going to Paris in June 2014.

And so, we are here, having more fun than you can possibly imagine [3], or possibly lying in some Parisian alley, sleeping off a baguette and brie hangover.

This très peu message was written in advance, assuming I would not have time to post, what with being busy with all things French, including appreciating ces romantiques français hommes.

Bon voyage, mesdames et messieurs, and may the hijinks ensue.

  Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

[1] Something I never thought I’d find myself thinking…but I had no desire to travel to Japan.

[2] As you might imagine, MH and I were less than impressed.  I think I may have muttered some “____ nazi” comments under my minty breath.

[3] Go ahead, cyber-slap me.

The Hair I’m Not Flinging

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Thanks for checking in, so to speak (…er, write).  I am taking moiself  on holiday.  From this Friday and through June, I will be posting blogs from the same time period of eight years ago (late May-June, 2014).  New posts will return in early-mid July.

Until then, I hope y’all enjoy these reruns (or at least gain a modicum of petty amusement from making fun of them, and/or noting how NOT perspicacious my 2014 blatherings observations turned out to be).  Perhaps they may spark some sense of déjà vu in you, or cause you to contemplate what you were doing and thinking in those pre-pandemic, pre-idiocy epidemic times (i.e., before the debacle that was #45).

Moiself  apologizes for the fact that visuals (pictures; video clips) in the original posts may or may not be included.
*   *   * 

 

The Day of all Days

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the largest seaborne invasion in history, WWII’s Normandy Invasion, aka D-Day.  My uncle, Sgt. Bill O’Malley, was one of the hundreds of US 82nd and 101st Division Airborne paratroopers dropped behind the German lines.  How he ended up not being one of the 12,000 Allied casualties that day was a mystery to him, he would later tell his curious 4th grad niece — that would be me — who asked him about what he did in the war (a question, I later found out, adults almost never posed as Bill had made it plain, after being released from a hospital after the war ended for treatment for “Battle Fatigue” — also aka shell shock, what we now know to be PTSD — that he didn’t want to talk about it).

The enormity and audacity of such an operation…well, there are a many books about it. One of them, Stephen Ambrose’s Band of Brothers, which follows the exploits of a paratrooper division “Easy Company” from D-Day through the Battle of the Bulge to the German surrender, was made into arguably the best mini-series ever.  You need to see it, if you haven’t already. I’m going to watch part of it tonight, and I’ll be thinking of my late uncle, my father, and the other paratroopers, whose courage and tenacity (a part of which was prompted by sheer circumstance and naivete — they so did not know what they were getting into)  needs to be regularly retold, and honored.

The Flinging Blonde

That’s flinging blonde, not singing nun.

Dateline: June 1, out for my morning Nordic Walk on a sunny Sunday morning. I approach the grounds of the neighborhood junior high school and see two high school age girls walking on the sidewalk ahead of me.  One girl has long (almost waist-length), shiny, thick, straight blonde hair.  Long Blondie does two cartwheels in the grass beside the sidewalk.   She springs to her feet after each flip and snaps her head forward and back, which causes her hair to cascade over her face and then down her back.  She ceases her cartwheels but continues to fling her head, now from side to side, flipping her golden mane, which shimmers in the sunlight.

 Look at this hair!  Look what I can do with it! Look at me!

 And yes, she had really, really, really beautiful hair.

Stop me before I fling again.

*   *   *

Speaking of things to fling…

How Much More Clear Does it Have to Get? 

There are people, in media and social media outlets, who continue to twist themselves with mental gymnastics worthy of a Cirque de Soleil contortionist in order to assert that misogyny was not a prime motivating factor in the Isla Vista Shootings.

Uh huh.

 The killer left a detailed, logically composed narrative – a 140 page manifesto – spelling it out.  The killer was a regular participant in chat room forums promoting misogyny, andwas active in the men’s rights (MRA) forums promoting misogyny, and made YouTube videos in which he professed his misogyny, and….

In every facet of his life, he professed and documented his hatred of women.  But hatred of women, according to some denialists, could not have been the prime motivation of his killing spree. These denialists also assert that if we talk about misogyny, and about the parts of our culture that treat misogyny as normal, even acceptable or even entertaining, we are sensationalizing or “politicizing” a tragic event.

Sic ’em, Greta Christina:

 “When men in Islamist theocracies assault, rape, and kill women, we have no problem calling it misogynist hatred. When they explicitly state that their motivation is to enforce God’s gender roles and put women in their place, we have no problem calling it misogynist hatred. And we have no problem laying the blame, in large part, on the culture that teaches this hatred, and on the thousands of ways both large and small that Islamist theocratic culture teaches this despicable concept of women.

 “So why is it so hard to see the Isla Vista shootings as motivated by misogyny?”

In her righteously WTF? blog post Elliot Rodgers and Misogyny Denialism, [1] author and activist Christina calls out the b.s. in her usual, incisive, rational and pissed off prose…even as she she recognizes the motivations behind our desire to recognize the reality of our culture’s underlying misogyny: because it is just to damn painful, and frustrating, and humiliating.

Read it and weep.  Better yet, read it and act.

*   *   *

 Is the Paint Dry Yet?

Tuesday evening, the last High School Senior Class Awards ceremony I will ever have to snore through have the opportunity to attend.  Belle received four academic awards; local merchants and community organizations gave out community scholarships…and oh, how a certain someone in the audience wanted to sandpaper her eyeballs in frustration when she heard yet another well-meaning, slow-talking older gent preface his bestowal of an award with, “Let me say a few words about the history of….”

*   *   *

The Snark Watch, Day Seven

MH and I made a bet as to who would make the first snarky comment re Belle’s tattoo: family friend JWW, or MH’s mother. [2]  I will not reveal who bet on whom. Thankfully, neither of us has (so far) won the bet.

 

*  *  *

Coming Attractions [3]

* In Paris they simply stared when I spoke to them in French; I never did succeed in making those idiots understand their own language.
(Mark Twain)

* When good Americans die, they go to Paris.
(Oscar Wilde)

* Paris is always a good idea.
(Audrey Hepburn as Sabrina Fairchild in Sabrina)

* The best of America drifts to Paris. The American in Paris is the best American. It is more fun for an intelligent person to live in an intelligent country. France has the only two things toward which we drift as we grow older—intelligence and good manners.
(F. Scott Fitzgerald)

 To err is human. To loaf is Parisian
(Victor Hugo)

*   *   *

May the erring and loafing begin, and surely the hijinks shall ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

[1] I know, in last week’s post, I refused to mention his name.  There it is.

[2] MH’s parents flew out from Florida last week, visiting for Belle’s high school graduation.

[3] Why are there only three footnotes in this post?

The Elephant I’m Not Ignoring

2 Comments

Thanks for checking in, so to speak (…er, write).  I am taking moiself  on holiday.  From this Friday and through June, I will be posting blogs from the same time period of eight years ago (late May-June, 2014).  New posts will return in early-mid July.

Until then, I hope y’all enjoy these reruns (or at least gain a modicum of petty amusement from making fun of them, and/or noting how NOT perspicacious my 2014 blatherings observations turned out to be).  Perhaps they may spark some sense of déjà vu in you, or cause you to contemplate what you were doing and thinking in those pre-pandemic, pre-idiocy epidemic times (i.e., before the debacle that was #45).

Moiself  apologizes for the fact that visuals (pictures; video clips) in the original posts may or may not be included.
*   *   * 

 

As promised (threatened?) in earlier missives, a picture of Belle’s tattoo.

She did the artwork herself. The tattooist was pleased at having to do (almost) no alterations to translate Belle’s fine art into body art.  There is, of course, a story behind the design.

Belle included a triangle for several reasons, including her love of the strength and purity of the strongest geometrical shape, and because it is the mathematical operator (delta) ∆, for change.  The cicada also has multiple personal references for Belle.  She is in awe of the cicada’s dramatic emergent cycle (13 – 17 years, depending on the species), and a cicada  symbolizes her years of dedication to the Oregon ZooTeens program.  Last summer Belle and other members of the program’s Leadership Corps travelled to a nature preserve in Costa Rica, where they were serenaded by an abundance of cicadas.

 *   *   *

 Too bad not all things that creep and crawl are as benign as cicadas.

White Guy Killer Syndrome: Can I go ahead and scream yet? It’s time for America to admit what it’s long resisted: White male privilege kills.  (by Brittney Cooper [1])

There have been many articles published this week about the Santa Barbara killings. Cooper’s is one of the more incendiary and thought-provoking.  She writes forcefully about the latest, maddening, frustrating – and worst of all, hardly atypical –  mass killing scenario in the USA.  It seems that “every few years, the American public has to watch in horror as some white kid goes on a rampage, killing everything from babies to old people,” when yet another young white guy decides “….his disillusionment with his life should become somebody else’s problem.”

Cooper rails against the inability of the press, the law, of society itself, to have the conversations  “…about white male pathology and the ways that systems of whiteness and patriarchy continue to produce white men who think like this. ”

(The killer) had been posting strange youtube videos of himself talking about killing people over the last several weeks, so much so that his family was reportedly disturbed enough to call the police and have them come do a welfare check. But “officers concluded that he was ‘polite, courteous,’” and downplayed any difficulties.

 In the manifesto he released he said he was relieved that officers did not push the matter further because they would have found his weapons.

 Can I go ahead and scream yet? A black or brown man would have been violently hauled into a jail and locked up at the first sign of such machinations. His property rights would have been thoroughly violated, and no matter how “polite” and “courteous” he might have been with officers, no reports would have reflected such language.

 These coded terms mean that these officers were incapable of seeing this clearly troubled young white man as a threat. How many mass killings must it take to recognize that white male entitlement is potentially deadly?”

*   *   *

The Department of No, I’m Not Done Yet
Aka The Santa Barbara Killings and Male Defensiveness:

We’re not all like that!”

Who. Fucking. Said. That. You. Are?

If, just one more time, I hear/read one more variation on that comment….

I recently posted a link on my FB page to a Greta Christina blog post that addressed the killings.  The atheist/feminist/LGBTG activist, author and blogger linked to a compilation of excellent blog posts on the subject of why we are, still and again, told to ignore blatant misogynist fanaticism when it is implicated in acts of violence.  “You see,” we are assured/lectured, “it’s just the unbalanced, socially awkward dudes who commit such atrocities, and there is no relation to misogyny…” No matter how many female-loathing manifestos were spewed from the very killer’s mouth/computer.

 “A man who was part of a community of extremists who hate women, wrote a manifesto about his hate for women, then went to a female sorority house to kill women.  But it definitely wasn’t about his hatred of women. Oh, no sir…. “
(Martin Robbins, quoted in Butterflied & Wheels post, What Elephant in What Room?)

 The GC-linked posts show that a whole lotta intelligent, articulate and thoughtful men understand Why  (the Killer’s) Misogyny Matters.

And then, there are others.

A FB comment on my afore-mentioned post:

“Because white supremacists don’t want to live with blacks, anti-Semites don’t want Jews to exist, ____(killer’s name) [2] failed to obtain to obtain what he (wanted? sic) from women and then converted it into a conspiracy against him. If you read further there was also bullying involved in his life. This is a complex situation which apparently been going on for years which the therapist was unable to identify how serious it was but was on top of the last email to notify his parents. Remember his first victims were male, so its (sic) not all about you.”

Really.

I wanted to frost the commenter’s well-intentioned, I’m-going-to-sound-like-the-voice-of-let’s-stay-calm-folks, privileged, clueless assterior.  But since there is no frost-the-assterior button [3] on FB to click, I instead commented on his comment.

Uh, (FB poster), that some of (the killer’s) victims were male – just as victims of anti-Semitic or racist or gay hate crimes are often not Semitic, or of the “majority” ethnic group, or straight – does not mitigate the misogyny as his (self-identified) primary motivation.

I would hope my response to those bringing up anti-Semitism as the motivation for a mass killing would not be, “but Catholic Poles also died in the gas chambers, so it’s not all about you Jews.”  I would hope, listening to someone who is trying to get people to consider the broader reasons and motivations that drove the murders of Civil Rights activists, to be just a tad less defensive, so that my knee-jerk reaction would not be to defend whatever group I am in that, I think, is related to the killer(s): “But, white activists were also slain in the Civil Rights movement, so it’s not all about you Negroes.”

It’s not all about you.  Sadly, that comment just proves the pathetic, dangerous poin: [4] of people being averse to and uncomfortable with talking about misogyny.

We all want to believe we live in a “post-racial,” “post-gender inequitable” world, because then that would remove us from the responsibility of equalizing the imbalances.

If I am a man who considers myself to be the kind of man who does not hate women, who would never consciously disparage, harm or discriminate against someone based on their gender, then I can generalize from my own attitudes to assure myself that whatever individual or societal misogyny maybe-waybe still exists a teesny-weensy bit, golly gee, it’s not my problem, because…well…just look at me!  I’m evidence that we’re not all like that.  So, uh, yeah.  We’re not all like that.  Therefore, let’s pretend the ones that are like that don’t matter, have no influence, and never do any harm like that.

*   *   *

We take a break from this week’s ranting to contemplate a soothing picture, brought to you by the makers of A Baby sloth in a Bucket. ®

No ranting here, just enough cuteness to make you piss through your eyeteeth [5]

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

*  *  *

Operation Plain Speaking

Post Memorial Day rant musing: How I loathe, loathe loathe – and did I mention abhor? – the euphemistic, spin-meister monikers which Those in Charge of Such Things ® have applied to our recent and ongoing wars.

I get that “Desert Storm,” “Operation Enduring Freedom” and “Operation Iraqi Freedom” sound nobler than, “Thanks fer nuthin,’ Ex-Prez Bush-wad, now we’re the latest arrogant blowhards to get stuck in these historical shitstorms,” and are easier to fit on tombstones.

“Enduring Freedom,” my uncles’ and father’s (WWII) and grandfather’s (WWI) asses. People have died for those pompous pretenses.  “Enduring freedom” is translating into “never-ending confrontation.” Call ’em what they are.  The Iraq War; the Afghanistan War.

*   *   *

Speaking of plain speaking, and desperately looking for a rant-free segue into coming attractions, I have been practicing my French survival phrases:

Aider! Un home avec une poitrine velue volé mon vin! [6]

 and

J’aime votre chevre [7]

 and of course

 Où est votre coude ?[8]

 

Breathe deeply, fight the good fights, speak plainly, and S’il vous plaît, me passer le caillé de fromage, [9] and – but of course! – the hijinks shall ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

[1] Educator and contributing writer at salon.com .

[2] Name redacted; I refuse to type it.

[3] Why is that, Mr. Zuckerberg?

[4] Just as how “The comments on any article about feminism justify feminism;”aka, Lewis’ Law.

[5] An old Southern saying.  Actually, not.  But it should be.

[6] “Help!  A man with a hairy chest stole my wine!”

[7] “I like your goat.”

[8] “Where is your elbow?”

[9] “Please pass me the cheese curds.”

[10] Il n’y a pas de footnote ici.

The Good Ole Folks I’m Not Romanticizing

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Thanks for checking in, so to speak (…er, write).  I am taking moiself  on holiday.  From this Friday and through June, I will be posting blogs from the same time period of eight years ago (late May-June, 2014).  New posts will return in early-mid July.

Until then, I hope y’all enjoy these reruns (or at least gain a modicum of petty amusement from making fun of them, and/or noting how NOT perspicacious my 2014 blatherings observations turned out to be).  Perhaps they may spark some sense of déjà vu in you, or cause you to contemplate what you were doing and thinking in those pre-pandemic, pre-idiocy epidemic times (i.e., before the debacle that was #45).

Moiself  apologizes for the fact that visuals (pictures; video clips) in the original posts may or may not be included.
*   *   * 

 Remember to call your billiards shots 

White cat in the side pocket.

*   *   *

The Offfspring of Duh Meets the Progeny of You Can’t Make Up This Stuff

Dateline: May 21, a New York Times article, Bryan College is Torn; Can Darwin and Eden Co-exist?, about an Christian college which is being sued by two long-time faculty members as part of a controversy over the college’s stance on the origin of humans.

In a nutshell – an appropriate container, as you’ll see – the lawsuit revolves around the college’s “statement of belief,” which professors have to sign in order to be employed at Bryan College.  The original statement of belief, quite retro re the school’s views on creation and evolution,[1] is apparently not backward and Neanderthal strong enough for the college’s administration and governing board.  Fearing “a marked erosion of Christian values and beliefs across the country,” college officials recently added new language to the SOB [2] –  language they refer to as a “clarification” – that would have faculty members professing that Adam and Eve “are historical persons created by God in a special formative act, and not from previously existing life-forms.”

Some Bryan College students as well as professors are objecting to the SOB’s addition, claiming that it “…amounts to an assault on personal religious views” and that “it makes (Bryan College) a more narrow place.”

Gee, ya think?

Bryan College president Stephen D. Livesay defends the SOB’s clarification:

“…this is something that’s important to us. It’s in our DNA. It’s who we are.”

 Oh. My. Mr. Livesay. Whatever possessed you to use that term?

There’s no such thing as DNA. Because if there was, you’d be able to trace human ancestry back to previously existing life forms….ooooh….never mind.

 *   *   *

Speaking of (or implying) dinos, Wednesday’s Google Doodle tagged Mary Anning, a British palaeontologist.

And I’m using the British spelling intentionally and respectfully, not just to be colourful , so take a hike, spellchecker.

*   *   *

Animal Enrichment

We have a pair of Juncos nesting in the bird house we so inconveniently located (well, for the birds) above the jungle-gym/climbing tree of our outdoor cat, a Bengal named B.B.  We put the birdhouse up for more decorative than functional reasons, as an object d’yard art, thinking that no sane bird would choose to homestead in such close proximity to a feline. But, alas, a pair of Juncos seems to be feeding chicks housed within.  Fledging time should prove to be interesting.

*   *   *

Department of Random

Last week, watching the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, I got to thinking [3] about the ironies (or should I say insincerities?) behind one of the Country-Western genre’s staple themes, when guest Dolly Parton performed a song called Home.

There are a plethora of CW songs that pay tender tribute to and ostensibly yearn for the good ole folks and good ole, simpler times back home (“we wuz dirt poor but we wuz luuuved”) — songs written and performed by multimillionaires who did everything in their power to escape that life, that locale, and those people.  If life back then ‘n there was so good, why did you want out? Why were you so ambitious, in some cases even desperate, to leave it all behind and go for something more?

Just wondering.  Excuse me, wonderin’.

*   *   *

I Request a Moment of Respectful Silence

Please join me in honoring the passing of a national treasure, TOWIAWNCHH. [4]  Yes, The Only Women in America Who’s Never Colored Her Hair has thrown in the towel.

 

*   *   *

Department of Mixed Experiences

“We are never, ever coming back.”

Last week MH traveled to Pasadena to attended Nerdfest 2014 his Caltech Class of 1984 reunion.  He hemmed and hawed over attending, as he holds no special fondness for his alma mater and was not interested in the reunion activities.  He decided at the last minute to go because he wanted to see a group of friends who’d planned on attending.  One of these friends from Caltech days, who has continued to be a real life buddy  [5],  had this to say on his FB page about the reunion:

“As usual much bigger participation by younger and older classes. Energetic young woman working for the (Caltech) Alum Assoc introduced herself and explained her job was partly to improve relations with 1980’s classes. I asked what her theory was and she said their best guess was alums from that era had “mixed experiences” and many “did not enjoy returning to campus”.

I think all Caltech classes should hold their reunions on grounds of the previously-mentioned Bryan College.  Caltech alums could schlep in some previously existing life forms, planting them strategically around the campus grounds….

 *   *   *

My Wicked Fantasies ©
Chapter One in a (hopefully, very short) series

I will consume a cabbage, beans, Brussels sprouts, garlic and broccoli smoothie three hours before my next scheduled airplane flight.  When going through the security checkpoint, I will refuse to enter the TSA scanner machine and ask for the security pat down instead.

 *   *   *

May all of your security pat-downs reveal no previously existing life forms, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

[1] It includes statements such as, “The origin of man was by fiat of God.”

[2] Praise Jaysuuuus for the opportunity to use that acronym.

[3] Fortunately, this train of thought lasted for, at most, five minutes.

[4] Her slave name is Robyn Parnell.

[5] And who is a favorite dude of mine as well.  Even if he is a dwarf scientist. Which I’d more fully explain, but then this footnote would need a footnote, and that’s just not right.

The April Fool’s Joke No One Was Playing

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Content warning: Despite the date, and one or two moments of comic relief,  [1]   this is probably the most serious and personal blog post I have written.  No foolin.’

*   *   *

Department Of Worst April Fool’s Day Ever

The following took place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away – twenty-one years ago today, April 1, 2001. Background info: MH and I and our offspring, K and Belle, were members of a local church.  [2]   Within the past seven weeks we’d celebrated K’s eighth birthday, and Belle’s fifth.

*   *   *

At approximately 12:20pm, Sunday, April 1, 2001, MH and I were in the ___ (church name)  Fellowship Hall’s kitchen, doing cleanup after coffee hour.  K and Belle were playing with other children outside, in the church’s courtyard.  Belle found a hypodermic syringe (“A shiny toy,” as she later described it to me) on the grass under the bushes next to a play-shed in the courtyard.  She picked up the syringe, which was capped, but the syringe’s needle — which was sticking out at an angle from under the side of the cap — poked her in her right thumb.  She dropped the syringe and walked away.

K had seen Belle pick up something and then quickly drop it.  He went over to where she had been, saw the syringe, and picked it up. He intended to take it upstairs to MH and I, to show us what Belle had touched…then he also got stuck by the needle (in his left thumb) when he picked up the syringe.

K came into the kitchen, holding the syringe.  He told us that he’d found “this thing on the grass” and that he’d accidentally stuck himself with it. Before K had finished his sentence MH whisked the syringe from K, and recapped it (K said he took the cap off *after* the needle stuck him, as he wanted us to see exactly what it was that had stuck him, but that the syringe had the cap ON when he picked it up).

I rushed K to the sink, quickly but thoroughly washed his thumb, and told MH to get Belle and meet us at the hospital.  We had our two cars with us; I wrapped the syringe in several paper towels and ran down the back stairs of the hall with K in tow, telling him that we were going to the Tuality Hospital ER (which is less than half a mile from the church).

At this time MH and I did *not* know that Belle had also – and first – been stuck by that same syringe’s needle.

MH found Belle standing in the entrance to the Fellowship Hall, crying and holding her thumb, which was bleeding.  MH asked another child, who was lying on a couch in the entrance, what was going on.   The kid glanced at Belle and casually replied, “Oh, she cut herself.”   MH asked Belle what happened; she said that “a knife” she found in the courtyard had cut her finger.

I’d parked on the street by the entrance to the Fellowship Hall. Just as I was about to pull away from the curb MH ran to my car, pounded on the window, opened the door and practically threw Belle in the back seat, next to K.  MH told me about Belle’s thumb as he strapped Belle into her car seat; we tried to get more out of her, but she was very upset.  She didn’t want to say that it was the needle which had cut her, but K said that it was, and then Belle confirmed this.

All of this — from the moment K came up to the kitchen with the syringe to MH running with Belle to the car — took place in less than two minutes.  I squeezed Belle’s thumb to get more blood out, gave her a tissue to hold over her thumb, and drove to the ER, with MH arriving in our other car about four minutes after the kids and I did.

The bad news:

…was what had happened.  Of particular concern was the fact that the syringe was from an “unknown source,” which is hospital jargon for, “We don’t have the syringe’s user to test.”  However, as the hospital personnel  [3]   – and our own instincts and experience told us – as far as what the syringe had been used for, we should assume the worst.  Translation: the syringe had been used to inject a person or persons with illegal drugs; it had not been left there by a diabetic who on the spur of the moment decided to adjust his blood sugar/insulin ratio in our church’s courtyard’s bushes. (Coincidentally, earlier that morning I’d been told by the church groundskeeper that the previous day, members of our church had done a cleanup of the church grounds, removing beer cans and trash from under and around the bushes in the courtyard, where the groundskeeper had occasionally found “vagrants and street people partying.”)

Hospital personnel told us the syringe was likely used to inject its user(s) with a certain kind of heroin (“Mexican brown”) and/or methamphetamine, which, for “street users,” were the injectable drugs of choice both the hospital and the police were seeing at that time.  Although we brought the syringe with us (and could detect a micro-microscopic drop of fluid inside of it), we were told that there was nothing the hospital could test it for.  In fact, it was hospital policy not to test it, for among other reasons, the false reassurance of any false negative results (which they would likely get, as there was no way to determine how long the syringe had been there).

The relatively good (or at least, less bad) news:

-Both kids’ immunizations were up to date, including for Hepatitis B.

-Although there were no vaccinations for Hepatitis C and the other rare strains (D, E, F), risk of transmission for those infections, in that kind of possible exposure, were negligible…  Also, those strains of hepatitis were rarely seen in Oregon at that time (Hepatitis A is not transmitted via needle sticks).

-The syringe had a small gauge needle; thus, the possibility of a significant “viral load” transmission was small.

-HIV, the big fear factor at the time, is a very fragile virus.  Despite its many mutations it can survive only a few hours (if that) outside a host body.

The children were seen by P.A. ____, who examined them and then spoke with us about what happened.  Over the next three-plus hours, the P.A. consulted via telephone with Drs. E___ and L___ at Emmanuel Hospital’s Infectious Disease and Pediatrics Infectious Disease departments, with our pediatrician’s on call group, and with other physicians at the CDC.  [4]

We were told (by the P.A. and a Tuality ER physician) that HIV prophylaxis treatment was something we should consider, for both K and Belle.  We did, and decided against it, with the following information in mind:

– None of the doctors consulted would strongly recommend that we start either K or Belle on prophylactic treatment for possible HIV exposure, given the parameters of the particular accident/incident, nor was such treatment the recommended protocol for that kind of possible exposure.

– MMR (Morbidity & Mortality Report) statistics showed no transmission of disease had been recorded to have occurred in “this kind of injury,” in Oregon.

– Risk of transmission of HIV was estimated to be less than 1%; risk of side effects from AZT or other prophylactic HIV treatments definitely exceeded 1%.

K and Belle had blood drawn at the hospital for baseline HIV and Hepatitis titers, and we were given scripts to have the tests repeated at intervals of two, four, and six months.  The P.A. suggested, for our own peace of mine, that we do another test at twelve months (although that was not the official recommendation).

******************************

Department Of The Aftermath

At one point, sitting in the ER exam room with MH and the kids, I remembered noting the date and thinking, “If only this were an April Fool’s joke….”

The above was the Dragnet (“Just the facts, ma’am”) version of the incident, which I sent to family, and wrote for our own records.  I left out the emotions experienced by K, Belle, MH, and myself, which you can probably imagine (and which took me months to forget).

 

 

We were at that ER for hours.  We waited, while the P.A. consulted with various specialists and/or waited for them to return his calls and periodically came into the exam room we occupied, to update us.  All the adults were (trying to be) calm.  The ER seemed understaffed, to me (a hospital staff member later told me it was unexpectedly busy “for a Sunday afternoon”).  Even so and speaking of the afternoon, I wish one of the staff would have thought to offer our kids some food.  It was lunch time when the accident happened, and a little after 4 pm when we got out of there.  MH and I were too adrenalized to be hungry and, in our state of shock and with possible scenarios and outcomes running through our minds, we forgot that the kids, of course, were hungry  [5] ). I finally had the presence of mind to realize this, and got someone to bring them some sugary drinks, which made them both happy.

Waiting, waiting, waiting….  We bummed drawing supplies (paper and pens) from a nurse, to keep the kids amused or at least distracted, while hospital staff checked with one another and called various experts.  We shut the door to the exam room we were in and talked loudly to the kids when an accident victim with a fractured femur was brought into the ER (we were mostly successful in muffling the victim’s cries of pain, which echoed down the ER hallway).

MH’s cousin is a pediatrician and her husband an epidemiologist; MH used some of the waiting time to call her (she lived on the East coast).  She was very reassuring.  She told us that, to her knowledge and after checking her sources, there were no cases of someone “sero-converting” – i.e., going from a negative HIV test to a positive – after having “that kind” of accident (being stuck with a needle which had likely been used and discarded several hours before the stick-accident).

Okay; yes; this is good.   But, if this is common knowledge, why is this taking so long?
Why all the consults – are they preparing detailed information for us,
for a prognosis we don’t want to hear?

We had plenty of time, sitting/waiting/pacing in that exam room, to imagine the worst.  I had worked for nine years in the women’s reproductive health care field but been away from the medical world for almost as many years and hadn’t kept up with “things.”  HIV, despite its ability to mutate rapidly, was – or had been – a very fragile virus. Perhaps new strains had developed, which I was unaware of – new mutations which could survive hours outside a host body? I thought that unlikely, thus; actually, my main concern was not HIV.

I was more troubled to think that the kids might have been infected by one of the new strains of hepatitis that seemed to be cropping up left and right. When I’d worked at Planned Parenthood, just before MH and I moved up to Oregon, I’d had a needle stick accident, [6]  and had to go through the routines of initial HIV/hepatitis blood tests, getting the Hep B vaccine series,   [7]   then follow-up HIV and hepatitis tests at two, four, and six month intervals.

Meanwhile, back in the ER….  Finally, a little before 4 pm, the ER staff attending to our case had documented it to their satisfaction. We needed the kids to each have their blood drawn for the first round of tests, and then we could go home.  MH and I and the hospital personnel tried to be as straightforward – and as nonchalant – with the kids as possible.  Everything is going to be all right, we just have to do one test (which…er, yeah…will involve another needle stick)….”

K tried to be brave.  He was old enough that we could explain the hospital procedures to him, how they’d need to draw a small amount of blood for a test.  Did he think he could cooperate?  His lower lip trembled as he nodded yes.  He sat in my lap, I hugged him, and he hid his head under my arm when they drew his blood sample.  For each of the subsequent, follow-up blood draws (at two, four and six months after the incident), K got better at handling the needle poke (he even watched the last one, instead of turning his head to the side!).

Belle’s reaction was…almost feral.

What a difference three years makes, especially for younger children, in terms of experience and comprehension. Looking back, I realize that Belle was also being brave, in a different way – in defense of herself.  She did not understand why she had essentially been held captive for hours; she did not understand the need for the tests the adults were trying to explain to her.  She understood that she had already been injured by one needle, and she was determined not to let that happen again.

The hospital personnel were kind and patient with her, but despite their assurances that they would use the tiniest needle possible (“The size we use on preemies,” a nurse told me) Belle became unhinged. Even her beloved daddy could not get her to cooperate, nor could he restrain her.  Finally, in order to safely draw her blood, the hospital staff put her in what I can only describe as a full body straitjacket.  It was a device/garment I’d never seen before,   [8]   and it provided me with one brief moment of levity in that dreary afternoon (I had to leave the exam room for a moment, to stifle my giggles).

The follow-up blood draws were, for Belle, not much better (although full body restraints were not necessary).  For years after that ER visit Belle maintained a visceral fear of needles.  Routine vaccinations were…stressful, to put it mildly, for Belle, her parents, and her pediatrician.

Despite Belle’s fear of needles (which had not been present before the trip to the ER), neither she nor K seemed to carry any long-term trauma from the needle stick accident.  They also barely displayed any short-term distress.  By the morning after they seemed to have accepted what the adults had told them (it was an accident; everything is going to be fine), and it was almost as if the accident hadn’t happened.

The night we came home from the ER they both fell asleep even quicker than usual (fatigued from the excitement, was my guess).  Oh, to have that short term memory dump capability, I remember thinking.  Meanwhile, as our children dozed in blissful ignorance, MH and I sat upright in our bed, eyes abuzz from our respective adrenaline overdoses.

“What just happened?” I said to MH.  “I feel like – like I should attack something.  I’m all geared up for battle, but there’s no one to fight.”

*   *   *

When the option for prophylactic HIV treatment had been offered to us, I thought:

Is this the day our lives change forever?

I hoped the medical personnel were going to advise *against* such treatment; instead, they’d presented the pros and cons, and left the decision to us.

I’d already decided that, unless there were compelling evidence to do so, no way was I going to agree to poison my kids to play the odds.  During some of the down time in the ER exam room I’d chatted with the kindly if seriously-demeanored P.A., and discovered that he too was a parent.  After he and a hospital physician had presented the HIV treatment option to MH and I, I waited until the physician left the room, then asked the PA,

“What would *you* do, if this had happened to *your* children?”

He paused, and I continued.

“I know you’re not supposed to answer that kind of question, but please?”

The P.A. nodded at me, in a way I can only describe as respectful, and I saw the brief flicker of a smile cross his eyes for the first time since he’d met us.  No, he said, if it were his children, he would not opt for the HIV prophylaxis.

*   *   *

Thanks to the merciful element known as “the passing of Time,” the distress of that day has morphed, for me, into having an impassive remembrance of what happened without having to relive how it “felt.”  Years will pass without me thinking about the accident, and then something will remind me.

One such reminder came via a local public television show I saw a few years ago, which featured an interview with an activist who “represented” an encampment which homeless people had been setting up in a Portland neighborhood.  The encampment was in an area which had been designated as a wildlife corridor; homeowners living near the corridor were disgusted and alarmed by the encampment’s accumulating trash, habitat destruction, and crime.  The activist/representative said that the camp occupants were policing themselves – she looked directly into the camera and declared that they had a strict, no drugs/no alcohol policy.

 

 

Local news reported that within days of authorities evicting the campers, the encampment resembled an EPA-declared toxic waste dump. City employees and volunteers who cleared out the hundreds of pounds of garbage the campers had left behind had to wear special gloves and protective garments, as the trash included  – surprise, “self-policing” activist/representative! – drug paraphernalia, including contaminated syringes and needles.

When I read that follow-up story I was right back to that day – back to the moment when MH ran up to my car, carrying our frightened five-year-old in his arms; back to the moment when I realized that *both* of our children had been stuck by a hypodermic needle; back to the moment when, as surely as I could sense my own pulse hammering in my carotid artery, I felt as if my “spirit” were draining out of my skull, down through my chest and gut and legs, and exiting my body through the soles of my feet.  And no, this is not a florid way of saying I peed my pants (which I didn’t).  The sensation was so vivid, I later checked my car’s floormat for…something (I didn’t really know what I was looking for).

Several months passed before the needle stick accident wasn’t the first and last thing I thought of every day.  Some mornings with stoic acceptance and some nights with fierce, Samuel L. Jackson-style defiance (“C’mon, just try and hurt us again, you needle-discarding, muthaF#&%?! ass#@&%* !”), I’d contemplate the fact that there are so many things out of a parent’s control.  Seemingly apropos of nothing, I would find myself ruminating on the plethora of shit, be it circumstantial, biological, genetic, or whatever, that I could neither anticipate nor control, but which could harm K and Belle.

I eventually made peace with the reality that generations of parents before me had recognized:

Your life can change in an instant;
your love for your children may be river deep and mountain high,
but it cannot protect them from everything that might harm them….
including random fate and their and other peoples’ (and your own) mistakes.

One day, several months after the NS accident and after things had returned to the proverbial normal, I was out running errands with Belle.  We were at a crafty-type store, getting supplies for her preschool project, and she had to pee.  The store’s restroom was a fairly large, handicapped access room. After Belle flushed the toilet and began to move to the sink to wash up, she exclaimed, “Look!” and reached for a shiny object lying on the floor, to the side of the toilet.

I had my first ever out-of-body experience: I watched as a hand (that was apparently my own) reached out with lightning speed and slapped Belle’s hand just before she touched the object; I heard a banshee’s voice from the bowels of the hells I don’t believe in bellow from my mouth:

” NO NO NO NO NO !!!
Don’t EVER pick up ANYTHING when you don’t know what it is –
didn’t you learn ANYTHING from the accident ?!?!? “

It took a stunned two seconds for first Belle and then me to burst into tears, and a nanosecond after that for me to apologize to her.

*   *   *

May you never have a similar story to tell;
May you make peace with life’s realities but do your damnedest anyway;
May you remember to ask for something to eat and drink when
you’re stuck in an ER room for hours;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

[1] Thank you for the inspiration, Samuel L. Jackson.

[2] One of the more (if not most) liberal of the Protestant denominations.  Yes, this foulmouthed  expressive atheist and her family were active church members.

[3] The P.A., doctors, and nurses we saw during our ER stay.

[4] He had also spoken with at least two other Tuality hospital physicians, one of whom, along with the P.A., presented the HIV prophylactic treatment option to us.  We also had several nurses (in and out of the exam room where we and the kids waited) who never introduced themselves.

[5] Although, oddly enough, neither of them said anything to us about it…which I attribute to them being intimidated by the surroundings.

[6]  This happened as I was doing a finger poke blood draw from a high-risk (multiple sexual partners; IV drug user) patient: I poked myself with the same lancet I’d just used on the patient, as I was transferring the lancet to the sharpie container.  It was a move I’d done a hundred times, only that time I somehow managed to stick myself as I grabbed the sharpie container.  To this day, I’m not sure how it happened, but I’ll never forget how the patient looked at me and said, “Uh oh.” 

[7] Which I should have had anyway…but I’d kept putting off for time/scheduling reasons.

[8] Then a few months later, in a veterinary setting, I saw a similar garment used to restrain a fractious cat!

The Hotel I’m Not Bonking

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Department Of The Fail-Safe Therapy Tool For Kids Of All Ages

 

 

Before I commence to deal with some Serious Subjects ® , I’m going to play for a few seconds with the farty putty (aka, “noise putty”) device MH got me as a Christmas stocking stuffer.  ‘Tis such a primal amusement, and also an effective stress reliever.  I think the American Psychological Association should recommend it to their counselors, to have on hand for sessions that get really intense:  “It’s time for a farty putty break.”  😉

Lest you think moiself  jests about its therapeutic applications, feast your eyes on this, from the National Autism Resources website (my emphases):

“Kids of all ages love to play with noise putty! It has an unusual squishy texture that you can squeeze between your fingers. Push it back into its jar and listen to it make funny, gastronomical sounds. Use it to work on fine motor skills….”

And not to worry, for y’all who consider yourselves to be technically-challenged.  It even has handy-dandy instructions:

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Not Up To Their Previous Standards

Moiself  is referring to the latest installment of Serial, the Peabody award-winning investigative journalism podcast (developed by This American Life)  which made a name for itself in the past ten or so years with its episodic, documentary-style presentation of compelling non-fiction stories.  Past seasons included an investigation of the 1999 murder an 18-year-old student at Woodlawn High School in Baltimore, and an in-depth look at what happened to Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, an American Army soldier who was held for five years by the Taliban, then charged with desertion.

The Trojan Horse Affair, Serial’s latest installment, claims to take a closer look at the 2013 scandal in England which involved claims of a conspiracy to introduce Islamist tenets into several schools in Birmingham – claims which were set out in an anonymous letter  [1] sent to Birmingham City Council.  TTHF is hosted and reported by American veteran producer Brian Reed and a novice journalist, Hamza Syed, a British doctor-turned-reporter from Birmingham, England.

 

 

“This is my first story as a journalist. I don’t plan for it to be my last story as well, but given what’s happened in the years I’ve been working on this, it probably will be.”
( Hamza Syed, from his interview on NPR’s Fresh Air 2-15-22)

Syed’s provocative quote, and my enjoyment of Serial’s previous installments, got me interested in listening to the series. After having done so, I’ve concluded that if, indeed, TTHA turns out to be Syed’s last story as a journalist it won’t be because of his concerns, both overt and implied, of anti-Muslim prejudice against him.  It will be because he proved to be a lousy reporter.

Besides displaying a rather volatile temper, Syed made a major faux pas which cast doubt on the integrity of his methods and motives, and on his ability to distinguish between his personal identity and an investigation’s subject matter.

“Long story short” territory:  In a latter episode of the TTHA series (# five or six, I think, of eight total episodes) it was revealed that, at one point in Syed’s and Redd’s investigation, Syed, frustrated with being unable to get sources to confide in him, played the Muslim card:  [2]    Syed wrote a letter to a potential interviewee (a Muslim man), saying he has never believed the accepted narrative around the case, nor many of the people involved in the investigations around it, and that his (Syed’s) identity as a Muslim takes precedence for him in his investigation.

MH and I each (separately) listened to the podcast, and each of us had similar, jaw-dropping reactions to what Syed had done.  Given the opportunity to provide feedback to Syed, I’d have phrased my reaction thusly:

Why should I take *anything* from you seriously, when you’ve just admitted that you do *not* have journalistic integrity at heart, in a story that especially demands it?

Like the evangelical creationist who admits he views science through the lens of how he interprets Christian scriptures, you have told a person – from whom you are trying to get information – that, like him, you are ultimately and firstly a Muslim.

Now, were you lying to get him to trust you? Or were you telling the truth?  Either way, I can take nothing you say or do as if it were coming from a serious journalist striving for truth, integrity, and objectivity.

Despite our respective shock and disgust at what the reporter had done, both MH and I found the TTHA story intriguing, and continued to listen to the rest of the series. But we weren’t the only ones to have an issue with it, and with more matters than its rookie journalist’s whopping boner of a tactic. There was also the assumption the series seemed to take, from the beginning of the podcast: that anti-Islamic sentiment was behind and/or ultimately responsible for  *everything* in the scandal.  Accusations (including incidents of verifiable and disturbing behaviors   [3]  )  about sexism, anti-LGBTQ teachings, and child abuse on the part of some Muslim men – alarms raised by Muslim women – were mentioned in several TTHA episodes, in marginal ways, then dropped.

We weren’t the only ones who were disturbed by this. To quote only one critique:

“The Trojan Horse Affair presents a one-sided account that minimizes child protection concerns, misogyny and homophobia in order to exonerate the podcast’s hero…  In doing so, it breaches the standards the public have the right to expect of journalists, with cruel consequences for those it uses and abuses along the way.”

( “The Trojan Horse Affair: How Serial Podcast Got It So Wrong,”
Sonia Sohad, The Guardian 2-20-22

 

Shaka Ssali is a (recently retired) Uganda-born journalist.

 

*   *   *

Department Of How Other Journalists Are Getting It So Right

What comes to mind when you read the words of a critic and writer at The Washington Post, who called an Academy Award-nominated film “…the most inspiring journalism movie — maybe ever”?

Are you thinking of the award-winning  All The President’s Men, or Spotlight?  Or The Post, or The Killing Fields, or….?

Nope.  The WAPO writer refers to a documentary (among five nominees for this year’s Academy Award for best documentary feature) which takes place in India.

 

 

Indian politicians would have you believe that their country is a major power in the modern, 21st century world, yet they do the bare minimum to change aspects of their culture which hark back to 1500 BCE, when the caste system was established.

 

 

The good news:  in India, one of the most dangerous countries in which to practice journalism,   [4]   there is an astoundingly brave and persistent group of reporters committed to the ultimate tenet of good journalism: holding the powerful to account.  What’s amazing about this group is that is it composed of people with inarguably the least amount of power in their country:  Dalit (the lowest caste, aka “untouchables”) women.

Writing With Fire is the documentary which tells the story of these reporters and their newspaper/news outlet, Khabar Lahariya (translation: “News wave”).  Moiself   urges you to see it (streaming on Amazon, and available via other venues).

 

 

” In India’s millennia-old caste system, Dalits fall entirely outside the structure. Once pejoratively referred to as ‘untouchables’…over centuries Dalits have remained oppressed by tradition and the rest of Indian society.

‘I tell my daughters, their caste identity will always follow them. This is how our society is structured, but it’s important to keep challenging the system,’ says Meera Devi, the outlet’s chief reporter who is the main protagonist of the film.

But day after day, the women defiantly expose sexual violence against women and the corruption of illegal mining operations in rural India.

‘We don’t trust anyone except you. Khabar Lahariya is our only hope,’ the husband of a woman who has been repeatedly raped by a group of men in their village tells Devi in one of the rare moments in the film in which a man acknowledges the organization’s value and impact.”

(“Opinion: The most inspiring journalism movie — maybe ever”
Jason Rezian, The Washington Post, 2-1-22 )

Writing With Fire has a bajillion   [5]   story levels to it (other than that of the newspaper itself and the stories it covers), including the reporters’ uphill battle against centuries of patriarchy, and gender and caste prejudice.  It’s also an excellent briefing on what makes a good journalist, in any culture.

Some standout moments of the film, for moiself , include:

* Two of the reporters, while preparing a meal, are discussing questions they will be asking of participants in an upcoming election. One reporter asks the other,“Tell me something honestly, why do we call our country ‘mother India?’ Why celebrate the country as a mother?…. I get very irritated watching the celebrations on TV glorifying our democracy. But where is the democracy? Neither are we a democracy, nor are the women free.”

* Later in the documentary one of the more the most promising young journalists of Khabar Lahariya is interviewed about her having to leave the newspaper. She’d spoken earlier about not wanting to succumb to the pressure to get married, and about what happens to women in her society.  And then…

“What can I say? At one point I thought of not getting married at all. Many things were on my mind. So I thought, why get married? But I’m under a lot of pressure. I need to protect my parents, because being a single woman is not an option here.

People are questioning my integrity as well as my family’s. They were saying that they (her family) want to live off my earnings, ‘…and at night your daughter…’
 It tortures the family and creates a lot of tension. So I realize marriage is inevitable. I don’t want to be the cause of my family suffering.
Let’s think that whatever will happen will be for the best. Things have a way of working out, and that’s what I’m hoping for….”
  (She pauses, shakes her head, holds back tears)
“I’m finding it difficult to speak anymore.”    [6]

 

 

The film depicted scenarios both horrendous, and uplifting, depressing and emboldening, What affected me the most? It wasn’t…

* the husbands and families of these brave journalists showing lackluster (if any) support for their work;

*  the frustrations of the reporters trying to learn and use digital technologies when most of them have never been able to afford a cell phone, and then, when they are issued smart phones and/or touchscreen tablets by the newspaper, they can’t charge the equipment because their homes lack electricity;

* the rising influence of the Anti-Muslim bigot Hindu nationalist, Prime Minister Modi, and the prevalence of his inflammatory rhetoric using that most unholy of alliances – politics and religion;

* the danger and threats (physical, emotional, and sexual) the women face; nor the way way sexual slurs are used to try to cow and humiliate them and their families…  

One small, domestic scene really got to me, probably because I took it to be illustrative of what these reporters, as women in a seemingly women-denigrating culture, have to deal with: with the should and should not limitations all women face, in a world still dominated by patriarchal attitudes.

The scene took place early in the morning.  Meera Devi, who like her Khabar Lahariya peers has worked all the previous day (and well into the night), is braiding her daughter’s long hair before school.  Like all of her married reporter peers, the vast majority (if not all) of household tasks fall upon Devi, even as she works full-time out of the home.  Her daughter is insisting on two braids (“plaits”), as Devi wearily (if good-humoredly) grumbles about not having time for that…one plait should be enough.  But the daughter pleads, telling her mother that she will be (and has been) scolded at school if her mother doesn’t do her hair in two plaits, “…because teacher says all girls should have two plaits.”

All girls should….
All girls are ….
All girls must…
All girls should never….

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of International Relations

MH and moiself  are doing some much anticipated traveling overseas this summer.  For some of the travel we’ll be in a Scandinavian tour group.  The tour begins in Stockholm; following savvy traveler advice, I booked us rooms in a Stockholm hotel two days ahead of when the tour begins, so that we can adjust to the time difference and all that pickled herring and Swedish chefs, etc.

Moiself  got an English translation while booking online, but the confirmation the hotel emailed to us was in Swedish.  It began with a cheery greeting which I was mostly able to figure out, except that I transposed two letters in the fourth word, which made for an interesting impression/translation: “Tak För Din Bokning!”

Me, to Moiself:
” ‘Thanks for the bonking ?!?!? ‘
Wow – this really is an all-service hotel!”

Moiself:
Ahem, that’s, bokning.  [7]

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Swedish Edition

Swedish inventors have created cyborgs which are hard to distinguish from real humans.
Critics are concerned about the use of artificial Swedeners.

Why does the Swedish military put barcodes on their ships?
So when the ships return to port they can scan da navy in.

My neighbor drones on and on about his notoriously unreliable Swedish sports car…
It seems like a great big Saab story to me.

Did you hear about a new Broadway show that combines magic with Swedish pop songs?
It’s called ABBA-Cadabra.

 

Mamma Mia, there she goes again.

 

*   *   *

May you enjoy the therapeutic applications of “funny, gastronomic sounds;”
May you watch Writing With Fire (then maybe Spotlight and other journalism-themed movies) and appreciate the absolute necessity of a free press to a vital democracy;
May you put on ABBA’s “Waterloo” and dance around your living room
(you know you want to);
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

[1] Which was later deemed to be a hoax.

[2] About which he was confronted, and chastised, by Reed.

[3] Including sexual abuse of a 14 year old girl by one of her male teachers.

[4] Over forty journalists in India have been killed since 2014.

[5] Fortunately, the reporters of Khabar Lahariya, constrained as they are by sound journalistic principles, would never stoop to using such sensationalistic exaggerations as those employed by moiself.

[6] Later still there is footage of her at her wedding, in her wedding finery.  Moiself wanted to cry; I’ve never seen a more downhearted looking bride…or woman in almost any situation, for that matter.  But, in the documentary postscript, it was reported that she had rejoined the newspaper several months after her marriage.

[7] Uh, that would be, booking, as in, booking a room with them.  Nudge Nudge wink wink.

The FREE (All caps! Must be legit! ) Opportunity I’m Not Pursuing

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Department Of Sometimes The Blog Just Writes Itself

Dateline:  3-14 (Pi day).
First thing in the morning, moiself  receives this email (my emphases):

Hi Robyn!  My name is Raine    [1]
and I’m an Executive Assistant from Craniumz Magazine.   [2]

I came across your profile and find what you do both inspiring and in line with our topics and audience.

 

 

Excusez-moi for this diversion…I just can’t help but pause for a bullshit snort. What I do is so not in line with their “topics and audience.”

Back to the email:

We’re currently sourcing entrepreneurs for the opportunity to be registered as potential guest writers for free publicity opportunities, or to invite them as contributors for Craniumz Magazine. We’re also looking for inspiring coaches, leaders, and entrepreneurs who could be featured on The Craniumz Global Award List 2022 – a global list that will be released in June, and has featured names like Oprah Winfrey, Robin Sharma and Marisa Peer, to name a few.
Is any of this something you would be interested in being considered for?

Best regards, Raine Latte

 

 

OMG, my chance to have my name be somehow associated with Oprah’s!!  And two WTF  people I know nothing about!  I, of course, will drop everything, including common sense and any vestige of self-respect, to be exploited by have the honor of working with the Craniumz people who, according to their website, are a

“…Global Media Brand operated by ____  [3], a branding and digital media brand, with a focus on interviews, articles and information about business, mindset, innovation, leadership and lifestyles.”,

 

 

 

Holy bald-faced and obsequious ignorance. Indeed, if Ms. Raine came across my profile, she evidently didn’t follow it to/bother to check out my blog, which would clue her in as to how little I think of the concept of branding

 

 

Nevertheless, moiself  could not pass up the (FREE) opportunity to respond:

Hello Raine,
What is the compensation for guest writers
and/or contributors to Craniumz Magazine?
And if you came across my profile,
did you note that I am primarily a writer of fiction?
Curiously,
Robyn Parnell

The reply:

Hi
Great to hear from you. My first email serves as an invitation for you to be one of our potential Guest Writers.

Our Guest Writers get FREE access to opportunities that we have in the group such as free articles, podcast hosting, interviews and a chance to be on the list of awards – Craniumz 500 Global List & Global Award. Guest writers are encouraged to participate in the opportunities posted every week for them to get selected for free publicity. They may also opt to submit their proposed topic, quote or article through content@brainzmagazine.com. If the Content Team find it interesting and matched the theme for the month, they will surely approach you for information.

Hope this helps.  Best regards, Raine

 

 

I couldn’t just leave it at that:

Hi yourself.

Congratulations on your outstanding job of not answering my questions.
Since the proverbial picture paints a thousand (FREE) words,
I’ll express my opinion on this matter via the pictorial presentation of the artist/writer known as The Oatmeal:    [4]

 

*    *   *

Department Of How To Spot A Bot

I did not expect a response to the obvious disinterest – and inherent if not overt dis – contained in my last reply.  Yet the artist formerly known as Bot program pretending to be a human called Raine sent me one more oblivious/form reply:

“I’m happy to hear you’re interested!
If you have a spare minute now, it would be great if you could fill in your information in our contributor form, so that ____  [5] can review your details for the publicity opportunities. It’s just a couple of quick questions….

Once your information has been reviewed, you’ll receive an email within 24 hours with the headline ‘Publicity in Craniumz Magazine’ with instructions and information about the opportunities. (This email sometimes ends up in the spam folder, so don’t forget to check it’s not hiding in there!) 🙂

Just let me know when you’ve submitted, and I’ll try to speed up the process.
Looking forward to hopefully seeing more from you, as I think you would make a great addition to the Craniumz community! “

 

Except that, someone did.

 

*   *   *

Department Of St. Patrick’s Day Party Deferred

Dateline: Tuesday 3-17-20.  At 6 pm the dinner party, with ten people total,  [6]  had been scheduled to commence.   Anyone remember what else happened in mid-March,2020?

 

“I’ll take pandemics for $1000, Alex.”

 

I left the dining table as it was set – including moiself’s  lavish centerpiece (a very large – we’re talking four pounds – potato sporting a green crown) – for many months after, in hope, or defiance?   Come Autumn, when This Thing Looks Like It’s Going To Stick Around ® began to settle in my brain, I put away the plates and the cutlery, the napkins and the décor.  The centerpiece, by then, had begun to mutate, much like the virus which caused its dethronement.

 

She took away my crown, so I’m growing my own.

 

If I were to throw a party now, it would be one to celebrate the foreign troops’ withdrawal from Ukraine.  But seeing as how that Tin of Poo in charge of the Russian kleptocracy has an ego as large and skin as thin as those of our own #45…well, odds are he’s not going to leave quietly, ya know?

Moiself  is not hopeful for either a quick or peaceful resolution to the mess the Russians have made in the Ukraine.  I dread what Putin’s nose-thumbing, ass-licking, face-saving strategies could ultimately entail.  But in my dreams, all things are possible:

 

“Oops, my bad!  We’re leaving now.”

 

In the meantime, in an action about as effective in the long (or short) run as saying to the Ukrainians, “I’ll pray for you,” I’ve done the bare minimum to keep up the consciousness in my ‘hood.

 

 

And I hope readers, if you haven’t done so already, will join me in checking Charity Navigator    [7]   for an above-board relief organization to aid the Ukrainians, and make a contribution.  CN currently lists thirty-five organizations funneling relief aid to “The Ukrainian-Russian Crisis.”  The organizations are grouped under the following headings:  Medical Services; Medical Supplies; Non-Medical Supplies; Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH); Emergency Housing Long-Term Assistance; Other (inc. cash/cash vouchers, logistic supply, animals).    [8]

 

*   *   *

*   *   *

Department Of Nostalgia: Recalling My First Instruction In Deductive Reasoning

♫   Beans, Beans, the musical fruit
The more you eat; the more you toot
The more you toot, the better you feel
So let’s have beans for every meal!   ♫

 

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Musical Fruit Edition

Why did everyone notice when Bill Gates farted in the Apple store?
Because the store didn’t have any Windows.

I didn’t pass gas in front of my husband until we got married.
His family wasn’t impressed.

Life is so unfair – I just called the Flatulence Incontinence Hotline,
and the woman who answered said, “Can you hold, please?”

Why doesn’t Chuck Norris fart?
Because nothing escapes Chuck Norris.

When a clown farts, does it smell funny?

 

Clowns are NOT funny.

*   *   *

May you be entertained by bogus offers to link your name with Oprah’s;
May you appreciate your first lesson in deductive reasoning;
May you accept my belated slainté on behalf of March 17;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] A real person, according to the magazines website staff listing, (I checked), but not her real name…although I have a feeling she is a bot/creation.

[2] A supposedly real magazine (I checked), but not its real title.

[3] Some parent company headquartered in Sweden.

[4] The incomparable Matthew Inman.  Who, I imagine, would also not be impressed to be on a “global awards” list that may have once had Oprah’s name on it.

[5] Another ostensibly real person’s name, but likely not a Real Person ® .

[6] Including MH and I and son K.

[7] Charity Navigator is the world’s largest and probably best-known “nonprofit evaluator.” Itself a non-profit, CN analyses the integrity of a non-profit organization in financial terms, focusing on how much of contributed funds are used for the purpose(s) claimed by the charity, with an emphasis on the cost effectiveness (or impact) of the charity, its financial stability, adherence to best practices for accountability and transparency, and results reporting.

[8] Moiself  chose International Relief Teams, which has a “100%” rating from CN.

The Parties I’m Not Yet Hosting

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Department Of Getting This Out Of The Way

Since it would likely cause too much political turmoil for a legitimate government to engage in “regime change,” is it too much to suggest that some Russian patriots lay down their lives for A Greater Cause ® and take out their rapacious, rampaging, rat-faced ruler?

And while they’re at it, maybe they could do something about our own Tangerine Traitor?

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of I Just Can’t Help It

If the aforementioned Russian patriots found a way to grind their leader into a pâté and spread him atop a cracker, would that be Putin on the Ritz?

 

The preferred final resting place of despots worldwide.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Well You Didn’t Have To Agree So Damn Quickly

It happened.  Again.

Dateline: last week; later afternoon; grocery store;  picking up soy milk, olive oil, apples, avocadoes, lemons, garnet yams, and other items for dinner.  It is a blustery day; I have a coat and scarf, my usual wide brimmed rain-or-shine hat, and a mask of course, all of which left little of my face exposed.  The checkout cashier gives me a careful look as she picks up the bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from my basket.

Cashier (holding the bottle above the scanner, but not scanning it):
“May I see your ID?”

Moiself (pulling my mask up and my scarf down):
“Is this the neck of someone under 21 years old?”

Cashier (takes a look, scans my wine):
“Ha!”

 

 

*   *   *

 

Everyone take a deep breath. The frivolity will return after this important message.

 

*   *   *

 

Department Of If You’re Human, Please Read This

“In the throes of loss, people reach for certainty and control. My patient’s wife asked me what percentage of people as sick as her husband had survived and whether a risky therapy could promise life. I couldn’t offer her easy answers, only a willingness to stay and listen. Together, we wrestled with the burn of uncertainty. She shared photos of her husband over Zoom. They had sailed and cooked and taken selfies on the beach. Her photos said what words couldn’t. This is the person I have lost.

Earlier in my career, looking closely at this particular kind of pain was as blinding as looking at the sun. I distracted myself afterward with S.N.L. marathons and slabs of chocolate cake. Eventually, I realized that it wasn’t my job to protect people from their grief or to solve it.

I have learned to look when I want to look away.
I have chosen to stay when I’d prefer to run out of the room and cry. The prelude to compassion is the willingness to see.”

(Dr. Sunita Puri; my emphases)

 

 

If you’re over age twenty and live alone on a desert island, perhaps you have not yet had that choice – to stay, or run out of the room and cry.  Perhaps you have not yet had to grieve that inevitable, most human of losses: the death of a loved one.  For the rest of us, I recommend this essay:

We Must Learn to Look at Grief, Even When We Want to Run Away.

This brief, down-to-earth yet stunningly profound guest essay appeared last week in the NY Times.  Written by Dr. Sunita Puri, the essay begins with the story of a patient dying from COVID-19, and Dr. Puri’s relationship with the patient’s wife. The insights imparted by Dr. Puri, who is a palliative medicine physician, go beyond any particular diagnosis.

“I don’t believe in ‘moving on’ and ‘finding closure.’ This language distills the messy complexity of grief into tidy sound bites and asks people to leave something behind, bury it or lock it away. The challenge for my patients and their families is the challenge for all of us: Can we instead move forward with grief?
Can we find a way to integrate loss into life, to carry it with us? Can we feel tragedy together, without an artificial line between those who are ready to move on and those who can’t see a way out?”

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

*   *   *

 

Department Of The Ghost Of Potlucks Past

As we near the end of mandatory indoor masking regulations, moiself  is thinking of the gradual return of social gatherings.  For our family such events will be small, at first…which has got me to daydreaming about our parties of yore.

We (MH and I, and offspring K and Belle, when they were still in the nest) used to host potluck dinners for family/neighbors/friends.  On a semi-regular basis (every 6 months to a year) we could host twenty to thirty people to feast and frolic.

The potlucks were themed; guests were asked to bring a dish having something to do with the theme.  There are some parties whose themes moiself  can’t recall and whose invitations I didn’t save (DAMN!); others, I will never forget.

Here is a sample of the themes, plus a brief description of what kind of foods/dishes guests were asked to bring. 

 

 

 

* Cusina Obscura
(foods of the “minor” or lesser known countries and/or cuisines, instead of the usual dining out suspects {Italian; French, Thai; Mexican. For example, find/make something Burmese instead of Chinese; Finnish instead of Swedish; Samoan instead of Hawaiian;) Uruguyan instead of Brazilian….)   [1]

* White Trash Food
(food you at one time liked and ate but now might be ashamed to admit it; e.g., a Wonder Bread mayo potato chip sandwich.  Basically, this gathering was a haute cuisine nightmare…and judging from the guests’ feedback, one of our most popular themes.
Our party’s centerpiece was a bottle of Pepto Bismol.   [2]  )

* The Dung Beetle Café
(food items must be round, or “rollable”)  [3]

*  All Things “P” Party
(all foods/dishes must have a word/ingredient beginning with the letter P)

* Better Red Than Dead
(food must be…wait for it…red. In some capacity.    [4])

 * Halfway to the Holidays
(party held in June; bring a dish which, to you, fairly screams fal-la-la-la-la/ yule/Christmas/Solstice whatever winter holiday you celebrate)

* PuPu Potluck
(as in the Hawaiian pupu platters – an all appetizer foods potluck )

* The Next Party
(inspired by a regular potluck party guest, who, when he encountered me at the grocery store or some public arena, asked,
“Isn’t it time for your next party?”   [5] )

 

 

Our friend BW, a regular potluck guest and gourmet chef with quite the cookbook collection, “gifted” us with this cookbook – along with a platter of the adore-mentioned potato chip sandwiches – when he attended our WT Foods party.

 

 

Here is a variant of our “standard” potluck party invitation (All Things “P” Party):

Potluck; Parsnips; Pickled peppers; Pasta; Peanuts; Pizza; Pesto
Pomegranate; Party; Porcini; Pirates; Parmigiano….

Do you pick up a pattern?  Perceptive person (or plural) that you are, you are invited to help us celebrate the glorious 16th letter of the alphabet by attending our
All Things “P” Potluck Party
Saturday October 7, 6:30 pm

Celebrate your culinary P-osity by bringing a dish to share with fellow potluck partakers.  This may be just the occasion you were looking for to dust off that recipe for Paprika Plum Pudding or Peruvian Pork Patties, or Papa’s favorite Purée of Prunes & Peas.

Your lovely and talented hosts will provide their usual combination of:
* joi de vivre and schadenfreude;
* plates, napkins, and tableware;
* restrooms sanitized for your protection;
* a motley assortment of leaded and unleaded beverages
(including Pepto Bismol for the prunes & peas partakers).

And yes, there will be Prizes awarded.  For…something.    [6]  

Here are just a few of the fabulous people who will  (not)  be attending the potluck:

-Monty Python’s Michael Palin
-Pancho Villa
-Dolly Parton
-Regis Philbin
-Sydney Poitier
-Plato
-Pandora
-Jean Luc Picard, Captain, USS Enterprise
-Emily Post
-Pocahontas
-Pongo the wonder chimp (Cheetah’s stunt double from the original “Tarzan” movies)

RSVP to _______.  Directions to our house, potluck suggestions, and personal hygiene tips will be provided upon request.

 

Actually, we were relieved Ms. Post could not attend the gathering, as we’d heard she was somewhat of a party pooper.

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Dinner Party Edition

Where does a baseball catcher sit at a dinner party?
Behind the plate.

I was so happy when son stopped chewing on his boogers at dinnertime.
He’s no longer a picky eater.

I invited a couple of Vikings to dinner, and they kept tapping on the table and laughing.
When I finally asked what was so funny, they said,
“You wouldn’t get it; it’s Norse code.”

My husband was mortified when I mentioned his underwear at a dinner party.
It was a brief conversation.

My cannibal neighbor showed up two hours late to my dinner party.
I gave him the cold shoulder.

 

Can we please extend cancel culture to cannibal jokes?

 

*   *   *

 

May you enjoy a gradual return to social gatherings;
May you learn to look at grief, even when you’d rather run away;
May being the subject of bad puns someday be enough
to depose Russian war criminals;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

[1] Our friend’s young adult son brought live meal worms to this event, which he sautéed, on a pan on our stove, in garlic and olive oil.  Not every guest was game;  I tried them  (after my third glass of champagne).

[2] This theme was inspired by a “white trash dinner” contest a group of fellow dormies and I had in college, one night when we were bored and looking for an excuse not to do homework.  (the one Native American, one Black, and one Philipino dormies in attendance asked for special dispensation for their contest entries to be considered White Trash ® ).  We shared stories of foods our respective families served, a dish which we’d grown up eating, but which embarrassed and/or horrified us to think of it now.  Then we all voted on which was “best” (read: worst).  My entry was my family’s fried Spam slices topped with Velveeta.  Guess who won that contest?

[3] Motivation for this theme came via a dinner I made which my offspring thought was too challenging to their palates (think of Thai curry when they wanted pizza), which led me into a good humored tirade about how, when I was a kid, I loved the opportunity to try new foods…and that they were lucky to have me for a mom:  “If I were a mother wolf I would be regurgitating your dinner for you…or, what if we were a family of dung beetles, and night after night it was the same thing:  ‘Hey mom what’s for dinner?  Oh, boy, dung balls again!’  “

[4] Surprisingly, we did *not* get 15 dishes featuring tomato sauce.  People used their imagination: red beans & rice; beet juice risotto; Red Hot Chili Pepper layer cake…. and our fear that we might end up dining on nothing but cabernet and ketchup was for naught.

[5] But I can’t remember what the food theme was.

[6] We usually had potluck party guests take a quiz, which I prepared, containing multiple choice questions having something (widely interpreted) to do with the party’s theme.  Prizes were given out for the high (and low) scorers.

The Department I’m Not Defunding

Comments Off on The Department I’m Not Defunding

Department Of First Things First

Hard to imagine that, in this picture, my father was younger than I am now and I was younger than my daughter Belle is now

Gone from this earth; always present in our hearts and minds. Chester (“Chet the Jet”) Bryan Parnell died this evening, thirteen years ago.

 

Moiself was home from college for a Christmas visit.  I remember how proud Chet was that he could still lift me in his arms (and that I would consent to him showing off by doing so).

 

*   *   *

Department Of One Solution To A Seemingly Unsolvable Problem?

“The rift between police and Black Americans can feel impossible to bridge.  But in his work with police departments across the U.S., Yale psychologist Phillip Atiba Goff has found novel ways to address the problem.”
(Hidden Brain website)

Okay; everybody drop what you’re doing right now – unless you’re doing something really important, like making me dinner. Whether you have ever (or never) had any encounters with police officers, or you y’all’s own self are a police officer, please listen to this podcast episode:  Hidden Brain: Changing Behavior, Not Beliefs

HB host Shankar Vedantam:
“I find it fascinating that you’re effectively addressing problems related to racial disparities in policing, without accusing police officers of being bigots.  There’s very little finger-pointing in your work, right? “

Goff:
“In my day to day when I’m talking with law enforcement, when I’m talking with communities, when I’m talking to my team, we talk about racism a *whole lot.*  What we *don’t* talk about is whether or not you meant to (a cop acting in a way that promotes racial disparity), or are ‘a good person.’

We don’t talk about ‘character,’ almost ever.  But everybody who can answer the question, ‘Would you like to kill fewer people – would you like to be engaged in less racial disparity?” with a ‘Yes, I would like to do that morally obvious thing,’ there are things that can be done.  But we don’t have to talk about racism the way most people talk about racism, because the way most people talk about racism is what kind of person you are, and I have found that to be almost entirely irrelevant to making the problem get better.”      [1]

 

 

Psychologist Goff says the key to changing policing disparity and lowering incidences of police using unnecessary force is focusing on the *behavior* of officers, not on their *character.*  Whether or not a person holds entrenched/racist beliefs is subjective, difficult if not impossible to assess – how do we really know what is in a person’s mind?   [2] –  and ultimately impossible to screen for (truly racist applicants would learn how to “lie”, on both tests and in interviews, if they were determined to join the police force).

And whether or not an officer aspires to be a card-carrying Klansman or considers himself to be the reincarnation of Mr. Rogers is not the issue – his behavior is. And his behavior is directly influenced by his training, which colors his perceptions (even when the officer is a POC    [3]  ) of what kind of persons and situations are inherently dangerous.

Goff and others studying the situation point to the fact that it is the police officer’s behaviors, not indiscernible attitudes or “character,” which cause problems.  Goff argues for DE-escalation, not defunding, for police. He calls for changing the training for officers and for those who deploy them, including recognizing situations where employing officers with badges and guns should only be a last resort and not a first response (i.e. most traffic infractions and mental health calls and neighborhood disputes).

 

We should all be so lucky as to de-escalate by partaking in a relaxing foot soak with Mr. Rogers.

 

The character of police officers involved in, for example, the shooting of an unarmed Black man, is impugned or assumed: “The officers must be racist!  That may or may not be the case, but Goff argues that we should focus our attention on what we can measure and alter, rather than what the officer’s “character” might be, which we can only presume.  We should look at the behavior involved, including:

* how officers are trained to react a certain situations

* knowledge of the fact that certain situations predispose the officers to respond more violently and/or fearfully: such as, the foot chase and high speed auto chases.  And even – especially, as it turns out – the lowly, “routine” traffic stop.

“Thanks to police culture and training, many officers have been conditioned to believe — *wrongly* — that traffic stops are high-risk, the report explains. (Research has indicated that the chances of a police officer being killed during a traffic stop are actually less than 1 in 3.6 million.) The high-risk mindset leads to overreaction and hyper-violence against people who are not a threat.

‘All [officers have] heard are horror stories about what could happen,’ Sarah Mooney, assistant police chief in West Palm Beach, told the Times. ‘It is very difficult to try to train that out of somebody.’  ”
( “New Report Details How and Why Routine Traffic Stops Turn Deadly,”
NYmag.com  )

 

The first time moiself  heard or read about the call to, “defund the police” I expressed my concern that the term was *extremely* poorly chosen.  It is fear-inducing for many if not the majority of citizens, and likely to put police officers on the defensive and refuse to listen to rational calls for reform.

One acquaintance shared her opinion that “…it doesn’t actually matter (what phrase you use) because they (police departments) are going to disagree no matter what you call it.”

Maybe…?  With a large, mmmmmmmm.

Second thought:  No; it does matter what you call it.  Because, words and phrases both carry and impart meaning – that’s the whole point of arguing about them.

And the meaning of “defund the police” is different from the desired outcome for police reform, which is not slashing essential police budgets, but reassigning and re-delegating certain tasks police have had to handle. These specific tasks are those which police officers and departments across the nation have complained about for decades – tasks that have been defaulted to police to handle, despite police lacking the training or mandate to handle them, e.g., the post deinstitutionalization mental health crises.

“When a person has a mental-health crisis in America, it is almost always law enforcement—not a therapist, social worker, or psychiatrist—who responds to the 911 call. But most officers aren’t adequately trained to deal with mental-health emergencies. And while laws intended to protect civil liberties make it exceedingly difficult to hospitalize people against their will, it is remarkably easy to arrest them.

As a result, policing and incarceration have effectively replaced emergency mental-health care, especially in low-income communities of color. In many jails, the percentage of people with mental illness has continued to go up even as the jail population has dropped. Today, nearly half the people in U.S. jails and more than a third of those in U.S. prisons have been diagnosed with a mental illness, compared to about a fifth in the general population.”

(“The Truth About Deinstitutionalization,” The Atlantic )

 

 

The mental health issue is arguable the most complex, with almost all sides involved in the discussion admitting that there is a huge problem, but offering no doable solutions…other than agreeing on the fact that the vast majority of mental-health related calls to emergency services should not involve or be handled by police.  But there are several less complicated fixes to other issues that could make a big difference in racial disparities in policing.  One of these fixes involves simply reducing the amount of unnecessary citizen-police encounters in non-life-threatening situations.

There’s no reason for badges-and-guns officers to be involved in citing minor traffic infractions, non-violent mental health crises “checks,” or policing petty neighborhood disputes, when community resources – e.g. trained mediators, mental health professionals, road cameras or even 1920s-style “traffic vigilantes” [see below] – could be used.

Some cities and police departments recognize this, and are advising their police officers to “no longer pursue drivers for low-level traffic infractions — including expired plates and broken headlights — unless related to an immediate safety threat.”    [4]  These recommendations are due in part to studies showing wide racial disparities in traffic stops, including one massive study cited by Kelsey Shoub, a professor of political science at the University of South Carolina, which analyzed data from twenty *million* traffic stops. The study’s data provided “…few big takeaways,” Professor Shoub said, “…and the first two are probably not surprising.”

“The first is that DWB (‘driving while black’) is very much a thing; it’s everywhere and it’s not just a North Carolina or a Southern problem but across the United States.  ….The second thing is that it appears to be more systemic than a few ‘bad apple’ officers engaged in racial profiling.”

Significant findings from Shoub’s and her colleagues’ analysis of the study’s dataset include:

* Blacks were 63 percent more likely to be stopped even though, as a whole, they drive 16 percent less. Taking into account less time on the road, blacks were about 95 percent more likely to be stopped.

* Blacks were 115 percent more likely than whites to be searched in a traffic stop (5.05 percent for blacks, 2.35 percent for whites).

* Contraband was more likely to be found in searches of white drivers.

“So, black drivers were stopped disproportionately more than white drivers compared to the local population and were at least twice as likely to be searched, but they were slightly less likely to get a ticket,” Shoub says. “That correlates with the idea that black drivers were stopped on the pretext of having done something wrong, and when the officer doesn’t see in the car what he thought he might, he tells them to go on their way.”

(“Racial disparities revealed in massive traffic stop dataset.”
U of SC post, 6-12-20 )

 

 

A driver speeding 100 mph through red light after red light? That person is a danger to everyone – go get him, asolutely. But having and guns-and-badges officers pull someone over for expired registration tags or for failing to properly signal a right-hand turn or exceeding the speed limit by 5 mph? Use capture camera footage or whatever – send them a ticket in the mail, but only escalate when absolutely necessary.

“Traffic stops are the most common form of police-citizen interaction, but for many citizens, they are also the most dangerous.

Although many people view traffic enforcement as a basic aspect of policing, this has not always been the case….

How traffic enforcement evolved over time
Traffic enforcement has been a responsibility of policing since the invention and wide use of automobiles and other vehicles. Cars were seen as dangerous, and originally, there were no rules or regulations governing their use. Outraged over accidents and other safety concerns, civilians demanded public safety support, despite law enforcement’s own lack of automobile use.

Traffic enforcement started in the 1920s with ‘traffic vigilantes’ who regulated driving by handing out tickets, keeping track of license plates, and following high-speed drivers. As police gained access to more technology, this role increasingly fell to them. Since then, police have used traffic stops to stop, detain, and search people they believe are engaging in criminal activity.

Traffic stops are now one of the most common acts of policing. Officers engaged in traffic enforcement have the discretion to decide whether to stop a driver based on a long list of potential violations, including not using a turn signal early enough, not using headlights on a cloudy day.… Officers have further discretion in how the stop is handled, including whether they will conduct a search of vehicle, issue a citation, arrest the driver, or let them go.

The deeply entrenched racial disparities in traffic enforcement and the continued killing of Black drivers show that regardless of intentions, the harms of traffic stops far outweigh any potential public safety benefits. Traffic stops result in neither increased trust in the police nor increased perceptions of safety among community members, and they often have the opposite effect.”

( “Police Traffic Stops Have Little to Do with Public Safety,”
Urban Wire: Crime Justice and Safety )

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Cops Edition

Yesterday I saw a police officer wearing a pilot’s uniform.
I thought it was odd; then I realized he was one of those plane clothes cops.

There’s a mysterious crime spree going on at our local IKEA.
The cops are having a hard time putting the pieces together.

Police officer: “I’m arresting you for downloading all of Wikipedia.”
Suspect: “No, wait! I can explain everything!”

I got pulled over by a cop who asked me if I had a police record.
I said, “No, but I’ve got a Sting CD.

 

What’s all this about Police brutality?

*   *   *

May you remember that what you call something matters;
May you find another term for “defunding the police;”
May you get out that old Police album – or picture of a departed loved one – and appreciate
how the gifts of the past can enrich the present;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] The first footnote is not actually a footnote.  This does not bode well for the completion of my Ph.D.

[2] We may have legal standards for proof of “intent,”  but such standards are legal – not scientific – constructions.

[3] “Racial bias isn’t necessarily about how a person views himself in terms of race, but how he views others in terms of race…. In the case of police, all cops are dealing with enormous cultural and systemic forces that build racial bias against minority groups. Even if a black cop doesn’t view himself as racist, the way policing is done in the US is racially skewed — by, for example, targeting high-crime neighborhoods that are predominantly black.  These policing tactics can also create and accentuate personal, subconscious bias by increasing the likelihood that officers will relate blackness with criminality or danger — leading to what psychologists call “implicit bias” against black Americans.  Combined, this means the system as a whole — as well as individual officers, even black ones — by and large act in ways that are deeply racially skewed and, potentially, racist.  ( excerpts from ” How systemic racism entangles all police officers — even black cops,” Vox  )

[4] “Portland police halt minor traffic stops, citing disparity.”  Abc news.

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