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The Dream I’m Not Living

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Department Of The Words I Never Thought I’d Want To Say to George Takei:

 

 

Or at least, George, you’re acting like one.

From common folk to Star Trek nerds fans, most sentient US citizens know about William Shatner’s ride into space last week.  Many of us in the latter category (ST nerds) also know about the long-standing feud between Shatner and his ST:TOS co-star, George Takei.  A brief summary of the childish spat:

Takei  [1]  has long held grudges about Shatner. The former Lt. Sulu has told stories which revolve around his perceptions that Shatner was a self-centered ham,  [2]  and that Takei and other supporting cast members resented playing second fiddle(s) on the show. Over the years and in his biography (which moiself  has read) Takei has presented a plethora of mostly petty incidents justifying (in Takei’s opinion) his resentment of Shatner.  Many of the stories ring true; however, IMHO, they are hardly relevant to the present moment.  The series (and films) were over *thirty to fifty years* ago.

Here’s the thing: a second fiddle is what Takei was hired to play.  The Kirk, Spock, and Dr. McCoy characters were the show’s triumvirate, and Shatner was hired as the star of the show – the captain of the USS Enterprise.  It is a tribute to the actors playing Uhura, Scotty, Sulu and Chekov, that they became so beloved, given their minor roles and the fact that, unlike Kirk, Spock and McCoy, their characters were *not* in every episode of the series.  Uhura, Scotty, Sulu and Chekov (and Yeoman Rand, Nurse Chapel, and others) – those roles were written and cast as *supporting* players.

 

 

But Takei (second fiddle row, far left, in the above picture) can’t seem to step out of his anti-gravity suit and rise above it all.

“William Shatner’s brief trip to outer space this week wasn’t the final frontier in his grudge match with former co-star George Takei…..Takei, who played Hikaru Sulu to Shatner’s Capt. James T. Kirk in the iconic TV series and films, fired the latest blast in the pair’s decades-long feud Wednesday. This time, he criticized the 90-year-old’s Wednesday flight aboard Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space capsule, which gave Shatner the honor of being the oldest person to launch into space.

“He’s boldly going where other people have gone before,” Takei, 84, quipped…riffing on the series’ catchphrase (and a number of headlines about Shatner’s 10-minute voyage.)

Upon returning to Earth Wednesday, Shatner was moved to tears over the ‘profound experience’ Bezos gave him and was surveying ‘the enormity and the quickness and the suddenness of life and death.’

Takei put it more bluntly: ‘He’s a guinea pig,’ he said.  The outspoken actor and prolific Twitter user then threw even more shade at Shatner’s physical fitness and age.

‘Ninety years old and it’s important to find out what happens,’ he added, noting that Shatner’s advanced years will ‘show a great deal more on the wear and tear on the human body’ and that ‘he’ll be a good specimen to study’ — a specimen ‘that’s unfit.’ “
(“Beam him down, Scotty: George Takei isn’t impressed by
William Shatner’s space trip.”  LA Times 10-14-21 )

 

Sharpening your claws much, George?

 

Mr. Takei, I think you owe Mr. Shatner an apology.  Why did you feel the need to pitch snark?  Why is your opinion relevant at all – why should it matter what *you* think about *his* trip to space?  Your comments make you look petty, jealous, and attention-seeking.  Why not be gracious – if you have to say anything, why not wish him, or anyone in that situation, the best?

And the not-so-thinly-veiled fat jokes?

 

 

Mr. Takei, I’ve admired you for your advocacy on behalf of LGBTQ issues – even as you came to it very, very, very late in the game   [3] –  and your involvement in raising awareness re the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII.  That’s still and all good.  However, your advocacy for those or any other noble causes in no way gives you an impunity shield for acting like a dick.

Shatner, of course, fired back after being attacked. And in this case, I think Captain Kirk’s shade laser topped Lt. Sulu’s dick torpedo:

 

 

Mr. Takei, is this how you want to be remembered?  Yeah, Shatner is old (wow, thanks for pointing that out), but so are you. It’s likely that neither you nor Shatner will live very much longer.  What if Shatner died next week, and your ungenerous, uncalled for critique of his space ride turned out to be the last public words you’d spoken about him?

Your and Shatner’s combined ages are 174; your vindictive verbal volleying makes the figure seem more like 24.  Whiny juveniles, still bickering over who did what to whom on the playground ( Did not! Did so! ).

Get over it.  Please, grow up and shut up.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Living Someone Else’s Dream Life

Moiself  is continuing my commentary on the series of talks about the practice of Stoicism – “The Stoic Path,” by William B. Irvine – which I’ve been listening to, from Sam Harris’ “Waking Up” meditation app.

As I am learning, part of the stoic path toward emotional equanimity involves engaging in something called negative visualization, which I’ll deal with more in next week’s post.  Although the episode for my comments this week, “You are Living the Dream Life,” also utilizes a form of negative visualization.

Yep, that’s me – I’m living the dream life.

 

 

It’s strange for us to consider that we are living the dream life. The thing to realize is that we likely are…only, it’s someone else’s dream. The idea is to get us to appreciate what we have.  As I tried to periodically remind my offspring,  happiness/contentment comes *not* from getting what you want, but wanting what you get.

When we are in the midst of life’s everyday tribulations, from minor irritations (an overdue utility bill) to major events (a burst water pipe causes our house’s floor to collapse; our spouse develops a serious illness) it’s easy to snort at the idea that we should consider ourselves fortunate (“count our blessings”).  It’s easy to *not* consider the fact that someone, somewhere around the world (possibly even in our own community) could look at what we might dramatically think of as our nightmare, and to them, it’s a dream.  We have a roof over our heads, an abundance of material possessions, indoor plumbing, antibiotics, and a palm-shaped device which helps us communicate with others, watch cat videos, and search the sum of human knowledge.

 

 

I’m certain that moiself  doesn’t fully understand the concept of negative visualization, because my first thought when I head the terms was, I don’t want to engage in this – I get enough of it from the daily news.   I don’t want appreciate what I have by imagining how things could be worse.  My “writer’s mind,” (imaging and trying out all possible scenarios of a story) already tends to go in that direction, thank you very much.  But, moiself  supposes, if negative visualization were done intentionally – as part of a meditative practice to give you perspective on present circumstances – it could be quite useful.

I was reminded of my own experience with living the dream – someone else’s:

Dateline: a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (late 1980s).  My housemate and I are living in a rented cottage, situated behind the landlord’s son’s house, in Palo Alto.  My bedroom is the slant-floored, enclosed (and un-insulated) back porch of what was originally constructed as a one-bedroom cottage.  The cottage’s kitchen (the kitchen closet, LP and I call it) literally cannot accommodate two people standing side by side.

 

Ours had a smaller yard but better siding.

 

My housemate is also my friend; we are both “foodies,” and regularly get together with another friend, PF, for theme dinners, which we take turns hosting.   [4]   On this night PF is hosting; she has chosen a date where her “roommates” are out.  For the past year PF has been living with her sister’s family (sister,  husband, two teenaged daughters), in one of the wealthiest of Bay Area suburbs (Atherton).  PF’s sister’s house, a large, craftsman-style, three story mansion filled with art and artifacts collected from her sister’s travels, is stunningly beautiful.  LP and I can barely hide our admiration – or control our drool – as we survey its spacious, well-appointed kitchen.

A couple of hours into our dinner, as we begin to clean up the kitchen, PF’s sister and her family return to their home (from whatever activity they’d been doing which got them out of the house and gave PF the chance to invite friends over).  PF introduces us to her sister’s family.  They are all beautiful people, strikingly attractive in both physique, visage, and personality.  PF later tells me (I had to ask) that Sister and Husband have a great relationship and truly are each other’s best friend.     [5]

Oh, really? That’s too bad so nice.

Petty, petty moiself  had hoped for a cliché, along the lines of, money can’t buy happiness.  I wanted to see that these are people who are rich in things, but miserable (or at least lacking) in their personal relationships.  Nope.  Looks like they got it all.

As LP and I help PF clean up our dinner dishes, I engage in friendly conversation with PF’s sister, who excuses herself after a few minutes to join her husband in their study.  She and her husband are going to plan their next vacation to Peru.

On our drive back to our cottage, LP and I engage in stunned conversation about what we’ve just seen: The Good Life ®, which we so obviously do not have.  I silently compare our friend’s sister’s evening activities with what awaits me when I return home: turning on the miniscule portable electric heater I purchased which (barely) keeps the container of hand lotion in my room from freezing.

LP and I begin listing everything PF’s sister has which we are lacking, followed by our mutual reassurances that, although we are not wealthy (and, in fact and especially in my case, barely making ends meet), “we are rich in love.”

“Could you believe that kitchen? They’re not even professional chefs.”

But, we are rich in love.

“And that bathroom, with the clawfoot tub, and the…”

Yep. We, however, are rich in love.

“And the view out the window, with their orchard and the hills and…”

We are rich in love.

“And they’ve been married over twenty years,
have two teenagers, and they look that good
and still banter and flirt with one another…”

LP begins to rattle off a list of our family and friends who value us, until moiself  feels compelled to point out the obvious:

“Yes, we have family and friends who value us; we are rich in love.
They, too, are rich in love…and, they’re rich.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Seasonal Scenery

It’s too beautiful a day to be inside and write; moiself  needs to get outside and kick through some leaves.  I suggest y’all do the same, right now.

 

 

Except, what if you’re living somewhere without quick access to the deciduous foliage show of autumn (like the above, which I can see out my window)?  Maybe you’re in the Southwest, and the plants surrounding you don’t have leaves.  Maybe the flora adjacent to your locale consists of chollas, saguaros, barrel cacti, prickly pears? 

Do cacti have any kind of seasonal shedding of their…uh, they don’t have leaves, so I guess it would be, their spines?

 

 

I’m trying to imagine that scenario:

Moiself  (or yourself), living in the Arizona desert, calling out to a friend:

“Would you look at that pile of spines underneath the saguaro grove?!  What a stunning panoply of…uh, browns and tans. Don’t you want to just wade through them, to get into the Fall spirit?

(kick kickOuch!
(kick kick) Yikes!
(kick kick shuffle shuffle) Oooh, that smarts!”

I suggest y’all do the same, right now.    It occurs to me that I’ve given you Southwestern and/or desert dwellers advice that you can’t follow.  Well, that’s what you get for living in a state where you have to steal other people’s water.    [6] 

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Rich People Edition

One hundred years ago everyone owned a horse, and only rich people had cars.
N
ow, everyone has a car and only rich people have horses.
My, how the stables have turned.

The genie asked, “What’s your first wish?”
Cathy exclaimed, “I wish I was rich!”
The genie said, “Okay; granted. What’s your second wish?”
Rich exclaimed, “I want lots of money!”

What do you call a rich European architect who goes bankrupt?
Baroque.

What do you call wealthy garbage men?
The Filthy Rich.

What do kind of nuts do rich people wear on their feet?
Cashews.

 

*   *   *

May you remember what it’s like to kick through a pile of autumn leaves;
May your dream of living the life you dream of living not be a dream;
May George Takei survive a successful surgery to remove the proverbial burr
from under his saddle of resentment;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] along with several of the ST:TOS supporting players

[2] Imagine, anyone saying that about an actor.

[3] Not until he was 68, and such a revelation couldn’t really harm his career.

[4] One of the themes was “Food you might  be embarrassed to admit you love.” I made my grandmother’s salmon loaf.

[5] PF did express some concern that her nieces were growing up not realizing what advantages they had and were taking their good life for granted.

[6] OOOOOH, throwing some shade down there.  I *do* have friends who are dear to me, who live in Arizona.

The Book I’m Not Recommending To Everyone

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What could be of the most help to you in a dangerous situation – pepper spray?  Martial arts proficiency? A concealed weapon permit?

Awareness is the most important aspect of self-defense.

How to recognize and harness our body’s intuition for danger – a sense we evolved to survive – is the subject of the book I am recommending to almost everybody.  Almost, because the book might be anxiety activating for people who’ve had recent experience with violent crimes.  Thus, my trigger warning.

 

 

But for the Almost Everybody Else, ®  I highly recommend the book moiself  finally got around to reading.

For years I’ve run across references and referrals to Gavin de Becker‘s The Gift of Fear: And Other Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence.  I’ve lost count of how many times various advice columnists, and journalists covering violent crimes, have recommended or cited it.  The book even got a mention in actor/comic/writer/producer Amy Poehler’s delightful 2014 memoir.  I can’t recall the exact context; I believe it had something to do with how when a woman answers a man’s question or request with “no” – in situations ranging from business negotiations to dating – the guy persists, as if she hadn’t answered him, and attempts to elicit the response he wants instead (read: he bullies and/or manipulates you):

“Gavin de Becker talks about this in his wonderful book The Gift Of Fear.
He talks about how the word ‘no’ should be the ‘end of discussion, not the beginning of a negotiation. ‘ ”
(Any Poehler, Yes Please )

 

 

Last week I read a letter from yet another advice seeker, writing to a columnist about a personal relationship problem, and asking something along the lines of, “I am very concerned…but am I overreacting?” Part of the advice the columnist gave was to trust your own instincts, and to learn how and why to do so, read The Gift of Fear.

No one in my life is threatening or gaslighting me; I haven’t been in a workplace shooting or walked into a 7-11 just as it is about to be robbed. However, I have been in dicey situations in the past, wherein trusting my gut reaction ( “something’s really wrong here” ) and paying attention kept me safe.  Statistically, as a human,   [1]   I am likely to encounter such situations again, be they personal (targeted and hassled by a stranger on public transit) or coincidental (walking into a mini-mart just as a robbery is about to take place).  So, I let this other person’s question be my own “trigger” for reading The Gift of Fear. And now,  I’m recommending it to *everybody.*   [2]  

 

 

Gavin de Becker is an American author and specialist in security issues and threat assessment.  He founded a private security firm and works as a consultant to everyone from governments, large corporations, public figures, and private individuals.  He was instrumental in developing the MOSAIC threat assessment systems, which evaluates threats in a variety of situations (e.g., threats in the workplace; threats by students against other students and/or school staff; threats against judges and other judicial officials; threats made to celebrities and public officials; stalking and domestic abuse).

The premise of GdB’s TGOF is that our (unfortunately, often discounted) intuition is a far better judge than our logical mind when it comes to recognizing and reacting to – and learning to anticipate and escape from as much as possible – dangerous situations.  Simply put, his aim is to teach you how to avoid people who will do you harm.

This intro is from the book’s blurb on Amazon (my emphasis):

True fear is a gift.
Unwarranted fear is a curse.
Learn how to tell the difference.

A date won’t take “no” for an answer. The new nanny gives a mother an uneasy feeling. A stranger in a deserted parking lot offers unsolicited help. The threat of violence surrounds us every day. But we can protect ourselves, by learning to trust—and act on—our gut instincts.

…this empowering book…shows you how to spot even subtle signs of danger—before it’s too late. Shattering the myth that most violent acts are unpredictable, de Becker…offers specific ways to protect yourself and those you love, including…how to act when approached by a stranger…when you should fear someone close to you…what to do if you are being stalked…how to uncover the source of anonymous threats or phone calls…and more. Learn to spot the danger signals others miss.

The world we live in can be dangerous, especially for women, whom, TGOF claims, evolved a higher sensitivity toward intuition – that is, picking up nonverbal cues –  than men. That skill was critical for our female homo sapiens ancestors to survive in a world where they were generally smaller and less muscular than men: they needed to quickly detect who around them was “safe” and who was a threat (to them, and to their children).

 

 

“It may be hard to accept its importance, because intuition is usually looked upon by us thoughtful Western beings with contempt.  It is often described as emotional, unreasonable, or inexplicable.  Husbands chide their wives about ‘feminine intuition’ and don’t take it seriously.  If intuition is used by a women to explain some choice she made or a concern she has, men roll their eyes and write it off…..
Americans worship logic, even when it’s wrong,
and deny intuition, even when it’s right….

Men, of course, have their own version of intuition –  not so light and inconsequential, they tell themselves, as that feminine stuff. Theirs is more viscerally named a ‘gut feeling,’ but it isn’t just a feeling. It (intuition; gut feeling) is a process more extraordinary and ultimately more logical in the natural order than the most fantastic computer calculation. It is our most complex cognitive process and at the same time the simplest.”
( TGOF Chapter 1: In The Presence of Danger )

“Intuition” or “a gut feeling” is your body’s and mind’s response to thousands of years evolution, of picking up on cues which alert you that something’s off.  GdB offers case studies of violent crimes, going through a step-by-step dissection of the situation with the survivors who said, regarding their feeling of impending doom, “I don’t know where it came from/it came from out of the blue.”  By asking specific questions, GdB helped them to see that their feeling of fear didn’t just come out of the blue; rather, their minds noticed an A-B-C-D list of aberrant or “off” behaviors, which their guts put together.

The Gift of Fear aims to teach you to listen to your instincts and heed them. Trust your gut; don’t suppress your intuition.  Don’t worry about hurting some stranger’s feelings or “being judgmental;” don’t endanger yourself to “be polite” – all of which are particular traps for women, who are socialized to “be nice” and “don’t make a fuss.”

Although many of the incidents recounted in TGOF are hair-raising, the book’s intent is not to scare you.  The message is:  Don’t be afraid; do be *aware.*

 

 

It’s not that GdB advises readers what clothing to wear or where not to go (although he cites taking common sense precautions, as in, should the businessman walking alone late at night through a dicey neighborhood known for strong arm robberies really be flashing his expensive Rolex?).  Rather, he presents ways where we can all learn to pay attention to the things we should be noticing, and offers strategies as to how we can choose to react.  His advice is not earth-shatteringly new, but it’s presented more succinctly and effectively than I recall seeing elsewhere.

So yeah, I really liked TGOF, even as moiself  recognizes the book’s knotty areas.

TGOF Problematical Issues:

* There is some dated material (including more than one mention of pay phones !?!).

* Some of his ideas may seem counter-intuitive and are likely controversial.  For example, he believes that not only do Protective [aka Restraining] Orders not help in most domestic violence/stalking situations, they are frequently the catalyst for escalating violence from the offender (GdB cites law enforcement data to back his opinion.)

* Much of the advice given is repetitive.  Seeing as how we’ve been trained to distrust or ignore our intuition, this is why (I think) he keeps repeating the salient points.

 

 

* A gender-related issue.  GdB is a strong ally for women – so much so that he has received some miffed feedback from men when he points out the prevalence of male violence.   [3]  Still, some of GdB’s advice re domestic violence situations might be taken as very subtle victim-blaming, even as he does acknowledge the reasons why a woman might not (be able to) choose to leave a violent home.

This is a judgement I moiself  struggle with. I am a strong believer in the wisdom behind the adage, “Fool me once; shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”  If I stay after a first violent encounter, am I not resigning myself to being the victim again?  GbD says as much.

However, he is also a long-time advocate for women, and in the partner-abuse cases he cites (the book is filled with case stories of and interviews with crime survivors), I truly believe his experience drives what could initially be seen as harsh – but is in fact is very good and even life-saving – advice.  He proceeds from the premise that all people, even abused women, are not just flotsam, and can be empowered:

“Though leaving is not an option that seems available to many battered women, I believe that the first time a woman is hit, she is a victim and the second time, she is a volunteer.
Invariably, after a television interview or speech in which I say this, I hear from people who feel I don’t understand the dynamic of battery, that I don’t understand the ‘syndrome.’ In fact, I have a deep and personal understanding of the syndrome,   [4]    but I never pass up an opportunity to make clear that staying is a choice.
Of those who argue that it isn’t, I ask: Is it a choice when a woman finally does leave, or is there some syndrome to explain leaving as if it too is involuntary? I believe it is critical for a women to view staying as a choice, for only then can leaving be viewed as a choice and an option.
( TGOF Chapter 10: Intimate Enemies [domestic violence].
GdB emphasis, my emphases )

 

 

Gdb also decries the disturbing scenarios we have about romance.  Our culture’s myths, literature, and stories told by TV shows and movies, have devolved into a formula (into a drug, I’d go so far to call it), which is marketed to both women and men as romantic. In this formula, a male’s aggressive behavior and stalking – so creepily and mistakenly labeled as “persistence” –  is rewarded and even celebrated:

“This Hollywood formula could be called Boy Wants Girl, Girl Doesn’t Want Boy, Boy Harasses Girl, Boy Gets Girl.

Many movies teach that if you just stay with it, even if you offend her, even if she says she wants nothing to do with you, even if you’ve treated her like trash (and sometimes because you’ve treated her like trash), you’ll get the girl…..

There’s a lesson in real-life stalking cases that young women can benefit from learning: persistence only proves persistence – it does not prove love.
The fact that a romantic pursuer is relentless doesn’t mean you are special – it means he is troubled.”

 ( TGOF Chapter 11: “I Was Trying to Let Him Down Easy” [Date stalking/violence] )

 

“This isn’t a movie; no means no.”

 

GdB tells many stories in TGOF, involving both institutions and individuals, wherein warning signs (re violence-prone people) were ignored, and tragedies followed.  Some of the stories can be hard to contemplate.  But, as the author emphasizes repeatedly, his aim is not to frighten, but to *enlighten.*  And he acknowledges that in almost all cases, from a manager ignoring signs that a worker was intent on shooting his officemates to an aggressive suitor who becomes a wife-beating husband,

“…the people involved….were doing the best they could with the tools they had at the time.  If they’d had the knowledge you (readers of the book) now have, I believe they’d have made different choices….
my observations are not about blame, but about education.”   [5]

 

 

*   *   *

Last Sunday eve, when I was just a few chapters into the book, son K joined MH and I for dinner.  I mentioned that moiself  was reading TGOF and could tell that I would likely be recommending it to all. We had interesting dinner table conversation centered around the most striking of what I consider to be the book’s problematic areas, which is:

* We (Americans) have a racially-directed fear response. How are we supposed to tell the difference between our systemic, racist social conditioning and our true, useful intuition?

Excuze-moi, but some truthfulness in narration is called for. We *could* have had an interesting conversation about those issues.  Ahem.  I began to relay GdB’s points about paying attention to fear and intuition, and in their zeal to point out something they’d both simultaneously thought of, MH and K interrupted me. They did not wait to see if moiself  was going to bring up the problem of instinct being mistaken for internalized racism (I was).  They also didn’t seem to notice that I had snapped at them (“Let me finish!”) before they astutely (in their minds) pointed out that problem with the gut-feeling-heeding.  It wasn’t exactly mansplaining;  it was…manterrupting?

 

 

Nevertheless….

What about the fact that our instincts and gut reactions might, in some cases, be based in prejudice and stereotypes?  What about the fact that police officers (of any background) often react to a gut feeling which tells them that a black man, no matter what he is doing ( just walking down the street or driving a car, FFS! ) is inherently more dangerous than a white man?

I told my menfolk that as I was reading the book moiself  too wondered about the gut feeling-racism issue.  Seeing as how I was just into the first few chapters, I was expecting GdB to address the issue later on.

Except that, he didn’t.

 

 

Study after study has shown that White Americans (both men and women) experience a gut fear response to the sight of Black men in certain situations. As a Criminal Justice major back in the day,  [6]  I encountered the statistics that African-American men commit more violent crime than White American men –  BUT – those statistics also showed that those same violent crimes are overwhelmingly directed at and experienced by other Black men, and that most violent crime is intra-, not inter-, racial.

I wasn’t sure if those statistics still held true.    [7]   Perhaps GdB can be excused for not addressing “race” on that basis: he was aware of the stats when he wrote the book, and since most violent acts are perpetrated by members of the same ethnic group as their victims, identifying a victim’s and/or perpetrator’s ethnicity was, in his mind, superfluous.

Or, perhaps I’m trying to rationalize GdB’s neglect of this issue and/or explain it to myself, other than to say that GdB himself just doesn’t know how to resolve the prejudice/instinct dilemma.  Regardless of why he didn’t do so, the two-ton, rainbow-colored, gender-inclusive elephant in the room is that most of us have a racially-motivated fear response. It would do us well to recognize that, when it comes to trusting our instincts. 

Having said that….in the heat of the moment, I’m likely to trust my instincts (this guy is giving off creepy vibes) regardless of skin color, and err on the side of offending someone/being called bigoted or other names.  Hey, better alive and insulted than dead but “woke.”  Still, it’s a crappy dilemma, a problem for which I’ve yet to read a good solution.  Someone much smarter and wiser than moiself  needs to figure out this shit.

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Violent Crime Edition

Uh…maybe something totally unrelated is called for, to lighten this up.
Make that, Punz For The Day, Kitties and Pirates Edition

What’s a cat’s favorite color?
Purrple.

Why don’t pirates need to go on vacation?
They get all the arrr and arrr they need at work.

Why don’t felines do internet shopping?
They prefer catalogues.

What is a one-legged pirate’s favorite  restaurant?
IHOP.

 

Shiver me tim-purrs…and please don’t encourage her.

*   *   *

May you trust your gut feelings;
May you educate your mind and gut so that your instincts are trustworthy;
May you err on the side of keeping yourself from harm;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] And particularly, as a human *woman.*

[2] Keeping in mind your own capacity for being exposed to some frightening stories. And sorry for the crappy book jacket picture.

[3] Sorry, dudes, but the guy has the sad statistics on his side.

[4] de Becker survived a childhood which was filled with domestic abuse.  His unstable mother was abused by multiple husbands; she in turn threatened and abused her son, tried to shoot at least one of her abusive partners, and also turned the gun on her son.  GdB’s survival, due in part to the kind adults he credited with taking interest in and mentoring him, led to his interest in the field of recognizing threats and preventing violence.

[5] Chapter 9: “Occupational Hazards (Violence in the workplace).”

[6] A pre-law major who later decided against law school.  You’re welcome.

[7] I looked ’em up, and they do, as per the latest Department of Justice figures, compiled by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting and reported here.

The Germline I’m Not Editing

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“There is only one difference between a madman and me. I am not mad.”
( Salvador Dali  )

 

The romantic notion that mental illness and creativity are linked is so prominent in the public consciousness that it is rarely challenged….. To be sure, research does show that many eminent creators – particularly in the arts – had harsh early life experiences (such as social rejection, parental loss, or physical disability) and mental and emotional instability. However, this does not mean that mental illness was a contributing factor to their eminence. There are many eminent people without mental illness or harsh early life experiences, and there is very little evidence suggesting that clinical, debilitating mental illness is conducive to productivity and innovation.
( “The Real Link Between Creativity and Mental Illness,”
Scientific American)

Carrie Fisher had quite the resume that few people outside of Hollywood know about.  In addition to being an actor, best-selling author, and screenwriter, Fisher was  “one of the most sought after script doctors in town.”  As a script doctor,   [1]   Fisher’s (mostly uncredited) work included Hook, Sister Act, Last Action Hero, Made in America, and The River Wild.

Fisher also was known for being candid  – and wickedly self-deprecating – about her struggle with bipolar disorder and substance abuse.  Was known.  Damn. I so hate having to write about the multi-talented Fisher in the past tense, but it her bipolar disorder – specifically, how she’d tried to self-treat it – which killed her.

She died at age 60 – way too young.  After losing consciousness on a plane flight and dying four days later in an ICU, her autopsy revealed heroin and other opiates and MDMA in her system, a revelation which surprised and frustrated and saddened her family and friends.  Although I share most of those emotions, it (the revelation of the drugs she’d taken) was no surprise to moiself .  She’d been open about how the various psychiatric medications she took for her bipolar disorder didn’t always work well or consistently.  As a young adult Fisher discovered, long before getting her bipolar disorder diagnosed, that whatever it was that made her brain do the things it did, LSD and other the hallucinogens her friends ingested had the opposite effect on her, and it was an effect she welcomed. Whereas her friends took those drugs to “trip,” she took them to feel “normal;” as in, they tamed the frenzied delusions which so tormented her when she was in the manic phase of her disorder.  She continued self-medicating for the rest of her life.  Fisher had the best professional/medical help her Hollywood paychecks could buy, and it wasn’t enough.

 

“If only George Lucas had let me script-doctor this hairdo.”

 

People who buy into the “tortured artist” stereotype would credit Fisher’s bipolar disorder for her creativity.  I heartily enjoyed Fisher’s works and her wicked wit – some of the lines in her various books made me spit out my gum    [2]  in guffawing admiration.  But, if there had been a definitive cure for her bipolar disorder – one pill/surgery/treatment/genetic tweak and it’s all under control! –  and I’d expressed the opinion that Fisher should keep suffering in order to make art, I hope that someone would’ve slapped me upside the head and shamed me for being a cultural vampire.

Moiself most firmly holds to the following:

Writers, musicians, artists and scientists and other “creatives” produce great things *in spite of,* not because of,
any afflictions they may have.

This topic is on my mind because of The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race.  It is the book I’m reading…as in, ahem, still reading.  I’ve mentioned this book previously in this space; the reason I’m still reading it after two months is that it’s chock full of scientific, historical, and medical discoveries and the resulting political and cultural and ethical adaptations and information such discoveriespawn, and…the predicaments.  Some chapters I have to chew on for days, even weeks – in particular, the one I just finished: Chapter 41: Thought Experiments.

This chapter deals with the ethical questions raised by the CRISPR gene editing technology developed by Doudna and other scientists, a technology (“genetic scissors”) which may lead us to both the greatest opportunities and most disturbing dilemmas of our times.  It doesn’t matter that, for the present, the overwhelming majority of scientists (and the public) have either signed or supported pledges not to use the genetic scissors for germline editing.   [3]  Once the technology exists, it will be used – as in the Chinese scientist’s creation of the first gene-edited babies[4]  Gene editing, like any other activity or profession, can and will be regulated, but for what, and how, and by whom?  And there will be a black market for the technology, and hackers using and, (depending on your POV) “misusing” the technology.

 

 

Chapter 41 offers up specific examples wherein gene editing could do good (e.g., treating ALS) before, as the author puts it, “our knees jerk and we stumble onto hard-and-fast pronouncements (somatic editing is fine but inheritable germline edits are bad; treatments are fine but enhancements are bad).”  In one segment of the chapter, “Psychological disorders,” the author postulates how and if people will decide, should the genes that contribute to a predisposition for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, severe depression be isolated, whether or not to allow (or even encourage) parents to make sure that these genes get edited out of their children:

“But even if we agree that we want to rid humanity of schizophrenia and similar disorders, we should consider whether there might be some cost to society, even to civilization. Vincent van Gogh had either schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.  So did the mathematician John Nash (and also Charles Manson and John Hinckley). People with bipolar disorder include Ernest Hemingway, Carrie Fisher …and hundreds of other artists and creators….

Would you cure your own child from being schizophrenic if you knew that, if you didn’t, he would become a Vincent Van Gogh and transform the world of art (don’t forget, Van Gogh committed suicide)….

A reduction in mood disorders would be seen as a benefit by most of the afflicted individuals, parents, and families…. But does the issue look different when asked from society’s vantage point? As we learn to treat mood disorders with drugs and eventually with genetic editing, will we have more happiness but fewer Hemingways?  Do we wish to live in a world in which there are no Van Gogh’s?”

Here are the chapter notes moiself  made, while reading this section of the book:

First of all, IMO the world would get along just fine with fewer Hemingways.

 

 

And about a world with  “no Van Goghs” – seriously? He is/was one of my favorites.  But if people like VG had never been born, or were born but without their mood disorders, we wouldn’t miss what works they never produced…or perhaps we’d all be enjoying the art and literature they *did* produce, during a lifetime of creative endeavors not cut short by suicide (Hemingway at age 61; Van Gogh at age 37!).

VG’s world and Hemingway’s world had to get along without them, and did.
BECAUSE THEY WERE SO MISERABLE THEY FUCKING KILLED THEMSELVES.

We don’t have and likely never will have a time machine to see the “what ifs” that might occur should a person be born, or not born, or have this trait or tendency or lack another.  We often casually throw around such “what ifs” for the thought experiment, but we should never forget how many of the “tortured artists” we label as such were literally tortured to death by their mental demons.  Van Gogh *killed himself.* Although that fact is presented parenthetically in the book, I think it should be front and center to any debate about these issues.  I think that only a person who has no experience with the suffering inflicted upon a  loved one with schizophrenia would even be able to play devil’s advocate and pose such a question, about “society” being richer for one man’s exquisite anguish.

More chapter notes from moiself:

And how could you sentence your child to that fate, knowing the suffering?  “Yes, she’ll have bouts of – if not live the majority of her life with –  dealing with horrific, debilitating delusions…but she may write some catchy songs/paint some cool pictures other people will enjoy….”


So, we would chose to have other people suffer as long as there is the possibility they will do something to entertain us?

 

 

“Of course we should use germline therapy to fix things like schizophrenia that nature got horribly wrong.”
( James Watson, co-discoverer of DNA’s double helix.
Watson’s son Rufus has schizophrenia.
Quoted in chapter 41 of The Code Breaker )

Whenever I hear/read a claim about how the physical suffering of, say, a person afflicted with Huntington’s Disease caused that person to become more empathetic, or that the mental suffering of schizophrenia allegedly produces creativity, I think of all the kind, creative, empathetic peoples I know who have somehow managed to develop and nurture those skills and abilities without having to suffer the brutalities of the loss of language, thinking and reasoning abilities, memory, coordination and movement (Huntington’s disease) or hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, and extremely disordered thinking and behavior (schizophrenia).

We praise Van Gogh’s art and rightly note his influence on generations of artists…but the man never made a dollar from the Starry Night posters you see on dorm room walls all over the world, nor one cent from his Almond Blossom painting being reproduced on reusable tote bags. In fact, he never made any money at all from his art.  [5]

Yes, it is a great (and necessary) “Thought Experiment,” to think of both the positives and negatives that can come from having – or getting rid of – certain mental and physical maladies.  And you can play that game in a myriad of ways. Those what-if they’d-never-existed? arguments are, to me, ultimately ridiculous.  You can’t think of it one way without postulating the other – think about how much more great art could have been produced by those who suffered from mental illness, including artists we never heard of because they killed themselves before their talent came to fruition.

Gene editing, in some form, is inevitable.  I won’t even deal with the trivialities of how the technology may one day be used, such as using it to make would-be basketball players taller, or to have more green-eyed redheads in the world.  For me, who has seen the anguish severe mood disorders inflict upon individuals and their families, I would take the opportunity to relieve future generations of that, if the “genetic scissors” approach could be shown to be safe and efficacious.

Relieve suffering, if you can.  Trust me, art will survive.

 

“Glad you like the posters and tote bags.  I’d rather live with bouts of happiness, if it’s all the same to you.”

 

“Vincent Van Gogh’s mutilation of his own ear, Kurt Cobain’s suicide, and Ernest Hemingway’s alcoholism are just a few of the anecdotes that fuel the popular belief that creativity goes hand-in-hand with mental illness…. a systematic review and meta-analysis of the research on mood disorders and creativity found no clear link between them. ‘You can have a mood disorder and be creative, but those things are in no way dependent on one another.’ “
( “No Clear Link Between Creativity and Mood Disorders,”
Association for Psychological Science

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Carrie Fisher Memorial Mental Health Edition

I hate being bipolar… It’s fantastic!

I met a bipolar fortune teller yesterday – she says she either feels very manic,
or quite depressed – never a happy medium.

Did you hear about the white bear who had a female mate *and* a boyfriend?
Apparently, he was bipolar.

 

 

*   *   *

May you never conflate great art with great suffering;
May you read at least one of Carrie Fisher’s books;
May you engage in your own thought experiments of which genes you would
(or would not) edit out of humanity;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] A script doctor is a (usually uncredited) writer called in, by a movie’s producer and/or director, to help fix or improve a movie, by polish or fleshing out a character, “punching up” jokes, dialogue, and other story elements.

[2] Yep, despite rumors to the contrary, I can read and chew gum at the same time.

[3] A process wherein the genome of an individual is edited in such a way that the change is heritable – germline editing affects all cells in an organism, including eggs and sperm;  thus, the changes will be passed on to future generations.  This is in contrast with somatic gene editing, which affects only certain cells of the patient being treated.

[4] After which the scientist, He Jiankui, who carried out his own experiments on human embryos to try to give them protection against HIV, was convicted of violating the Chinese government’s ban on such experiments.  For acting  “in the pursuit of personal fame and gain”, seriously disrupting “medical order” and crossing “the bottom line of ethics in scientific research and medical ethics,” He was sentenced to three years in prison and fined three million yuan (roughly $430,000 ).

[5] He made not one legitimate sale of his paintings.  His brother Theo bought one ( so VG could claim to have sold one and thus be a professional artist, which was the requirement to have his work shown at a certain gallery), but that doesn’t count. 

The Code I’m Not Breaking

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Department Of Good Reads

Checkout The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race, by Walter Isaacson.  Doudna is the American biochemist who, along with French microbiologist Emmanuelle Charpentier, received the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their ground-breaking development of a method for genome editing (CRISPR).

Author Isaacson frames Doudna’s story with a statement the author makes as a fact (which could be disputed) about what he calls the three great revolutions of modern times:

“The invention of CRISPR and the plague of COVID will hasten our transition to the third great revolution of modern times. These revolutions arose from the discovery, beginning just over a century ago, of the three fundamental kernels of our existence:  the atom, the bit, and the gene.”

 

Normal DNA: Moiself’s favorite DNA.

 

Revolution one, Isaacson posits, occurred in the first half of the 20th century. This was the atom-centered revolution, driven by physics and Einstein’ papers and theories, with the resulting developments of the atomic bomb, nuclear power, transistors and spaceships and laser and radar.

The second half of the 20th century gave us the information-based technology (the bit-centered revolution), based on the idea that all information could be encoded by binary digits…which led to the microchip, the computer, and the internet, the three of which combined to make “the digital revolution.”

The third revolution began in the late 20th century, and we are in the midst of it now:  the gene-centered, “life-science revolution,” wherein “…children who study digital coding will be joined by those who study genetic code.”

 

“My work was both physics-driven and hair-raising.”

 

I’m midway through the book, which is quite a good read, if I do say so moiself.   [1]   Despite the author’s layperson-friendly presentation I find I must take frequent “brain breaks” to process the information presented.   [2]  I enjoy the weaving of Doudna’s story with the history of the eccentric, brilliant, and creative – and also competitive, back-biting, and oft times greedy and uncooperative  and ungenerous (surprise!) – scientists working in the fields of gene and DNA research. Sadly/frustratingly, as when one delves into the history of any scientific field, these stories include how female scientists’ discoveries and contributions were hijacked and/or mis-credited (by and to male colleagues), as in the case of biochemist Rosalind Franklin’s work in X-ray crystallography..  Franklin’s extensive x-ray work,   [3]  which was initially used by fellow DNA researchers Francis Crick and James Watson without her permission (“photo 51“),  led to the understanding and deciphering of the DNA’s double helix-complementary base pair structure.  Crick and Watson and another (male) colleague of theirs were to receive the Noble Prize (“…re Franklin and the Nobel Prize she never won, even Watson begrudgingly says that she should have gotten it. ‘ “)   [4]

Yet again, I digress.

The author’s opening premise struck me as quite profound: the idea that three miniscule “units” (atom; bit; gene) led and are leading to colossal scientific and cultural changes.   Moiself  shared this with MH, who took issue (picked a nit?) with the idea that the “bit” is a discovery (isn’t it more of an invention?).  So, what thinketh y’all? Are those three an adequate encapsulation of the “revolutions” of the past century?  Would you add (or subtract) others?

 

“Class, discuss!”

*   *   *

Department Of Quote Of The Week

Sue Black, Scottish forensic scientist, anthropologist, and professor, is the honored source of this quote, as per her appearance on the most recent Clear + Vivid podcast. ( “Sue Black, Forensic Supersleuth ” ).

Podcast host Alan Alda asked Black about the process of interviewing people who want to donate their body to scientific research.  Black tries to speak with people who sign anatomical donation forms as part of her teaching empathy – as well as respect for such “a profound gift” –  to her anatomy and dissection students. What are some of reasons people have given, Alda asked?  A variety of reasons, as it turns out: from gratitude for scientific and medical advances that helped them or a loved one; or wanting to be part of a scientific/medical field but never able to do so, and this is their way of taking part….etcetera.  Then Black shared one of her favorite stories.

“I had the most *gorgeous* lady who came into my office one afternoon. She must have been in her seventies and she was literally dressed to the nines – she had the makeup and she had the jewelry, and I said to her, ‘Why would you want to donate your body?’ and she looked at me and she said,

‘Quite frankly, young woman, *this* is just too good to burn!’ “

 

“Too good to burn, you bet your ass.”

 

In the end of the C+V podcasts, host Alda asks his guests “Seven Quick Questions” that have some connection with communication.  Black said, in response to the question, “What’s the strangest question anyone has ever asked you?” that the strange questions she gets are usually in regard to what she wants to do regarding her own death.  Black said that because of what she does she has no fear of death; she attributed that attitude in part to the fact that her grandmother taught her that “death is your friend that walks along side you all of your life,” and so “…you’d better get to know her and make a friend of her because she’s not going away and eventually is going to be there at the end.” Black told her family that she wants her body to be donated to the anatomy department to be dissected, and wants her bone to be retained,

“…and if they could string my skeleton up, then I could be an articulated skeleton, in my dissection room, teaching for the rest of my death.
I have no intention of ever stopping working, and death is not going to get in the way of that.”

Three days later I am still marveling at that. Especially as we age, we are so often asked what we intend to do “with the rest of your life.”  What a beautiful and unique viewpoint, to think of what you’ll be doing for the rest of your death.

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Geneticists’ Edition

A mad scientist drugged, kidnapped, and experimented on me,
replacing my arms with a Grizzly’s paws.
If I see him again I’ll tear him apart with my bear hands.

Geneticist:  “We have your test results; I’m afraid your DNA is backwards.”
Me: “And?”

Advertisers should use pictures of the 23rd chromosome pair in their commercials.
Because, you know, sex cells.

 

 

*   *   *

May you forever be “too good to burn;”
May you marvel at the atom-bit-gene revolutions;
May you ponder what to do with the rest of your life…and death;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] And I just did.

[2] And keep all the names straight, from the scientists to the names of the organisms and processes they study.

[3] which likely contributed to the cancer which killed her at age 37

[4] Lynne Osman Elkin, professor of biological sciences at California State University, as quoted in the Nova program: Secret of Photo 51.

The Sparklers I’m Not Waving

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Department Of Is It !#%$?!* Enough For You

 

 

Can I use the record-smashing Pacific NW heat wave as an excuse for my inertia and disinterest in anything involving movement (including fingers on the keyboard) ?

Here is my spirit animal of the week:

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Why Are Some People Still Doing This?

“Summer is synonymous with barbecues, parades and fireworks. The National Safety Council advises everyone to enjoy fireworks at public displays conducted by professionals, and not to use any fireworks at home. They may be legal but they are not safe.”
(National Safety Council, “Leave Fireworks to the Experts” )

Please don’t purchase or use fireworks.  Moiself  doesn’t give a roman candle’s flaming buttcrack about how fondly you look back on those childhood July 4th fireworks parties  [1]  – such an activity should be considered anachronistic at best.

 

“*I* can celebrate with a safe and sane fireworks display, I know it!”

 

I was surprised by my own visceral reaction (barely suppressed rage; an urge to approach the owners and employees and shame them into leaving) when I saw a fireworks stand this year. *WTF are they doing here?*   This was before the heat wave that pummeled the Pacific NW (and western Canada). But folks, we’ve known for years about why, even if Some People ® just can’t get it up for Uh-Mur-ica without viewing explosive pyrotechnic devices, fireworks displays should be left to a few professional or civic shows. 

Fireworks suck. For fleeting moments of pyrotechnic entertainment, we also get

* extensive air pollution produced in a short amount of time, leaving metal particles, dangerous toxins, harmful chemicals and smoke in the air for hours (sometimes days) and which find their way into our soil and water systems;    [2]

* fear, acute anxiety and distress, risk of hearing loss (especially for dogs) for our pets;  [3]

* habitat destruction and degradation for wild animals, which is particularly “…energetically costly and physiologically stressful for wild birds, which leave their roost in explosive panic and can smash their skulls or break their necks as the result of flying into trees, fences, billboards, houses and other solid objects that they cannot see in the gloom and smoky chaos (and survivors of the original explosive panic flight remain in danger because these birds are forced to find a safe place to roost in the middle of the night).”   [4]   [5]

* over 19,000 fires set – from home roof blazes to wildfire – and over 9,000 people (most often children and teens) sent to emergency rooms due to severe burns and other injuries caused while using consumer fireworks.     [6]

 

 

The 2017 Eagle Creek wildfire consumed 50,000 acres of the picturesque Columbia Gorge.  Embers of the fire were still smoldering eight months after major containment.  Hiking trails and other areas of that scenic wilderness were heavily damaged; U.S. Forest Service and other officials estimate that some trails may remain closed for years.  The devastating conflagration was, like so many other wildfires and brushfires, started by fireworks.

2021 promises to be an even hotter and dryer year, which ups the fire danger. 

Life is all about change, about altering our behavior to accomodate altering circumstances. We didn’t always have firework stands and home fireworks shows; we can survive, thrive, and celebrate without them.

 

Does this boy represent an ignorant, self-centered, head-in-the-sand danger to the humanity and environment…or is he just another cute dork in a silly costume?

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Cinematic Story Strategy Which Annoys MH

That would be time travel.  Moiself  appreciates (and mostly shares) MH’s aggravation with the over-used, cheap-way-not-to-have-to-deal-with-reality plot device.

 

 

Moiself  cannot recall the name of the podcast I heard recently, in which the podcast hosts and guests discussed a (non-scientific) survey conducted about time travel.  Random bench sitters were asked questions along the lines of,

“If you could travel in time,
(1) would you choose to do so?
(2) if you said yes to (1), would you choose to travel to the past,
or to the future?”

The surveyors seems to have the idea that time travelers going to the past would do so with the motivation of having the opportunity to change something that they did, or neglected to do – an action which, the time travelers hoped, would right a wrong and/or increase happiness or success in their present lives.  (Indeed, some people questioned gave answers supporting that idea.)

There was a bit o’ surprise among the surveyors re the number of people over age 50 who wanted to travel to the future, not the past.  Some of the younger folk – even a few children – said there were things in the past they’d like to change (words spoken; actions they wish they could do over).  But most of the 50+ folk surveyed expressed little desire to go back in time to change some pivotal event (whether it be in their own/personal lives, or re world history   [7]  ). The podcast guests and hosts bantered about why that was so, and the answers of a few of those who were surveyed gave them a clue: older people know, from decades of experience, that there are innumerable incidents large and small which make up a lifetime; thus, going back to change what might seem like a pivotal moment would probably not make much of a difference in one’s long-term outlook and prospects.

I don’t know how the episode ended; I stopped listening midway through, as I was consumed with the thought of what *my* time travel choice would be.  Seeing as how traveling to one’s past is Not One Of Those Things That Will Happen At All, Or At Least In My Lifetime ®, I dismissed that option, for a clear-eyed – and ultimately more fulfilling, moiself  thinks – embrace of reality: I hold that each of us are, already, “one way” time travelers.

 

“Please elucidate, in a non-sesquipedalian manner.”

 

We are time travelers to the future.  True, it’s on a smaller scale as compared with sci fi cinematic conceits, but that doesn’t change the fact that today is the future we were envisioning twenty years, ten months, two weeks, one day ago.  Right now is yesterday’s future.  With every breath and step I take, I travel into the future.

So there.

Although…how cool would it be to join Ms. Frizzle and the gang and ride The Magic School Bus back to the time of the dinosaurs?

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Best Way To Begin A Podcast

…is with an opening line comparable to this, from a recent episode of Curiosity Daily :

 “The butt – way more versatile than you may expect…”
( Curiosity Daily, “Mammals can breathe through their butts,” 6-25-21 )

And why, you may ask, is such a possibility worthy of notation, or research?  Researchers are hopeful that this discovery may lead to treatments for humans suffering from severely diminished lung capacity.

Well, of course they are.

As for moiself , although I generally avoid reality TV, I could be persuaded to tune in to see a butt-breathing act on one of those “America’s Got Talent”-type shows.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Time Travel Edition

I used to be addicted to time travel,
but that’s all in the past now.

If you time travel to the future and get decapitated,
you really are a head of your time

If I travel back from the future and carry a bratwurst with me,
do I have a link to the past?

I’ve invented a device to harvest herbs from the future:
it’s a thyme machine.

 

“Please, Doc, take us back to before there was this blog.”

*   *   *

May you enjoy fantasizing about your own Magic School Bus destination;
May you help your pulmonary-compromised friends and relatives
practice butt-breathing (discretely, please);
May you liberate yourself from the desire to buy and/or use fireworks;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] I have such memories. For many years now I’ve have realized that that’s just what they should be: memories, as in, in the past.

[2] Fireworks: their impact on the environment

[3] How fireworks harm nonhuman animals

[4] Fireworks: awesome for humans, terrifying for animals

[5] How Do Fireworks Harm Wild Birds?

[6] National Fire Protection Association

[7] As in, “I would travel back to 1930 and assassinate Hitler.”

The Limerence I’m Not Seeking

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Department Of Quarantine Reflections
Sub-Department of The Neurobiology Of Love

“Neuroscientists have studied madly-in-love folks, putting them in the fMRI machine…. The parts of the brain that ‘light up’ while looking at the lover are the same brain areas activated by cocaine—the reward centers. These researchers concluded that love is like a drug.

… The chemicals of early love: testosterone (the hormone fueling the sex drive in both men and women), dopamine (focusing on ‘that special someone’), and oxytocin (the bonding hormone/neurotransmitter)….in early love, the critical part of the brain goes quiet…

Crazy in love is a temporary state; the brain can’t stand the intensity forever. At some point the critical parts of the brain come back online, and we see our partners, warts and all. The jazzed-up chemicals settle down, and our drug high gives way to a calmer brain state. Romantic love, researchers find, yields to a tamer version, called companionate love….

Many couples are deeply disappointed when their romance fades into a more sedate version. They crave the high of early love, dopamine and all. Some have affairs, or divorce and remarry, seeking another hit of the drug. But eventually the new relationship will become old….

‘I still love my wife, but I’ve fallen out of love with her,’ a man said to me recently. He’s missing the hit of the drug, and is thinking of looking elsewhere for that love high again. To my mind, ‘falling out of love’ sounds so passive—like falling into a pothole! I propose a more proactive view of long-term love, in which both partners work to create a great relationship. Once the initial glow wears off, the real work of loving begins. The stakes are high; while happy relationships are associated with health and longevity, the stress of an unhappy marriage can result in illness and earlier death.”

(“After the Thrill Is Gone: The Science of Long-Term Love,”
Mona Fishbane, PhD, writing on goodtherapy.org )

 

“Frankly my dear, after the dopamine dips, I won’t give a damn.”

 

“That warm, fuzzy feeling…called limerence…refers to the intense, involuntary attraction we feel during the first stages of a romantic relationship. Limerence is often characterized by intrusive thoughts (we can’t stop thinking about someone) and a need for reciprocation (we can’t stand the thought of being rejected by someone).

Limerence has a biological basis. When we are first attracted to someone, our brains release chemicals like norepinephrine and dopamine, which make our hearts flutter and make us feel happy.

The feeling of limerence can last for weeks or decades, although most people start to feel its decline within a year or two of starting a romantic relationship. As we form a lasting romantic bond, dopamine and norepinephrine stop flowing. They’re replaced by hormones associated with social bonding, like oxytocin.”

(

Heart-racing romantic feelings fade over time — here’s why,”
Rose Wesche, Assistant professor, Virginia Tech,
Department of Human Development and Family Science. 

“It’s just limerence, darling. We’ll live through it.”

 

Although more and more people are becoming vaccinated, the health care, social, psychological, and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will linger for some time.  Perhaps it’s too early to be in “look back” mode, but since I have been fully vaccinated, moiself’s  mind tends to go there.  “There” includes bits of wisdom I attempted to impart to my offspring – when they were still in the nest, and then reminders   [1]  after they’d left – about the good which can come from hard times, including:

* realizing the value of resilience

* discovering, on more than a theoretical level, that you are (or can learn to be)
more resilient and adaptable than you may have previously thought.

In the past year+ I have been reading about how people got on each other’s nerves during the pandemic.  Fortunately, there were also stories about how some lucky folks found new things to admire in their partners and family members.  A particularly pleasant side effect of the pandemic for moiself  has been the reminder,

Oh yeah, I married the right guy.
(Right for *me,* that is).

MH has simply been…easy to be with.  I hope he found moiself  as agreeable (or at least as tolerable) as I found him. 

 

 

I don’t want to make light of what has been a trying time for all families, and very difficult for some.  I also realize that, in this stage of our lives…well, things might have been way different if our offspring were not successfully fledged but were instead school age/living at home and we had to juggle both childcare and education responsibilities, and if our economic situation had been precarious and/or not amenable to working from home. 

As fun (and also overwhelming) as the passion of the early times of a relationship can be, I have always and strongly believed that romantic love is overemphasized by our culture, and that relationships which prioritize that “romance” side of love above all else are doomed to fail, as the partners conflate the ebbing of romantic feelings with diminishment of the relationship.  As per the research quoted in the above excerpts, romantic love by its very nature has a shelf life, determined in part by the sheer newness of getting to know someone as well as by the biological realities  [2]   which produce those over-hyped romantic emotions.

Although the following Life Advice ® of mine is unlikely to inspire cinematic tales of inspirational star-crossed lovers, it is, IMHO, essential:

Marry someone whose essential qualities and temperament make you think,
“This is someone I could stand to be quarantined with.”

To put it in terms of my own ongoing realization:

“More important than ‘being in love’ with this person
is the fact that I *like* him.”

 

How could I not love a man who lets me take a picture of him with his hair in a “granny knot” (courtesy of daughter Belle’s styling skills)?

 

*   *   *

Department Of Back In The Saddle

Those who know me, and/or who have been reading this blog since before the pandemic, know that I am a fan of seeing movies in a movie theatre.  While I am grateful for the many streaming services that kept us all entertained during the times of social/physical isolation, I am now Making Up For Lost Time. ®   In the past five days moiself  has seen three movies, in a movie theatre:

* Cruella

* A Quiet Place Part II

* Dream Horse

Abby the Emotional Support Avocado gives two thumbs up to each.    [3]

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Things Unlikely To Happen In My Lifetime

As part of my coming-out-of-pandemic mindset, I still like to think of such things, even if they are unlikely to happen.  “Things” as in, solving the world’s pressing problems.  “Things” along the lines of, what would happen If I Ran The World ® ? And by ‘running the world’ I do not mean moiself  would be doing so as a queen or any kind of monarchist, ’cause y’all know how I feel about that.

 

 

Rather, If I Ran The World ® things would be like this:

* All nations would agree upon a “Marshall Plan” (or series of plans), to stop the damage we are doing to our home planet and for cleaning up the messes we’ve already made. Those coming up with workable solutions would be compensated (and celebrated) to the highest financial and “celebrity” degree.  [4]   Instead of being hailed for designing an app for more convenient shopping or food delivery or online gaming, the creative young (and older) engineering, artistic and scientific minds would be encouraged to pool resources and take up the various challenges (“Ok, our group will solve ground water storage and pollution; yours will do topsoil rejuvenation…”).

Components of this plan include coming up with solutions for

– renewable/sustainable non-polluting energy sources

– cleaning/filtering pollutants from our land skies and seas

– halting and reversing global warming

For example, in this if-I-ran-the-world scenario in no one would be using or manufacturing plastics anymore,  but what about the bazillion tons of plastic refuse that already exist? Somewhere out there is an idealistic student, in the suburbs of Portland or the streets of New Delhi, who is eager to put her brilliant but unappreciated mind to work inventing or discovering a bacteria or other organism that eats plastics and excretes something useful – or at least non-toxic –  in return  (read: that doesn’t turn into the sci-fi movie bogeyman which is going to take revenge on us all).

 

Unless of course, the organism turns out to be the inspiration for a classic monster movie, ala “The Blob.” Then I say, bring it on!

 

* National boundaries as such would become an anachronism; nations and governments would be organized according to Bioregions.   [5]

* Daylight savings or standard time – we’d pick one of those for our clocks to be set to, year-round, and we’d adjust our work and school schedules accordingly.   [6]   The choice would be in agreement with what medical science tell us is optimal for the human mind and body.   

* High Schools would eliminate the teaching of trigonometry and/or Algebra 2, and a mandatory math class for all students would be statistics and data analysis (aka Data Science).  [7]

* The percent of religious believers worldwide will continue to decline.

 

 

Religious believers may still cling to their creation mythologies and other dogmas: practitioners of the three major Abrahamic religions ( Christians and Jews and Muslims ) will be free to believe that the earth as it currently exists was created in six days 6000 years ago by their god, which then fashioned a man from dust/clay and a woman from a man’s rib; Hindus may believe in their various origins mythos, including that Brahma created the cosmos from a lotus flower which grew from Lord Vishnu’s navel with Brahma sitting on it, or that life in the universe came from the cracking of an enormous egg;  Wiccans can hold that “the Goddess” birthed a race of spirits that filled the world and became humans, animals, plants, and all living beings; Scientologists may assure one another that Tom Cruise is the heir to Xenu’s galactic confederacy ….[8]

Religious believers will be free to practice their beliefs as long as their doing so does not negatively impact their neighbors.  For example, in the privacy of their own homes and churches, Christians will still be able to appease their deities through reenacting their Jesus-as-the-ultimate-animal-sacrifice ritual via the symbolic cannibalism of communion.  However, there will be no governmental respecting of any religion’s theology, nor integration of such in public policy.  Religious believers will still be able to vote however they please but will not be able to influence other people’s healthcare options, nor demand that public education incorporate their folklore about the origins of the cosmos as if those myths held equal weight to the geologic, biologic, and astronomical evidence.

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Cinephile Edition

French movie fanatics want to open a floating cinema in Paris, with drive-in boats!
I just think that’s in Seine.

Have you seen the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie?
It’s rated aRRRRRRRRRRRRR.

Why did Bruce Willis try to commit suicide with an overdose of Viagra?
He wanted to Die Hard.

What is the internal temperature of a Tauntaun?
Lukewarm.

 

Christopher Walken

 

Christopher Dancen.

 

*   *   *

May you appreciate those people you could stand to be quarantined with;
May you make plans *right now* to go to the movie theater;
May you start your own “If I Ran The World” list;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] “Reminders” sounds better than unsolicited life advice.

[2] Those romance hormones, like opiates and other “highs,” lose their potency as we develop tolerances to them.

[3] Well…Abby was a bit generous with Cruella, which needed at least 30 minutes of edits. 

[4] Although I’d like to think the minds capable of solving our problems would not care about fame, it only seems fair that they’d be celebrated – and rewarded for their contribution to humanity – more than, say, the actor with the most Academy Awards or the basketball player with the highest field goal percentage.

[5]bioregion is an ecologically and geographically defined area. Bioregionalism, as a governing philosophy, advocates that politicalcultural, and economic systems to be organized around bioregions (which are defined through environmental features such as watershed boundaries, soil and topographical characteristics), rather than via the arbitrary and often unjust national boundaries established over the centuries via wars, immigration and expansionist policies,  and desire for land acquisition and resource exploitation.

[6] Once every month or so, in order to maximize our productive times with the times of the most daylight,  we would adjust our schedules to start or end an hour earlier or later, and such changes would be implemented with a week’s warning time: “Remember, next week/in six days School/work class begins at 9 AM not 10 AM.” We don’t change our clocks; we change our schedules.  9 AM is still 9 AM.

[7] The reality is that few of us will go on to use trigonometry, but all of us need to know how to sort out the overwhelming amount of data to which we are subjected in our daily lives, and how to determine what are valid stats verses what is being used to manipulate us (i.e., make us afraid).

[8] whatever other horseshit spewed from L. Ron Hubbard’s money-grubbing mind…. 

The (insert your organization’s name here) Of The Year Award I’m Not Winning

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Department Of A Rhetorical Question Which Is Going To Be Answered

Dateline: Sunday morning, returning from walk, listening to The Go-Go’s album,  Talk Show.  It’s one of my faves, except for the chorus of the song, Forget That Day. The song’s narrator laments what seems to be a tryst at a no-tell motel, with a lover who is already involved with someone else.  In the chorus, she laments the consequences…over and over and over….

♫  Why’d you say you loved me
That day, that day
When you knew you wouldn’t have me on
This day, this day…

What do you mean *why?*

Because it worked. Because he wanted you to fuck him, and you did.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Best Kind Of Spam Call

MH called me into his work-at-home office. When I entered the room to find out what had put the impish lilt in his voice, he held up his cellphone for me to see the caller ID for the call he’d just received (but did not answer).  “I knew you’d like this,” he said, when moiself  raised my hands with gratitude to unknown cosmic pranksters when I beheld the call’s destination:

Unknown
Athol, Maine

Hopefully, fans of the romcom Made of Honor will also one day have the opportunity to say that you got a call from some anonymous athol.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Well, There Goes My Award

Dateline: Tuesday, noonish.  MH comes downstairs, holding his phone, with yet another bit o’ impishness about him – this time, in his expression.

“What?” I ask him.

“Did you hear that Richard Dawkins got his Humanist of the Year Award taken away?” he says.

I didn’t even know that Richard Dawkins – evolutionary biologist, author, professor, atheist activist, religion-and-supernatural-thinking debunker, and equal opportunity offender when it comes to towing *any* group’s party line – had even received a Humanist of the Year Award…but him being bestowed with that title wouldn’t surprise me. I knew Dawkins had received the prized, “The Emperor Has No Clothes” award from the FFRF (Freedom From Religion Foundation), as well as a variety of other accolades for his advocacy of science and critical thinking. 

“No, I didn’t,” I replied.  “Why was it taken away – wait; let me guess.  He said something ‘offensive’?”

“It was taken away for, ‘transphobia.’ ” MH scrolled through the news feed he was reading.  “Something he tweeted.”

“Oh dear,” I giggled.  “Did someone get their trannie panties in a knot?”

 

 

*   *   *

Department So Of Course I Got Curious

Moiself got to be wondering: when was the award given, and when and what did Dawkins tweet? The answers were just a google search away.

The award was given in – holy crap – 1996?  Twenty-five years ago?  Yeah, he’s gonna be missing that…certificate…trophy…framed plaque…engraved toaster, or whatever prize is bestowed upon a Humanist of The Year.

“Mr. Dawkins sparked a backlash on Twitter after he tweeted on April 10: ‘In 2015, Rachel Dolezal, a white chapter president of NAACP, was vilified for identifying as Black. Some men choose to identify as women, and some women choose to identify as men. You will be vilified if you deny that they literally are what they identify as. Discuss.’

Several hours later, Mr. Dawkins clarified he was asking the question for academic purposes and not stating his own opinion on the matter.

‘I do not intend to disparage trans people,’ he wrote. ‘I see that my academic ‘Discuss’ question has been misconstrued as such and I deplore this. It was also not my intent to ally in any way with Republican bigots in US now exploiting this issue.’ ”
( “Richard Dawkins loses ‘Humanist of the Year’ award after comparing trans people to Rachel Dolezal,”
The Washington Times, 4-20-21 )

Okey-dokey. So: Dawkins didn’t call anyone names; he didn’t call for anyone to be marginalized or vilified. He merely stated several verifiable historical, biological, cultural and social commentary data:

  1. In 2015, Rachel Dolezal, a white chapter president of NAACP, was vilified for identifying as Black.
  2. Some men choose to identify as women.
  3. Some women choose to identify as men.
  4. You will be vilified if you deny that they (the men and women in points B and C) literally are what they identify as.

Richard Dawkins is a scientist.  He views the world, even the “social constructs” of the culture wars, through the lens of scientific critique and investigation.  Here is another thing he said, in 2015 when the Rachel Dolezal brouhaha was going on:

Is trans woman a woman? Purely semantic.
If you define by chromosomes, no. If by self-identification, yes.
I call her “she” out of courtesy.
(Richard Dawkins, @RichardDawkins, Oct 26, 2015 )

I call her she” out of courtesy (my emphases).  Whether you are a scientist or a sociologist or a dinner party guest, you call people what they want to be called; it’s a simple courtesy.  Dawkins reinforces that, by using the preferred pronouns a trans woman would use.  Were any of his critics paying attention?

In terms of the reaction to Ms. Dolezal, Dawkins stated the facts that had many people on the many sides of that wild rumpus wondering, “Wait a minute – how is this is this different from that?” (including moiself , who, deep down inside, identifies as Scarlett Johanssen, no matter what moiself looks like from the outside).

 

“Yeah, right – don’t drag me into this dumpster fire of an issue, bitch.”

Ahem.

Such questions ( “Can we talk about how or why this is, or is not, different from that?”)  can lead to illuminating dialogs.    [1]   Dialogs; you know, as in talking about the issues.  As in, “discussions.” 

Nope.  “Discuss” translates into – Dis-and-react.  As in (attempt to) shame, shout down, demonize,   [2]   and “cancel.”

It often seems that, in the censorious here and now, we cannot merely discuss any hot button topics.  This, regrettably, gives ammunition to those on “The Right” who say that “The Left” is composed of thin-skinned, self-righteous, free-speech fascists/crybabies who cannot abide the examination of their sacred cows without hiding behind the skirts of The Rhetoric of the Oppressed (“You offended me!  WAAAH!”). 

Dawkins, of course, should’ve expected this reaction.  Or, perhaps he anticipated it? He seems to enjoy putting the proverbial burr under the saddle – any rider’s saddle, including those of his own cavalry.

 

“Tell her she can stop right now with the horseback-riding metaphors, okay?”

 

Also, after decades of being threatened with the torments of hell by the (Christian) religious right for his pro-evolution/anti-creationism campaigns (Dawkins has likened the teaching of creationism in schools – which can be found hiding behind the rhetorical skirts of “intelligent design” – as “educational debauchery”), I don’t think Dawkins is going to lose any sleep over the retracted prize.

And so it is that I dust out the Asshat Of The Week award.  [3]   It seems fitting to give the award to The American Humanist Association, to dishonor their sanctimonious revocation of their 1996 award to Dawkins.  [4]

 

American Humanist Association, this Ass Hat is for you.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Everything Is Going To Be All Right, Trust Me

You know how some people contact a famous person and request birthday or other greetings for their friend, their elderly mother, a child dying of cancer, etc.?  Apparently, not all such requests are on the up-and-up, as Former Member of Parliament Nigel Farage discovered when he fell for a prank on a video-sharing app wherein fans pay celebrities to record personalized messages.

Serves him right, sez moiself.  Farage, a Brexit party leader , anti-semitic conspiracy theorist, right wing German anti-immigrant party supporter , long-time #45 defender and all-around enema bag, participates on this greetings-for-hire site (and reportedly charges £75 for each recording).  But money can’t buy a petty thrill as delightful as the one that comes from knowing that Farage’s petty greed and/or ego led to him being seen and heard around the viral world, wishing a happy birthday to a “Hugh Janus.”

“Happy birthday Hugh Janus, I’ve heard you’re a massive fan,” Farage said.

 

They also think it’s hilarious….and they don’t even speak English.

 

You can see the video here.

*   *   *

Department Of 7 Am Reflections On The Meaning Of Life ®

On a walk, blissfully solitary except for the early risers   [5]  taking their canine companions for a morning piss stroll, I find moiself  thinking,

Dogs are amiable, furry, quadrupedal structures enclosing gallon-sized bladders.

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

I keep asking wat LGBTQ stands for,
but I can never get a straight answer.    [6]

 

 

*   *   *

May Those Who Bestow Such Things ® have a helluva good reason before they take away your award;
May you refrain (sorry) from writing songs with stupid questions in their choruses;
May Mr. Hugh Janus record a birthday greeting for you;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] If cool heads reign.

[2] Which is a failing strategy, when applied to an atheist.

[3] Which actually has not been bestowed, by moiself, in several years.

[4] Who will likely lose little sleep over the issue.  “Dawkins, 80, claimed that the loss of the award would have little practical effect on him because he had never used it. ‘Apparently the honour hadn’t meant enough to me to be worth recording in my CV,’ he said.”  (The Times)

[5] Now, why would you think there would be a footnote here?

[6] And the answer is “Let’s Get Bubble Tea Quickly.”

The Normal Post I’m Not Posting

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Normal as in, consisting of political, religious, educational and/or cultural sniping critiques.

No worries – the usual mélange of podcast reviews, feminist fun, cultural tidbits, sarcasm, insightful commentary, bad puns (and occasional fart jokes) returns next week.

 

 

While going through our attic and other storage spaces I found a military pin belonging to my father, Chet Parnell. I added it to a box of (mostly) WWII memorabilia I keep in a closet, and thought I should write a description/explanation of the items in the box for the inheritors of it, my offspring, K and Belle.  While doing so I began thinking of thousands of families who likely have similar stories – and boxes – and may or may not know some of the stories behind them.  You might not give two snakes’ elbows for a story about my extended family; in that case, kick back and rewatch “Young Frankenstein” and remind yourself of what a great actor we had in Cloris Leachman.  But in hopes of sparking at least one other person to ask a family member about their past…or open a forgotten storage box in their own closet….

What follows is an edited version of the document I wrote for K and Belle.

*   *   *

 

The Combat Infantryman Badge is a U.S. Army military decoration awarded to infantrymen who fought in active ground combat while assigned as members of either an Infantry or Special Forces unit.

Your grandpa Chet was awarded this badge while in Alaska, serving with the 542nd paratroop infantry regiment, in the Aleutian Islands Campaign.

The Aleutian Islands campaign was…conducted by the USA and Japan in the Aleutian Islands, part of the Territory of Alaska, in the American theater and the Pacific theater of World War II.  In the only two invasions of the United States during the war, a small Japanese force occupied the islands of Attu and Kiska. The islands’ strategic value was their ability to control Pacific transportation routes.  Japan reasoned that control of the Aleutians would prevent a possible U.S. attack across the Northern Pacific. Similarly, the U.S. feared that the islands would be used as bases from which to carry out a full-scale aerial attack on U.S. West Coast cities. A battle to reclaim Attu was launched on May 11, 1943, and completed following a final Japanese banzai charge on May 29. On August 15 an invasion force landed on Kiska in the wake of a sustained three-week barrage, only to discover that the Japanese had withdrawn from the island on July 29.

The campaign is known as the “Forgotten Battle,” due to its being overshadowed by other events in the war. Military historians believe the Japanese invasion of the Aleutians was a diversionary or feint attack during the Battle of Midway, meant to draw out the U.S. Pacific Fleet from Midway Atoll, as it was launched simultaneously under the same commander, Isoroku Yamamoto. Some historians have argued against this interpretation, believing that the Japanese invaded the Aleutians to protect their northern flank, and did not intend it as a diversion.
(AIC excerpts from Wikipedia)

Although Chet’s unit was never directly involved the combat, he served in a combat zone.  The paratroopers stationed in Alaska had a dual mission: protecting the Alaskan territory from further Japanese invasion, and preparing for the invasion of Japan…which was stopped when the U.S. dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Having served in a combat zone, Chet was eligible for “full military honors”  at his funeral.  He was proud of his service as a paratrooper, but told my mother that, when the time came, he wanted her to decline the offer of full honors, as he felt it belonged to soldiers who had actually faced enemy fire. Thus, at his funeral (as you two may remember) he had what is known as “Military Honors,” which consists of two or more uniformed military persons doing a military funeral honors ceremony, including the folding of and presenting to the survivors a United States burial flag, and the playing of Taps.

*   *   *

 

 

This is the enlisted soldier’s Signal Corps Badge.  Chet had that badge as well…and now I can’t remember where it is.

Each paratrooper had training as a rifleman/infantryman, and also in one or more specialties (besides learning how to jump from a plane and not die).  Chet was trained in Signal Corps duties (which he once described to me as, “Scrambling up the nearest tree” to set up long range cables).  After landing in enemy territory, his job would be to work with his unit’s radio operator(s) to set up radio communications.

*   *   *

 

This is a WWII U.S. Army Paratrooper badge (aka “jump wings” pin).  I also have this pin… somewhere.  Chet gave me both pins – the signal corps and jump wings – years before his death. I used to wear them, along with other pins, on a denim jacket (he got a kick out of that), then when the jacket was falling apart I took all the pins off and put them away for safekeeping…and now I have no idea where they are.  ;-(

*   *   *

The jacket in this box is a WWII paratrooper’s dress jacket.  It belonged to my favorite uncle, Bill O’Malley, my aunt Erva’s husband.   [1]   Bill O’Malley (“Billy” to his fellow soldiers) saw heavy combat in WWII – briefly in N. Africa, then in the European Theater of Operation (ETO).

I find what Bill experienced in WWII to be amazing, and I’m going to tell you what I know of it. Bill and Erva had no children to pass this on to, and their generation has all but died out – all gone, actually, on my side of the family.  It seems to me that someone (of a younger generation, ahem) should know his story, you know? My information is incomplete, and I won’t bore you with dates (most of which I don’t have, although I could look them up).  My purpose here is to convey some of what he went through. The words and phrases in quotes are, to the best of my memory, verbatim from what Bill (and in some cases, Chet or Erva or my grandmother) told me.

This information is pieced together from notes I made decades ago, plus many conversations Chet and I had about WWII and Bill O’Malley. The last and longest of these conversations a phone call the night before Chet died, during which I shared what Bill had told me when I’d visited Bill and Erva the summer after my fourth-grade year (I’d made a road trip to Spokane with my Aunt Gwen (Erva’s sister), Uncle Joe, and their son, Joey.  We all stayed at Erva’s & Bill’s Spokane house for two weeks).  I knew Uncle Bill had been a paratrooper, and one afternoon when the others were playing a lawn game in the backyard, I got Bill to sit down with me in his kitchen and talk about it.  Chet was flummoxed by some of the information I’d elicited;  Bill did *not* like to talk about the war and typically refused all entreaties – by adults – to do so (he did have a few war-related conversations over the years with Chet, whom he respected as a fellow paratrooper).  My theory is that, being a 10-year-old kid, I somehow disarmed Bill. My questions were sincere; I had no illusions about war “heroism” – I was just genuinely curious.  Bill didn’t have to impress or reassure me, the way he might have felt pressured to do by other adults.

*   *   *

When Bill enlisted in the paratroopers he was ~ five years older than the others in his unit (they were teens – early twenties; he was in his mid-twenties). His age and skills soon enabled him to hold the rank of sergeant (and he aspired to no higher rank).  After completing his paratrooper training Bill was assigned to the 82nd airborne division.   [2]

In N. Africa, during one of Bill’s first combat drops, the pilot of Bill’s plane made a navigational error and dropped its paratroopers over the wrong site – a fact which was not discussed nor even acknowledged by the army, as Bill later discovered when he made the obligatory report of the incident to his superiors.  One of its planes going in the opposite direction it was supposed to go – yikes.  It was quite an embarrassment to the Army higher-ups. Bad for soldier morale!

As in that jump and all others afterward, Bill jumped with his favorite weapon, his “tommy gun.”   [3]    Bill was the jump master, and after realizing they’d been dropped over the wrong site, he and his squad disagreed as to what to do next.  There was nothing but sand in all directions; Bill spotted an outcropping and insisted they follow it. His squad rebelled and went in the opposite direction without him, even after he (convinced that he was right, and that they were headed to their deaths) pulled his “tommy” on them and ordered them to follow him. The twelve paratroopers were never seen from again; they presumably died in the desert from exposure.

Bill, following the outcropping, wandered for days in the desert until he was rescued by a Brit in a jeep who was patrolling the perimeter of a nearby British military encampment.  By that time quite dehydrated, Bill thought he was hallucinating seeing the jeep, until it drove up to within a few feet of him.  The British officer exited his jeep and said to Bill, in the most stereotypical, slightly perturbed, upper-class British accent,

“I say old boy, what are you doing out here all alone?”

“You son of a bitch!” is how Bill began his reply….

Bill was reassigned to the ETO, to a unit serving in Italy.  In an incident which resulted in the largest “friendly fire” casualties of WWII, U.S. guns at Sicily fired at planes overhead, which were actually U.S. planes carrying U.S. paratroopers. The 504th Parachute Infantry was shot to pieces – two dozen of our own planes, shot down by “us.”  More than 300 U.S. soldiers died.  Bill survived that tragedy, did another jump in Italy (Salerno), and was reassigned again.  [4]   His next unit became part of the massive Allied paratroop drop into Normandy at D-Day.  After that he went on to fight in the Battle of Bulge.

Not surprisingly, Bill was hospitalized in France after the war had ended, for what was then called “shell shock” or “combat fatigue,” but which we now know as PTSD.

Although the army hospital doctors pronounced him “cured” after a few weeks of rest, Bill’s shell shock was not totally under control when he returned to the States.  His first date with Erva was “a humiliating disaster.”  Being out in public made him nervous; he couldn’t shake the feeling of being constantly “on patrol.”  Erva drove on their first date, as Bill had no car.  After picking Bill up, she was driving down the main street of their town when the car in front of hers backfired, the sound of which caused Bill to dive to the passenger’s seat floorboards (“Scared me half to death!” Erva said).  Bill was deeply embarrassed, and even more so when, ten minutes later, he had to ask Erva to take him back to his apartment so he could change clothes.  He had sweated through his clothing – completely soaked the three-piece suit he had worn, the suit he’d “bought special,” to impress Erva.

Gradually, Bill readjusted to civilian life.  When I asked him how he did this he replied, “I never had to pay for a cup of coffee.”   I assume the confused expression on my ten-year-old face is what sparked him to elaborate: After the war ended, soldiers were treated with kindness by everyone.  Although civilians did not want to hear anything about the war that “didn’t involve heroes,” they showered the returning GIs with respect, gratitude, and gifts (including job offers).  Bill also didn’t want to engage in war stories talk.  He found the eagerness of the nation to “get on with it” and look to the future to be helpful to him as he strove to forget/push aside his memories of what he’d seen and done in The War.

One “memory” he brought home with him was a German Shepard. He’d found the dog during one of his last maneuvers before he was hospitalized – somewhere in France, when he and his unit were patrolling a battle site. The dog, dehydrated and starving but still vigilant, was guarding the corpse of its (presumed) handler, a German soldier.

 

A scenario akin to this, only the Nazi was dead.

 

Bill spoke some German to the dog, shared his water and rations with it, and the dog transferred its loyalty to Bill.  The doctors at the hospital where Bill was treated agreed to let him keep it, and he was able to get it shipped back to the States with him.

Bill loved that dog  (I can’t remember what he named it; something ala, “Scout”). However, everyone he met back in the States was wary of it, and for good reason. The dog was huge, and would “greet” anyone who came to see Bill by silently approaching them (it supposedly never barked or growled), rearing up on its hind legs, resting its front paws on the visitor’s shoulders, and baring its teeth and looking them straight in the eyes, as if it were pondering, “Hmmm, should I rip your throat out, or go for the eyes first?”   Bill would speak to the dog in German, then he’d (attempt to) reassure his visitor:

“He won’t hurt you, but don’t make any sudden moves.”

Erva was terrified of the dog, as were Bill’s neighbors, who complained to his landlord about having to live next to a dangerous animal.   [5]  After they’d been dating several weeks, Erva told Bill, “It’s me or the dog,” and Bill found it another home.   [6]

*   *   *

After completing their paratrooper training and before shipping out to Europe, Bill and his paratrooper unit (company? regiment? whatever the terminology, it consisted of 105 men) shared their respective family contact info and made a pact to have a reunion after the war – the original 105 of them, no matter what outfits/companies/regiments they ended up being transferred to.  One of the men made good on that promised and organized the reunion a year after the war ended…but there were only five of the original 105 left alive.  The rest had died, in combat or in paratroop jump “accidents.” Of the five, Bill was the only one who had not been seriously injured (he’d twisted his ankle diving into a foxhole during a mortar attack at the Battle of the Bulge, but had never been shot or stabbed during combat, as the other survivors had been).

Those figures blow my mind, as an illustration of how much “action” Bill and his original company saw: a casualty rate of over 99% and a death rate of 95%.

 

 

Bill O’Malley’s paratrooper dress jacket.

 

 

Chet regretted that he didn’t keep his paratrooper dress jacket.   [7]   When Erva was dying,   [8]  she told my parents that she wanted Chet to have Bill’s jacket.   Bill and Chet had bonded over their paratrooper service, and Erva told me that Chet was Bill’s favorite of his “Hole Sisters” brothers-in-law.    [9]

 

*   *   *

May you have fun going through your attic;
May you remember that you don’t need 90% of what you put in your attic years ago, certain that you might “need it some day;”
May you share your family stories while you still can;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Erva O’Malley, nee Hole, was your grandma Marion’s eldest sister.

[2] The 82nd Airborne Division, first formed during WWI as an infantry division, earned the nickname “All-American” because, unlike the other army divisions at the time, its soldiers hailed from all 48 states.  The 82nd’s uniforms had a double “A” design shoulder patch insignia.

[3] A Thompson machine gun.

[4] Chet said Bill kept getting reassigned to regiments and infantries and squads – still within the 82nd division.  After battles with heavy casualties if the army needed you elsewhere, they sent you elsewhere, sometimes without the “proper” documentation, and soldiers went where they were told to go.  Chet was not sure of the numbers/names of the various infantries, companies, etc., Bill served with, and since Bill seldom talked about the war, the few times Bill was willing to offer information Chet just listened and didn’t press for such bureaucratic details.

[5] Presumably the dog, and not Bill.

[6] With another GI who’d served in the ETO.

[7] When Chet was discharged after the war he was given a train ticket home, and had limited luggage capacity – he  was unable to fit the paratrooper jacket into his suitcase (and was already wearing his uniform and two other jackets on top of that) and gave it to a GI buddy at the train station.

[8] From lung cancer, in 1998.  Bill died from a burst aortic aneurysm in 1969. He was 51.

[9] The Hole family sisters, now deceased:  Erva, Gwen, Ruth, and your grandma Marion.

The Blog Post I Wasn’t Planning On

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Noteworthy science podcast anecdotes; musings on how we understand, use (and misuse) the term “educated;” wondering how and why some people can believe in the efficacy of intercessory prayer; a bad pun or two; the last Partridge of the Week, etc.  I don’t know if the subjects I had planned to address in today’s post were more profound, but they were certainly more fun, than…this.

As in, What. Happened. On. Wednesday.

“It is my considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not.”
(Vice President Mike Pence, 1-6-21, in a letter to members of Congress.  From “Pence defies Trump, says he can’t reject electoral votes,” apnews.com )

“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done….”
( #45‘s tweet, after Vice President Mike Pence acknowledged he does not have the power to throw out electoral votes )

*   *   *

Someone needs to be shot for insurrection. 

If #45 had the cojones he accused Pence of lacking, he‘d call a press conference, resign, then blow his brains out   [1] on live television.  He‘d get the “biggliest ratings, ever!” which is and always has been his ultimate concern.

*   *   *

 

Prevoskhodno! This is all going according to plan.”

 

*   *   *

 

How many times did I read or hear, during the last four years,

“Yeah, I know he (#45) is a dick a horrible person as a person, but I’m voting for him because of ______ (conservative policy).”

As friend MM so succinctly put it,

“Everyone who voted for Trump for tax cuts and judges, you own this.”

 

*   *   *

What was it that the anti-Vietnam war protestors chanted as they were beaten by Chicago police in 1968?

“The whole world is watching.”

 

 

And they were.  And we are.

*   *   *

Department Of Get Him Out, Now.  How Can You Not?

Congress: Impeach. Invoke the 25th amendment#45 is clearly “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”    [2]   Get the SCOTUS to lead a squad of Capitol Police to arrest him.  Whatever it takes.

Please, no cries of, “But we only have to hang on another two weeks, for the good of the country…”

No.

For the good of the country,
he
needs to go. Would *anyone else* who had fomented a riot – committed sedition – *not* be held accountable?

For the good of the country,
his
legacy, as MH put it, “needs to be appropriate.”

For the good of the country,
we cannot let strongman hooliganism subvert or even delay our democratic processes.

For the good of the country,
we need to show the world – we need to show ourselves – that we have not become another anarchic banana republic our laws and ideals have actual meaning.

And, if he is allowed to just…leave, do you really want any portion of your tax dollars to go to his presidential pension?  $219,000 a year, for the rest of his deplorable life, living among whatever other deplorables can stand to abide with him?   [3]

 

“A Russian dacha or a North Korean apartment – your choice, Comrade.”

*   *   *

May we get the kind of honest, decent, compassionate leadership we need;
May you-know-who finally get what he deserves;
May circumstances allow moiself  to return to “regular programming” next week;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Not to worry; it’d be a small splatter, considering the target.

[2] Section 4, 25th Amendment to the US Constitution.

[3] There need to be more footnotes, but the only appropriate footnote regarding this deranged disaster of democracy is an unending torrent of FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK !!!

The Masks I’m Not Not-Wearing

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Department Of Before We Go Any Further

Check out the “Introducing: Resistance” podcast, hosted by the Reply All podcast.

And by check out, moiself  means put down what you’re doing and listen to it, right now.  Okay; maybe take a pee break first, if you need to (it runs a wee bit – sorry – less than 45m).

It starts out with a gabby, somewhat potty-mouth banter   [1]  between the Reply All host and Resistance podcast producer, the latter who has spent the past year following Warriors in the Garden, a New York City, youth-led activist collection. The story itself is an absolutely chilling account of head-scratching, mind-boggling, Orwellian-level abuse of authority. That the subject of the incident, Derrick Ingram, made it out alive (I don’t wanna give anything away, but I don’t want to scare you off from listening, either) is amazing.

It’s a prime example of “This is why people are protesting and this is *what* they are protesting,” especially for anyone who wonders what the fuss is about.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of This Guy Is So Observant – He Should Have His Own Blog   [2]

Dateline: last Saturday, breakfast table. MH, reading the previous day’s New York Times, says to moiself , “This headline makes no sense.”  The headline in question came from the article, Inspired by Trump, Hasidic Backlash Grows Over Virus Rules; it was actually the sub-headline which he found bemusing:

Orthodox Jewish leaders have seen a growing, raucous faction of young men in the community, tired of pandemic guidelines and resentful of the secular authorities.

“Hasids, tired of guidelines and resentful of authority?” MH shook his head.

That’s, *secular* authority, moiself  reminded him.  I, too, found the concept ironic, as in, Hello?!  Do y’all know we can hear you when you talk?!  ridiculous.

Unquestioning compliance with rules and guidelines and adherence to authority is what the Hasidic lifestyle – what any orthodox religious life – is all about.  Using the pretext of obedience to their god’s will, the insular Hasidic communities follow rules and regs about what and when they may eat, where they can and cannot live, what language they speak, what clothing they can and cannot and must wear – like the Shtreimel, the bizarre traditional fur hat a Hasidic man dons for religious holidays and festive occasions and those times when a guy just feels like balancing a dead gopher on his head – what they can do for a living, who and when they marry, even when a married couple can and cannot have sex – every aspect of their lives….

But health guidelines meant to protect *every* community from a deadly infectious disease?  Dude, that’s asking too much.

 

“Wear a mask? Oy, that would make us look ludicrous.”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Have I Mentioned Before How Serious I Am About This?

What with the looming appointment of yet another antediluvian-minded wacko religious conservative nominee to SCOTUS, the subject of attempts to overturn Roe v. Wade is once again up for social media debate.  I like this guy’s pithy phrasing of the reality that some folk still don’t seem to understand, even as many of us – men and women, religious and secular, even a Mormon mother of six – have pointed out that all pregnancies are caused by male ejaculations:

 

 

There are, of course, reasons for abortion that do not stem from unplanned/unwanted pregnancies and therefore would not be prevented by preventing irresponsible ejaculations.  If you’ve ever known a couple  [3]   who’s had to terminate a much-wanted pregnancy due to medical reasons you’ve had a glimpse at the pain involved…and if you think that no one you know has ever been in that situation, as a wise friend said recently, “If you don’t know someone who has had an abortion, it just means you’re the kind of person they wouldn’t tell.”

What with the upcoming election, the ongoing pandemic, the stresses and pressures all of us are dealing with, I often despair at the divisiveness of our political and personal discourse. That said, I’m still going to draw my own dividing line.  If you don’t understand this point – if you are a man who favors regulating the bodily autonomy of women but not men (and if you’re a woman with the same opinions, WTF is wrong with you?) and are not willing to just MYOFB on this issue, please, stay away from me, stay away from my husband, my family, my pets, my car, lawn, my recycling bin, my pear tree….

Side note that shouldn’t be a side note, but a main talking point:
I’ve witnessed plenty of women being asked if they’d ever had an abortion, but have yet to see a man asked if he’s ever been the *cause* of an abortion.

 

 

Let’s change that, shall we?

 

*   *   *

Department Of For Those Who Wonder What Is The Concept Of Bodily Autonomy
Sub-Department of And For The Rest Of Us Who Think That Women Should Have As Much Or More Bodily Autonomy Than A Corpse

 

 

*   *   *

 

Different as in, lightening up the subject matter.  It’s time to giggle.

*   *   *

Department Of The Following Joke Is Courtesy Of Sigourney Weaver  

Yeah, we’re best buds, didn’t you know?  She calls me up to share her latest jokes.  The Sigster is quite the gagster, which surprises some people who primarily think of her as a flamethrower-wielding, saving-the-world-from aliens, warrior woman.   This jest of hers had me in fits of pig-snorting laughter.   [4]

 

My doctor told me I have to stop masturbating.  I asked, “Why?”
She said, “Because I’m trying to examine you.”

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Trying To Be A Good Citizen….

Even as I don’t like wearing a mask, I always do when I go out. But they are a problem for me; it seems like I bought about 15 different kinds, trying to get a good fit, but no matter what the style they don’t want to stay around my ears and are always popping off.

Do you remember the “earlobes” lesson?  Maybe they don’t use that example in school anymore, but both MH and I remember that, when we were in our high school science classes, two basic human traits were used to introduce students to concepts in genetics: eye color, and earlobe shape.

 

 

If earlobes hang free, they are detached. If they connect directly to the sides of the head, they are attached.  Free/unattached is the dominant trait. Scientists used to think this trait was controlled by a single gene; thus, it was a good illustrative introduction to genetics, with students having fun comparing earlobes, and going home and doing the same with their parents and siblings. Nowadays, geneticists think it is likely that several genes contribute to this trait.

MH said that my attached earlobes make it difficult for the mask strings to get a good hold.  I’d completely forgotten that moiself  has attached earlobes, until MH was helping me with a stubborn mask, and pointed that out.  I had to pout for a moment.

I  HAVE A GENETIC DISABILITY.

I WANT MY OWN PARKING SPACE, DAMMIT.

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

Never trust atoms – they make up everything.

 

“I swear, one more bad science pun and….”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Just Thinkin’

On my early morning walks, I listen to podcasts. When a podcast ends, depending on its length/how many minutes I have before I return home, moiself  either tunes in to another podcast or switches to some music.

I’ve noticed that I walk faster, with the proverbial spring in my step, when music is coming through my earbuds.  Occasionally I wonder if someone walking behind or towards moiself  would notice the difference:

“Look at her – The Fresh Air interview must have ended and now she’s listening to The Go-Gos….”

 

 

Who could resist bopping to that?

*   *   *

Department Of Th-Th-Th-That’s All, Folks

Among the many observations of #45 which are supposed to be character- revealing is the fact that he is the first president since James Polk (over 170 years ago!) who has not kept a pet while in the White House.

Not true, sez moiself . What about his lap dog, William Barr?

 

*   *   *

 

May you have more bodily autonomy than a corpse;
May you take pity (but not patronizingly so) on we recessive freaks of nature
who have attached earlobes;
May you remember that, when it comes to boppin’ out to The Go-Gos, resistance is futile;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] But why the fuck would anyone who reads this blog object to that shit?

[2] Or, at least he should get mentioned in several footnotes.

[3] Or you yourself have been part of that couple.

[4] Okay, so I actually saw this on a NY Times link to famous people telling jokes…but I want Sigourney to know I would be a good audience for her humor, and we should hang out, some time soon.  Unless she has a problem with PWAE (People With Attached Earlobes).

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