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The Novel Characters I’m Not Liking

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Department Of Things Are Never Going To Get Better
Until We Start Asking The Correct  Questions

 

 

Whether posed from a pro-choice supporter who encourages openness as being essential to  debates over reproductive freedom and (ironically) privacy, or from a rape hotline volunteer who is working to bring the statistics of sexual assault into the public consciousness, IMO people – well-meaning and otherwise – keep asking the wrong questions.

Question, posed to a woman:
Have you ever had an abortion?

Question which *should* be posed to a man – either preceding or following the previous question – but never rarely is:
Have you ever, even potentially,   [1]  been the cause of an abortion?
(Translation: have you ever had sexual relations with a woman, consensual or otherwise, in which your intent was not to father a wanted pregnancy? )

 

 

Question, posed to a woman:
Have you ever been sexually assaulted?

Question which *should* be posed to a man – either preceding or following the previous question – but never rarely is:
Have you – or any male friend/relative/acquaintance you know of –
ever sexually assaulted anyone?

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Doing the Thing I Wasn’t Going To Do

Moiself  has started a book club.

Always the vanguard of creativity and novelty, I am calling it, Book Club.

 

 

The reason why I wasn’t going to do it: my experiences in the previous BCs I’ve been a part of.

The BCs dealing with nonfiction were fine, and more than that – highly enjoyable and educational.  But when it came to BCs that included – or were totally centered around – works of fiction…not so much.  What would happen: at least one of the other BC members would find out that I was a published author of fiction (something I tried to keep under wraps) and “out” me to the group.  This revelation tainted the BC experience for moiself, and also, it seemed, for many if not all of the other members.  I noted a deference, toward moiself, from the other members, which frustrated, saddened, and frankly nauseated me.

The other BC members would noticeably defer (sometimes downright obsequiously) to my opinions, or change theirs if they’d spoken first and then it was my turn to speak  [2]  and I offered a different perspective, or ask me to express my thoughts before they’d offer theirs. They’d even come right out and say something along the lines of:

“Well, as an author, you know more than I do about….”

Ick, ick, ick.

And no amount of encouragement on my part –  that their opinions and feelings as readers were equally valid (or even more so) than mine as a writer  [3]  – seemed to relieve that deferential dynamic.

The straw which broke my BC camel’s back…

 

“Ooh, thank you for that.”

 

…you’re welcome.

As I was saying typing, the straw which broke my BC camel’s back was when we members of BC #4 were discussing A Thousand Acres, author Jane Smiley’s contemporary retelling of Shakespeare’s King Lear.

ATA was a book I did not care for.  As it turned out, not one person in the group did, although the other members were initially hesitant to express their distaste for ATA, seeing as how the literary critics were coming in their pants over their eagerness to heap praise upon it (in my opinion…which I managed not to express to the BC  in the words moiself  has used here).

So; none of us liked it.  But, whyMoiself  kept her mouth shut until everyone else had spoken, when I found out that everyone else in the group didn’t enjoy reading ATA because “There were no likeable characters in the book.”

Um, okay.  Moiself  didn’t partucularly “like” any of the book’s main characters. But, what about the story itself – the plot, the pacing, the way the story of those unlikeable characters unfolded?  I tried to present the idea that a story can be compelling without containing characters which you, the reader, find likeable or “identifiable-with-able.”  I mean, seriously, dudes: who is “likeable” in Macbeth?

Moiself  didn’t like the book because I didn’t like the story being told, in the way it was told.  I didn’t care for the plot content and trajectory, which never engaged my attention, and…oh, never mind.

I tried, very carefully and respectfully, to offer an alternative perspective to not-liking-something, which some of the other BC members took as me trying to talk them out of *not* liking the book – which, as I ‘d already stated, moiself  Also. Did. Not. Like.

 

 

Fast forward to at least two decades later. The first meeting of “my” BC was last Thursday, and seemed to be a rousing success. A nice mix of life backgrounds and opinions among the members;   [4]  moiself received good feedback; everyone seems looking forward to next month’s meeting.  The format, which is open to modification as per members’ suggestions and preferences,    [5]   is fairly simple:  Once a month; my place; all who are able to do so bring a plate of appetizer/canape/”finger food” type goodies to share (and/or conversation-stimulating beverages);  we nosh and sip and talk about the book.

 

 

At the end of the evening we offer suggestions for next month’s book, based on the month’s theme, which has been announced in advance.

I wanted this BC, instead of specializing in genres, to offer a wide variety of reading options.  I didn’t want to host (or participate in) an all fiction or all nonfiction group. In order to offer the widest variety of possibilities – and perhaps force moiself  to read at least one book a year in a category I don’t normally opt for (e.g., history), moiself  came up with a list of themes (and a clarification of them), which I shall ever-so-humbly share with y’all now, in case this idea is also appealing to you.    [6]

 

 

Book Club Monthly Themes

* January: Literary Classics You Should Have Read
I never made it through War and Peace (and have no desire to do so now), how about you?  But there are plenty of other classics I’d like to give a go (or would be willing to re-read, since I’ve probably forgotten most of, say, Moby Dick).  What constitutes a “classic”? Think of your high school/college literature class reading lists.

* February: Short story collections
“If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.”
This quote (variously attributed to everyone from Twain to Voltaire) is related to a category that never quite gets its due recognition, but in which (so-called) New World authors have excelled, from past practitioners like Mark Twain and Ray Bradbury (The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and other stories; The Illustrated Man) to relative newcomers Edwidge Dandicat and Tim O’Brien (Ghosts; The Things They Carried).

*  March: Feminism  “I Am Woman; Hear Me Roar (and see me read).”
Sisterhood is powerful, as we’ll see when we delve into/revisit the classics of first and second wave feminist thought (Mary Wollstonecraft’s The Vindication of the Rights of Women; Betty Freidan’s The Feminist Mystique; Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch; Gloria Steinem’s The Truth Will Set you Free But First It Will Piss You Off ) as well as the “Third Wave” feminists’ updates (Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist; Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me).

* April: Regional – “She flies with her own wings” (and reads with her own eyes).
Did you recognize Oregon’s state motto? Yeah, it’s somewhat…lame, but it’s a great state and region we are privileged to live in. In April we’ll affirm that by reading and discussing a book either written by an Oregon/Pacific NW author, or one that deals with Oregon/Pacific settings and/or subjects.  From Ursula LeGuin’s sci-fi novels to Stephen Ambrose’ history of the Lewis & Clark expedition, this theme could include almost any literary category.

* May:  Freethought  “Having faith is believing in something you just know ain’t true.”
This quote from Twain leads us to themes of humanism, skepticism, and freethought. We’ll be choosing from the writings of those who are-religion free, such as the provocative manifestos of Sam Harris (The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason) and Christopher Hitchens (God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything), the memoir of activist Dan Barker (Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America’s Leading Atheists), and the historical works of Susan Jacoby (Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism).

* June: “Pride Month” writers
From the semi-autobiographical fiction of Rita Mae Brown  (Bingo; Six of One) to the essay collections of David Sedaris (Me Talk Pretty One Day) to the novels of James Baldwin (Giovanni’s Room) to the poetry of Justin Chin (Harmless Medicine)– this is yet another category which can encompass all genres.  From poetry to political manifestos, the only requirement for a June book is that the book’s author identifies as LGBTQ. 

 

 

 

 

* July: History and other Non-fiction
The broadest category of all, this could cover anything from self-help to ancient civilizations to true crime to WWII narratives….

* August: Memoir/Biography/Autobiography
From the thought-provoking, introspective life story of an esteemed philosopher to the behind-the-scenes memoir of a pivotal political figure to the how-it-all-happened tale of a groundbreaking scientist to the riotous recollections of a ribald rock musician, books in this non-fiction category must tell a story about someone’s life  (note: I reserve the right to have veto power when it comes to books about Kardashians and their ilk).

* September: International Literature. “The world is my country….” (Thomas Paine).
The timeless works of England’s Jane Austin; the complex novels of the Russian “masters”  (but please, no War and Peace); the contemporary stories of India’s Arundhati Roy;  the poetry of Chile’s Pablo Neruda; the essays of Nigeria’s Chinua Achebe – a September BC book can be fiction or nonfiction, as long as its author is/was a citizen of a country other than the USA.    [7]

* October:  Controversial Authors
This theme could (and hopefully will) spur conversations about how we separate artists’ work from their personal lives (and whether or not this should even be a goal). 

Charles Dickens critiqued the poverty and social stratification of Victorian England via his characters’ memorable stories.  Yet historians who’ve read Dicken’s personal letters tell us that the man known as a compassionate champion of family values – the man who wrote so sympathetically about the plight of Tiny Tim – was a SOB to his own family. [8]

Are the stories of Sherman Alexie still worthwhile, after the critically-acclaimed author was accused of (and admitted to) sexual harassment?  Will you read J.D. Vance’s best-selling memoir about poverty-stricken Appalachia (Hillbilly Elegy) now that Vance has embraced ultra conservative politics?  If a writer is unrepentant when confronted with a racist remark from his past but wrote a damn fine  [9]  novel, do you give yourself permission to read his work?

* November:  Books Made Into Movies. “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”  [10]

When it comes to film adaptations of novels, avid readers often declare, The book is always better.  Here’s your chance to affirm that, or discover that, in some cases, the opposite may hold true.   From Jaws to Sense and Sensibility, from The Color Purple to The Maltese Falcon, from The Wizard of Oz  to The World According to Garp, this category is for cinephiles as well as literature lovers. Perhaps we’ll be introduced to books we didn’t even know were adapted into movies (I bet more of us have watched the movie Forrest Gump than have read the novel).

* December:  Embarrassing Or Guilty Pleasures.
Is That A Nora Roberts Novella In Your Pocket Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?”   We’ll end the year with books we may not so eager to admit we like, because they aren’t literary enough.  We know we’re supposed to read books which challenge us intellectually (that effin’ War and Peace again) – titles that would look impressive on our Goodreads resumes.  Still, there are times when we want to rest our brains with a “light” read, be it a murder mystery, romance, fantasy/sci-fi, action/adventure, western – whatever your favorite genre.   And sorry, although it provided a plot point for a cute movie (Book Club), as BC host and instigator I reserve my power to veto all shades of 50 Shades of….

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Books Clubs Edition

Our Book club is reading a novel about anti-gravity. It’s impossible to put down.

I finally got my book Club to read Jane Austen. They just needed a little Persuasion.

Our new Book Club member says she doesn’t like Lord of the Rings,
but she doesn’t know what she’s Tolkien about.

Our book Club bartender recommended we read his favorite book:
Tequila Mockingbird.

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you like a book with unlikeable characters;
May you remember to ask the right questions;
May you enjoy the last week of summer;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Potentially, as in, you had unprotected intercourse with a woman, wherein the intention was not to get her pregnant, and she did not get pregnant (but could have).

[2] In one of the BCs the format was to go around the circle, each person speaking once so that everyone got a turn, and then it was open to everyone to take it from there.

[3] Although I wasn’t there, at those groups, as a writer, but as a fellow reader.

[4] Except where politics are concerned…which came into the conversation and it seems we’re all on the left side of the page, if you know what I mean and I think you do.

[5] Although for simplicity’s sake I offered to be permanent host (hoping that *not* having to host will make it easier on someone who is interested but hesitant if a rotating host schedule is required, which I’d seen in other groups), I made it clear that it is our, not *my* group, and we can change the meeting time/place/format as we see fit to do so.

[6] Steal borrow these if  you like.  I’d be flattered…with a bit of attribution.

[7] This month we read The Story of My Teeth, by Valeria Luiselli.  A book I really enjoyed, but probably never would have discovered, had I not created this themed list.

[8] Dickens hated his mother, was cruel to his wife and schemed (unsuccessfully) to have her institutionalized when he was having an adulterous affair. With his children he followed a pattern of initial enthusiasm followed by utter disillusionment and disparaged them to his friends (even hoping for the death of one son who’d disappointed him).

[9] Keeping in mind that “damn fine,” like any artistic judgment, us ultimately subjective, even though the “crimes” and deficiencies the author is being accused of may be more objectively defined.

[10] A quote from the movie “Jaws,” the memorable line was not in the novel but was adlibbed by actor Roy Scheider.

The Slip I’m Not Adjusting

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Department Of It Didn’t Happen

Dateline: yesterday, September 1.  For as long as I have lived in Oregon,    [1]  something has happened on September 1.  Whether or not I’ve been aware of the date, on the first day of September when I go out for a morning walk (or just to pick up the newspaper, back when we subscribed to four “dead tree” news sources), the air is…different.  Not only the temperature, but the air *feel,* and the smell.

After the first eight or so years of this happening, I’d think to moiself, Oh yeah – today must be September 1.

On September 1 we still have three weeks left of (technical) summer. But, even if the next day we go back to August air temps and “feels;” and even if this going-back continues for another two days or two weeks…something about September 1 is a gateway to autumn.

But not yesterday.

Yesterday morning felt like the previous morning, and the morning before that:  a warmer than usual August day.  Is this a September 1 an outlier?  Or another global warming harbinger?  [2]

I was 30 minutes into my walk before my phone buzzed and I looked at it, saw the date, and realized it was September 1…and something was missing.

 

l

Autumn on Sweet Creek Trail, Oregon Coast Range  [3]

*   *   *

Department Of Random Acts Of Oddness

Dateline: last Friday afternoon; a local grocery store.  I’m slowly pushing my mini-cart down an aisle.  I stop for about thirty seconds, no doubt sporting the Scanning The Shelves For The Item I Cannot Find,® blank look on my face.  Then I hear a voice:

“The slip – it just keeps slipping up.”

I turn to look behind me and to the right, from whence the voice, and behold the woman who just uttered those nonsensical profound words, apparently, to moiself  (there is no other human in this particular aisle).  Her left arm is resting on one of the store’s standard-sized grocery carts, which is about 25% filled with various items.  She flashes me an ample, somewhat sheepish smile as she points to her hips and tugs at…something below her waistband, with her right hand.

“My slip; it just keeps slipping up.
It’s supposed to be down, but it keeps coming…up.”

Slip Woman is clad in a white blouse, a navy-blue shirt, some clog-like shoes, and her wavy brown-going-gray-hair is pulled back in a ponytail.  Although she looks a little frazzled,   [4]  she doesn’t have that street person vibe about her.  Nor do I recognize in her the kind of eyes that stare at you but don’t really see you – eyes that stare *through* you, as in, when a Certain Kind Of Person approaches you (and by you I mean, moiself ) and starts in with the non-sequiturs…which has happened to me quite often in my time on this planet, particularly in my after-college years, when I was automobile-less and rode public transit.

 

 

It happened to me so often that I once asked a friend, as I was preparing to take a bus to a job interview, to check the back of my jacket to make sure there wasn’t a neon sign affixed there which flashed some version of the following message:

“Are you angry? Lonely? Irrationally exuberant? Confused? Tired?
Frustrated with politics or sex or irresponsible chihuahua owners?

You *really* should tell this woman all about it, RIGHT NOW.”

At one point I thought that, unbeknownst to me, moiself  must have ridden a bus wherein Weird Al Yankovic was a passenger, and as Weird Al observed what happened to me he was thus inspired to write Another One Rides The Bus – his parody of the Queen song, Another One Bites The Dust.

 

 

Once again, I digress.

 

 

Okay: Slip Woman keeps tugging at the waistband of her skirt and repeats her line about how troublesome it is that her slip won’t stay…wherever it is supposed to stay.  Since I deem her *not* to be a Crazy Person Who Talks To Strangers ®, I think that perhaps her slip was indeed riding up and she was trying to fix it as she turned her cart into this aisle of the grocery store, where she saw me and suddenly became self-conscious about adjusting her undergarments in a public place…  As in, she is assuming – incorrectly – that I’d noticed her doing so…and now she has to explain herself so that I don’t think she’s just randomly tugging at her hindquarters.

 

 

Still, no matter what “sense” is behind her statement, it strikes me as an odd thing to say to a stranger.  So, I decide to not be a stranger, for a moment.  I make what I hope is a knowing, reassuring, Ahhhhh noise, followed with a comment about how “these things” always happen in public places, don’t they?

And I smile and push my cart up the aisle, on to another part of the store…when what I really want to say to her is,  “You’re wearing a slip…really?  Why?”

As I walked to my car in the store’s parking lot, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  Who wears slips anymore, anyway?  Is that still a thing?  [5]

 

 

I can’t remember the last time I wore a slip; I can only remember the last time I *didn’t* wear a slip…and someone thought I should have.

 

 

 

Thank you for asking.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away,    [6]  moiself  was attending the wedding of my older sister’s eldest daughter.  The wedding was held in a chapel in the Irvine hills, on a brilliantly sunny, So Cal afternoon.  After the ceremony, as I was standing by the pew where I’d been seated and had begun chatting with a family member, a Well-Meaning Church Lady Friend ® of my sister’s sidled up to me.  WMCLF® leaned her mouth close to my ear and, with a deadly serious sotto voce,– as if she were warning me that I should not panic but please be advised that a tsunami is headed this way and we’ve all five minutes to live – earnestly informed me that, standing as I was (with my back to the blinding sun which streamed in through the chapel’s floor-to-ceiling glass walls),

“…you can see your legs through your skirt!”

 

 

 

 

I’m not sure which of the following three things disappointed WMCLF® the most:    [7]

(1) My somewhat laconic reply (“Uh…yeah…I do have legs underneath my skirt.”);

(2) My somewhat not-hiding-the-fact-that-I-didn’t-consider-her-telling-me-that-to-be-the-equivalent-of-sharing-our-nation’s-nuclear-launch-codes, lack of enthusiasm as to the importance of her observation, which she thought was so urgent to share;  [8]   

(3) There was no third thing, somewhat or otherwise;

(4) No fourth thing either.  However, if WMCLF® had known the least bit about me, she would have realized what a big deal it was for me to actually be wearing a skirt.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Causes To Fight For

How can moiself  be so petty as to devote almost an entire blog to stories about a superficial piece of a  women’s undergarment, when there are so many pressing social, political, and cultural issues to be addressed?  Such as, my beef with the NY Times word game, Spelling Bee.

Along with Wordle and Quordle and a couple other NY Times games, Spelling Bee is a game I enjoy playing in the early morning.  Spelling Bee  is a word game “…that challenges players to construct as many (minimum 4 letters) words as they can using pre-selected letters. Each word must include the center letter provided in the puzzle.”  The game’s creator uses a “curated list” of words, as I discovered over a year ago when, although among that day’s SB‘s seven letters were C A L R, I constructed “caracal,” only to be told that that the name for that magnificent African wildcat was not acceptable.

 

 

What word nerd of a hairball doesn’t think I’m acceptable?

 

 

I was so cheesed off about it that I wrote to the editor/curator, who replied with the lame excuse  reasonable explanation about curating a list so as to reach a wide audience.  I’ve noticed that many words I try to use in SB which have a biological or scientific meaning are rejected with SB’s “not in word list” message,  [9]    which makes me think that the editor/curator has rather low expectations re his target audience’s educational and curiosity levels.

Apparently I’m not the only person who takes issue with the curated list policy. Under the Spelling Bee site’s FAQ is this exchange, between a player and the game’s curator:

(SB player):
Occasionally I spell a legitimate word, but the Bee rejects it.
What deems a word unacceptable?

(Sam Ezersky, journalist and NYT Puzzles Editor):
Two dictionaries I use are the built-in Apple dictionary, which is based on New Oxford American, and Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary. I like using Google’s News tab, so if there is a technical word, I’ll see if it’s being used in articles without much explanation.
Ultimately, the decisions can seem arbitrary because every solver has a different background and vocabulary….
I can understand the frustration, but my mission is not to be a dictionary. I want to do my best to reflect the Bee’s broad audience and the language we speak.

 

 

 

 

What kind of broad audience doesn’t know – or would benefit from knowing – about the magnificent caracal?

And earlier this week, I reached my next-to-last straw with SB:  included in the seven letters were U T R and D, so naturally one of the words I entered was turd, only to receive SB’s negating response, “not in word list.”

Oh, come on.  What kind of humorless turd will not allow that word on his list?  Thus, my blog’s coveted, rarely bestowed   [10]   Golden Turd Award ® goes to you, Mr. Ezersky.

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Dressing Up Edition

I was about to go to a fancy party dressed as a can of anti-perspirant.
My husband stopped me and said, “Are you Sure?”

So, I reconsidered and put on this real slinky dress…
I looked great going down the stairs.

Which music star is known for her rapid onstage wardrobe changes?
Tailor Swift.

Not all fashion designers are conservative,
but I think
most of them are clothes-minded.

What do you call a nudist who will angrily don clothing when it’s required?
A cross-dresser.

My friend arrived at my Halloween costume party dressed like a bank vault.
”Wait,” I said, “I thought you were coming dressed as an apology?”
She said: ‘Well, I thought I’d better be safe than sorry.”

 

 

“Six bad puns – you really found it necessary to torture us with six?”

 

*   *   *

May your acceptable word lists always include “turd’
(with or without the modifier, “festering”);
May you, sans shame or explanation, freely (and discreetly) adjust any undergarment
of yours that needs adjusting;
May we all have such untroubled lives that stories like those I have shared here are the worst of our worries;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

[1] Some 32 plus years.

[2] Ha!  Harbinger, as in “omen or indication”?  Too late for that.

[3] Photo credit: Hasegawa Takashi via Flickr, The Fall Foliage At These 10 Places in Oregon Is Incredible.

[4] But then, what did I look like to her, I wonder, in my needs-laundering yoga pants and wrinkled t-shirt?

[5] Asks the woman perennially clad in a tie-dyed t-shirt and off-white capris.

[6] Or maybe 18 years ago.

[7] And from the look on her face, she was disappointed.

[8]  In other words, I didn’t give a flying fuck that anyone could or would be able to see my legs through my skirt.  Now, had I just exited the bathroom with my blouse tucked into my underpants or with toilet paper trailing from my shoe, then by all means, sidle up and whisper to me.

[9] As well as other words that might have more than one meaning, with one of the meanings being a derogatory slang word, such as coon.

[10] I think it’s been several *years* since moiself  has seen fit to give out this dubious honor.

The Thumb I’m Not Under

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Department Of Classic Sexist Songs

What, you ask, must a song do to make it into this Department’s Hall of Shame?

Thank you for your interest.

There are many, many components which go into having a song be thus maligned labeled.  These components can be distilled into two broad (sorry) categories.  To be a true classic Sexist Song ® the song’s vocalist(s) – be they male or female – must sing lyrics which:

– lecture a particular woman re her unworthiness without a man, and/or

– advise women in general about how to be a worthy female companion to a man;

– if female, the singer must bemoan her single state while embracing dependence on a man, without whose attention she will (literally or figuratively) die…

♫  “…he is my destiny…” ♫
( sings Little Peggy March, in I Will Follow Him…lyrics written by four men)

 

 

 

What follows is just a taste of those rock and pop tracks standing the test of time (read: old enough) to be considered classics.  Of course, other music genres, particularly rap and hardcore, have plenty of contributions to this wretched category.    [1]    But for brevity’s sake moiself  limited this sampling to songs of the 1950s through 1970s (with one early 1980s contribution, from The Police. Also, many of the songs have been covered by multiple recording artists; I’ve listed just one).

                                                         Recording artist(s)               songwriter(s)

* A Man Needs a Maid                    Neil Young                            Neil Young

* Every Breath You Take  [2]           The Police                            Sting

* For the Love of Him                      Shirley Bassey                      Henry Jerome /B. Martin

* Under My Thumb                         The Rolling Stones              Jagger & Richards

*He Hit Me (and it felt like a kiss)  The Crystals                         Carole King /Gerry Goffin 

 

Uh, yeah,  The above song deserves a special mention.

 

 

 

In Carole King and Gerry Goffin’s fruitful songwriting partnership, Goffin wrote the lyrics and King the music.  Yep, the sentiments expressed in the hit  (“You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” were penned by a natural man. Not until she stepped out as a solo act did Carole King become a lyricist.

King, who herself suffered domestic abuse at the hands of her third husband, later expressed regret her involvement with penning the dreadful He Hit Me (and it felt like a kiss), whose masochistic lyrics had a root in reality.   Eva Boyd, aka the singer “Little Eva,” worked for Goffin and King (who were married to each other at the time) as their babysitter before she had a hit with their song,  The Loco-motion.  Boyd showed up at Goffin’s and King’s home one night, covered in bruises after a weekend visit with her boyfriend.  When Goffin and King began to question her, Eva tried to reassure them that she was okay, explaining that “He” (her boyfriend) “…really loves me.”

“Half a century later, King has an uneasy relationship with the title. ‘I wrote the music to He Hit Me (and It Felt Like A Kiss). Obviously, I’m complicit in having written that song. I kind of wish I hadn’t written any part of that song, but Gerry wrote that lyric. … again, that’s one song I kind of wish I hadn’t had any part of writing.’ “

(Carole King Kind of Wishes She Had Nothing to Do With This Disturbing Song, cheatsheet.com/entertainment )

 

 

Actually, more of the same.  The list continues.

* If You Want To be Happy  [3]       Jimmy Soul                         Guida /Guida /Royster

* It Must Be Him                            Vikki Carr                            Becaud/David/Vidalin 

* I Will Follow Him                        Little Peggy March              four songwriters, all male

* Run For Your Life                        The Beatles                          Lennon/McCartney

* Wives and Lovers                         Jack Jones                          Burt Bacharach, Hal David
                                       

 

 

 

Special shout out to the songs of Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, whom I mentioned in previous blog 3 years ago:

“One advantage of occasionally listening to an oldies station is occasionally having reminders of how much I loathed the songs of
Gary Puckett And The Union Gap.

In the songs GP & TUG which were most known for – “Young Girl,” “Lady Willpower,” and “Woman, Woman” –  lead singer GP expresses a recurrent and overriding concern: girls and women should have sex with him.

Back to the list:  if you check the songwriting credits to these and other festering turds of lyrical misogyny, you’ll note that the vast majority were penned by men.

 

 

 

 

Moving right along….  The unofficial winner of the coveted title of

Song With The Most Degrading ,Sexist, Condescending and Infantilizing Lyrics …

 

 

 

Yep, it’s Wives and Lovers!

♫  Hey! Little girl
Comb your hair, fix your makeup
Soon he will open the door
Don’t think because there’s a ring on your finger
You needn’t try anymore

For wives should always be lovers too
Run to his arms the moment he comes home to you
I’m warning you…

Day after day
There are girls at the office
And men will always be men
Don’t send him off with your hair still in curlers
You may not see him again

For wives should always be lovers too
Run to his arms the moment he comes home to you
He’s almost here…

Hey! Little girl
Better wear something pretty
Something you’d wear to go to the city and
Dim all the lights, pour the wine, start the music
Time to get ready for love…  ♫

 

 

Moiself  can’t put it any better than this, re Jack Jones’ cover of the song :

“This has everything a person could hope for in a sexist ‘60s song.  Ordering women around? check.  Emphasizing that a woman’s place is in the home?  Check.  Reiterating that it’s only natural for men to sleep around?  Check.  Offering demeaning advice to do everything you can to please your man and warning that he’ll leave you if you don’t?  Check.  Veiled threats of violence?  Checkmate.

It’s like Burt Bacharach and Hal Davis distilled sexism in its purest form and smeared it all over Jack Jones’ smiling, white teeth.  And speaking of Jack Jones — his condescending, smarmy, yet totally earnest and chipper delivery is half of what makes Wives and Lovers stand above all the other sexist songs – like a man standing above a woman after he slapped her for not having dinner on the table when he came home from a hard day at the office.  And his dulcet tones – it’s no wonder this song won him a Grammy for best vocal performance…”

( excerpts from from flush fido productions blog, “Sexistiest songs of the ‘60s, #1” )

 

*   *   *

 

Punz For The Day
Women in Song Edition

Why do balloons hate going to Lady Gaga concerts?
They’re scared of pop music.

How many altos does it take to change a lightbulb?
None; they can’t get up that high.

What did the crowd yell to the opera singer who said she couldn’t sing because her mouth was full of garbanzo beans?
“Just hummus a tune!”

What’s the difference between an argument with seamen and a popular female musician?
One’s a sailors’ tiff, the other’s a Taylor Swift.

 

We…are never ever ever…hearing these again, right?

 

*   *   *

May you have enough time on your hands to listen to the songs listed here, to find out (if you don’t already know) why they are listed here;
May you have fun compiling your own wretched song lyrics lists;
May you placate Ms. Swift by listening to some of her songs
(which IMHO mostly have most excellent lyrics…unless you’re an ex of hers);

…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

[1] e.g. almost anything by Eminem.

[2] Thanks a lot, Sting.  Do stalkers really need an anthem?

[3] Inspiring lyrics include, ♫ “If you want to be happy for the rest of your life/Never make a pretty woman your wife/So for my personal point of view/Get an ugly girl to marry you…An ugly woman cooks meals on time/She’ll always give you peace of mind…” ♫

The Multicolored Overpass I’m Not Traversing

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Something moiself  has been thinking this week:  it’s been over 29 years since we (MH and I) have been a less-than-two-felines household.

We’re down to one, the all-white Nova, as we said goodbye to Crow this week.

It had been a challenging past 18+ months for Crow, with a possible “vascular incident” (stroke?), the progression of her painful arthritis, and finally, diabetes.   After veterinary appointments, blood tests, and consultations, we made an appointment with a veterinary euthanasia service who came to our home to do the deed.

As difficult a decision as it was, we were also much relieved, once having made it.  Crow spent her last days at home, lazing on the carpet in the sun, eating and drinking whenever she pleased.  [1]  We were at her beck and call; I told her she was at a kitty spa.

At the time we adopted Crow (fifteen years ago), all-black cats were the most likely to not find a placement.    [2]    Instead of adopting a rescue greyhound, which was the original plan to add another pet to our family, we went to Bonnie Hayes Animal Shelter,   [3]  opened our house and our hearts, and Crow made herself at home.  Crow had a good life, and she was spared a lingering death.

After the phone call with our veterinarian wherein we discussed treatment and care options, MH and I had a calm, rational discussion.  We considered all the angles – plus the fact, particularly important to moiself, that Crow (like any pet) cannot consent to nor “understand” any course of treatment.  After the phone call, we decided upon euthanasia.  When we agreed that this is what we agreeing to, I asked MH if perhaps we might take Crow on one last trip to the beach, because she seemed to enjoy lying on the deck in the sun.  And we both lost it.

 

A much younger Crow and Nova, circa 2008, playing with Nova’s favorite toy (a Lego helmet).

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Downside Of Loving Them

Dang, these critters tug at our hearts.  And because we care for them properly, they just don‘t die like they used to:  they get good medical treatment;    [4]  they live inside and thus don’t get killed by coyotes or run over by a car or contract illness and/or injuries and/or infection from other animals….  And if they refuse to die in their sleep in their old age, the combination of aging and chronic illness takes their toll, then *we* have to make the life-and-death decisions.

MH’s astute observation:  for all but one of the cats we’ve had who’ve died, there came that awful time when we had to opt for euthanasia for them.  Odds are that, with our remaining cat, the same will (eventually) be the case.  Each time, we knew we were doing the right thing. Each time, it was still heartbreaking.

 

 

Observant readers may notice that moiself   is *not* is reporting that “Crow has crossed the Rainbow Bridge.”  Nor am I using similar euphemisms to describe the fact of her death.  Although some pet owners seem to find such metaphors comforting, they make me…well…emotionally retch.  Moiself  is not a believer in – as in, I’ve seen no evidence for – any kind of “heaven,” for any kind of creatures.  And since I hold no such ideas for humans I see no need to burden our recollections of our animal companions with similar mythologies.

I don’t mean to come off stony-hearted.  Grief is complicated; expressing it, even more so.  I promise not to slap you if you use the RB term around moiself, and I hear or read about “the RB” often enough to know that it makes some pet owners feel good. The only afterlife I give credence to is the only one we can know for sure exists:  that which resides in our hearts and minds.  In that way and in those places, our loved ones truly do continue to live “after” they are gone.

BTW: The Rainbow Bridge, for those of you who fortunate enough not to have encountered the treacle-ism, is a mythical overpass (apparently based on imagery from some cheesy sentimental poems from the 1980s) which serves as a kind of transit for pets.  For example, upon the death of their friend’s chihuahua, RB fans will say that Sparky has “passed over the Rainbow bridge,” into a verdant meadow (or other Nature Setting ®  ) where Sparky will frolic carefree until the time Sparky will be reunited with his “human parents.”

 

While I don’t believe in Rainbow Bridges, I do believe that pictures of baby sloths in pajamas are comforting to everyone.

 

*   *   *

Department Of There’s Always Something

After we made the decision to euthanize Crow, moiself  thought, once again, about the many rational discussions which can be had as to whether people do or should treat or view their pets as their “children” – a perspective which, I believe, diminishes and misunderstands the reality of and relationships with both animals and children.

Also (as mentioned in a previous footnote), many people, including animal lovers/pet owners and those who are pet-free, hold strong opinions as to the ethics of using advances in veterinary medicine to treat conditions considered fatal just a few years ago – treatments which cost pet owners thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars…and the outcome is, eventually and ultimately, the same.

Pets, like their human owners, are mortal. They’re gonna die. Are you keeping your pet alive – in some cases, using tortuous treatments that humans with the same diagnoses can (and often do) eventually opt out of – because it’s in the animal’s best interest? Or are you prolonging its life (read: extending its dying) or because (you tell yourself) you love it and want to keep it around for as long as possible/can’t deal with its absence…or want to assuage the guilt laid upon you, whether purposely or inadvertently, by yourself or by well-meaning friends and family (or even your veterinarian)?

 

 

“Leigh K—…found herself facing a five-figure bill when her dog, Rutherford, was diagnosed with a brain tumor…. Leigh knew Rutherford needed help when the large-breed coonhound mix struggled to walk a straight line and keep his head up. But you can’t treat without a diagnosis, which meant brain scans, which meant $2,500 down before the technicians would warm up the machine.

Then the real bills started. Radiation therapy was projected to cost between $12,000 and $15,000, which, for perspective’s sake, is a quarter of the average American household’s annual earnings. It’s a sum weighty enough to give even relatively affluent Americans a lightbulb moment on how drastically their lives might be rerouted.”

( excerpts from “My dying dog’s vet bill put me in debt. It could happen to you.”  Vox, 7-25-19 )

 

If my father had lived to see the age of  $3k MRIs for pets,  [5]  he would have scoffed at the very notion.  It’s not that he didn’t like animals, or was one of Those Pet Haters ® .  Growing up in the Parnell family, moiself  cannot remember a time when we didn’t have pets.  My siblings and I were allowed to acquire a variety of critters, from dogs and cats to hamsters and reptiles.  While my parents appreciated their children’s emotional bond with their pets, my father never seemed to have much of an attachment to them.  When I look back via an adult’s perspective, I consider this pet-bonding detachment of his to be due, in part, to his impoverished childhood.

 

 

 

Chet Parnell grew up poor, on a farm, in a place and time when animals were utilitarian.  His family’s infinitely patient and tolerant farm horse, who would let Chet and his siblings climb all over him, was a plough horse.  A succession of family dogs had “jobs” to do – they kept the crows out of the corn and chased the neighboring farms’ dogs and roaming strays away from the chickens, and the barn cats earned a roof over their heads by keeping the mice and rats at bay.  With the exception of the horse, the other “pets” had to hunt for and feed themselves (although my dad’s mother occasionally snuck table scraps to the barn cats, much to her husband’s dismay).

My father’s heart rose to the occasion when our family cat, Mia, died.  Mia, a stray kitten adopted by my family when I was in grade school, had been “my” cat,   [6]  but stayed with my family when I went off to school.  After graduating college and joining the working world, my parents and I agreed that, considering both my inability to pay my apartment rent if I also had to buy pet food and litter, and Mia being an old lady kitty and attached to her home, it was best if Mia stayed with them.  I saw Mia two to three times a year, when visiting my parents, and noted Mia’s increasing frailty with the passage of time.  Pay attention, I pleaded with them.  If there is something wrong with her, take her to a vet, don’t just let it slide.   [7]  I was determined to be dispassionate about it – if Mia was dying, I did not want her to suffer.

One day when I was in my mid-twenties I received an early afternoon phone call from my mother.  She called the private line in the medical practice where I worked, which was a red flag.   [8]  She apologized for calling me at work, said she thought I’d like to know about Mia, and told me the following story.

In the past few weeks Mia, age 20, had grown weaker, lost weight, and developed a tumor on her head.  My parents found a veterinarian who would do house calls; after speaking with my parents over the phone, the vet came to their house with the assumption that he would likely euthanize the cat.  After briefly examining Mia he told them that that would be the most humane option.  My younger sister, by then in college, happened to be at my parents’ house for a visit, and she and my mother became so distraught re Mia’s situation that Chet banished them from the scene.  He shooed his wife and daughter into the house, while he stayed on the back porch with the veterinarian.

After Mia had been euthanized and the vet had left, Chet got a legal pad and a pencil, and a shoebox for the body (Mia would be buried in my parents’ backyard, by the rose bushes she where she would nap in the summer shade).  He wrapped Mia’s body in a towel, placed her in the box, then composed a poem, on the spot, about Mia.

Mom read the poem to me.  I found it overwhelmingly touching then, and still do, after all these years – to think about what my father wrote to comfort his grieving wife and daughter, and also the mere fact that he did so.  The poem’s theme was how gentle and sweet Mia was; how she’d had a good life….   I can remember only parts of it,     [9]   but its closing stanza is etched on my heart:

Mia was loved by the Parnells all;
As there is a time to rise, there is a time to fall.
To be loved by a family is why she was made,
And now our dear Mia will rest in the shade.

As I hung up the phone, my employer noticed the distraught look on my face.  Dr. B asked me what was up.  With all the detachment and professionalism I could muster – which turned out to be none at all – I blubbered, “My family kitty died!” and, tried to tell him how my father had written a poem…

I was a hot mess.  Dr. B placed his hand on my shoulder.  Compassionately, yet firmly, he said to me, GO HOME.

And now for dear Crow, I say, with gratitude for years of love and “tummy time,”  Go home.

 

Crow was a gentle spirit and a good sport.  Here is one of moiself’s favorite pictures of her, one I called, for obvious reasons, *rumpcat.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Supporting Cast And Crew

I cannot say enough good things about the doctors and staff of our family’s long-time veterinary clinic, the (surprise!) feline-exclusive  All About Cats Clinic.  Also deserving of high praise is Compassionate Care, the in-home euthanasia service we used, as per ABCC’s recommendation.  CC’s vet was kind, empathetic, sweet, and competent – she gave MH and I (and Crow, I imagine), a sense of tranquility in an emotionally taxing situation.

“She had a good life,” was son K’s post on our family chat site, when MH informed our offspring about row’s death.  My reply:

“Yes, she did…and though it may sound strange, I dare to say that her death was good, as well.
She was comfy on the carpet, enjoying lots of pets from us, and she just ‘went to sleep,’ as they say. It was one of the more peaceful things I have ever seen.”

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Dead Catz Edition

Hmmmmm.  On second thought….

 

When face palm cat just won’t cover it.

*   *   *

May you experience the distinctive love of, and for, a pet companion;
May the inevitable loss of that love help you to appreciate it all the more;
May you be strong enough to lather, rinse, and repeat;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

[1] But not, oddly, wanting “tummy time” with MH, which, until the diabetes, was her favorite activity.  She seemingly became uncomfortable sitting in laps or being held during her last two weeks – one more piece of the puzzle which help us make the decision.

[2] Fortunately, thanks to deliberate and innovative strategizing on the part of regional animal shelters, almost *all* healthy cats and dogs at shelters who do not have  “behavioral issues” (read: biters) now find homes.

[3] Where I would later volunteer, in cat care.

[4] Too much, some critics say, in that using “human” treatments for cancers and other mortal illnesses – treatments previously unavailable to animals and to which they cannot consent – are essentially torturing pets in order to assuage our guilt….and speaking of the latter, many people on fixed incomes cannot afford the substantial vet bills but feel pressured, if the procedure/treatment is available, to do so, lest they be considered a heartless person who doesn’t really love their pet.

[5] Which was one of the quotes we got for what a brain scan would cost, when we were trying to figure out the “neurological incident” our cat Crow seemed to have suffered. 

[6] And was so named to indicate that – mia is Spanish for mine.

[7] This post needs more upbeat footnotes.  Nah.

[8] My mother was not one to instigate phone calls – that was my father’s purview – and she never called me at work, before or after Mia’s death.

[9] I have a copy of it, somewhere in my file cabinet….

The Hair I’m Not Flinging

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

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

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

 

The Day of all Days

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

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

The Flinging Blonde

That’s flinging blonde, not singing nun.

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

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

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

Stop me before I fling again.

*   *   *

Speaking of things to fling…

How Much More Clear Does it Have to Get? 

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

Uh huh.

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

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

Sic ’em, Greta Christina:

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

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

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

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

*   *   *

 Is the Paint Dry Yet?

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

*   *   *

The Snark Watch, Day Seven

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

 

*  *  *

Coming Attractions [3]

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

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

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

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

The World Languages I’m Not Learning

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Department Of How Did I Not Know Until Now About This Song !?!?

Dateline: Monday am, 7:30 ish.  Morning walk/podcast listen: Clear + Vivid: Bette Midler: How She Became Divine.

 

 

The Divine Miss M herself was regaling host C+V  host Alan Alda with tales of her first European tour, and how the following ditty Midler performed on stage “…went down really well” in Germany.

(sung to the tune of the theme song of the movie, The Bridge Over The River Kwai) :

♫  Hitler…
had only one big ball
Goering…
had two but they were small
Himmler…
Had something similar
And poor old Goebbels
had no balls
at all.  ♫      [1]

I’d vaguely known about Hitler’s goofy gonads (he suffered from right-side cryptorchidism – an undescended testicle).  But the fact that this detail was woven into an anti-Nazi ditty delighted the spirit of the 11-year-old Girl Scout who still resides in me – the girl who wanted to sit in the back during the boring troop meetings and exchange bawdy jokes with the other so-inclined scouts instead of listening to yet another boring lecture on how we were supposed to be working on our camping merit badges.

 

“All in favor of skipping reciting the Girl Scout Promise and singing the Hitler song instead, raise your hands.”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Yet Another Podcast Citation

The most recent episode of the People I (Mostly) Admire podcast – website description: “Steven Levitt, the unorthodox University of Chicago economist and co-author of the Freakonomics book series….tracks down other high achievers and asks questions that only he would think to ask….” – had me hooked with the opening:

“My guest today, John McWhorter, likes to stir things up….
He’s a linguistics professor at Columbia university, author of over a dozen books, and has emerged as one of America’s most prominent public intellectuals. He’s an opinionated centrist, and chances are, whatever your politics, you’ll love his views on some issues, and despise his stance on others.”
(intro to People I Mostly Admire, episode 72: “Leaving Black People in the Lurch” )

 

 

 

I was immediately intrigued by the host’s description of his guest: “an opinionated centrist.”  Not being fond of political labels (at least for moiself ), I don’t consider moiself  to be a centrist.  Rather, I approach issues as a Does this make sense?-trist.” When some folks on The Far Left ® find out my liberal/religion-free/ flaming feminist viewpoints, they assume that I’ll tick off all their boxes on particular issues.  And when they find out that I do not, *they* get ticked off.

My intrigue-ears perked up for other reasons as well, including the fact that McWhorter is a linguistics professor.  Being a linguist, as in studying the cultural and cognitive development and application of languages, is one of my “if-I-were-to-do-it-all-over-again” professions.   [2]  Now, just because I maintain an interest in that area of study doesn’t mean that I have any current and/or particular skill in or aptitude for languages – far from it, as anyone who has heard me mangle the French language could attest to.  And while moiself  is on the subject I’d like to offer a shout-out to all you Parisian shopkeepers and restauranters who, despite the stereotype of the snooty French, were most patient and gracious with me when I was visiting your merveilluse ville and tried to order a pain au chocolat in every venue possible.

 

Let me guess, *elle demande* the entire tray, again?

 

Once again, I digress.

Back to the podcast opening.

Steve LEVITT:
“In your day job, you (McWhorter) are a linguist at Columbia University and you also moonlight as a commentator on American society, especially around issues of race. But I’d like to talk first about linguistics, because I suspect if we start on race, we’ll never make our way back to linguistics.”

Linguistics/ race – I wanted to hear it all.  Any author of a book called “Nine Nasty Words: English in the Gutter,” is all right by me. Then, after the first 15 minutes of linguistics talk, I was surprised by McWhorter’s choice in an answer to a certain question.

LEVITT:
So, English is obviously emerging as something of a world language, and that’s mostly for accidental, historical, social, political reasons. And in my very first episode of this podcast, I had Steve Pinker, the Harvard linguist, on. And I tried to get him to make a vote for what the best world language would be. I had no luck. He would not bite on that at all. Is that a question you’ll bite on?”

MCWHORTER:
” Hell yeah.
….If all of the world were going to use a single language, it should be not English….
Really, the language of the world should be Indonesian.”

 

 

Really.  He chose Indonesian.


MCWHORTER:
“…Not the way it’s written, but the way it’s typically spoken, where you have almost no suffixes, almost no prefixes. (Indonesian is) not a tonal language. It’s very low on throwing you with things like, what does ‘pick up’ mean?  You can pick up a disease; you can pick somebody up from school; speed is about picking up speed. Why deal with that? There’s very little of that. …. even though most people who don’t speak Indonesian would find it hard to learn just the words themselves….if you could pick up 500 of them, say 600 of them…the grammar would be very, very easy. You could make yourself understood. I would say it’s better. It’s easier for everybody — colloquial Indonesian would be the one.”

McWhorter’s quotes about the reasons why a language like Indonesian would be a better “world” language  [3]  made me think about Turkish, which I studied for a few days in an online course (until Putin’s aggressive assholery changed my travel plans   [4]  ).

Here are nine encouraging and refreshing observations I made during my brief foray into the Turkish language:

  1. Turkish is phonetic; thus, pronunciation is easy!
  2. Every letter in a word is pronounced!   [5]
  3. Each letter has only one sound!
  4. Two or more letters are never combined to make a new or different sound!
  5. Turkish contains no articles at all!
  6. It is also not a gendered language; nor is it tonal!
  7. There is no 7th observation!
  8. There are standard rules for making plurals!
  9. Word Order is set: Subject-Object-Verb. The verb is always at the end in written Turkish!    [6]

 

You’d spin with delight, too, if you spoke such a sensible language.

 

After twenty-five or so minutes of Fun With Words®,  podcast host Levitt ventured into topics where McWhorter’s opinions have made people who are prone to look for divergent poles line up into their default defensive positions…such as McWhorter’s book, Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America.

LEVITT:
“I was talking to a white friend of mine, someone who is deeply sympathetic to the anti-racist cause. And she said to me recently, ‘My daughter is friends with a Black girl in her nursery school class….and I’d like to invite that Black girl over to my house for a play date, but I’m afraid to because I don’t know the appropriate way to acknowledge my white privilege to the girl’s parents. And I don’t want to insult them by not acknowledging it.’

 To me, what a disaster – when kids can’t build friendships because parents are so paralyzed by fear of not doing the right thing.”

MCWHORTER:
“You know what? That woman is who I wrote Woke Racism for.
That is exactly what I mean. That is somebody whose heart is very much in the right place, but she’s so afraid of being called the dirtiest-name-other-than-pedophile in our current cultural vocabulary that she’s basically hamstrung.

After a while, it might be that you end up avoiding Black people because you don’t want to take a wrong step. And then you get accused of being a racist. And where does that get us?  To actually say, ‘What is the result of all this?’ is seen as somehow beside the point.

Rather, what’s considered important is smart people stating that racism still exists; racism is systemic. Now, what’s actually happening out on the ground, whether we’re improving Black lives by stating that, is considered subsidiary…..

And yet, that’s the situation that I saw us slipping into starting after the hideous murder of George Floyd. I saw us dealing with a kind of semaphore, where we say things and we say things and we say things, and what we’re really doing is fostering a kind of general guilt and engaging in a kind of passion play…. But the result is not anything that any civil rights leaders of the past would have recognized as meaningful. We need to get back to doing the real thing.”

 

Fine; you’re awake. Now, make the bed and start cleaning up the mess you left in the kitchen.

LEVITT:
“I always ask my guests to give advice to my listeners. And I’m curious what advice you would give to young people trying to build a good life for themselves.
And would you give the same advice to a young white person and a young Black person?”

MCWHORTER (my emphases):
“… at this point, in the way our national dialogue goes, I would say this to kids of any race: Distrust your impulse to suppose that people who don’t think like you are either naive or evil.

It’s very easy to think that if they don’t think like you. It’s either they don’t have the facts that you have, or if they do have the facts that you have, there’s something sinister about them. They’ve got motives that they’re not quite letting onto.

And the sad thing is that these days, young people are being taught to think that way by an awful lot of grown-ups.

It’s an easy misimpression to fall into because we tend to be binary thinkers. But with any debate that’s uniquely challenging or frankly, interesting, about which you might argue, that’s different from decreeing that people are either stupid or bad. And that’s what a diverse and large society is all about. That’s what diversity of opinion is.”

Moiself  highly recommends that y’all’s selves listen to the entire interview, and pay attention to McWhorter’s insightful analysis re how “3rd wave anti-racism” (a term he borrows from the feminist movement) “is a religion.” It’s guaranteed to offend at least a few third wave anti-racists and religionists.  Now, that’s my kind of a podcast guest.

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Woke Politics Edition

Why were environmental activists protesting outside the elementary school?
That heard a rumor that the kids were singing, “Rain, rain, go away.”

What do you call a woke Star Wars droid?
R2-Me2

Did you hear about the laundromat manager who had her Facebook account cancelled?
FB monitors read that she told her customers to separate the whites from the colors.

One night I dreamt that I was a muffler…
I woke up exhausted.

 

“There’s woke jokes, and then there’s woke jokes.”

 

*   *   *

May you choose meaningful action over virtue-signalling;
May you have fond memories of your bawdy joke-telling, scout-meeting (or the equivalent) ignoring days;
May you enjoy singing the song about Hitler’s balls;    [7]

…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Yes, this is the first footnote of this blog.

[2] Which would also include neurobiologist and astronaut.

[3] Better than, say, English, with its jumble of grammar, spelling, and pronunciation variants.

[4] We (MH and I) had planned a trip to Turkey in late May-early June.  Maybe…next year?

[5] With one exception – ğ, lengthens the sound of the vowel preceding it.

[6] Spoken Turkish allows for some flexibility.

[7] You know you’re going to hum it, at least once, if only to yourself.

The Russians I’m Not Absolving

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Department Of Scapegoating

Moiself  would like nothing better than to wake up tomorrow morning to the news that Vladimir Putin has

* kicked the KGB bucket
* cashed in his commie chips
* bit the Chernoyl dust,
* bought the fascist farm,
* given up the glasnost ghost
* won his last rabid dog lookalike ® contest…

 

 

 

you know – died.  Whether through “natural” means or otherwise; hey, I’m not picky.

Still, it doesn’t seem…wise…or right…or fair…or historically accurate, to blame Russia’s assault against Ukraine solely on that festering turd of a genocidal despot one leader.

Russia is a big ass country.  Even with an oligarchy-stained kleptocracy of a dictatorship masquerading as a federal republic, moiself  doesn’t think the P-boy can do what he’s doing unless he’s got a whole lotta other Russians – if not the majority – on his side.

This is the 21st century, and Russia is not North Korea.  In “First World” countries whose people have access to First World technologies (internet; cellphones) is impossible to completely control the narrative; it is impossible to make the majority of the Russian populace believe that Ukrainians are “neo-Nazis”,  or the other delusional justifications the P-pants-boy offers for invading a sovereign country, unless there are those who, for whatever reasons, want to believe such bizarre, totally unsubstantiated falsehoods.

Are Russians who support their country’s actions also victims (of P-face’s propaganda), as I have heard more than one person surmise,?  Or are they collaborators?  I’m not sure it matters, at this point.  Not to the dead Ukrainians, that’s for sure.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Thanks For The Imagery

Dateline: Saturday, March 26; circa 7:45 am; morning walk; listening to the People I Mostly Admire podcast’s latest episode:  No One Can Resist A Jolly, Happy Pig.  Host Steven Levitt is interviewing naturalist and author Sy Montgomery, who gets the following introduction on the PIMA website:

My guest today is bestselling author and naturalist Sy Montgomery. The Boston Globe describes her as “part Indiana Jones and part Emily Dickinson.” Her best-known book is The Soul of an Octopus, which was a finalist for the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 2015. But she’s written about everything from tarantulas to hyenas to hummingbirds to pink dolphins. And as far as I can tell, she’s fallen in love with every one of them.

Levitt asks Montgomery how she got to where she is, in her profession – combining her two loves, of journalism and animals. Montgomery talks about visiting various people she knows who devote their lives to studying some obscure species, including a friend who is currently studying “the southern hairy-nosed wombat”…

…which caused moiself  to actually speak the following picture’s caption aloud.  To moiself, but ALOUD.

 

“Hey, Buford, y’all going to the barn dance tonight?”

*    *   *

Department Of Dietary Motivations

Back to the above-referenced podcast: Montgomery’s years of study of numerous animal species has caused her to refer to these animals as “people” (in aggregate) or “somebody” in particular. She explains her vocabulary choice:  not only do many of the scientists who study these animals attribute consciousness and emotion to them, but scientists who study animal brains consistently find the same or remarkably similar neurotransmitters and hormones that, in primates such as our homo sapiens selves, are responsible for the production and transmission of emotions.

 

 

Montgomery and Levitt had an interesting back-and-forth about such discoveries and attributions.  (Excerpts from their discussion; my emphases.)

LEVITT:
Now, I’m no expert on ethology, which is the study of animal behavior, but I suspect that the scholars in that area might be upset by your books….  I’m sure they would consider it a no-no to anthropomorphize animals, but that’s not even exactly what you do. You speculate about the unique ways each creature might experience the world. Am I right that some scientists complain that you go too far in that direction?

MONTGOMERY:
It’s not so much the scientists, but sometimes it’s the philosophers because they want humans to be the top of everything. Now, it is true that in science they use different words than I would use. Of course, in their scientific journals, they have different readers than I’m going to have, but things have changed a bit since, for instance, Jane Goodall first published her findings about tool use in chimps. No one wanted to publish that groundbreaking paper because she named her chimps instead of numbering them.

LEVITT:
Woah. Uh-huh.

MONTGOMERY:
Now things have changed…. There actually is a field of study that’s looking into animal personalities. I went on a personality survey with some of the top octopus researchers in the world…The person who headed that study…was the one who pointed out to me that if we fail to talk about emotions in animals, we are overlooking a central fact of neurobiology. And that is that every animal that has ever been studied, when you try to look for the hormones or neurotransmitters responsible for all of our feelings, like joy and fear, like stress and love, we find the exact same neurotransmitters. Even in taxa as different from ourselves, as octopuses, from whom we have been separated for half a billion years of evolution.

 

 

LEVITT:
The scientific, conventional wisdom for decades, hundreds of years, insisted that humans were unique on so many dimensions, like consciousness, the use of tools, ability to problem solve. Do you have a take on how these past scientists just got things completely wrong?

MONTGOMERY:
Yeah. I think it’s human supremacy, just like white supremacy. We wanted to be at the top, which would justify our exploitation of everybody else….

LEVITT:
Here’s something I strongly suspect will happen. When people look back in a hundred or 200 years, they will be shocked and dismayed at the cruelty that our society subjects animals to with factory farming. Do you agree?

MONTGOMERY:
A hundred percent. We will be appalled. And that’s why I became vegetarian years ago. Now there are farms that raise animals and slaughter animals in a more humane way, but I’m still delighted that I’m not eating them.

LEVITT:
You made a really powerful case for the wonder of pigs. Do you think for people whose goal it is get away from factory farming that maybe the strategy they should be taking is trying to teach people about the wonderful personality that pigs have?

MONTGOMERY:
Oh, I have gotten so many letters from people telling me that my book was the end of their bacon. And also, after Soul of an Octopus, many people wrote and said, “You know what? I used to love to eat octopus. I don’t eat it anymore.”

I love food and I love making food, but the taste of that item is on your tongue for less than a minute before you swallow something else. And for someone to lose their life for a taste on your tongue, that just seems like an enormous waste when there’s so many other delicious and nourishing things that we could have and not take away somebody’s life, somebody who thinks and feels and knows.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Inquiring Minds Want To Know

“She holds a PhD in neuroscience, but I couldn’t find whether she ever actually worked as a neuroscientist. It’s obvious that her understanding of ‘strong science’ doesn’t mean what she thinks it means. I doubt if she reads Science-Based Medicine or understands the principles we go by.”
Harriet Hall, MD aka “The SkepDoc”   [1]  )

 

 

Any claim that has the word “actually” in it must be true.

 

Moiself  saw a commercial the other day in which Mayim Bialik, the child actor turned adult actor turned part-time Jeopardy host,  has apparently now become a vitamin supplement shill. The ad was for Neuriva-Plus, a supplement which, its manufacturers claim, can make you smarter by increasing brain levels of “brain-derived neurotrophic factor” (BDNF, and shame on you for thinking that the acronym refers to some kind of S & M practice).

Why should you trust the celebrity who is promoting such a product?  Well, you silly goose, because the ad begins thusly:

“I’m Mayim Bialik, and I love brains.  It’s why I became a neuroscientist.”

 

 

Uh, yes.  Several spring to mind. 

Elsewhere Bialik has also claimed:

“Neuriva Plus is backed by strong science — yes, I checked it myself —
and it combines two clinically tested ingredients that help support six key indicators of brain health.”

Not only does Bialik claim to be a neuroscientist, in another, longer Neuriva ad she describes herself as, “America’s favorite neuroscientist” 

 

 

Ooooooookaaaaaaay.

Bialik went to college, studied neuroscience at UCLA, took a break from studies to return to acting, returned to school to earn her Doctor of Philosophy degree in neuroscience from UCLA, had two children, then went back to acting.   [2]  But nowhere in her (admittedly impressive) resumé can I find any reference to her working in the field of neuroscience.

I’m not concerned about how many reputable sources, including Psychology Today, have called the product Bialik is endorsing “Neuriva nonsense” and “just another snake oil.”   [3]    Moiself assumed that from the get-go.

 

 

Rather, I’m curious about the validity of her claim to be a “neuroscientist” when she doesn’t appear to be doing neuroscience.  She studied neuroscience; I get that.  But she’s not doing neuroscience.

I’m wondering what actual (ahem) neuroscientists might think. Sam Harris? Brenda Milner? Any other neuroscientists care to weigh in on this?

If you go to law school, get your law degree ( a J.D. in the USA ), then become a carpenter – i.e., for whatever reasons you decide you want to earn a living crafting furniture and do not practice law, either with a firm or in a partnership or by “hanging out your shingle” (solo practice) – is it accurate to say about yourself,

“I actually am a lawyer.”

 

“Don’t blame this one on me.  You want snake oil?  I’ll show you some snake oil.”

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Snake Oil Edition

Which snakes are best at mathematics?
Adders.

I got mugged by a cobra when I was walking through the park.
I told the police I couldn’t recognize it in a lineup, as it was wearing a hood.

Why don’t rattlesnakes drink coffee, or any caffeinated beverages?
Because it makes them viperactive.     [4]

What do you call a snake that builds houses?
A boa constructor.

 

*   *   *

May you never feel compelled to refer to yourself as an “actual” anything;
May you have fun imagining a southern hairy-nosed wombat;
May you be delighted by those creatures which you choose not to eat;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Hall is a retired family physician who researches and writes about pseudoscience and questionable medical practices.

[2] as per her Wikipedia bio.  

[3] “Mayim Bialik’s Neuriva Commercials Make Questionable Claims,” Science-based Medicine, 7-6-21

[4] No snake footnotes here.

The April Fool’s Joke No One Was Playing

Comments Off on The April Fool’s Joke No One Was Playing

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

*   *   *

Department Of Worst April Fool’s Day Ever

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

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The bad news:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Department Of The Aftermath

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Belle’s reaction was…almost feral.

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

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *

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

Is this the day our lives change forever?

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

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

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

He paused, and I continued.

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

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

*   *   *

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mask I’m Not Burning

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Department Of…And…They’re Off!

Tomorrow is the official day in my state, Oregon (and also Washington and California (Oregon) when the mask mandate is liftedExcusez-moi; it’s actually/officially lifted “after 11:59 p.m. on March 11.”   [1]

Recently I’ve overheard at least two  conversations   [2]   wherein people were talking about having a mask-burning party to celebrate the lifting of the mandate.  Moiself  gathered that these parties were more about embracing reaching certain pandemic milestones, and were light-hearted, akin to the tradition of the celebratory mortgage-burning parties. These intended parties were to be nothing akin to the hostile, the anti-mask demonstrations held in certain areas of certain states during the past year, e.g. Idaho, where mouth-breathing child abusing ignoramuses red-staters taught their children to embrace their parents’ imbecility and anti-science stances:

“Parents cheered Saturday on the steps of the Idaho Capitol building as children threw handfuls of surgical masks into a fire. Far-right groups and some lawmakers held similar demonstrations in more than 20 Idaho towns, seizing on growing impatience with COVID-19 restrictions.

‘Hey fire, you hungry?’ asked one boy as adults watched him toss face coverings into a burn barrel. ‘Here’s another mask!’

Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin and state Rep. Dorothy Moon addressed the crowd of more than 100 people, standing behind a lectern on the Capitol steps. Nearby, a banner with the racist phrase ‘Wu Flu’ was draped over a replica Liberty Bell….

Idaho is one of 16 states that have not implemented a statewide mask mandate….

Idaho leads the Pacific Northwest in COVID-19 cases and death count per 100,000 residents. In the Gem State, people are dying at almost twice the rate of Oregonians, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.”

(“Mask burning rally in Idaho fans COVID-19 worries in Oregon” OPB 3-8-21)

 

Yeah, and not only that, those people are allowed to breed, and vote.

 

I don’t think moiself  will be burning any masks any time soon. Rather, I’m going to pause and take a moment of gratitude for the lives that mask-wearing saved, as documented here and here (and also here and here, and….) and also be grateful for how wearing masks contributed to a record-low flu season during the COVID pandemic.

Nope; not gonna burn, gonna celebrate, I thought to moiself, while I was out walking a couple of “laps” around the movie theater I’d arrived at. I had 20 minutes before the show began, and as I walked I looked at my surroundings, as I am wont to do, and my eyes were drawn to a trash comparison. Walking along the sidewalks of the busy streets by the movie theater, as well as the non-busy back alleys, I noticed one distinctive bit of trash which rivaled cigarette butts in number:  discarded facemasks.

When I think of all the excess trash the pandemic brought us, it frosts my butt.  It seems like we’d just gotten people to bring their own reusable bags when shopping, and to even consider bringing their own reusable drinking straws and take out containers when dining out…then came COVID and the (unnecessary, it turns out) regressive turn, back to the one-use, discard-after-use, plastic everything. This increase in our trash made me almost as sad as the number of COVID deaths.  I’m not exaggerating.

 

“The amount of plastic wastes generated worldwide since the outbreak
is estimated at 1.6 million tonnes/day.

( COVID pollution: impact of COVID-19 pandemic on global plastic waste footprint, Science Direct, 2-21 )

 

*   *   *

The Department Of Returning To Normalcy   [3]

Moiself  is not One Of Those People ® who rant and rave about self-checkout lines at the grocery (or other, but mostly grocery) stores – about how they are evil corporate plots to reduce employment  (even though they probably are), or how they are bring us one step closer to Orwellian scenarios, or how they are just inefficient or whatever.  I use the self-checkout option, occasionally to frequently, depending on the store. When I have a whole lotta items in my cart I’ll use the regular checkout lines…unless they are quite backed up, in which case I’ll do the time math in my head –

do I have more complex items which will require manual input and/or the self-checkout clerk’s attention – e.g. fresh produce and/or bulk items which require weighting and manual input of codes, wine – or primarily pre-packaged items, which I can scan almost as quickly as an experienced checker –

 and pick one or the other.

 

 

Midway through the pandemic restrictions, the checkout clerks at New Seasons   [4]  and I began joking about when the “return to normalcy” would begin, and what that normalcy would look like.  The NS clerks always seemed somewhat apologetic about their store’s policy banning customers bringing their own/reusable bags.  They were also one of the first stores to return to letting customers bring their own bags, and then one of the first to return to bagging customers’ purchases in the reusable bags.

Most of the other grocery stores I skulk around patronize have both regular and self-checkout options, the latter with no item limits (some still have a “15 items or fewer” option).  But I’ve learned, even if there is a line of three carts ahead of me in the regular check outline, if I have a cartload of items it’s ultimately worth it to get in the regular checkout line.

 

Hmmm, which line….

 

The checkers are just more efficient – surprise! It’s what they do, all day long.  And the logistics of the self-checkout stations…urgh.  I can count on the fingers of two hands the number of times they have truly been *self*-checkout (as in, no store employee contact) for moiself, despite my having used the self-checkout option hundreds of times.

It seems like I can’t get through checking out my own groceries without needing the employee in charge of overseeing the self-checkout lines to come over (and input his or her magic code, or whatever) when my self-checkout scanning machine refuses to scan any further because:

* it didn’t register the proper weight of an item

* when I rearranged an already checked item in one of my bags, trying to make room for another item, it thinks I took some items out and didn’t put them back

* I need an age/ID verification for an adult beverage

* I need a verification on the weight of my bags after I checked the “I brought my own bags” option on the scanner and it didn’t register them because my bags are deemed either too light or too heavy

* after I get the okay for my bags and arrange them in the (inadequate) space allowed, one end of one bag slips over the edge of the counter, and thus the last item I placed in it doesn’t get its weight registered properly

* the organic beets I’m trying to buy have no UPC code/tag and are not listed in the “look up item” option on the scanner….

All of these and many more scenarios stop the scanner, and trigger the dreaded hopeful, “Help Is On The Way” message on the scanner’s screen.  While waiting for the HIOTW employee to arrive I often look around at my fellow self-checkout-ers.. I see that they are also awaiting the same service; I see one of them shake his head and grumble that he’s been waiting for five minutes to get help because the loaf of the store’s freshly baked bread – FFS, he only has ONE item – lacks a scannable code, and the store’s self-checkout line overseer/employee is helping another customer scan their 985 coupons….

 

 

My favorites in the we-are-all-waiting-for-the-help-that-is-on-the-way group are the sweet and petite elderly women who wave their hands in a Yoo-hoo ® manner at store employees, optimistically yet incorrectly assuming that this will expedite the process.

Once again, I digress.

*Most* local stores have returned to allowing reusable bags, but why *all* have not returned to bagging a customer’s purchases using that customer’s reusable bag is a mystery to moiself.  After all, this is what we’re all supposed to do – bring our own bags – right?  There are a few grocery stores that, if you are in their regular checkout lines, will not bag your groceries if bring your own reusable bags. Yep, I’m talking to you, Albertsons  (and Safeway…and since one chain bought the other several years back, I’m assuming this is the parent company’s policy).

At first, I thought it was a staffing issue.  The last time I was at Albertson’s I decided to test this notion by going through a regular checkout line.  There were two people and their respective cartloads ahead of me, and an employee other than the cashier stood at the end of the cashier stand, bagging the customers’ groceries in the store’s paper bags. So, they *did* have staff available to bag.  When I unloaded my cart, placing my two reusable bags along with my groceries on the conveyor belt, the cashier pointed to my bags and asked me if I was “comfortable” bagging my own groceries.

Perhaps noticing the lack of enthusiasm in my, “ ‘Comfortable?’ Uh yeah…downright cozy” reply, the cashier followed up with, “We can’t do that” (indicating my reusable bags) because of “the COVID thing.”

Which is ridiculous.

 

“I told her I wasn’t going to touch her filthy reusable bags and the bitch done left me with her cartful of items.”

 

I did not tell her that her company’s policy is absurd, seeing as how she was a rank-and-file employee who was just following the store’s policy.  But the other employee, the one who either was the bagger or was temporarily functioning as such, stepped aside, yet remained at the bagging station…to do what? I wondered, as I pushed my cart to the end of the checkout line and began to bag my groceries. So, you’re not going to bag my items, you’re going to…uh, provide them with an escort?  Or chaperone me, while I bag them?  Dude, what is your function?

Many months ago at the afore-mentioned NS market, when they were still not bagging your groceries if you bought your own bags, the checkers and I joked about how it was understandable to have such draconian policies, two year ago, at the very beginning of the pandemic, when people weren’t sure what COVID-19 was or how it was transmitted.  But we’ve known for some time that COVID is an airborne virus.  You are not going to get it from my woven grocery basket, nor from my reusable bag made of nylon or another synthetic materials.

I tried and (mostly succeeded) in not berating store employees for following their company mandates, no matter how *not*-based-in-reality such mandates were.  There was one notable exception.

 

 

Several months into the pandemic moiself  tried to donate cans of pet food to a local animal shelter.  This is something I did periodically, although this particular trip was in response to moiself’s  having read an article about how the shelter was going through tough times and needed donations for food and other basic animal care items.  A volunteer at the shelter approached me as I began to lower my bags of canned food into the shelter’s donation bins – bins which were open, and at the entrance to the shelter, just as they had always been pre-pandemic.  The volunteer apologetically said that the shelter would not take a donation of cans, “…because of COVID.”

Moiself:
“Seriously?
You *do* realize that you can’t get COVID from a can of cat food…don’t you?”

I immediately regretted my outburst response, apologized to the volunteer,   [5]   adding that I realized he was not personally responsible for such an idiotic, non-science-based overly-cautious policy.    [6]

 

 

So, to reiterate: You (store clerk/business employee) are not going to get COVID from my reusable bag unless each component of the following scenario ensues:

* I, infected with COVID, am standing in your checkout line at your store.

* I feel a cough coming on, lift up my face mask, put my bag to my face, and hack and sputter into said bag.

* While bagging my groceries with the bag I brought and just coughed into, you – for  reasons fathomable only by a highly perceptive mental health professional – grab that bag, lift your own mask, stick your finger into the glob of moist ejecta I coughed onto the bag, stick that finger in your nostril and inhale deeply and then, just to make sure, lick that same finger before proclaiming, “Just as I thought! Definitely NOT lime Jell-O.”

 

 

Neither are you, nor I, *not* are going to catch COVID because you, the checker, obsessively sprayed and wiped your checkstand’s conveyor belt between each customer.  [7]    Our mask-wearing, social distance-maintaining, hand-washing; our getting vaccinated and staying home when we’re ill – these are the actions that matter.  However, store policies re obsessive cleaning are…well…policies.  And when a policy is established, for reasons sound or otherwise, it tends to remain in place.  ‘Cause, you know: Science.  [8]

So, Albertsons, answer me this: Do your fellow grocery stores, your competitors – do all those other stores and their employees have a special dispensation or super powers which allow them protection from those icky reusable bags which are out to contaminate your store’s employees?

Albertsons, hear this:  It is safe for your baggers to use customer’s reusable bags.  Update your policy. Either that or tell your “baggers” to get off their asses and move away if they’re not going to bag my groceries. I don’t need a chaperone or a witness while I do so. You could at least have them pretend to count the store’s supply of paper bags, or dust shelves or whatever, while I am doing what is supposed to be their job.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Sometimes I Amaze Even Moiself

Did I really just write over twenty paragraphs about the pesky   [9]  dilemma of grocery store bagging?

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Pundemic Pandemic Edition

I will tell you a Coronavirus joke now,
but you will have to wait two weeks to see if you got it.

Why are four out of five fishermen *not* worried about COVD-19?
Because they never catch anything.

What’s the difference between Covid-19 and Romeo and Juliet?
One’s the coronavirus, the other is a Verona crisis

What will we call the kids who celebrate their thirteenth birthday
thirteen years after the start of the pandemic lockdown?
The quaranteens.

Bonus
 Chuck Norris has been exposed to the COVID-19.
The virus is now in quarantine for a month.

Special bonus
Best pickup line, as overheard in a nursing home:
Single elderly man says to single elderly woman,
“If COVID doesn’t take you out, can I?”

 

 

*   *   *

 

May you never use “because of the COVID thing” as an excuse;
May this post not be your (only) reason for avoiding lime Jell-O;
May you remember to bring your reusable bags;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Lifted as in no longer mandatory in indoor public spaces and schools.  Federal requirements still include masks on public transit.

[2] Had between apparent friends, in public spaces.  And yes, I was keeping proper physical distancing.  I wasn’t exactly eavesdropping; they were talking loudly and my mask did not cover my ears. Or, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

[3] As in, post-pandemic…as in, assuming what we had and did before was somehow “normal.”

[4] My longtime favorite store.  Which does not (yet) have a self-checkout option.

[5] Moiself  used to volunteer at that same shelter.

[6] “They’ll take monetary donations,” he sheepishly responded.  The “they,” I assume, meant the shelter staff.

[7] Now, wiping the belt after the previous customer’s raw beef dripped blood all over it and I’m going to put down my fresh produce on that very belt – YES! Thank you!

[8] The law of inertia, or whatever.

[9] As in, slightly frustrating, but not approaching the level of invading-another-sovereign-country frustrating.

The Luge I’m Not Watching

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Department Of Olympic Reflections

 

 

I’m going through my every-two years (pandemic-influenced schedule changes notwithstanding), post-Olympic blues, where after dinner I sit down in one of our way-too-comfy chairs and expect instant access to televised, Holy ACL tear, how do they *do* that? feats of athleticism.  Despite my enjoyment of the spectacle, my attention feels somewhat squirm-worthy….  Moiself doesn’t even try to justify my interest in The Games ®  with my abhorrence of the host country’s abysmal human rights record.

The USA engaged in a “diplomatic boycott” of these Beijing-hosted games.  Remember the lackluster response to that announcement?

Few if any sports fans tune in to watch the participating countries’ political envoys compete in the Ambassadorial Mixed Team Relay Luge, what’s the point?  When it comes to action strategies, a diplomatic boycott reminds me of prayer – it’s a way of trying to provide the illusion that you’re doing something when in fact you’ve done nothing of consequence.

“We’re doing a diplomatic boycott of the Olympics.”

“We’re praying for the victims of human rights violations.”

Can or should sports (or any human endeavor) be politics-free?  And if the answer is yes, what kind of human rights violations and atrocities are allowed to eclipse those leave-politics-out-of-these-games declarations?

Other minds far keener than moiself’s  frequently debate this issue, and come to contradictory conclusions (“The Olympics *are* political and the IOC is delusional” ;  “Olympics ‘Are Not About Politics,’ Athletes Should Be Politically Neutral At Games”) and everything in between.  I do remember reading a couple of op-ed pieces about the importance of viewers – and journalists – at the Olympics, as in, acting as witnesses to hold the China government accountable for the image they intended to portray vs. the reality of what they do.  If no one’s watching, Chinese officials can say whatever they like about…anything.

When the USA boycotted the Russian-hosted 1980 Summer Olympic to protest Russia’s 1979 invasion of Afghanistan, 64 other countries joined the boycott.  Sound like a lot?  Think again – 80 countries did not, and sent representative athletes to the games.  What was accomplished?  Oh, that’s right; how quickly I forget.  Shamed as bullies before the free world, Russia renounced its oppressive ways and turned into a beacon of liberty and civil rights for the downtrodden masses across the globe.

 

 

Back to the actual games.  The big-liest story involved the 15-year-old Russian figure skater, Kamila Valieva.  Valieva tested positive for a banned performance-enhancing substance but was still was allowed to compete (and then fell apart during a key performance).   [1] 

Moiself  would wager that many teenaged Olympic athletes are “older” than their non-athletic team member peers in many ways, after years of single-minded devotion and adherence to a grueling practice schedule that would break most adults.  There is a second part to my wager: at the same time, these teen athletes’ pursuit to excel at their sport makes them more naïve than other teens. Young Olympics-bound athletes often little experience of the maturation that comes from encountering “real life,” having been shielded from the day-by-day mundane decisions and activities – by both their coaches and parents – so that they can concentrate on mastering the backside quad cork 180˚ or whatever.

So, who’s responsible for Valieva’s doping?  Was it the athlete, or her coach(es)?  Given how coaches control influence their athlete’s lives, and the age of the skater in question, it’s not that difficult for me to imagine Valieva’s unquestioning compliance to a command recommendation.

“Here comrade, take pill/shot, and don’t worry, it’s …uh…
vitamin B-12!  Da, that is what it is.”

Still, there is the argument that if she’s old enough to be on the Olympics team she’s old enough to take responsibility for following the Olympics’ rules. If a substance is banned, you don’t take it, and you don’t let anyone give it to you. 

No matter who’s at fault, I hated to see/think of a 15 year old getting ripped a new one by her coaches…which is what happened. Whosever decision it was to dope – hers, or her “support” team’s – maybe it doesn’t matter in long run.  And maybe someone should check on Valieva, after she’s returned to Russia and the hoopla dies down, to make sure she hasn’t been carted off to the All-Gulag Tour of Ice Dancing With The Russian Stars. 

My interest in watching any of the figure skating dropped after the Valieva doping-but-excused revelation.  It left a bad taste in my mouth, particularly when I compared the skater’s outcome with what happened to a Summer Olympics track star.  Why wasn’t there a huge outcry about the difference in treatment – USA sprinter Sha’ Carri Richardson was kicked off the Summer Olympics team for failing *her* drug test.  A few people commented, including, succinctly, Richardson herself:

“The only difference I see is I’m a black young lady.”
( “Double Standard, Racism? Sha’Carri Richardson Booted From Olympics For Cannabis, Russian Skater No Problem For Doping.”  Benzinga 2-14-22)

 

 

Moiself  does recall that someone else commented about the brouhaha, at the time when Richardson got the boot….

As the Tokyo (Summer)  Olympics Games enter the final week, I’m realizing I will soon be going through the withdrawal I experience every two years, after watching two-plus weeks of (summer or winter) Olympics events.  I’m not normally a frequent televised-sporting-events fan, but moiself  does enjoy The Games ®….

In the second week, with track and field events predominating, moiself  is thinking about a conversation I had with daughter Belle, several weeks back, about how the USA’s track star Sha’ Carri Richardson received a suspension for testing positive for marijuana, and thus would not be participating in the Olympics.

Belle was peeved that Richardson would not be able to compete, due to what Belle sees as an unfair and archaic drug testing system.  I mentioned that Richardson’s competitors might also be disappointed in Richardson’s absence from the games.  As I understand it, when you’re at the top level of your sport, you want to compete against the best.  Also, whatever your accomplishments, you don’t want an asterisk next to them (as in, “* ___ won the gold medal, after the favorite ____ was disqualified for….”).

We agreed that athletes should be tested for steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs; definitely-absolutely-go-for-it.  But Belle and I had fun wondering back and forth about why athletes are tested for alcohol and marijuana…. it seems to moiself  that weed and booze, with their relaxant and depressive properties, would diminish, not enhance, athletic performance.  And really now: in what sports could marijuana be considered a performance *enhancing* drug? Competitive eating? Belle suggested.

You’d think athletes would *want* their rivals to get the munchies before competition: “Here comes Richardson, strolling across the finish line in last place, giving the other racers a, ‘What’s up with all the hurry?’ look as she heads for the pizza roll vendor….”


“I’d like to thank my coach, and my training partner, Maui Wowie.”

So, lobby to change the Olympics’ drug testing rules, if you think it would be worthwhile to do so.  Until then, it would be unfair to other athletes to make exceptions for some and not others, in terms of how existing drug rules are applied.    [2]

Also, the athletes know full well what they will be tested for.  My advice    [3]   to them  is, don’t act surprised and/or disappointed if you used a banned substance and then get caught.  Take responsibility.  Don’t play dumb when you’re not.
(Excerpts from 8-6-21 blog post, The Drug Test I’m Not Failing, full text here)

 

 

Once again, I digress.  Time to finish with the Winter Olympics.

As always, moiself  thrilled to watch  the ariel snowboarding and skiing and ski jumping events, marveled at the WTF?!? stamina and skill required by the XC skiers and Biathlon-ers,     [4]   and yawned through (read: ignored) the curling/bobsled/luge/skeleton events.   [5]   Although it was great to see pioneering USA snowboarding champ Shaun White in Olympic action again/for the last time, it was also awe-inspiring to see the younger snowboarders – many if not most of whom were inspired by White – perform their gravity-defying new stunts…and then it was poignant to realize, as White seemed to do so graciously, that his time at that level of competition had passed.  Most of all, it was great fun, for moiself  at least, to see a smaller country, Norway (population 5 million, led the medal count with thirty-seven.  Yes; 37), dominate the competition.   [6]

But, my enjoyment was dampened by the skating scandal.  And also, the host.  Fucking People’s Republic of Human Rights Bullies China.

 

 

My gradually-souring mood was saved by son K, who steered me toward an old video clip of Shaun White as a bright-eyed 19 year old, being interviewed by CNN after his first Olympics.  Refreshingly unjaded and enthusiastic, gushing as if amazed by his own success, White described how, during his plane flight back to the USA, the flight attendants   [7]   fawned over his Olympic medal.  White’s charmingly disarming, duuuuude, totally rad persona, seemingly endemic to surfers and snowboarders, surfaced when the CNN interviewer interrupted White with an attempted “gotcha” moment.  It reminded me why I’m gonna miss the red-haired dude and his ‘tude:

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

*   *   *

 

Department Of Things I Sometimes Forget

 

 

 

Such as, sometimes I forget how much I like a simple veggie chili, which can be made rather quickly with Staples I Almost Always Have Handy ® . As for the simple part, you can complexify     [8]  it up, as much as you want, with different beans and pepper combos, and get jiggy with the toppings.

Lotta Beans Chili (makes ~ 6 servings)

– ½ T EVOO
– 8 large garlic cloves, chopped   [9]

– 2 cans no salt added chopped tomatoes
-1 can each (~15 oz) of the following (no salt added) cooked beans, rinsed & drained:
  Black, kidney, garbanzo, lima
– 1 c white frozen corn, thawed
– 3 T chili powder
– 1 T ground cumin seed (toasted first – optional, but delish)
– ½ t each kosher salt & freshly ground black peppercorns; cayenne pepper to taste

– 1 t (or more) red wine vinegar
– 3T rinsed pickled jalapeno slices (more or less to taste)   [10]

– lime slices

Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1m. Add beans through cumin seeds, mix well, and bring to simmer over med-high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until flavors are blended, ~ 30m.

Season w/salt, pepper and cayenne, and jalapenos. Add vinegar to taste. Serve with lime slices to squeeze over.

Additional toppings:
Avocado chunks or slices or guacamole; chopped fresh cilantro; chopped scallions; plant-based or regular sour cream or plain yogurt; shredded veg or other cheeses; crushed tortilla chips; red or green chili salsa; a mother’s bitter tears….

 

Your final product should look nothing like this.

 

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Punz For The Day
Chili Edition

I got a miniature fresh habañero pepper at the farmer’s market. When I returned home
I put a tiny blanket on it, because it was a little chili.

We are thinking about making Five Alarm Bean and Cabbage Chili for Christmas Eve.
We’re starting a new tradition called, ‘Silent But Deadly Night.’

How do you make a good vegan chili?
Stick her in the freezer.

What do dead Norseman like in their chili?
Vallhallapeños.

 


You can see yourself out.

 

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May you never be subjected to an Olympic-sized double standard;
May you never engage in a diplomatic boycott (of anything);
May you join your loved ones in a rousing chorus of,
“I’m talkin’ ’bout Mountain Dews, baby!”    [11]

…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] As in, she fell, several times, during her last performance, where, favored to take first place in the Women’s Singles competition, she did not medal.

[2] Richardson claimed she used weed to cope with receiving the news of the unexpected death of her biological mother.  If that’s the case, I’m wondering why she didn’t alert officials before she was tested, along the lines of, “BTW, I used this substance for this reason,” to try to explain or at least warn them that she wasn’t trying to sneak anything past them.

[3] Which they clamor for, night and day…it gets soooooo annoying.

[4] Only Norwegians could come up with such a body-punishing, seemingly disparate skills-requiring event as biathlon.

[5] The nuances of the sledding events evades me (“He tilted his body one degree to the right to steer the sled higher on the turn”…uh huh).  No doubt fun to do yourself, but a snoozefest to watch someone else do it.

[6] Second place Germany, population 83 million , 27 medals…summer Olympics powerhouse USA (population 330 million) got 25 winter Olympic medals.

[7] Although he refers to them using the antediluvian term, “stewardesses.”  DUDE ?!?!?

[8] My word.  You’re welcome.

[9] I don’t need to specify peeled, right?  Who chops fully clothed garlic cloves?

[10] Obviously more, if you like the taste.

[11] You have to watch the Shaun White video to get this one.

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