Home

The War I’m (Still) Not Declaring

5 Comments

Department Of Life Is Tough But It’s Even Tougher If You’re Stupid
Chapter 2 in a series

“The idea of a “War on Christmas” has turned things like holiday greetings and decorations into potentially divisive political statements. People who believe Christmas is under attack point to inclusive phrases like “Happy Holidays” as (liberal) insults to Christianity….
“Christmas is a federal holiday celebrated widely by the country’s Christian majority. So where did the idea that it is threatened come from?…
“The most organized attack on Christmas came from the Puritans, who banned celebrations of the holiday in the 17th century because it did not accord with their interpretation of the Bible….”
(“How the ‘War on Christmas’ Controversy Was Created,” NY Times, 12-19-16)

*   *   *

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

What do vegetarians, vegans, non-meat and/or plant-based eaters do on Thanksgiving?

( Other than, according to  Aunt Erva, RUIN IT FOR EVERYONE ELSE. )

The above question is an existential dilemma worthy of Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher, who wrote eloquent discourses on the subjective and objective truths one must juggle when choosing between a cinnamon roll and a chocolate swirl  [1]

 

*   *   *

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

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

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

Heathens Declare War on Christmas © post.

 

Department Of Did You Know…

…that the Reverend Increase Mather of Boston observed in 1687 that, “the early Christians who  first observed the Nativity on December 25 did not do so thinking that Christ was born in that Month, but because the Heathens’ Saturnalia was at that time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those Pagan Holidays metamorphosed into Christian ones.”   [2]  Because of its known pagan origin, Christmas was banned by the Puritans, and its observance was illegal in Massachusetts until 1681.   [3]

 

 

“Do you celebrate Christmas?”

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

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

Early Roman Catholic missionaries tried to convert northern Europeans to the RC brand of Christianity, and part of the conversion process was to alter existing religious festivals. The indigenous folk, whom the RC church labeled “barbarians,” quickly discovered that when it came to dealing with  missionaries, resistance is futile. The pagans intuitively grasped the concept of natural selection and converted to Christianity to avoid the price (persecution, torture, execution) of staying true to their original beliefs.  But they refused to totally relinquish their old celebrations, and so the church, eventually and effectively, simply renamed most of them.  [4]

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

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

The fir boughs and wreaths, the Yule log, plum pudding, gift exchanges, the feasting, the holly and the ivy and the evergreen tree….It is hard to think of a “Christmas” tradition that does not originate from Teutonic (German),Viking, Celtic and Druid paganism.  [5]  A celebration in the depths of winter – at the time when, to those living in the Northern Hemisphere, the sun appears to stop its southerly descent before gradually ascending north – is a natural instinct. For thousands of years our Northern Hemisphere ancestors greeted the “reason for the season” – the winter solstice – with festivals of light and gift exchanges and parties.  The Winter Solstice was noted and celebrated long before the Roman Jesus groupies pinched the party.

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

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

 

And Woden is the reason the middle of the week is named Wednesday.   [6]  My calling Wednesday “Wednesday” doesn’t mean I celebrate, worship or “believe in” Woden.  I don’t insist on renaming either Christmas, or Wednesday.

 

Now, go fetch me the sheisskopf who took the Woden out of Woden's Day!

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

 

The Winter Solstice is the day with the shortest amount of sunlight, and the longest night. In the northern hemisphere it falls on what we now mark as December 21 or 22.  However, it took place on December 25th at the time when the Julian calendar was used.  [7]   The early Romans celebrated the Saturnalia on the Solstice, holding days of feasting and gift exchanges in honor of their god Saturn. (Other major deities whose birthdays were celebrated on or about the week of December 25  [8] included Horis, Huitzilopochtli, Isis, Mithras, Marduk, Osiris, Serapis and Sol.)  The Celebration of the Saturnalia was too popular with the Roman pagans for the new Christian church to outlaw it, so the new church renamed the day and reassigned meanings to the traditions.  [9]

In other words, why are some folk concerned with keeping “the Christ in Christmas” [10]   when we should be keeping the Saturn in Saturnalia?

 

*   *   *

Whatever your favorite seasonal celebrations may be, I wish you all the best.

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Damn right I’m proud of that one.

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

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

[4] “Paganism in Christianity.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The “Women And Children” I’m Not Protecting

1 Comment

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

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

*   *   *

Department of Veteran’s Day Reflections

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

We Must Protect The Women And Children.

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

*   *   *

Department Of Another Fitting Movie For Veterans Day

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

 

 

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

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [3]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

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

My rating:

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher    [4]     

*   *   *

Department Of Well Duh

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

“What Brave New World shit is this?”

*   *   *

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

The Cinematic Count So Far

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

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

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

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

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

[4]

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it

* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it

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

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

* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.

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

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

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

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

[6] Which I eventually did.

The Middle I’m Not Meeting In

Comments Off on The Middle I’m Not Meeting In

Department Of This Is Way Too Existential Of A Question To Tackle Before Breakfast

Sub-Department of Could This Be Another Variant of Male Directile Dysfunction?

Dateline: Sunday morning, circa 7 am; Bay Area town, visiting friends who live in a hilly neighborhood with many winding roads.  MH and I are out for a morning walk. A car slowly approaches us from behind, and slows even more but doesn’t quite stop, as the driver, an older Asian man, rolls down the window and in lightly accented English, asks, “Do you know where I am going?”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of I’m A Middle Child, But Sometimes You Gotta Choose Sides

“There’s nothing in the middle of the road
but a yellow stripe and dead armadillos.”
( Jim Hightower, Texan, progressive political activist, former Agriculture commissioner,
author of There’s Nothing in the Middle of the Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos: A Work of Political Subversion      [1] )

 

Time to revisit a brief but wise meditation of the myth of the morality of middle ground. Excerpts from There’s Nothing Virtuous About Finding Common Ground, by Tayari Jones,  Emory university professor and author  (my emphases ) :

“…we are in a political moment where we find ourselves on opposite sides of what feels like an unbreachable gulf. I find myself annoyed by the hand-wringing about how we need to find common ground. People ask how might we “meet in the middle,” as though this represents a safe, neutral and civilized space. This American fetishization of the moral middle is a misguided and dangerous cultural impulse.”

The middle is a point equidistant from two poles. That’s it. There is nothing inherently virtuous about being neither here nor there. Buried in this is a false equivalency of ideas, what you might call the “good people on both sides” phenomenon….”

The search for the middle is rooted in conflict avoidance and denial. For many Americans it is painful to understand that there are citizens of our community who are deeply racist, sexist, homophobic and xenophobic….

The headlines that lament a “divided” America suggest that the fact that we can’t all get along is more significant
than the issues over which we are sparring.

Is the importance of our performance of national unity more significant than our core values? Is it more meaningful that we understand why some of us support the separation of children from their parents, or is it more crucial that we support the reunification of these families?… Should we agree to disagree about the murder and dismemberment of a journalist?

The romance of the middle can exist when one’s empathy is aligned with the people expressing opinions on policy or culture rather than with those who will be affected by these policies or cultural norms. Buried in this argument, whether we realize it or not, is the fact that these policies change people’s lives.

Compromise is not valuable in its own right,
and justice seldom dwells in the middle.”

Check out this essay in its entirety, originally published last year (11-5-18) in Time.

 

*   *   *

 

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [2]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

The Minimalists Cooks at Home, by Mark Bittman
Recipe:   Piquillo Peppers with Shitakes and Spinach

My rating:

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher   [3]           

*   *   *

Department Of Explaining Blog Brevity

Moiself is recently returned from a trip to Bay Area, to help longtime friends memorialize their 27-year-old son, who died unexpectedly in August.  MH and I also visited friends who graciously offered us accommodations during the trip — the same dear friends whose 27-year-old daughter was murdered in January.

The lingering trauma of losing a child of any age, and especially in violent circumstances, cannot be underestimated…nor fully comprehended.

 

 

*   *   *

May you be patient with those of us trying to comprehend the incomprehensible;
May you be wary of “meeting in the middle”;
May you continue to remember to  love ‘em while you’ve got ‘em;

…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Which is snort-laughing funny; moiself recommends y’all read it.

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

[3]

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it

* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it

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

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

* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.

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

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

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

The Stories I’m (Trying Not To) Overhear

Comments Off on The Stories I’m (Trying Not To) Overhear

Department Of Stories I So Did Not Need To Overhear…

Especially while finishing my lunch at a Mexican restaurant.

Dateline: last Friday afternoon, circa 1:45pm. At a table kitty-corner and behind mine sit six just-arrived people: what appear to be a wife and husband, their three young children, and grandpa. 

The kids look and sound to be in the range of four to eight years old.  So far, about ten minutes into their arrival, seating and ordering their food – they have been delightful, if loud (theirs and mine are the only occupied tables at this later-than-usual lunch hour, and their conversation bounces all over the restaurant).

Moiself is halfway through my lunch when the mother, perhaps attempting to forestall fidgeting (the youngest child keeps mentioning how hungry she is), takes over her table’s conversation.  At maximum, astonished, wait-till-you-hear-what-I’m-gonna-tell-you!! volume, Mom relates a story she says her friend Anne recently told her:

“…Anne was over at Sally’s, visiting Sally and Sally’s toddler son. While they were sitting on the couch talking, Sally’s boy stuck his hand down the back of his diaper, then held his hand up – which was covered in POOP – and wiped his poopy hand all over the couch cushions!”

All three children (plus grandpa, from the sound of it) squeal in delight and horror, and each occupant of the table feels inspired to start sharing their favorite this-is-sooooo-disgusting poop story.

At least I hadn’t ordered the refried beans.

 

For some reason, I skipped ordering dessert.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Just Wondering

What will be the theme song for the coming new year?   [1]

We’ve got until December 31 to figure it out. This would seem to be an obvious choice:

 

 

Runners up might include:

* I Can See For Miles (The Who)

* Tell Me What You See (The Beatles)

* Can You See Me (The Jimi Hendrix Experience)

Any other nominations?

*   *   *

Department Of Your Perspective-Enhancing Reading Assignment Of The Week

NY Times op-ed writer Nicholas Kristof has a history of skewed religious apologetics, most recently and specifically on display in Kristof’s Sunday opinion piece, in which he reacted to a recent poll showing a sharp decline in religious belief in the USA: 

We’re Less and Less a Christian Nation, and I Blame Some Blowhards –
Some intolerant conservative evangelicals have tainted the faith.
(Nicholas Kristof, NY Times, 10-26-19) .

Kristof’s false assumptions and misstatements – in the very title, never mind the article itself – had moiself stomping my little feet in HE SOOOOOOOOO DOESN’T GET IT frustration.

First of all, “we” (the US of A) were never a “Christian Nation,” by specific design and intent of the US Constitution’s framers.   [2]   Nor do blowhards “taint” the faith – just as the faith’s “saints” do not redeem it.  “The faith” (the one Kristof refers to is Christianity), like all religious faiths, taints itself by its very existence: it promotes irrational, supernatural belief in a natural world.

And then….

 

Hemant Mehta to the rescue!

Mehta is American born, raised in the Jain-faith,   [3]  an author, blogger and atheist activist, known via his moniker, The Friendly Atheist. I think I’ve used the phrase, Yeah, what he said! more often after reading Mehta’s writings/pieces/columns than almost any writer I can think of.  His temperate but firm reasoning and clean, to-the-point prose is at once challenging and accessible.  I’ve often found moiself thinking, he’s-reading-my-mind-and-translating-it-perfectly when I read his writings, and he makes his points sans the…colorful metaphors, ahem…I would be tempted to use  (my emphases):

 “The validity (or lack) of faith has never concerned (Kristof). His argument has always been that good Christians exist, therefore religion is good. Bad believers are always the exceptions to the rule, and their awfulness always occurs despite their faith, not because of it….but Kristof misses the larger picture.
He assumes people are escaping Christianity because they want no association with the worst members of the flock. That’s an insult to anyone who’s ever left religion because they looked at it, studied it, and realized it just wasn’t true.
The problem isn’t a bad apple or two. The problem is the orchard. “

(Excerpt from “Blaming ‘Blowhards’ for Why We’re Not a ‘Christian Nation’
Misses the Point,”  b
y Hemant Mehta, 10-28-19)

 

Pretend I am a better photoshopper, and that I have skillfully inserted Mehta’s face onto this superhero costume.

 

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [4]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

The Minimalist Baker, by Dana Shultz

Recipe:  Thai Baked Sweet Potatoes

My rating:

 

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

 

Recipe Rating Refresher   [5]

*   *   *

 

May you understand the difference between the apples and the orchard;
May your turn down the volume on your favorite poop stories;
May you share your favorite poop stories with moiself (but not when I’m eating);
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

[1] Which will be 2020…please don’t ask me to explain it any further.

[2] Who rejected theocracy, and made no mention of (anyone’s god in the Constitution and referenced religion only twice, and then in exclusionary terms…and if you find yourself even thinking (if not saying aloud), “But wait, what about the part where it says, ‘ “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,’ please douse your head in the nearest baptismal fount and do some research on the difference between The Declaration of Independence (an “apology” and call to arms for the American revolution)  and the Constitution of the United States (the new nation’s governing document).

[3] Jainism is an ancient Indian religion, with some commonalities with Buddhism and Hinduism. The majority of present-day Jains reside in India.

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

[5]

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it

* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it

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

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

* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.

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

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

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

The Baby Sloth I’m Not Threatening

Comments Off on The Baby Sloth I’m Not Threatening

Department Of Why This And Not That

Sub Department Of How To Solve The Health Care Debate

 

Perhaps a little re-framing of the situation is in order.

Something I’ve been wondering about for the past week.  Why is it so many of we – as in We The People –  object to the so-called ”socialization” of some vital services, and not others?

* When your house is on fire, you call the fire department and the firefighters arrive, put out the fire, assesses you for smoke inhalation, etc.  And they don’t send you a bill.

* I have had the misfortune to have needed the services of the police a few times in my life, including incidents such as being the victim of car-break-in-theft, to assault.  [1]  Each time the police officers provided the necessary life-enhancing and/or protecting services, for which I was not billed.

*  My parents called 911 numerous times in their elder years, due to causes ranging from my father accidentally setting a fire in their oven to the many falls my mother had.  Each time, fire/paramedics responded quickly and professionally, never once saying, “BTW, this is your third fall in two years; you have a preexisting condition and we’re not going to cover this….”  And my parents never received a bill for any of those visits.   [2]

My parents of course “paid” for those vital services through taxes. As did their neighbors, whether or not said neighbors ever utilized those same services.  I don’t recall hearing that the neighbors were complaining about subsidizing my parents’ blunders and/or misfortunes, nor have I ever passed a police car or fire truck responding to a call and thought, It’s been decades since *I* had to call the fire department, yet I still keep paying for them to help *other* people….I want to set up my own private fire and police service.

No one ever questions whether police officers/firefighters are less committed and/or professional in their duties because they are salaried and not paid per incident response – a fear-mongering charge often levied against the idea of paying doctors a salary (as they would receive under some kind of single payer system) rather than having them charge per procedure.

Health care is a vital service, to both individuals and the community, as are fire and police (and education, and utility service and maintenance….).  Why can’t we view it as such, and transfer the premiums we currently pay, as individuals and businesses, to some kind of nationalized/community/single payer health care system?

We build roads better by working collectively rather than by us individually cobbling together a bit of asphalt here and there.

*   *   *

Department Of And One More Thing

 

 

The cons listed on this chart aren’t really cons; as in, they are not things that will suddenly come into being with some kind of single payer healthcare system.

They. Already. Exist.

* “Forces healthy people to pay for others medical care.”

Yep. And your point would be? And my auto and homeowner’s insurance are designed and prorated just for me…oh wait, they’re not – that’s not how insurance works.  Healthy (and insured) people are already paying for coverage for the sick (and uninsured) via a variety of ways, including VA and county medical hospital ER services.

* ”Without financial incentive, people may not be as careful with their health.”

 

 

Oh yes, and we ‘re doing such a good job of that now, because every working day when Joe Bro wants to join his buddies for their Monster Burger and fries lunch he thinks, “Ah, but wait, this isn’t good for me and I don’t want my health care premiums to rise,” and instead Joe opts for a walk around the park while eating a kale quinoa salad.

Look around, y’all, at our rates of obesity, diabetes 2, heart disease, and a plethora of other dietary and lifestyle-related ailments.  Americans have not been “as careful with their health” for decades.

* “Most universal health systems report long wait times for elective procedures.”

 

 

Again, hello?  Do you know and/or have you talked to anyone who has had an elective (or even urgent, if not emergency) procedure, even and especially those with good health care coverage?  The answer for moiself is yes on both questions, and those I know and those I’ve talked to have *never* gotten in right away nor got the dates and times they desired.  They had to (gasp) wait.

*   *   *

*   *   *

October 25

This Day In Stupid History ®

* 1521: Emperor Charles V bans wooden buildings in Amsterdam (ostensibly because of fire dangers, but Emperor Chuckie also liked the Roman’s use of stone and thought if Amsterdam used the same they would be as cool as the ancient Roman Empire).

* 1616: A Dutch East India Company ship “discovers” Dirk-Hartog Island, Australia (while Australia’s aboriginal inhabitants said, “Well, yeah, it’s been right here all along….”)

* 1854: Charge of the Light Brigade.  Commemorated by Lord Alfred Tennyson’s poem, the ill-fated Crimean war charge was led by the Seventh Earl of Cardigan, who, stupidly, did not die himself, but led at least 107    [3]   (of his 600 men) to their deaths.

* 1938: The Archbishop of Dubuque, Francis J. L. Beckman, denounces Swing music as “a degenerated musical system… turned loose to gnaw away at the moral fiber of young people”, warning that it leads down a “primrose path to hell”.  (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

* 1952:  Publication of the first Dutch edition of children’s magazine “Donald Duck. ” (I’m guessing the French ministry of culture only approved publication because thought it was a cookbook.)

* 1964:  “The Wrong Way Run” occurred when Minnesota Viking player Jim Marshall runs 66 yards in the wrong direction for a safety.

* 1983:  U.S. Invades Grenada.  The Reagan administration claimed U.S. medical students were suddenly in mortal danger – (They were not. I had a friend in medical school in Grenada at that time, who told me the only danger they faced were from the gung-ho American soldiers trying to evacuate them) – and that the invasion had *nothing* to do with Reagan’s need to kick some little Marxist-leaning country’s butt to shore up his shriveling, Commander-in-Chief-with-nothing-to-command ballsack. 

* 2005:  U.S. military deaths in Iraq reached 2,000.

 

Also, just in case you were wondering, October 25 has been proclaimed as National Greasy Food Day  Oh yeah, and  Sourest Day .

 

Which day do you think this man is celebrating?

 

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [4]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

Mediterranean Harvest, by Martha Rose Shulman
Recipe:  Balkans White Bean Soup

My rating: 

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher    [5]

*   *   *

May whatever vital services you need always respond when you dial 911;
May you agree with me on health care, or this baby sloth dies;

May your exploits never end up on a This Day In Stupid History ® list;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] A drunk/high and disgruntled neighbor threw a large rock at me when I was in my apartment kitchen. The rock broke the dining area window and hit me, bruising my leg.

[2] Nor did they seem concerned that they did not get to “choose” their firefighters and EMTs…who got pretty up close and personal with my mother when she broke her pelvis and vertebrae when she fell getting out of the bathtub.

[3] Final death count unknown; others died later, off the battlefield, of their wounds.

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

[5]

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it

* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it

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

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

* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.

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

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

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

The Comments I’m Not Making

Comments Off on The Comments I’m Not Making

Department Of Raising Them Right

Dateline: last Friday; circa 4 pm; a Manzanita (OR) grocery store. Three towheaded children watch their equally blond parents taste the Syrah that is offered at the store’s weekly wine tasting. The parents speak softly to each other, in lightly accented English which makes me think they’re originally from Germany, or possibly the Netherlands…maybe North Dakota. 

Spicy,” Mom says, sipping her wine sample. The middle child, a boy who looks maybe five years old, grins up at the store’s wine tasting host and says, “Expensive.”  [1]

 

*   *   *

Department Of There Goes The Neighborhood
Chapter 391

The latest salvo in my never-ending battle against tasteful lawn décor:  [2]

 

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [3]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

An Invitation to Indian Cooking, by Madhur Jaffrey

Recipe:  Moong Dal

My rating: 

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher   [4]

   *   *   *

Department Of Naming Your Kid After A Leafy Green Is Child Abuse, IMHO

Dateline: Tuesday evening, circa 7:30pm, our local Costco.  Leaving the store with MH, I do something moiself has never done before. 

 

 

No, not that.  (Holy farting Jesus H. Buddha on a raft – nuns have the dirtiest minds).

There are two female employees at the store’s exit door. What I do is that I look at the nametag/ID badge of the Costco employee whose job moiself had hitherto thought of as Receipt Swiper (the employee who looks at the goods in your cart and then uses their Sharpie Pen ® to make a loopy mark across your receipt).   [5]  Beneath the employee’s name is her work title, which, for some reason, startles me: Front End.

Moiself: “Oh, my!

Receipt Swiper: (looking at me quizzically) “Yes?”

Moiself: “Sorry – I’m just wondering, is there another person in the back of the store with the title, ‘Rear End’ ?”

Receipt Swiper laughs and makes her sharpie mark on our receipt.  The other employee standing by RS’s side also laughs, and I look at her ID badge, which has no title, just her name.  I somehow manage to refrain from commenting with the first thing that comes to mind; instead, I do a double take to make sure that, yep, according to her Official Costco Badge, ®  this young woman’s name is Kale.

(The comment moiself does not make):
“Right on, Sister!”  [6]   My name is Arugula, and this is my husband Radicchio, and our two children are Romaine and Endive.”

 

Why do all the dickheads come to my line?

 

*   *   *

Department Of Go Read This Man’s Essay Right Now

Moiself refers to American writer Walter Mosley’s compelling essay, Why I Quit The Writer’s Room, wherein he describes how he came to quit a new job writing for a network television series after receiving an (anonymous) complaint about his use of language.

I’d been (in the new writers room) for a few weeks when I got the call from Human Resources. A pleasant-sounding young man said, “Mr. Mosley, it has been reported that you used the N-word in the writers’ room.”

I replied, “I am the N-word in the writers’ room.”

He said, very nicely, that I could not use that word except in a script. I could write it but I could not say it. Me. A man whose people in America have been, among other things, slandered by many words. But I could no longer use that particular word to describe the environs of my experience.

Someone else in the writer’s room – HR would not reveal the identity to Mosley – had called HR about Mosley’s use of the N-word (which Mosley had used in sharing an encounter which had happened to him; he didn’t call anyone that word). Mosley’s concern about being censored – “…if I have an opinion, a history, a word that explains better than anything how I feel, then I also have the right to express that feeling or that word without the threat of losing my job.” –   led him to resign from that show.

 

 

Some of my most cherished beliefs and opinions I hold and espouse,  [7]  both as a Mere Mortal ® and A Writer ®, have developed over the years because I have been able to hear and read ideas and words that made someone feel uncomfortable – even threatened.

One of the most dangerous but effective kinds of censorship for a writer is when “they” get you to do it to yourself. I’v watched with lip-curling disdain and alarm while claims of authenticity and charges of appropriation have seeped into the literary and publishing world.  The stench of the well-intended, silent-but-deadly admonition to “write what you know” has become “write what you are,” and the cherished ideals of imagination, empathy and craft are in danger of becoming subservient to identity politics.  In this write-what-you-know/are, A & A (authenticity & appropriation) world, an author cannot – or rather, should not – create or even write about certain characters unless the author shares what the self-appointed A & A police deem as those characters’ primary representative markers (hint: “race,” ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, dis/ability….).

Had I listened to that flaming and festuring turd of suppression advice, the protagonist (and other crucial characters) of my book The Mighty Quinn  could not have existed. Because who was I, a 50-something female, to write about the travails of a bullied fifth grade boy?   [8]

In the ideal A & A regime, moiself, as an able-bodied, politically left-of-center, plant-based-eating-and-cooking, yoga-practicing,  religion-free, English-speaking, healthy, heterosexual, middle-aged, native born American woman primarily of European descent residing in the Pacific Northwest, could only “authentically” write about my tribe.  No 30-something, ALS-stricken, bi-curious, computer programming and ESL-student, cricket-playing, Indonesian immigrant son of Baptist missionary parents living in Utah could – or should – escape the confines of my mind and onto the pages in that stifled world.

 

 

I do not believe that it should be the object of our political culture to silence those things said that make some people uncomfortable…. if I have an opinion, a history, a word that explains better than anything how I feel, then I also have the right to express that feeling or that word without the threat of losing my job. And furthermore I do not believe that it is the province of H.R. to make the decision to keep my accusers’ identities secret. If I’ve said or done something bad enough to cause people to fear me, they should call the police.

I’m a fortunate guy. Not everyone can quit their job. But beyond that, we cannot be expected to thrive in a culture where our every word is monitored. If my words physically threaten or bully someone, something must be done about it. But if you tell me that you feel uncomfortable at some word I utter, let me say this:

There was a time in America when so-called white people were uncomfortable to have a black person sitting next to them. There was a time when people felt uncomfortable when women demanded the right to vote. There was a time when sexual orientation had only one meaning and everything else was a crime.

(excerpt from Walter Mosley’s Why I Quit The Writers’ Room)

*   *   *

*   *   *

Department Of Telling Your Parents To Shut Up   [9]

The pleasures of walking alone on the beach early in the morning are legion, but the dangers are very real, as per a recent 6:30 am-ish stroll I took along the shoreline near Nehalem Bay State Park. A vigorous and obsessive dog dashed by me, chasing gulls it would never catch; 30 seconds later I made a friendly/offhand comment to the only other person I saw on the beach at that time, whom I assumed was the dog’s owner.  [10]   She turned out to be a wild-eyed, animated, proud ex-Marine determined to engage me in conversation.  In less than 90 seconds she’d managed to turn my dog comment into an opportunity for her to go to LaLa Land – specifically, to speechify about the fact that although she was born and raised in SoCal (as was moiself) you couldn’t pay her to live there anymore (ditto for moiself)…which somehow led to her impassioned defense of California’s Proposition 13….   [11]

He (Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Holmes) did not have a curmudgeon’s feelings about his own taxes. A secretary who exclaimed ‘Don’t you hate to pay taxes!’ was rebuked with the hot response, ‘No, young feller. I like to pay taxes. With them I buy civilization.’
(Felix Frankfurter, “Mr. Justice Holmes and the Supreme Court”,
as cited in Quote Investigator)

I managed to extricate myself from the political harangue chat, but not the memory it invoked. Along time ago in a galaxy far, far away, moiself and MH were in Santa Ana (CA), visiting my parents at a time when they’d just happened to have recently received their property tax bill. My folks were proud beneficiaries of Prop 13   [12]  and they were practically gloating when they waved the bill in front of MH and I and asked us how much we were paying in property tax for our house in Hillsboro (OR).

Strike “ practically gloating” – it was up front, out of the closet gloating. They gleefully pointed out that moiself and MH (who found an excuse to leave the room when he realized where the conversation was headed) were paying over ten times what they were in property taxes.  Although my parents were usually Nice People ® , they mentioned this disparity repeatedly.

I told my folks, sure, like most people I don’t particularly enjoy paying taxes, but I do enjoy the numerable services I receive in exchange for doing so.  I make it a point to look at the entire property tax bill when it arrives…

At this point I was interrupted by my parents, who made the comparison, yet again, of how little they paid and how much MH and I paid  –  with the implication that we were somehow schmucks for paying more.

As I was saying…I look at the entire property tax bill, not just the number we have to remit. I pay attention to how the  tax total is broken out into categories – primary, secondary and community college education; parks and recreation; police and fire and rescue services; enhanced sheriff patrols; clean water services, urban road maintenance….  I think about all the services I get for my $$ and thus am grateful, both for those vital, life-and-community-enhancing services and for the opportunity to share their cost with my fellow citizens…

And so, Mom and Dad, CAN YOU PLEASE SHUT UP ABOUT THIS?

 

 

They were momentarily shocked into silence, which allowed me to explain the reasons for my umbrage.  During that past year, my parents had had several grandchildren in CA public schools…and my folks had also received at least one visit from the fire department and two from the paramedics (due to various “old people” incidents, which included my father accidentally starting a fire in their oven and my mother having two falls requiring emergency medical attention).  Given the publicly-funded services they had directly benefited from, they were not paying anywhere near their fair share of the cost of living in a civilized society. Instead of gloating, how about even a modicum of gratitude? If that’s too much to ask, how’s about just saying nothing at all about your taxes, particularly nothing about how we are paying 10x what you are?

My parents mounted a lame defense of their tax gloating, then quickly changed the subject. Earlier I had noted the ubiquitous stack of Billy Graham Association literature on their coffee table; I remember thinking at one point during the tax talk,

What would your Jesus say about your tax burden? As I recall, according to y’alls scriptures, not only did JC *not* have anything nice to say about the desire for nor the accumulation of wealth, he famously admonished his followers to “render unto Caesar” … Oh yes, but the modern prosperity gospel gives y’all entitlement to make sure you feel fine about rendering the least while others render more.

 

*   *   *

May you be judicious in discerning when to tell your parents to “shut up;”
May you carefully consider what causes you to attempt to censor other people;
May your yard ornamentation be celebrated in your neighborhood…or not;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] The Syrah was $46/bottle. How did the little smartass know?

[2] And who is anyone to argue against such an obvious homage to diversity?

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

[4]

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it
* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it
* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin, a character from The Office who would eat anything, would like this.
* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.
* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.
* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up .
* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.
* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

[5] Which indicates…what?…their initials, methinks, signifying you are not walking out with an unpaid for HDTV or a 50 pound sack of Kirkland Signature Pirate Booty Puffs.

[6] Does anyone say Right on! anymore?

[7]  And continually revise, as new information comes to light.

[8]  and Quinn’s friends and antagonists, who are a mix of male and female, English, Russian- and Bantu-speaking, religious and religion-free, emotionally stable and physically abused….

[9] And, BTW, why do we tell someone to shut “up,” and not down?

[10] She was not;  she was walking the dog for a friend who was out of town.

[11] In 1978 California voters enacted a “tax payer’s revolt” measure, which amended their state constitution to both limit property taxes and make it extremely difficult to raise them in the future.

[12] Which limited property taxes to 1976 assessed values and allowed very strictly limited increases, the assessment of which, for older folks, could be carried to a new home when they relocated.

Older Entries