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The Challenge I’m Not Setting

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“I read recipes the same way I read science fiction. I get to the end and say to myself, “Well, that’s not going to happen.”
(Rita Rudner, American comedian)

Similarly to Ms. Rudner, I do read recipes/cookbooks, but in manner akin to how I watch PBS travel shows: for inspiration more than for go-there-and-then-do-this-while-you’re-there advice. I tend to peruse cookbooks as if they were novels/short story collections, more than as a set of how-tos. It is something of a garbled, quasi-literary approach: I “read” through a new cookbook to get an overall feel/feeling for whatever the author is promoting,  [1]  then I put the book down and see if MH feels like being my sous chef.

Except in baking – a culinary discipline moiself and others more knowledgeable and experienced than moiself distinguish from cooking   [2]  and where precise measurements and techniques are called for (to work the chemistry of leavened breads, for example) – I rarely cook from a recipe or follow one   [3] step-by-step, from start to finish.

Counting (and likely missing some of) the books I’ve either lent out or have transferred to another location, moiself currently has somewhere in the vicinity of 60+ cookbooks. At least that many more have been relegated to the retired list.  [4]   The other night, while reaching for the cord to plug in our Dinner Party Festive Lights, ®  I almost knocked one of the books off its shelf.  I felt a twinge of regret to see it there, teetering above the kitchen sink, the dusty volume looking bereft from my neglect.   [5]  

 

 

That was the incident which gave birth    [6] to a project I have set for moiself.

Welcome to the first edition of my Epicurean Excursion. This EE is meant to be a  recurring feature of this blog, from this week on until I complete (or tire of) it, wherein moiself will go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook one recipe from one book.

Knowing moiself, I’ll tend to treat any “rules” (even if they are totally self-defined and imposed) as guidelines. There will be time outs for travel, vacation, etc.  

What to call it?  I considered cookbook challenge, but it’s not so much a challenge I’ve set for moiself, more like…a suggestion?

Excursion
a short journey or trip, especially one engaged in as a leisure activity.
 (“an excursion to Mount Etna”)
synonyms:       trip, outing, jaunt, expedition, journey, tour;

 

EE nights will be either Monday or Tuesday; I shall catalog the experience on Friday.   Let me assure those of y’all who do not consider y’alls’ selves to be foodie fanatics, – the majority of my blog posts will continue to be devoted to my usual slavering spew thoughtful and erudite commentary on current/events/culture/feminism/politics/religion.

My EE reviews will not be extensive. There are other cooks, professional and amateur, with experiences more vast and palates more refined and adventurous than moiself – you can Google the late great chef Anthony Bourdain for his take on eating roasted warthog anus,   [7]  if that’s what poles your gondola.

 

As a matter of fact, I pole my own gondola…not that there’s anything wrong with that.

 

I’ll just tell you the name of the cookbook I used and the recipe I made, and the rating I’ve assigned to that recipe.  My eight scale rating system will be as follows:

* Two Thumbs Up:  Liked it.

* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it!

* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin would like this recipe. [8]

* 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: I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

           

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion

The Inaugural Voyage
(chosen by luck of alphabetical listing in which titles beginning with a number go first),

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

 

15 Minute Vegan, by Katy Beskow

Recipe: Smoky Chickpea Soup

I’m a sucker – a slurper, more accurately – for any soup or stew with a mélange of Moroccan/Mediterranean spice flavors, and this one was a sensory delight.

My rating:  Two Hamster Thumbs Up!

 

 

Mere words cannot describe how bang-on  [9] delighted I am to be able to use that rating for my first outing with this project.  But words aren’t necessary when you have a picture of hamster thumbs.

 

*   *   *

May you find a reason to enjoy some classic Rita Rudner standup routines[10]
May you never take your I’ll try anything once motto or reputation so seriously that
you find yourself eating roasted warthog anus;
May life favor you with an abundance of Two Hamster Thumbs Up experiences;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] A specific cuisine; their family recipe collection; the Netflix cooking show deal they hope to land….

[2] It sometimes gets simplified into cooking = art and baking = science or cooking vs. science…although that distinction tends to imply an adversarial relationship, and there is much overlap between the two.

[3] Except for those I’ve written down moiself, after learning to at least try to do so on a regular basis, after having made something yummers and then trying to recall what was it that I did?

[4] As in, permanently given away, or recycled (think: Goodwill store), due to issues of space or just lack of interest or relevance. For example, a plant-eater don’t need no Barbecuing Big Beef Bones tome.

[5] Yes, books can have facial expressions, and other human attributes as well. They have spines, don’t they?

[6] Fortunately, without the cursing which accompanied the births of my two children.

[7] No matter how much I wish I’d made that up, I didn’t.  See a previous blog post, The Delicacy I’m Not Sampling, about Bourdain’s NPR interview in which he described that experience.

[8] Kevin, a character from The Office, would eat just about anything.

[9] Irish slang for very much, spot on, or accurate.

[10] Especially those that deal with marriage/family life.  Sample: Rudner’s take on being child-free and trying to understand babies; specifically, the atrocious noise a friends’ newborn son makes – a raucous cry her friend explains away with, He’s hungry :  “I thought, that’s the noise he makes when he’s hungry? He’d better pace himself. What kind of noise is he going to make when he gets audited?”

The Goats I’m Not Stealing

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Department Of Stop Giving Women TBI And Calling It A Plot Device

Can you identify the following three movies, each featuring a female in the lead role and each movie released within the past 18 months,   [1]  based on the following sentence fragment pulled from the movies’ respective plot summaries:

(1) Things go from bad to weird when she gets knocked unconscious during a subway mugging and magically wakes up to find herself in an alternate universe….

(2) … she falls off her bike during an exercise class, hitting her head. When she wakes, she believes that her appearance has magically changed…. 

(3) …when she has an accident that knocks her out cold, she wakes up in the hospital with the ability to….”  

Ah, the joys of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), that cognition-altering case of concussion or other forms of acute cranial damage, which the great minds of Hollywood have decided makes for innovative and wacky entertainment value.

 

 

Great – now do it hard enough to knock yourself out and you can star in a movie!

 

 

By the way, the movies are

(1) “Isn’t it Romantic” (released in 2019);

(2) “I Feel Pretty” (released in 2018);

(3) “What Men Want” (released in 2019)

All three movies feature talented and appealing actors (respectively, Rebel Wilson, Amy Schumer, and Taraji P. Henson); aside from a ridiculous, knock-’em-out-wake-’em-up plot device more commonly associated with a soap opera cliché,   [2]  IMHO movies #1 and #2 had a few genuinely funny and/or touching moments. I can’t give a fair review to #3, What Men Want, as I (along with two of the total of five patrons who were in the theater during the showing I attended)  [3]  left before the movie was over – it was pushing too many buttons on my Skanky-does-not-always-equal-funny-meter.

 

 

 

 

I believe all genders/ages/ethnicities were equally guilty involved in the producing/directing/writing of each of those flicks; thus, I cast my net of appeal to all movie moguls:  for your next feature, please, can y’all agree to use another/less stale plot pivot point?   [4]

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Best Antidote For A Bad Movie Is One That Makes You Want To Fly

I sorta/kinda wanted to see the Captain Marvel movie, but thought I’d wait at least ten days before venturing to a movie theater to do so, to avoid the premiere week crowds. Although I’ve seen several of the superhero type movies I’m not fond of the genre. Whether the movie takes place in the Marvel Comics universe or the one with the X-men – those are separate comic book based “universes,” right? I have trouble telling them apart…and don’t care to expend the mental energy necessary to learn to keep them straight – I find them to be too same same.  There has to be the promise of something different to get me to go see those movies – I’ve learned that they never surprise me; I never feel for any particular character being in danger ’cause I know they are somehow going to superhero their way out of it (crash bang boom… yawn).  [5]

The subversive, fourth wall -breaking humor of the two Deadpool movies appealed to me, as son K assured me they would. Other than that I’m disappointed in the genre and have to be heavily lobbied (by MH and/or my offspring) to even consider seeing the latest release…like last year’s Avengers Last Stand Infinity Apocalyse of Mutant XMen’s Endgame . Or whatever.

Exception confession: I did enjoy the first The Avengers movie.

 

The Avengers destroy New York City, then eat shawarma – what’s not to love?

 

So, then, what with lowered expectations and all, how much fun was it for me to find myself really, really enjoying Captain Marvel?  Compelling, multi-dimensional good-and-bad-guy characters and good acting (I’ll cross the street to see Annette Bening in anything), and interesting (and concussion free!) plot twists.  AND…big sigh of right on, sistah! relief: no love interests getting in the way !!!!

Digression: I lack words to describe how refreshing it is to see a movie wherein the female characters get to do what females all over the world – excuse me, make that all over the universe, this being a superhero movie – do every day, which is to lead their lives/make decisions/save the planet without having their romantic interests featured as the most important thing about them.

After the matinee let out I had to make myself sit in my car for several minutes, ignition off. I knew I could not drive normally – read: safely – after seeing that movie. I recognized in moiself the urge to put the pedal to the metal and zip out of the parking lot as fast as I could…which, even had I done so, would have been a poor excuse for what I really wanted to be able to do: fly up into the stratosphere in my special, fire-glowing suit!

 

 

Kinda like this.

 

 

It was difficult to go grocery shopping like a mere mortal, after that.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Am I The Only Person Who Remembers Doing This?
Sub Department Of Perhaps This Is My Own Symptom Of TBI

I’m not sure if it’s a thing anymore – or maybe it was never a thing, and I was the only one who did it (although I’m thinking at least one of my siblings performed a similar ritual).

Scenario: I am a child of indeterminate grade school age; it is a school morning and I am sitting at the kitchen table with a bowl of cereal, the bowl placed inside a cereal bowl “fort” which I have constructed thusly: a box of cereal directly in front of me, with two other cereal boxes placed on either side of the middle box,  [6] extending outward/toward me at a 45˚ angle. I have constructed this fort in order to read the back of the cereal boxes while I am eating my cereal.

Perhaps this presaged my adult habit of reading the newspaper at breakfast?   [7]

Certainly, the content of the back of the cereal boxes could have been neither compelling nor new to me (I’d “read” the boxes multiple times).  And  I don’t know why I did that – I only remember that I did do it, almost every school morning, during my early elementary years.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Joys Of Belatedly Tuning To The Tonight’s Top Stories Preview
Of A Radio Newscast, At The Moment Where All You Hear Is A Fragment Sentence Like…

“…and someone stealing goats in Fresno.”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Feminine Intimacy

Not to worry – what follows is not an endorsement for one of those kind of products.

 

 

Over the years I have received feedback from a few readers regarding the fact that although moiself will write in broad strokes about, say, my political, cultural and even culinary opinions, even though I will sometimes mention what’s going on with family and friends I rarely post anything of a truly personal nature. 

 

So how else is a dame supposed to write, except by using broad strokes?

 

 

To which my honest reply has been something along the lines of how this is Not That Kind Of Blog ®.  But, it is a fair observation.  And, okay, this standoffishness ends today.  [8]

I will reveal something that is deeply personal to moiself:

I am living with EBPOS – Ear Bud Pop Out Syndrome.

 

How can such calamity strike the nicest people?

 

It doesn’t matter the size of the cushion/caps, nor how assiduously I follow proper insertion technique  [9]   advice, the ear-tip thingies simply refuse to stay put. I have come to consider it a good morning when I’m out for a walk and listening to a podcast and have to reinsert the ear bud only two-three times. One day late last week…oy, not so good. I knew the day was getting off to a bad start when I was returning home and thinking to myself, Holy hamster shit, it’s a seven pop-out morning.

 

*   *   *

 

May life spare you from experiencing a seven pop-out morning;
May we all, if only in our dreams, get to fly like Captain Marvel;
May you never think, even for a moment, that I was capable of stealing those goats;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] (and each seen in a movie theater, by moiself).

[2] “Hmm, what can we do with this character and where can we take his storyline – I KNOW, LET’S GIVE HIM AMNESIA!”

[3] The two were sitting a few seats down from me, in the back row. They were clad in saris, possible a mother and her adult daughter, judging from their apparent ages and interactions. They were conversing in Hindi (?) during the previews…and they left a nearly full bucket of popcorn behind when they exited the theater.

[4] And by that I don’t mean time travel.

[5] Isn’t the worst review you can give to an “action” movie is to have been bored by it?

[6] The center or middle box was  the cereal I was actually eating, and the other two were choices set out for other family members. Say, a Cheerios box, a Wheaties box and Cornflakes box trio.

[7] The newspaper my family subscribed to at the time was delivered in the afternoon, not the morning.

[8] If only for today.

[9] Which sounds vaguely sexual…for which I am truly sorry.

The Happiness I’m Not Seeking

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Department Of First Things First

Beware the…you know what.

 

 

 

Happiness is not the station we arrive at but the manner by which we arrive.
(Oliver G. Wilson)

Mary Pipher: …one of the interesting facts about women my age is we’re the happiest demographic in America. In general, people tend to get happier as they age and stay happier right up until the very end. But women tend to be happier than men as they age…

Terry Gross: Why do you think older women are happier when they’re older than they were when they were younger? Is that what you’re saying?

PIPHER: Absolutely. (It’s) statistical fact – I’m not…just hypothesizing.

GROSS: But what accounts for that – ’cause, you know, it seems counterintuitive.

PIPHER: …It really starts with, what do you think the nature of happiness is? And I think happiness is a choice and a set of skills…. After all these years of being a therapist and watching my friends grow and develop and seeing the directions they take and then doing this book where I interviewed so many older women I have a pretty strong sense for what makes people happy. The first part of it is making a choice to be happy – just deciding that that’s a life goal, that I’m going to be happy. I’m going to do everything I can to make my life as good as I can.

And then it’s a set of skills. And one set of skills, for example, is humor and just figuring out how to laugh about things. Another skill is figuring out ways to have meaning and purpose in one’s life. Another skill is the ability to have friends…I call close women friends my mental health insurance policy because they’re so important. Another very important happiness skill is simply having reasonable expectations. My aunt Grace said, I get what I want, but I know what to want.

(excerpts from Fresh Air 2-27-19)

A recent Fresh Air episode, Women and Aging, had host Terry Gross interview clinical psychologist/ author Mary Pipher about Pipher’s new book, Women Rowing NorthWRN expounds on the pluses of changing from middle age to old age. As per the book’s web page, WRN offers “a timely examination of cultural and developmental issues women face as they transition from middle age to old age. In life stage, women contend with ageism, misogyny, and many kinds of loss. Yet, contrary to stereotypes, most older women are deeply happy and filled with gratitude for the gifts of life.”

Moiself is not quite ready to read that book yet, but I enjoyed the podcast. Something said during the interview reminded me of one of the few advantages (other than, not dying) of aging which I have fully embraced:

“At this life stage, women start granting themselves the power of no.”

I see this  – the power to say no –  as related to the fact that I don’t have the proverbial bucket list.  Many a person has regretted asking me what items are on my bucket list because I have (usually) replied honestly:

I don’t have a bucket list; I have a fuck-it list.

My Fuck-it list translates thusly:   I don’t keep any kind of inventory of things I feel I must see and/or accomplish before I die, but as time marches on…

 

Ideally, for me, “time marching on” will include a marching band, with dinosaurs

 

…I find moiself more willing and able to recognize those things/activities which may have been valid, obligatory or called for at one time but which I never want to do again,  and/or those things which, regardless of whether I have done them previously or not, are simply not worthy of wasting the precious resource of dwindling time – time I will never get back – by engaging in them. As Pipher put it, there is the sense that the runway is short, and with what time we have left, we want to deeply savor every experience we have. And I give myself permission to say a graciously but firm No to any invitations to partake in experiences I know I will not savor (committee meetings, anyone?).

The power of no concept was almost a throwaway line, but what Pipher what said about “happiness being a choice” made me almost fall of my Bowflex Max Elliptical trainer.   [1]   I agree with her observations about happiness being more of a choice and a set of skills than an emotional state.  And I have not come by this opinion lightly.

Although I love the REM song I am not a Shiny Happy People person, nor, despite what many people apparently think about moiself, I am not someone who is happy (or even content) all of the time.

 

 

Like Pipher, my extended family tree includes happiness impediments, including mental health/brain disorders, suicide, addiction, chronic disease, tragic deaths and abuse.    [2]  And in thinking about happiness being a life choice and/or skill, I neither ignore nor dismiss nor intend to insult those who might find even the idea of happiness unattainable as they face acute tragedies, or live with chronic contentment-dampening conditions, from clinical depression to progressive illness.  Rather, I was intrigued by Pipher’s interviews and research with older people showing that there is overall tendency over a lifespan to, while facing whatever you have to face, arc toward happiness.

However. I have an issue with her stating happiness as a goal in and of itself.

My view is a little more nuanced in the sense that I think happiness should be a by-product rather than an end-product of life.  I shall try to explain.

 

I’m sure this will be fascinating.

 

When my K and Belle were younger I often heard other parents talking about their hopes and dreams for their own children, which were stated in list format, ending with something along the lines of, “Whatever they do, I just want them to be happy.” I remember thinking to myself – and sometimes vehemently stating out loud – that, au contraire, I don’t just want my kids to be happy.  Because  whenever I pay the slightest attention to Whats Going On Around Me ®  I see a lot of just happy idiots/incompetents/bullies/downright evil people.   [3]

My wish, for both my children and moiself for that matter, is not for us to seek constant and perhaps idealized (and even unreachable) states of happiness. At what I hoped were age-appropriate points in their lives, I engaged K and Belle in conversations about how happiness should be a by-product, not the end-goal, of admirable life choices. I wanted them to lead good lives, question authority,  [4]   use reason and skepticism to evaluate claims, speak truthfully and kindly, and to Do The Right Thing ®.

Lest you think moiself is all serious, do-gooder inclined, I also, of course, want them to have fun. Which involves telling – or at least appreciating – fart jokes whenever possible.

 

 

 

 

Once again, I digress.

As per happiness, living a principled life will, eventually, provide its own gratification, for people with self-knowledge (and an IQ bigger than their belt size).  But when you choose to do the right thing, when you strive to walk lightly and justly in this world, happiness is not always an immediate (nor in some cases, even eventual) byproduct of your actions. And that sucks.

When you stick up for the kid who is  bullied at school you may then yourself become the bullies’ target. When you challenge workplace malfeasance and corruption there will be people, from your bosses to your supposed allies, who will make it their life’s work to make your life miserable –  there’s a reason we have the Whistleblower Protection Act.

Department Of Important Definitions

Pipher does not define happiness as some  state of perpetual joy – more along the lines of contentment, and capacity for appreciation. And she is fully aware of the fact that if you live long enough at some point you will have lost everyone who is important to you.

You know, what frightens me by far the most about aging is losing people I love….(my) brother-in-law of mine died – he was 28 and a soccer player. And he died of brain cancer. And that knocked me out for about a year. And last year, my daughter moved with her family, my two young grandchildren, up to Canada. And it was tremendously difficult for me.

So that is really very difficult for me to think, how will I cope with this continuing string of losses? And the implications of that for me are I need to have my life, which will include a great deal of loss – I mean, at this point in my life, one way or another, I’m going to say goodbye to everybody I know. So the antidote for that, the balancer for that is to have a life as filled with gratitude, fun, appreciation, joy, meaningful work as I can possibly have.

 

 

*   *   *

*   *   *

Department Of Kids Get The Darndest Jobs  [5]

This week was daughter Belle’s first at a new job. After graduating college last May and having a six month internship in the south, she realized the Pacific Northwest is where she wanted to be. She tot he West Coast, rented an apartment in Tacoma, and took the first job she found, at a place I’d heard about for years, from both her and her brother K,  [6] .  It is a classic hangout: a 1940s-50s inspired diner named, “Shake Shake Shake.”  [7]

I offered to bribe pay Belle if she would put a sign reading “your booty” under the name of the diner, but she didn’t seem to think her bosses would appreciate it. Also, moiself  had to explain the KC & the Sunshine Band song reference to her.

Speaking of which, I think we’re all deserving of a Seventies song break:

 

 

You’re welcome.

*   *   *

Department Of “Classic” Books I’m Having A Hard Time Reading

Currently, that would be Tales of the City, Armistead Maupin’s series of novels involving a plethora of characters living in late 70’s – mid 80’s San Francisco. The books’ many protagonists are friends and lovers and husbands and wives and landlords and tenants and coworkers and bosses (and thinly veiled references to real life public figures) of all sexual orientations, whose lives intersect and overlap.

The novels, whose chapters first appeared as regular installments in the San Francisco Chronicle, were beloved by many San Franciscans, and convey the zeitgeist of that time period.  Moiself, I’m finding it hard to follow. There are too many characters competing for chapter space – and the chapters are long on dialogue and short on descriptive prose.  Although the dialogue is witty, I’m having a difficult time keeping track of which character is which: it’s like they all speak in the same voice, with even the straight characters spouting variations of the archetypal, Sassy Gay Best Friend ® sitcom repartee.    [8]

 

 

Ain’t every bitch a critic?

*   *   *

May you need no excuse to blast Shiny Happy People on a regular basis;
May you remember to cultivate your mental health insurance policy – your friends;
May you strive to do the right thing, and also to just have some fun;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

*   *   *

 

 

[1] In that it really caught my attention…I was exercising on said machine while listening to the podcast…in case you were wondering if I just tripped over it.

[2] Including sexual abuse/incest.

[3] I didn’t get invited to a lot of Mommy/Baby play groups…which was just fine by moiself.

[4] Except your mother.

[5] Another Old Person Reference ® I will have to explain to Belle and K, who likely aren’t familiar with Art Linkletter’s Kids Say the Darndest Things.

[6] Who graduated from the same college as his sister, only three years earlier.

[7] It has an extensive milkshake menu.

[8] No footnote here.  You checked for nothing – don’t you feel stupid right now?

The Casting Director I’m Not Thanking

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Department Of Putting It Off Until The Last Moment

Last Thursday I checked my list: only Roma and Vice were remaining. I needed to see those two movies in order to have seen every movie nominated for a major 2019 Academy Award.  [1]    And what, you may ask, are the major awards (and who decides such things?). The parenthetical answer is that moiself decides what is a major award, and they are the awards for:

– writing (best original and adapted screenplays)

– acting (best leading and supporting roles)

– best directing

– best picture

Roma was streaming; I watched it at home  last weekend. I had put off going to see Vice and wasn’t sure, until the very moment I was walking toward the theatre, if I was up for it: I didn’t want to subject myself to the images, memories and history of that gang of incompetents and liars, torturers and thieves (Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld, ad nauseum), even if their stories were presented satirically, by actors.  Nevertheless, the theater got my money, and I’d say I got my money’s worth.  [2]

 

 

So, the terrorist coddling wimp actually had the cojones to sit through it?

 

Thus, when it came to our annual Movie Awards Dinner party on Sunday (a tradition I’ve written about previously in this space), I had fun watching the telecast, holding my sample Oscar ballot and commenting oh-so-knowingly on the categories (“Well, Sam Elliot gets my vote for best supporting actor, but I think the Academy will go for Mahershala Ali, even though he was nominated in the wrong category   [3]….”) .

I found most of the awards spot on, was disappointed with a few, and was relieved that Roma didn’t win best picture – a category for which I had no personal pick as I deemed them all (except Roma) more or less worthy of the nomination.  [4]   Right up until Julia Roberts made the Best Picture announcement I feared the Academy would do what they have done in the past – choose an “artier” film to show that we here in America can recognize and appreciate Serious Cinema ®. But while I found Roma to be beautifully shot (it won the cinematography award, and also Best Foreign film), it was too languid and plot-meandering for me. It’s like I made myself watch it because it was nominated for several awards and…because I was supposed to watch it.  You know, the cod liver oil criteria? (drink this stuff watch this movie; it’ll be good for you).

*   *   *

Department Of Not That You Asked….

As for the Oscar telecast itself: Yo, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, are you listening?

 

Why, are you someone wealthy or important?

 

 

With the recent unintended [5]-but-successful, host-less telecast, y’all Motion Picture Academians or whatever you are finally appear to be at least trying to get on the right track.  Apparently the show “numbers” you are so concerned about   [6]   improved this year. But you still have some work to do. Like other pressing issues in this world – be they related to human rights, geopolitics, nutrition, [7] space exploration, you name it – things would be so much better if Those In Charge Just Listened To Me ®.

Thus, here are my suggestions to get a watchable (read: well under three hours) presentation:

* This year’s show proved that no host is necessary. Do not return to the Host format.

* However, do have Maya Rudolph, Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler provide the intro to the show. Every. Single. Time. You simply cannot go wrong with those three.

 

 

I would voluntarily undergo and pay for a root canal sans anesthesia if these three writer/comedian/actors would host the procedure.

 

 

*Combine the presentation of awards with similar categories, saving stage entry/exit time for the presenters (you already did this, in at least two categories, during the recent show. Good on you). Have the same presenters announce all the awards for writing (original & adapted screenplays), “short” subjects (Documentary, short film/live action, short film animated), sound (editing and mixing) and the “staging/production” awards (costume; makeup/hairstyling, etc.)….

* Leave the singing to the Grammies and ditch the live performances of the nominated songs!!!  You don’t have other actors read the soliloquies from best acting award nominations, do you? Simply air a film clip of a snippet of each nominated song, showing where and how it fit into the movie – just as you play a brief (~15 sec) portion of each movie/acting performance nominated.

And about those acceptance speeches:

 

Make it stop!!!!

 

There must be a way to attach some cattle prod to the stage microphone – or give the Academy Award orchestra conductor some kind of fart noise-producing device to use – to humiliate encourage the winners to shorten their acceptance speeches.

I suggest the Academy send, via certified mail requiring a signature of confirmation – a contract to all nominees, informing them of the RULES – NOT SUGGESTIONS for their acceptance speeches, and then go over said rules at the banquet or whatever you throw for the nominees prior to the ceremony:

* Absolutely NO thanking of your agents, managers, accountants – no one who makes money off of you. Your $ucce$$ is thank$$$ enough.

* Also, do not thank your film’s casting agent, director, writer, costume designer, etc.  Not only are these thanks boring and gratuitous (your winning of the award validates their choice to work with you), it also comes off as if you are ass-kissing greasing the wheels in hopes of getting future roles. You may indeed be boundlessly grateful to director Spike Lee and his crew for taking a chance on your bony white ass – that’s great! But tell them privately, after the ceremony, when it will seem more sincere and less self-congratulatory.

* Tailor your time on camera for the audience watching the show – you know, the ones buying the tickets that keep the movie business in business? Say something humble and touching about your friends and family, and/or tell an odd/amusing/self-deprecating and BRIEF anecdote about what got you to where you are today ( anyone else remember composer Marvin Hamlisch thanking Maalox during his acceptance for Best Original Dramatic Score[8]  ) and then GET OFFSTAGE.

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of And I Mean Every One, As In Every Single Fucking Person…

Dateline: riding the Max (light rail) train to Portland, to see the movie Vice.  After I boarded and the train began moving I noticed that everyone in the car (and once I noticed what I was noticing I craned my neck and turned to look forward/sideways/backwards to try to see every person on the train), including the Hillsboro High School wrestling team (on their way to a tournament),  bowed their heads, in unison. Was it respectful meditation time?

 

Yeah, right!

 

 

Really; it was odd. As soon as the train began to move, all aboard (save for moiself) dropped their gaze to their cell phones and/other other electronic devices they held on their laps. Or, perhaps they found their own crotches to be particularly fascinating? Meanwhile, looking out the window, I espied a majestic great blue heron standing in the middle of the field next to one of the train stops – a beautiful sight, oblivious to the crotch-gazers.

Here are just a few of the sights my fellow train light rail passengers missed:

*  a Canadian geese couple (or a couple of Canadian geese – I shouldn’t assume they were a couple; they may have just been good friends, or on a first date) confronting a squirrel over the squirrel’s cache of goodies at the base of a maple tree;

* the afore-mentioned heron;

* two people hoisting a blanket, which was rolled up into a way that made it look as though they were transporting a body in it;

* a rather disaffected-looking young man vigorously picking his nose in the boarding area at the Sunset Transit Center.

But, nooooo. Ig was if aliens had forced everyone’s head down.  For a moment, when the train approached my stop, I thought of throwing a question into the void: Hey folks, are your crotches really that fascinating?   [9]

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of (Yet Another) Podcast You Should Be Listening To
(And Not Looking At Your Cell Phone While Doing So)

Disclaimer: Moiself is not anti-digital technology; I am pro personal interaction.

Most people are familiar with Alan Alda as an actor, but the self-professed science geek hosted Scientific American Frontiers for 12 years. Alda is presently channeling his lifelong interest in getting people – particularly scientists – to communicate clearly by working with the Center for Communicating Science.   [10]  He also hosts a podcast, Clear + Vivid, in which he and his guests explore how to better connect and communicate with others in every aspect of life.

In a recent episode of Clear + Vivid, “… How We’re Losing Touch With One Another and What We Can Do About It,” Alda speaks with MIT professor/clinical psychologist Sherry Turkle, who has spent the last 30 years studying “…mobile technology, social networks, AI, robots…our relationships with our devices and how our constant connectedness isn’t always the best thing for us — and what we can do to disconnect from our technology to reconnect with our humanity.”

While speaking of her research Dr. Turkel made one of the more profound observations about modern/present communication I’ve ever heard. She nailed it, I thought, when she described about what happens between people who are talking face to face (or backseat to front seat) when they are in the same place with one another – what happens when, for example, someone pulls out their cell phone when they are having lunch with a friend or dinner with their family. Whether or not it is their intention, the phone users have removed themselves from the interaction, without having taken a step out of the room:

“…there is that sense of a shared space…one of the things that has come out so poignantly in my research is that when you go to your phone you’re basically saying, ‘I’m leaving the shared space.’  When you take out a phone, you aggressively leave the common space of the people you’re with.

…It has to do with presence. What the phone does at its worst is take us away from – give us an alternative to – presence.”

 

 

 

*   *   *

 

May you realize it’s never too early to start honing your
2020 Academy Awards acceptance speech;
May you consciously endeavor not to be one of the crotch-gazers;
May you, when inhabiting the common space, put down your phone
and actually be where you are;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Confession:  I (along with the majority of movie-goers) missed the one about Vincent Van Gogh that had William Dafoe (nominated in the best Actor category) in it. It was not playing in a nearby theatre and not streaming – there was nowhere for moiself to see it.

[2] In other words, thumbs up…if somewhat painfully.

[3] Ali’s performance in Green Book was a leading role, not a supporting role!

[4]My criteria for best picture includes which one(s) would I be willing to see (and pay to see) again?).  

[5] Comedian Kevin Hart was scheduled to host the telecast, but abruptly backed out in December when past homophobic tweets of his came to light, and the show’s producers could not find a replacement host(s).

[6] That would be, the ratings. The “Oscar” show had had years of declining viewing audience, especially among younger (as in, under age 40) viewers.

[7] Go plant-based, everyone!

[8] For The Way We Were, 1974.

[9] Although, in the case of the wrestling team, which was composed of buff teenage males…you could make an argument for a vigorous and sincere YES MA’AM! answer to that question.

[10] A multidisciplinary organization, the Center for Communicating Science is a cross-disciplinary organization founded in 2009 within Stony Brook University’s School of Journalism (Stony Brook, NY), with the goal of helping scientists learn to communicate more effectively with the public.

The Letter (To The Editor) I’m Not Sending

Comments Off on The Letter (To The Editor) I’m Not Sending

Praise Baubo   [1]  for the actions of negligent dim wits, who provided me a temporary, if only temporary, from obsessing re overwhelming recent events.

The letter I am not sending will not go to the Editor of the New York Times, which published an article in their Science section titled, “A Mother Learns the Identity of Her Child’s Grandmother. A Sperm Bank Threatens to Sue. The results of a consumer genetic test identified the mother of the man whose donated sperm was used to conceive Danielle Teuscher’s daughter. Legal warnings soon followed.” (by Jacqueline Mroz,  2-19-19 )

The article begins:

Danielle Teuscher decided to give DNA tests as presents last Christmas to her father, close friends and 5-year-old daughter…..

But the 23andMe test produced an unexpected result. Ms. Teuscher, 30, a nanny in Portland, Ore., said she unintentionally discovered the identity of the sperm donor she had used to conceive her young child.

The mother of the donor was identified on her daughter’s test results as her grandmother. Excited and curious, Ms. Teuscher decided to reach out.

“I wrote her and said, ‘Hi, I think your son may be my daughter’s donor. I don’t want to invade your privacy, but we’re open to contact with you or your son,’” she recalled. “I thought it was a cool thing.”

 

 

 

Only four paragraphs in and I’m already banging my forehead against the kitchen table.

The letter I am not sending might start out something like this:

Re the “A Mother Learns the Identity of Her Child’s….” article, I was embarrassed by regional association to read that the woman violating the agreement she signed with the sperm bank is from Portland.

Ms. Teuscher is patently too vapid and stupid to raise a child.

She may have “unintentionally” discovered private information, but are we supposed to believe she then “unintentionally” proceeded with an invasion of a stranger’s privacy – what, did her evil, meddlesome doppelganger forced her to write that letter?

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fertility industry, like all businesses these days, is facing challenges in adapting, legally and ethically, to new technologies, including those involving genetics. The sperm bank business was founded on the premise that, as the article points out, “…sperm banks can guarantee anonymity to donors, and promised that there wouldn’t be any relationship with offspring unless the donors wanted.”

The sperm bank from which Teuscher purchased the sperm sent her a letter, threatening her with financial penalties for “…flagrantly violating the agreement she’d signed by seeking the identity of the donor and contacting his family,” and stated that they would “…seek a restraining order or injunction if you continue with this course of action in any manner.”

Ms. Teuscher’s reaction? She said she “didn’t remember reading that fine print” when she signed the sperm donation purchase contract, and that she was “devastated” to receive the letter.  “I thought, wow, I just messed this up for my daughter. The letter was awful. I was angry with the bank, and I was upset about the donor.”

 

 

SHE was angry?

 

 

We’re supposed to believe that Ms. Teuscher didn’t recall or understand the basic tenet of ANONYMOUS sperm donation –and that, golly gee, such “fine print” just escaped her memory?  She’s not talking about absent-mindedly checking the  I agree box re the terms of an iTunes update; she is referring to the legal document she signed relating to the circumstances of conceiving her child – of using genetic material from a donor, who as the article states, “…made a donation in reliance upon anonymity.”

The whole article reeks of WTF?!?!?-edness from the mother’s side. Another factor which doesn’t pass the smell test is the dis-ingenuousness of Teuscher’s claim that she doesn’t want to violate anyone’s privacy – which is exactly what she did when she contacted a stranger (the donor’s mother) without her permission!  [2]

What most frosts my butt is how Teuscher attempts to excuse her actions via having a benign intent  – as a “present” for her daughter.

 

 

Your five year old wants this….

 

…or this?

 

 

Ahem. I – along with most people, I’d wager – understand the very human emotion of curiosity.  So why can’t Mrs. Kravitz    [3]  – I mean of course, Ms. Teuscher –  simply admit that she wanted to snoop for information to which she had legally agreed she was not entitled to know?

 

 

 

 

An adult cannot sign away the rights of people who didn’t exist (i.e., a child conceived via donor sperm) when that adult entered a contract.   Thus, Teuscher’s daughter may, when she reaches legal age and if she is interested, search for her biological family information to the best of her ability and within legal bounds.

But, puuuuhleeeeeeeaze,  don’t think for a moment that it sounds reasonable, as the primary motive or as an introductory/aside remark, to imply that a five year old child would want Santa to bring her  a Lego set, a Winnie-the-Pooh book, a Little Pretender Kids Karaoke machine, oh please mamma, some “genetic testing.”

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Things That Are Painful To Watch

Dateline: last week, Manzanita Oregon, having a late lunch at a Mexican restaurant. The restaurant is empty, save for moiself and a couple sitting at the table directly in front of mine.  They appear to be in their late 30s – early 40s; the man is seated with his back to me but turns from side to side frequently; I can clearly see the face of the women who is seated across the table from him. I don’t intend to eavesdrop but they are a mere three feet in front of me and, how you say, voices carry (in particular, the woman’s).

From their conversation I deduce that this is a first date,   [4]  arranged after several e-chats via an online dating site.  The man is being polite with his occasional comments, even as his shifting posture and body language betray his discomfort and disinterest when the woman goes on (and on) about her dating history.    [5]

The only time I see the man perk up is when the women talks about a recent rendezvous she had:  her date walked into the coffee shop where they’d agreed to meet, looked around the room, sat down at her table and, after they’d exchanged introductions he told her he wasn’t attracted to her, and left.

The man keeps looking around, as if wishing to signal the waiter for the check. I’ve already paid my tab; as I stand up to put on my coat I hear the woman announce what she tells herself when “things don’t work out” (which I take to mean, dates arranged online):

“I just tell myself, what the heck, you’ve got plenty of time,
there’s no hurry, you’re not that old yet…”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Yet Another Reason To Be Amused In Tacoma

I was in that Fine City ® this past weekend, helping daughter Belle move into her first post-college apartment. While driving from my hotel through a neighborhood to meet Belle for dinner, I passed a white van with the logo, “Christ-based cleaning“ emblazoned on its side doors. I thought it might be a joke, so I did some searching. Apparently “Christ-based cleaning“ is an actual residential maid/cleaning service business, run by a devout – if grammar/spelling/syntax-challenged (as per her Facebook postings)–  Christian.

 

 

Anyway….

Moiself couldn’t help but wonder exactly how a “Christ-based” cleaning service works:

Y’all just sit back and relax and let Jesus take the wheel mop handle!

 

 

Your floors will shine like the divine with my under-the-appliances hook sweeper service!

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Yet Another Reason To Smile

Despite the title Nobody Listens To Paula Poundstone, I tune in regularly to comedian PPs’ weekly podcast.   [6]  One of my favorite episodes was a recent one (Episode 31) in which PP and her cohost Adam Felber followed up on a previous podcast (Episode 27Putting Your Best Face Forward). One of Episode 37’s featured guests was a plastic surgeon who specializes in tattoo removal (“how do you get that anchor removed from your bulging forearm before you apply for that job at the spinach factory?”).

The surgeon said that one of the more common tattoos he is requested to remove is the kind situated on a woman’s lower back. Colloquially referred to as a tramp stamp, that tattoo typically features a design of wings and/or spiky objects spiraling out and up from the point just above the woman’s sacrum and/or lower lumbar vertebrae.

 

 

 

 

Apparently, at least one Sensitive Person ® objected to PP and Felber using the term tramp stamp.  I am every-so-grateful for that objection, because it led to the brief yet amusing discussion between the two hosts re alternative nicknames for that particular tattoo, including Whore Mark  (a nice play on the Hallmark image, methinks), and my favorite, which moiself finds deserving of a special intro:

 

 

 

Ass antlers.

 

*   *   *

 

 

May you understand the difference between your right to curiosity and another person’s right to privacy;
May you never be the impetus for another person’s worst first date story;
May you enjoy imagining every scenario under the sun that comes from hearing the phrase,
ass antlers;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

 

[1] Greek goddess of mirth.

[2] A person who apparently left skidmarks contacting the sperm bank regarding the violation.

[3] Gladys Kravitz, a character from the Bewitched TV show, was the quintessential busybody – a nosy neighbor, peeking through her curtains, convinced that there was something strange going on in the neighborhood….

[4] And my intuition tells me it is also a last date.

[5] She also includes dating stories about her adult daughter, who recently met someone by chance and is now engaged “…so you see there are good people out there even if it seems like you’re the only one….”

[6] And, as Jesse Jackson might assure me, I am somebody!

The Reality I’m Not Denying

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Grief is one of the hardest and most profound emotions humans ever experience. At times, it feels like you are losing your mind and that you will never experience normalcy again….
Humanism provides an excellent framework for coping with grief. It is rational, compassionate and responsible. We accept our grief in the present with the goal of finding a way to live our lives fully despite our loss.
(Intro to “The Humanist Approach to Grief and Grieving – a Rational and Compassionate Approach to Bereavement,” by Jennifer Hancock)

*   *   *

When someone we love dies, it can intensely undermine our sense of stability and safety. Our lives have been changed forever, generally by forces we had no control over and it can feel as if nothing’s in our control. It can feel like the ground under our feet, which we once thought was stable, has suddenly gone soft…

This feeling can be especially strong if the person who died was someone we were exceptionally close with and who had a large presence in our everyday lives, like a spouse or a partner or a child….And it can be especially strong if the death was unexpected, like an accident, a sudden illness, or death by violence.

Typically, religion teaches us to cope with these feelings by denying them. It tells us that, no matter how insecure we may feel, in reality we’re completely safe. The people who have died aren’t really dead we’ll see them again. Their death hasn’t actually changed our lives permanently. In fact, the next time we see them it’ll be in a blissful place of perfect safety.  [1]

The opposite is true for nonreligious and non-spiritual views of death. Nonbelievers don’t deny this experience of instability. So instead we can try to accept it, and find ways to live with it.

The reality is that safety isn’t an either/or thing. We’re never either entirely safe or entirely unsafe. The ground under our feet is never either totally solid or totally soft. Stability and safety are relative: they’re on a spectrum. We’re more safe, or less safe.

Coping with grief and moving on with it doesn’t mean that the ground feels entirely solid again. It means that the ground feels more solid…. We still understand that things can come out of left field –  terrible things, and wonderful ones.

( “Secular Grief, and the Loss of Stability and Safety,” The Humanist)

*   *   *

 

Department Of Time And Tea

Question: (posed to a British atheist) How do you offer condolences to grieving friends and family?

Answer: By listening. Taking time to talk rather than giving a simple pat phrase.
I offer time and tea.

(Atheists and Grieving, The Guardian, 9-26-13)

 

As previewed in last week’s blog and in light of the recent tragedy of the death of a dear friends’ daughter, moiself is sharing a few quotes and insights about how we who are religion-free   [2] – whether we identify as Atheists, Freethinkers, Brights, Humanists, Skeptics, etc. – view death and grieving.

First off, I should disavow usage of the royal “we,” as there is no dogma/scriptures to which those who hold a naturalistic world view must subscribe. That said, we have much in common with religious believers in that all human beings grieve their losses, with pain proportional to the magnitude of those losses.    [3] 

No one is immune from grief and suffering. The comfort we who are religion-free take in our natural (as opposed to supernatural) worldview is compelling because it requires neither denial of reality nor self-delusion. The comforts of a Humanistic approach to life are grounded in gratitude and wonder at life itself, and of the awareness that life’s cherished moments are made all the more valuable by their impermanence.

 

 

 

(Religious) believers and non-believers have many things in common, and much of what we find comforting during grief is the same – but much of is it seriously different, and even contradictory.

Religious beliefs about death are only comforting if you don’t think about them very carefully — which ultimately makes it not very comforting…. A philosophy that accepts reality is inherently more comforting than a philosophy based on wishful thinking – since it doesn’t involve cognitive dissonance and the unease of self-deception.

I think there are ways to look at death, ways to experience the death of other people and to contemplate our own, that allow us to feel the value of life without denying the finality of death. I can’t make myself believe in things I don’t actually believe — Heaven, or reincarnation, or a greater divine plan for our lives — simply because (we have been told that) believing those things would make death easier to accept. And I don’t think I have to, or that anyone has to. I think there are ways to think about death that are comforting, that give peace and solace, that allow our lives to have meaning and even give us more of that meaning — and that have nothing whatsoever to do with any kind of god, or any kind of afterlife.

( “Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing To Do With God,” Greta Christina)

*   *   *

 

At this point I   [4]  am firmly convinced that a Humanist approach is the best way to deal with grief. Here is why.

1) It is natural. We don’t deny death…. Why is this beneficial? Because when you don’t deny death…you have to deal with it. Grief is so painful that most people will do just about anything to avoid it. But avoiding grief isn’t the same as dealing with grief. A Humanist chooses to deal with grief directly.

2) We have no one to get mad at…. When you have a naturalist approach, you don’t have someone, like a god, who you can blame for causing it. Why is not having someone to get mad at beneficial? Because, displaced anger is very common with grief and it is again a way to avoid grief. It doesn’t help us come to terms with it. It just funnels our grief into an irrational anger.

3) Grief is a natural human response to overwhelming loss or sadness…. We don’t have to be afraid of it, we just have to allow ourselves to experience it.  Why is this better? Because again, people spend so much time trying to avoid grief that they never just allow themselves to experience it and deal with it and move on. Instead, they stay in a sort of grief limbo – too afraid to just experience the emotions so that they can get on with life.

4) Our focus in on the here and now…. There is a tendency among people who believe in an afterlife to put their hopes and dreams into thinking about that after life. After all, when living gets tough, it just seems easier to give up and hope for a better life. The natural approach is better because focusing on and hoping for an afterlife means you are giving up on this one. You aren’t going to try to heal, you are just going to suffer and wait until you die so you can be happy then.

5) We are focused on living. Yeah, we are sad. Possibly overwhelmingly sad…. But again, (we take) a long view of what was happening….  Accepting grief is a necessary first step, but it is only the first step. Then you have to deal with it and learn how to cope with it. Belief in an afterlife hinders that process.

(Natural Grief, a Humanist Perspective)

 

 

 

*   *   *

 

I don’t believe in life after death; I believe in life before death. I believe that the way we live in the here and now has immense and ultimate value, and that the one provable, demonstrable “afterlife” all of us (no matter our religious or world views) will have is in the way our lives have touched others.  We will live on in the legacies we leave to this world – the after-effects of our actions and relationships is what causes our friends and family to remember and honor us long after we are gone.

Three years ago, when MH’s father died from complications of Parkinson’s disease, a friend wondered aloud about how MH’s and my children, Belle and K, were handling this loss. It must be tough for them, she mused, seeing as how this was their first grandparent to die.

“Ah, well, actually…” My stammering reply was interrupted by my friend, who, wide-eyed with shock and embarrassment, sputtered what was to be the first in a series of apologies for her inexcusable (in her view) faux pas, of somehow temporarily forgetting that my beloved father had died seven years earlier:

“It’s just that, the way you always talk about him, it’s as if he’s still here.”

I never held her lapse of memory against her, because it was the impetus for one of the most kind, and ultimately profound, things anyone has ever said to me.

 

 

(Chester Bryan Parnell [8-8-1924 – 2-11-2009] proving art age 51 he could still hoist his “Robbie Doll”)

*   *   *

 

 

May we always remember to love ’em while we’ve got ’em;
May the way we talk about our loved ones keep them “still here;”
May we all offer one another time and tea;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] There are exceptions—e.g., many Buddhist teachings focus on the inherent impermanence of existence.

[2] As is my friend’s family, as well as MH and I and our (young adult) children.

[3] And despite the claims of religious folk who say they find comfort in the thought of an afterlife, I’ve never met a religious believer who was eager to get there, no matter how much they say they believe in/hope for, say, “the better life with Jesus” which supposedly awaits them. They comfort friends and family with platitudes (“god took your mother home; she’s in a better place…”) even as they fight tooth and nail to keep themselves from that “better” place. From what I have seen and read and heard, when it comes down to it, the “faithful” have little faith in their death/after life beliefs, because if they did, they’d gladly die rather than rushing to medical science to keep them from their alleged god/afterlife.  If you really believe that you and your loved ones will have everlasting bliss in heaven together, what are you doing so desperately hanging around on this life on earth? Why are you relying on science to keep you alive (and to prolong the deaths of people you don’t even know and who don’t hold your views, as when religious believers try to stop families who want to remove brain dead relatives from life support) when you get sick?

[4]  The author of the article experienced the death of her child.

The Speculation I’m Not Endorsing

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Department Of The Difference One Word Can Make

Last week I wrote about the death of Dr. SEH, dearly loved daughter of our friends LPH and DH.  Dr. SEH was doing her first year of medical residency in Salt Lake City where, on Sunday evening, January 27, she was murdered by her boyfriend, who then killed himself.

Friends and family and colleagues, we who knew and loved SEH (and if you knew her, you loved her) have been __________ . Get out your thesaurus and fill in the blanks with every emotion involving horror, grief, overwhelming shock, and gob-smacked confusion.

Speaking of filling in the blanks, I understand the temptation to do so with regards to this dreadful tragedy, because our shock/confusion stems from the fact that this came “out of nowhere,” as they say.

We all want to look for reasons to explain the unreasonable…we are all looking for clues, and so far, as of this writing, there are none.  Thus, my irritation at a Well-Meaning Person, ®  one whose well-meaning quote (my emphasis) made me want to swing a sack of Well-Meaning Potatoes at her head.

‘It’s just crushing … to know that she must have been struggling.’
(“Vigil Planned In California For Doctor Killed In Sugar House Domestic Violence Slaying,” Salt Lake Tribune story 1-28-19)

 

And your evidence for this would be…?

Here is what frosts my butt: as of the time that quote was given – a mere one day after SEH’s death – [1] no one knew that SEH “must have been struggling.”  No one knew anything; thus, our previously mentioned overwhelming shock and confusion.  Well-Meaning Person presumed SEH had been struggling, as in, with a “domestic violence” situation.  And still, as of this writing, no one knows that for certain.

Yes, many times when women are killed by their partners there has been an ongoing/ escalating pattern of abuse and violence. And other times, it comes out of the proverbial blue. Either way, from what we knew then – at the time that person made that statement – and from what we know now…what we know is that we just don’t know.

We lack that pesky little thing called evidence. The killer left no note; neither the victim nor the killer had communicated to anyone – family, friends, colleagues – that there was trouble in the relationship. Family, friends, colleagues, neighbors – all thought and experienced them as a happy couple. There had been no calls to police or domestic violence counseling centers or hotlines or campus police or SEH’s residency supervisors, either from the couple or about them (i.e. neighbors reporting arguments) until moments before the actual murder/suicide.   [2]  There were no witnesses; no hidden cameras or recordings; the killer had no history of mental illness….

From all appearances, SEH’s first hint that her boyfriend was capable of such a thing was when he killed her.

What we don’t know at this point would fill the Grand Canyon   [3] of speculation.  Autopsies and toxicology tests will be performed, and can take anywhere from four to six weeks to get results. But the results can only provide possible whats, and not whys.

So. To repeat moiself: We all seek reasons to explain the unreasonable.  We are all capable of doing that privately. But to see such speculation in print is…not helpful, to put it mildly.

*   *   *

“So senseless and sad, two completely devastated and bewildered families.”

This was my younger sister’s reaction, after reading an article which contained an interview with the killer’s father and also a statement from SEH’s family.  My response to her, in part:

“… (the emotion of) bewilderment is, in some ways, almost up there with the sadness and devastation, and the “why”s will likely never be answered. I thought the father in the article did well, and I do try to remember that there are two grieving families involved (even though I no longer speak his- the killer’s – name). In some ways their burden may be ultimately harder than (SEH’s parents), as in, being the parents of a murderer, they will not have the same emotional support.  As far as I know, there is no POPWMOPC – Parents of People Who Murder Other People’s Children – support group.”

And yet, from that same article (link provided below), a Utah domestic violence worker disputes the “out of nowhere” and “he must have just snapped” characterization of the murder-suicide:

But Jenn Oxborrow, director of the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition, said research shows random outbursts of domestic violence almost never happen. “People do not just snap,” she said.
Oxborrow said that even in relationships where there aren’t glaring red flags, some kind of abuse — such as power or control issues — typically becomes evident after a tragedy.

Sometimes the warning signs can be a partner having sole control of finances, or an otherwise loving relationship where there isn’t trust — where one partner is always looking through the other’s phone, for example, or where a partner isolates the other.
Studies have also shown that when a gun is present in a home and there is any sort of history of domestic violence, a woman is about five times more likely to die by that firearm, Oxborrow said.
(excerpt from “How can it end like this?’ After a man shot and killed his girlfriend and himself in their Sugar House home, two families grapple with how they died,”
The Salt Lake Tribune, 2-2-19)

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I don’t know.

I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.
I don’t know.

For now, I will hold on to what we do know:

The family’s statement said a friend of SEH had described her best, quoting the friend as saying, “SEH was unfailingly kind, fun, hilarious, brilliant, and one of the most supportive friends anyone could ever have. She had the strongest work ethic of anyone I’ve seen and she was so driven to help people. She never met a challenge she couldn’t overcome, and she made all the people around her feel unstoppable and bold.”
… a family friend…named as a spokesman, said in his own comments, “SEH was one of those unique people that had all the smarts, perseverance and drive to succeed at whatever she set her mind to, but also the gifts of compassion and empathy to help other people in need.” She was close with her family, he added. “All of which makes the loss of her precious life the more difficult to bear for those who knew and loved her.”

MH and I were concerned about DH, SEH’s father, who had gone to Salt Lake City to meet with police, gather his daughter’s effects, and take care of the other unthinkable “tasks” which accompany such a tragedy.  When MH  [4] asked DH how he was doing.  DH responded:

Thank you. It seems SEH created groups of amazing supportive friends everywhere she went so I’ve been taken care of here.

Indeed. I know she did, and I know where SEH got that ability: from her mind-boggling marvelous mother, LPH.

During that devastating phone call in which LPH told me about her daughter’s death, LPH and I reminisced about how I was one of the first people, other than immediate family, to hear SEH”s voice: the doctor and nurse practitioner who lovingly cared for LPH during her pregnancy and then delivered the baby were my former employers and cherished friends, DWB and PHB, and they telephoned me from the delivery room just as SEH made her way into this world.

We who knew SEH were awed by what she experienced in her life, and especially, by what she made with those experiences.  Intelligent and determined, despite the many grueling surgeries she underwent due to her Stickler syndrome and the loss of sight in one eye, SEH remained a top student in her classes, skied and river rafted, and persisted in pursuing her goals, becoming the medical doctor that some people told her was out of her reach.

She was also beautiful, charming, witty, caring, and adored her family – she and her brother were literally best friends…and I can’t imagine a person who didn’t love and admire her after knowing her.

“Sarah Elizabeth” English tea rose

 

*   *   *

Department Of Preview Of Coming Attractions:
How the Religion-Free Think About Death & Grief

Here is (an excerpt of) what a religion-free [5]  journalist wrote to a (religious) friend who had recently suffered the loss of her father. This friend asked him to tell her what he thought was the “next step,” and to “please lie to make it more interesting” if his answer might not suit her.

You asked me what I think is the next step.
Well, no one has reported back from the other side, none of us who are alive have been to the other side, and we don’t have any factual evidence supporting a life (as we know it) after we die.
To me, believing what I want to be true can be very comforting (like my unshakable belief that Jessica Alba wants all my babies), but that doesn’t make it true.
I find more comfort in what I know to be true. For the things I don’t know, I prefer saying just that — I don’t know — instead of entertaining supernatural guesses or made-up answers from a time when humans didn’t know about the carbon cycle or the structure of the DNA that your father passed on to you, his living, breathing daughter.
You said that if I didn’t have the answers, I should “lie to make it more interesting.” But I have always found things most interesting when I didn’t have to lie. That is why I am an atheist.
Admitting ignorance is humbling. It reminds us that as fleeting inhabitants of this vast universe, we are part of something much bigger. It forms a foundation  for the curiosity that defines us as human beings, that drives us to contemplate our existence, educate ourselves, and to grow and evolve as individuals and as a species.
To lose that is a much worse death than physical death.
I wish you the strength and resolve to cope with your loss. Mourn his death, but also celebrate the life that he helped give you. That’s what he would have wanted.
(“Grief Without Belief – How Do Atheists Deal With Death,”
Huffington Post, 10-22-13,
By Ali A. Rizvi, Pakistani-Canadian author of The Atheist Muslim: A Journey from Religion to Reason)

*   *   *

May we all be taken care of, wherever our “here” is;
May we readily admit what we do not know;
May we find comfort in what we know to be true;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *


[1] Given by the dean of the medical school where SEH got her M.D.

[2] When the person who lived in the basement below the couple heard what she thought was a home invasion going on upstairs, and fled through a basement window and ran a block to safety before calling the police.

[3] Where MH and our son K did a river rafting trip with SHE and her family, last spring. The last time we saw her.

[4] Regular readers know that I use the blogonym “MH” to refer to My Husband.

[5]  A freethinker is a person who forms opinions on the basis of reason, independent of authority or tradition, especially a person whose religious opinions differ from established belief.

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