The Coffee I’m Not Fetching



Department Of Oh That Explains It

I opened turned to page 2 of The Oregonian and saw the reassuring headline for the Editor’s Notebook column:

We’ve redesigned with our readers in mind.

I guess I’m not one of the readers Those Who Redesigned had in mind, because I couldn’t get beyond the column’s next sentence, [1] which contained this gem of an explanation:

We’ve redesigned The Oregonian to be easier to read.

All these years, I’ve wondered about the decline of print media. Newspapers have seemingly lost their appeal; circulation and subscriber bases have dropped precipitously. Could it be related to competition from internet and other electronic media/online sources, including revenue loss from online advertising sources which made newspaper classified ads dated and/or irrelevant?

Noooooo. It’s just because newspapers have become SO  DIFFICULT  TO  READ.



“Article continued on A13?” This. Is. So. Hard. For. Me.

*   *   *

Department of Eat, Prey, Write, Gloat With Cynicism

Did I ever tell y’all about the time in 2006 when I was subject to special screening by TSA agents because I was the only woman in the PDX airport  [2] who was not toting a copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love in her carry-on bag?

That’s right – I didn’t tell you. Because that never happened. But it felt like it did.




Now, turn your head and cough, Ma’am, because if we don’t find a copy of that book you will not be allowed to board your flight.


The more EPL was recommended to me [3] the more I resisted jumping on the EPL bandwagon. Besides, after reading interviews with Gilbert, I got the feeling the no-detail-of-my-life-i$-too-private-be-$hared author wasn’t done with exploiting her personal life seeing as how it sold so much better than her fiction sharing her searching-the-world-for-wisdom-so-you-don’t-have-to exploits. I thought I’d bide my time and wait for the box set.

A sequel soon followed, which picked up with the author’s falling in love with/marriage to the Brazilian businessman she met at the end of EPL. The sequel was inaptly titled, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage. “Inaptly,” I daresay write, because the peace the author supposedly made with marriage turned out not to be with her own.

In June, Gilbert announced she’d ended her 12 year old marriage (emphases mine):

“Our split is very amicable. Our reasons are very personal. At this time of transition, I hope you will respect our privacy. In my heart, I know that you will do so, because I trust that you understand how this is a story that I am living—not a story that I am telling.”

Privacy?  Oh yeah – that thing defined as the right to keep one’s personal matters and relationships secret. It’s that thing practiced by other people, not Gilbert, who despite her protestations has been telling the story she has been living for the past 12 years.

Sure, I snorted when I read her press release, She wants privacy, I can (continue to) give her privacy. I can also, from experience,  [4]  give her or any privacy-requester a smidgen of advice: if you want your request for privacy to be taken seriously you can start by not giving interviews/press statements/making a living from writing about your private life.

With a publicist’s masterful timing (never reveal everything at once if there’s a chance people will pay for a sequel!), three months after her divorce announcement Gilbert made another spotlight-grabbing broadcast: she’d ended her marriage because she’d fallen in love with a (terminally ill) female friend.

Do I smell another self-serving revelation soon-to-become another LET-ME-TELL-YOU-ABOUT-MY-AMAZING-LIFE-JOURNEY memoir?  [5]  It needs a catchy title:

Eat, Pray, Love, Regurgitate Triumphs And Heartaches, Write, Marry, Regurgitate Some More, Write, Divorce, Ask For Privacy – Holy Misguided Solitude, There’s No Money Or Attention In Discretion! – Write, Discover Gender Fluid Sexuality – Now I’ve Really Got Something To Write About….




Didn’t see the movie, either.

*   *   *

Department Of Wednesday Digressions

The Worst Types Of Workplace Sexists—And How To Fight Them

I cannot recall where I came across the article referenced above, but I am grateful for the memories it brought back.




I’ll try to explain.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I worked in the women’s reproductive health care field. Stints with Planned Parenthood clinics bookended six years at a dual practitioner (an M.D. and a N.P. [Nurse Practitioner]) [6] OB-GYN practice near Stanford hospital.

Before y’all get the wrong idea, there were no sexists working at that practice. Both of my bosses were wonderful people, as were (most of) the office staff. But as for some of our dealings with other “professionals”…. Let the story hijinks ensue.

Although Dr. B’s office was open Monday-Friday, with rare exceptions neither he nor the NP saw patients on Wednesdays. The day was plenty busy: the practice hosted a new parent support group which met in the waiting room every Wednesday morning. Meanwhile, “backstage” there was catching up on charting and non-emergency callbacks, exam room cleaning/stocking/organizing and preparation for the upcoming week’s patients…and on many Wednesday mornings and/or afternoons, Dr. B would consult, on the phone or in person, with attorneys.

Dr. B had a lucrative “side job” serving as a consultant/reviewer and expert witness  [7] for medical malpractice cases. He loved the work, and not just because of the money. He had a keen, forensically detailed intellect; he found reviewing and analyzing the case files fascinating, and had a knack for explaining complex medical issues to laypersons. The only thing he didn’t like about such consulting was having to deal with lawyers.

Q: What’s the difference between a vacuum cleaner and a lawyer on a motorcycle?
A: The vacuum cleaner has the dirt bag on the inside.





The attorneys I met during those six years were poster children for every lawyer gag you’ve ever heard. They were, with one exception I can recall, all male, and without exception the boy lawyers were sexist, arrogant, self-aggrandizing, windbag asshats. I tried to have as little to do with them as possible, and was mostly successful in that endeavor. Our office manager’s duties included lawyer-wrangling; patient care/education/advocacy was my gig. But there were certain Wednesdays when there was no avoiding the bastard barristers. Like a pair of cheap underpants, they crept up on you.

Dr. B would meet with lawyers in his private office. More often than not, he’d leave his office door open during these meetings. [8]   It’s not that the doc was indiscreet; I figured he just couldn’t stand to be alone with a conniving weasel lawyer (and, much to my surprise, Dr. B confirmed this when I told him my theory about the open door).  [9]

I picked up on Dr. B’s lawyer loathing. On those (mercifully few) occasions when there was no avoiding them, I took petty pleasure in tormenting the malpractice attorneys [10]  in the most passive-aggressive ways possible.

Anecdote the First
Sitting at the front desk with a pile of patient charts and pap smear lab reports, I reluctantly answered the phone (the office manager was taking a potty break). The caller cut short my standard work greeting, “Dr. B’s office, this is Rob…”

Car Phone Lawyer: “Yes, I’m calling from my car phone….”

It was the attorney who was scheduled to meet with Dr. B that morning for a malpractice case consult. The attorney informed me that he was calling from his car phone, and that the purpose of his call was to let us know that he was going to be late for his appointment. He was quite determined that I know he was calling from his car phone – he stated this twice in his opening remarks, mentioned it two more times in what should have been a brief, sorry-I’ve-been-detained-I’ll-get-there-as-soon-as-I-can apology, and ended the call with this fascinating bit of information.

As I mentioned, I’m calling from my car phone….

This was way back in pre cell phone days when, apparently, for Certain Kind$ of People ® there wa$ a certain amount of pre$tige a$$ociated with anyone who had a car phone. Moiself didn’t give a flying fuck if he was calling from a Maxwell Smart shoe phone. Had I asked from where or with what he was calling, and what did it have to do with…anything?






“So, you’re going to be late…” I wrote a note for Dr. B, who was standing right behind me, his eyes almost audibly rolling toward the ceiling as he drew his index finger across his throat – his sign for I do not want to talk to this asshole until he gets here. Stifling my laughter, I waited for the Car Phone Lawyer to add something relevant, such as his ETA, or perhaps even a brief apology/explanation for his tardiness.

 “Yes,” CPL repeated. “As you know, I’m calling from my car phone…”

“Oh,” I pitched my voice to approximate the oral equivalent of a Sweet Young Thing’s ® smile. “That must be why it sounds like you’re talking into a tin can tied to a string.”

Anecdote #2
Dr. B was in his office, consulting with a malpractice attorney. I walked down the hallway, on my way to inventory amniocentesis kits in the supply closet and prep the ultrasound exam room for the procedure scheduled for the following morning. The office’s ever-brewing coffee pot was on the counter in the lab area, directly opposite Dr. B’s office and clearly visible to anyone sitting in the chair beside Dr. B’s desk…like, say, that attorney.

As I passed by Dr. B’s open door the attorney called out to me. He snapped his fingers – yes, he snapped his fingers – as he did so. “Hey,” (snap snap),”how about a cup of coffee?”

“Oh, no thank you,” I cheerfully replied, without breaking my stride.  [11]

We didn’t know about mic drops back then, so I’ll ask the Notorious RBG to give a belated Bam! on my behalf.




*   *   *

Department of Life’s Simple Pleasures

Dateline: 7:50 am-ish, [12] near the tail end of my morning walk, I exit a neighborhood park via a pathway that leads through a cul-de-sac. I am at a nexus in the neighborhood space-time continuum: parents are walking their children to the elementary school one block south, preteens are schlumping toward the junior high two blocks northwest, and high school students are either heading for their bus stop or getting into cars with their parents.

I walk down the middle of the street and approach a house on the left just as a boy and his (presumed) mother exit the house and head for a car parked at the curb. The boy is tall, refreshingly skinny, with skateboard-sized feet which indicate much gangliness in his future. His childlike face belies his height – he looks all of 12 or 13 to me, yet he’s dangling car keys from his right hand. He heads to the passenger’s door, hesitates for a moment, then circles around to the driver’s door, his expression equal parts fear and anticipation.

I smile as I stride past the car, and chuckle to myself: Ah, driver’s permit. First week.




*   *   *

May you have patience with student drivers;
May you appreciate how truly easy it is to read a newspaper;
May you savor life’s mic drop moments;
…and may the hijinks ensue.



Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Read: I was overcome by a snort/laugh attack.

[2] Consistently rated one of American’s best airports. Not that we want you to come here all that much….

[3] including by More Than One Well-Read And Intelligent Friend Who Said The Author’s Writing Style Reminded Them Of Me ©

[4] Admittedly, not the kind that get$ paid a$ well a$ writing about Gilbert’s private life.

[5] To be followed by seminars and workshops advising mere mortal women on how they can do the same.

[6] who were also husband and wife (although not all of their patients knew this).

[7] The vast majority of malpractice cases settled out of court.

[8] something that would never happen these days, what with HIPAA and other privacy concerns and regulations.

[9] Was the good doctor joking or not? I may never know.

[10] Which had the bonus of thoroughly entertaining my bosses, both the doc and the NP.

[11] By doing so, I had won Dr. B’s eternal respect. I swear, after that Wednesday morning, the good doctor looked for ways to finagle attorneys into asking me that question. And it happened more than once. The attorneys would never ask directly/politely for anything, as in, “May I kindly trouble you for a cup of coffee?”

[12] As in morning-ish, not as in Amish..ish.

The Girl Power Link I’m Not Sharing

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“So flattered and honoured that our crazy song
is being used so beautifully for such a great cause.”

(Melanie C.)

The “crazy song” former Spice Girl Melanie is referring to is the Spice Girls’ hit song Wannabe; the great cause is “Girl Power,” as per the link to The Global Goals ‪#‎WhatIReallyReallyWant video. The video has been getting a lot of sharing and positive comments among my FB friends, but I can’t bring myself to click on share.

The Global Goals is (or seems to be) an internet organization which wants us all to “Make the noise” about inequality and investing in education and other opportunities for girls and women worldwide. In their own words:

Girls and women are disproportionately affected by (challenges of global challenges of poverty, climate change and inequalities) and are key to building resilient communities to withstand them. That’s why we need to ensure World Leaders and the Secretary General of the United Nations listen to the voices of girls and women and put them first in policies and plans.
2016 is our chance to use our collective power and tell world leaders what we really really want for girls and women….

 Truly laudable goals…but [1]

The tune is as catchy as ever; still, I had to sigh the same sigh (as in, not this, again) when I saw the video.






I wanted to love the video’s two brief scenes featuring girls in Arabic/Middle Eastern and African Muslim classrooms [2] with a sign Quality Education For All Girls on the rooms’ chalkboards.  Wanted to love, but couldn’t, because I paid attention to the video as a whole, and thought that, however sincere the sentiments behind those who produced it, the people who most need to be reached by the message or ideas the video wants to send are not likely to look at the video or appreciate the ideas/ideals expressed in it, due to the clothing and pelvic gyration-dancing of the other girls/women in the video. The video will likely be seen as just one more piece of Western propaganda.

You see what they mean by “Quality Education?!”
What they really want is for our females to be corrupted by infidel Western immorality….

Content warning: cranky feminist rant ahead.

So I’ll tell you want I want/what I really really want: I want messages of Girl Power to stop playing along with the commercialization and sexualization of girl bodies; I want third wave feminists and their (supposed) supporters [3] to stop illustrating the idea that “girl power,” and the related idea of loving/accepting/celebrating your body means donning tit/ass/ab revealing clothing and using provocative, sexualized gyrations and dance moves to “sell” the idea of equality.


I think I need some celebration of boy power to change the mood:




*   *   *

The Book I’m Not Recommending

As in, not merely recommending; rather, urging you to read How Not To Die, by Michael Greger, M.D.

The author, Dr. Gregor, cheekily acknowledges his book’s intentionally provocative title – which really should be, How Not To Die Prematurely, he writes later on in the book. The book itself is provocative in that its message, that a plant-based diet is the healthiest way to eat and can prevent and even reverse chronic disease, has been scientifically established yet is almost unknown among medical doctors, who receive little to no training in nutrition but plenty of indoctrination (and free samples and steak dinners and other perks and incentives) by pharmaceutical companies – companies which, of course, have a strong disincentive in having people choosing nutritional and lifestyle changes over popping pills.

But, don’t just take moiself‘s word for it. Here’s my favorite review of the book: [4]

Stop whatever you’re doing and buy this book. Not only does Dr. Michael Greger drop a metric f*ckton of evidence that a plant-based diet will save your damn life, he lays out the blueprint to make it happen. Dr. Greger shows us how regular folks can eat well and not get taken down by some totally preventable bullsh*t. Thug Kitchen”

HNTD was recommended by a friend.[5] I was skeptical at first, given the book’s similarity, title-wise, to another book I’d read several years ago: The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead. But the two books could hardly be more dissimilar.

A “litany of decay and decrepitude,” as one reviewer described it, TTALITODYBE takes a supposedly humorous and fact-filled examination of the medical and philosophical issues re aging and death…and it just got to be too much for me. Chapter after chapter delineating the cognitive and physiological indignities that await you, the majority of which you have little or no control over.  Even the ones that didn’t apply to me…it added up to an impacted bowel-ful of dismal TMI. Did I really need to know, for example, about the inevitability of scrotal sagging?  Although I must admit it is a lot of fun to type scrotal sagging.



Thanks, mister, but I've no interest in seeing if the carpet matches the drapes.

Thanks, mister, but I’ve no interest in seeing if the carpet matches the drapes.


*   *   *

The Cheese I’m Not Making

But I will be, soon. The following picture is of what will become a batch of rejuvelac, a non-alcoholic fermented liquid made from sprouted grains (quinoa, in this case), which I will use to (attempt to) make non-dairy cheese.  The good, the bad, and the ugly shall be reported herein. Eventually.



*   *   *

Department of With Apologies to Nike, Just Do It

Feeling frisky recently, I wanted to go to a Dollar Tree store, fill a handcart with a miscellany of the store’s wares, get in line at the checkout counter and ask the clerk for a price check on every item.

Sometimes, I am amazed by my self-restraint.



Oh, thank you – because this job doesn't suck enough already.

Oh, thank you – because this job doesn’t suck enough already.


*   *   *

May you restrain yourself when necessary;
May you just do it when just doing it is called for;
May you appreciate the good, the bad, the ugly, and the cheesy;
…and may the hijinks ensue.


Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *



[1] You knew a but was coming, didn’t you?

[2] I assume Muslim, as the girls are clothed in identical school uniforms and all wear hijab or headscarves.

[3] Many if not most of whom, I’d wager, are first wave misogynists, clothing marketeers, or just plain lechers.

[4] And you know you gotta trust the opinion of someone who works in the Thug Kitchen.

[5] A friend who has made and maintained the changes recommended in the book for several years now, changes which caused me to literally gasp when I saw her, she looked so %$&* healthy and happy was back to her normal high school weight (and if that subjective evidence isn’t impressive – and BTW health, not weight loss, was her objective – her cholesterol, BP and other “disease indicator” numbers have significantly dropped).

The Question I’m Not Posing



Department of Just Sayin’

Last week NPR’s Science Friday program contained a segment with a provocative premise. The segment featured an interview with “game researcher” Katherine Isbister, who makes the case in her book How Games Move Us that “…games can push us into new emotional territory.” According to Isbister, new video game designers are now crafting games that can make players more empathetic, by, e.g., putting players in the shoes of food cart vendors, immigrants seeking asylum, caretakers for someone with a terminal disease….

Isbister talked about how the designers of these “feel-good” video games write scenarios that encourage players to work together to solve problems, and how the designers also “harness character design, game mechanics, and movement to craft rich emotional experiences for players.”

Okay; sure, they do that. As do the designers of other scenarios that might be termed “feel-bad” games.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for a video game that might encourage greater empathy in its players. But, listening to the interview, I sensed an elephant in the room that didn’t get its turn to trumpet. The host [1]  blew it by not asking a question/raising an issue that seemed obvious, IMHO.

The question/issue is in the That train runs both ways category.


But not like this.

But not like this.


Back when the industry was in its infancy, players and proponents of video games reacted with a combination of dismissive scornfulness and furious defensiveness when anyone – from psychologists to Concerned Average Citizens ® – dared to pose the question of whether playing a violent video game [2] might foster aggressive behavior, or at least dull players to the consequences of real life, anti-social behavior.

I remember well the indignant self-righteousness of video game-playing friends, colleagues and family members who were asked to even consider the possibility that violent games might induce violent thoughts:

Games don’t change how you feel. Thousands of kids play shooter video games – I play shooter video games – and we don’t go out and snipe students at the school playground. [3]

True, such a simplistic correlation (violent game = violent acting out) was likely an exaggeration. But now, smiley happy game = smiley happy people? Y’all can’t have it both ways.

If you are now saying video games can promote empathy and craft other “emotional experiences,” you are acknowledging that games can influence a person’s emotions, from which thoughts and actions spring.


Just watch me help that cancer victim get her chemotherapy right now, or I'll show her the meaning of a terminal diagnosis!

Just watch me help that cancer victim get her chemotherapy right now, or I’ll show her the meaning of a terminal diagnosis!



Violent video games alone likely didn’t cause (name redacted) to go on his rampage. But these games aren’t harmless, either….
My colleagues and I found that typical college students who played violent video games for 20 minutes at a time for three consecutive days showed increasingly higher levels of aggressive behavior each day they played….studies show that violent video games increase aggressive thoughts, angry feelings, physiological arousal (e.g., heart rate, blood pressure), and aggressive behavior. Violent games also decrease helping behavior and feelings of empathy for others. The effects occurred for males and females of all ages, regardless of what country they lived in.
“Do Violent Video Games Play a Role in Shootings?”
Brad Bushman, Ph.D., psychology professor specializing in “the causes, consequences, and solutions to the problem of human aggression and violence,” and author of “Why do people deny violent media effects?”


Both “good” and “bad” video games use similar techniques for attracting and holding the interest of their players. There is no magic formula for emotional manipulation, which would allow feel-good video games to stimulate positive emotions while preventing feel-bad games from stimulating negative emotions. That’s not how our limbic system works.


*   *   *

Department Of Parent Fail

Has there ever been a task, performance, assignment, an approaching life event, at which you anticipated you’d be superb – or at least competent – and then when it came time to get down to it, you massively sucked?

Last week I wrote about an April Fools’ Day joke I considered playing on a student driver… which got me to remembering that which I am about to confess: I was a lousy “teacher” for my own two student drivers.

Yes, I was an Awful Parent Driving Instructor. It was a role I had actually (as in, positively) anticipated. I thought I would be calm and positive mentor; I thought I would be the one to Set. A. Good. Example. ©

Instead, I was one of the worst things a driving teacher can be – nervous – which totally took me by surprise. My nervousness was evident, [4] and did not promote confidence in my student drivers. But my apprehension was not without cause. In my defense, as I was later to tell both son K and daughter Belle,

I take it personally when my own offspring are trying to kill me.

Who knew giving my mother an anxiety attack could be so much fun?!

Who knew giving my mother an anxiety attack could be so much fun?!



Fortunately for my children, MH was a (comparatively) calm and patient instructor.

MH and I also thought it worthwhile for our student drivers to have other professional/adult instruction, and forked out for lessons for each of them with a local driving academy…an act ($$$) which made me appreciate growing up in California when I did, when mandatory driver’s education was part of the public high school curriculum.

The driver’s Ed class was included in a class called State Requirements, which most students took during their sophomore year. With its massive/ pervasive car culture, California thought it in the best interests of the state to have students enter the driving world with a modicum of driving experience and education.  Apparently, many other states’ public education systems used to have such a requirement, but some states have dropped or drastically cut back on offering driver’s ed (and some states have none at all), due in large part to the perpetual bugaboo known as Budget Cuts.

A moment of silence please, while We Oldsters recall the days of (what we thought were) adequate school funding. [5]





Thanks to the State Requirements and Driver’s Ed classes, not only did I and my high school peers have a common reference frame of how to drive, we also shared a legendary cultural touchstone: having to sit through don’t-reason-with-’em-just-scare-the-shit-out-of-’em documentaries like Red Asphalt.

Red Asphalt was astutely described by the Los Angeles Times‘ reporter Martin J. Smith as “The Reefer Madness of driving.” I think of it and others like it as a car accident snuff films –  ” horror shows of vehicular ultraviolence,” Smith wrote, “intended to scare the bejabbers out of fresh-faced and obliviously immortal teen drivers.”

“Red Asphalt” — the title says it all — is the flip side of California’s carefree car culture. ‘What you’re about to see is not going to entertain you,’ warns the host…. ‘There are scenes of human suffering and death in stark reality..’
Thus welcomed, you’re off on a joyless ride of grim highway fatality statistics, hectoring commentary about driving safely and bona fide hurl-your-cookies gore….you’re likely to come away with three unforgettable impressions:

* Driving at more than 10 mph is a seriously bad idea.
* Anyone who ever lobbied against seat belts and air bags as standard equipment should be arrested, tried and executed, ideally all in the same day.
* Not even George Romero has come close to replicating the sight and sound of human viscera being hand-scooped off damp pavement and into a plastic bag.

(“Thrills! Nausea! Bad Acting” by Martin J. Smith,  Los Angeles Times, June 21, 2006)





Red Asphalt, and another documentary called Signal 30 , used a combination of real footage taken by firefighters and other first responders and horrendously acted re-creations to depict the deadly consequences of speeding, negligent driving and/or failure to wear your seat belt – AND LEMME TELLYA, THOSE IDIOT DRIVERS ALL DESERVED TO DIE. [6]

The movies’ graphic images included ghastly scenes of mortally wounded and dismembered bodies, the screams of gravely injured and dying drivers and their passengers trapped in multiple vehicle pileups, and – my favorite, from Signal 30 – the footage of the charred remains of a driver who’d tried to race a train to railroad crossing.

I recall that only one student had to make a hasty vomit retreat during my Driver’s Ed class showing of the latter film. [7]


*   *   *


Department Of Trying To Find A Segue From Bloody Bodies to Blue Berries

Aka, The Frozen Blueberries I’m Not Buying

Oh wait – but I am.

I hate it when I lie to y’all.

Last week, for the first time in three years, I bought frozen blueberries from the grocery store. Three to four times a week I have blueberries and raspberries with breakfast, and for the past three years by the end of summer our garage freezer is full to bursting with bags of our homegrown blueberries and raspberries.

However, last season’s hotter-earlier weather [8] was one of several factors which led to our blueberry bushes being a bit skimpy on production. The raspberries were smaller than usual and not as prodigious, but I still have enough in the freezer to last until this summer’s crop is ripe for the picking.



*   *   *

May you recall with fondness (or at least tolerance, if not abject pity)
those who taught you to drive;
May the games you play foster the mental equanimity you seek;
May your berries be bountiful…
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


*   *   *

[1] I’m talking to YOU, Ira Flatow.

[2] that is, a game where the objectives include murder/rape/robbery, ala Death Race, Mortal Kombat, Grand Theft Auto, etc.

[3] Ah, but at least one person did. I remember reading of about the many disturbing hobbies of Brenda Spencer, the infamous “I don’t like Mondays”‘ elementary school shooter (who also carries the dubious distinction of being one of the few such female shooters), which included, according to interviews with friends and neighbors, being obsessed with playing violent/shooter-type video games.

[4] “That’s a person in the crosswalk – DON’T RUN THEM OVER.”

[5] No footnote here; we’re still doing the moment of silence thing, okay?

[6] Good thing we didn’t have to rely on violent video games back then to provoke such feelings.

[7] Apparently, as per one driver’s ed teacher I spoke with, at least two scared straight barfers was the norm per screening of that film.

[8] Which we didn’t anticipate and forgot to account for when scheduling starting up our automated yard watering system.

The FB Question I’m Not Answering

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Life can be hard. It can be lonely. It can be overwhelming. Sometimes we all need to remind ourselves of who we love, what we love, and why we love them. This post is a love-fest. Who makes your days worth living? What gets you out of bed in the morning? What makes you smile even though/even when everything else is falling to pieces?

I rarely respond to such Facebook question-posts, even one phrased as contemplatively as the above, which was posted by the (adult) daughter of a friend. For some reason, I was in the mood to respond:

Who makes my days worth living: All the kind, witty, intelligent people I know. Also, some of the assholes – I want to live long enough to see them get their due.

What gets me out of bed in the morning: the dang cats – I mean of course the adorable kitties – need to be fed.

What makes me smile even when everything else is falling to pieces: the knowledge that, if I hold on long enough, I will, eventually, read or hear a really bad pun and/or fart joke.

Yep, she got me. Not only did I respond, I…wait for it…began to think (gasp!) about the possible responses to those questions.

I thought about how complaining is easy…not to mention, sometimes fun.  [1] Also, with The Way Things Are These Days, ® if you’re not complaining about the terrorist/politicians/greedmongers, it’s likely you’re not paying attention.

Then I thought about how kvetching about the world being full of/run by asshats is easier than noticing or remembering how many remarkable, fantastic people are out there, wearing a different kind of hat.

And I don’t mean remarkable as in curing brain cancer or discovering a renewable, non-polluting energy source. [2] Remarkable as in the quiet and consistent kindnesses from, and perseverance of, seemingly unremarkable people.




I was thinking specifically of those people who, without announcement or fanfare, without seeking publicity or credit or even recognition on behalf of a religious or business institution, regularly and consistently help other people.

“I am a humanist, which means in part that I have tried to behave decently without expectations of rewards or punishments after I am dead.”
(Kurt Vonnegut, in his essay collection, A Man Without a Country,) 

I continue to meet humanists and Freethinkers who devote a good portion of their lives to helping individuals and the larger society – they seek to fill what gaps need to be filled, not because they are motivated by any kind of punishment/reward dogma, but because it’s the right thing to do.  They do good for goodness’ sake, often helping, for example, the Hungry Old Man who would gladly accept a free meal and then turn around and just as gladly condemn the driver of the home meal delivery van to some kind of unpleasant afterlife if Hungry Old Man found out the driver was a “godless atheist” who does not profess any religious creed.  

It’s also incredible to truly consider the ramifications of  people going about their day, trying to live simply, do good, minimize harm, and live out their rational, Freethinking beliefs, when they are a minority, [3]  surrounded by superstition and irrationality, in a world which often seems to champion ignorance and obedience over knowledge and free inquiry.

I see these people; I am lucky to meet and know them. And I read about those who live in other countries and pursue the same goals, doing good and fighting for the right to live Bright, in societies and cultures where it can mean death to disbelieve or even question…and I am humbled and grateful.

And I think to myself, like the song says, what a wonderful world.

Let’s all pause for a moment, as unicorns of peace, harmony, happiness and appreciation fly out of our butts.


th-th-that's s-s-s-oooooo b-b-b-beautiful.

th-th-that’s s-s-s-oooooo b-b-b-beautiful.

*   *   *

May you elevate yourself from off of your haunches on this beautiful spring day;
May you deem the day beautiful no matter the weather and get yourself outside;
May you be fortunate enough to hear the call of the red winged blackbird,
and may the hijinks ensue.


Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

  *   *   *

[1] And also life extending: the more you complain, the longer you live. Or rather, it just seems longer to everyone around you.

[2] Not to discourage such efforts – if you’re working on solutions to those problems, yee haw and keep at it!

[3]The fastest growing minority, but a minority still.

The Second Act I’m Not Staying For

1 Comment


Department of Duh

The opening, thumping drums and guitar riff to The White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army is mesmerizing, to say the least. It is also an unfortunate earworm to wake up with at three a.m., if your intention is to return to sleep. And mine was.


As soothing as a Brahms lullaby, trust us.

As soothing as a Brahms lullaby, trust us.

*   *   *


MH and I saw the second play of the Portland Center Stage season last Sunday. A part of me was hoping I would find the play boring or just unappealing; thus, when asked for my review, I could justifiably opine, Sex With Strangers is so overrated.” 




I had no idea.

No idea, that is, as to the reasons I indeed find the play unappealing. It wasn’t a “bad” play. But it wasn’t the play for me, at least at this point in my life.

In general, if I intend to see a movie or play I don’t read reviews about it – or even brief plot summaries – in advance.  A major theme of the SWS play was the intersection/conflict between art and commerce, as played out between the cast, which consisted of two writers. Had I known Sex With Strangers was going to be about writers arguing about writing I would have gone bowling instead.

Not to say it wasn’t done well, and I’m sure most of the audience enjoyed the battle of wits, sexes, and literary mores and intentions between the older, female, more-literary-(read: talented) and-commercially-unknown-but-with-integrity writer, vs. the younger, male, more-financially-successful-and-famous-or-infamous-and-cool-but-once-you-look-past-the-braddadocio-obviously-not-proud-of-what-he-does writer. Older writer was rightly aghast at the mountain of muck that exists due to the advent of self publishing…and how relatively quickly younger writer was able to get her to shelve her integrity and let him construct a false, more hip author’s profile for re-releasing her earlier, neglected novel on his new self-publishing application…

Ick, and ick again. It just sooooooooooo wasn’t for me.

By the play’s intermission I had a nasty headache from clenching my jaw. MH stayed to watch the second half of the play while I took a de-clenching walk around the neighborhood and was temporarily (but rewardingly) sucked into a retail vortex. Thank the FSM for Sur La Table – I found that soy sauce dispenser I’d been so desperately needing.



*   *   *

The Return I’m Not Applauding


That would be the return of Bloom County.




I know, I know. I seem to be one of the few FB denizen who isn’t performing the social media version of the Happy Dance, now that the much-beloved comic strip has returned.


"Bloom County is baaaaaack!"

“Bloom County is baaaaaack!”


I did read the comic strip on a semi-regular basis, during its initial publication period, but was never one of its most devoted fans. I couldn’t put my finger on my lack of enthusiasm, until the day I made a list, to confirm my suspicions.

BC major characters:

* Bill the Cat
* Cutter John
* Hodge-Podge (rabbit)
* Michael Binkley
* Milo Bloom
* Oliver Wendell Jones
* Opus (penguin)
* Portnoy (groundhog)
* Steve Dallas

Minor characters include [1]

* Bobbi Harlow
* Frank Jones (Oliver’s father)
* Lola Granola
* Milquetoast the Cockroach
* Mrs. Jones (Oliver’s mother) [2]
* Quiche Lorraine

* Tom Binkley


The major characters (including the talking animals) are all male.




I’m not saying Bloom County was a misogynistic, backasswater Islamic burg; however, to my curious mind at least, there is a connection. Bear with me.

When you see pictures, from still shots to newsreels, of life-out-side-the-home in a conservative Muslim nation, you might wonder how, in a land seemingly devoid of women, all those men were produced. Whether at a political demonstration or just going about the tasks everyday life – walking to and from work, at the marketplace or having coffee with a friend – the lack of females, shrouded or otherwise, is notable…if you pay attention.

Pay attention to contemporary American art and entertainment forms – from plays to movies to TV shows to comic strip. Now, imagine being an alien (or an anthropologist) looking to such forms to try and understand the culture that produced them:  you’d have no idea that females comprise more than half of the US population. [3]

I am woman, hear me roar/in numbers too big to ignore…
I am Woman, written and performed by Helen Reddy)

I love that song, and wish its opening sentiments were correct. But it seems the numbers aren’t too big to ignore when it comes to…sadly…just about any field.

I get that art and entertainment have no responsibility, inherent or otherwise, to be socially or demographically representative. But damnity damn, how it frosts my butt, and makes me feel old and tired, to have to “get that” excuse rationale, over and over and over….

Unlike Islamic state artists, [4]  American screenwriters and playwrights and directors and comic strip authors have the freedom to draw, create, and cast female characters in all kinds of roles. They can also depict them as scantily or as fully clad as they choose…and yet they still – unintentionally perhaps, but effectively – shroud women and girls with the burka of scarcity.

Not being seen is a form of being covered up.


Are these women, men, mannequins, corpses, lampposts, bundles of rebar? Who can tell?

Are these women, men, mannequins, corpses, lampposts, bundles of rebar? Who can tell?


Don’t get me wrong – I’m glad BC existed. I derived pleasure from many of its story lines, and sincerely believe the comic strip gave us an incalculable, lasting contribution to contemporary culture: an opportunity to appreciate the uncanny resemblance between Bill the Cat and actor Nick Nolte.




Cartoonist Berkeley Breathed was – and is – widely lauded [5] for creating Bloom County’s whimsical/imaginary world in Middle America, with storylines that lampooned big and small town culture and politics. I did enjoy (most of) BC’s take on the political ambiance of the 1980s, [6]  and hope that Breathed will do as well or better with the strip’s present day incarnation. [7]

Still, what I didn’t need then and do not desire now is for yet another artist to create yet another world, real or imaginary, wherein females are peripheral.

Yeah. Hear me fuckin’ roar.



*   *   *

Department of While I’m On The Subject

Listening to a recent Fresh Air podcast of the October 9 show, Steve Jobs: The Man, the Book, The Film produced two aha moments – one of which I’ve had before, both of which explain my almost visceral aversion to those who worship at the altar of Apple.

At one point in the interview, Walter Isaacson, author and Steve jobs’ biographer, addresses the issue of Jobs’ legendary volatility.

It’s one of the dichotomies about Jobs is he could be demanding and tough – at times, you know, really berating people and being irate. On the other hand, he got all A-players, and they became fanatically loyal to him…an artist who was a perfectionist and frankly wasn’t always the kindest person when they failed “

That is the near-perfect description of a cult leader.




Isaacson also compares the styles of Steve Jobs vs. Jobs’ rival and collaborator, Bill Gates:

Steve Jobs was more intuitive, operated in a much more volatile manner…. the biggest difference is that Jobs was very much a genius when it came to aesthetics, design, consumer desire. And Bill Gates…was much more of a focused businessperson than Jobs was.

Jobs’ intuition and artistic sensibilities are described several times in the interview, and those qualities are presented as strengths which enabled Jobs to envision and produce Apple’s “revolutionary” products and marketing. If Jobs had been a woman trying to make it in that field, those same qualities – intuition, volatility, focus on aesthetics – would have been seen as weaknesses. No one would have listened to her.


*   *   *

Department of Family In-Jokes

"You're out of croutons!"

“You’re out of croutons!”

*   *   *

Department Of The Customer Is Always Right…
And Sometimes Rightly Pissed Off

Dear Surly Checkout Clerk at a Major Pet Supplies [8] chain store,

I’m so sorry for interrupting your important slouching time last week, when I annoyed you by causing you to have to do your job. How persnickety of me to notice that you rang up my purchases without asking me for your store’s frequent buyer number – the number that gives me discounts on future purchases; the number your store’s clerks are supposed to ask for at the beginning of the transaction. I regret the pain I caused you when I meekly pointed out your oversight; the number of muscles employed to roll your eyes appeared to have been agony-inducing, as was the effort you put in to pointing your finger toward the payment screen and verbalizing your thinly-disguised disgust with what you mistakenly thought was my concern: “It doesn’t change the price.”

When I smiled at you with the patience your attitude did not merit and replied, “That’s not the point,” I selfishly caused you to grimace with the five seconds’ worth of effort it took to void and then reenter my purchase – a grimace which implied a colossal waste of your valuable slacker time (I’m sure you had better things to do with those seconds, despite the fact that there was no one else in line behind me, nor at any other register in the store) and which used facial muscles that clearly caused you discomfort, being as they were in such close proximity to your festering, so-hip-so-five-years-ago ear gauges.

Forgive me for entertaining, even for a nanosecond, my totally ungracious impulse to jam a feline hairball chew supplement down your throat when you once again took the effort to point out a factor which was not my concern – “It didn’t change the price” – but which, in your infinite, churlish wisdom, should have been my top priority.

I offer one more mea culpa for the small-minded thoughts I had while leaving the store – thoughts having to do about the importance of a brick-and-mortar store’s customer service [9]– especially these days, when we can often find the products we seek online, at a lower cost. Consumers rarely have the incentive to think about courteous customer service– how kind of you to go out of your way to inspire me to consider the concept.

Sincerely and contritely yours,
Another enlightened customer


*   *   *

May your customer service exceed all expectations,
may your second acts be tolerable if not inspirational,
may your earworms be lullaby-worthy,
may you never run out of croutons,
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!



[1] “Minor” = having appeared in the strip in “sideline” stories that were not central to the strip’s development and overall story arc (e.g., Bobbie, Quiche and Lola were love interests of the major characters).

[2] That’s her identification –Oliver’s mother and Frank’s wife. Oliver’s father at least gets a first name.

[3] Forbes magazine, hardly a bastion journal of feminist thought, even addressed the discrepancy by publishing  Women Still Ridiculously Underrepresented in Movies.

[4] If such exist, they are, sadly, well-hidden.

[5] Much to the chagrin of actual editorial cartoonists, Breathed’s Bloom County won a Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning in 1987.

[6] Can you believe that Donald Trump has provided fodder for cartoonists for 30+ years? Of course you can.

[7] I also hope he will continue to be patient with those of us who continue to mispronounce his surname.

[8] Hint: not Petco.

[9] In all fairness to the chain itself, their customer service dept.  was promptly responsive to the complaint I filed on line.

The Teacher I’m Not Eulogizing



No, this isn’t a eulogy – not in the classic definition of the word. More like a stroll down Memory Lane [2] while reading a love note about an adored teacher and mentor.

Welcome to the tribute blog edition.
Content warning: more family friendly than usual. [1]

Late last year I was delighted to be contacted by R__ Clucas, son of my former high school teacher, Ted Clucas. Mr. Clucas’ son had contacted me after coming across a blog post wherein I’d mentioned The Generator, Santa Ana High School’s award-winning student newspaper. R__  shared kind words re Mr. Clucas’ fondness for his students, in particular The Generator crew (Mr. Clucas had become the newspaper’s advisor during my senior year, and remained so for several years after that). R__ also let me know that his father was in frail health.


Ted Clucas, ca. 1975.

Ted Clucas, ca. 1975.


Last week I received a FB message from R__ , excerpted here:

I thought you would want to know that my dad, Ted Clucas, died yesterday. If you are in contact with any other former Santa Ana High students and Generator staff members, perhaps you can pass along that information to them….
It is sad, but I know he lived a long and good life. I also know that advising the Generator and working with students was one of the things he enjoyed most in life.

I did indeed pass along the news. Many SASH alum shared their memories of Mr. Clucas on the FB post, as well as their reflections on teachers and teaching in general. [3] The personal remarks – all loving and generous – I passed along to Mr. Clucas’ son and widow.

There was a pattern to the comments: Ted Clucas is remembered for his kindness, patience, and sage, good humored guidance. I can’t think of a better legacy for a teacher – he was one of “the good guys” whom we both liked and respected.


I had more sweaters, but Ted Clucas' students had a sassier mascot.

I had more sweaters, but Ted Clucas’ students had a sassier mascot.


A couple of the reflections got me thinking more about the act and art of teaching.

… he did always strike me as part of that wonderful old guard that ushered us through a certain moment in time. A few others I have less fond memories of, but in the greatness of time, they matter less.

I’ve often thought about the “management style” we learned from our teachers & coaches. Most was really poor, having to be unlearned later. Not with Mr. Clucas. We accomplished great things, worked hard & had fun. He was a gift.

A part of that wonderful old guard that ushered us through a certain moment in time. 

So well put (thanks, TF). As for some of that old guard…well…in that certain, Orwellian sense, some of our ushers were more equal than others.

As I watched my now college-age children navigate through their series of high school teachers – some of whom I wanted to nominate for a Nobel Peace Prize, some of whom were no better than trained circus monkeys – I would often marvel at the discrepancies in teachers’ attitudes and abilities, [4] and also at what are seemingly twists of fate, where one bad experience can deactivate a child’s interest in a subject or field they liked…and, of course, how one good teacher can ignite a spark that fosters a lifelong passion for a subject the student had once thought dull, difficult or inconsequential.

What combination of inborn and/or acquired personality traits, training and education, and simple force of will produce a good teacher? (If I had the answer, I’d nominate moiself to the Nobel Prize committee). How much of being an influential, memorable mentor involves a conscious decision,

I shall be like this, and not this.
I shall do and say this, but not this.

and how much is simply an unconscious reaction to circumstance and stimuli? And which came first?



From my FB post of June 11:

Attention SAHS alumni , and in particular *The Generator* staff members: please pass along this news to anyone who might be interested. Ted Clucas, longtime and beloved SAHS teacher and student journalism advisor, died yesterday.

Ted “Teddy” Clucas was both role model and cat wrangler when it came to mentoring 1975’s The Generator  staff. I’ve met few people in life with his combination of wisdom and patience (and yes, he let me get away with calling him “Teddy”). His name will always be on my list of favorite teachers, for so many reasons.

Oh, and about that mascot Mr. Rogers mentioned. I’ll get there. Eventually

Ted Clucas taught high school English, Composition and Literature classes for many years, and became the journalism class teacher and student newspaper advisor during my senior year. I had him for a literature class, and recall wonderfully instructive, generous and sometimes testy back-and-forth discussions about the significance and relevance of Great Expectations and other so-called classics. [5] My recollections also include his at once stern and bemused admonishment – Ms. Parnell! – when he thought I’d gone too far with my comments. That admonishment was to become my de facto nickname (shortened to, Parnell!) during my senior year, when he was my journalism advisor. The rebuke was always good natured (looking back, I sometimes cringe to think of how we tested his tolerance), usually produced in response to the pranks I and other Generator staff pulled.

One of the pranks, by select members of The Generator staff and other students, was an epic toilet-papering of Teddy’s house.  Mr. Clucas was wise enough to see that act as the compliment it was meant to be, where other teachers would have seen harassment or even vandalism.  He felt honored, and rightly so. We didn’t just tp any teacher’s house.

Another of the pranks was ongoing, and involved something more personal. Mr. Clucas spoke with a noticeable lisp.[6]  He of course was well aware of this, and also of the teasing he sometimes received about it. He never took the bait; if a student pointed out or even mocked his lisp, Mr. Clucas reacted as if the comment were along the lines of, “You are wearing a brown tie.”  Yes, I am.

Of the many, mildly unfair mysteries of life, two related ones stand out to me: that the word lisp has an s in it, as does the name Clucas. Because…there’s a story, about a telephone.

That would be the telephone in Mr. Clucas’ journalism classroom. The Generator‘s staffroom was one of the few classrooms with telephone access available to students. Even though we had use of the phone to make calls (groundbreaking reporters that we were), when the classroom phone rang it was supposed to be answered by the advisor. The phone didn’t ring very often, but every time – and I mean every single time – it did, if I were present and/or available, I moiself or one of the newspaper’s Merry Pranksters [7] would rush to the phone and answer it by saying:

“Mither Clucath thpeaking.”

"Please tell me you didn't make that so."

“Please tell me you didn’t make that so.”

Yeth, I did.

Okay, not every time. Sometimes the greeting was, Clucas’ Massage Parlor. Either way, Mr. C would cross his arms, shake his head, and try oh-so-unsuccessfully to prevent the corners of his mouth from twitching upward.


“Teddy” was both mentor and cheerleader when it came to my writing. I wrote various feature articles for the paper, from straight news to reviews to editorials, but my main focus was my regular editorial column, Parnal Knowledge.  As journalism advisor Mr. Clucas was seen, by his fellow teachers, the school administrators, and adult/parent readers of The Generator, as being ultimately responsible for the newspaper’s content. Thus, “the heat” was on him, on many occasions…often due to something I had written.  [8]

I received nothing but support from him when my columns were criticized, whether for content, fact or tone. He was even excited about the first piece of “hate mail” we received. The first time I received an angry letter from a teacher (and soon after that, a parent), he was almost beside himself with glee. I didn’t understand what the big whoop was about, until he told me it was the ultimate compliment and even litmus test for a writer.

“It means someone is reading – it means that you’ve made someone think about something that made them uncomfortable!”

1975 The Generator Staff photo, from my yearbook. Ted Clucas standing in the back row, far left. Yours truly front and center, to the left of Clucas Massage Parlor sign. Our mascot, Theodore, is seated in the second row, far right.

1975 The Generator Staff photo, from my yearbook. Ted Clucas standing in the back row, far left. Yours truly front and center, to the left of Clucas Massage Parlor sign. Our mascot, Theodore, is seated in the second row, far right.


The Generator staff was a rough crowd, not suitable for the esteem-challenged nor timorous of spirit. We constructed a class mascot, whom we christened Theodora, in honor of Teddy.  Theodora, a home-made dummy dressed in what I can only describe as pre-punk attire, which included part of a Girl Scout Uniform, had the middle digit of her right hand permanently affixed in what my WWII veteran father decorously referred to as the one finger salute. We installed Theodora in The Generator staffroom, with Teddy’s full knowledge and grudging acceptance if not permission, and her “offensive presence” was noted by several of the few teachers who dared darken the doorways of the journalism classroom. [9]

Each member of The Generator staff had his or her Generator nickname. A few of the more family-friendly ones I can mention included Kisser Carr, Quickie Lynn, Free Sample, and Frostie. [10] The Generator also had its own end-of-the-year awards banquet, during which we bestowed upon each other titles mocking those of the typical high school Senior Class Awards. [11]   For example, we voted our Sports/Fourth Page editor Best Nickname (“Bad Ass Cota”), and the student in charge of the newspaper’s distribution and circulation won the coveted title of Most Likely to Conceive.

And yes, when the latter title was bestowed, Mr. Clucas was sitting in the back of the classroom, shaking his head, not even bothering to stifle his chuckles. [12]

Theodora is ready for her close-up

Theodora is ready for her close-up

*   *   *

* He was one of my HS favorites. Very kind & patient. Looking back, he often seemed quietly amused with the stupidity of adolescence.

He was fully cognizant of our adolescent foolishness, yet was amused by it and never patronized us.

* Mr. C ignited my passion for journalism back in 7th grade…. The torch continues to burn to this day…Mr. C was not only a mentor, but a friend….

* He was a treasure. That rare combination of wisdom, humor, and elegance personified. One of my favorite experiences at SAHS, his English class and the Generator experience.

* Oh, yes, I remember him….bemused by our antics, gently guiding us away from the precipice when necessary. Don’t I remember a chuckle he had?

I, too, remember that chuckle, and so much more. Our little corner of the world was a better, kinder, wiser, and funnier place, because it had Ted Clucas in it.

*   *   *

May you have the good fortune to have your heart warmed by fond memories of an awesome teacher and mentor,
and may you have the good determination to be the kind of person who will be fondly remembered…
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *



[1] Not to worry, regular readers, the feminist-freethinking-political-cultural rants shall return next week. With an extra bonus – fart jokes!

[2] An actual street in Santa Ana, one that will be familiar to those who are referenced in this not-a-eulogy.

[3] It was a thoughtful bunch – many of whom after high school pursued careers in journalism and other forms of writing.

[4] as well as my own surprise that “this ( good teacher, bad teacher) is still going on?!”

[5] Frequently, for the sake of argument, I challenged the application of the label “classic” to whatever book we were reading. Imagine that.

[6] I was a fellow lisper, but in recovery:  I had gone to speech therapy sessions in grade school.

[7] Okay, it was mostly me, and at least two others Who Shall Not Be Named At This Time and in This Venue…but it was never, ever our Editor-in-Chief, Deborah Franklin, who went on to become a respected freelance science writer and NPR contributor. Deb was too kind and genteel for such base shenanigans (although I caught her laughing at them on more than one occasion).

[8] Including, from the very first issue, the name of my column.

[9] What the heck – Theodora kept the blue noses at bay.

[10] A nickname I’d bestowed on our newspaper photographer as per his tendency (in my eyes) to strut stiff-legged, as if his underwear had been frozen.

[11] Most Likely to Succeed, Most Studious, Most Athletic, Campus Clown… you know the drill.

[12] I think this is enough footnotes, don’t you?

The Culture I’m Not Promoting

Comments Off on The Culture I’m Not Promoting

Today’s theme – broadly interpreted (by this broad) – is Arts and Literature

That's funny! No, that's pathetic!

She’s funny! No, she’s pathetic!

*   *   *

Department of Things I Am Not Afraid to Confess

“Carefully orchestrated pandiculations follow a routine: Lips part, the tongue hunkers down, and muscles in the face, mouth and diaphragm engage as the head tilts back.”
(Laura Sanders, Science News, May 7, 2011)

I am a pandiculator; that is, I am one who pandiculates. And it has nothing to do with fantasizing after watching a certain Daniel Day-Lewis movie. [1]

You want to pandiculate. Admit it. And you already (probably) do, and don’t realize it.

Your cat pandiculates (just as you’ve always suspected), and so does your dog and your hamster.  Your snake?  Well, that might be stretching it (rim shot!).

Why do quadrupeds have all the fun?

Why do quadrupeds have all the fun?

*   *   *

Blast From the Past: The Domes Live On

“The trill of panpipes from a yurt wafted across the mulch hillocks of the Domes, a 1970s experiment in communal housing in which students live in igloo-like fiberglass domes….”

Thus begins Wednesday’s New York Times article about The Domes at UC Davis. I was surprised and pleased to see the article; I had no idea the domes still existed.

I was not a Dom-ie during my UC Davis years. My on-campus housing situation consisted of spending four quarters on the legendary 3rd Floor of Bixby, [2] one of the campus’ high rise dorms.  I had an acquaintance who lived in the Domes, and visited her there, once.  Although I admired the concept of the Domes I loathed the name students gave the complex (“Baggins End”). [3]

Still, they were – they are – kinda cute.


*   *   *

Department of Theatrical Plays You Must See

We licked postage stamps…
we didn’t have answering machines, you had to call people back!

No one was more surprised than moiself to find moiself tearing up at a Christopher Durang comedy. Specifically, during Act 2 of Portland Center Stage’s production of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.

Vanya’s poignant, digressive tirade – prefaced by the apology/declaration Boomers feel is necessary when expressing a longing for something from our past – contained two comments/observations that made me catch my breath in recognition and sadness.  I found myself mourning the validity of Vanya’s comments, then, an hour or so later I wondered,  does even recognizing the validity of those comments mean that I’ve gotten old?

I’m NOT a conservative!… But there are things I miss about the past.
We have no shared memories anymore!

Regarding the latter, I realize that you can’t miss what you’ve never had.  Nevertheless, I’ve tried to explain to my (now young adult) children the collective consciousness of popular culture that arose from the post WWII era, that began to fade with the advent of cable TV, and that no longer seems possible in these days of 24 hour broadcasts of 758 channels (not to mention the plethora of internet media outlets). Sure, many of the shows were lousy or just plain dull.  But we all watched them, and thus had the same references.  We all watched the same lousy shows.

...and we could all sing along to the lousy theme songs!

We could all sing along to the lousy theme songs!


During the play I was seated next to two lovely [4] gentlemen, and struck up a conversation with them after the final curtain.  One of them has extensive experience in the performing arts and writes reviews of regional theatrical productions.  If you like live theatre, [5] check out his blog, DennisSparksReviews.

*   *   *

Department of, But, Really

Content warning: seriously petty snark ahead.

A known photo-phobic such as moiself has no right to criticize the unattractiveness of another person’s publicity shot.  That said, guess what I’m about to do?

It’s like this. I assume that when a musical group is taking or posing for a promo shot, they want to look “good,” whatever that entails for …well, for their individual egos, for the image the band is trying to project, for the fan base to which they are trying to appeal, their musical genre, etc. The elements that make for an “attractive” picture for The Dead Kennedys [6]

I feel pretty, oh so pretty....

I feel pretty, oh so pretty….


…likely are significantly different than those of the promo shots commissioned by The Portland Cello Project.

Do these ginormous violins make our butts look big?

Do these ginormous violins make our butts look big?

Different strokes – yep. I get that.

Still… I could search the universe of inhabitable planets, other worlds, other species, both virtual and speculative, and it is hard to imagine that I would find a sentient being with a more homely, less attractive hairstyle and overall “look” than that borne by the sole female member of The Decemberists, [7] who is featured front and center in the band’s just shoot me now I can’t believe someone approved this shot photo on the cover of The Oregonian’s arts & entertainment section last Friday.



The male members of the band fare a smidge better, if you go for the Awkward and Slightly Bored Bohemian Accounts Payable Clerk ®  mode. As for the lady boho, nothing says Hipper-than-Thou-Indie-folk-rock-Darlings like musicians who project all the free spirit vibe of a runner-up to the Miss 1919 Frumpy Librarian contest crossed with your dowdy Aunt Erva’s it’s-five-o’clock-where’s-my-Jim-Beam-tumbler sneer.

I’m trying to think of an excuse.  Was there no one there to look through the photographer’s lens and say, whoa, Betty!?  Friends don’t let friends photograph drunk.

*   *   *

Department of But What Matters in the End Has Nothing To Do With Your Hair
Aka, Books You Must Read

Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

 After reading this amazing, absorbing, provocative, compassionate, thought-provoking book, a certain thought kept coming to my mind:

When it comes to end of life medical care, safety – rather, the concern over/illusion of safety – is the enemy of happiness and purpose.

Anyone who has older friends and family members – or friends and family of any age who are facing mortal illness – should read this book. You who will, one day sooner or later, be older and in more frail health than you are today – you should read this book.

I think that covers it.

Well, what are you waiting for?!

What are you waiting for?!

*   *   *

☼   K Explains It All   ☼

“Do you know what this is?” I asked my son.

K had entered my office, attracted and bemused by the danger!-explosion!-chase!pow!-kablooey! coming from my computer screen. I’d clicked on a video posted on a friend’s FB page – a trailer for an upcoming movie I’d never heard of, based on a book I’d never read.

“It’s like the Hunger Games, only shitty,” K sneered. “Another YA book about another dystopian future, where everyone is evil or in peril until they are saved by the one special snowflake character.”

Yeah, that’s what I thought.


*   *   *

May your special snowflake be there when it matters (packing serious heat, of course, and a fetching hipster hairdo), and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!



[1] I will find you!

[2] Third floor Bixby had groupies – students living on other floors of Bixby, or even from other dorms, who came to our floor to hang out because we were way too much fun.

[3] There seemed to be no escaping Tolkien references in the late ’70s, which was torture for those of us who found the Hobbit/Lord of the Rings books and their cultish fans to be an interminable, that’s-so-junior-high snooze fest.

[4] I adore being able to accurately describe someone in that way. I’m using my Masterpiece Theatre typing accent, in case you didn’t notice.

[5] And if you don’t, you should. No pandiculating required.

[6] Whatever happened to Jello Biafra, one of the great band member names of all time?

[7] Some of their songs I live very much, as much as I loathe the Portland Special Darling status they have acquired with some local critics (a status certain members of the band seem to take seriously) .

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