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The Christian Left I’m Not Shaming

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Happy New Year, y’all.

Department Of The Partridge Of The Week
It’s that time of the year again. As has become a tradition much maligned anticipated in our neighborhood, moiself  is hosting a different Partridge, every week, in my front yard.   [1]
Can you identify this week’s guest Partridge?

Goodbye to Shirley (Mama P), Keith, Laurie, Danny, Tracy – to all the Partridges until next season.

 

Wait – she can’t just box us up like those friggin’ elves…can she?

 

*   *   *

Department Of Putting It All Away

The holiday decorations, that is.

 

Even Cablefish gets a Santa hat in my house.

 

 

The Mantle of Red Pointy Things. ®

 

 

This one tried to hide, but I found him anyway.

 

Farewell, Holiday feasting.

 

 

It’s a wistful day.  Moiself  plays seasonal music, from Misty River’s Midwinter  album to Run DMC’s Christmas In Hollis, on repeat, while I pack away the adornments.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Here, But Not There, And Why

Dateline: Tuesday morning 7:45 AM.  It’s high tide; thus, I’m walking on a road which parallels the beach, and not on the beach itself.

About 100 yards ahead of me a man and his big shaggy dog cross the road and start ambling in the direction I’m going. Out for the morning poop walk, moiself  assumes. The dog is sniffing and sniffing and sniff sniff sniff sniffing clumps of grass, driftwood, and bushes along the road. It stops several times for a longer sniff, almost assuming the classic squat position, then continues until it finally reaches the magic point. By then I have caught up to man and beast, as the latter prepares to do his business and the man prepares his picking-up-dog-business bag.

As I pass them by I am wondering about the dog, So, why *that* spot?  It looks identical to the one you sniffed fifty feet back. Was it particularly aromatic with…familiarity?

“Oh, I remember! I pooped here yesterday, and it was grand. I’ll poop here again!”

 

 

Or, perhaps the pup’s motivation is more sinister than celebratory:

“Aha!  This is the poop-place of that poodle I despise. I’ll show him…”

I’m sure many dog owners   [2]  have their theories (or even certitudes) about the phenomenon of what makes the Perfect Poop Place. ®  But the thing is, only the dogs know. And they do not volunteer this information. I’ve tried asking discretely and quietly, when their owners cannot hear me.  The doggies have yet to reveal their secrets.

 

And someone is always watching.

*   *   *

Department Of It’s Not Too Late To Make A Resolution To Treat People Like People
Sub-Department Of The Problems With Cherry-Picking Quotations

I saw this, posted via the Facebook book group, The Christian Left, last week:

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”
– Leviticus 19:33-34 (ESV)” 

 

 

 TCL is, as far as moiself  can tell, a group of Christians who advocate what they see as the more humane/liberal side of Christianity.  Thus, I assume this posting was meant as a wake up (read: shaming) tactic, or reminder to their conservative/borderline-racist Christian cousins, with regards as to how the latter treat migrants and asylum seekers.

Fine; okay.  Shame such folks whenever and however you can.  However….

How do those on “The Christian Left” react when their conservative cousins do the Bible-thumping in reverse?  That is, when conservative Christians share other quotes from their Bible, which they deem equally valid guidelines for modern day living? Such as….

* “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.”
Leviticus 18:22 (ESV)

“Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death. Because they have cursed their father or mother,
heir blood will be on their own head.”
Leviticus 20:9 (NIV)

* If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. They shall say to the elders, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you.”
Deuteronomy 21:18-21 (NIV)

* “Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves.”
Leviticus 25:44 (NIV)

* “For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day shall be your holy day, a day of sabbath rest to the Lord.
Whoever does any work on it is to be put to death.”
Exodus 35:2 (NIV)

 

image from Pinterest “conversative Christian quotes.”

 

Far better to do the right thing, to treat other people as what they are, members of your own species, because it is the right thing to do and because of just that – that they are your fellow human beings- rather than to have one’s morality based on conflicting interpretations of pre-scientific, Iron age “scriptures” written by people who thought the earth had four corners and floats on water  [3] and that their god wanted them to ban handicapped people from making temple offerings or even approaching the altar   [4]  and that leprosy, aka Hansen’s disease, could be cured by following their god’s detailed instructions, which are, in a nutshell,   [5]

Get two birds. Kill one. Dip the live bird in the blood of the dead one.
Sprinkle the blood on the leper seven times, and then let the blood-soaked bird fly away.

Next find a lamb and kill it. Wipe some of its blood on the patient’s right ear, thumb, and big toe. Sprinkle seven times with oil and wipe some of the oil on his right ear,
thumb and big toe. Repeat. Finally find another pair of birds. Kill one and dip the live bird in the dead bird’s blood.
Wipe some blood on the patient’s right ear, thumb, and big toe. Sprinkle the house with blood seven times….
(Leviticus 14)

 

 

 

*   *   *

Freethinkers’ Thought Of The Week     [6]

I go into a laboratory and create a unicellular organism that will kill millions of people.  I infect flying/biting insects to serve as the delivery system for that organism.
If I release those insects, am I evil?
Without exception every theist I have asked says, “Yes.”
I then ask them to explain malaria.
(anonymous)

 

 

*   *   *

May you be amused by considering the whys/wheres of dog-poop-depositing;
May you treat your fellow human beings as fellow human beings;
May you put away your holiday to the sound of some excellent tunes;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Specifically, in our pear tree.

[2] Which moiself  has not been for decades.

[3](Isa 11:12, Ps 24:2, 136:6, Rev 7:1.,

[4] Levi. 21¨16-20

[5] A most appropriate container, as medical scientists have discovered that Hansen’s disease can be cured with antimicrobial MDT (multi drug therapy).

[6] “free-think-er n. A person who forms opinions about religion on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established belief. Freethinkers include atheists, agnostics and rationalists.   No one can be a freethinker who demands conformity to a bible, creed, or messiah. To the freethinker, revelation and faith are invalid, and orthodoxy is no guarantee of truth.”  Definition courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, ffrf.org

The Elves I’m Not Shelving

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Department Of The Partridge Of The Week

It’s that time of the year again. As has become a tradition much maligned anticipated in our neighborhood, moiself  is hosting a different Partridge, every week, in my front yard.   [1]

Can you identify this week’s guest Partridge?

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Happy Little Christmas Eve

Whaddya mean, what’s Little Christmas Eve?  It’s tonight, December 23, as in, the eve before Christmas Eve.

LCE is an obscure – to everyone but my family – holiday supposedly celebrated in my maternal grandfather’s ancestral, tiny Norwegian village.  It was one of my favorite special days, when I was a child.  It still is . [2]   Moiself  has continued that tradition with MH’s and my family.  We have a special LCE dinner, but unlike Christmas Eve dinner, which always features lefse, the LCE menu varies year to year.  After dinner, each child gets to open one of their Christmas presents. The most memorable aspect about my childhood LCEs was the “rule” that our house was lit only by candlelight, during the dinner meal and thereafter, until bedtime.

I was fascinated by candles; thus, it was a magical night for moiself.  Candles everywhere; no electric lights allowed!  If you went to the bathroom, you carried a candle.

How we never managed to burn the house down, I don’t know.  Guess those elves were watching over us.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of About Those Elves….

“Oh, yeah, so you all liked that Elf on a Shelf thing?”
(Misinformed persons who feel compelled to ask about all the elves
in our house during this time of year)

Much of moiself’s house’s holiday décor, in all its tacky seasonal glory, is in homage to my mother, who died six years ago on Christmas Eve.

Marion Parnell loved Christmas and especially her Christmas decorations, which included the tradition (which her family started and mine continues) of placing certain kind of elves – the kind with small plastic, doll-like faces and bendable, felt costume-clothed bodies,   [3]  all around the house.  Like the one above, a rare yellow-green costumed variant.

The idea was that from any vantage point, whether you are sitting in the living room or getting a drink from the kitchen sink, an elf is casting a friendly eye upon you.  Some of our elves indeed are on a shelf, but most perch atop curtains, peek out from bookcases, lurk behind candlesticks, nestle behind dishes and clocks and art and….

But, this “Elf on a Shelf” thing? Never heard of it, until recently.  EOAS is, apparently, a picture book about…honestly, I don’t know or care what it’s about. I looked it up:  the book has a 2005 publication date.  Neither I nor MH knew about it, nor had our two children (DOBs 1993 and 1996) grown up with EOAS as part of their kiddie lit repertoire.  My extended family on my mother’s side has been putting up elves since the early 1920s, so none of these #!*&#?! EOAS references applies to elves on MY shelves, okay?

Y’all must excuse moiself  if (read: when) I respond with a yuletide-inappropriate profanity should you mention that book to me. Actually, moiself  finds it funny how much it irritates me when someone, after seeing or hearing about our houses elves, makes a reference to the book – such as the antique store owner who, when I asked if her store had any elves and began to describe what I was looking for, said, “Oh, you mean, like that book?”   My customary cheerful/holiday visage darkened, and I answered her with utmost solemnity.

No.
Nothing.
Like. That. Book.

Which might not be entirely accurate, seeing as how I’ve never read nor even seen the book…which may indeed be about something akin to *our* family tradition.  I just want…oh, I don’t know…attribution, I suppose.  WE THOUGHT OF IT FIRST, OKAY?  So, stick that Elf-on-a-shelf in your Santa Hat and….

 

*   *   *

Christmas with a big deal in my childhood.  My parents didn’t have as much $$ as many of my friends’ parents did; still, they made sure there were always very-much-appreciated presents awaiting my siblings and I under the tree Christmas morning.    [4]    Later, when my parents’ children grew up and had children of their own, something…happened.

I don’t remember getting (from my parents) gifts that I thought were inappropriate or that I didn’t want.   I made a wish list before the holidays, at my parent’s request, and they usually chose from that. Fast forward to their gifts to MH and my children, their grandchildren.  Excuse my yuletide jargon, but what the fuck?

The following reflection was inspired by a Hidden Brain podcast on gift giving.  When a guest on the show mentioned inappropriate, “message” gifts, I remembered trying (unsuccessfully, I think) to talk my parents out of a gift they were planning on giving to an extended family member. Alarmed by his weight gain and his family history of heart disease, they told me they were planning on giving him a gym membership.

 

 

This got my mind going to my parents’ Christmas gift fail with my kids.  Which I expounded upon a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (okay; from my March 2016 post, The Gifts I’m Not Authenticating):

When K and Belle were kidlets, there were many, many, many – and did I mention many? – years where it took us up to four weeks (or more!) post-Christmas to find enough room in the garbage can for all of the non-recyclable packaging materials which were indigenous to gifts that came from A Certain Side of The Family.

Read: my side. Specifically, my mother.   [5]  Mom was abetted in her trashing of the planet abundantly swathed present-bestowing by the good folks at Lillian Vernon.  Are you familiar with that catalog company? If so, you have my sympathy. 

 

 

My mother discovered the Lillian Vernon catalog (too) many years ago. Once she did, there was no turning back. The catalog became her go-to source for gifts for her grandchildren, and a more wasteful source I’ve yet to encounter. Why a four-inch tin-plated Model T replica needs to be encased in enough Styrofoam insulate an entire Uzbekistan village is a mystery to me…but that, apparently, is the shipping policy at Lillian Vernon.

The excessive packaging was one thing; the gifts themselves, ay yi yi. All made in China, of substandard construction   [6]  –– and accompanied by a Certificate of Authenticity.

 

This crap is authentic, guaranteed.

 

Most bewildering of all was how inappropriate the gifts were. Not inappropriate as in giving a life-size Uzi replica to a five-year-old; rather, inappropriate in that the gifts had no relation to what K and Belle actually wanted.

I’ll never forget K’s reaction the year he opened his present from Grandma M, dug through the layers of packaging and…oh, um….yeah…a set of miniature antique automobile replicas? Perhaps for some child, somewhere, that would have been a welcome present. K had no interest in “antique replicas” (even those that came with certificates of authenticity).  Thus K, along with his sister, got an early introduction to practicing the art of Present Face.

 

 

It was (kinda sorta) terrible to laugh at the gifts, but we did – after I gave K & Belle the usual parental reassuring (“Grandma means well”). Year after year, my mom gave her grandchildren stuff they neither wanted nor needed.  I tried to figure it out, thinking aloud to MH one Christmas, after K & Belle had opened their respective/bewildering (but authentically certified!) LV boxes: It’s as if my mom is using suggestions based on someone’s idea of gender and age:

Here are gifts for Boy Child, ages 9-11, and for Girl Child, Ages 5-8….

Which, I would discover, was exactly what my mother did.

In year three or four of the They Sooooo Do Not Want These Things (the year of the antique replica cars) phenomenon, I resolved to find out what was going on. I tried to be gentle during my Christmas Day phone call to my parents – I tried to tease out what made them think K would be interested in a set of Ford Model A and T cars? I could have used a verbal sledgehammer, for all of my mother’s obliviousness.   [7]

I do all my Christmas and birthday shopping from the catalog, my mother explained. (actually, it was more like bragging than explaining). I have all the categories covered – they list them for girls and boys, of any age. When it’s time for a Christmas or birthday I go to the boxes in the garage or under my bed and pick one out!

Hmmm…yeah. Say, Mom, for next year, how about if you ask K and Belle what *they’d* like? Or they could send you a gift list, like you used to have me write up for my birthday and Christmas. K really likes to draw – there’s an artist’s pencil set he’s interested in, and Belle loves Legos, and….

That’s okay, I already have next year’s Christmas presents picked out!
Birthdays, too! I keep them all in a big stash under the bed.
K’s and Belle’s birthday presents are ready to go – it’s so convenient.
Oh, here’s Dad….

I was more direct with my father: “This is difficult to say…I want my kids to be grateful for any gift, but Dad, it’s like the presents are from a stranger who doesn’t know them. It’s nothing they are interested in. Why doesn’t Mom ask them what they’d like? They’d love to tell her.” He just didn’t hear me (“Well, that’s how she likes to do it.), and changed the subject.

Later that day I sought email counsel from my older and younger sisters. It wasn’t just my family’s dilemma – they’d both dealt with the LV catalog gift-gifting issue, and had tried everything from dropping hints to being directly confrontational.  Their advice: Sorry, but that’s the way it is. Learn to live with it.

  

 

MH and I raised K and Belle to look at gifts as just that – gifts, not entitlements. We encouraged them to find something about which to feel grateful for any present they received; we advised them to never expect nor request presents, but to be gracious and specific when asked by someone what you’d like for your birthday, or Christmas.

My parents never asked.   [8]

K and Belle dutifully wrote thank you notes to Grandpa Chet and Grandma M.  After years of getting presents they didn’t want, it became somewhat of a family joke ritual:  on Christmas morning, along with our gift-opening accouterments we also set out a direct-to-Goodwill bag for the Lillian Vernon haul, and there was a special ceremonial flourish when a Certificate of Authenticity assumed its rightful place in the paper recycling bin.

Along with the droll (okay; snarky) comments and laughter which became a part of our gift-opening, there were genuine hurt feelings, for both me and my children. It sliced at my heart, the first time K and Belle looked at me with sad-round eyes and said, Why don’t they ask me what I want?

It was so effin’ impersonal; it showed no interest in them as individuals. My mother took pride in being done with her present shopping months (even years) in advance…and took no interest in finding out what her grandchildren actually wanted. You can learn a lot about children by asking them what they’d like for a present – it can be a segue into finding out about their hobbies and interests and talents, about finding out who they are and what they like to do.

Instead, it was This Christmas Belle gets something from the “Girl Toys Ages 6-9” bag under Grandma M’s bed.  My mother even mixed up the presents one year: K got a gift that was meant for his cousin. The gift tag read, “To X, Love Grandma M” (cousin X, my younger sister’s second son, was the same age as K)!

 

 

At my suggestion (and with my father’s encouragement), my parents switched to giving checks to their grandchildren a few years back, a practice my mother continued after my father died. Now, the LV catalog present years are the stuff of family lore. Back then, it was Yet Another Life Lesson ® for my children (and their parents) in tolerance, acceptance, and loving people as they are, warts/quirks and all. Looking back, a part of me is even grateful for the experience, which provided us with one of our favorite family code phrases:

Belle:
What do you know about that new cafe downtown?

Moiself:
I haven’t heard much about them, only that each menu item comes with a

Certificate of Authenticity.
Belle:
Whoa, thanks for the warning.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Food (and beverage?) For Thought

In 2020 (the last year for which there is complete information) there were 11,654 “alcohol-impaired”-related auto accident deaths.

That accounts for 30% of the 38,824 total auto accident deaths for 2020.

Which means that the remaining 70% of auto accident deaths were caused by ijiots who drink bottled water, coffee, soda, juice, energy drinks, et al, and/or talked or texted on their phones and/or were otherwise impaired by their own stupidity, incompetence, and inattentiveness.

 

 

*   *   *

Freethinkers’ Thought Of The Week     [9]

“At this season of the winter solstice, let reason prevail.
There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell;
there is only our natural world.
Religion is but myth and superstition which hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”

(Anne Nichol Gaylor, principal founder, Freedom From Religion Foundation )

*   *   *

May all of your gift-giving be authentic;
May you have a Happy Christmas Eve;
May you have open hearts and free minds;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Specifically, in our pear tree.

[2] And arguably, I still am somewhat child-like (or, ish).

[3] Many of the oldest ones have a tiny Made in Japan sticker on them, and date from the 1950s or earlier, or so I was told by one antique shop dealer.

[4] Which, BTW, is the only proper day to open your Christmas gifts.  If MH’s family had been a, “We-open-our-gifts-on-Christmas-Eve!” kind of family, we would not have married.

[5] (my mother has since died, but at the time I included this “Content reassurance”): my mother is alive, albeit in poor physical and mental health. We speak at least once a week; she doesn’t remember our phone conversation from the previous week (nor often what I said five minutes ago). She is a shut in, in her own home, with 24/7 care by patient and loving attendants. She has no access to the internet, doesn’t read my blog, doesn’t know I write a blog, doesn’t know what a blog is….

[6] I was going to write shoddily manufactured…there’s just no nice way to put it. That shit was cheaply made.

[7] And it was my mother’s doing. As was common to many men of his generation, my father gladly ceded the birthday and holiday gift-choosing tasks to his wife.

[8] MH’s usually did.

[9] “free-think-er n. A person who forms opinions about religion on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established belief. Freethinkers include atheists, agnostics and rationalists. No one can be a freethinker who demands conformity to a bible, creed, or messiah. To the freethinker, revelation and faith are invalid, and orthodoxy is no guarantee of truth.”  Definition courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, ffrf.org

The Fight I’m Not Ending

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Department Of The Partridge Of The Week

It’s that time of the year again. As has become a tradition much maligned anticipated in our neighborhood, moiself   is hosting a different Partridge, every week, in my front yard.   [1]

Can you identify this week’s guest Partridge?

 

*   *   *

And about that fight….  Why am I not ending it? Because the controversies over the issues and principles involved seem to be (still, WTF)  lingering in some tight-spirited and fearful minds.

I ran across the sentiments moiself   so objects to last week when moiself  heard a snippet of a radio interview with some book reviewer.  But I was most butt-frostingly reminded of The Fight ®  when I recently heard Fresh Air host Terry Gross’s 1993 interview (rebroadcasted 12-14-22) with Octavia Butler, the late great, ground-breaking Black female science fiction author.

 

 

Butler, indiscussing how and why she began writing, said she was both trying to get under-represented perspectives a voice (i.e. a voice like hers, as a black female in sci fi), but also she wanted to experience the voice of others:

“…I’ve  also explored, and in a strange sense I suppose I also found out, what it might like to be a white male or whatever, you know.
One of the things writing does is allow you to be other people
without actually being locked up for it.”

TG:
“We’re talking empathy here, right?”

OB:
“Uh hum – yes.”

 

 

That should have ended the pitiful controversy right there and then.  But it’s been a long time since 1993, and “cultural appropriation,” a concept bandied about in academia in the 1980s, wasn’t so publicly applied to works of literature until after Butler’s death.

In case y’all haven’t figured out the connection between this particular blog’s title and content, the fight I refer to would be that against literary censorship – censorship of the worst kind, the kind that makes an author repress herself before she even writes, when she has an idea for a story/plot/character but fears her work will be for naught as she doesn’t have the right “personal” credentials/identity that the self-appointed Saviors of Literary Ownership Police  (appropriately acronym-ed) will deem necessary…and thus they will rake her over the cultural appropriation coals.

Moiself  has written about this several times in this space (a few of them cited at the end of this post, before the footnotes), and most extensively in my post, The Culture I’m Not Appropriating, 9-16-16.  Since it’s my birthday week   [2]  and since the wise words of Ms. Butler inspired me, I shall rerun that post, which was one of my first single-subject rants examination of a thorny issue:

 

 

( from The Culture I’m Not Appropriating, 9-16-16. )

Write what you know is, hands down/butts up, the Worst Writing Advice Ever. ®  Although I despise the aggravating axiom’s existence, I took some solace in thinking that its influence has been waning….

Golly gosh gee willikers, how I love learning new things: it seems that, like intestinal gas after a vegan-chili-eating contest, that misbegotten maxim keeps resurfacing. It has morphed, and rises anew in the form of the term, cultural appropriation.      [3]

 

I grow weary of you appropriating Vulcan culture, Lt. Kirk.

 

American journalist/novelist Lionel Shriver, who was invited to be the keynote speaker at the recent  Brisbane Writers Festival, knotted the knickers of the festival organizers when, as reported in this NY Times article, she  [4]  disparaged the movement against cultural appropriation:

Write what you know; do not appropriate the culture/experience of another. This becomes translated as, Write what you are. And what you are becomes defined by someone outside of you – someone who decries cultural, ethnic, class and gender stereotypes even as they want to circumscribe your right to tell stories/craft characters based on their interpretation of your cultural what you know.

Seven years ago I wrote a letter to the editor of Poets & Writers magazine, in response to a Very Long Screed ® letter from a woman who passionately pronounced that writers must write about only those characters and backgrounds from whence they came; that is, you must write about what you know, and what you know is what you are. Screed Woman  [5]    commented at length about what a “true artist” may create, and at one point actually declared the following:

I will not permit folks like _____ [6]  to write of my folk, or Mexican folk, or Asian folk, or Native American folk, of folk of color as though they have a right to.” 

 

 

Yes, really.

Screed Writer, without having been asked by other writers, “By the way, what do you think I should write about?” and without having been elected to the Board of Literary Permissions,  [7]   not only felt entitled to speak for all of her “folk,” but also for the folk of which she is not-folk – an incredibly diverse and numerous collection of humanity, whose varying and wide-ranging opinions on the issue at hand she discounted, IMHO, by presuming to speak for all folk-of-color.

As I wrote in my reply letter,  [8]

Was I out of the country when _____( Screed Writer) was appointed to the coveted, “True Artist Discerner” position?
….I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but behold: for centuries, a legion of writers, from Shakespeare to Le Guin, have composed tales and created characters without your (or anyone else’s) permission. A pox upon the cheeky bastards!
….All those wasted years, merely loathing Jonathan Livingston Seagull for the story itself when I could have really censured it for being inauthentic: “How dare its author write outside his species!?”

 

 

Write what you know. Just think of the awful, intrusive, disrespectful novels penned by those who have ignored that advice.

John Steinbeck, born into middle-class comfort in California and educated at Stanford – what could he know of the struggles and dreams of the destitute Oklahoma migrant farmers he depicted in The Grapes of Wrath? And that Cathy Ames character, the initially charming but ultimately evil and pitiful wife/mother in East of Eden – how could a 1950s, upright male citizen like Steinbeck take the liberty to deduce the machinations of a turn of the century whorehouse madam?   [9]

How dare Rita Mae Brown, a never-married, child-free lesbian with no siblings, presume to know the combination of brass and loneliness of the widowed elderly sisters and mothers whom she featured in her novel Bingo?  Not only that, Brown has penned a series of detective novels featuring a cat as a sleuth-like protagonist! The nerve of her, a bipedal homo sapiens, to appropriate the thoughts and actions of a quadrapedal felis catus.

Stephen King had his first great hit with the novel Carrie. He audaciously crafted his shy high school misfit character despite the fact that he, an adult man with no demonstrable psychokinetic abilities who came from a middle-of-the road Protestant background, could not possibly know what it would be like to be a much-bullied adolescent female with telekinetic powers who lived with a batshit-crazy fundamentalist mother.

Alice Walker – well, she can write about her own folk, as long as they are The Color Purple.  But as an African American from a rural, Southern, impoverished, Baptist background there’s no way she could know the mind-set and motivations of an idealistic civil rights worker from a Northern, white, Jewish, privileged circumstances…and yet she dared to create just such a character in Meridian.

And what could Brian Doyle, a non-Urdu-speaking, white American writer and editor, truly know about the inner musings of a Muslim Pakistani barber, as he had the gall to do in Bin Laden’s Bald Spot ?

And don’t even get me started on that uppity Jean Auel, who created the Clan of the Cave Bear books. Auel presumed to tell tales about people who lived and died thousands of years ago – she appropriated cultures that don’t even exist anymore! And what could she, a contemporary middle-aged white woman, possibly know about Cro-magnons and Neanderthals of any age, gender or ethnicity?

Have I belabored this point enough?  Because, I could go on, ya know.

 

No, please, provide even more examples; we still don’t get it…

 

Now then. I do not mean to dismiss legitimate concerns re the historical exploitation of the experiences of women and minorities via the platform of fiction. As one Brisbane Writers Festival attendee put it, “The reality is that those from marginalized groups, even today, do not get the luxury of defining their own place in a norm that is profoundly white, straight and, often, patriarchal.”

I moiself  have, in this space and others, ranted commented on the pervasive sexism in the publishing and literary reviewing worlds, wherein, for example, “books about women written by men receive critical acclaim, while books written by women on similar themes and in a similar style are tawdry domestic dramas.”   [10]   And a slew of minds more incisive than mine have long noted the disparate praise heaped upon (usually white) men vis-à-vis women and minorities writing on the same subject.

I do mean to dismiss three whole ‘nother kettles of wormy literary fish:

  1. the idea that there are any “sacred” subjects – including but not limited to culture, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion, politics, socio-economic class, dis/ability – about which writers cannot or should not write;
  2. the idea that writers may justifiably feel entitled to try to limit the variety of voices other writers employ to comment on any subject;
  3. two wormy fish kettles of literary nonsense are enough to be dismissed, for now.

Look: you may like a story’s plot and/or characters, or loathe the same – it’s up to each reader. What is not up to any reader, nor the self-blinder-donning, self-appointed Guardians Of Cultural Appropriation,   [11]   is to attempt to limit, intimidate or censor the imagination and empathy that writers use to create their stories and characters.

 

 

“I often quote myself. It lends spice to my conversation.”
(Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw)

 Since I am not one to ignore the example of GB Shaw, I shall end this communique with the end of my afore-mentioned response to the afore-mentioned Screed Writer:

_____ (Screed Writer) writes, with all sincerity and good intentions, I assume, that she would not write a character with certain gender/religious/ethnic attributes because she does “not wish to offend with less than authenticity.” Some might think her intentions polite and perhaps even considerate, but what I look for in a compelling story is not that its author has good manners. Go ahead, dare to “offend” me with “in-authenticity,” Better yet, let me – the reader – decide whether or not I am offended, and whether or not I find your characters authentic. Trust me; I’ve been doing this for years. I’ll be okay.

To the Write What You Know gang: can we end this dreary dialog? Go back to your corners; reflect; meditate; supplicate; read the self-help books and take the mood or perspective-altering medications that will enable you to ignore the evil voices in your head that tell you it is your obligation to shepherd, chaperone, and censor. WWYK-ers and others who deny themselves the “right” to write authentic if “different” characters are welcome to deny themselves – and themselves alone – that right. If, whether out of fear, misguided notions of respect, or any other reason, you do not consider yourself capable of creating authentic characters, then by all means, stifle yourself. Do not write beyond your self-imposed limits, perceptions and capacities, If it makes you uncomfortable, you don’t have to write about it if you don’t want to (is this a wonderful world, or what?!), but please consider the following. Throughout the ages, many great writers, painters, and composers have suggested that it is the stepping outside of one’s comfort zone, one’s permitted zone, which is the mark of a “true” artist.

I, for one, am grateful for authors past and present who’ve written out “of the box.” Do not, ever, presume to limit another writer’s capabilities, or be so audacious as to assume you are the granter of people’s right to tell the stories they choose to tell. Gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, class, health status, religion, occupation, political affiliation – all of these authentic, influential and essential qualities ultimately pale in comparison to that most defining human (apologies to science fiction authors) quality: imagination.  Write, if you must, only what you think you know, but stop proscribing the imagination of anyone but yourself. My stories will be filled with agnostic, youthful, weak-hearted Southwestern men and with elderly, vigorous, devoutly Pentecostal Asian women; with boldly blasphemous crones, timorous dyslexic adolescents, and someday maybe even a gracious if paranoid Venusian. I’ll continue to write characters who line up with the truth of the story, not those that toe a line drawn in the literary sand by some self-deputized Authenticity Posse.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Taking A Break

 

There; that’s better.

 

 

Now, if only I could slap somebody upside the head with a leather-bound copy of the list of challenged, censored and banned book titles as collected by the National Coalition Against Censorship.

 

 

*   *   *

Freethinkers’ Thought Of The Week     [12]

“Political parties and ideologies with winning ideas don’t need to ban books. Christian nationalism, however, features inferior ideas
that can’t compete in the modern world without cheating.”
( Marty Essen, author, in his op-ed “Christian Nationalism and book banning,”
Independent Record, 9-16-22 )

*   *   *

May you refrain from brutally smiting those who would constrain the creativity of others;
May you, upon further reflection, treat such constraints with the scorn they deserve;
May you authentically appropriate the power of imagination;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

*   *   *

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

Teasers from previous posts on this topic, in case you haven’t had enough already and/or are suffering from insomnia:

Department Of Oh Please Not This Again
It is just as well that I’m a writer, not an editor. Were I editing a newspaper or magazine, I might soon be out of a job. For this is an essay in defense of cultural appropriation.
In Canada last month, three editors lost their jobs after making such a defense.

(Kenan Malik, opening lines from, In Defense of Cultural Appropriation  )

Excerpt from post The Woman I’m Not Born As, June 23 2017

*   *

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I had a story and several poems published in two different literary journals, each of which aspired, as per their “mission statements,” to give voice to the concerns of (the so-labeled) Generation X.  Not only were Gen X-ers these respective journals’ target audience, the journals…in their writers’ guidelines stated that writers submitting work must themselves be of the Gen-X age range.
Which I am not.
And yet, my story and poems were chosen for publication….

Although I snorted with derision when I read the afore-mentioned journals’ guidelines, I did have select pieces that I thought would be a good thematic fit for them. I also noted that neither journal requested contributor photos nor dates of birth, and thus had no way of confirming an author’s generational affiliation….
I chose to dishonor the journals’ guidelines by sending them my Gen-X-themed-fiction/poetry-written-by-a-non-Gen-Xer. The editors of the journal which published my story effused in the acceptance letter about how I had captured the particular zeitgeist they sought – about how the tone of my story was “exactly what we are looking for.”….
(excerpt from the acceptance acknowledgement letter I did not send to them):
Gee, thanks – oh, and by the way, that’s the point of being a *fiction* writer.  Somehow, miraculously, I was able to *get* the tone without *being* the tone. It’s called craft; skill; experience; imagination; empathy. It’s called creative writing for a reason, you ageist, imaginatively constipated twerps.
( Excerpt from post The Acceptance Letter I’m Not Sending, June 30 2017 )

*   *

Department Of More Fun With Writer
Sub-Department Of Yet Another Southern Border Crisis?

….American Dirt, in case you haven’t heard, is a novel about a Mexican woman and her son, the only survivors of their family’s murder by a drug cartel, who flee for their lives and head for the USA-Mexico border.  AD was chosen as an Oprah’s Book Club selection (which almost guarantees a bajillion copies sold, plus movie options) and received glowing reviews, including from Latina authors and actors such as Sandra Cisneros and Julia Alvarez and Salma Hayek.…until someone pointed out that the novel about Mexican immigrants was written by a non-Mexican, and the cultural identity police dog-piled on.
The book’s author identifies as white and Latina and has a Puerto Rican grandmother, but that’s not Latina enough for some.  Seemingly overnight the book went being reviewed as a captivating story that could “change hearts and transform policies” (Alvarez) to being “racist” and “filled with stereotypes.”  Just as quickly, the author went from to literary prodigy to pariah…her publisher even cancelled book tour appearances because of “specific threats to the booksellers and the author.”
(Excerpt from post The Cheese I’m Not Cutting, February 21 2020 )

*   *
Department Of Idiocy Makes My Brain Hurt
Sub-Department Of Let’s Just Cancel those Pesky Qualities of Imagination And Empathy, Part 102.7 In A Contemptibly Long Series
Adjunct to the Sub-Sub Division Of Why My Own Profession
Has Left A Bad Taste In My Mouth For Years

….I’ve little doubt that author  (Celeste) Ng’s hesitation about her “authoritative voice” was due to her anticipating charges of cultural appropriation (and the very real possibility of being boycotted by publishers, who would fear such a backlash): as in, how dare Ng think that she, an Asian (read: non-Black) writer, could create a full-blooded, multi-faceted, Black character?
So:
* Although the Asian-American author imagined a Black woman as this lead character, she couldn’t bring herself to actually write her as such;
* Nevertheless, this Asian/non-Black writer was so successful in creating a compelling story about “identity and how the roles and the context of our identity contributes to how we live and relate to others in the world” that a Black actor could identify with this lead character as Black;
* And it was acceptable for the series’ casting director and other lead actor and producers to suggest casting the character as Black, and the Black actor allowed herself to take the role (“an amazing idea”), which was created by an Asian, non-Black writer….
( Excerpt from post, The Karma I’m Not Accruing, September 11 2020 )

*   *

(Finally!) Footnotes

[1] Specifically, in our pear tree.

[2] And thus I can write about whatever I want to…oh, wait, that’s every week….

[3] The term in this context refers to “minority” writers and artists protesting the use or depiction of their culture by other/non-minority writers or artists – even to the point of objecting to “dominant culture” artists creating or including in their work characters belonging to minority cultures.

[4] Yes, Lionel Shriver is a she. She appropriated a male first name at age 15.

[5] Self-identified as “black in America.”

[6] An ethnically/culturally Jewish writer, who had previously written about how she claimed the right to write non-Jewish characters and to *not* have to write about The Holocaust.

[7] Even if she claimed to be, it would be election fraud, as there is no such board.

[8] Which was published in P & W. The letter was edited for space and not run in its glorious (read: snarky) entirety.

[9] Excuse me, did I write ‘madam”? I mean of course, Sex Worker Supervisor.

[10] As per writer s.e. smith in her article, Sorry White Male Novelists, But Sexism in Publishing Is Still A Thing

[11] Unfortunately, not the long-awaited sequel to Guardians Of The Galaxy .

[12] “free-think-er n. A person who forms opinions about religion on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established belief. Freethinkers include atheists, agnostics and rationalists. 

No one can be a freethinker who demands conformity to a bible, creed, or messiah. To the freethinker, revelation and faith are invalid, and orthodoxy is no guarantee of truth.”  Definition courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, ffrf.org

The Rings I’m Not Wearing

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Department Of The Partridge Of The Week

It’s that time of the year again. As has become a tradition much maligned anticipated in our neighborhood, moiself  is hosting a different Partridge, every week, in my front yard.   [1]

Can you identify this week’s guest Partridge?

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of If You’re Already Sick Of The Holiday Cheer…

Then this might be for you:  The entire L.A. City Council racist audio leak, transcribed and annotated by The Los Angeles Times.

 https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-11-21/la-city-council-racist-audio-leak-transcription-annotation

 

 

Well, *listen* and weep….

 

Y’all may remember the scandal, which broke in October and which moiself  wrote about in my November 4 post.  Bare bones summary of a very complicated story:  someone(s)   [2] secretly recorded a behind-closed doors meeting of three Los Angeles City Council members and a local labor leader, wherein Council President Nury Martinez and other attendees slammed some of her fellow council members, gleefully made racist remarks, and spoke openly about how the city’s political districts should be carved up to advantage certain constituencies.

The council was thrown into turmoil, Martinez resigned, and some long-overdue rumination re revising and reckoning our “tribalism” in politics has been aired, including in a thoughtful op-ed by  LAT columnist Sandy Banks.

Banks opens her essay with the story of a hurtful incident which happened to her many years ago.  Riding a crowded bus and exhausted from a long day at a new job, Banks was  touched when a young Latina woman gesture to Banks to take the seat next to her.  The Latina woman had just herself been beckoned by an elderly Asian woman to take the seat beside her, but that same elderly woman reacted with visible disgust when the Latina in turn invited the Black woman to join them…and the Asian woman stood up and moved to another part of the bus.

…It has been several years since that episode, but the hurt, anger and shame it roused in me resurfaced last month when I listened to three of our city’s elected Latino leaders gleefully mocking and insulting Black people.
Their tirade made international news, because of the crude and racist language they used to describe Black, gay, Armenian, Jewish and Oaxacan people in a private meeting, secretly recorded, about increasing the political power of Latinos at the expense of other struggling groups.
Then, adding insult to injury in the days that followed, the politicians larded their pseudo apologies with references to serving “communities of color” — when the only color they really seem to care about is light brown. Their own.
And that got me thinking about whether the label has outlived its utility….
Maybe now is the time to scrap the “people of color” label and its “communities of color” twin — along with the pretense that all nonwhite groups can be seamlessly yoked together in the fight for equality by the color of our skin.

 

 

It’s becoming increasingly clear that the bonds between racial and ethnic groups in multicultural Los Angeles are weak. We may share economic stressors and even neighborhoods, but we have different priorities, challenges and needs — and apparently little regard for solidarity, given that the leaders of our city’s largest ethnic group were trying to hoard power by chopping other groups off at the knees.
The “people of color” frame began to take shape decades ago…. But research by UCLA political science professor Efrén Pérez has found that “the unity behind ‘people of color’ crumbles” when individual racial groups feel their unique challenges are being ignored.
“There is nothing natural about camaraderie among people of color,” Pérez wrote in a 2020 opinion piece for the Washington Post. “For every commonality, a point of difference intrudes on unity.”
Dropping the label wouldn’t mean giving up on the idea that there’s power in our collective energy. But it would allow us to scrap the fantasy that Black, Latino, Asian American and Indigenous people are the sum of our similarities, and should be willing to sublimate our own priorities to advance others’ needs.
And while “people of color” is part of the zeitgeist today, debate over the concept has long been robust in academic and political arenas….
“We have talked about this a lot over the years,” said USC law professor Jody Armour, who specializes in the intersection of race and justice. “I’ve always been skeptical of the ‘people of color’ category.’…. The POC category has replicated this country’s reductive colorism, which strands dark-skinned people at the bottom of its ‘people of color’ hierarchy. It’s become a way ‘of camouflaging anti-Blackness,” Armour says.
( excerpts from “Lessons of the audio leak: Solidarity is dead.
Let’s ditch the label ‘people of color,’ “
By Sandy Banks, Los Angeles Times, 11-21-22 )

 

*   *   *

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Bored Of The Rings

Moiself  recently read an advice column wherein a man sought counsel on what, to him, seemed a vexing dilemma, and what to me was a “problem” worthy of wanting to give him and like-minded others face-palming so cosmic as to launch them into orbit.

 

“Incoming!”

 

The man wanted to propose marriage to his sweetie.  His dilemma, as he saw it, was that his partner makes so much more money than he does that any ring he would buy or pick out would not be as fancy or somehow as “deserving” as that which she could get for herself.  He did acknowledge in his letter that “she’s just not a fancy jewelry type person,”  and that they had already been discussing marriage, and she’d indicated she wouldn’t necessarily want an engagement ring at all.

 

 

Oh my… That took me back. But first, this public service announcement.

Men, women – we’ve all have been lied to. Diamonds are not a rare treasure, despite the fact that the jewelry industry in general and diamond pushers in specific want you to think so, and have worked damn hard to equate the color, carat, cut, clarity the of rock to the quality of your loooooooooove.  And no one works that scam angle quite like the Debeers company.

 

 

“The perfect diamond is a promise of the perfect relationship, because love is supposedly rare and so is this stone. We want the story that tells us our relationship is special. And we don’t want to accept that rarity isn’t all that meaningful.”
(“Diamonds Aren’t Special and Neither is Your Love,”
The Atlantic, 1-29-21)

Ahhh, the rings.  Wedding rings; sure, whatever.  But the whole engagement ring thing, where one person in the couple wears one but the other does not, reeks of sexism and the history of marriage as property transfer of a woman, from her birth family (read: father) to her husband. I suppose a ring is a more genteel way than pissing a circle around the woman to declare territorial rights, but it is still a pronouncement of ownership, and not any less creepy to me just because our culture has been injured to it.

Answer me this, moiself  asks rhetorically (because no one has been able to give a cogent reason when I’ve asked seriously):  Why is it the woman who wears an outward signal of “I’m ‘taken’ ”  [3]  and the man does not, when the couple are both engaged to be married?

Why are engagement rings still even a thing? It’s just…stupid.

Menfolk, the marketing that is aimed toward you with regard to this “tradition” is truly mind-numbing.  It is meant to get men to internalize the idea that the engagement rings they pick out are signifiers of their commitment and worth.  Also, let’s face it, the not-so-subliminal attachment message is that the bigger/more expensive the ring he can afford, the bigger the man’s…uh, manliness.

 

Are you man enough to give her this?

 

Interesting anecdote:  despite the stereotype of women being interested in such things, my “congratulations” to couples who announce their engagement is never followed with “Ooooh, lemme see the ring.”  Because I don’t give a flying fuck about such foolishness and wish we’d all move beyond that.  I do give a flying fuck about this very-interesting-fact-of-my-experience:  the only time an engagement ring has been proudly and insistently displayed to me in those announcement circumstances has been via the engaged dudes.  For example: on at least three different occasions – a work or holiday party, or other social gathering – when a couple’s engagement was announced, as I started to say something congratulatory to the couple, the man grabbed his fiancé’s left hand, shoved it in front of my face, and all but demanded that I praise the ring he’d given her.

I suppose that’s a more socially acceptable way to brag than for him to drop trou at the party and display his 14 karat manliness, but….

 

 

MH and I have been married for 30 something years now.   [4]    It should come as no surprise that I did not wear an engagement ring, nor was I given one by MH, because he knew my opinions on the matter.  When we were Getting Serious ® and discussing our future together, MH said, just to check, that he assumed I would not want an engagement ring?  I told him that I’d never worn rings of any kind, with the exception of my The Man From U.N.C.L.E. ® spy ring and my high school class ring, only one of which I treasured and both of which I lost after just a few weeks of wearing.  [5]

 

 

Also, I’d never worn much jewelry of any kind– rings, bracelets, necklaces – except for earrings.  I had my ears pierced when I was a junior in college, at the behest of one of my roommates who declared one holiday season that I was a difficult person to shop for and “Could you just please get your gawddamn ears pierced so I can always know what to get you for Christmas?”    [6]

MH and I laughed when I told him this story, and I joked, “Yeah, so, engagement earrings….”

Not long after that (what I assumed was a) throwaway remark, MH presented me with a pair of diamond “engagement earrings.”  [7]    I almost convinced him to get one of his ears pierced so we both could each wear one.  But he was still young enough and concerned enough with what his parents would think,   [8]   and respectfully declined my request.  Somehow, we both managed to survive our engagement without me wearing the traditional visible marker of such.  We chose matching wedding rings: simple gold bands engraved with a weave pattern.

Fast forward thirty years.  One evening at dinner MH said something along the lines of, “BTW, in case you’re wondering why I’m not wearing my wedding ring….” which caused me to look at his left hand and see that yep, his fourth finger was ringless. No, I hadn’t noticed.  He told me that in the past few weeks at work his fingers had started to ache and swell.  He’d visited his workplace’s occupational nurse, who couldn’t tell if the puffiness was the beginnings of arthritis or simply the results of too much clickety-clack time on keyboard, but advised that MH remove the ring now in case the swelling got so bad he had to have it cut off.    [9]

 

Yeah, don’t let it get to this point.

 

“Oh, that makes sense,” I replied. Then I immediately took off my wedding band and put it in a safe place. I assured MH that I did not do so out of spite or anything negative; rather, for parallel conformity. We are either both wearing wedding rings, or we aren’t.

 

 

In the weeks to come MH investigated ring alternatives, while I actually/kinda/sorta felt like I didn’t need it.  Sure, I’d worn one for almost 30 years at that point, but a part of me had never gotten used to wearing a ring, and I was always twisting it and found it cumbersome for handwashing.  I recalled to him, from my previous life of working in the medical profession, how over the years I’d met and talked with several patients and couples who did not wear wedding rings, typically for one of two reasons:

(1) occupational hazards; i.e. one or both of them had jobs in metalworking or sports or manufacturing jobs where avulsion (eeeewwww….ick)  was a risk, or

(2) a dermatologic allergy to the metals used in the ring bands.

Some of the couples fashioned their own bands out of various other materials; one couple chose not to wear rings; at least two couples I met had their wedding rings tattooed around their ring fingers.    [10]

MH did some online searching and found silicone bands he liked.  They are flexible, come in a variety of sizes, widths, colors and patterns– even camo, for the romantic military fanatic outdoorsman.  Bonus: they usually cost less than $30, so you don’t feel bad (and by you of course I mean moiself ) if you lose them.  It’s fun, to occasionally change the color and pattern.  After all, the only thing that separates us from our fellow primates is our ability to accessorize.  Anyway, that is what we have both worn ever since.

 

My current one is a dark purple.

*   *   *

Freethinkers’ Thought Of The Week     [11]

“Instead of wondering why I don’t need god to be good, ask yourself why others do. Consider that true morality lies in doing what’s right without expectation of divine retribution or recompense for our actions.”
 ( Freethought Today, 11-22 excerpt from “Letter to a Mormon mother,” by Oliver Brown,
5th place winner of FFRF’s 2022 high school essay contest,    [12] )

*   *   *

May you reconsider your usage of POC and other group-signifying terms;
May you discover the cheap thrills of wearing colorful silicon rings;
May you get your gawddamm ears pierced as an easy gift receiving solution;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Specifically, in our pear tree.

[2] who, as of this writing, have not been identified.

[3] Which is how one man mansplained engagements rings to me, when I wondered aloud about their meaning.

[4] Don’t ask me to do the math, which I have to do in order to remember.  Okay; it’s 34.

[5] My parents insisted I get my high school class ring, because I might regret *not* having one later…why they thought I would regret such a thing, I have no idea.  I lost the ring in a bodysurfing wipeout at Newport Beach.

[6] Yes, Sandra Banana, that was you.

[7] When the horrible news about diamond mining and the “blood” diamonds began emerging years later, I stopped wearing them, first “warning” MH of my intent.  I did not fault him, and neither did he:  he’d bought them in good faith and had no idea about how dirty the diamond industry was.

[8] After all, he was already dating and now engaged to this crazy older woman….

[9] The ring, not the finger.

[10] In discussing the various ring alternatives with our offspring, our generously tattooed daughter was – surprise! – highly in favor of the ink option.

[11] “free-think-er n. A person who forms opinions about religion on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established belief. Freethinkers include atheists, agnostics and rationalists.  

No one can be a freethinker who demands conformity to a bible, creed, or messiah. To the freethinker, revelation and faith are invalid, and orthodoxy is no guarantee of truth.”  Definition courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, ffrf.org

[12] The William Schulx High School Essay Contest for college-bound seniors had this prompt for 2022 contest entrants:  “Please write a letter to a religious friend, relative, classmate, teacher, etc., who buys the myth that one can’t be moral without believing in a god.”

The Planet I’m Not Worshipping

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Department Of The Partridge Of The Week

It’s that time of the year again. As has become a tradition much maligned anticipated in our neighborhood, moiself  will be hosting a different Partridge, every week, in my front yard.   [1]

Can you guess this week’s guest Partridge?

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Yet Another Blast From The Past

Seeing as how MH and I are hosting Thanksgiving/harvest day festivities at our Humble Abode ®, moiself  will not be sober enough able to do my usual Thursday night blog editing. 

 

 

Thus, a rerun.

Apropos of…something I’ve already forgotten, I was recently given cause to look up what I had, previously in this space, written about ancestor worship (from 2-17-17):

 

 

As regular readers of this blog know (and new or sporadic readers will likely surmise), I am not a religious person. I was raised by church-going, Christian parents;  [2]   flirted with/researched a variety of denominations during/post college; was a member (even served as a deacon, holy shit!) of a UCC church  [3]  for many years; happily (read: finally) came out over 15 years ago as a lifelong skeptic-atheist-Freethinker-Bright.

While I hold a modicum of respect for some of the ideals and practices of, say, contemporary non-theistic Buddhism and Unitarianism and Jainism, I find all religions to be more-or less silly/offensive/just plain fallacious. There is one “spiritual” practice, however, which I can somewhat understand, if only in that it makes a teesny-tiny, infinitesimally wee bit o’ sense:

Ancestor worship.

 

 

Yes, really.

Make that, ancestor *veneration,* not worship. For the love of the FSM,   [4]   get off your knees, open your eyes, and stop bowing your head – nobody should “worship” anything.

Worship: VERB
[with object] Show reverence and adoration for (a deity)
1.1  [no object] Take part in a religious ceremony.
(English Oxford Living Dictionary)

Unlike the claims of religions which have one or more deities, you don’t have to take your ancestors’ existence on “faith”  [5]  – you know they have lived (you yourself are evidence of that); you’ve likely met them one, or two or sometimes even three, generations back. From the photo albums and other heirlooms to the birth certificates, school and county records, family businesses, homes, farmsteads, and kinfolk near and far, you’ve an idea of what they have “given” you, materially, intellectually and emotionally – you’ve some idea what you might be grateful for.

Best of all, you’ve little incentive to argue or go to war with other people over whose interpretation of what their Imaginary Friend wants is correct. Your neighbor’s ancestors are their business, and yours are yours.

Of course, the option of ancestor veneration leaves out a small subset of people: those who have little or no knowledge of their forebears, such as certain kinds of adoptees,   [6]  as well as those who have just enough information (e.g., children in the foster care system) to…well, I’ll put it this way: if you come from two generations of meth addicts, ancestor veneration might not be the spiritual practice to float your boat.

Now then.  By ancestor veneration I’m not talking any kind of belief system wherein the dead are beseeched to intercede on behalf of the living – that’s just as silly as all the others. I do not believe that my deceased grandparents and parents have a continued existence in a spirit world, or that their spirits look after moiself  and my family in particular or the world in general, or that they somehow can influence the fate of the living. I’m talking about a practice of honor and appreciation, in which a person might use the roads paved and trails blazed by previous generations as a focal point for remembrance and gratitude.

 

Thanks for the dimples, Dad.

 

I’m not sure what brought the previous topic to mind.  A likely suspect is the recent death of my mother. Anyway, y’all have my permission to honor your ancestors…as well as my fervent wish that that is as far as your theology goes. However, as I look at the state of the world, it appears that the old superstitions have some staying power. As long as people will continue to proclaim and dispute over whose invisible leader is the best-est, I’d like someone to come up with another dog in the fight.

As the Bay Area’s own Huey Lewis, the Bard Of The Bammies, once sang, I Want A New Drug.

Putting it yet another way, y’all have my encouragement (if you are religiously inclined) to come up with a new religion, within the following parameters: in this belief system, it is the men who are required, in one form or another, to cover themselves.

That’s it. Yep. That’s the entire theology in a nutshell.   [7]

From a light veil or hijab – make, that, he-jab –  to a full-body, Bro-burqa, your theology must include all the usual nonsense reasons (modesty; an easily offended deity; protection from your fellow believers who will beat the holy crap out of you if you show any evidence of human form) as to why certain people –  in this case, those with boy parts – must be covered in public.

Duuuuude – put a scarf on it.

 

We swear on Her Holy name, it doesn’t make your butt look big, no, not at all.

 

*   *   *

That was then; this is now.  Last week, reveling in an awesome autumn day, I found moiself  thinking about Wicca and/or the contemporary pagan/nature spiritualities – those which mark the passing of the seasons – as another category of spiritual practices which make more sense to me.  This doesn’t mean I am or would consider being a sun or “goddess” worshiper; it’s just that, unlike the tenants of the so-called “revealed” religions,   [8]   with those nature-centered ideologies we can see and directly experience what is being venerated.

Humans living in extreme regions –  i.e., at the poles or the equator (or Southern California) –  [9]   don’t have the dramatic difference of the four season changes that we who inhabit the middle latitudes experience.  Still, the earth has seasons and cycles; we live here; they affect us.   But again, this form of spirituality gets my Nod Of Approval® for *acknowledgement,* not worship.  As in, after a period of torrential downpour I appreciate the sun; after an unremittingly unrelenting bout of summer heat moiself  appreciates the rain.

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Planet Earth Edition

How can you tell the ocean is friendly?
It waves.

I love the way the Earth rotates – it makes my day.

How can you tell Mother Nature watches a lot of Oprah from June – November?
Because it looks like everybody gets a hurricane.

 

*   *   *

May you take care of your Mother;
May you appreciate the seasons;
May you enjoy those leftovers;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Specifically, in our pear tree.

[2] Lutheran, specifically: what was once called the ALC and now ELCA, for those obsessives interested in denominational nitpicking. It wasn’t one of the “synod” denominations (Missouri & Wisconsin), which are closer to Catholicism in their conservative doctrines (e.g. women cannot be ordained as ministers; liking to snipe about other denominations as being the “not true” faiths) .

[3] Which I have, since leaving, recommended to people who, for whatever reasons, are looking for a liberal Christian church experience and/or community.

[4] The Flying Spaghetti Monster.   “All praise to his noodly appendage.”

[5] Although, especially at Thanksgiving when someone brings up politics, you may have to take them with a helluva big grain of salt.

[6] If you’re counting “blood” kin as the only kind of ancestors which matter. Which I hope you are not.

[7] Which is the proper receptacle for all theologies.

[8] Revealed religions are religions based on the supposed revelations of god(s) to humans, particularly as described in the scriptures of those religions. Thus, the existence of these gods depends on revelation by said gods, to humans, of ideas that would not have been arrived at by natural reason alone. Examples of revealed religions are the primary monotheistic faiths – Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Baha’ism, Mormonism, Hinduism, Sikhism.

[9] Growing up in So Cal we used to joke we had two seasons:  brown and tan.

The Holiday I’m Not Renaming

Comments Off on The Holiday I’m Not Renaming

Department Of It’s The Little Things Which Make Life Worth Living
In These Trying Political Times

Dateline: Tuesday afternoon. Apropos of…whatever, my offspring, son K and daughter Belle, have this exchange on our family messenger group, Yep!!!! Cats!!!!     [1]     (sans pix; these are my illustrations):

K:
I did not realize how truly gigantic Fetterman is.
He’s like 6’9.”

Since words and reason don’t work we now have Fetterman

to give the insane senators a swirly.

Belle:
(thumbs up)
First on the list: Mitch McConnell.

 

 

Belle:
Although I think just turning him upside-down would kill him,

probably couldn’t even get to the swirly part.

 

 

 

Moiself  walked around the rest of the afternoon with a big smile on my face, thanks to the imagery provided by my offspring. 

 

Relax, Mitchie-boy. Just think of it as your well-deserved spa treatment.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Another Good Thing ® About Social Media

There’s no shortage of criticisms of the various social media outlets, and most critiques are legit, I’d wager.   [2]   Even as I am encouraging those who complain about supporting a certain megalomaniac to drop their Twitter accounts and stop buying Teslas, moiself  remains on one social media site: Facebook. Here’s one of the reasons why.

Dateline: earlier this week.   A FB friend posts pictures of his grandchild‘s visit to what looks to be an amusement park, and picture shows the child playing that classic arcade game, Whac-a-mole. Seeing this picture prompts a lovely flashback for moiself – a memory I’ve not thought of in decades.

Dateline of memory: A long time in a galaxy far far away (Southern California). I am visiting my parents at their home in Santa Ana.  It’s summertime, and the County Fair is on.  My parents tell me they haven’t been to a state or county fair in ages, and suggest we go. And so we do. As we walk past the various cheesy games and merchandise and food booths, nothing catches our interest, until we come to an arcade. I espy a Whac-A-Mole game, and instantly am obsessed with getting my mother to play it.

 

 

My mother is hesitant, despite my enthusiastic recommendation. She knows nothing about it, she says (Even better!!!, moiself  thinks to  moiself ) I assure her that it’s a straightforward game, no complicated strategy or levels or scenarios: she simply must hold the mallet and whack the heads of the moles as they pop up from the console.

“Why?” she asks me.

“There’s no time to get existential right now,” I reply.  I put my two quarters in the slot, press the game’s start button and put the mallet in my mother’s hand.  “You don’t want me to waste fifty cents, right, Mom? Look – there’s one!  Pretend it’s digging up your rosebushes!”

Unlike the champ in the above video, my mother is exquisitely awful at Whac-A-Mole. Her timing is atrocious; even so, she soon gets into it in her own way, emitting a high-pitched, “Oh!” whenever a mole head appears, followed by her delayed whack at its head. My father and I, standing to the side of the game console, are doubled over with laughter as we watch my mild-mannered mother, with an increasing maniacal look in her eyes, pursues those pesky moles:

“Oh!”
(whack)

“Oh!”
(whack)

“Oh!” (whack) “Oh!” (whack)

“Oh oh oh oh oh oh!”
(whack whack whack whack whack whack)

It is one of my favorite memories of her.

 

This is another one.

 

I haven’t gone to a county fairs in years and it’s been even longer since I’ve even seen a Whac-a-mole game.  So, then:  would that memory have been prompted by anything else, save for a post on social media? It’s not like I would have seen a picture of my friend’s grandchild playing this game – like most of my FB friends, we don’t have a letter-writing kind of relationship.  

*   *   *

Department Of Well That’s Not Up To Their Usual Standards

Moiself  is referring to the recent rerun of an interview with (the late) Loretta Lynn on Fresh Air .

It was a tad interesting, due to the skills of FA host, Terry Gross, arguably   [3]  the best interviewer out there.  But IMO it was not up to the usual FA standards.  This was because Lynn was (again, IMO)….  There’s no easy way to say it.  The guest can make or break the interview.  And it wasn’t that Lynn was a “bad” guest, or an audaciously humorless and insufferably boorish one like a notable few TG has dealt with.  [4]   On the contrary.  Lynn was pleasant enough, but it seemed to me that she was also…well… rather…simple, or basic. Not plucking every string on her guitar, so to speak.

 

In the history of country music, LL’s talent was even bigger than her hair.

 

LL seemed not at all interested in self-reflection and/or discussing or exploring how she writes her songs.  Okay; fine; her prerogative.  But then, why agree to be come on a show where the whole point is to talk about your work as a female singer who broke ground in her genre for writing her own songs?

The point of a FA interview with a musician/singer/songwriter is to reflect upon one’s work, technique, inspiration, and so on.  Which Lynn summed up in sentences like, “Oh, I don’t really know,” or “I don’t like to talk about that.” Lynn’s songs are personal – she’s said in previous interviews that her husband was, in one way or another, “in every song” she wrote, yet she wouldn’t go further when FA  host TG would ask her about *how* or why her husband is in a particular song.

And TG let her get away with it.

LL’s song Fist City is borderline hilarious in some ways and disturbing in others.  And TG did not probe into that, as I have heard her done, through the years – the decades now –  that I’ve been listening to FA interviews.  Gross is insightful and persistent as an interviewer, and respectfully so.  She typically does not give up after one attempted conversational diversion by a guest.  And her guest was country music legend Loretta Lynn, who has written all these classic country songs about women trying to take her man (including, wait for it: “You Ain’t Woman Enough To Take My Man”), and… hello? What are those lyrics about?

 

 

If it had been any other songwriter, I think TG would have asked more persistently about the song’s implications.  She did try, but Lynn wasn’t having any of it.  “Oh I don’t want to talk about that,” LL would purr, in her soft Kentucky lilt.

I wanted TG to get LL to at least to consider why people might want LL to talk about that problem – about how she was really singing about, writing about, the wrong problem.  When LL sang about how some women were ‘after,’ (her words) her man, the underlying problem wasn’t those women.

Loretta Lynn, the woman who wrote so empathetically about birth control liberating women from the life of a brood mare (“The Pill”), and the trials of a divorced woman having people think that just because she’s divorced she’s loose/available (“Rated X”) didn’t seem capable of, or willing to, consider the fact that it was her husband who was the problem. He married her, but chased after other women.  But Lynn…wouldn’t go there.
And TG, in deference to Lynn’s age, status and/or “sweetness,” didn’t seem willing to push it the way I think she would have with another musician…or politician, or writer or artist or sports figure or…..  Is that ultimately respectful, or patronizing?

 

 

   *    *   *

Department Of The Big Day Next Week

The more I know about the origins and mythologies (read: lies) about Thanksgiving, the less I want to call it that.

I’ve always had a certain ambivalence regarding Tday.  Even as a child, I suspected we weren’t being told the truth about that much vaunted Happy Time Between Indians and Pilgrims ®.  Historians are starting to speak up, and…how can I put this?  Folks, if the Readers Digest, hardly The Socialist Review, is willing to address this issue, that means it’s way past time the rest of us did.

 

 

“Thanksgiving is both uniquely American and full of treasured traditions. But this rosy picture of modern celebrations leaves out most of the real history of Thanksgiving….
Yes, you can still settle down with family to give thanks. But it’s important to know what you’re celebrating and unlearn some long-held myths.”
…. What’s the harm in believing the happy version so many of us grew up with? It’s just a story, right? This whitewashing downplays the long and bloody series of conflicts between white settlers and Native Americans that would occur over the next two centuries…..
‘Narratives of a harmonious Thanksgiving celebration were created to justify westward expansion and Manifest Destiny,’…. The term Manifest Destiny, coined more than two centuries after the first Thanksgiving, was the belief that settlers were destined by God to expand across America and prosper….

Myth: The “first Thanksgiving” started the tradition that founded the holiday.
Truth: The harvest celebration of 1621 was not called Thanksgiving and was not repeated every year. The next official ‘day of thanksgiving’ was after settlers massacred more than 400 Pequot men, women and children. Governor Bradford’s journal decreed, ‘For the next 100 years, every Thanksgiving Day ordained by a governor is in honor of the bloody victory, thanking God that the battle had been won.’

We should add that to our list of favorite Thanksgiving quotes as a stark reminder of the real history of Thanksgiving.”
(“The Real History of Thanksgiving,” Readers Digest, 11-15-22)

 

 

I like the idea of a holiday involving gratitude, and one in which friends and family get together for a celebratory meal.  As for what is in the meal, as the years have gone by, my own dietary preferences have changed – although even as a child I never was all that fond of the big bland boring turkey and wondered what all the fuss was about.    [5]  Moiself  likes the idea of variety feast, rather than a fixed menu.  [6] 

Moiself  also likes that which is practiced by our neighbors to the north.  Canadian Thanksgiving, which I and my family have experienced thanks to the generosity of a dear Canadian friend and (former) neighbor, is more of a general harvest celebration, without a traditional fixed menu.

Hmmm, so, how’s about Harvest Fest Gratitude DayGrativest Day? Harvitude Day?

 

Yeah, like that’s gonna fly.

 

Perhaps I’m being persnickety here.  After all, I’m the one who points out the secular origins of Christmas, which I don’t insist on renaming it, for the same reasons that, for example, I call the middle day of the week Wednesday even though I do not worship the Germanic god for whom the day is named.  Still, knowing the origins of Thanksgiving and the subsequent mythologies which promoted it, I can’t help but wish for a name change.

But that’s about as likely to happen as Elon Musk is likely to gift the running of Twitter to the Southern Poverty Law Center, sell his holdings in Tesla and donate the profits to Greenpeace, then take a vow of abstemious living and join a Buddhist monastery.

Ah, but it’s good to dream.

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Tday Edition

How did Ziggy Stardust express his gratitude to the Thanksgiving host for serving her tasty sweet potato casserole?
“Wham, yam, thank you ma’am.”

My family advised me to stop telling Thanksgiving jokes,
but I said I couldn’t quit cold turkey.

How does rapper Sir Mixalot, who loathes pumpkin pie,
express his Thanksgiving dessert preference?
“I like big bundts and I cannot lie.”

 

I’ll give her points for not eating us, but really, these jokes are fowl.

 

*   *   *

 

May you have a good feast with friends and family, whatever you call it;
May visions of Mitch-getting-a-swirley warm the cockles of your heart;
May you find a whac-a-mole game and go to town;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] So named, by MH…I can’t remember the specifics, but it had to do with one of us commenting about all of us posting cat pictures yet again.  It has evolved into a family message board…with – yep! – lots of cat-sighting pictures.

[2] Wager, rather than aver, because I’m not on most social media and thus can’t speak from direct experience.

[3] As in, you could argue with me about this, but you’d lose.

[4] As in her FA interviews with Bill O’Reilly and Gene Simmons.

[5] My most memorable Tday was when the friend of a host brought a huge chinook salmon he’d caught the previous day in Alaska, and the hosts, my aunt and uncle, roasted it simply, with herbs and lemon juice.  I WAS AMAZED.

[6] Also, I haven’t eaten meat for years, so there goes that feast centerpiece.

The Tribalism I’m Not Embracing

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What would ushering in the holiday season be without The Dropkick Murphys?

 

 

Speaking of holidays, since 2008 I’ve kept track of how many greedy candy mongers trick-or-treaters have graced our porch.  The numbers range from a low of 25   [1]   to a high of 63, with an average of 45.  This year we had 26.

 

 

 

 

Only twenty-six?  MH and I were speculating about the downswing (last year’s count was 60). Combination of a school night and the (at times heavy) rain?  It couldn’t be the latter…oh, c’mon, kids (and parents), this is Oregon.

Last year we gave out full-sized   [2]  candy bars.  This year (before moiself  knew what would be the lame turnout) I wanted to do something different. I walked up and down supermarket aisles, looking for inspiration.  And found plenty. 

Here are the things I wanted to give out to trick or treaters:  Small jars/cans of pimentos or black olives or cornichons or sweet corn or Liquid Smoke or soy sauce or…Beanee Weenees!  Of course, if word got out that we were distributing the latter, the kiddies would leave skidmarks from our neighbors’ porches to our own.

 

Accept no substitutions.

 

Here are the things we *did* give out to trick or treaters:

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Perspective That Could Save Us   [3]

From the podcast Unexplainable, The Gray Area:  “On the first episode of Vox’s new podcast, The Gray Area, host Sean Illing talks with Neil deGrasse Tyson about the limits of both politics and science.”  What caught my attention was NDT’s assertion that taking a “cosmic perspective” is the most rational and helpful– and arguably the only– thing that can solve our myriad of social, political and environmental challenges.  This is an excerpt from their discussion:

NDT:
What’s the most intelligent species there ever was on earth?

SI:
 Oh…you’re setting me up. Um, since you’re asking me, it can’t be people…

NDT:
No, it *is* people; it’s not a trick question.  So now I ask, who declared that humans are the smartest animals there ever were?  Humans did.
Whereas a cosmic perspective would say, imagine a lifeform smarter than we are:  Is there anything we have done in the history of civilization that (this smarter-than-us lifeform) would judge to be clever?

 

 

This was a great 1980s, one-woman play (written by Jane Wagner and starring Lily Tomlin), which was being revived in early 2022, starring Cecily Strong.

 

 

NDT:

It’s a simple thought experiment, when we compare ourselves to chimpanzees, our closest genetic relative.  We have 98, 99% identical DNA to a chimp. Now, if you’re really into homo sapiens you say, What a difference that 2% makes! We have philosophy and the Hubble telescope and art and civilization! And all the chimp can do is maybe extract termites from a mound, and the smartest of them will stack boxes to reach hanging bananas from the ceiling.
 But I pose you the question: suppose the intelligence difference between chimps and humans was actually as small as that 2% might indicate.  What would we look like to some other species that’s 2% beyond us in intelligence – just the 2% that we are beyond the chimps?
Continue on that line. The smartest chimps can do what our toddlers can do.  By that analogy, the smartest humans would do what the toddlers of this species can do.
Putting all that in context, all I’m saying is that for you to say we’re pretty clever… another species 2% beyond us, there’s nothing we could do that would impress them.
So, that species visiting earth on the rumor that intelligent life had surfaced, after seeing our rampant irrationalities – the wars we fight against our own species, because you live on a different line in the sand, because resources are unequally distributed on the land and in the ocean, because you worship a different god, because you sleep with different people – and we slaughter each other and enslave people….  Those aliens will run home and say, “There is no sign of intelligent life on earth.”
It’s a cosmic perspective, offered for your consideration.

SI:
This …is (your) central plea…that we take a more cosmic perspective on things…

NDT:
On *everything.*

SI:
 …on everything, and achieve some clarity about what really matters and what doesn’t, and how stupid so many of the things that we *think* are important really are…

NDT:
I wouldn’t say stupid so much as just kind of irrelevant. You think it’s important and it’s actually not. That’s a more significant value of a cosmic perspective: it forces you to rebalance your portfolios of concerns in the world.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of A Cosmic Perspective Is Definitely Needed Here

The LA Times is one of four (online) newspapers moiself  subscribes to, and I’ve been watching (as in, reading about) the following scandal unfold for…yikes, is it weeks, now?  The machinations of local/Los Angeles politics may be way off most people’s current events radar; however, even those with no interest in such, even those with their heads under the proverbial rock when it comes to west coast politics, by now have likely heard of the LA City Council recording scandal.

The scandal in a nutshell:   [4]   An anonymously leaked recording of a private conversation among LA City Council members and a labor leader making racist and classist remarks and political scheming regarding redistricting has prompted a state investigation, and led to the resignation of the LA City Council president and said labor leader.

“Behind closed doors, Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez made openly racist remarks, derided some of her council colleagues and spoke in unusually crass terms about how the city should be carved up politically….
Martinez and the other Latino leaders present during the taped conversation were seemingly unaware they were being recorded as Martinez said a councilmember handled his young Black son as though he were an “accessory” and described the boy as “Parece changuito,” or “like a monkey.”…
Martinez also mocked Oaxacans, and said “F— that guy … He’s with the Blacks” while speaking about Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón.

( “Racist remarks in leaked audio of L.A. council members spark outrage, disgust,”
LA Times 10-9-22)

 

 

 

 

Moiself  listened to excerpts of the recorded audio tape…as much as I could stand, before switching to reading the key moments of the transcripts.    [5]    In private conversations among three council members and an LA Labor leader – all Latino and all Democrats –  Councilmembers Nury Martinez, Kevin De León and Gil Cedillo scheme with LA county labor dude Ron Herrera re redistricting plans; Martinez disparages Oaxacans as “little short dark people” and “so ugly” and refers to a (white, gay) councilmember’s Black son as a monkey who, in her opinion, needs a “beatdown.” Re LA County Dist. Atty. George Gascón, Martinez said, “Fuck that guy. … He’s with the Blacks.”  None of the others present and participating in the conversation disputed or called out Martinezon her remarks –  which also included crass and bigoted comments about Jews, Armenians, and other groups….

I felt a little bit left out at some point.  Martinez insulted just about everyone but middle aged white ex-Californians who moved to Oregon.

When reading about the scandal, I was reminded so much about what I think is a fact being overlooked here.  Nury Martinez was caught acting out one of our collective human traits on steroids:  she was revealing her tribalism.

 

Picture from 4-2-12 Newsweek article by biologist E.O. Wilson,
Why Humans, Like Ants, Need a Tribe.

 

We home sapiens are a tribal species. It’s too bad that the whole concept of race has entered human consciousness, as we are not different “races,” whatever that means. We are not racial – that term is a misnomer invented by European naturalists and anthropologists in the early 18th century.    [6]

“More than 100 years ago, American sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois was concerned that race was being used as a biological explanation for what he understood to be social and cultural differences between different populations of people. He spoke out against the idea of ‘white’ and ‘black’ as discrete groups, claiming that these distinctions ignored the scope of human diversity.
Science would favor Du Bois. Today, the mainstream belief among scientists is that race is a social construct without biological meaning.”
(   Race Is a Social Construct, Scientists Argue,”  Scientific American 2-5-16)

“(The tape’s) comments about Black and Indigenous people displayed a prejudice against darker skin that, while not ubiquitous, still runs deep in the community and is rooted in the colonial eras of Mexico and Central America.
‘This is not just four bad apples,’ said Alejandra Valles, chief of staff of SEIU United Service Workers West.
‘We have to use this opportunity as reflection and honesty about the anti-Blackness, the anti-Indigenous colorism and racism in the Latino community. Because that’s happening.’ ”
(“ L.A. Latinos grapple with familiar colorism against Black and Indigenous people in racist tape,” Rachel Uranga, Los Angeles Times, 10-17-22)

Interesting, to me, that comment about the bad apples. Because that’s it – that’s the dang the thing about “race.” We are all from the same apple tree, and yet we pick at each other.

 

“You want bad apples? I’ll show you bad apples.”

 

Race.  It’s an unfortunate entry in our Lexicon of Life. We are not racial, but we are definitely tribal at our core…maybe I’m just quibbling re semantics.  However we define “we,” we spend our lives scrambling like roaches across the floors of an old San Francisco apartment kitchen, trying to make sure we get (what we perceive to be) our share but wanting to hide our maneuverings when the light comes on.

We have obsessive concerns, so majorly illuminated in the LA Council tapes, of alliances between our various tribes and the tribes within the tribes – woe to anyone naive enough to think that, for example, all White or Latino or Black politicians are a monolithic bloc.  Read the transcripts; listen to the tape and hear the concern over alliances, over who is from where.  Listen as the entrenched Mexican-American politician spews (and thus reveals) the colorism of her ancestral roots as she derides the “short ugly” Oaxacans (who are so irritating as to also want political power    [7] ) and that DA who, although he has a Hispanic surname, “Fuck him, he’s with the Blacks.”

Who is in power; who wants power; who can we trust to share the power?  Who is one of us; who could be one of us, but “us” doesn’t really want “them” included.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of This Needs Repeating

The cosmic perspective flows from fundamental knowledge. But it’s more than just what you know. It’s also about having the wisdom and insight to apply that knowledge to assessing our place in the universe. And its attributes are clear:

* The cosmic perspective comes from the frontiers of science, yet it’s not solely the province of the scientist. The cosmic perspective belongs to everyone.

* The cosmic perspective is humble.

* The cosmic perspective is spiritual—even redemptive—but not religious.

* The cosmic perspective enables us to grasp, in the same thought, the large and the small.

* The cosmic perspective opens our minds to extraordinary ideas but does not leave them so open that our brains spill out, making us susceptible to believing anything we’re told.

* The cosmic perspective opens our eyes to the universe, not as a benevolent cradle designed to nurture life but as a cold, lonely, hazardous place.

* The cosmic perspective shows Earth to be a mote, but a precious mote and, for the moment, the only home we have.

* The cosmic perspective finds beauty in the images of planets, moons, stars, and nebulae but also celebrates the laws of physics that shape them.

* The cosmic perspective enables us to see beyond our circumstances, allowing us to transcend the primal search for food, shelter, and sex.

* The cosmic perspective reminds us that in space, where there is no air, a flag will not wave—an indication that perhaps flag waving and space exploration do not mix.

* The cosmic perspective not only embraces our genetic kinship with all life on Earth but also values our chemical kinship with any yet-to-be discovered life in the universe, as well as our atomic kinship with the universe itself.

(“The Cosmic Perspective” By Neil deGrasse Tyson
Natural History Magazine, April 2007, The 100th essay in the “Universe” series.)

 

 

*   *   *

  Department Of Regarding Next Week’s Elections,
This, Unfortunately, Says It All   [8]

“Liz Cheney and I are not brave. We are just surrounded by cowards.”
Rep. Adam Kinzinger ( R ) Illinois

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Political Tribes Edition

I don’t approve of political jokes; I’ve seen too many of them get elected.

Republicans should build their border walls with Hillary’s emails
because nobody can get over them.

I knew Communism was doomed from the beginning – too many red flags.

What’s the difference between Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green and a flying pig?
The letter F.

What do you call a Russian procrastinator?
Putinoff.

 

I’ll laugh about this later.

 

*   *   *

May a cosmic perspective help you to rebalance your portfolios of concerns in the world;
May you be cognizant of your own tribalisms;
May you value your atomic kinship with the universe itself;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1]  Did not do in 2020.  Hmm, I wonder what was happening then?

[2] Not the “fun” size featured in most stores, as Halloween staples. For kids, since when does fun = smaller?

[3] From…ourselves?

[4] An appropriate container…if nuts were the size of 747s.

[5] As of this writing I think investigators still have no idea who did the recording, and who “released” it.

[6] Marked by the publication of the book Systema naturae in 1735, in which the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus proposed a classification of humankind into four distinct races. (“Race and History: Comments from an Epistemological Point of View” National Library of Medicine, )

[7] Indigenous Oaxacans expressed frustration and anger at Martinez’s comments referring to them as “little short dark people” — a racist stereotype often used to demean Indigenous communities. “I was like, I don’t know where these people are from, I don’t know what village they came [from], how they got here,” Martinez said, before adding “Tan feos” — “They’re ugly.”  (“For Oaxacans in L.A., City Council members’ racist remarks cut deep,” LA Times, 10-11-22)

[8] And I hope, after next week’s election results, we won’t still be saying it.

The Holiday War I’m (Still) Not Declaring

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Grab your sleigh bells and gird your garland-wrapped loins: you can practically smell the mistletoe in my annual, here-comes-the-holiday-season blog post:

Department Of Here They Come

Halloween (aka All Hallow’s Eve); Samhain; All Saint’s Day; El Dia de los Muertos; Mischief Night, Diwali

In the USA and in northern hemisphere countries around the world, there are multiple holidays with a relationship to “our” Halloween.  The relationship is as per the time of year and/or the theme, underlying beliefs, customs or origins of the various celebrations.

Many of these holidays originated as dual celebrations, acknowledgments of times of both death and rebirth, as celebrants marked the end of the harvest season and acknowledged the cold, dark winter to come.

And after Halloween, the holiday season really gets going.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Life Is Tough But It’s Even Tougher If You’re Stupid
Chapter 22467 in a (never-ending) series

“The idea of a “War on Christmas” has turned things like holiday greetings and decorations into potentially divisive political statements. People who believe Christmas is under attack point to inclusive phrases like “Happy Holidays” as (liberal) insults to Christianity….

Christmas is a federal holiday celebrated widely by the country’s Christian majority. So where did the idea that it is threatened come from?

The most organized attack on Christmas came from the Puritans, who banned celebrations of the holiday in the 17th century because it did not accord with their interpretation of the Bible….”

(“How the ‘War on Christmas’ Controversy Was Created,” NY Times, 12-19-16)

 

 

*   *   *

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

What do we vegetarians, vegans, non-meat and/or plant-based eaters
do on Thanksgiving?
( Other than, according to your Aunt Erva, RUIN  IT  FOR  EVERYONE  ELSE.   [1]  )

The above question is an existential dilemma worthy of Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher, who wrote eloquent discourses on the subjective and objective truths one must juggle when choosing between a cinnamon roll and a chocolate swirl.   [2]

 

 

*   *   *

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

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

This observation provides a convenient segue to my annual, sincere, family-friendly,  [3]

Heathens Declare War On Christmas © post.

 

 

As to those Henny Penny/Chicken Little hysterics proclaiming a so-called “war” on Christmas, a rational person can only assume that they are not LGBTQ, or Jewish or a member of another minority religion, or an ethnic minority – in other words, they’ve never experienced actual bigotry (or actual combat). If they had, it’s likely they would not have trivialized discrimination (or war) with their whining.

The usage of “Happy Holidays” as an “attack on Christianity” is an invention of right-wing radio talk show hosts.  Happy Holidays is nothing more nor less than an encompassing shorthand greeting – an acknowledgement of the incredible number of celebratory days, religious and otherwise, which in the U.S. is considered to start in October with Halloween, moving on to November with Thanksgiving (although our Canadian neighbors and friends celebrate their Thanksgiving in October) and extends into and through January, with the various New Year’s celebrations.

It is worthwhile to note that while many if not most Americans, Christian or not, celebrate Christmas, there are also some Christians who, on their own or as part of their denomination’s practice or decree (e.g., Jehovah’s Witnesses and The Worldwide Church of God), do not celebrate Christmas     [4]   (nor did our much-ballyhooed forebears, the Pilgrims).  Also, the various Orthodox Christians use calendars which differ from most Protestant and Catholic calendars (a biggie for them at this time of the year is the Nativity of Christ, which occurs on or around January 7).

Happy Holidays — it’s plural, and for good reason.  It denotes the many celebrations that happen during these months.  People in the northern hemisphere countries, from South Americans and Egyptians to the Celts and Norskis, have marked the Winter Solstice for thousands of years, and many still do.  And some Americans, including our friends, neighbors and co-workers, celebrate holidays that although unconnected with the winter solstice occur near it, such as Ramadan, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa.

 

In 2023 the Chinese (lunar) New Year begins on Jan 22.

 

Most folks are familiar with the “biggies”- Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day. But don’t forget the following holidays, many of which we’ve learned about (or celebrated with) via our children’s teachers and fellow students, and our neighbors and co-workers.

* The Birth of the Prophet (Nov. 12) and Day of the Covenant (Nov. 26) are both Baha’i holy days  (our family has had Baha’i teachers, childcare providers, and neighbors).

* St. Nicholas Day (Dec. 6)

* Bodhi Day.  Our Buddhist friends and neighbors celebrate Bodhi Day on December 8 (or on the Sunday immediately preceding).

* Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Dec 12)

* St. Lucia Day (Dec. 13) Our Swedish neighbors and friends celebrate St. Lucia Day, as did one of Belle’s and K’s schools, when they were in grade school (Belle, as the oldest 3rd grade girl, got to play St. Lucia).

* Bill of Rights Day (Dec 15)

* Pancha Ganapati Festival (one of the most important Hindu festivals, Dec. 21st through the 25th,  celebrated by many of MH’s coworkers)

* The Winter Solstice (varies, Dec.  21 or 22 this year on the 21st )

* Little Christmas Eve (Dec.  23) Celebrated by my family, LCE was a custom of the small Norwegian village of my paternal grandfather’s ancestors.

* Boxing Day (Dec. 26), celebrated by our Canadian-American and British-American neighbors and friends.

*Ramadan and/or Eid, the Islamic New Year (as Islam uses a lunar calendar the dates of their holidays varies, but these holidays are usually November-December)

* The Chinese New Year.  I always look forward to wishing my sister-in-law, a naturalized American citizen who is Cantonese by birth, a Gung Hay Fat Choy.  (The Chinese Lunar calendar is the longest chronological record in history, dating from 2600 BCE.  The New Year is celebrated on second new moon after the winter solstice, and so can occur in January or February).

This is not a complete list. See why it’s easier to say, “Happy Holidays?”

The USA is one of the most religiously diverse nations in the world.  To insist on using the term “Merry Christmas” as the all-encompassing seasonal greeting could be seen as an attack on the religious beliefs of all of the Americans who celebrate the other holiday and festivals.  At the least, it denotes the users’ ignorance of their fellow citizens’ beliefs and practices.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Did You Know…

…that the Reverend Increase Mather of Boston observed in 1687 that, “the early Christians who first observed the Nativity on December 25 did not do so thinking that Christ was born in that Month, but because the Heathens’ Saturnalia was at that time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those Pagan Holidays metamorphosed into Christian ones.”   [5]

…that because of its known pagan origins, Christmas was banned by the Puritans, and its observance was illegal in Massachusetts until 1681.   [6]

 

 

“Do you celebrate Christmas?”

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

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

 

 

Early Roman Catholic missionaries tried to convert northern Europeans to the RC brand of Christianity, and part of the conversion process was to alter existing religious festivals. The indigenous folk, whom the RC church labeled “barbarians,” quickly discovered that when it came to dealing with missionaries, resistance is futile. The pagans intuitively grasped the concept of natural selection and converted to Christianity to avoid the price (persecution, torture, execution) of staying true to their original beliefs.  But they refused to totally relinquish their traditional celebrations, and so the church, eventually and effectively, simply renamed most of them.    [7]

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

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

The fir boughs and wreaths, the Yule log, plum pudding, gift exchanges, the feasting, the holly and the ivy and the evergreen tree….It is hard to think of a “Christmas” tradition that does not originate from Teutonic (German), Viking, Celtic and Druid paganism.   [8]   A celebration in the depths of winter – at the time when, to those living in the Northern Hemisphere, the sun appears to stop its southerly descent before gradually ascending north – is a natural instinct. For thousands of years our Northern Hemisphere ancestors greeted the “reason for the season” – the winter solstice – with festivals of light and gift exchanges and parties.  The Winter Solstice was noted and celebrated long before the Roman Jesus groupies pinched the party.

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

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

 

 

And Woden is the reason the middle of the week is named Wednesday.   [9]   My calling Wednesday “Wednesday” doesn’t mean I celebrate, worship, or “believe in” Woden.  I don’t insist on renaming either Christmas, or Wednesday.

 

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

 

The Winter Solstice is the day with the shortest amount of sunlight, and the longest night. In the northern hemisphere it falls on what we now mark as December 21 or 22.  However, it took place on December 25th at the time when the Julian calendar was used.  [10]   The early Romans celebrated the Saturnalia on the Solstice, holding days of feasting and gift exchanges in honor of their god Saturn. (Other major deities whose birthdays were celebrated on or about the week of December 25   [11]   included Horis, Huitzilopochtli, Isis, Mithras, Marduk, Osiris, Serapis and Sol.)  The Celebration of the Saturnalia was too popular with the Roman pagans for the new Christian church to outlaw it, so the new church renamed the day and reassigned meanings to the traditions.    [12]

In other words, why are some folk concerned with “keeping the Christ in Christmas”  [13]  when we should be keeping the Saturn in Saturnalia?

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
The Approaching Holiday Season Edition

What is a jack-o’-lantern’s favorite literature genre?
Pulp fiction.

My family told me to stop telling Thanksgiving jokes right now,
but I said I couldn’t quit cold turkey.

My cousin is terrified by all of the St. Nicholas displays at the shopping mall.
You might say she’s Claustrophobic

I told you not to encourage her.

*   *   *

Whatever your favorite seasonal celebrations may be, moiself  wishes you all the best.

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] You have an Aunt Erva, somewhere.  We all do.

[2] Damn right I’m proud of that one.

[3] Well, yeah, as compared to the usual shit I write.

[4] And a grade school friend of mine, whose family was Jehovah’s Witnesses, considered being told, “Merry Christmas” to be an attack on *her* beliefs.

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

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

[7]Paganism in Christianity.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Summer I’m Not Yet Enjoying

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Yeah, so.

MH and I return from six weeks overseas, to find our country in the toilet – make that the outhouse, as toilets weren’t introduced until the late 1800s and six members of SCOTUS seem determined to flush us back to the Middle Ages.  And now we’ve a diabetic cat on death row….never mind that depressing development.

First, reflections on July 4.

Department Of Generosity Of Spirit…Yeah.  Right. Get Back To Me On That.

Here is my social media post on July 3.

“So, what are your plans for the 4th?” 

That’s the usual question around this time of the year, and while MH and I may do some grilling and gather (read: commiserate) with friends, I am boycotting the Fourth of July as a celebratory holiday this year, and asking y’all to consider doing the same.

Our constitution is, unfortunately, elevated to the status of a sacred document by some folk.  While many of its precepts were progressive for its day, it was flawed from the beginning and is showing its age. The fact that business as usual under its governance has allowed the cabal of cheats and liars and loons to institute their medieval theocracy ideals….  I just don’t think the USA deserves a birthday celebration this year.

Please join me in taking a knee on July 4, and wherever and whenever you are presented with flags and anthems and other bitter reminders of our false claims to liberty and justice for all.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Further Reflections From Little Miss Sunshine

As for the day itself?  Meh.

“For some strange reason, people around the world have decided that the best way to mark important holidays and events is…by blowing things up.

Most of us are aware that fireworks are dangerous: we either know someone, or know of someone, who ended up in the hospital emergency room due to fireworks, but most people are completely unaware of the more insidious environmental damages and health impacts caused by fireworks…..

Fireworks create… a toxic fog of fine particulates, poisonous aerosols and heavy metals…that poison the air, the water and the soil, making them toxic to birds, wildlife, pets, livestock — and people….”
( excerpts from “Festive Fireworks Create Harmful Pall Of Pollution,”
Forbes, science section, 12-31-19 )

The neighborhood’s pyrotechnics started sporadically in the late afternoon, gradually increasing in uniformity and intensity around 10 PM, and were finally, mostly, done by midnight. As our cat Nova cowered under our bed, moiself  reflected, not kindly, upon my fellow humans’ obsession with that most wasteful and destructive means of “celebration.”

The world is on fire,    [1]   so yeah, let’s celebrate with incendiary devices spewing even more pollutants into our air, and as a bonus, we can terrify all the dogs and cats and nesting wildlife….

Why they were celebrating at all, I kept thinking?  Don’t they realize what is happening in in their country? Or maybe they do, and just don’t care, or think it’s too late: We keep destroying our liberty and our planet, so what the hell, eat drink and be merry (and start another wildfire, what the hell), for tomorrow we may die.

The next morning I encountered this scenario during my walk.  Over the years I recall seeing people cleaning up their post fireworks debris by hosing down their sidewalks and streets, sending the contaminated mess into the sewer system (and eventually into our streams and wetlands).

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Last Week’s Distractions

Last Friday, the first new blog post after returning from 6+ weeks of travels, moiself had intended to post some travel reflections, only to become distraught distracted by…shall we say…current events.  Such as these headlines

“SCOTUS Justices ‘Prayed With’ Her —
Then Cited Her Bosses to End Roe.
“A right-wing evangelical activist was caught on tape bragging that she prayed with Supreme Court justices. The court’s majority cited a legal brief that her group filed while overturning Roe v. Wade”
( Kara Voght & Tim Dickinson, Rolling Stone, )”

 

 

I shall attempt to return to reflective mode, by allowing moiself  to share some impressions gathered during MH’s and my overseas travels.

First of all, why is everyone sarcastic when they find out you’re going on a trip?  And by that I mean the comment moiself  kept hearing, as our departure date neared, that I should “have fun packing!“ Is packing, for anything, ever *fun*?

Once again, I digress.

The trip’s timeline – both the original plans and the changed itinerary after we got COVID – is in the previous post.  What I didn’t mention was the bag of 100, 1 ½ inch rubber chickens which accompanied moiself  on my journey. 

 

Down to twenty.

 

Each day I hid/placed a chicken in a “public” spot.    [2]

from a hotel or Airbnb dresser drawer,

 

 

to a crack in the leg of a theater seat in Stockholm’s Drottingholm Palace grounds,

 

 

to a potted plant in an Oslo tapas restaurant,

 

 

to a crack in a rock wall on on a rock wall on Strangehagen Street in Bergen…

 

 

in the hopes that someone, some day, will find it and think to themselves,

“Uh…what is this, and why is it here?”

*   *   *

Travel Reflections

Things Scandinavians do better than Americans:

 * toilets  (both in businesses/private residences/public WCs)

* Public transportation systems

* Hospitality & service industry   [3]

* Public art  (both the amount of and access to)

* Cod   [4]

Things Americans do better than Scandinavians:

* ADA access  (from businesses to museums and public buildings)

* Pizza

* Vegetarian/vegan burgers

* Extra pillows in hotels and/or Airbnb rentals

* Decaf   [5]

 

From Vigelandsparken, Oslo. Sculptor Gustav Vigeland

*   *   *

Department Of Missed Opportunities

Certainly one of the cultural highlights of the trip was our visit to the Iceland Phallological museum in Reykjavik.  Iceland was the last country we visited before returning home, and so as not to be schlepping gifts all over Scandinavia I informed certain folks that I would return with souvenirs for them from Iceland – read: most likely from the Phallological museum’s giftshop (“You’re all getting dicks!”).

But while the museum itself was interesting and informative, the vast majority of the items the gift shop carried were…regrettably, not.  More along the line of tacky joke shop items designed to make 11-year old boys snicker.  But I did manage to purchase and then fit several bags of penis-shaped pasta into our luggage.

Then, much to my disappointment, upon our return to the USA we sailed right through Customs at PDX.  One customs officer asked us if we had any apples or oranges in our bags (from Iceland?), but that was it.   I was so hoping for the classic question, “Do you have anything to declare?”   [6]   which I had planned on enthusiastically answering,

“A bags of dicks!
Officer, I declare I have bags of the cutest dick pasta you’ve ever seen!”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Even Plant-Based Eating Moiself   Still Doesn’t Get This

Artichokes.

What’s the point?

Just lick the mayo/aioli/butter off the spoon and get it over with.

 

Also, I try to avoid eating veggies which have hair and/or a heart.

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Penis Pasta Edition

What do you get when you mix a penis, a potato, and a boat?
A dictatorship.

Why is it so easy to distinguish a penis apart from a testicle?
There’s vas deferens between them.

On average, how much does a circumcisionist earn for his services?
Sixty dollars an hour, plus tips.

A husband says to his wife, “I bet you can’t tell me something that will make me both happy and sad at the same time.”
The wife thinks about it for a few moments and replies, “Your dick is bigger than your brother’s.”

 

 

*   *   *

May you think about how (and why) you celebrate a National Holiday;
May you enjoy Icelandic cod and American veggie burgers;
May you have the opportunity to declare to a customs agent, “Dicks!”;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] “The past seven years have been the hottest in recorded history, new data shows Global temperatures in 2021 were among the highest ever observed, with 25 countries setting new annual records, according to scientists from NASA, NOAA and Berkeley Earth.” Washington Post, 1-13-22 )

[2] The rules I set for moiself:  it had to be hidden in a place where someone could theoretically/eventually find it without trespassing on private property, it could not do damage to its hiding place or surroundings (e.g., jammed in between and thus widening the cracks in a museum artifact).

[3] Better pay for workers; little to no tipping expected (or sometimes even allowed).

[4] Iceland excelled here.  Norway, surprisingly, dropped the ball when it came to cod.  Notice I didn’t say, “dropped the cod ball,” because that would be…ick.

[5] Decaffeinated beverages do not seem to be a thing, and woe unto you who asks for decaf coffee.

[6] I’m not even sure they ask that question anymore, if you are part of the Global Entry Program.

The FREE (All caps! Must be legit! ) Opportunity I’m Not Pursuing

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Department Of Sometimes The Blog Just Writes Itself

Dateline:  3-14 (Pi day).
First thing in the morning, moiself  receives this email (my emphases):

Hi Robyn!  My name is Raine    [1]
and I’m an Executive Assistant from Craniumz Magazine.   [2]

I came across your profile and find what you do both inspiring and in line with our topics and audience.

 

 

Excusez-moi for this diversion…I just can’t help but pause for a bullshit snort. What I do is so not in line with their “topics and audience.”

Back to the email:

We’re currently sourcing entrepreneurs for the opportunity to be registered as potential guest writers for free publicity opportunities, or to invite them as contributors for Craniumz Magazine. We’re also looking for inspiring coaches, leaders, and entrepreneurs who could be featured on The Craniumz Global Award List 2022 – a global list that will be released in June, and has featured names like Oprah Winfrey, Robin Sharma and Marisa Peer, to name a few.
Is any of this something you would be interested in being considered for?

Best regards, Raine Latte

 

 

OMG, my chance to have my name be somehow associated with Oprah’s!!  And two WTF  people I know nothing about!  I, of course, will drop everything, including common sense and any vestige of self-respect, to be exploited by have the honor of working with the Craniumz people who, according to their website, are a

“…Global Media Brand operated by ____  [3], a branding and digital media brand, with a focus on interviews, articles and information about business, mindset, innovation, leadership and lifestyles.”,

 

 

 

Holy bald-faced and obsequious ignorance. Indeed, if Ms. Raine came across my profile, she evidently didn’t follow it to/bother to check out my blog, which would clue her in as to how little I think of the concept of branding

 

 

Nevertheless, moiself  could not pass up the (FREE) opportunity to respond:

Hello Raine,
What is the compensation for guest writers
and/or contributors to Craniumz Magazine?
And if you came across my profile,
did you note that I am primarily a writer of fiction?
Curiously,
Robyn Parnell

The reply:

Hi
Great to hear from you. My first email serves as an invitation for you to be one of our potential Guest Writers.

Our Guest Writers get FREE access to opportunities that we have in the group such as free articles, podcast hosting, interviews and a chance to be on the list of awards – Craniumz 500 Global List & Global Award. Guest writers are encouraged to participate in the opportunities posted every week for them to get selected for free publicity. They may also opt to submit their proposed topic, quote or article through content@brainzmagazine.com. If the Content Team find it interesting and matched the theme for the month, they will surely approach you for information.

Hope this helps.  Best regards, Raine

 

 

I couldn’t just leave it at that:

Hi yourself.

Congratulations on your outstanding job of not answering my questions.
Since the proverbial picture paints a thousand (FREE) words,
I’ll express my opinion on this matter via the pictorial presentation of the artist/writer known as The Oatmeal:    [4]

 

*    *   *

Department Of How To Spot A Bot

I did not expect a response to the obvious disinterest – and inherent if not overt dis – contained in my last reply.  Yet the artist formerly known as Bot program pretending to be a human called Raine sent me one more oblivious/form reply:

“I’m happy to hear you’re interested!
If you have a spare minute now, it would be great if you could fill in your information in our contributor form, so that ____  [5] can review your details for the publicity opportunities. It’s just a couple of quick questions….

Once your information has been reviewed, you’ll receive an email within 24 hours with the headline ‘Publicity in Craniumz Magazine’ with instructions and information about the opportunities. (This email sometimes ends up in the spam folder, so don’t forget to check it’s not hiding in there!) 🙂

Just let me know when you’ve submitted, and I’ll try to speed up the process.
Looking forward to hopefully seeing more from you, as I think you would make a great addition to the Craniumz community! “

 

Except that, someone did.

 

*   *   *

Department Of St. Patrick’s Day Party Deferred

Dateline: Tuesday 3-17-20.  At 6 pm the dinner party, with ten people total,  [6]  had been scheduled to commence.   Anyone remember what else happened in mid-March,2020?

 

“I’ll take pandemics for $1000, Alex.”

 

I left the dining table as it was set – including moiself’s  lavish centerpiece (a very large – we’re talking four pounds – potato sporting a green crown) – for many months after, in hope, or defiance?   Come Autumn, when This Thing Looks Like It’s Going To Stick Around ® began to settle in my brain, I put away the plates and the cutlery, the napkins and the décor.  The centerpiece, by then, had begun to mutate, much like the virus which caused its dethronement.

 

She took away my crown, so I’m growing my own.

 

If I were to throw a party now, it would be one to celebrate the foreign troops’ withdrawal from Ukraine.  But seeing as how that Tin of Poo in charge of the Russian kleptocracy has an ego as large and skin as thin as those of our own #45…well, odds are he’s not going to leave quietly, ya know?

Moiself  is not hopeful for either a quick or peaceful resolution to the mess the Russians have made in the Ukraine.  I dread what Putin’s nose-thumbing, ass-licking, face-saving strategies could ultimately entail.  But in my dreams, all things are possible:

 

“Oops, my bad!  We’re leaving now.”

 

In the meantime, in an action about as effective in the long (or short) run as saying to the Ukrainians, “I’ll pray for you,” I’ve done the bare minimum to keep up the consciousness in my ‘hood.

 

 

And I hope readers, if you haven’t done so already, will join me in checking Charity Navigator    [7]   for an above-board relief organization to aid the Ukrainians, and make a contribution.  CN currently lists thirty-five organizations funneling relief aid to “The Ukrainian-Russian Crisis.”  The organizations are grouped under the following headings:  Medical Services; Medical Supplies; Non-Medical Supplies; Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH); Emergency Housing Long-Term Assistance; Other (inc. cash/cash vouchers, logistic supply, animals).    [8]

 

*   *   *

*   *   *

Department Of Nostalgia: Recalling My First Instruction In Deductive Reasoning

♫   Beans, Beans, the musical fruit
The more you eat; the more you toot
The more you toot, the better you feel
So let’s have beans for every meal!   ♫

 

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Musical Fruit Edition

Why did everyone notice when Bill Gates farted in the Apple store?
Because the store didn’t have any Windows.

I didn’t pass gas in front of my husband until we got married.
His family wasn’t impressed.

Life is so unfair – I just called the Flatulence Incontinence Hotline,
and the woman who answered said, “Can you hold, please?”

Why doesn’t Chuck Norris fart?
Because nothing escapes Chuck Norris.

When a clown farts, does it smell funny?

 

Clowns are NOT funny.

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May you be entertained by bogus offers to link your name with Oprah’s;
May you appreciate your first lesson in deductive reasoning;
May you accept my belated slainté on behalf of March 17;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

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[1] A real person, according to the magazines website staff listing, (I checked), but not her real name…although I have a feeling she is a bot/creation.

[2] A supposedly real magazine (I checked), but not its real title.

[3] Some parent company headquartered in Sweden.

[4] The incomparable Matthew Inman.  Who, I imagine, would also not be impressed to be on a “global awards” list that may have once had Oprah’s name on it.

[5] Another ostensibly real person’s name, but likely not a Real Person ® .

[6] Including MH and I and son K.

[7] Charity Navigator is the world’s largest and probably best-known “nonprofit evaluator.” Itself a non-profit, CN analyses the integrity of a non-profit organization in financial terms, focusing on how much of contributed funds are used for the purpose(s) claimed by the charity, with an emphasis on the cost effectiveness (or impact) of the charity, its financial stability, adherence to best practices for accountability and transparency, and results reporting.

[8] Moiself  chose International Relief Teams, which has a “100%” rating from CN.

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